Frankie, College Connection Class of 2015, is currently finishing up his Freshman year at Lehigh University. During the interim Winter Session between his fall and spring semesters, Frankie spent ten days in the vibrant city of Seoul, South Korea. Having developed a strong interest in East Asian cultures, Frankie jumped at the opportunity to participate in Lehigh’s interim South Korea program when he heard about it during the fall Study Abroad Fair. Frankie is a Computer Engineering major who hopes to one day start his own consumer electronics business; his adventurous spirit and ability to adapt to new cultures should serve him well as an entrepreneur! Read on as Frankie describes the highlight of his first year of college:
What made you interested in studying abroad? How did you find out about this opportunity?
“Going into college I knew that I wanted to study abroad but I just didn’t know where. My first week on campus, during orientation, I was introduced to the Office of International Affairs that handles all of the study abroad programs. I was given a brief introduction to the office, and received information about my appointed Study Abroad Coordinator and the upcoming study abroad fair in the University Center. That study abroad fair was where my interest in the South Korea study abroad program started.”
What advice would you give to a PF Collegian who is thinking about studying abroad?
“Don’t go into the experience with a lot of specific expectations about what the experience will be like, because it may end up being the total opposite of what you envisioned. No matter where you study, go there with an open mind and heart. Be willing to try new things and venture outside of your comfort zone (while remembering to put safety first!). Create memories that your future self will thank you for. You definitely don’t want to come away from the experience with regrets about missed opportunities.”
Why did you choose to study abroad in South Korea?
“Once I attended the info session, I fell in love with the program. While I am an aspiring engineer, I also have an interest in learning about cultures around the world. I particularly have a fascination with East Asian cultures. With their rich historical traditions to thriving modern tech businesses, Korea and Japan are both countries that I knew I wanted to visit at least once in my life. The South Korea study abroad program presented a perfect opportunity to do just that. The chance to travel halfway across the world doesn’t come around often for a student like me. Because of my family’s financial status and my standing as a first-generation college student, I never envisioned my winter break to be spent in another country, let alone in the great city of Seoul. Despite the barriers I had to overcome to make this opportunity happen for myself, I am proud to be able to say that I did it.”
What are some of your favorite moments from your time in Seoul?
“I have to say, although seeing the city of Seoul first hand was an astonishing experience to have, the highlight of my time in South Korea was the day trip to the Hahoe Folk Village in Andong. Seeing the countryside of South Korea was refreshing after being in the city for a couple of days. In addition to appreciating the nature surrounding the village and Buddhist Temple, the experience allowed me to open my mind to the various beliefs and customs of the people who have lived in that area throughout history.
Some of my other favorite moments happened when I challenged myself to communicate with people who didn’t fully speak English or did not speak English at all. It was an experience just to ask a cab driver to go to a specific destination or to ask the cashier at the local convenience store if they had laundry detergent. I even had a full conversation with a cool group of people at the nightlife function in Hongik! With people who knew just a bit of the English language, the conversations were usually short and for the purpose of asking about simple things, like directions. When I did encounter fluent English speakers, conversations were really interesting. We were able to exchange excitement when they asked me where I am from and I asked them how life in Korea is for them.”
What is one valuable lesson or skill that you learned during your trip abroad?
“Out of all the preparation I took before going to South Korea, learning how to say “thank you,” “hello,” “excuse me,” “hotel,” “water,” and “money” was the most valuable part of my preparation. Always learn at least 10 different words of the language when you are studying abroad, even for a week. Your encounters with random people on the street and in stores will be much easier.”
If you’re a Philadelphia Futures Collegian who’d like to share one of your most interesting college experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.