Study Abroad during a pandemic

Woman in mask We asked Briana David (third year Political Science student at CSUEB) about her study abroad experience in Korea during the pandemic.  See our questions and her responses in this virtual interview below:

Q. Why did you want to study abroad and where are you now?

A. I wanted to study abroad so I can feel what it’s like to be on my own for once as I still live with my mom back home. I also wanted to experience a new culture and see if the teaching is the same as it is back home.  I am currently studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I’m studying for a whole academic year of 2021-2021. I started my journey in August 2021 and it will end in June 2022. 

Q. Why did you choose this program? 

A. I decided to apply under the ISEP program as it had a lot of options for schools in Korea  It’s tough to get into schools in Korea and I didn't want to miss my chance of studying abroad for a whole year as next year I will be a Senior and would only have time to study for a semester. 

Q. How did you feel about studying abroad during the pandemic?

A. I found out about studying abroad before the pandemic but I was busy focusing on if I should join an ROTC program, which I didn't end up doing, so that’s how I decided to do a study abroad program.  I felt like this was my chance to get the opportunity to study abroad. 

Q. Has the academic program, housing situation, or other aspects of the exchange changed due to the pandemic?  If so, how?  

A. Yes, in order to even get to Korea I had to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days and then when I got on campus, I learned that I will have no roommate because of COVID and that class would be online until it was safe to meet in person. As I’m typing this right now (November 26th) I do happen to have a few classes on campus now! Also Korea has this thing where you have to sign up everywhere you go before entering a place so they can keep up with COVID and to let others know if they have been around somebody with COVID and that they should get tested. 

Q. How has your host campus ensured your safety in light of COVID-19?

A. My host campus also has sign up sheets to track everybody’s movement just in case somebody on campus did have COVID. We also get biweekly updates about the pandemic and what the government is doing to ensure safety and if the levels have changed in Korea. 

Q. What have you learned about Korean culture that you might not have if you weren't there during the pandemic?  What activities have been limited by COVID?

A. I have learned that Korea is a busy place with a lot of food vendors on the streets but it has been hard to fully experience that during the pandemic. So for now I am missing out on some delicious Korean street food, but hopefully sometime next year I will get to try that. Also I would like to be able to go to the DMZ (demilitarized zone on the border with North Korea) as it’s a place that my politics professor recommended. My professor had told me that the DMZ weren’t taking any tours at the moment but maybe as I’m writing this it will be open soon! 

 Q. What are some highlights of your experience so far?  

A. Some highlights would be:

Palace in Korea

1) Visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  It's only 3,000 won which is about $2.50 for entrance but if you wear a hanbok (traditional Korean dress), like I did on my second visit, you can get it in for free! 




5 young women making faces

2) Being able to go to an amusement park with students from my school.  The picture here is me enjoying Lotte World, an amusement park, with my "Seoulmate" and other students. "Seoulmate" is the program I'm under which is when an Korean student is my mentor and helps me out in Korea and shares Korean culture. 




3) Another favorite one is going to cafes and the one that I loved going to the most is a dog cafe called Gyeoul's House Cafe where you can pet dogs and drink coffee at the same time! 






Q. What would you tell other students who are considering study abroad (either during the pandemic or after)?

A. Please save up on money! I saved up some, but I’m a horrible at saving money (as I love to spend!), so please always have some money saved up for a rainy day!  Another thing is bring a lot of clothes depending where you are studying at. Because I’m studying in Korea I knew beforehand that the clothes weren’t going to fit me because of their standards in clothing, so research to see if you can even buy clothes at where you are going! Also learn a bit of the language if you are going to a place with a different language. People have said online that going to Korea with English is fine but sometimes it can be a bit hard which is why I’m learning the language now! 

Q. When you return to the US and CSUEB, what will you miss most about Korea? 

A. I will miss the cheap food! I love eating and the food out here is super cheap! Like I can get a whole meal for $6-8 and I usually spend at least $15-20 for a meal back home. Another thing I would miss is the transportation. Using the subway and bus is so easy here that you would never need a car but back home I do need my car and I’m not ready to start driving again. 

Q. How do you expect you will look at things in the US differently because of your experience?

A. From my experience here I have realized how overpriced everything is in the US. As mentioned above the meals are cheap, and transportation is cheap too!  Also my health insurance is cheap- it’s just $39 a month. Even the university fees are less!  I’m paying CSUEB fees as part of the ISEP exchange, but if I had enrolled directly at my Korean university, I would have saved at least $5K each semester. All in all Korea just has a cheaper cost of living than the US does.