Korean culture immersion: Melanie Mohler

Melanie Mohler is a UTA senior Visual Communication major with a minor in Korean studies. She recently spent six weeks studying watercolor techniques and Korean language in an International Summer Campus program at Korea University. Through this Q&A about her experience, she hopes to encourage other UTA students to study abroad. 

Melanie Mohler (left) and friend at Namsam Tower, Seoul South Korea

What first interested you in studying Korean?  Why did you decide to study abroad?

I am pursuing a Minor in Korean and I felt that the experience of going abroad and immersing into the culture would be invaluable for really understanding the language, people, and environment there. I appreciate the resources I have here, but I wanted to take advantage of an incredible opportunity to visit the country.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

I chose to learn Korean because I wanted to get to know more about a beautiful and interesting place that I never had much exposure to before. I also feel that it’s morally responsible to contribute to our global society by learning a different language. Plus, it has potential to increase opportunities further down the road, helping you build more connections in your career or friendships.

How do you plan to incorporate your visual communication and Korean studies into your career?  

Since I am a visual communications major, it was really inspiring to see how design functions in Korean society. In the future, I’d like to incorporate the knowledge I gained during my time there into my design practice. Perhaps eventually I will have the opportunity to design for Korean audiences.

Front gates of Korea University

What are a few of the interesting experiences you had by being immersed in Korean culture?

It was interesting to be living in a huge and bustling city and public transportation was one of the things I loved most because it was incredibly convenient. Of course, since everything is close-quarters there were some strange times, however, I never felt threatened or unsafe while my friends and I explored the city.

Anam area surrounding Korea University

Korea University provided the summer students with free tickets to the popular theme park, Lotte World. It was fun to visit and compare subtle differences to ones in America. We are also given complimentary tickets to experience a baseball game at Jamsil Stadium. The people there were super involved and ecstatic about the game. There were cheerleaders and a man who sang and led the crowd in cheering on each team member as they stepped up to the plate. Although I’ve never been a fan of baseball, it was cool to feel included even if I didn’t understand what’s going on on the field.

In Korean society, there is a lot of emphasis placed on community, part of that is sharing meals and eating from the same dishes which seems to bring people closer. The people were very warm and welcoming and I truly appreciate the hospitality expressed by everyone I met and all that I was able to learn from them.

Bossam pork dish in Korean cuisine
Korean shaved ice called Patbingsu

Did you receive funding from UTA for your program? If so, what program provided funding?

Yes, I received the Roger and Betty Ruch Scholarship through the McDowell Center for Critical Languages and Area Studies.

How did your perspectives change by traveling during your college experience? 

I was both extremely nervous and excited to start the program. I went through an ISA (International Studies Abroad) program, where I met so many wonderful people who I hope to stay in contact with. And as a pretty introverted person, I was concerned it would be difficult to connect with people, but I realized that everyone feels that way at first.

Melanie (left) and friends enjoying a day trip to Isadong Shopping Center

What would you tell another student who is considering studying abroad?

Don’t be too shy, be sure to talk to people because meeting others and interacting with locals is what truly makes the experience worthwhile. And if it really matters to you, there are opportunities and scholarships to help you make the trip possible. I feel like it helped me grow as a person and I feel more confident about myself and my skills. Since it was an International Summer Campus program that I attended, I met people from all over the world. It was just amazing and it’s really something everyone should experience and go into with an open mind because while you will feel out of place, it’s so enlightening to feel that vulnerability and naivete because it pushes you hard to survive and you will also appreciate your own country and culture, along with theirs, even more.

Night scene at Han River

To apply for the Betty and Roger Ruch Scholarship, visit the McDowell Center for Critical Languages and Area Studies website. Applications are due November 11, 2016 for Spring 2017 study abroad and March 1, 2017 for Summer 2017 study abroad.



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