Oberlin Blogs

Debating Double-Degree: Study Abr–Almost.

April 8, 2022

Ben Smith ’24

Well, it sure feels like it has been awhile! I have come bearing updates on my escapades into East Asian Studies. Before we begin, here is a brief recap of last chapter: I have forgone double-degree and decided to minor in EAS (with a concentration in Korean Studies), and began this school year with the intention of applying to study abroad programs. So, onto the updates! 
















… there are none. Yep. That’s right. My update is that there are no updates.

You may be shocked, betriveled. Trust and believe, I thought I would have more to write at this point too. Well… okay. Actually… it might not be that cut and dry. I do have a bit more to say on what has been going on the past semester and a half. 

So, with my classes, not much is out of the ordinary. I’m currently taking Chinese Calligraphy and a Korean history course titled “Korea and East Asia: From Ancient Times to the Present.” They are both great! I’m having a lot of fun and these classes really help to balance out my coursework between art, academics, and music. Honestly, my schedule this semester couldn’t have worked out much better.

With study abroad… sigh. This is where things are a bit more complicated. Just so we are all on the same page, I had a few criteria in mind to guide my study abroad experience:

  1. I wanted to study in South Korea.
  2. I wanted to study both Korean language and music (this is the tricky one). 
  3. I wanted to (ideally) study abroad during the Fall 2022 semester. 

As a result of these parameters, my entire experience with applying to study abroad is framed by two important characteristics: 

#1: I have to apply to study abroad programs that are not affiliated with Oberlin.

At the time of writing this, Oberlin has no affiliated programs with any universities in Korea. This does not mean I can’t study in Korea–it just means the process of getting there requires more knowledge of the non-affiliated programs I am applying to, thorough communication with Oberlin, and increased awareness of all the steps needed to complete both of the study away applications for Oberlin and the host university. Tldr: it is just more work.

If you are applying to a non-affiliated program, I have found it helpful to assume that you have absolutely ZERO knowledge of how the application process works. Anything you thought you knew about applying to literally anything–just throw it out the window. Find the contact information of the International Affairs Office for the university you are applying to and get real comfy with asking any questions that come up. If something on the application or on the website is unclear to you, email. If everything seems clear but you aren’t 110% how to proceed, email. With non-affiliated programs, you are presenting yourself as an individual and cannot rely on Oberlin to represent you on your behalf. Because of this, it is paramount to demonstrate complete ownership over every step of the process. I knew I had support here at Oberlin from the Study Away Office and from my professors but, when it came down to it, it was my name on the application. I had to be the one to find all the specific information regarding the application criteria (i.e. dates, fees, document specifications) and communicate to Oberlin how I would need to fulfill each requirement. This might sound daunting, and to some degree it is, but communicating with the host program definitely helped me feel like I had a good grasp of what was going on.

#2:  Due to the nature of my degree (Bachelor of Music in Performance, Minor in Korean Studies), it is most advantageous for me to study music during my semester away.

This might sound obvious, but it is important to distinguish due to credit transferring. What I am suggesting here is in regards to taking a personal leave of absence (in which 2 classes/8 credits will transfer from my semester abroad) versus taking an academic leave of absence (in which 5 classes/20 credits will transfer from my semester abroad). I found two programs that work for my proposed area of study, so I know these programs will result in me taking an academic leave. Likewise, I can rest assured that more credits will transfer once I arrive back at Oberlin for the Spring 2023 semester, meaning I will have a better shot at graduating on time. Saving money and time–that’s some good stuff.

This now leads me to my present circumstance: the lovely period of… waiting. I have applied to the program at Seoul National University and am waiting to hear back but, wow, let me tell you–the process was much more stressful than I anticipated. More to come on that whole experience. Long story short: I have applied to a second study abroad program with another university in Korea just in case things go… not according to plan. 

Until next time~

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