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Britney Cheung

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business
Study Abroad

Program:
University
Location:
Experience Faculty
The journey of growth has impacted me in ways I had not even thought of being impacted - from small aspects such as learning how to live on my own, to gaining new outlooks on life, people, and myself.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2022
Introduction + Preparation

Prior to my nomination for this exchange program, I had taken up learning Hangul (the Korean alphabet) and learning basic understanding of the grammar and making verbs present or past tense on my own, though I might add that it was definitely less than a kindergarten level. However, once I planned and was nominated for my exchange, I decided it was important to get a better understanding of the language and so I took 25 hours’ worth of classes with a Korean teacher! Aside from the language, I did do a lot of other preparations such as mentally preparing myself for living alone and away from my family, what documents I would need, how to get around, and various other tips from individuals online who were professionals working abroad or other students who had previously gone on exchange. 

Preparation Tips for Future Students

As someone who has grown up as the youngest of her family (my siblings are 10 and 8 years older than me, so I really mean the youngest!) where I have never really had the need to do anything on my own, or even if I did, I knew I would have a safety net under me - this experience was going to be huge.

Therefore, my tips for preparation would be this:

  • Learn about the cultures and norms regarding respect (even if you don't want to learn the language it's nice and appreciated to know the basics like thank you and excuse me!)

  • If you have interest in the language, then take the leap and try! (Sometimes it can be extremely useful as searching on maps may not appear in English)

  • Connect, read, or watch content and tips from people who have travelled, worked, or studied in the country you are planning to go to!

  • Connect with other exchange students through Facebook Groups, Discord Chats, and through SFU prior to going!

Bonus Tips!

  • Mentally prepare yourself, and if a voice inside tells you “It’s too scary you shouldn’t", do not listen to it!! Your experience will be unforgettable, both the good and the bad will be extremely insightful

  • Fun tip: do not consume only Korean food before leaving Canada if you are going to Korea (learned this one the hard way)

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

To be extremely transparent, the first week of arriving was very hard. This is most likely due to me being the youngest of my family, but also my own personality of needing to be perfect and fearing mistakes, but the idea of speaking English and seeming foreign, but also being too afraid to use my Korean, really made it difficult for me to do anything. I didn't want to purchase a transit card because it meant talking to someone which meant I couldn't ride any buses or subways so I couldn't go to many places.

Slowly I felt a little bit better, but still intimidated but got what I needed to do done and I am thankful that I came to Korea a week before orientation to get to a more comfortable position by the time school started. Orientation and the first week of classes were nice because in these classes and rooms, I knew that the people around me were all in the same position as me, while the professors were aware that most of us spoke varying levels of Korean and were all adjusting to many different things all at once.

Day to Day

It's funny, but day to day life really was not much different than my day-to-day life in Canada and back at SFU. Aside from the added responsibilities of ensuring I have food and the things I need for survival; most days were filled with attending classes and meeting up with friends to explore various parts of Korea, visit cute cafes, or simply wandering aimlessly!

Some parts of the day-to-day life began to feel mundane and similar to life back at home, but the other aspects are what gave the sense of unfamiliarity such as needing a translator to communicate with someone, or to know what to order at a restaurant - for some this could not be nerve-racking or intimidating, and for some it can be, so I think it is a matter of personality. But I can say with confidence that the day-to-day life was definitely much easier than the feelings of worry and fear of the first few weeks of arriving.

Wrap Up

It is really difficult to encompass in words how this experience has changed and shaped me as a person simply due to how much it has. Going into this experience I was extremely afraid and nervous because I have never done something like this before. Thankfully with the support of friends and family I knew that I had to take on this challenge because I could not foresee the future and whether I would get such an amazing opportunity again. I am so so so incredibly thankful I listened and took on this challenge and experience because there are just so many things to be thankful for. The journey of growth has impacted me in ways I had not even thought of being impacted - from small aspects such as learning how to live on my own, to gaining new outlooks on life, people, and myself.

While sometimes I feel as though I am taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back, I know that if I hadn't had this opportunity, I would not be taking any steps at all. When looking back on the experience it's hard not to smile because even through the bad experiences, I think to myself "wow, you did it... you went through that experience and you made it!" because each experience shapes us in terms of learning what we dislike, how we can react, how we can understand the differences, and really having a deeper insight and understanding of the situation.

While I still have one more semester in Korea, I am sitting here writing this thinking about my return to Canada and already feeling as though I miss it here. But I still have much more I want to do, see, learn, and experience alongside my own personal growth and development as a person and a professional so good luck to future me.

할 수 있어!!

아자아자~

Author

Britney Cheung

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business
Study Abroad
visibility  297
Jan 24, 2023