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Sabtu, 23 April 2016

Life in Seoul - A Brief Summary of My Spring 2015

So hello!! This was my final essay/report for Global Korean Scholarship as a final task before going home ^^  This essay was written on June 5th, 2015. I added some pictures to make it more "alive"


To be in Korea has been my dream since I was in senior high school. The 17 years old me wanted to see how things were in Korea, since I was a fan of Korea drama. The older me, last year, wanted more that to be in Korea after seeing an opportunity offered by my home university. Study in Korea. Yes, why only to be and not to live? Korea is one of developed country that has been growing rapidly, compare to my home country. My home country even got the independence first, but Korea could grow more. What was the secret of the people? How could be Korea become one of the leading country in technology? As a student in information technology, this has been one of my reason why I should apply to study.

But to achieve this dream was not easy. I applied last semester too, I managed to be a nominee from my home university, but the destination university said another thing. But was it only because one of rejection that I have to say goodbye to my dream? If we want to try, nothing is impossible. It is better to fail, than not trying and the regret it later. So I applied once again, and finally got accepted this time. With the limited financial, my parents tried to send me, and I also applied for the scholarship, hoping that if I got accepted it would help my parents. And a few weeks before my departure, I got an email from the contact person from Chung-Ang University. I got accepted to receive the Global Korean Scholarship.

And now it is almost the end, I am finishing the life of one of my dream.

Living in Korea has been one of the most memorable thing of my life. It was not the first time I lived far away from home, but it was the first time I lived alone, by alone I mean completely alone, no host family, no familiar things, no familiar language, no adult to relied to, I need to survive by myself. I was an exchange student 5 years ago in Germany, but I had host family who I could always ask and rely to. This time was different.

One funny thing upon my departure was my thought about the weather. Since I never traveled to any country in Asia beside ASEAN’s country, I thought the weather would be slightly the same, except in Korea it might be a little bit colder. So, the plain me didn’t bring a thick coat, only a normal one. And then, after arriving in dormitory for the first time, I checked the weather, and thought, “What? Minus 2 degree?” and regretting my decision not to bring any winter clothes.

Weather was the first thing to struggle. It was really cold for me, I don’t like cold, I can’t stand cold. Even when I sleep, I need to use socks so I don’t feel cold. I thought I brought a pair of thick gloves, but somehow I only found one glove on my suitcase. But the funny thing was, the way Korean dressed wasn’t like it was winter. The first week at University, I noticed many girls wore short skirt and pants. Well, they also wore some stockings, but was it enough? I even wore long-john and boots and it was not even enough for me. That was my first culture shock.

The second was language. I thought in Seoul would be easy to live for someone who didn’t know how to speak Korean, but it wasn’t. Well, maybe if I live near the tourist area it would be easy, but near my campus, it was difficult to find a restaurant where the waiter could speak good English. On the very first day, I and some friends went to a restaurant nearby and it took us almost half an hour just to figure out what to eat, because the menu had no English alphabet nor pictures.. I learned how to read hangeul before, but it took me more than five minutes just to figure out “Ramyun”.
First menu!

Manage to order something, yeay!
Dorm's typical breakfast
I was really fascinated by the technology and how easily people from all age got used to it. The first was the gate at my dormitory. We need some vessel scan or something like that, and my first thought “How this machine thing could even scan it?” Fingerprint or eye scan was really normal, but to scan someone’s vessel was totally a new one for me. And then, T-Money. It was really easy to go to everywhere with only one card: Taxi, Bus, Subway… they all accepted it. I can even use my T-Money card for the vending machine and the printing machine in dorm.

What I really like about Seoul, that it was really easy to go to anywhere. At the very first months, I used to go everywhere by subway since it’s more convenience and easy, but after I knew how to read Hangeul and even spoke a bit Korean, I tried to go by bus, since I could see the streets even though sometimes it took longer. What I don’t like about the subway is the distance we have to walk if we have to change the line. By bus it was easier. But with bus, the driver sometimes drove too fast, so it was difficult to stand. By Taxi is something else, because it is more expensive, and some taxis didn’t want to have foreigner passengers because of the language barrier.

My university life has been upside down. At first I took 6 classes, but then I dropped 2 because of the language barrier and the difficulties, and kept 4. What I noticed in the International class that mixed with Korean was, the Korean student didn’t try to blend in. Maybe in some other class yes, but not in class that I took. Before I dropped the other 2 classes too, somehow we could see the line between the Korean student and the International one. The Professor had tried to make us blend, but it didn’t work. I didn’t know what the real problem was, but I think maybe it is because they are too afraid to talk to us, and vice versa.

Chung-Ang University Festival!
I took 2 German class, since I want to improve my German. I was hesitated at first because I was afraid the class would be in Korean, but I was relieved when I saw the Professor is a German. But the other problem, I was the only foreigner in the class. Everyone is Korean. I thought that I would be alone for the rest of semester, but I was wrong. Well, at the first week no one talked to me (later I found out because some of them were afraid of speaking German since I am a little bit fluent), but later on one by one was trying to talk to me. I couldn’t be happier. I didn’t regret taking the class, because through the class I found Korean friends, and get to know more about Korean culture. I hanged out with some of them, mostly once a week, and improved my Korean. If I had Korean homework, they would be the first one to check it.

Eating out after German class xD
Through them, I mostly knew more about the culture and habit, especially among university students. For example, in the class, every meeting, there would be at least one student who would bring coffee or tea or milk to drink. That something that didn’t happen in Indonesia. And also I know that most of them live a bit far from campus, some even live in Incheon and Yongin, and traveled more than one hour everyday only to go to campus! Most of Korean are really diligent, and willing to learn. And the other thing was, how teacher is one of important job in here. In Indonesia, teacher didn’t receive a large amount of money.

Cherry blossom
One other unforgettable experience was when I got accepted as a global supporter of the very first Royal Court Culture Festival. I took interested about Korean history after I watched a drama, and then decided to take part in this festival. Turns out now I am one of fan of Korean history, especially of Joseon dynasty. I have visited all of the palaces in Seoul, starting from Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokggung, Chenggyeonggung, and Deoksugung. Also Jongmyo Shrine, the National Folk Museum, the National Museum of Korea, and the National Palace Museum. Gyeongbokgung was like my second home, since I went there minimum two times a week during April and the beginning of May. I really like how in Korea the technology is a high-end, but people also promoted their culture proudly. I got a ticket to moonlight tour, and it was one of the best tour I’ve ever attended!

The Very First Royal Court Culture Festival Opening Night!
Team 4! RPF Volunteer!!
Very first meeting
But to live in Korea was not always easy too. At the first two months, before the scholarship money came, I needed to live a little bit frugal. Korea is far far more expensive than Indonesia, one time eating is equal to three to four times eat in city where I live in Indonesia. But all of those café looked so delicious, so it was a struggle to resist them. The second thing was to find something to eat. I am a moslem and couldn’t eat pork, but pork is everywhere in Korea! And even though the food sounded like there is no meat, but some have. For example, Jajangmyun (black bean noodles). I thought it there was no meat in it, but truthfully it was pork. So I need to be patient, even though I really want to eat Jajangmyun.

Almost couldn't resist all these sweet things in life
Sometimes it was hard to tell people why I don’t eat pork and drink alcohol. They sometimes ask me, “But now you are in Korea, right? Nobody will know if you eat pork or drink alcohol.” It is a matter of choice. But I am glad that they respect my choice and still befriend me.

To be honest, I really like Chung-Ang University. Even though I really hate the hill to the dorm, but now we – exchange students – found a faster way to go to dorm without climbing all the hill. We called it “the lazy way”, “the not so lazy way”, “the very lazy way” etc. The very lazy way was to take bus to the back gate. What I like more about Chung-Ang is the facility that I have never seen before. I have lived at dorm during my high school time. But Blue Mir Hall was really good and nice. And the school festival has been my favourite so far. I really enjoyed those three days, and I wished it could stay longer.

Would I want to stay for another semester? If I could, I would. But sadly I need to graduate next year, so unfortunately I have to go back to reality, and who knows, I might apply for a master program at Chung-Ang!

Certificate given by Mr. Lee
After three months, I already felt like home. Korea (especially Heukseok) has been one of my home, and I will never forget my experience in here. It is really sad to think that soon I’ll leave and readapt again to my routine in Indonesia. Now I’m starting to wonder, what kind of thing I will miss when I return to “home”. Will it cafeteria food at dorm? Or will it be my roommate and my room? Will it be my friends? Will it be the cleanliness? Will it be the internet speed?

I want to thank the Korean government to give me a worthless lifetime experience to support my study in Korea. If only you know how it means for me and my family. Thank you so much, Global Korean Scholarship! I will surely share my experience and my knowledge that I learned during my one semester stay.

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