A Kindred Seoul
February 19, 2018
For Angelo State junior and Honors Program student Rachel Boezinger, visiting Korea has been on her radar since high school.
“I’ve been planning to go to Korea since my junior year,” Boezinger said. “It started after I went on a trip to Japan and realized I wanted to teach English in a foreign country. Angelo State was actually my biggest candidate for where I wanted to go for university because of how much of a connection they had with Korean universities.”
The San Antonio native and communication/English double-major connected with ASU’s Center for International Studies almost immediately after setting foot on campus. CIS staff and Dr. Won-Jae Lee, director of Asian relations, helped Boezinger pick a university smack in the middle of Seoul.
“Dr. Lee was a little surprised when I said I wanted a year-long program,” she explained. “He said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to just do a semester?’ I said, ‘no, a year.’”
And away she went! Arriving in Seoul in July 2016, then-freshman Boezinger took a summer session at Sookmyung Women’s University before starting her year at Dongguk University.
“I opted to do 12 hours so I would have more room to study the language and also have more cultural experiences,” she said. “I had to choose from a list of classes that were in English – there are only a limited amount. That was a little bit of a challenge at first, trying to get the proper amount of credits focused on my major. I also took some multicultural study classes where I got to meet people from other majors.”
Boezinger also got a job in the English Department, where she assisted with research and got to revise and edit a textbook, a journal and some curricula.
“One of my professors of a Teaching Methods of English class said, ‘Hey, we are really looking for some native speakers who have some background in linguistics. Do you think you’d be willing to work for us?’ It was a really good experience. I was so grateful that she asked me.”
“I feel like what I learned from another culture has given me a unique perspective, and it also gives you experience being on your own. Bringing back that independence and that confidence to ASU is extremely helpful.”
Living in international housing right on top of Seoul Station, Boezinger also had the entire city at her fingertips.
“I really liked going to different themed cafés,” she said. “Here we really just have Starbucks, but they have a bunch of smaller family-owned cafés that have some sort of theme. For example, I like the cat cafés a lot. There was also a cool garden café I went to often. I was always exploring the city for new cafés to try out.”
And when the hustle and bustle of the city got to be too much, Boezinger hit the road.
“I found that Seoul could be a little claustrophobic at times,” she said. “My all-time favorite place was Busan, which is a coastal city in the southern part of Korea. It has beaches and a lot of really cool historical aspects to it and great food. I really liked getting out of the city and seeing the ocean. It opened things up.”
Another favorite trip was to Namsan Tower accompanied by students from Canada, Taiwan and China.
“They have these gates at the top of the tower where you can attach a lock, kind of like in Paris,” Boezinger said. “We wrote all of our names on the lock and put the year on it. It’s really cool to think that’s going to be there for however long they keep them on there.”
Now back at ASU and slated to graduate in May 2019, Boezinger is looking forward to finishing her degree and returning to Korea.
“I plan to go back and teach English for a few years in public schools,” she said. “If you teach English for four years in Korea at public school, you can apply for a job at a university. Teaching classes in English at a university is my goal as of right now. I’d love to do that.”
In the meantime, she encourages her fellow ASU students to study abroad if at all possible.
“I think it’s important because we can bring back a different cultural perspective to our classrooms,” Boezinger said. “I think we get caught up in our own culture. I feel like what I learned from being immersed in another culture has given me a unique perspective, and it also gives you experience being on your own.”
“There are lots of benefits,” she continued. “It makes you more independent, and bringing back that independence and experience to ASU is extremely helpful.”