San Vu

MAJOR: Computer Science, Interaction Design Minor
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange – Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea
EMAIL: san.vu@sjsu.edu

BIO: Hi! My name is San and I am a Computer Science major with a minor in Interaction Design. Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine – to immerse myself in a new country, culture, pick up a new language, and meet people from all over the world. I chose to study in Seoul, South Korea for its blend of innovation, tradition, and cultural exchange.

GOALS: My goals were to make new friends, order at a restaurant (in Korean), and be more comfortable in my own company. I would say I was pretty successful. I was able to connect with the owners of my favorite restaurant, enjoy many solo dates, and I now have friends from all over the world. South Korea, Denmark, Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia to name a few :’)

PERSONAL GROWTH: Prior to studying abroad, I had so many fears. How will I get around? How will I make friends? How will I communicate with people? How will I get help if there’s an emergency? Studying abroad allowed me to conquer all of these fears and shaped me into a more confident, independent, and adaptable person.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad? I chose to take four elective courses: Basic Korean, Political and Economic Development in Korea, Popular Culture and Digital Media, and Comparative Thought and Culture: Horizons East and West. These were all IEC (International Exchange Courses), designed specifically for exchange students. In these classrooms, you feel so much more excitement to mingle with one another, get to know the professor, learn the content, and be intentional with your time. The intentionality and excitement I felt during my academics abroad is what I’ve aspired to bring back and recreate here.

CAREER: What skills did you learn / sharpen during your study abroad experience? I walked into this study abroad journey solo and had to navigate life in a foreign country completely on my own. Dealing with delayed luggage, planning my day-to-day schedule, getting a phone number, making friends at school, setting up hospital visits, navigating the foreign streets… But I survived and had so much fun along the way! I learned how to be independent, adapt to a new environment, talk to strangers, and stay positive in the unknown.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world? Although we may come from different parts of the world, we are still the same. It didn’t matter what age, gender, ethnicity – even language barriers did not stand in the way of human connection. Experiencing meaningful connections with so many different people has given me more hope and confidence that we can all get along and that I truly am never alone. Wherever I go.

FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future? The unknowns of post-grad are frightening. But having experienced the independence of living abroad and figuring out new ways of life, I feel more prepared for whatevers to come. In whatever situation, I know I can adapt and that I will always figure it out.

TIPS: What advice would you give to future Global Spartans? Go with an open mind, talk to everyone you meet, and give everything a try! You will regret not taking the chance while you have it.

Michelle Duong

NAME: Michelle Duong
MAJOR: Computer Science
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange – Sungkyunkwan University – South Korea
EMAIL: michelleduong@yahoo.com

BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad. 

A bit about myself is that I have always been interested in languages and different cultures due to my multicultural family. I chose to study abroad because I have always been interested in the program, and my current college plans lined up to give me the perfect opportunity to apply.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience? 

Academically, studying abroad gave me a glimpse of how Korean universities operate, and how students learn. Apart from academics, I met people from all around the world, enhancing my knowledge of different cultures and how their mindsets may differ. Traveling abroad taught me how to be a safe traveler, as well as develop the skills to be more independent and adaptive.

 GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad? 

My goals were simple, to learn to be more independent and to put myself out there. I would say that I was pretty successful as I met many people, and learned to spend my time alone more productively. Being a commuter, I miss out on a lot of college life experiences, and I felt that study abroad brought that part to me.

 PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you? 

The biggest impact study abroad had on me was learning to be independent and be okay with being independent. Everyone has their own schedules and priorities, and sometimes, being alone and learning to enjoy that time alone is also a skill. 

 ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

In Korea, I took a Basic Korean, Comparative Politics, Data Science, and Media UX Design. All of these classes were geared to allow me to meet my graduation requirements, but I think that there is another charm about taking all of these classes abroad. The Korean class was much more immersive and useful as it allowed us to use what we’ve learned immediately in real conversation. The politics class brought together people from all over the world, allowing us to share our opinions on different events that shaped our present day. Data science abroad consisted of many labs, which made learning practical. Media UX Design is a class that isn’t commonly offered in American universities.

 COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?

I have learned that people from different parts of the world have different ideas in terms of what they consider success. One may feel fulfillment in more family-oriented aspects, whereas others dream of a stable income. As always, I think the key to interacting with others, is keeping an open mind and trying to understand why they may think a way about certain topics.

 FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future? 

Studying abroad has prepared me in the way that I know there will be times when I feel lonely, displaced, or behind my peers. However, everyone goes about their life at a different pace, and I should focus on making what I want to do a priority. It has also taught me the skills of living on my own, dealing with renting things out, finances, and other things about adulting.

 TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan? 

To just do it. With studying abroad comes many challenges and worries, but if you just take it one step at a time, the experience will all be worth it in the end.