By Miguel Litonjua
What a summer!
Miguel Litonjua is a graduate of the Honours Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree program who took part in a summer academic program at Dankook University in South Korea while still a student at Seneca.
As I boarded the plane heading to South Korea, I didn't know what to expect. I hadn’t been to Asia since my last visit 10 years prior and I was excited to see where this journey would take me. Through Seneca, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad for one month on the Jukjeon Campus at Dankook University, South Korea. As the only student participating from Seneca, I was nervous yet excited for this new experience ahead.
The reason I chose to go to South Korea was because of its mix of city life and culture. As someone who loves to travel, South Korea was an interesting option for me to explore my areas of interests. My classes were taught by both Korean and international professors. This helped provide critical and interesting debates in lectures.
Many of my classmates also came from different places around the world, such as Slovenia, Italy, America and China. Because of this, I felt so lucky to also have had the opportunity to learn about their cultures. Although learning the Korean language was tough, the learning environment had a positive impact to my success in my courses as well as with gaining the confidence to speak Korean outside of class. Outside of school I was surrounded by a mix of the old and new. The mix of exploring old temples, experiencing the city night life and being met with Korean hospitality was like no other experience.
The most important thing I learned during this experience was about staying connected. There were times when I felt homesick and alone, so I highly recommend staying connected with friends and family that are back home as well as making connections in the new environment.
An experience that I won't forget was the day I made my first friend after arriving on campus. It was early in the morning and I had decided to explore the city of Jukjeon. I was struggling to understand how to use the local currency but was able to find a kind cashier who was able to help solve my problems. After helping me, we chatted and found out that we shared many interests and experiences, which then led us to having dinner and exploring the city together. That day was very memorable because it provided first-hand insights to the local Korean hospitality.
As I move forward with my education and career, I will never forget what this experience has taught me in regards to patience, flexibility and confidence. Since arriving back from South Korea, I have become more confident in exploring new places, even when alone. I have since attended many of the events that I have always wanted to go to but was held back by the idea of going alone. In the end, I went to South Korea alone but left with a smile on my face, a full stomach and memories I'll never forget.