"Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant, and to face the challenge of change," said Martin Luther King Jr. People are usually satisfied with the way they have lived. People can stay in their comfort zone to avoid feeling afraid. However, the repetition of the same routine and avoidance of failure will limit the potential. Instead, people can learn lots of things by facing the challenge of change and defeating it. I am also discovering myself in a new environment with new people. This is how I stay awake, adjust to new ideas, remain vigilant, and face the challenge of change.
Everyone has dreamed of living abroad at least once in their life. It is not difficult for us to visit other countries, but living there is a whole different matter. Moreover, if it's the first time in one's life, it's a big decision to make. For me, living in a foreign country was what I had dreamed of for such a long time, but it evoked fear at the same time. Becoming an exchange student was one of my big goals after entering SMWU. Though there were many difficulties due to the pandemic situation, giving up on what I had dreamed of for such a long time would be a great despair for me. My choice was the US for a simple reason. My major is English Language & Literature, and I looked forward to life in the States more than anywhere else. Even though our school doesn't have many options for the US, I especially wanted to go to a school located in California or the Northeastern United States. That's because I thought it would be better to feel the US properly. After careful consideration, I decided to go to Temple University, a public university in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city in Pennsylvania, the sixth-most-populous city in the US. Philadelphia, also known as Philly, was one of the nation's capital cities in the 1790s. It is a city well known for its history, with many sites such as the Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It is also true that public safety is poor, but it has the great advantage that you can enjoy the infrastructure of this historic city.
Seize the opportunity
I have had a very diverse experience in the US since I came here. Many students will decide to become an exchange student after recognizing the many advantages that an exchange student can enjoy. Travel is the biggest benefit that an exchange student can experience. The opportunity to live abroad for as little as four months or as long as a year in your early 20s is rare. It's a very valuable opportunity not to be missed. I stayed in California for 3 weeks before the semester started, and I've been to San Diego, LA, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. The weather there was fantastic, and I had a very happy time. A tour of several canyons would remain as an unforgettable memory for my lifetime. After coming to Philadelphia, I also visited New York and Washington, taking advantage of the closeness. It is a great chance to be able to travel to these places in a short time and at a lower cost. Furthermore, what I personally felt was the strengths of American culture and college life. As everyone knows, American culture respects individuals and guarantees their freedom. I can do anything without caring about what other people think. I felt that this applies on campus as well. Most of the classes I take have students actively participating in the class. In some cases, classes are held for more than an hour with students' presentations and discussions. I respect the lecture-heavy classes that are common in Korean universities, but listening to the well-developed opinions of several students broadens my understanding. I would say the greatest strengths here are freedom and respect for individuals.
All I need is courage
If there are pros, there are also cons. I feel limited both in life in the US and in my personal problems. First, although individual freedoms are guaranteed, it shows the negative side of capitalism well. The best example is the gap between rich and poor. As with all metropolitan areas in the world, the wealth gap here is serious. On Philadelphia's streets, many homeless people sit in front of fancy restaurants. Cities in the US also have all sorts of urban problems. The security here poses a great threat to life. At least once or twice a week, I get a text message telling me to be aware of a shooting or armed robbery. Of course, various hate crimes and racism exist. As an Asian woman, I have to be especially careful here, and self-defense tools are essential. I can't shake the feeling that while free life in America is good, my safety is seriously threatened compared to Korea. However, it is the loneliness and helplessness that often make me depressed more than these things. I came here with expectations, but I quickly adapted and got used to life. Sometimes it feels boring. In the meantime, I sometimes feel that I am left alone in a foreign country. It is romantic to leave home and live abroad for a long time, but in a way, it also means that I have to endure so much loneliness. I'm also struggling to speak English, and there have been times when I felt helpless at not being able to say what I wanted. Life as an exchange student is not always like a fairy tale. To overcome this, there is only one thing to do: have the courage to say, "I can do it."
All you need is will
Confidence is important to lead a successful exchange student life. If you are still in the application or preparation stage, I want to tell Sookmyungians that they just need to have the will. The process to become an exchange student is not simple. Moreover, there are many things to prepare for even after passing. From applications to dormitories, visas, plane tickets, and more, there will be tons of things for you to do. But what will bother you the most is the lack of self-confidence. Living abroad, alone, in a different language is quite difficult. Even if you know the culture, life, and language of the country you are going to very well, what you need to spend there is college life. Preparation is the best way to get rid of anxiety. It is important to study the language of the country you go to or study English hard. I want to tell you to practice speaking a lot. If basic communication is not possible, you will find it difficult to solve even small problems. It is also recommended that you fully study and understand the culture of the country. Lastly, and most importantly, have the will to do all these things well. We must move forward for a better life and more diverse experiences.
If you do nothing, nothing happens
One thing that I firmly want to say is all Sookmyungians, strong-willed young women, always deserve better. To become more global, we should not miss this chance. There are too many advantages to miss out on. I can't say that my entire experience here has been the best, but I learned a lot that only comes from here. If you do nothing, nothing happens. Your enriched life is waiting for you.