Cenet program analyst incorporates lessons learned in South Korea to her life back in Southeast Missouri

Sarah Fetterhoff, Cenet program analyst, had an interest in learning about other cultures from a young age. Following this interest, she traveled to South Korea for the fall semester during her junior year of college at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) through the Magellan Exchange, a program founded by Cenet.


“Looking back, these were some of the most impactful months of my time in college, especially, and life in general,” Sarah says. “It gave me a different view on the world and on my faith and different things, too, that was just so encouraging.”


The Magellan Exchange is a consortium of more than 35 universities in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that allows students to pay the normal rate of tuition at their home university. To keep programs affordable for American students, Cenet uses revenue from its inbound U.S State Department exchange programs to help offset the cost.


As a student studying business, Sarah found the outbound program through the Magellan Exchange was an affordable option. She says her semester was nearly entirely paid for by scholarships, including scholarships she already received from SEMO that could be applied to her tuition, a study abroad endowment scholarship from SEMO, and a scholarship she received from the university she attended in South Korea.


In addition to her scholarships applying, the credits she took while in South Korea transferred “really seamlessly;” she says the university worked with her to ensure the classes transferred, so she could graduate on time as planned.


Sarah says sometimes, her time abroad “feels like a fever dream;” one of the most impactful experiences, though, was her professor who taught all of her classes while she was in South Korea. A Korean American who was around her dad’s age, Sarah says this professor took the time to invite her and her Spanish friend who was also in the program to play table tennis with him and Korean students weekly, a time during which he taught her a lot about the culture.

Sarah says she is close with her dad and missed her family while she was away from them, so this helped with her culture shock and “made the program really fun.” In addition to taking classes and table tennis lessons with this professor, she also got to be a teacher’s assistant for him and help his students learn English.


Another impactful element of her time abroad was connecting with a faith community in South Korea. Sarah says she attended a church in Seoul comprised of people from many different countries, including Nigeria, France, the U.S. and South Korea, and formed lasting friendships while she was a part of this community. Sarah says even though she was there during the COVID-19 pandemic, the people at the church invited her in; each Sunday after services, they went to lunch together and then discussed Scripture in small groups. Sarah has gotten to meet up with several of these friends back here in the U.S. to continue growing the friendship that started in South Korea.


Sarah says being a part of this faith community has had the most lasting impact on her from her time abroad.


“It made my experience in Korea so impactful in a way that I got to experience the culture with them and learn from them, but I got to experience like-minded faith with them, too, which was cool,” Sarah says.


Returning home was a difficult experience, Sarah says; she experienced anxiety due to culture shock for the first time while living in South Korea and thought coming home would be “relief.”


But when she got back home, that wasn’t the case. She viewed the world differently because of her time away, and her friends who had remained in America had also grown and were different. Talking with people in the Cape Girardeau community who had also lived in other countries helped during this transition, Sarah says, because they engaged with her by listening about her time abroad and understood the feeling of returning to the U.S.


Now that she lives in Southeast Missouri again, Sarah says she enjoys sharing aspects of the Korean culture she loves with friends and family in the region who have never been to South Korea or traveled abroad; it means a lot to her when someone asks her to get Korean food with them.


Because locals in South Korea helped her feel welcome while she was abroad, Sarah makes this her mission for people from other countries who are living in Cape Girardeau, too. She does this through inviting people from other countries — especially international and exchange students — to spend holidays with her family, to help them feel loved and to show them what rural American culture is like. She also enjoys planning dinner and game nights with them to share culture.


In her role at Cenet, Sarah helps place international workers program participants as summer camp counselors, mostly in rural regions of the United States. She believes in the importance of this exchange because the camp counselors get to experience rural cultures in the U.S. while helping young American campers experience cultures from around the world. She hopes through this exchange, both gain a deeper understanding and love for people from other parts of the world.


This type of exchange also helps fill the employment gap the camps in small towns experience, because they don’t have the population to support the number of employees the camps need. In addition, bringing people in from other countries helps people in these towns that aren’t usually culturally diverse get to know people from around the world.


This aspect of international exchange was key for Sarah, and it’s what she hopes to share with others through her work at Cenet.


“I feel like there’s so much more in the community that I see and understand now, and I see life in a broader perspective,” Sarah says.

Cenet strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.