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South Korea

Matthew Poissant
American studies and psychology double major

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The country I went to for my study abroad experience was South Korea. Admittedly, I chose that country for a pretty vague and shallow reason- it was because I wanted to go to somewhere “different” or “exotic”. For my experience, this lack of a clear goal led to a greater degree of culture shock as once I realized I had no practical reason to be there everything became really overwhelming. That being said, it was very easy to come up with a goal to achieve while I was there, although it added to the stress of things. Take if from the guy who didn’t do it, it is best to have a concrete plan of what you want to get out of your experience before you leave.

Programs can usually help with this but I did not go through a program, I directly enrolled at Yonsei University. However, I lived at a home stay which introduced me to the culture in a variety of ways. Class scheduling was difficult since UMBC registration and Yonsei registration didn’t really line up, but the classes I ended up taking (all were in English) were very insightful. I took a Psychotherapy psychology class which should fulfill one of the requirements for my Psychology major as well as a class on teaching English as a second language which would come in handy if I decide in the future that I want to do that as a job.

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Personally this experience was very humbling. You feel an odd combination of being both rude and an infant when you are not literate enough in the country’s language that people have to speak English to communicate with you. Also, if I do ever decide to teach English as a second language, I think I have a good understanding of what my students would be going through. I would encourage everyone to study abroad just so they can feel and, then, overcome culture shock. That whole experience of realizing you are in someplace that you don’t fully understand helps you cement your own identity by illuminating what you are not. The process following that revelation of trying to merge what you are and what you are not is a life changing one. That is a very abstract way of saying it teaches you to be adaptable.

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