When I first learned of my acceptance to Chung-Ang University as an exchange student for the 2016 spring semester, I was absolutely overjoyed. Now, looking back after completing the semester I cannot believe what an amazing experience I was able to partake in. Korea has been the number one country on my list to visit. Like many others, I was first introduced to Korea through Korean Dramas and K-pop. This interest led my family to watch Korean TV programs and learn about Korean culture and society. As a university student, I studied Korean language for 2 semesters before making my way to Korea. During the exchange, my language skills and confidence in speaking grew. My knowledge in Korean culture, history, and society increased as well. From lectures and discussions in my classes as well as through conversations with friends and observing the society, my knowledge of Korea has expanded.

CAU’s scholarship program, Global A, also granted me many encounters. Although I was there to help students practice their English skills, I believe that I received more than I expected. I made many friends, learned about Korea, became closer to the other exchange students I worked with, and practiced teaching and conversation skills needed as I work towards a degree in education. Working in E-lounge, was the best part of my week. It was fun to sit down and talk with students about their day and their interests.

Korea is an amazing country and I cannot wait to return. Highlights of 4 months in Korea include my first Korean snow, a weekend trip to Busan, eating tteokbokki in Dongdaemun, cheering for the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Stadium, after e-lounge dinners with co-workers and Korean friends in Heukseok, attending a few Kpop concerts, hiking Hallasan in Jeju-do, CAU’s LUCAUS festival, late night norebang sessions at K2, and wearing hanbok around Gyeongbokgung palace. I was impressed with the amount of English in Korea and how easy it was to navigate through Seoul. Korean food was absolutely delicious (너무 맛있어) and very diverse. Korean people were very polite, helpful, and very encouraging when I explained my desire to speak Korean language.

My spring semester as an exchange student at Chung-Ang University was absolutely unforgettable. Not only did I have the chance to attend an amazing university but I was gifted with the opportunity to learn firsthand about Korean society, grow as an individual, and create friendships with Korean students as well as students from all over the world. I am excited to take the skills and experiences I received during my exchange and share them with others. I will miss everything from my time in Korea (except for the steep walk up to the dorm and the freezing winter weather).

Mahalo nui loa to Chung-Ang University for the opportunity of a lifetime.  많이 사랑해요!

Tips to incoming students:

  1. Don’t be afraid to learn a little Korean. A little can go a long way! If you show people you’re making an effort to understand part of their culture, they’ll first be impressed but also more up to help or show you something new. And don’t be shy if you can’t say things correctly, they’ll correct you, so just try.
  2. Korea is a great place to step out of your comfort zone. Go out and explore the city, try new foods, ask random students for help (they can speak English, they’re just shy so take the initiative), sing super off-key in norebang (karaoke).
  3. Walk up the hills at CAU. Don’t always take the elevator or escalators. You will be eating a lot of food when you get there so might else well use these hills as an opportunity to walk it off. You WILL gain weight.
  4. If you like shopping for clothes, Kpop merchandise, and skin care, bring two suitcases with you. One full of things you need and one empty. Things in Korea are pretty cheap and you don’t have to worry about taxes. Most international flights are two free check-ins so just do yourself a favor and bring an extra suitcase or duffle bag for all of the things you buy. Suitcases aren’t too expensive but I’ve only seen lots of small ones. Shipping however, is pretty expensive.
  5. Be prepared to fall in love. As in, be prepared to fall in love with Korea. Korea really is an amazing country. There may be times where things are a little rough and you miss things from home (food, pets, significant others, etc…) but Korea has so much to entertain! Go eat some fried chicken, watch performances in Hongdae or Yeouido Hangang park, shop in Myeongdong or Express Bus Terminal, hike some famous mountains, participate in temple stay, or ride bikes along the Hangang. And prepare yourself for new friendships. You’ll meet lots of people in the exchange program, in class, or just out in the city.
  6. The ATM and exchange rate charges are not a joke. *crying because they take my money* *crying because I be spending money* ㅠㅠ

Kuuleinani Lee, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Spring 2016