Maria Sylvester

Age (while abroad): 28Maria Sylvester sa image1

Degree(s): Public Relations

When did you go?Fall 2018 semester

Where did you study?  Seoul, South Korea

In what school did you study? EWHA Womans University in Seoul. This school is the largest women’s university in the world!

What was your prior language knowledge (if applicable)? I took a few speaking lessons the summer before I left. Instruction was in English.

Have you studied abroad before? No and it was my first time leaving the country!

Why did you do study abroad? I wanted to study abroad before I graduated. I had won several scholarships, which helped me afford the traveling expenses. I was also interested in visiting South Korea specifically because of the EWHA college and Korean culture.

Would you do this again? Absolutely

Maria Sylvester sa image3What was your favorite part?
The Korean food was delicious and I got to meet and talk with Korean students and people from around the world. There were hundreds of international students so I was able to meet people from China, Germany, France, England and many other places.

What was your least favorite part?
There was a lot of paper working the study abroad application and at the new school. I had to have documentation for things like my visa and it took a lot of time to fill out all of the different applications, even before I left.

How has study abroad affected your life now?
I feel more confident as a person. The trip and the semester in another country were huge challenges for me, but I was able to adapt to my new surroundings. I succeeded in surviving four months away from home, I got good grades and I made a few friends along the way.

Maria Sylvester sa image2What did you learn, outside of academics, from your study abroad experience?
I learned how to explore and how pay attention to details and differences in the people around me. For example, Korean restaurants do not place their silverware on top of the tables but keep them in a drawer on the side. I also learned that everyone uses smartphones in South Korea, even the elderly!

What advice you would offer students interested in studying abroad?
My advice is to prepare early so that you have time to fill out all of the paperwork and applications in time. I was able to afford my trip through several scholarships offered at MSUB so I recommend asking around to see what is available. When I was staying in South Korea, I didn’t hesitate to ask for help. In fact, before I left, I signed up for a student program at the school in Korea, which helps international students adjust to life in the city. I also asked questions at my classes, my dorm and at the international office to make sure I had things in order. This helped me adjust much more quickly than if I had to figure things out on my own. My final piece of advice is to say yes to the activities offered at your school. I was not able to participate in everything my school offered, but I was able to go out with international students for dinner, and I took part in class projects and volunteered. Because I was prioritizing my schoolwork I had to make time for studying, but I still made time for fun and meaningful experiences.