It’s the Little Things that Make the Biggest Impact





9/12/2018. 14:02. P1

/Category: Career Management/

/Guide Question: What knowledge do you hope to attain while abroad that will help you further your educational or career goals? What skills?/

I’ve been here in Korea for three weeks now. How time flies! The semester just started last Monday, Sept. 3rd, and so I was busy trying to navigate around campus, purchasing books and school necessities, and attending some club orientations. I still haven’t fully settled yet. In fact, I’ve been quite homeless after I moved out of my Airbnb on August 30th. I lived with my friend for a bit before moving to my new studio yesterday (Sept. 12). I finally got my own place! Yay! Anyway, I look forward to sharing with all of you the whole process of coming here and renting my own studio, navigating around new territory, and communicating with my perhaps 6-year-old level Kong-lish. I also want to show all of you my room, my neighborhood, and my school. I will leave that to my next post because I need more time to settle in and accumulate photos and videos, among the other things that I have to do for school.

For now, I would like to start with a more in-depth introduction of me and my goals for this study abroad. I think this is a good way to start so that by the end of the year, I can look back and see all the things I have accomplished and align them towards future plans. In addition to that, I think that if you get to know who I am more, you would have a better understanding of the person behind these words and the words that I will type in future posts. Also, future blog posts will be framed around these plans.

I’ve mentioned in my pre-departure video that this year is important to me both professionally and personally because I want to work and settle in Korea later on. People often ask me why Korea and I can’t really pinpoint a sole reason I enjoy living here because it is a compilation of all the little things I like. For instance,

I am a big fan of their transportation system. I don’t need a car because the subway can take me to most places in Seoul that I want to go. I like that people are relatively quiet in the trains and there are barely any solicitors.

The extensive Seoul subway! (image via google)

I also hate cooking, so I really enjoy the many affordable restaurants that are found almost everywhere! (I even love the convenience store food!) I really love Korean food and Asian cuisine so I’m glad I don’t have to pay $20-30 whenever I want Korean food, unlike in San Francisco. Also, there are some dishes I cannot even find in my area!

A trip to Gwangjang Market (광장시장), one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea. There is so much to eat? Should have worn looser shorts?


(I love Mung Bean Pancakes! “빈대떡” My stomach had a field day!)

(Just a little preview of the different kinds of food they sell at the market. Everything looks good! Yum!)

(This is Jjimdak! “찜닭” – Korean Braised Chicken. This one is with cheese. I can’t find this anywhere in San Francisco/bay area! I finally get to eat it!!!)

I love Korean music, dramas, movies, and variety shows. I love Korean fashion, cosmetics and beauty standards. I love that the general population are always well-dressed and present themselves well. I absolutely love shopping here and walking around and taking in the scenery and environment both in the city and in rural areas. (So many stores!! It’s so convenient to live here!!)

During my earlier trips to Seoul, I stayed a lot near Inha University, Incheon. This is Inha Culture Street!
This is Yonsei-ro in Sinchon. I walk this street going to my university! It’s so clean!!! (image via google)
A walk near Ihwa Mural Village! Gotta burn all that good food.
A lot of subway stations in Seoul have these underground shopping centers. I love shopping here!! A haven for college-kids-on-a-budget – like me! Haha! (image via google – this is Jonggak station).

I like that I can walk at 2am at night because it is relatively safe. I like that there are barely any homeless/crazy people on the streets (I actually wonder why that is, I should do a blog post on it). I like that it is relatively easy to live alone because studios “원룸” and lofts are kind of the standard. In San Francisco and the bay area, real estate is really expensive although quite spacious, so most college students need roommates to afford rent. I prefer to live alone even though my place is a little smaller. I like that WIFI is everywhere, and that there are various coffee shops everywhere!! You’d be surprised to know that on a regular street near the university, there will be about 3-5 or more different coffee shops on the same street, and the next street will have some more! Some even run for 24 hours!

Most importantly of course, I love the culture. I think it’s important to know that although I am a US citizen, I grew up in the Philippines and I’ve noticed that some fundamental elements of both cultures overlap and so I feel quite at home in Korea. Elements such as respect for elders, a certain “social hierarchy”, the importance of the cultivation of relationships, and closeness to family. I absolutely love speaking the language too! The more I learn, the more I want to get better!

For the longest time, I would always avoid talking about this because some people made me feel bad and ashamed of my dream to live elsewhere. Well… the world is huge, there are so many places to live in with people living many different versions of “life.” When my family and I moved to the United States from the Philippines, we, like every immigrant, were trying to find that “better life.” However, I am in the process of searching for my own “better life” that is beyond the definition that my parents initially provided for me. At the end of the day, all that everyone wants is to be a little happier. I think we all deserve that right to pursue it, wherever it might lead us.

In any case, I didn’t come here empty-handed, I came with a plan. Here are my top goals during my study abroad, from the pages of my own private planner:


  1. To be further educated in my core studies – business, finance, & economic courses in the context of Korean studies and its international relationships.

– Enroll in relevant courses, get really good grades, and really understand the material and marry it with my US-based education.

– Further my “Korean” education by taking classes that will supplement business background (elective courses)

  1. Get a strong command of the language

– Enroll in Korean language classes

– Take TOPIK exam (Korean language proficiency test)

– If I can say something in Korean, say it!

  1. Learn more about the Korean business culture

– Visit Korean companies?

– Research and ask people on Korean working life and on companies that hire foreigners

– Get internship? Part-time job?


  1. Be able to live alone successfully

– Budgeting and making sure I don’t ask parents for emergency money

– Enjoy time alone

– Be able to go to places on my own

  1. Be able to “get over myself”

– Be more open and make a lot of friends

– Try hard to do things outside of my comfort zone – join school clubs, try drinking, hiking, etc.

– Volunteer

– Finish this blog successfully

After my year in South Korea, I expect to have grown my Korean language skill tremendously, at least becoming semi-fluent in everyday conversations. I would also have a better idea on the Korean work culture and what jobs I will be applying to, along with a step-by-step checklist to acquire it. Actually, I do not plan to move to Korea in another 3-4 years and so even though the ultimate goal of this study abroad is to learn and strategize my move here, I know that when I return to the States, I will be more independent, more wise with my spending, adaptable and tolerant of other cultures, more focused on the things I want to achieve, and become a woman who is capable, resourceful, and is adept at problem solving, all of which are qualities I will be proud to be, both as a professional and an individual.