Overall Experience: Okay. I am half- Korean and expected to experience better food than in the States, learn some Korean, make some Korean friends, and really gain independence and explore South Korea. However, the food was okay (we went to the cheapest places for the budget - disappointing especially if you are paying the full price), we only had one Korean class that basically told us the translations of phrases rather than teaching us how to form and understand basic sentences and tenses, I made about two Korean friends and that was only because I met them by chance and outside of the program, and no one was allowed to walk a block alone despite how safe Korea is (being from NYC). When I was with my mom's family in Korea, the Korean group leader called me every hour because she didn't "find being with my blood-related family" safe enough without checking in. The plus of the program was that I experienced some new things (Buddhist temple, I can only think of about one) and made more friends (but they were all from the group). Do not go on this program if you want to be more independent and explore on your own, meet Korean people and truly experience the culture (not have a tourist experience), and learn the language; Instead, I would suggest doing a university program on the Korean language.
Academics: The Academics were boring and remedial. We had two full days in a classroom while in Seoul; something we could have done online before the program in order to avoid wasting such precious time. We learned about the definition of "peace" and "social justice" for an hour each day. Let this sink in-- a full hour for a simple definition we learn in elementary or middle school. Then the speakers were all one-sided; the program did not provide two perspectives (very anti-America). Furthermore, as previously mentioned, we did the Korean class for half an hour and only learned phrases to memorize. I had thought I would learn Korean from speaking with Koreans and taking actual lessons on grammar and structure and verbs, etc. but all I spoke was English and only know a few new words.
Living Situation: The living situations were not bad; the hostel was modern and clean. The Center for Reunification was nice (dorm-style) and the Buddhist temple as well. The stay in Gwanju was interesting (traditional house). However, the hostel only had 2 bathrooms for around 20 of us, the Center of Reunification was filled with bugs and we were not allowed outside after dark "because of wild animals" although in a lit, building-filled complex (I live in Westchester; we have coyotes here and we still go out after dark), the Buddhist temple monk controlled every aspect of our lives (we had no freedom), and the traditional house in Gwanju had all the girls in one room (about 17 of us) and only one bathroom for the twenty of us. I was sick during the latter half of the trip and couldn't sleep when the rest of the people came back from restaurant and turned the lights on, stepped on me (we were sleeping on mats on the floor), and talked very loudly.
Cultural Immersion: Very little cultural immersion. I guess my anyeong-haseyo skills have been refined and I now know mashi-seyo. However, I didn't learn really any of the language, the food was blah, and I interacted with very few Koreans besides the group leaders.
Health & Safety: Very safe if you want to be prevented from walking to the cafe next door or the laundromat down the street. However, I got food poisoning and suffered for the majority of the trip (not very safe as we should be eating at clean places not just the cheapest ones).
Program Administration: Ok. The American group leaders were very nice but one main Korean group leader was very controlling. She had everything planned out, we could make no choices (restaurants, going out), and had very little freedom (she barely let me visit my blood-related family).
Social Life: Only could go out some nights in groups of 3+ and had very early curfew. Didn't meet any Koreans, only fellow group members.