The GoGlobal Blog

Tag: Korea

Pre-departure Thoughts

Pre-departure Thoughts

Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois
Watching the sunset over the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois

August 23

As I sit in probably one of the most scenic and calm places in my hometown of Moline, Illinois, I feel a mix of emotions build inside of me. After staying in Chicago for more than half a year, I forgot that so much beauty exists in the vibrant shades of green that is abundant nature, the unabashed curiosity of friendly passers by, and the calm that exists in quiet outdoor spaces. It’s crazy to look around and to recognize this place not only as my home but to recognize it as the United States, my place of origin and nationality. I look around and my heart tightens at the fact that I won’t be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of home for much longer; tomorrow, I will be leaving this all behind in order to study, explore, and immerse myself in South Korea, my mother’s birthplace and original home.

Much of the emotion within myself is barely contained excitement! To see the beautiful mountains, to hear the traditional music and dance, and to eat the spicy and fermented food of my ancestors with the mobility and freedom of a young adult is a chance of which just thinking of is making my eyes water with emotion! Finally being able to experience and understand the complex culture and nuances that are Korea will hopefully bring me and my mother as well as the rest of my family closer together. Family matters aside, living in Seoul, literally one of the biggest megacities in the world that is caught in between the not so distant past and the constantly changing cutting edge of the present, will no doubt be a chance to see all that Korea and its people has to offer(certainly being a young adult in any major city will have its upsides)!

Already I have written in my class schedule in my newly purchased planner, and I am beyond stoked to start learning about my majors and minor from a non-Western perspective in classes with students from all over the world! I am excited to see how university age students from Korea and from different countries interact and contribute towards class discussion and campus life. I have been in contact with the 9 other US students(most from Texas or the west coast) in my program via a Groupme chat, sharing tips and thoughts. Plus, I’ve even signed up for and been contacted by an Ultimate Frisbee team in Seoul called Seoul Train(yes, really) that has already started practices and will have 6 tournaments throughout the fall. I can’t wait to jump into life at Kookmin University, the greater Seoul area, and the rest of Korea!

Amid this excitement, however, is a fair share of anxiety. The obvious sources of this feeling being having to navigate international airports, fly halfway across the world, improvise nonverbal communication, find out who my roommates are, traverse a totally new culture, and trying to orient myself in what will be my home for the next four months. But, one source of anxiety that I believe not all study abroad students have to worry about is the prejudice that may exist towards foreigners and people of color specifically.

I am a Mexican Korean American, which in itself is a combination unique in the United States and will not doubt be in Korea. The United States, though far from perfect in terms of racial relations, has allowed me to explore my racial identity through it’s large and multi-faceted communities of color. In contrast, Korea is a country that is 96% homogeneous and reportedly has a lack of sensitivity around other races and lifestyles. I am afraid that my “otherness” will either be completely erased or unnecessarily exaggerated, and it would be heart breaking to arrive in Korea, expecting to feel at home but to face discrimination instead. However, I will try to quell my anxious and slightly pessimistic thoughts and try to enjoy my time abroad(but updates on this to come)!

In writing this blog post, the realization that tomorrow my journey truly beings really hit. I’ve been waiting for this trip for the entire summer, and I feel ready! Here’s to the journey being safe… and to the jetlag not being completely awful!


For Prospective Kookmin(or Korea) Exchange Students

For Prospective Kookmin(or Korea) Exchange Students

taken offline
Chicago summers1

Hello, and welcome to my first blog post! Today is August 2, 2016, and the end of summer is in sight, which also means that the fall semester is just around the corner!


For my study abroad trip to Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, I am expected to be on campus on August 27, the weekend before classes start on August 29th, for a one day orientation. With less than a month before I start a whole new chapter of my life in South Korea, I’d like to share with prospective students what the summer has been like for me (since it might be the case for you)!


Initially, I had hoped that all the details for my study abroad trip would be set in stone before the summer started, heck, even before finals were over, but, alas, that was not the case.


I am not sure if it is just Kookmin University or perhaps all Korean colleges, but one should consider that your host university might operate on a much later schedule than is the norm for US colleges. I applied to Loyola’s study abroad office and USAC, the University Study Abroad Consortium that creates the study abroad experience, by mid-January and received my approval from both of these institutions by February and March respectively, and then waited to hear back from Kookmin University.


During this time, I went ahead to get course approvals, applied to the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship and the Loyola sponsored USAC scholarship, and renewed my passport. Finals came and went. Students all around me announced their study abroad plans and were registering for class, but I  still had not received word from Kookmin University.  I emailed my USAC advisor and was told that Kookmin University doesn’t actually close the fall registration application window until July 1st, so waiting was inevitable.


Two-thirds of a summer flew by, and then it finally happened! I was notified on July 14th by email that I was accepted by Kookmin University and admitted to their International School of Business. At this news, I was ecstatic and felt 20 pounds lighter with alleviated stress and uncertainty! Immediately, I booked my flight to Korea’s Incheon airport. I received some additional materials from my USAC advisor and was officially free to prepare for my trip during the next six weeks.


However, the waiting didn’t stop there. Another week passed(understandably) before I received my original acceptance letters from Kookmin University through the mail, signed by the college president himself. As soon as I could, I took those documents and everything else necessary to the General Consulate of the Republic of Korea located on the 37th floor in the NBC Tower in Chicago and applied for my student visa on July 26th.  I actually got a call from the UPS store, letting me know that my visa is ready for pickup as I was writing this. The visa process only took me a week!


I also received an email just this past hour from the International Affairs Division manager in Kookmin about class registration, so that process is underway, too!


Besides that, I have been checking into what items I need to buy and pack for my journey abroad, printing backup copies of my identification and insurance cards as per USAC’s suggestion, and am just trying to enjoy my last few weeks in the states. I downloaded an app (Tengugo Hangul) to learn how to read Korean and am now working on learning how to make sentences with an online resource ( I’ve started watching a handful of videos on Youtube about Korean etiquette and norms, too, and am getting so incredibly excited to immerse myself in a new culture and to share the experiences with Kookmin’s 200 other exchange students. With just a little bit more than three weeks before departure, all the pieces are finally falling into place.


I hope that if your study abroad plan to Korea feels delayed like mine that you not panic like I nearly did. Your study abroad trip will happen- just a little bit slower than what you’ve come to expect, which might honestly be your first cultural lesson. 



The next post will be more emotional and personal as I will only have one week before I depart, but until then an-nyeong-hi-gye-seo (goodbye)!