Life Without Style, Uncategorized

[Reflection] My Placement Year Studying Abroad in Seoul

Oh gosh. Where do I start? I started this post off from Amsterdam, during a really long layover on my way back to Birmingham, and I’m finishing it off now, just as my final year is about to begin. Korea already feels like a dream from another time.

I have a LOT of feelings and a lot of things to think about. I feel like I have learned a lot. I wasn’t sure of how much I changed in a year, but that became a little clearer once I was home for a few weeks. On top of that, it wasn’t just me who changed. The world has changed along with it, in drastic ways too.

This blog post is just going to be an open barrage of the kinds of things I’ve been thinking about since I got back.

Academically…

I felt that studying abroad was tough. All year I felt like I could have tried harder and gotten better results. The grading seemed much harsher which was what I was most worried about despite the grades actually not counting directly towards my degree. In the end though, my resulting grades from my exchange university actually weren’t bad, especially when considering 2020 events, so I’m not beating myself up too much about it and actually am rather proud of what I have achieved.

The university system is so different to what I am used to, being more similar to US universities meaning it was my first experience with GPA and modules all being assessed in different ways… but I’m glad I got to experience something different. Also, one thing I didn’t like was the rapid-fire course registration system that has all the students waiting at PC cafes clicking refresh at the speed of light when it is time to register. I am very glad that at my home uni my modules are fixed or when optional, given fair consideration within a set deadline. (I got all the optional modules for final year that I wanted, woo!)

My results for the assignments from my home uni were also good, and those are the ones that count for my degree so I am very happy with that!

A photo of my notes at a cafe. I just realised the topic here is relationships, specifically dating and marriage. I now remember wanting to speed through this vocabulary knowing I’d likely never use it.

I really liked being able to study modules not offered at my own university, and explore more of the areas in which my strengths lie, especially before my final year. I chose to do modules about language, culture, and global sociology, not just because I was interested in them but because I thought they would be the most interesting ones to study from a different cultural perspective.

Since my first year, I have learned that, despite taking Psychology for the neuroscience initially, my strengths are firmly in the social side of psychology and I actually am not that great at neuroscience. I’m interested in almost all parts of Psychology, so it was not a disappointment at all! Rather, I’m excited to find an area I really do well in and can focus on more in the future.

I did take Korean classes, and I’ve definitely become a little more confident at using it in the wild. However, I wish I had been able to practice more or find more people to practice with, or even just had the courage to ask my friends to practice. Especially as my classes were online this last semester, for a language course it really helps to have speaking practice and it just wasn’t happening. I do have a lot to review for the time being, and I know I’ll definitely continue to learn Korean when I can. Also, my weakness in language learning is definitely memorising vocabulary. It can drag and become repetitive and that’s where I fall behind.

Some of the sunset view by Han River.

Socially

I struggled a bit. While they make social groups for exchange students, they can get a bit drinking heavy in focus. Outside of that, it was really hard to plan outings when people had already formed dead-set groups so quickly, and I didn’t meet many people in my classes either. Introverts like me obviously don’t tend to go out so it has always taken time for me to find groups that I really click with!! Nevertheless, I met so many cool people while abroad though our time together was brief, and was even able to meet online friends for the first time which was crazy.

I shied away from joining student drinking in my first semester as I wasn’t very comfortable with drinking with a bunch of people I had really not known very long. I’m also aware that I’m very lightweight in tolerance, so I just didn’t want to risk it. In second semester… I guess I know my limits now, to say the least. I don’t see myself drinking that much in a 6 month period ever again! But it was nice that I could drink just around the corner from where I lived, with people I found to really trust. Also, 3am Korean BBQ really hits the spot.

Me, on a boat, facing the Han River.

Personally

I may have mentioned before that I am not really a traveller, and that’s… still pretty clear now. I can’t plan a trip to save my life and usually end up following around people who have any semblance of a plan. When I do leave the city I am usually pretty content with bundling up in my hotel room with a bunch of snacks and enjoying the view.

Living in Seoul was a bit different, because my room was the size of a regular bathroom with a shower booth squeezed inside anyway and that made me want to go out. Back in my family home, I’ve only needed to leave the house twice in the last two, almost months and that is totally fine by me. I am a super home-body. That is fine.

The view from the hotel room in Busan, since I wasn’t feeling so well. I was reading Good Omens. I haven’t finished it.

Before I moved to Seoul, I had never lived alone before. I had also never really envisioned a life outside of Birmingham. I felt some small attachment and pride at that. That completely changed this year. I don’t feel as much attachment to Brum as before and I’m looking at doing Masters degrees in other UK cities that I’ve wanted to go back to but hadn’t considered living in before. After living in Seoul on the other side of the world, living 6 hours’ journey away from my family is not so bad in comparison. If I plan to settle, I hope it’ll be close to home, but I want to take the opportunity to live a bit further while I can.

One other thing is that I had wanted to live in Tokyo for a few years in my life goals, but now I feel like I wouldn’t be able to manage it. I found it really difficult being so far away from my family and friends for so long, so now I know that unless I am seeing my family every year I would find it hard to live in another country long term. I’d still love to live there for a little while in some capacity, though.

And also! I’d be happy to live in Seoul again semi-permanently if the opportunity ever arose! Especially once my Korean has improved more! I really fell head over heels in love with the city and it really was just wonderful to live there!

Anyway, I think I am done with my musings for now. I did also want to write more posts about what I miss and don’t miss, but perhaps for another time when I am feeling sentimental again 🙂

Until next time,

X

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