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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Manuel spends fall across Pacific Ocean

Student shares study abroad experience

Taylor’s study abroad program can take one from the north of Indiana to the south of Korea.

Junior global studies major Kenedy Manuel spent the past fall semester studying abroad in Pohang, a city of approximately 500,000 people residing in the southeast corner of South Korea.

According to Manuel, students who major in global studies are required to study abroad for a semester. However, essential or not, she came to see this program as an opportunity to truly embrace her studies.

“I’ve always been interested in travel and I’ve always wanted to travel,” Manuel said. “I kind of wanted to do more study abroad opportunities because I did a couple of J-term trips with Taylor, and I really enjoyed that. There’s no limit (to) studying abroad. I always thought about it, but I didn’t think it would be realistic or affordable.” 

Manuel felt different emotions before her trip. It was going to be her first visit to Asia, as well as her longest flight yet.

Despite her anxiety, Manuel began to feel more relaxed and excited once she boarded the plane.

Manuel studied at Handong Global University, where she stayed in a dorm with three other roommates. Most of the residents in her dormitory, International Hall, consisted of students who were also studying abroad. One of her roommates was from Germany, while the other two were from South Korea.

Being a Christian university as well, Handong Global held several worship nights in addition to weekly chapels. 

The campus has five to six cafes and food options were very different, and even many other aspects of the university, according to Manuel.

“Lectures were a bit different,” Manuel said, “and homework was a bit different, and the education systems are very different. But I took a Korean history class, and a Korean language class. I took two international relations courses, and I took a really interesting course on North Korea, law and human rights.”

During her studies, Manuel traveled across a variety of places in Korea, whether it was day trips, within the city or even different provinces. 

One interesting observation that she made in terms of interacting with the locals is that they seemed to prefer to keep to themselves, unlike Americans, who often make an easy nod or keep eye contact with one another. 

Another thing that Manuel took notice of is that, unlike the United States, Korea is a mono-ethnic country, which could be a reason why foreign travelers easily attract attention. Still, she was able to make many friends with the locals.

“There’s so many people that were just so hospitable in Korea,” said Manuel. “So many students that have been so willing to help people and people that just make you feel like you’re not a burden to help.” 

Through her travels, Manuel learned a lot about Korean culture and the people, as well as more about herself. She also learned how different the Korean academic system is from the American system, including the higher difficulty of exams.

One of the locals who helped in Manuel’s studies was her professor. Manuel described her as kind and very willing to get to know each one of her students. She challenged and encouraged her students to speak.

“I also learned a lot about what it means to be an intentional teacher through that class and other classes too,” Manuel said. “But that class is typically something I’ve thought about academically and also just recognizing the differences in education systems. Sometimes, you forget that this is not the system everywhere and that it’s very different depending on where you live. So that was useful to get an idea of a different country’s education.”

Manuel’s message for students who may consider studying abroad at some point in the future is to take the opportunity. She acknowledges that there will be challenges along the way, but students shouldn’t allow that to keep them from enjoying the experience of traveling and studying in a different culture.

“I think even though there were hard times, there was so much I learned that outweighed that,” Manuel said. “Once you graduate, I think it just gets harder to travel…So I think if you can do it now when you have the time to do it, I would say to just do it.”