Exeter, Devon UK • May 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home InternationalBeyond Exeter Rollercoaster Year Abroad

Rollercoaster Year Abroad

Paris Gill shares her experience studying in South Korea for a year, reflecting on the skills she gained from her time there.
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Cherry blossom in Busan, Paris Gill

I studied at Ewha Womans University in the heart of Seoul, South Korea in the academic year of 2022-2023, and I would be lying if I said I loved every second of it. Moving to the other side of the world alone for a year was the most challenging thing I have ever done, but I don’t regret it at all.

Moving to Seoul during the plateau of Covid-19 restrictions meant that for my first semester, everyone was still wearing masks and doing bi-weekly tests. The masks, as it turns out, weren’t just for Covid either. The pollution in South Korea was something I was warned about, but didn’t really grasp how terrible it was until we weren’t allowed outside some days because of how “toxic” the air was.

South Korea was also quite politically eventful during my time there. Our extreme closeness to the Halloween crush in Itaewon was horrific to live through, and the warning alarm that woke us up at 6am because of a North Korean satellite launch was also quite shocking to experience.

But the lows of the year were definitely outweighed by the highs. The independence and confidence I gained to live alone in a country where I was a complete stranger was scary, but also very liberating! For anyone going on a study abroad, I would highly recommend learning some of the language before you go. I took a Korean beginner’s module in my second year at Exeter to give me the basics, and it was the best decision I ever made.

For anyone going on a study abroad, I would highly recommend learning some of the language before you go

One memory of when my knowledge of Korean saved the day was when my friend and I travelled to Sokcho, on the East coast of Korea. You realise when you travel outside of Seoul that in rural areas you have to solely rely on your Korean skills. Having got off the bus in a random countryside town, we watched in horror as our next bus simply sped past us. Now lost in the middle of nowhere, we wandered down the road to see if anything else was coming.

Much to our disbelief, a coach pulls up at the far end of the road, so we sprint. When we get there, it takes 10 minutes of my broken Korean and my friend’s translator app to negotiate our seats on the coach, broadly figuring out they are going in our direction. By a miracle, the coach’s final stop is opposite our Airbnb!

The rollercoasters of emotions I experienced on my year abroad were clearly very extreme. Yet it was such an amazinggrowing opportunity that I will always look back on my year with fond memories, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who has the chance to go. It will be the best year of your life!

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