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MU Engineering junior bitten by study abroad bug

John Perlik holds up an American flag in an Olympic ice rink in Korea.

Civil and Environmental Engineering junior John Perlik has added yet another stamp to his growing passport by studying abroad in South Korea for the entirety of his junior year. Photo courtesy of John Perlik.

After spending his freshman year winter break on a College of Engineering study abroad trip, John Perlik caught the travel bug. Big time.

In fact, the Civil and Environmental Engineering major has travelled to more than 35 countries since and racked up an impressive number of airline miles in the process. Inspired by his own globetrotting lifestyle, Perlik launched the consulting startup CabinChief to create customized programs for optimizing travel rewards.

This past year, Perlik has added yet another stamp to his growing passport by studying abroad in South Korea for the entirety of his junior year.

“I have always been interested in Korea, so I took advantage of Mizzou’s strong relationship with Seoul National University,” he said. “Which is an amazing university full of bright students.”

Enrolled as an exchange student through SNU, Perlik said the experience has been surprisingly similar to studying in Columbia. At least, academically.

“There were plenty of English-taught courses available, so I decided on Soil Mechanics, Hydraulics, and Thermo to name a few,” he said.

With all his credits transferring back to Mizzou, Perlik is on track to graduate next year.

“It is important for all engineering students to seek out international experience, as it has shaped the way I think about engineering,” he said. “Korea has some amazing infrastructure projects going on, and it has been valuable to experience engineering from another perspective.”

While noting the vast difference in size between his hometown of Kansas City and Seoul, Perlik said it’s been an easy adjustment.

“Seoul is an emerging tech center and it has the world’s fastest internet,” he said. “I use my phone to pay for the subway and unlock my door. Nearly everything is in English [and] I know enough Korean to survive.”

According to Perlik, both MU and the International Center have been integral to that acclimation. In addition, two fellow Mizzou students studied abroad alongside him in Seoul for the first semester. He also had the privilege of meeting UM System President Mun Choi on his own recent trip to Korea.

An obvious highlight’s of Perlik’s year has been the Winter Olympics. Hosted in Pyeongchang and just an hour away from his host city, he attended snowboarding, skiing, hockey and luge events.

“A really memorable event was USA vs. Russia in women’s hockey,” he said. “I accidentally ran into Hilary Knight’s parents in the stadium and watched the game with them. Seeing athletes and spectators from around the world coming together like that was inspiring.”

Another equally exciting moment for Perlik was his run-in with snowboarder and Olympic legend Shaun White.

“[He] was really nice and went around to the fans after [he competed],” Perlik said. “Seeing him accept the gold medal and hearing the U.S. national anthem on the other side of the world was a powerful experience.”

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