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Aanandi Murlidharan '23 on Studying Abroad in Korea

March 14, 2023 Alex Kelly '23
Aanandi posing in front of Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea

Aanandi Murlidharan '23 had wanted to visit Korea since she was fifteen years old, and she finally got her chance in spring 2022. Aanandi who is an anthropology major and international studies minor studied at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea through Bryn Mawr’s partnership with the CIEE study abroad program.

Due to ongoing Covid regulations, most of Aanandi’s classes in Korea were online, but she feels like that was an advantage during her stay. Without the demands of a physical classroom, Aanandi was able to travel extensively over the course of her semester abroad, managing to visit eight different cities over the course of a few months.

Aanandi’s biggest lesson from her time abroad was the importance of not being afraid to make mistakes. Although she speaks five languages, her Korean wasn't perfect when she arrived at Yonsei.

“Initially I was scared, because I would say something, and I thought it made sense to me but they just wouldn't understand.”

Despite her anxiety, she decided to try to speak Korean as much as possible, and her efforts paid off. Aanandi was able to make many more Korean friends and acquaintances than if she had stuck to English, and even when communication was difficult, people appreciated her efforts.

“I had a lot of friends who had been taking Korean for years, but because they were so afraid of making mistakes, they didn't want to speak it, and I think they missed out on a lot.”

The community within the CIEE program helped Aanandi feel more at home. She especially liked their “Seoul Mates” program, which matched groups of Korean students interested in meeting foreigners with CIEE students. Aanandi hit it off with her “Seoul Mate” right away. She had not expected to make many Korean friends but soon found herself with a wide circle of both Korean and international students.

With nearly forty thousand students, Yonsei University is a vastly different environment than Bryn Mawr. Rather than feeling homesick, Aanandi enjoyed the change of pace.

“I love Bryn Mawr, but I also wanted to experience something new. I know that a big university is not something I would have been able to do for four years, but I wanted a taste of it.”

Aanandi’s experiences at Bryn Mawr also helped her get the most out of her time at Yonsei, especially when it came to talking to faculty.

“Because I'm so used to talking to the faculty at Bryn Mawr, I wasn't afraid to reach out to professors. But my friends in the program who were coming from much bigger universities were terrified to reach out to them.”

Aanandi was able to take many classes related to her anthropology major during her time abroad, but her most interesting class was titled Principles of Marketing. There, she was able to apply the research techniques she gained from her anthropology studies to practical marketing assignments.

“I had a lot of experience in ethnography, and my anthropology professors like Professor Fioratta and Professor Weidman were very particular about us having exposure to field work and asking the right questions. That experience really set me apart from others in my class.”

For one assignment, her group put together a marketing pitch for Jim Beam whiskey to young Koreans, which they then presented to the company’s head of marketing in Korea. Aanandi conducted a mini ethnography among her Korean friends and put together a successful pitch.

“Now, if someone were to ask “How can you use your liberal arts degree in a professional setting?” I have concrete examples. I used my anthropology background to pitch to a marketing rep, and our project actually scored the top of our class. We were the only group that really understood who our target audience was, and I think I wouldn't have been able to do that without my Bryn Mawr background.”

Each year, about one third of the junior class studies abroad, usually for one semester, at one of more than fifty approved programs. Students may begin to think about study abroad in their first year and are welcome to visit the Study Abroad Resource Library in the Lower Level of Guild Hall and to begin to explore approved programs.