Cultural Immersion Studying Abroad in Seoul, South Korea
Zoe Ezechiels’ hometown is Sarasota, Florida, USA. She is a senior at Florida State University where she majors in both Media and Communication Studies and B.A Theatre. She just got back from Seoul, South Korea. There, she studied abroad at Sookmyung Women’s University. She studied via Global Exchange, Florida State University (FSU), a program that offers “a unique opportunity for cultural immersion” to degree-seeking students enrolled at FSU. Zoe has a passion for veganism, Korean YouTubers and studying abroad. She’s got the positive, open-minded attitude that every traveler needs to truly embrace new cultures and experiences. It’s not easy being vegan to begin with. However, it’s made all the more difficult when in a country whose culture is built around the communion of eating, and is famous for its popular barbecue. Zoe often cooked for herself and still managed to cultivate a community with those around her. Read more to learn how Zoe’s travel roots led her to other unexpected surprises in South Korea.
What sparked your dream to travel abroad?
“I have wanted to go abroad since I was young. I was born in Norway and moved to the U.S. when I was about four years old. Travel wasn’t something new for me. I grew up listening to stories of my parents’ explorations. My dad explored Trinidad Tobago, San Francisco, and Europe. My mom explored Europe and the United States. Their chanced love happened because they both loved traveling.”
“Even though I knew I always wanted to travel abroad, I didn’t know specifically where I wanted to go. It wasn’t until I started watching a bunch of Korean YouTubers and getting interested in Korean culture that I knew I had to go study in Korea.”
What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?
“I didn’t go into the experience with many expectations, but I had a few big ones. They completely changed when I first arrived in Seoul. First, I thought picking up the language would be way easier than it turned out to be. It was extremely rewarding once I did begin to pick it up, however. Secondly, I thought it would be harder to adjust to living in a completely new country all by myself. Fortunately, with the help of lovely friends and mentors, I quickly thrived. I was like a fish in water!”
What did you not expect?
“I didn’t expect the air pollution to be so bad during the Spring months in Korea. I had to wear face masks from the month of March to the month of June and was severely disappointed by this. The winter was also extremely brutal. My hands and elbows dried up painfully during December, but the snow was beautiful.”
What’s your next step?
“I plan to return to South Korea in the future. I’d like to continue my education in graduate school, through a scholarship program for foreign students. If not this, I’d like to find the opportunity to work in the country, preferably doing something that involves TV broadcasting.”
What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?
“Keep all your ducks in a row. Make sure that you are on top of everything, from paperwork to finances. At the end of the day, you’re the one making the trip, so it’s your responsibility to get everything completed on time. That being said, there are resources for you to utilize at your university. Please take advantage of them. Asking for help can be so relieving, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Also, look in every nook and cranny for scholarships. They can be in the most unexpected places. Try your foreign university and your domestic one, as well as some foreign and domestic companies.”