Katera Perry

MAJOR: Psychology
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange – Sungkyunkwan University, South Korea
EMAIL: katera.perry@sjsu.edu

BIO: I am a 4th-year psychology major looking to get a justice studies minor. I am also a first-generation college student. I am the type of person who loves to help others and go after my goals in life.The reason I chose to study abroad was because I wanted to to turn my dreams into reality. I wanted to travel so I could experience the world through different lenses and become more educated about the various cultures worldwide. When you step out of your comfort zone and embrace different experiences you open up a lot of new things about yourself. Studying abroad not only fulfilled a childhood dream but it tested my comfort zone. Before studying abroad I had never been out of the country, let alone by myself. I was able to prove to myself I could do whatever I set my mind to and have a good time doing it. All it takes is some support and trust!

GOALS: I kept myself open to any experience Korea had in store for me while also planning goals to achieve. My most important goal while studying abroad was expanding my knowledge of cultural awareness beyond my American experience. As a psychology major, I find it extremely important to be open-minded when it comes to helping those who are from a different culture than mine, so I took classes like Understanding Asian Culture and Cultural Psychology. I took these classes so I could develop a better understanding of the differences between Asian and Western societies whether it was through their education system, word origins, traditions, etc. Another goal of mine was to look into job opportunities in psychology abroad. While abroad I got connected with a church and learned of their therapy clinic for foreigners, and I was also able to look into other therapy clinics for foreigners in Korea. I have been interested in finding jobs outside of the US so it was a relief when I found these opportunities. With that being said I reached my goals and even found new ones along the way like narrowing down what career path I want to take. For example, I decided I wanted to help other foreigners who are stepping out of their home countries and into unfamiliar territory. I experienced various emotions while abroad whether they were good or bad, and I want to help others through these experiences. Thus, my experience abroad widened my perspectives on my goals and gave me new motivations in my education and career.

PERSONAL GROWTH: The biggest impact studying abroad had on me was growth in my self-assurance in my interactions with others and with my decisions. As stated before, I overcame my limits like fear of getting lost, being alone in a foreign country, and making the wrong decisions. However, by making new connections and everlasting experiences I actively saw myself becoming a better person, proved to myself that I could overcome my limits, and go on life-changing journeys. I also grew in how I managed my free time, which in the long run is extremely important for career building and self-growth. For example, because I learned how to manage my time I was able to focus on self-care more like journaling and getting connected to my religious side again. When reflecting on my time abroad I have seen how much my habits have changed and how I fill my day with more purposeful activity, which is the best growth seen in myself.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad? The education system in Korea is not too different from studying in the US, but some things that stood out to me were that their education system is hugely based on tests rather than homework and the emphasis on attendance. I took three courses at Sungkyunkwan University: Culture Psychology, Understanding Asian Culture, and Elementary Korean. These courses were taught in English and met twice a week for a lecture. Because there was little to no homework I had to keep myself focused on studying weekly for future exams. My strategies to stay focused were attending study groups and keeping myself accountable when I did not meet my weekly studying quota. The most important factor in success in academics in Korea is attendance especially since most lecture slides will not have all the information needed for exams. I also took one asynchronous course at SJSU which was Imagery of Psychology. As mentioned before keeping myself accountable was important especially since this class did have many writing and homework assignments due every week. Moving forward, since I was taking Understanding Asian Culture; I learned about the school system in Korea on a deeper level not just concerning their academics but also the community within the school system. It was great to be fully immersed in how students in Korea interact with one another and participate in after-school activities. Going to school abroad taught me better discipline and accountability which is something I have carried with me into my studies at SJSU.

CAREER: What skills did you learn / sharpen during your study abroad experience? While studying abroad I learned many about my capabilities and limitations. For example, while abroad I was able to better my understanding of how communication differs between the United States and South Korea. Since I had to learn a new language I was also able to see the importance of eyes, mouth, and head movement and how much of a difference it makes while communicating with those around me. While abroad I also grew in learning how to trust myself. For example, while in Korea I had to take public transportation a few times on my own and I was fearful I’d get lost. But luckily over time, I grew to trust myself and my navigation skills grew as I stayed longer and pushed past my limits. Other skills that I gained include intercultural skills, adaptability, and problem-solving. Going abroad put me through unique experiences that I am grateful to have experienced have helped me become a well-rounded person, and has offered me the skills to navigate through my future career endeavors.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world? As mentioned before I have always had a passion for travel and connecting with those around me. To be fully immersed in another country and learn about their culture was truly an impactful experience. I met various people of different backgrounds and cultures and listened to their stories. Their stories were filled with familiar experiences and new ones that I’m glad to have heard. I was only in Korea for four months but I have made lifelong friends I am grateful for. Who would have thought girls from various regions would have so much in common and yet so much more to learn from one another? I always believed the world was filled with beautiful places, people, and stories but actively living in the beauty is a whole other experience on its own. It is also important to note that not all of my experiences were good, but as I experienced some loneliness and uncertainty it was helpful to know I wasn’t alone. My new friends reminded me that it is ok to go through the bad and at the end of the day we are all human and our bad days make us stronger. My journey deepened my understanding of the interconnectedness of the world. I will carry my newfound knowledge and perspectives of the world and let it motivate my purposes in life.

FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future? Studying abroad taught me various life lessons such as money management, time management, discipline, and self-confidence just to name a few. All these skills are the key to success when entering any professional environment and planning for one’s future. I believe without my abroad experience I would not have learned these lessons as fast as I did. When reflecting on my experience I have seen areas where I have matured and where my skills shine the most. This experience has also taught me how to take charge and navigate through various situations. I am more prepared to problem solve in the real world and take on challenges. Like I said before I have seen how the lessons abroad positively impacted my day-to-day life. I am more aware of where I want my future to go and intend to use every opportunity I have ahead of me to better my future.

TIPS: What advice would you give to future Global Spartans? My advice is clique but is true nonetheless: You only live once. This is the time to take chances and make mistakes, because what other time than now? If you are scared to go abroad that does not mean it is a sign not to go, it is a sign that you care. When you step over the hurdle of applying take that excitement and run with it. Whether you get accepted into your desired program or not; do not give up. Eventually, when you board that plane and live out your dreams you will realize all the anxiousness and uncertainty were worth it. As someone who questioned if going abroad my last year was a good decision and even contemplated dropping the program listen to me when I say have trust in the process and yourself. It is ok to be cautious and anxious but do not let it stop you from experiencing a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope whatever path you take abroad you carry the lessons learned and find growth within yourself.

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.

Rikki Erielle Navos

NAME: Rikki Erielle Navos
MAJOR: Economics
PROGRAM: SJSU Exchange – Sungkyungkwan University (SKKU)
EMAIL: rikkierielle@gmail.com

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

Studying abroad has been a constant goal of mine ever since I started college. I constantly glance at SJSU’s student exchange website to look at my options. One day, I saw the new program SJSU created with a university in South Korea, one of the countries I’ve dreamt of going to. I thought this was the opportunity I was looking for! I decided to apply right after!

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

Studying abroad allowed me to interact with people all around the world. It gave me connections to countries I’ve never even thought about visiting before! Studying in a foreign country has definitely allowed me to have better cultural awareness and improved my communication abilities with people from other backgrounds.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?

My main goal for studying abroad was to see more of myself by seeing more of the world. South Korea was a place outside of the bubble I’ve lived in, and being able to study in such an unfamiliar country allowed me to experience phenomenons I would never have been able to as a student in my home country. I was exposed to another country’s way of studying and its youth’s culture. It introduced me to a lot of hobbies I never knew I would enjoy and gave me memories to carry for a lifetime.

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

The biggest impact my study abroad experience had on my was the ability to live independently in a foreign country. This is important to me because it brings a different type of growth one would get by living independently in our own country.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

My academic experience abroad was very different from our home university. I took three classes: Money and Banking, Economics in Global Environment, and Beginning Korean. It was very interesting seeing the process of how Korean students study and the different structures that the courses had compared to what I’ve experienced before. With these courses, I was able to be more comfortable doing group work and interacting more with other students

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

My immersion made me realize how big the world truly was. Since I’ve only been to the Philippines and the U.S. prior to Study abroad, I’ve only experienced very limited cultures.

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

Study abroad prepared me for my future by enabling me to be independent and allow me to have the ability to be happy  with my own company. I am much more comfortable to live by myself now.

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

I would tell a future Global Spartan to not limit themselves even though they’re in a foreign country. Put yourself out there. Make many connections and see the most out of the country you’re going to. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.

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.

Courtney Wan

NAME: Courtney Wan
MAJOR: Chemistry
PROGRAM: South Korea, SJSU Exchange – Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
EMAIL: courtney.wan@sjsu.edu


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

My name is Courtney Wan. My pronouns are she/her. I am a Chemistry major with a Biochemistry concentration and Bioinformatics minor. I recently graduated from SJSU during the spring 2023 semester but have plans on continuing my education at SJSU as an open university student to fulfill class prerequisites to apply for the SJSU Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training Program in the spring 2024 semester.

To talk about volunteer, or job experiences, I volunteered as a math mentor at my high school to help and prepare incoming freshmen for the pace of high school level classes. I was also a teaching assistant at a Buddhist summer program (Theravada Buddhist Society Of America) where I helped with lesson plans and led group student activities. I was recently a student assistant for CHEM 131A at SJSU where I helped answer questions on laboratory procedures and prepped laboratory materials for the lab.

I chose to study abroad because the opportunity to learn about another country’s culture while pursuing an education sounded amazing. Studying abroad allows me to immerse myself in a new culture, language, and lifestyle. This type of exposure while abroad allows me to appreciate and understand cultural diversity. I also saw this study abroad opportunity to help with personal growth. As living in a foreign country comes with challenges that bring me out of my comfort zone, I hoped to build up independence and problem solving skills as I work through unfamiliar situations. I also like the variety of electives as well as class selections for my major offered by exchange programs. Even though I was close to graduating and took most of the classes I needed, I thought it would be nice to experience a different teaching style and classroom environment from a different country. Lastly, I have always wanted to learn a new language, so I saw this as the perfect way to learn and quickly pick up a new language.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?
Reflect on how your study abroad experience and the skills, knowledge, or networking has enhanced or contributed to your life back on campus or home.

Studying abroad in South Korea left a positive impact and was life changing. I would have never gotten to experience the things I experience in South Korea anywhere else. I have gained so much cultural knowledge being fully exposed to Korean trends. Making so many new friends and connections in Korea helped to advance my Korean language skills, as I was practicing the language constantly. My experience was full of impactful and wonderful memories that will be a huge part of who I am today. The way I think about myself, the people around me, and the world was significantly changed after studying abroad. I have opened myself to a much more global perspective. Another skill I have improved during my study abroad experience is public speaking. A lot of the classes I took in South Korea are discussion based and require a presentation/project before finals week. The frequent amount of public speaking activities helped me to talk more smoothly, connecting ideas and come up with topics to contribute to conversations.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?
Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?

A personal goal for myself was to put myself out there and try something new every week. Even though I’m a shy person, I tried meeting new people and doing new activities. Doing this helped me do things I’ve never done before while making great memories with the people I met. An academic goal I set was to pass all of my classes with an A. Strategies I used to achieve this goal was to preview materials before class as well as to review material after classes to help retain information. These retention strategies help me balance school life while having fun outside of school. A professional goal of mine is to work as a cosmetic chemist, so in South Korea I signed up for makeup formulation classes where I made my own foundation and lipstick shades. I learned about ingredients that go into these products as well as a bit color theory.

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

Before my study abroad trip, I would describe my personality as shy and introverted, so the biggest impact that my study abroad experience had on me was becoming more extroverted. I learned that getting out of my comfort zone and attempting to do things either by myself or with new people opens up many hidden opportunities. I learned that just making connections by having a conversation with a stranger or a fellow student in class, helped me to get invited to events/activities or gain a helping hand when it came to exploring a new country.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?
Share what courses you chose to take abroad and the strategies you used to ensure your academic success. How has the experience impacted your academics now that you have returned to SJSU?

The courses I took abroad were Basic Korean, Understanding Asian Culture, Comparative Thoughts East and West, and Popular Culture and Media. Strategies I used to ensure my academic success was to choose courses that would be of interest to me as well as help me learn more about the country I am studying abroad in, in that sense I would be engaged and motivated to succeed in these courses.

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

To immerse myself in the local culture and at my host university, I joined school clubs and participated actively in the buddy system organized by the school for exchange students. I joined the art club as well as the KITE (Koreans and International Students TalkIng in English) club. These clubs actively promoted group activities where we meet new people and learn cultural activities at the same time. Being immersed in a new culture changed my perspective on the world as being in a classroom with students from all over the world like from Europe, Asia, and other parts of America has taught me how to cooperate with a diverse group of people and understand perspectives on an international level.

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

Studying abroad has prepared me for my future in aspects of communication and socialization skills. I am more open to conversing and connecting with people. At the end of these conversations, I share my experience as well as gain knowledge from them. In addition, after studying abroad my interest to try new things has increased. I look forward to taking on new opportunities or facing new challenges.


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

Before studying abroad, it is nice to do a bit of research beforehand or reach out to someone who has studied abroad before to help prepare you for a great study abroad experience. You can learn more about what to bring or not bring, culture etiquette wise what to do and not do, recommend places to go or activities to do, etc. Also learning a bit of the language would do wonders when trying to communicate with the locals and trying to get around.