Feranmi is in her fourth & final year of studying Comparative Literature at Queen Mary after studying abroad at Seoul National University in South Korea. You may remember her brilliant Instagram Takeover a few months ago, and she’s here now to provide an overview of her incredible adventure!
It’s a terrifying experience; leaving behind everything you’ve ever known. Leaving behind your friends, family, familiar streets and avenues. Leaving behind your home; it’s a terrifying experience but it’s also an exciting one. And if you embrace the opportunity with both arms and make the most of it, it’s a fulfilling experience.
The feelings of anticipation followed me from Heathrow to Incheon, stayed with me until I reached the hotel, reluctant to leave and sitting deep in my stomach. It churned for a week, full of nerves and causing my mind to be hyper-aware. What’s worse, living in an unfamiliar space with unfamiliar faces, or being aware of your foreignness when those around have barely noticed you?
These feelings walked with me to the campus from my hotel, but I allowed myself to be distracted by the grandeur of it all. The hundreds of buildings, dozens of shops and various shuttle buses shooting up and down the roads. There were obvious differences from my campus in London. Good? Bad? I couldn’t decide, but I knew I was uncomfortable.
Adjusting my bag on my shoulder, I had made up my mind. Staying anxious, staying nervous was only going to hinder my experiences. “So, get involved”, I told myself, but it was easier said than done. No-one in Seoul spoke English, and I had barely mastered greetings in Korean. I had it in my head that I was destined to fail.
But as the beads of sweat rolled down my forehead, and the back of my t-shirt stuck itself to my back from the sticky humidity, I found myself filled with a newfound determination. And I found myself walking with a new intent.
Before the heat of summer transformed into the delicate, rich colours of Autumn and before the air became lighter and breathable, I found myself meeting people just like me. Full of apprehension and fleeting feelings of fear that were soon replaced with a soft comfort. Friends were made easily, once I stopped being so shy. Seoul was explored, rather than ignored, and by the time the green leaves shifted to golden hues, I was able to think of Seoul as a familiar place.
By November, the flavours of Seoul had seeped into my skin, dancing around me as I made my way through the city with ease and an air of confidence. Transport was easier to navigate than I thought and locals, although easily recognising my status as a foreigner, treated me kindly and curiously. Greetings came naturally to me, the language no longer causing confusion the way it once had, it just needed some patience on my part.
The first snowfall, a romantic affair in Korea, brought me comfort in knowing that time had passed and here I was. Immersed and surrounded in a culture that had shocked me when I initially took my first steps on Korean soil. The cold is extreme, just like the summers, but this time, I know how to order a coffee, where to buy a winter coat and how to operate my heating system without google translate. I find myself wondering when it all became okay. But, I suppose, It was all with a bit of time. I was impatient and desperate for my comfort zones, identified by torrential downpour and Zebra crossings and Gregg’s bakeries. Unwilling to see everything that Seoul had to offer.
The feelings of sadness stayed until I reached the airport for my departure, not wanting to say goodbye to the city I had called home for so many months, the room I had lived in, the friends I had made.
But it was okay, I realised, because I would be back next semester. Except this time, with feelings of excitement in my suitcase.
If you’d like to speak with Feranmi about her time abroad, or her studies at Queen Mary and life here in London, contact Study Abroad Manager, Jess Tan, on firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch!