I always love not just travelling to other countries but living in them too! I have only studied abroad twice, and the second time was in Seoul, South Korea which is what I will discuss in this blog. I have travelled to Korea many times while I was an exchange student in Japan from 2016-2017, and I started learning Korean while in Tokyo too! So, I thought I would like to improve my Korean and also experience Korean life for a few months.
Luckily, I received some funding from my university in Scotland (even though I had graduated!) so I was able to begin an intensive language programme at Yonsei University for 3 weeks. I was more worried about living in Korea compared to when I stayed in Japan, because my language ability was not that strong – only beginner level – and I did not know that much about Korea, Korean life etc. Regardless I said goodbye to my friends at Taoyuan airport in Taiwan (we had been travelling together) and headed for Seoul. Immediately after landing I went to my dorm and met my roommate (who happened to be from Kwansei Gakuin University). At first, I was put into level one, but later I moved to level 2 as I was better suited to that level. About 80% of the class were from Japan! This was useful because when I didn’t know the word in Korean or some grammar patterns, my classmates could easily help me. While there, I attended some language cafes in the nearby Sinchon area and made some Korean friends. After the programme ended, I headed to SNU (Seoul National University) for a 6-month course. Aside from just a different university, the campus was also in a more out-of-the-way area which was pretty much in the mountains. Although the environment was better, it was a bit bothersome to travel to other areas of the city.
Thanks to that programme, or perhaps thanks to my willingness to speak Korean at all costs, I improved from beginner level to intermediate (finally!). I did not have the chance to travel outside Seoul and Busan, but this is something I will do in the near future. One of the friends that I made was a fashion student from Ewha University, so we went to many art exhibitions which were good. I am vegetarian so life was hard in the land of BBQ, but my friends made sure to take me to all the good places! I had a good time riding bicycles with them along the Han River, running a half marathon and eating lots of good food!
Overall, I am so happy I could feel the hospitality of Seoulites, and especially my friends who helped me with any of my problems – I want to return the favour to them someday! I’m not sure if I will have time to study in Korea again because of job hunting and studying at Waseda, but I hope I can live there in the future.
If anyone is afraid of nervous to live abroad, I say “Do it!”. For me, it was not just a chance to improve my language ability but really allowed me to grow as a person, taking more responsibility for things like my finances and become more extroverted and not scared to jump into new opportunities. I think because of these experiences; I was able to start working at the ICC, and I would like to think such things will help me being an SSL and in my future career.
G.F. (Student Staff Leader)