Where did you study abroad? Did you have a study focus?
I spent a spring semester at Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea. As a design major here, I was able to take visual communication classes while I was there.
What made you want to study abroad?
I knew I'd never be able to have the same type of experience abroad after graduation. Before going to Korea, I had participated in the Guy Healy Japan international summer exchange program. I grew so much as a person from that experience, so I was interested in personal growth as well as learning more about design.
How did you search for programs? What made you select your program?
I decided on my program after talking with students who had participated in the program the previous year. Studying in South Korea had always been a personal goal, so when my school finally offered the program, I knew I had to sign up.
Describe the application process. What made you successful?
It was a long process. A lot of information had to go back and forth between me, my home school and Kookmin. I think what made it easier and what ultimately made me successful was that I was so determined to go. I really wanted to make sure that the application went smoothly. I never doubted myself and I was never negative about all the work I had to put in.
What was the biggest surprise about your study abroad experience?
The biggest and best surprise was all the friends I made. I went there expecting that I would meet people, that I would learn about Korean culture and about design. I never expected to make some of my best friends there. Me and my friends from abroad share a really strong bond now, because we spent so much time together, learning the similarities and differences of our cultures. We are all planning on meeting up again soon.
What made your study abroad experience abroad a success?
The fact at I was never afraid to try something new. I have the best memories of my friends and I traveling, talking and sharing food. I wasn't afraid to embarrass myself and I made an effort to interact with people I didn't know.
How did you finance your trip abroad and did you find any creative solutions to stay on budget?
I took out a loan and worked a lot before I left. I made sure to save money from each paycheck to put into my Korea fund. While there, I made sure to budget out all the months that I would be there in addition to how much money I would be able to use each week. If I went over one week, I made sure to take it out of my budget for following week.
How did you deal with the cultural divide?
By understanding that their culture is different from mine and not expecting them to react to things as I would react. I knew that in order to have a good time, I'd have to be respectful of their culture. I observed their traditions and did my best to abide by their cultural rules.
What was your return like? Do you plan to go abroad again?
It was really easy, except for a very long flight back home. Korea has a very convenient subway system that could take me straight to the airport. The hotel workers were also really nice. I made sure to pick a hotel that had airport pick up and drop off so it was a breeze when it came to getting to and from the hotel.
What is your number one tip for anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Never skimp on meals. That's probably what I always spend the most money on whenever I travel. I think that a delicious and proper meal has the ability to transform how you approach situations, and to make you happier in general. I think that you can learn a lot about a culture by observing what they eat or how they eat.
What did you miss the most about home?
Aside from family, I missed the food. Every country has its own variations of American food, Chinese food and Italian food, but they're never the same as back home. I missed being able to cook my own meals and the certain spices that were unavailable, even in specialty stores. Although, that's not to say Korean food wasn't good! It was amazing and we ate out most nights.
What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career?
Since I'm graduating, I'll no longer be able to study abroad, but I still plan to travel on my own. I just love learning about the differences between cultures and the different types of food. I'm considering going overseas to teach English but in general, my goal is to build a career in advertising where I can use my graphic design skills.
Mai See will soon be graduating and she mentions her possible interest in teaching English abroad, as well as her desire to launch a career in graphic design. There are plenty of opportunities in both areas, but Mai See could also consider combining teaching English with professional work as a graphic designer. Teaching English abroad can be an easy way to transition to a new country while earning a stable income. Once abroad, it becomes possible to network and freelance in your field of choice while maintaining your teaching position. Mai See could offer graphic design expertise, possibly first at the school where she teaches, and then extend the offer of service to other organizations or firms that interest her. With a little initiative, Mai See could transform a simple English teaching position into an international internship or job, thus building valuable professional skills (i.e. international design experience) when she finally returns home. Below are some suggested for those interested in following a similar path.
- Teach English Abroad provides readers with all the basics of one of the most popular ways to go abroad. One of the most-read articles in this section is Teaching English As a Stepping Stone to Your International Career. Check it out!