Almost four years ago, I boarded a 14-hour flight to Korea. I never thought that my first flight would be to a foreign country. I was a first generation college student from a low socioeconomic background. I never thought that studying abroad would be attainable for someone in my position. Until one of my peers discussed their study abroad experience to our scholars program. They mentioned that they had received the Gilman Scholarship. After hearing that there was a funding opportunity designed for students like me, I knew that I was going to study abroad. From there I began researching programs in South Korea as I have always been intrigued with Korea and some of its policies toward mental health.
Under the Gilman Scholarship, I had the opportunity to go to Seoul, South Korea to attend the International Summer Campus at Korea University (KU). At first I found it difficult to adjust because while at KU, I participated in the KU Buddy Program in which I was paired with a native student. The KU student helped me adjust and learn to navigate through Korea. Being a part of this program allowed me to learn more about the language, cultural norms, and history through a different lens. My time abroad enhanced my curiosity about Korea, and helped me find a way to bridge my interest in psychology and Korean studies. Upon my return home, I was able to take classes related to Korean history and wrote a research paper on the effects of their very rigorous educational system and its effects on student mental health.
Honestly, as a freshman I never would have thought I would have found intersectionality between my interests in Korean culture and my passion for raising awareness of mental health concerns for students. I currently work at a national center that promotes the advancement of student mental health while pursuing my masters in applied psychology. I have been able to present at various conferences and make connections with stakeholders both in national and international scale. The co-director of the center, has even introduced me to her colleague in Seoul who is currently conducting research that aligns with my interests.
If you are on the fence about whether or not to study abroad, I encourage you to go for it! The experience will be like no other and will have a lasting impact on you. You will be able to broaden your perspective and journey outside of your comfort zone. More specifically, if you are looking into Gilman as an option to help fund your trip know that it’s more than someone sending you a check. Gilman allows you to share your story and experiences abroad with your peers, alumni, and other scholars. It also presents you with an opportunity to have an impact on your community through your follow-on service project or becoming an Alumni Ambassador like myself.
Some final words of advice: Do not believe that studying abroad is not a possibility for you; it is possible! So go create memories that will last a lifetime!