Flying from Kazakhstan to Korea, I dreamed of my days in Seoul, Korea. As imagined, my days went by fast. Here is my story at Sookmyung as an exchange student: how I adjusted to Korea, what I learned at Sookmyung, the people I met, and my feelings while here.
Excitement of Studying in Seoul
When I was first presented with the chance to go on an exchange program at university, without hesitation I chose South Korea because it is known for its fast progress, advanced technology, security, and rich culture, which I came to love thanks to K-dramas. An incredible joy swept over me when I received an invitation from Sookmyung Women’s University. The flight time from Kazakhstan to Korea was about 7 hours, but once I stepped on Korean soil, I was overcome with delight. However, soon after that, the first stage of the cultural shock began - the “Honeymoon stage” when everything around me seemed beautiful and perfect. I saw beautiful buildings, cozy cafés, warm weather, bewitching nature, stylish shops, and a bright university campus. I appreciated Korea, but very soon the second stage of culture shock began - the “frustration stage”. I began to experience communication problems because I did not know Korean language, and it was difficult to comprehend the metro system. My friends and I were not used to Korean cuisine, and some houses looked so similar that we couldn’t identify them and as such, we got lots about a hundred times. Many foreigners around me also began to miss their homelands. Though after a couple more weeks, I got more or less used to life. I found suitable places, learned to read Korean letters and a few basic phrases, and was planning trips to other cities. Mastering this stage of culture shock, I reached the “adjustment stage” and began to understand Seoul like a local.
Studying at Sookmyung
I really like the university. It has cozy classrooms, a bright interior, good equipment, and qualified teachers. Each teacher tried their best to present their subject-matter interestingly, arranged fascinating discussions during lectures, and did not condemn students for the various opinions they shared with the class. The assignments and exams were relatively easy when I attended all classes and prepared coursework diligently. Especially, my friends and I became so close to one professor that we all went out for lunch together one day. It was great to talk and laugh with others without the need to consider their status and position. Yunhee Kim is simply the best person in the whole world! I am really thankful for her for interesting lectures, kindness, and understanding.
The only drawback while at Sookmyung was the narrow selection of courses taught in the medium of English. It was hard to enter the limited number of classes because of the enrollment limitation and that many Korean students also wished to take classes taught in English as it helps to increase their level of proficiency in the language. Unfortunately, I could not take required courses for my major but there course I did take were no less interesting. I learned a lot about international communication, the relevance of feminism, twentieth-century literature, and Korean language. These courses are still very useful for my major “Media & Communication”, and they were interesting.
New and precious friends
Most of all, I am grateful for the university’s efforts to connect the student body. My dormitory neighbors were a lady from France and a lady from China, representative of western and eastern cultures. We talked a lot about our homelands and became good friends. We often had dinner together, chatted nicely in the evenings, and went on excursions with URINK. I also met ladies from Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, the US, and so on. Many people did not know where Kazakhstan was, and many others had never heard of it. However, that did not make me sad. I was more than happy to introduce my home country to them. Some thought Kazakhstan was a third world nation with a weak economy, but I convinced them that they were mistaken. Kazakhstan is developing rapidly and will soon be one of the top 50 most developed countries in a couple of decades. My nation gained independence only 30 years ago, so it will take the nation some time to get settled. I am grateful for every contact with other foreign students in Korea. Going out to eat chicken, especially Mom’s Touch, chatting over tea and coffee, taking photos in photo booths, and visiting a number of historical places are many of the things I will remember.
Buddies are the best helpers!
My helper buddy from URINK was kind and cheerful. Her name is Lee Sumin, and I would not have survived without her. She contacted me in advance, asked for my expected day of arrival, and whether I needed anything when I arrived. She also answered all my questions at any time of the day and gave help that was from her pure heart, without any self-interest. We had lunch and dinner together, walked around the city, went shopping, and even once attended a concert together. She was always there, supporting me and helping me cope with difficulties. Together we went to get my alien registration card, she taught me how to order goods online, helped me find ways to various places, and introduced me to others who became my friends. She was a ray of light that I needed so much. She was my support stand and encouraged me whenever I was down. She always understood me and seemed to always consider my point of view by placing herself in my shoes. She is just a miracle! I am confident that each other international student would surely say the same thing about their buddies. They are simply irreplaceable and magnificent. I would sum them up as insanely friendly, funny, and nice. URINK members welcomed each international exchange student warmly and stayed with us till our goodbye. They ensured every moment we were here was forever imprinted in our memory. I will never forget their care and my days in Korea, and I plan to definitely return to Seoul as soon as I can. Thank you to everyone who brightened my semester in Korea, and thank you to Sookmyung Women’s University for the atmosphere, the people that I met, and the knowledge that I have received. I will use it all in the future.