Muhayimana Benigne

Major: Dietetics
Class: Sophomore
Timeframe: Spring 2023
Type of Experience: Study

Overall Experience

My experience in South Korea was beyond what I could have ever imagined! I studied at Korea University, one of the top universities in South Korea. I studied abroad for the spring semester (5 months) in Seoul, South Korea through Iowa State University. I went to the country with The Education Abroad Network along with over 100 other students from the States who were studying there that semester. I participated in a weekly language exchange, traveled independently as well as in groups, bonded with not just the international students, but the local students of multiple Korean universities. I also took Intermediate Korean Language classes and courses toward my Dietetics degree. This experience is something I still think about a year later, and I loved every bit of my trip and the friends I made while I was there.

Learning experience

The most valuable experience I learned was to put myself out there. When going abroad, it felt like I had an opportunity to rebrand. It was an experience where I could start fresh. I didn’t let my head get in the way of me trying new things. I was more confident in my choices, and more willing to look like I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I realized how “in my head” I was before going to South Korea. I saw the benefit of letting go, and accepted the beauty of allowing myself to be uncomfortable in situations where I was learning. Whether it was taking the subway alone, ordering food, speaking Korean, making friends, or joining groups, through all of it, I put myself out there with no regrets knowing that I tried my best and had fun!

Memorable experience

My most memorable experience was actually on the day I left the country. After months of being there, it had felt like a lifetime and a single moment all in one. It was a bittersweet goodbye. I had made some close friends in a short period of time, and it felt like a certain chapter of my life was coming to a close, but that a new chapter was also opening up as well. We had a small gathering in a convenience store a minute away from our dorms after we had all finished packing. We ate, talked about our memories, played games, and traveled to the airport together where we promised to plan a trip to reunite again in Korea or the States.

What did you not expect?

I didn’t expect that work, school, and fun could all be balanced and co-exist. It was surprising how certain students and even seasoned professionals would handle their lives. After teaching, working in the office, studying hard all day, taking exams, and more, people in South Korea would still leave time to hang out with their friends, loved ones, etc. They gave themselves time to take a break. In the future, I will ensure to make the most of my experiences. Work and school don’t have to be the only thing in your life. Even though I was in classes and studying, I learned to enjoy my time, and eventually began being comfortable with leaving room for fun, friends, and myself.

What advice would you give?

The advice I would give to students who want to study abroad is to try everything. If you have an idea of what you want to do in the country you're going to, do it! Going abroad, especially during college, is something that generally can’t be done every semester, so make the most of it. Make those plans with friends or go alone, just make sure to try all the things you want to. Don’t leave with regrets, wishing you would’ve done more while you were there. Make it happen!

How has this experience impacted your life?

Even before the beginning of my undergraduate career, I had been thinking about how I would incorporate my interests into my future. Since a young age, I have been interested in learning Korean and immersing myself in a world of new possibilities. I have a passion for learning languages, and although I am not fluent, I plan to take my language learning to the mastery level to aid my community better. This study abroad experience opened my eyes to the differences in overall health in particular areas of the world. I was able to see how various countries benefit from a dietitian's help in many ways. I explored new cultures, allowing me to see how diets can differ depending on country, region, age, and more. After my study abroad experience, I have been looking more into this. In the long term, I would like to advance my career by becoming a certified specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP) or a certified specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG). In the future, I would be very interested in being able to work out of the country and practice internationally. I plan to become fluent in Korean, and when I am accustomed to my career, I plan to open my own clinical. With this practice, we can support people from multiple regions. I would hire dietitians in different specialties and have a multilingual business with a work family that supports those who feel underrepresented in their languages. This program was the fantastic push I needed to get closer to fluency, and it took me a significant step closer to my future career goals.

How did you learn about this experience?

I had been interested in traveling to South Korea since high school, so I had actively searched for programs even before my senior year. When looking to accept college offers, I looked at the study abroad programs offered through each school’s website and found this one on ISU’s page. So when I was finally confident in my choice to study abroad, I reached out to the study abroad advisor specific to Asia and went on from there!

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