Why Korea? Let’s hear from our friend – Tony!!


Adventure is out there. Yes, it’s a line from a kid’s movie, but that doesn’t make it any less true. However,  in today’s modern world it is much harder to find. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity of a lifetime this past spring by studying abroad in Seoul, Korea.

When I learned about the SEAS study abroad programs, I never really imagined I would go. It just didn’t seem for me. Then my uncle, a civil engineering professor, and I were talking and he commented about how rare it is for engineering majors to go abroad. That got me wondering about my unique situation. I did more research into SEAS’ programs and that’s when the Korea University program first caught my eye.

4 and a half months in South Korea. I never said “that’s too far,” or “that’s too different.” My first thoughts were along the lines of how hilarious I would look as a 6′ tall heavy white dude in an Asian country. Then I actually thought about what it would be like living abroad in such a foreign place for such a long time. A whole new language, alphabet, culture, history and a 13 hour time difference, not to mention the fastest internet speeds on earth. These things didn’t scare me, they got me curious. They got me wondering what being immersed in a new culture would be like. Dublin offered a new culture, but European culture is what set up the 13 Colonies. I thought the transition would be too similar to the one made from high school to GW; a big step, don’t get me wrong, but one that just seemed too small-time when compared to the prospect of venturing to the other side of the planet.

Let me tell you, the other side of the planet is absolutely unbelievable. I cannot describe how amazing my time at Korea University was. Every day I saw something new and exciting, whether it was a cat cafe in the shopping district, a Korean War veteran who wanted to talk about the US,  a palace older than the USA, or even the hilarity that was matching Korean couples, every day was an adventure in and of itself.

Korea University students also helped the international students feel integrated into both campus and Korean culture as much as possible. We would eat dinner, get drinks, we even went camping in the Korean countryside. Most importantly, we became friends. Korean, American, another nationality, we were all students with similar interests,  academic struggles, and senses of humor. Korean engineers also thought Calc 3 was dark magic and that political science majors really cheapen the value of the word “science.” I could never be a local in Korea, but cultural adaptation was neither forced nor facilitated, it was enjoyable and entertaining.

My experience at KU was unforgettable and exciting and being in such a foreign environment teaches you about yourself just as much as your professors teach you about engineering,  except you actually understand what you’re learning and there are no proofs or greek letters.

If you’re on the fence about going abroad to Korea,  think of it this way: “When’s the next time I’m going to be able to live in Asia for 4 and a half months?” Probably never again. I’d go back tomorrow,  even for a day, just to have 24 more hours in an amazing city. Adventure is right in front of you, take advantage of it.

-Tony Lyons
MAE Class of 2015



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