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The Importance of Keeping an Open Mind When Studying Abroad: Thea's ISEP Story

8 Mar 2023 12:00 PM | Tavon Cooke (Administrator)

Thea Li is a senior majoring in computer science with a minor in music at Rhodes Colleges in Memphis, Tennessee. She participated in the ISEP exchange program at Korea University in 2020. Although her experience was virtual due to the pandemic, Thea made the most of the opportunity to explore her passions for art while fostering new connections both during class and in her free time.

At Rhodes College, Thea plays the harp, is involved in various photography projects, and conducts theater performances. However, in looking at study abroad programs, Thea wanted the opportunity to explore communications classes related to her interests. Thea saw Korea University’s robust media curriculum as a golden opportunity to learn in the country which plays a major role in the global entertainment industry. While she is already studying internationally in the United States, Thea says the two countries are different from one another, and that she wants to continue studying abroad to explore these cultural nuances.

From her base in Beijing, Thea enrolled in a variety of online classes, from international relations, architecture, media, to film studies. Thea was very excited about Korea University’s media and film classes, as it provided her a unique lens through which to view art. The year 2020 was also when the Korean industry gained immense popularity, with the film Parasite winning the Oscars. “It was a great time to study media in Korea when the industry was at its peak,” Thea says. Moreover, the Korean film industry is inclusive of different cultural, societal, and personal backgrounds. Thea found the experience very rich and valuable, especially when the Chinese media industry became increasingly more restricted and censored. 

The architecture class was also a highlight of Thea’s ISEP experience. She enjoyed constructing models and shifting them in different angles for her class to see over Zoom. Here are some examples of the wonderful designs she created, including a straw model that amazed the entire class.

Despite her exchange experience being virtual, Thea created a fully immersive experience for herself. She connected with her classmates and the network for exchange students at Korea University. Thea also helped the university’s Chinese student association with communications related tasks. Moreover, Thea found opportunities to further her interests at home, taking up several jobs as a media planner and a coordinator for a top fashion company’s exhibition in Beijing. She also joined an improv group and started writing sketches, in which she applied new perspectives from the film class.

Looking back, Thea says her habit of continuously pursuing her passions made her virtual exchange memorable. While chatting with us, she pointed to a collection of fashion magazine posters on the wall behind her and said, “I started collecting them in my freshman year. I had no idea I was going to be working in the fashion industry, but my previous exposure to the field made it possible.” She added, “Don’t pull out of something because you don’t have an opportunity or enough time at the moment. Don’t rush. Keep doing it, and one day it will become useful.”

Thea highlights the importance of keeping an open mind when studying abroad. “You may be surprised at the cultural differences at first. But take them all in, and they will take you all in too.” Having explored new disciplines abroad herself, Thea encourages others to explore different fields. “This may be the only chance in your life. Step out of your comfort zone, and you’ll find that it is not that scary.”

*Story written by Mai Kasemsawade, ISEP Princetern 

ISEP Alumni Association 

Address: 1655 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 400, Arlington, Virginia, U.S. 22209

+1 (703) 504-9995, Michael Alijewicz, [email protected]

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