Your friends, Isabella, and Reese here. One of the biggest things we’ve struggled with while studying abroad was this notion that exploration and fun would only be possible when others are present. The truth is, sometimes people are going to get busy, sick, or perhaps straight-up cancel plans with you, and sure, it sucks, but that’s okay. Exploring alone can come with so many benefits, you can gain self-confidence, learn to find your own way, discover parts of yourselves that you never knew, and expand your social circle. Studying, traveling, and vacationing abroad is usually seen as a way to enrich one’s experiences, and to learn about others. However, being thrust into an unfamiliar territory invites the inevitable experiences that enable personal growth.
Loneliness, apathy, and depression all have negative connotations, and perhaps aren’t the type of words the study abroad student is used to hearing after the copious amounts of personal statements, scholarship applications, and desperate last-minute emails to get letters of recommendations. All of the fluffy and positive vocabulary and self concepts that are used to get your here to CAU is continuously being tested by the new friendships you’ll make in Korea. You enter a place where nobody knows who you are. The situation itself offers a lot of opportunities but at the same time induces a lot of anxiety. Whether you are here for a year or a semester, or perhaps you are a foreign student getting your degree at Chung Ang. The reality is, you’re not always going to have someone else to depend on.
1.) It’s okay to do things by yourself: Solo Exploring!
Directions are hard. Put those directions in a foreign language? Even harder—maybe even seemingly impossible… In those moments it becomes easy to rely on friends when traveling. This semester at Chung-Ang, Isabella shared that she challenged herself by exploring some areas in Seoul like going to malls, using the subway stations, and just familiarizing herself with the campus. It’s okay to get lost because you can ask some of the locals for directions and also improve your Korean at the same time. Kakaobus and Kakaometro are some of the apps you can use when traveling around South Korea.
Reese mentions that wandering the streets of Insadong and enjoying some mandu alone at a restaurant can be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. But most times, finding a nice café to enjoy a drink and a book is more my style. I’m no stranger to providing solo concerts at coin noraebangs, and I’ve even enjoyed a movie and snack alone at CGV! Nothing is stopping you from going out and having fun but yourself. So, go for it!
2.) Be proactive.
Reese here again, I’m painfully shy, so I understand the absolutely overwhelming anxiety the phrase “initiating plans” can cause. But hear me out, have you considered joining a club? No? Okay, stop running away. Maybe you should invite someone (or everyone) in one of your classes out to dinner, it doesn’t have to be somewhere far or extravagant. Maybe just grabbing a bite in the school cafeteria or a quick chat and a coffee can be all you need to start a friendship. Remember, everyone around you is new too, and if you never try to initiate befriending others, chances are you may miss out on some pretty cool people.
3.) Reach out for help if you need it!
We understand that going out and having fun can help cheer you up, but sometimes it only helps resolve surface level issues. There are ways to reach out if you don’t feel comfortable asking the people around you at CAU or back home. Self Care is important, especially while you are abroad. The following contact centers speak multiple languages including English and Chinese.
1330 Travel Hotline & Complaint Center: 1330 Korea Travel Hotline, operated by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), is a one-stop helpline available as a public service for local and international travelers.
The Happy Call Service for Foreigners: Dial 120. Free for all cell carriers. Provides information (including mental health services) for foreign residents adjusting to life in Seoul.
International Operator: Dial 00799
Chung Ang Hospital: Phone Contact +82(2)6299-3023/3025 Located only a 5 minute walk from Campus. Consultation reply within 24 hours; Hospital location: Seoul, Dongjak-gu, Heukseok-dong, Heukseok-ro, 102 KR 06973
Seoul Help Center: global.seoul.go.kr/