#MasonAbroad Stories


Meet Christina Santisteban

Studying and Interning Abroad in Korea

Imagine thinking you would never have the chance to study abroad, and then the opportunity falls right in front of you. Sending a small girl like me to a big country such as South Korea, was an enlightening experience. My two opportunities to study abroad there weren’t just the first times I had been away from my family and friends back at home but also gave light to living outside of the United States and familiar systems and languages.

Unknown Territory and COVID-19

Stepping foot in Korea in 2021 when COVID was at its peak gave way to lots of struggles and miscommunications. I was in the Global Gateway Korea program, which meant that it was my first time studying abroad and I was unaware of all the systems and things that we would have to undergo while we were there. Restaurants would sometimes set a limit to how many people could sit at a table, places to go would close early, and socializing was kept to a minimum with the presence of masks. However, I didn’t want that to stop me from exploring the country and being able to prosper in Korean society. I did a lot of things outside and abided by the mask mandate wherever I went. I made connections with people who were also from the Fairfax campus, but didn’t limit myself to making friends with those from Mason Korea. As well as going around and practicing the language in relaxed and stressful settings made things a fair challenge for me.

There and Back Again

While I still made the most of my time in 2021, this past summer (2023) I got the opportunity to go again for the Global Internships program. This time around, there were no mask mandates, and everything was open for longer than 9 p.m. I was a bit time-constricted because of my work hours, but getting to experience working internationally while also leaving time for myself was very rewarding in the end and I felt like I had made up for some of the things I was unable to do back in 2021. I  was able to practice my Korean skills, rekindle or make new Korean friends, and understand what it means to work in a professional environment more effectively. While I had more freedom, it showed me more about how I would be able to function independently and what kind of lifestyle I would want to have in the future.


In Seoul

  • Hongdae: Hongdae is one of my most frequented places! It’s a good place to go shopping or eat some good food, and then later in the evenings, it gets lively, and you are able to experience the “nightlife” of Korea
  • Myeong-dong: Do you like shopping? If so, I recommend taking a whole day to visit Myeong-dong. From street food vendors to department stores, Myeong-dong is the place to be if you’re looking to spend some money.
  • Bukhansan: If you are looking for a good hike, I would recommend visiting the Bukhansan mountain! Even though the hike was treacherous for me, it is still good exercise and it’s funny getting to the top and seeing everyone eating kimbap and ramen as if they didn’t just hike a whole mountain.
  • Han River: A good Korean staple is visiting the Han River – more commonly known as Hangang in Korean. There is a really pretty Starbucks on the water, and you can also get some food and have a cute picnic on the shore.

Outside of Seoul

  • Busan: While I don’t particularly recommend Busan, there are some really nice places and sights there to see. Taking a plane or maybe if you’re brave enough the train is the way to go. Watch out for the zombies!
  • Yangyang / Naksan Beach: I took a spontaneous trip here with a group of friends and it was a nice getaway! With a beautiful beach, seafood galore, and just being away from the city was a refreshing experience.
Student Spotlight: Christina in Korea by Global Education Office
Christina Santisteban

Author Spotlight

Major Integrative Studies with a concentration in International Relations
Hometown Ashburn, VA
Study Abroad South Korea
Highlight I think diving into a culture independently as I was able to be able to explore things that I wanted to explore and learned how to be more independent and understanding culture boundaries, since it was the first time I had been away from my family.
Challenge I think one of the challenges of my study abroad experiences were being able to navigate different areas and people both in the program and out. Knowing what kinds of conversations you could have with those two different groups is important.
Favorite Food To be honest, all of the food I ate was good.

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