During the summer, many students pursue opportunities for growth in their studies. A student took advantage of an opportunity offered by a program at the University of Albany, Emily Fronk studied abroad in South Korea for the summer season.
Beginning her journey at the end of June, she traveled more than six thousand miles to study at Yonsei Universityone of the three prestigious universities in South Korea.
As a major in Spanish linguistics with a minor in Korean studies, Fronk took two courses in six weeks. By giving her the chance to obtain minor credits, she obtains a worldwide distinction for her diploma as well as an unforgettable experience.
Some of the major challenges, however, came with culture shock. “Usually when I travel I’m with someone I know, like family or close friends. But I went through the whole post-arrival process on my own, which largely added to language barriers and cultural differences. It was only very difficult for my first one to three days,” Fronk said.
Although there was the pressure of the language barrier, it didn’t last long until it was no longer a major concern for Fronk. While Korean is a particularly difficult language for most to learn, Fronk has spent the past year taking classes to better understand the language at UAlbany and deepening it in his studies at Yonsei University.
“You get the hang of it and it gets comfortable after a while,” Fronk said.
Fronk made the most of his studies, taking his free time to explore the city of Seoul and visiting various places like Namsan Towerand Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace is a large structure located in the heart of Seoul that has existed since the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1395. Most tourists rent a traditional Korean hanbok (traditional garment) as it allows you to enter the palace for free!
Photos by Emily Fronk
Throughout the city, there are thousands of cafes of which Fronk’s share is one of his favorite aspects. “They offer different activities or themes to do with your friends and a snack. There are cafes for archery, painting, key chain making, pottery, seeing animals like raccoons and kangaroos and themes like Harry Potter or just aesthetic environments.”
Photos by Emily Fronk
“However, the best part of my experience was the number of people I met and the exposure to culture I got while there,” Fronk said. “In Korea, there are entire cities that are claimed by young Koreans, like Hongdae.”
These neighborhoods are well-known areas for finding things to do. “Every day of the week is treated like a big block party, with massive groups of people everywhere with tons of restaurants, shops, cafes, arcades, clubs and bars,” Fronk said.
When it comes to tips, some are essential to get the most out of your experience.
According to Fronks’ advice, although Korea is much cheaper than the United States, there is a lot of money spent on transport, outings and sightseeing. “You won’t want to miss a thing once you get there,” Fronk said.
Before you go, also make sure you understand basic Korean culture and social norms. “That way you can learn to respect the natives of their country,” Fronk said. “I would also recommend learning to read Korean.” This makes it easier to navigate the city and public transportation. Just knowing at least some Korean, even if at a basic level, can go very far.
“I was able to really learn a lot about the reality, the cultural norms and know my way around Seoul thanks to the time I was able to stay. The things that I learned, I would not have even experienced them if I had went on a 1-2 week trip with my family.Like experiencing non-tourist trappings like being able to speak Korean, making Korean friends, at one point I even started to notice that I had memorized the subway lines in my head at the end of my trip. It made me realize how much adapting to Korea made me learn,” says Frank.
For those looking for future travel advice “Experience all and everything you can in Korea, no matter how long you stay. Whether you’re here for a week or a year, fill your days,” Fronk said, “Korea has an endless amount of things to do. So all the time you have should be used to experiment as much as you can, because there really is no place like South Korea.