Sisters study in South Korea through exchange program

Erynne Kubat, junior sociology major, and Elena Kubat, junior history major, knew exactly where they wanted to study abroad since their freshman year of college. 

They both are fascinated with the culture and history of the country and wanted to travel somewhere that wasn’t a common study abroad destination for Americans, Elena Kubat said. So, they chose South Korea.

“I had become really fascinated with the Korean culture, because it was becoming more well known around the world,” Erynne Kubat said. “I also wanted to be different, because I feel like most people want to study abroad in Europe, and not Asia.”

They have been studying in Korea since the beginning of this semester at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, through Waynesburg University’s exchange program with the university.

The Kubat sisters first discovered Waynesburg had an exchange program with Ewha Womans University when they were applying to the school, and it played a leading role in why they came to Waynesburg.

“ I’ve always wanted to travel with my sisters. So, Liz, Erynne, and I were planning on studying abroad together since we were freshmen,” Elena Kubat said.

Although only two of the three triplets were able to travel together, Liz Kubat was able to visit them while they were in Korea.

The Kubat sisters have learned a lot through this experience, both in and out of the classroom.

Erynne Kubat is taking an Infant Developmental Psychology class, a Korean language class, a global social problems class and Literary Aesthetics in Contemporary South Korea. 

Elena Kubat is taking East Asian History and Civilization, Introduction to Korean Culture, Introduction to Asian Art History, Shakespeare and Practical Korean for Beginners.

Despite taking multiple classes for college credit, the majority of what the Kubat sisters have learned about Korean culture has been outside of the classroom.

“There is a contemporary culture that you can’t learn from being in a classroom. Being surrounded constantly by people who speak an entirely different language is truly a rare thing to experience,” Elena Kubat said. “But culture is so much more than a language, it’s the music people listen to, the entertainment industry, the clothes people wear, the food they eat and the actions of people in their everyday lives.”

One of the main takeaways for both sisters is how similar South Korea is to the United States.

“I didn’t realize just how similar it could be before I came here,” Elena Kubat said.

Even though this experience has been educational and enjoyable for both Kubat sisters, they have experienced a few challenges along the way.

“It was a bit hard getting used to how things work here. It hasn’t been too challenging but I experienced using public transportation for the first time. Getting used to some smaller things like the food and etiquette rules [has also been challenging],” Erynne Kubat said. 

Elena Kubat’s struggles took a different path.

“I’d have to say [the most challenging part of this trip] would be my medical condition, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, acting up again,” Elena Kubat said. “It was a challenge to have to go to a hospital that is in a foreign country and see a doctor who doesn’t even speak my language. It was hard to not have my parents around to help me through my struggles.”

Even though there have been challenges, the Kubat sisters have each other to help overcome these struggles and are grateful for studying abroad together.

“I think things are more fun when you have an amazing person to share them with,” Erynne Kubat said. “My sister and I are super close and have dreamed of traveling together, and sharing my experience in a foreign country with her has been incredible.”

They have also made many friends, who either live in South Korea or are also international students. One way they were able to do this was through an English Bible Study group they both joined.

“I am involved in an English Bible study club called Third Base with Erynne and Korean women that I can now call friends … [The women in the group] have helped me and Erynne learn more of the language and introduced us to different Korean foods and places in Seoul as well,” Elena Kubat said. “It’s also really wonderful to be with other Christians that are from another country. I even got to sit in on a sermon and worship in Korean with an English translation, and it was humbling to be reminded that God doesn’t just speak one language and how Jesus came to earth for all people.”

The Kubat sisters will return to Waynesburg University next semester to continue their educational journey and share what they’ve learned from their experiences abroad.