Commuter to Dorm Life in South Korea

The view from my dorm room

My name is Perla Echeverria, my pronouns are she/her/hers and I am a first-generation college student. I am a third year and double majoring in Social Work and International Security and Conflict Resolution. I am currently studying abroad for a year at Yonsei University MIRAE Campus, where I am part of the Global Village Program. 

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the International Summer Institute at Queen’s University Belfast, where I was part of the “Education for Transformation” program. My experience in Northern Ireland was catalytic; I learned about their history of religious inequality as well as their new, progressive education system, which aims to create unity amongst the younger generation. This experience motivated me to study abroad for a year, but this time in Asia. 

Although I had studied abroad before, I still had my reservations about going to Korea for a whole year. Bellow, I have compiled a list of lessons I have learned during my first month abroad: 

  • Apply to all the scholarships you possibly can!: 

One of my biggest concerns was whether or not I was going to be financially secure. I wanted to make sure that my study abroad experience would not feel like a burden; rather, it would be a time to learn and grow. The first thing I did was look for programs that would be affordable to me. The program I am currently part of offers stipends for being a Language and Culture ambassador in the Global Village, which helps alleviate living expenses. 

Besides looking for an affordable program, I looked for scholarships and applied to as many as possible. I looked for scholarships using the SDSU Financial Aid & Scholarships website and searched for scholarships based on my Major and Class level. Thankfully, I received some scholarships, which include the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. This grant is specifically for students of limited financial means who are U.S. citizen undergraduate students that are receiving the Federal Pell Grant. You can learn more about the Gilman Scholarship by reaching out to the Study Abroad Office as well as attending one of their information sessions about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. 

The Global Village Programs includes a class that allows us to experience Korean Culture. This picture was during a field trip to Yon-Ko Jeon.
Akaraka cheering the crowd on at Yon-Ko Jeon
  • Do what you are comfortable with: 

At the beginning of the semester, people decided to go out in large groups to get to know each other. However, it can be uncomfortable for me to hang out with large groups, so instead, I decided to hang out with my two roommates. This was a fantastic time to get to know each other and bond before our workload got too heavy. Later on, once I had adjusted, it was easier for me to branch out and spend time with new people. 

My two adorable roommates!
Church Sports Day with some of the international students on campus.
THE local that helped us get to emart.
  • Go on adventures!: 

Whenever you get a chance, go out on adventures! On my first day on campus, I decided to go on a trip to E-mart with two people I had made that day. Although I got us lost, we were able to ask a local for help and eventually got to our destination. Amazingly, out of the people I have met, they have become my closest friends here. 

  • Learn to use public transportation: 

Learning to use the public transportation offered to you in the country you are studying abroad will help you visit so many new places ~! If you are afraid to travel alone, take a friend, and both of you can learn to make your way around. There are also many helpful apps, the one that has been most useful to me in South Korea has been Naver Map. 

Seoul Public Transportation
  •  Don’t be afraid to ask for help: 

The program allows us to communicate with many Korean students, and we can ask them for help. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that everyone is always willing to lend a hand or answer a question. With their help, we have been able to navigate our way around campus, learn Korean, and plan trips to Seoul and Japan. It is also a great way to make connections and new friends. 

Our friend Mr. Koo guiding us around Seoul!


  • Look for events that are going on around campus: 

There always seems to be something going on around campus. I joined the KALPA club, which is an Astronomical Observation club, and have been able to attend my friend’s performances as well as sports games. If you are learning a language or not yet fluent, it should not deter you from going out and participating in clubs and being a part of different activities. Instead, it is an opportunity to make new friends while at the same time practicing the country’s language. 

Top Left: Taken after our friend, Yejin’s performance. Top Right: A concert that happened on campus. Bottom Left: AKARAKA poster. (AKARAKA is one of my favorite things about Yonsei.) Bottom Right: Our friend Neno’s soccer match.

078A0137aPerla Echeverria is a Social Work and International Security and Conflict Resolution double major studying abroad at Yonsei University Wonju Campus for a full year


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