Our Digital Design student Mariel Amador, shares with us the experience she lived during her international stay at Hallym University, South Korea.

When you entered Uni did you know there were international programs?

Not really, unlike some of my classmates I had no idea about the possibility of going abroad to study, I found out one or two semesters later.

When you entered your career, did you think you would go to live and study abroad?

No, I made the decision to study abroad overnight to be honest. My friends who had previously gone on an exchange program told me all about the great experience and thanks to that I made the decision to apply for the scholarships without any expectation of winning, I just wanted to give it a try and leave it to fate.

Have you ever lived or studied outside of Mexico before?

 No, it was my first time studying abroad.

What prompted or motivated you to study in another country?

As I mentioned before, my friends told me about all the experiences they had lived, what it was like to be independent for a while, how getting to know new food, new people and new cultures changed your perspective on life, all of that motivated me a lot and made me want to live it and not have anyone tell me what it was like.

Why did you decide to study in that country?

I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, my first choice was not Korea, however, I was totally surprised, I am grateful that Korea was the final destination because I never in my life imagined being in a place in Asia, I did not see it in my life possibilities and without a doubt its culture changed me as a person in a better way.

How did you feel when you arrived in the new country?

Because of COVID-19 I was a bit scared because I made the decision to leave just when everything was starting and it was a new virus, something that nobody knew about, and what we knew were only statistics and information through television.

When I arrived in Korea at first I did not process it, everything was very strange, until a week later I realized that I was no longer in Mexico, that I was no longer eating the same food I had eaten all my life and that hardly anyone would understand me in Spanish. I was scared, but at the same time excited because I didn't know what the next four months would bring.

How have you been received at the university where you arrived?

We were received very well, they explained to us that this was going to be a different semester because of everything that was happening because of COVID-19, they told us that this semester we were going to be very few exchange students, that whatever we needed they would support us, they gave us four welcome masks and they gave us the prevention instructions that the government had implemented.

What will you miss most about Mexico and UNI?

What I missed most was my family and friends. Classes were online all semester so I partly missed having face-to-face classes. Food was not a problem for me, I knew that I would only eat Korean food for four months and that I would eventually go back to eating Mexican food, besides, in Korea it is customary to eat spicy food so I felt a little bit at home, however, from time to time I did feel like eating tortillas with my food.

What is the most exciting thing you have experienced so far in this experience?

I think the best of all was getting out of my comfort zone, opening myself to new experiences and meeting people that you never imagined meeting in your life and that totally change your life. The people I met in Korea definitely taught me to be a better person, they helped me a lot in a process of acceptance with myself and also taught me many things that I had no knowledge of.

Getting to know new places with different architecture than the one you are used to and meeting new food, new people is always an indescribable experience.

And the hardest part?

The hardest thing was to arrive with high expectations. As I mentioned before, my friends told me many things about the exchange programs, they told us that you met many people, visited many places and so on, however, because of the virus, everything was very limited, it was not a normal semester, many places were closed, we were few exchange students, but despite everything I think I did everything in my hands and my possibilities to enjoy it to the fullest, without a doubt, from all this I learned that everyone lives their experiences differently and it depends a lot on yourself whether you enjoy it or not.

Also, one of the difficult things that nobody tells you about the exchanges is that you get very attached to the people you meet, you live with them for a semester of your life, you get used to them and when the end of the semester comes, you say goodbye and you don't know for sure if you will meet them again in the future.

What do you expect as a person and as a professional from this experience?

This experience was completely different from what my colleagues told me because of the virus, but I am grateful because thanks to this I was able to realize how Korea handled things and I realized how in Mexico we need to learn a lot from all the order and security that exists in Korea.

 As I mentioned, Korea changed my life completely, I met many places, food, and people that I never imagined I would meet, I lived many experiences that made me realize that everything is possible and that you just need to think positive once in a while.

Do you recommend these opportunities provided by Uni to your colleagues?

I definitely recommend it, it is one of those experiences that you prefer to live them rather than have someone else tell you about them. You don't know what it's like on the other side of the world until you go and experience it for yourself.

I am especially grateful to my parents for supporting me throughout this trip and of course I thank UNI for giving me the opportunity to live this beautiful experience that I carry in my heart.