Weyem’s Direct Exchange to Yonsei

I am a senior in the School of Business as a Marketing major and will be graduating in Spring 2015. I am an intern at the Center for Global Education and a yoga instructor at the RAC. I spent Spring 2014 at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea as a Gilman Scholar. After my semester, I spent 3 weeks traveling through SE Asia visiting friends and seeing the sights.

Instead of writing this post as an opportunity to convince you to study abroad or the benefits, because I assume you already have some interest in the topic or else you wouldn’t be reading this, I would rather advise future and potential students about what to expect and plan for at Yonsei. (Although some of these tips can be applied for other programs)

There were numerous times my roommate and I had the same conversation. “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US WE NEEDED THIS!?” or “HOW COME NO ONE TOLD US WE COULDN’T FIND THESE HERE!?” As we simultaneously frantically searched the internet for blogs or articles about previous American students who were studying abroad at Yonsei that could enlighten us about our numerous questions. Our search was to no avail, not a single blog or source was found.

Things I wish someone told me I needed to take

  • Bed sheets, pillowcase and duvet: Do you really want to use bed items that numerous other people have used? The pillow they give you might be a sac of plastic noodles so you should take a pillow too. I purchased a pillow from Namdaemun Market for 8000 won (~$8) and a blanket for 40000 won (~$40) and my parents had to ship me sheets and a pillow case.
  • Deodorant, Razors, Tampons: Very few options for all of these! Pack enough to last you for your entire stay
  • Makeup: There is no Sephora or Ulta. If you like BareMinerals or any of those brands, they hard to come by. There are lots of Korean makeup brands but they are not the best quality so stock up on your favorite kind. Also, Koreans (much like most of East/ SE Asia) have this obsession with white skin so most of the cosmetic products contain a bleaching element to whiten skin.
  • Comfortable shoes: This is a must! Seoul is a big city and you will be doing lots of walking. The closest metro stop is a 15 min walk. Take shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. I wear a size 8 and at times it was hard to find shoes in my size.
  • Chap stick: I am obsessed with chapstick and wish I had stocked up before I left. I found burt’s bees and some other American brands at Olive Young but it’s twice as expensive
  • Snacks: Take a jar a peanut butter or anything you may miss just enough for the first month and then you’ll get used to the food in Korea and won’t need your peanut butter. If all else fails there is iHerb.com Once you get your Alien Registration Card (which is mandatory for whatever reason) you can get free shipping for orders over $60. May seem like a lot but if other people get in on the order it won’t be much. My roommate and I bought pancake mix, chocolate chips, and maple syrup along with other snacks.
  • A decent size bag: I only took small crossbodies but wish I had a medium size bag to carry snacks and water when I did my sightseeing. 

And here are some useful tips

  • Try and bargain. It may work. They usually see a foreigner and jack up the price – what else is new.
  • Embrace the kimchi. It will come with every meal. Try grilling it at BBQ, taste way better!
  • If you see something you like, buy it! Because chances are in a week or two it’ll be gone. Everything in Korea happens fast, trends seem to change overnight. It’s there way of keeping up with the ever-changing fashion scene.
  • People won’t say excuse me on the metro. They’ll nudge and elbow – especially the elderly. It’s just understood that everyone is in a hurry.
  • Don’t be loud on the metro/bus. Koreans have long commutes and need that time to sleep, be respectful.
  • When crossing the street, run! Especially when the little green man starts blinking fast. The minute the traffic light turns green, cars have no mercy and will run a pedestrian over. Do not jay walk! This is for your safety.
  • The price you see is the price you pay. Tax is included in the price and you do not need to tip.
  • Get your hair cut before you go. It is more expensive for different textures of hair.
  • If you want to take a weekend trip outside of Seoul, especially during national holidays, plan in advance. Seoul–lites leave the city during holidays so if you wait until the last-minute, you won’t find train tickets, bus tickets or hotel rooms.
  • Coffee is not strong. Also there is no drip coffee, half-and-half or sugar in the raw. Lattes taste like steamed milk. But I did like the instant coffee because it’s cheaper and hot water is readily available.
  • At first everything will taste unsalted. That’s because in America we use too much salt. Your taste buds will adjust.
  • Don’t eat on the go. Or drink coffee/tea on the go. It’s a cultural thing. Also, public trash cans are hard to come by.
  • Meat is expensive. Chicken and pork are relatively cheaper. Take advantage of the all you can eat BBQ places, they range from $10-$13.

Despite not knowing any of this in advance, I had a wonderful experience and really learned how to adjust outside of my comfort zone. Although most of my classes were outside of my major, I learned much more about a new culture and different part of the world.

Korean Hot Pot

Korean Hot Pot

Lantern Day

Lantern Day

Seoul Zoo

Seoul Zoo


Brittany Davey in Hungary

GVIP major Brittany Davey overlooking the two sides of Buda and Pest

GVIP major Brittany Davey overlooking the two sides of Buda and Pest

Brittany Davey, GVIP major, spent her spring semester 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.

What made you choose this opportunity?

I chose this opportunity because after many years of studying in the United States I wanted to expand and broaden my cultural perspectives by studying abroad in a foreign country. Along with the great cultural experience I wanted to travel to Budapest, Hungary because it seemed to be a different experience then the common study abroad locations such as England, Spain, Italy, etc. I was also quite interested to obtain better knowledge and an understanding of different countries and how they function. As a person with different ethnic backgrounds it intrigues me to visit distinct countries and learn their customs, languages, and manners.

What were some of your internship job duties?

After hearing that I was accepted to work at the American Corner Budapest, an embassy sponsored program that acts as a portal for gaining access to information and resources about the United States. The American Corner Budapest serves as a fully functional cultural bridge that links Hungarian and American Culture together.

While working at the American Corner Budapest the intern job description entitled providing information for visitors about the facility, upcoming events, and overseeing the library. Along with this I was assigned to lead and attend corner events either collaborated with the U.S. Embassy or Corvinus University. I have scheduled and planned many program events and assisted to many outside events that the American Corner provides public relations for as well. On the days that we do not hold events the duties assigned were to write up reports about past and upcoming programs, maintain the library, practice English with corner members, and to translate/proof-read any written online works.

As a government and international politics major, how do you think studying abroad will help you with your future goals?

As a government major, I hold a great amount of interest in state and international affairs. After being accepted to the program I began to read more about Hungary and began to learn about the many possible opportunities that it offers. Hungary to me seemed like a fortunate challenge and opportunity to learn more about a different part of the world as well as to learn a new language. When thinking about studying abroad in Hungary it looked to me as a challenge to adventure out to Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe.

The culture and society of Eastern Europe has always intrigued me because it is still enduring the transition of social and political reforms. Eastern Europe seemed like a different world and I wanted to be able to tell my friends and family the experiences that I gained in such an area. Throughout the course of the semester I was able to witness different political events and learn about the cultural and social norms that Hungary holds. Along with the internship experience, the classes that we took were extremely beneficial to my major. They highlighted all the different characteristics about Hungary pertaining to gender studies, government, and the different ethnic identities and cultures that make up the country, primarily focused on Roma identity and studies.

What was something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of this experience?

I was very surprised to see how easy I adapted to Budapest, and how easy it was to transition into a new home and area for four months. My biggest concern before the program was that I would feel homesick and not be able to communicate properly with the language there. I was very shocked to learn quickly I was able to pick up some Hungarian phrases and properly pronounce the words. Talking with the locals was very beneficial and I was very happy and surprised to see how many locals were eager to teach me Hungarian. Budapest is a big and popular international scene that most people may not be aware of but should venture out and experience what this city has to offer. Immersing yourself in a different culture brings so many benefits in your life and gives you a different perspective about yourself.

How to get information for Spring 2015? Visit Budapest Internship Program.

Brittany and her roommate in front of Parliament

Brittany and her roommate in front of Parliament

An Internship in Budapest

Orsolya Buzas, Government and International Politics, in Budapest, Hungary

Orsolya Buzas, Government and International Politics, in Budapest, Hungary

Orsolya Buzas spent a semester in Budapest, Hungary working for Insomnia Advertising Agency. She majors in Government and International Politics.

What did you like about Budapest?

It is a city like no other where Eastern Europe and the West meets. Just by going for a stroll in the city, I walked by basilicas, former homes of historic icons, and buildings marked by bullet holes reminiscent of revolutions, now occupied by quaint coffee shops and boutiques.

How did your international work experience contribute to your academic or professional career?

I left both my internship and the host school with countless advice and lessons learned from my coworkers, supervisors, and professors. I learned that good work is recognized everywhere and people see when a student/intern is driven, focused, and above all, curious. I realized that I should not limit myself to the brief description of my major because there is so much more out there.

Where else did you travel during your semester abroad?

On the weekends I had the opportunity to visit Istanbul, Turkey; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Vienna and the ski slopes of Austria; Belgrade, Serbia; Bratislava, Slovakia.

Dinner overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Dinner overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Favorite memory or memories?

  • Walking by the Parliament building every morning on my way to my internship and watching the daily flag pole ceremony.
  • Dinner overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
  • The farewell party thrown by my coworkers and the compliments I received from my supervisor about my work.

Why would you recommend this program to other students?

Living in such a culturally rich country that is unique to Europe for four months will set any student apart from the crowd.

Not only is it an adventure in and of itself to wake up and discover the new country everyday, but the lessons learned from the classes and the internship will forever stay with you.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building

Find out more about the program: Budapest Semester Internship Program

Ryan Does Rome

I am a sort-of rising senior here at Mason; I’ll be graduating in December.  I am a Global Affairs major with a concentration in International Development and an Italian Studies minor.  At Mason, I am the Art Editor of Volition, the undergraduate literary and art magazine.  Studying abroad was always something I wanted to do.  I knew I was going to do it; the hard part was just picking when and where.

Once I completed all the paperwork and processes, I was off to my destination!  This past summer, I attended session one of the summer school program at American University of Rome in Italy.  I miss it already and recommend it to everyone!

I took two courses:

  • POL 314 Conflict and Peace in the Mediterranean and
  • SOC 300 Sociology of Contemporary Italy.

I enjoyed both classes equally but in different ways.  Both spoke to my major pretty well so the topics were somewhat familiar, but I found myself learning something new every single class.

While the classes were amazing, it is hard to say that they were my favorite.  I loved experiencing the Roman culture and lifestyles (while getting used to “riposo” was difficult, I grew to appreciate it).  I almost felt like a true Roman after a week or two, once I was immersed in the culture of the sites, the food, the love-hate relationship Italians had with public transportation, and the general day-to-day life of living in Rome.  Also, being an art history buff, I absolutely loved exploring all the sites and museums that the city and nearby regions had to offer.

I was grateful that I speak Italian, and so were some of my classmates.  I found myself teaching them a few words …

To anyone interested in studying abroad in the future, do it! All you have to do is plan it out.  And, if the financial aspect is preventing you like it was with me, don’t worry, there are plenty of scholarships out there to assist!  Also, once your are at your destination or even before you leave the States, make sure to learn a couple of key phrases in the native language.  I was grateful that I speak Italian, and so were some of my classmates.  I found myself teaching them a few words, especially ‘where?’ and ‘how much?’ (or ‘dove…?’ and ‘quanto…?’).  Knowing these will help immensely when you are lost in Rome!

Actually, the best way to learn your way around Rome is to get lost! That way, you will find all the best stores and restaurants that are hidden in the off-streets you may have not explored.  Get off the main strip and out of the tourist area and explore; this is the only way you will get the true experience!

I hope everyone enjoys their study abroad experiences, current or in the future.  Have fun and be adventurous!

Life in Italy

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From Israel, With Love

I would like to begin this post with a truth: coming to Israel was the best decision of my life. Undoubtedly. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of academic accomplishments and general milestones, but, perhaps owed to my youth, nothing of my past speaks to me in the way this country has (and still continues to do!)

I was raised the daughter of a Christian mother and an ethnically Jewish father and, as I’ve found is the case for many young, secular, American Jews, really got the best of both worlds. In earlier days, my family would celebrate all major holidays, and I have fond memories attending both special Christmas Eve church services and the outrageous Purim Megillah readings that left the entire synagogue in an uproar. I got my first taste of wine with my Jewish brothers and sisters, and was baptized in front of a loving, Christian congregation at age 12. Regrettably, as I grew older, I seemed to lose track each year of my Jewish roots and gradually lived my life in absence of both religions. Of all things, it wasn’t until setting foot, bedraggled after my flight, in Herzliya, the gorgeous coastal town where I am living during my exchange, that I really began to feel that sense of infamous Jewish community (my mid-Shabbat arrival also helped with that) and was reminded of everything I knew I had been missing. Needless to say, in all respects, although probably an obvious mess, I was excited for the adventures I knew awaited me.

First look of Israel, Ben Gurion Airport; Tel Aviv

First look of Israel, Ben Gurion Airport; Tel Aviv

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Arts Management in the UK

By Megan Merchant, Arts Management MA Candidate

Arts Management course in London, England

Arts Management course in London, England

This is day 13 of my 18 day stay here in London. The opportunity to study arts management in another country has been an invaluable opportunity. Comparing practices and customs helps to open my mind to new ideas of how an arts organization can function.

As a first time world traveler, starting my abroad experience in London has been the perfect introduction since the customs and language are not too different from the US. However, it took me a few days to get used to the currency, how to cross the street, the tube, and local jargon. My favorite places to eat here are pubs where I had cottage pies, fish and chips, and Scottish eggs. On the trip I saw all the major tourist sites including: Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, West End, St. Paul’s Cathedral,West Minster Abbey, Tower if London, Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, Stone Henge, Harry Potter Studios, and Stratford Upon Avon.

I also saw Angela Lansbury in a West End play called Blithe Spirit, Warhorse, and a new musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I even heard a latin jazz concert in a crypt at St. Martin’s in the Fields Church. I’ve seen more visual and performing arts in this trip than I usually see in a year. I can’t wait to visit again!

Some arts management highlights and observations from my trip:

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Nine Insights into Study Abroad

Guest post originally published for Patriotlife

by Achim Loch, Center for Global Education

1.  There are over 90 study abroad programs with the Center for Global Education (CGE)

No matter where you want to go, there are tons of options available to you at Mason – short term programs during the winter break and summer term: Semester and year-long exchanges, intensive language courses, internships, a semester in Florence and an honors semester in Oxford. In addition to existing partnerships, students can research their own destinations and participate in any accredited program. Study abroad will help you grow personally and professionally.

2.  Programs range from one week to a full academic year

Enjoy a summer or a whole semester, two weeks over winter break, or a full academic year.

Students pose for a group shot during an exploration of Pikillaqta this winter in Peru

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