IEU Experience

08/03/2024

At IE University, we strive to help our students get a taste of the world of work beyond the classroom. Luka Sophy shares her experience in Seoul, South Korea during her exchange semester abroad.

The Bachelor in Behavior & Social Sciences is designed to turn its students into human behavior experts for the business world. And what better way to understand human behavior than to experience it firsthand? The program encourages participants to step out of their comfort zones by offering an exchange semester abroad

Luka Sophy took up the offer. She decided she wanted to study in a culture very different from her native one, which led her to Seoul, South Korea. We recently sat down with Luka to hear about her experience abroad and how it helped change her perspective.  

Why did you decide to study the Bachelor in Behavior & Social Sciences?

I knew that the program would set me up with a toolkit full of the hard and soft skills necessary to apply behavioral science in organizations. On the one hand, we learn psychological theories and experimentation and are given the chance to work with a lot of software, providing us with a solid foundation. On the other, the syllabus and coursework emphasize the development of soft skills that nurture teamwork, critical thinking and communication. This provides us with the necessary flexibility to further grow and adapt to the rhythms of innovation. 

What do you like the most about studying at IE University? 

I love the autonomy we are given in our learning. IE University provides a lot of resources and experiences outside of the requirements for each program. There are lots of opportunities to grow. I was interested in sustainability, so I joined the Eco Club, which has allowed me to meet a lot of industry professionals. 

The university also encourages us to take our own initiative. This helped me become part of the first generation and core team of the IE Behavioral Consulting Team, which allows students to apply behavioral consulting to improve student experience.

Why did you pick South Korea for your exchange? 

The Bachelor in Behavior & Social Sciences places a big focus on how culture influences behavioral science and psychology. We dive into the idea that the many effects we see in one culture cannot be replicated in another. I knew that for my exchange, I wanted to explore a culture different from my own to gain a new outlook on something I was already familiar with. 

I chose South Korea specifically because I was intrigued by the economic growth and the rising popularity of K-Culture products like K-pop, K-drama and Korean food in Western culture. The chance to learn more about the origin of this growth firsthand was presented and I knew I had to take it.

How has your perception of South Korea changed now that you’ve lived there?

Before my exchange, I was worried about fitting in at a university in South Korea. It has a high-context, collectivist culture and I come from one that’s low-context individualistic. I was nervous that I wouldn’t pick up on certain social cues or that I would accidentally offend someone. However, when I worked with or spoke to my Korean classmates, they were very understanding of the cultural gap and were willing to explain things. I learned that although things may take a minute to click, people are generally very forgiving.

I also gained more insightful perspectives on topics I felt quite uneducated on prior to my exchange, such as challenges and varying opinions on Korean reunification. 

Luka in South Korea

How did you adapt to such a different culture from what you’re used to?

The key to adapting to a different culture is admitting that there is a lot you simply don’t know or have misconceptions about. Before going on the exchange, I had done some light research through travel blogs or by watching videos on YouTube. I planned my entire journey from start to finish and even learned some key phrases! However, once the time came to apply all this knowledge, I was very quickly humbled. The bit of Korean I studied was incomprehensible and I was slipping into my own mannerisms left and right.

Preparation will only take you so far. There will be situations where you will make mistakes. Rather than avoiding it, put yourself out there knowing you might fail. Rather than lamenting failure, laugh it off and learn from it. After all, learning is all about making mistakes.

What was your favorite moment in South Korea?

Going on exchange is a reel of exciting moments, so it’s hard to pick just one. Academically, my highlights included attending different women-oriented business conferences organized by Ewha Womans University, with notable speakers such as Soo Yeon Choi, CEO at Naver, and Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF. Their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that the Korean and global community will face from the advances of AI and cryptocurrencies in the upcoming decades were very insightful. 

On a more personal note, I enjoyed the time spent with friends picnicking by the River Han, watching the light show at Banpodaegyo Bridge and eating delicious chicken or ramen. Finding tranquil moments in such a vibrant city was the perfect way to decompress after a busy week.

Luka in South Korea

What’s a key takeaway from your exchange? 

Studying abroad challenged my previous misconceptions of what global citizenship really is. Given the diverse student body at IE University, I assumed that my exposure to different cultures and backgrounds meant that I had experience in working with and integrating myself into them. I quickly learned that because I have been a part of the dominant culture for so long, I underestimated the influence these norms and values had on me. By immersing myself in a distinct culture, I noticed my quirks. Rather than only seeking similarities to ground myself, appreciating these differences enriched my experience. Acknowledging my nuances and learning from them broadened my perspective on global citizenship. 

Onto new frontiers

The exchange program at IE University allows students to take their learning to new heights. It serves as an opportunity to break boundaries of perspective and study in one of our leading partner institutions around the world. Find out where the Bachelor in Behavior & Social Sciences can take you. 

There will be situations where you will make mistakes. Rather than avoiding it, put yourself out there knowing you might fail. Rather than lamenting on failure, laugh it off and learn from it.

Luka Sophy