곧: Countdown to Seoul (posted by Indira in South Korea)

Thinking of Seoul many words come to my mind, but the loudest for sure is 곧 (god) meaning “soon” since I am leaving home in less than a week to start my semester abroad in South Korea.

I am Indira and I am a junior. I am a double major in International Studies and German Studies. This semester I will be studying abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Ever since I decided to go to South Korea, I am asked “Why?” more often than anything else. But really, why South Korea?

Well, I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina, I study in the US, last semester I studied abroad in Sweden, I’ve been to most of the European countries, speak multiple languages fluently, and study International Studies – very international, right? So why not expand on the internationality and step out of that frame? I think that is one of the most core reasons I decided to go to South Korea. Actually it was the internationalism that brought me on the path to Korea – while in Sweden I met a lot of students from all over the world, including Korea. Talking to them about Seoul and the Korean culture made me start thinking more about it and I decided to apply to Yonsei University. Basically, had I not studied abroad in Sweden I wouldn’t have met people who would made me think about a whole new set of possibilities and opportunities and I would probably not be going to South Korea this semester.

South Korea is a country like no other: economically it is very much like the US or Western Europe since it is so advanced, but culturally it fits perfectly in the frame of an Asian country – customs and tradition play an important role. Seoul itself is a reflection of this rather specific union of modern and traditional space that is truly fascinating. Living and studying in a country such as Korea and experiencing it from the perspective of an exchange student is definitely another reason why I chose to study abroad at Yonsei. I think that getting familiar with Korea, the way the system works, the culture, and the language is also going to solidify my International Studies major giving it a whole new dimension.

The main reason, however, why I decided to study abroad at Yonsei University is to step out of my comfort zone. I believe that we can only challenge ourselves and find out about ourselves when outside our comfort zone. Most of my life has been spent stepping outside of my comfort zone, but I think that going to Korea is going to be the biggest thing I’ve done so far. I do not speak a word of Korean, I’ve never been to that part of the world, and I don’t really understand the culture – I think it should pose a challenge that I will learn a lot from.

Even the period before leaving for Korea has taught me  lot: for example, I learned that there is no issue that the OIE (Office of International Education at my University) cannot help with. Being a citizen of Bosnia it was quite a challenge to get my student visa. I needed a whole lot of documents I didn’t have and I had to go to Croatia to apply for and pick up my visa. The last month was filled with a gazillion of emails and phone calls exchanged between Bosnia, Croatia, the US, and South Korea. That is actually when it hit me that starting in less than a week I am going to be all about balancing my life on three continents and at least 6 countries. That is going to be another challenge I am looking forward to, to be honest. I think it’ll teach me more about being a true global citizen.

Now, all the problems are solved – I got my housing assignment (I’ll be living in International House on campus and I’ll have a roommate. Roommates are assigned randomly and I won’t get to know her until I get to Seoul), I got my visa, and my flight is booked. I leave on Wednesday and I definitely should start thinking about packing soon. Wow, I can’t believe I’ll have to pack again. Once I get to Korea it’ll be the 5th country I’ve lived in in the past 10 months!

Right now I will just try to enjoy my last days home and simply prepare for a once in a lifetime adventure! 🙂

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