When I was young, I visited several art museums and exhibitions with my family and my friends that focused on French artists like Monet, Millet, Saint Exupéry, and Bernard Werber. Even the first musical I attended was Notre Dame de Paris, an adaptation of the French author Victor Hugo’s novel. I grew up exposed to French culture, and my interest in everything French just blossomed. To improve my French language skills and better learn about French culture, I decided to major in French at a foreign language high school and at university.
Working as an Ambassador
Just like a nation that sends ambassadors who represent the country to other lands, Sookmyung Women’s University also has a number of school ambassadors who promote the school around the country. As a Sookmyung Ambassador, I met lots of people including children, professors, ministers, and even presidents. For example, I was the language interpreter for French Minister, Fleur Pellerin, and the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, in the ceremony on behalf of my university as well as my country. I translate Korean to French to ease understanding of Korean culture and smooth communications. Visitors to Korea are able to learn about Korean culture and leave with a positive impression of Korea; therefore, I was really proud of my role at the ceremony. Since then, I have been a delegate connecting diverse cultures, especially, Francophone and Korean. I love supporting people who wish to adapt to different circumstances, dispelling ignorance and prejudice. To continue my goal, I went abroad to explore firsthand the French culture.
I stayed about six months in Lyon, France. Most students like to go to Paris when they apply for an overseas study program, but I chose to go to Lyon instead of Paris. Surprisingly, many Koreans don’t know where Lyon is located and some of them cannot pronounce the city name and confuse it with the animal, lion. I chose to study at Lyon so that I would have an experience that differed from others who tend to visit more famous tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the city of Paris. Another reason I wanted to go to Lyon was for its own unique culture. The city is known for its fine cuisine or gastronomy. Lyon is often called the gastronomic capital of the world by renowned food critics like Paul Bocuse, culinary schools, and restaurants. In addition, several sites in Lyon were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Roman and Renaissance district and the traditional silk district, in 1998.
I enrolled at Lyon 3 University, which is known for its law, literature, and language majors. Of the many foreign language departments, I saw there was Korean, so I registered for a Korean class in the hopes of making French friends who are interested in Korea and its culture. I heard multiple reasons for majoring in Korean, which made me “see” Korea’s global image. Most of my classmates wanted to learn Korean so that they could better understand Korean dramas and K-pop music because Korean culture had spread passed Korea’s walls and become a global trend sweeping the world. Other reasons included learning about Korean history and modern history of the Peninsula’s division. All students in the class, though we looked and sounded different, had one common objective: sharing culture.
To better share Korean culture, we made an open dictionary on Naver. My classmates added meanings to various expressions and altered some to reflect everyday French expressions not just those in books. What’s more, the class threw a New Year’s party at the university on the Lunar New Year. Everyone brought a Korean dish they had prepared and shared it. We also sang and danced to music. It was wonderful and we’ve continued to keep in touch after my return to Korea. Some of them have even visited as exchange students. After completing their studies here in Korea, they promised to continue promoting Korean culture in France.
Discovering New Culture in Nature
During the school vacation, I traveled to several cities in France, and one of them remains in my memory. I did volunteer work at a little farm in the southern region of France. Living the hectic lifestyle of Seoul, I yearned for something that would heal my deteriorating health. Doing some laborious work in France, I realized I took workers for granted. I worked at a vegetable farm, where I had to manage any challenges on my own. I learnt to be independent and look to the bright side. In Seoul, the high pollution made me suffer from dermatitis, but in the countryside of France, with fresh air and eating organic food, my skin cleared up. Not only did I enjoy the beauty of nature, I learnt about the area’s long traditions and its people. Compared to my life in Seoul, when I was stuck in a rut, I spent my days reflecting on myself. Spending several months away from home only strengthened my goal in life. I highly recommend participating in an exchange program. It is a great way to find yourself through the marvelous experience.