Being a freshman in college is not an easy task. My high school experience in small town in the United States consisted of going to school, studying and hanging out with my friends at at our five same favorite places since there is little to do in a small town. In high school, like many other students, I relied on my family, who helped me manage my time and kept me well-fed. However, when I went off to college, I had to leave the familiarity and safety of my friends and family behind to embark on this new adventure. Learning in college is an exciting time of meeting new people, experiencing new things, and engaging in more academically challenging work. As a transfer student to Underwood International College of Yonsei University, this is my second time adjusting to a new university environment. My first university was only four hours by car from my home in the U.S., so although I was experiencing the liberating life of a college student, I was never too far away from my family and family. However, now I’m on the opposite side of the globe far away from them. Instead of a four-hour car ride, it now takes over twenty hours of travel time to return to my hometown. Adjusting to life so far away from the familiarity of home is difficult; however, I am lucky because I have already experienced the trials of life as a first-year college student. Instead of having to adjust to both university life and life in Korea, I only had to acclimate myself to the new culture I faced in Korea. However, for the UIC first-years who had lived outside of Korea before entering a Korean university, the situation is more complex because they have to adjust to both, and I salute their bravery for taking up new challenges. I wanted to learn more about the first-year experience at UIC, so I interviewed two students to learn more about how they were adjusting to university life.
The first student I interviewed was Diana Duran, a first-year student who is in my Korean class. Diana is 18 years old and is, like me, from the United States. She is specifically from the state of Alabama which is located in the Southern part of the United States. Her favorite thing about Korea is being able to experience new things. Her favorite thing about UIC is that all the classes are in English. Underwood International College courses are taught in English which not only allows for the university to have a diverse student body, but also allows foreigners who don’t speak Korean to study in Korea. This is something I also appreciated since I wouldn’t have been able to attend university in Korea otherwise. Her favorite class right now is Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar taught by Professor Edward Kim. She enjoys the class because she likes the professor and she also likes that the class requires a lot of student discussions. The discussions allow her to hear a diverse range of viewpoints. UIC has a diverse student body, which allows for varying opinions and ideas. This is something that I also really enjoy in my classes, and was a key factor that made me want to apply to Underwood International College. The biggest difference for Diana between her home and Korea is the language. English and Korean are very different languages in various ways, beginning, for instance, by their alphabets. Due to this difference, Diana really wants to learn Korean, which shows in how hard she works in Korean class. When I asked Diana about her other future goals, she said that as of right now, she wants to visit other places in Korea and also successfully graduate from university, and I personally related to this sentiment. Diana is a part of the Underwood Global Community Club, which is a club whose goal is to create a positive and inclusive international community at UIC. One of the hardest things in adjusting to life in Korea for Diana is getting her alien registration card. International students not only have to obtain a visa in their home country before their arrival, which I found as a very stressful process myself, but they also have to register with immigration at their local immigration office post arrival. This means paperwork, completing documents, and other tasks which can be very confusing and stressful if you don’t speak Korean. Despite her struggles, Diana still enjoys her time at UIC and has successfully adjusted to UIC life.
The second student I talked to was Kira Welland who is 22 years old and from the United Kingdom. Kira’s favorite thing about Underwood International College is the variety of courses, specifically how the common curriculum allows for students to take diversified classes. Common curriculum courses cover subjects like literature, history, philosophy, science and they overall vary in subject and depth.Her favorite class is also Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar, because it encourages her to question society, as well as think critically about the world. While in Korea, Kira wants to hike up the Hallasan with her friends. For Kira, the biggest difference between Seoul and her home is the difference in food as well as the difference in prices. When I asked Kira about her future goals, she said that she wants to be more courageous and pursue new fields that interest her like music and art. She also wants to learn about new cultures, which is great because the goal of UIC is to create and intercultural academic atmosphere.
It takes a courageous person to commit to attending university abroad. Diana and Kira had to not only believe in themselves, but also believe that they would enjoy attending Underwood International College at Yonsei. Their courage paid off, and both are enjoying their time as first-years at UIC. For me, the hardest part of transferring to UIC was leaving my college friends behind in, knowing that I wouldn’t see them every day and be able to graduate with them. However, with their and my family’s support, I too took a leap of faith. Thinking about it now I’m glad I did. Underwood International College has exceeded my expectations and are worth the struggles that come with attending university abroad.