An unforgettable semester

A Mason student’s account of her study abroad experience in Mason Korea

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Before coming to Korea, Courtney Brown-Douglas braced herself for the worst. She knew that as an African American woman in a homogenous society, she was bound to face all sorts of stereotypes and racially driven issues. She took the plunge anyway and decided to study abroad at Mason Korea in the Spring 2019 semester. It was a calculated move. Courtney is a sophomore majoring in marketing with a double minor in political science and sports management at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She always wanted to study abroad. She chose Korea because as a business student, she understood the importance of immersing herself in a foreign country with a booming economy where she could learn more about business and culture.

To her surprise, Courtney did not encounter the alarmingly terrible experiences she anticipated in relation to her cultural and racial differences. In fact, she was able to adjust quickly to Mason Korea—with some help. “Because I am from a big city, I knew that me trying to get around Songdo and Seoul wouldn’t be a challenge.” She did, however, get some help with the cultural adjustment, which she considers an important aspect of being at Mason Korea. Dean Marcel, the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, played a vital role in helping her understand the community both as a student and as a student leader.

Being in a new environment naturally came with things to learn and navigate. One cultural difference Courtney discovered was in the classroom. She was used to the American classroom setting where the professor poses a question and students eagerly jump in to respond, which leads to a class discussion. In Korea, however, she found that students had a different learning style. Students are attentive and engaged, but lively class discussions were not the norm. This was an adjustment for Courtney, especially as an outspoken individual. However, this did not stop her from learning. Rather, she quickly discovered that she was learning beyond textbooks. She was absorbing a foreign culture firsthand, just as she had hoped.

Courtney’s learning extended beyond the classroom. Since Mason Korea provides various student leadership opportunities, she actively participated in student leadership as a Peer Advisor (PA). Working as a PA turned out to be one of the highlights of her time at Mason Korea. As a PA, her primary role was to serve the Mason Korea community and promote a global education environment. She particularly enjoyed working with the three other PAs with whom she formed a close bond after spending countless hours together in the PA office. The four girls always managed to find something to laugh about—even on the bad days, such as something going wrong with a student event they planned. Courtney made both domestic and international friends at Mason Korea and looks forward to continuing these friendships when she returns to Fairfax.

Courtney made the most of her time at Mason Korea and Korea, and recommends all college students to study abroad and also to come to Mason Korea. “It is really a great experience to surround yourself in a different cultural experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”