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A Dream Come True: Study Abroad in South Korea

By Nora Santiago '23

student in Gyeongbok Palace , South Korea

Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace
Photo credit: Nora Santiago '23 (South Korea, CIEE, fall 2021)

Ever since I was little I knew that I wanted to study abroad when I finally got to college. I may not have known exactly where I wanted to go, but I was determined to go somewhere. When I started here at Swarthmore I knew I wanted to be an Asian Studies major, so that narrowed down my study abroad options. My freshman and sophomore years I took Japanese so I thought that was where I would end up going when I got my chance to study abroad. However, when I was looking at study abroad programs, the one that caught my eye was not any of the ones in Japan, but the CIEE program in Seoul, South Korea.

I applied for the program and ended up being accepted, but it was a real struggle to actually get to Korea. I was supposed to go Fall 2020, but for obvious reasons that was canceled. It wasn’t until Fall of 2021 that I was finally able to go, and I am so glad that I did. I met a lot of amazing people and saw a lot of amazing places. I was able to experience living abroad in a country that I was mostly unfamiliar with and I came to love it there. All of my classes were online because of Covid, but I made that work for me. I took the opportunity to travel and to see as much as I could in the semester I was there. As long as I brought my computer with me I could take classes from anywhere.

I took five classes while I was there and I loved every one of them. Every professor I had was passionate about their subject and really seemed to enjoy teaching it. In addition, while all of my classes were online, we all still found ways to interact with each other and meet up in person. All of the classes I was taking were geared towards exchange students so most of my classmates were in the same dorm as me. This made meeting up really easy for us. Because we couldn’t see each other in person during class we decided to form study groups. In these groups we would go to cafes and do our work together and just hang out. It was really nice to be able to meet face to face and not just see everyone through a screen.

Busan, Gamcheon Culture Village

Photo credit: Nora Santiago '23 (South Korea, CIEE, fall 2021)

I think that my favorite experience that I had while abroad was when I traveled to Busan by myself and stayed there for a long weekend. At the time, my birthday was coming up and I knew that I wanted to treat myself, so I decided to book a room at a really nice hotel and go spend my birthday weekend in Busan. Busan was one of the two places I really wanted to visit outside of Seoul, the other being Jeju island. I spent the weekend exploring Busan and relaxing on the beaches and just generally enjoying myself. One morning while I was there I took a bus to Gamcheon Culture Village, a district within Busan, and had breakfast at a cafe overlooking the entire area. It was a really wonderful experience and one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Busan, Gamcheon Culture Village

Photo credit: Nora Santiago '23 (South Korea, CIEE, fall 2021)