The Life of a KGSP Student

Saturday, 12 December 2015


So I joined this year end competition for a Video competition and an Essay competition under National Institute for International Education (NIIED) in Korea. Didn't win the Best ($300), 1 person or Excellence ($200), 3 people Award but I got the Participation Award ($100), 20 people. I'm pretty glad I managed to rush it out despite being busy for all my projects, finals and everything going on. The video above was pretty much a summation of my entire two years (mostly this year) in Korea as a foreign student, 

It has been extremely rewarding so far and I do hope it will continue to be this way. Anyway, pretty happy to have gotten some awards for some hard work for this year, and I'm looking forward to more experiences, and also to sharing more of these things about my life to you readers. Thank you!

The video mentioned is the one above, so you can see what I've been doing for these 2 years that I've been in Korea, and as for my essay, I cut it into the second part of this post so that you wouldn't have such a long post to read.

If you would like to read my essay, you can click on 'Read more'.

My Life as a KGSP Foreign Student

I am a 24-year-old student from Singapore who is currently studying in Yonsei University, South Korea. I am under KGSP and I am grateful to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship that has given me many opportunities and has opened my eyes to many more things in this world. It has been almost two years here in Korea, and I must say that it is still extremely fun and exciting to be exploring Korea through the eyes of a foreigner, and a student at that. As a student, you have more time to allow yourself to experience the different cultural history, to meet different people from different countries, and adjust your schedule based on the things that are happening around you, namely programs held in Korea for foreigners. As an adult, a working one at that, you tend to be more comfortable to your schedule due to working hours, and are less inclined to adjusting.

Being a student here has been extremely rewarding. Apart from the fact that studying in Korea means learning another language apart from the ones we learn in our home countries. Language is a very flexible skill to have, as it means easier communication with people from those countries, and also more open doors in the industry you are with since you have access to translation skills and probably cultural knowledge. On top of that, you get to live in a whole different world, relying only on yourself, learning to be independent and to stand on your own two feet. Coming to Korea for my studies was probably one of my best decisions I have ever made. It’s as though I was born into a whole new world, forced to make new friendships, pick up certain life skills and practice my language especially more so as to be able to communicate and basically live my life.

Studying in the language center was extremely enjoyable. You bond together with other foreigners who are experiencing the same situation as you, and you find that learning is more tolerable and fun when done together. You watch each other start off not knowing a single word, to being fluent speakers with even the ability to order food via telephone. The friendships made during language school also play a big part in adapting to a new culture. Being able to mix with people from other cultures well teaches humility, and it is applicable everywhere, even in future when you get jobs. Apart from just learning the language, my Korean language teachers were extremely patient and always shared with us from their experiences. They also gave us a lot of information on what to expect when we started university, meeting new people and making friends. Language school was a good taste of what University in Korea would be like, and it was indeed a great year of preparation before starting our university life.

The first year in University was very impressionable to me. It was where I had my first Korean roommate. I’ve heard many horror stories from my friends and seniors on how they had Korean roommates and got ganged up upon and was out-casted by them. I sincerely hoped that this wouldn’t have been my situation and I am glad to say that I bonded well with my roommate and we hit it off pretty well, having chicken together once or twice every week or two. It is extremely important to have a Korean roommate because it is where you get your “secret” information about certain professors, certain slangs, shortcuts within the school and things like that, things that you wouldn’t be able to find out easily unless you have someone to explain them to you. My Korean roommate taught me many things, and gave me many valuable insights on certain courses and lectures in the school, and how to go about making life easier for myself.

The lectures taught are informative and interesting. Of course, there are certain courses that aren’t all that fun, but which school doesn’t have those? School is all about adapting oneself and adjusting to your surroundings. Joining clubs are a little tough for me since it requires having to travel to another city for meetings and practices. I plan to join next year when I am in the main campus, but for now, we are experiencing this program called Residential College. This program allows all of us first year freshmen to mingle, as well as take part in different house programs that help us form this cohesive bond with the school. The program also helps promote all-roundedness so as to give students a chance to take a break from their studies, and to enjoy themselves by playing sports, or doing certain programs.

The different programs that I have experienced are mainly Basketball, Table Tennis, and many foreigner related programs such as Abnormal Conference (비정상회담), not the real one on television, but one just made by our in-house Residential Assistants where we tackled some problems that Koreans and foreigners alike see as problems and discuss our views. The programs organized and held are very interesting and it gives us a chance to expand our social circles, enjoy campus lifestyle and ultimately, become more socially active.

 In my first semester, I managed to snag a GPA of 4.24/4.3 and was awarded a certificate of merit by the Business School for having top grades, and also awarded the Global Scholarship as well. In July, I also finally attained the coveted Level 5 in the Test of Korean Proficiency (TOPIK) where I was also awarded the TOPIK Scholarship. It has been an immensely impactful two years here as a student in Korea, and I am definitely looking forward to the next three years in Seoul, hopefully continuing to do well, and making the best out of this opportunity to be studying in Korea.

The big difference in Korea and Singapore is definitely the language. Both Seoul and Singapore are cities; therefore there isn’t much difference in terms of cost, transportation, lifestyle and people. However, the main factor for me going about living my life would be the fact that the Korean language is never my first language, and will never be as comfortable speaking Korean as I do English. I do continue to better myself and practice as much as possible just to make sure that I never fall short of myself and what I can achieve in life.

Korea and Singapore are pretty much alike, in terms of the fact that we both came out of very poor situations, Korea out of the Korean War, and Singapore out of the Japanese Occupation, and we both had great leaders who brought us up to where we are today, but the big difference between our countries is that Koreans are a very homogeneous society, and that has proved effective throughout the years. True enough, expansion and an introduction of foreign talent into your society brings about a revolution in thinking and mentality, but taking care of your own people first makes all the difference in the livelihood of the people. This is something that I feel Singapore lacks and that Korea has done exceedingly. Korea has slowly begun opening its doors to foreigners and accepting other people into their culture and society, sometimes even to the point of accommodating it. So far, it has made a significant impact on the tourism industry and it is continuing to be a great source of revenue to the country.

Korea also has an intensive amount of festivals. One thing that I think Koreans love to do; they love to celebrate. No matter the time of the year, or which season it is, you can count on there being a certain type of festival. From traditional festivals like Temple Chrysanthemum Festivals, to seasonal Cherry Blossom Festivals, to extreme ones like Water Gun Festival, it is no wonder South Korea is becoming one of the best countries to go to in order to enjoy.
On top of all these wonderful things, this is a wonderful day and age to be in Korea studying. As Korea is slowly opening its doors and promoting tourism within Korea, many different traveling related programs for foreigners open up within Korea. As a student who is very active in social networking sites, (Facebook: www.facebook.com/hairlessly, Blog: www.hairlessly.com) I was able to be selected as a student reporter for many different programs where we were to experience things first hand, and then write about it and share to the people from our countries.

One of the programs I joined is called Wow Korea Supporters, where we travel to many different parts of South Korea that are not very famous to foreign travelers, but the locals love them. (http://www.hairlessly.com/search/label/2015wowkoreasupporters) We write about the places we go and the experiences we have so as to share these lovely experiences in hope that people would want to travel to these places as well other than just the famous Seoul, Busan and Jeju Island.

I am also one of the College Student Reporters in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winners Winter Olympic Games Reporters. I have written a few monthly articles since July 2015 till now and they have been published on the official blog of the 2018 Pyeongchang website. (http://www.pyeongchang2018.com/horizon/eng/blog/blog_thumb.asp?hb_BoardManager_ID=BDENAA14) Apart from that, we were also asked to publish them on our blogs as well. (http://www.hairlessly.com/search/label/2018%20pyeongchang%20winter%20olympics)
I have also traveled to the famous Dokdo Island, a place where many Koreans are passionate about. Through the Korean National Union for Conservation of Nature, I was able to travel to Ulleungdo and Dokdo as a foreign student, writing and publicizing about this place through my SNS. (http://www.hairlessly.com/search?q=dokdo)

I also joined many competitions in Korea such as the LG LoveGen Competition 2015, Invest in Korea Video Competition 2015, I Love Seoul I Like Temple Video Contest and many more. My experiences here in Korea have broadened my perspective and given me more confidence to step out of my comfort zone and experience things that I have never experienced before. Being put in a place where opportunities are abundant is one thing, but taking that step of faith to explore and try them out is a whole different matter.

It has been a wonderful two years experiencing these things as students and I must say, I am looking forward to what the next three years here will bring. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am to be here, studying, learning and seeing Korea from a whole different perspective. There’s a vast difference in being here as a student and as a tourist. You see and notice things that you would be blinded to as a tourist.

I would like to also take this opportunity to thank NIIED for providing us foreign students this opportunity to experience South Korea at its peak of industrialization and development. This country has brought me nothing but exciting experiences and I continue to look forward to paying back this favor, be it in terms of increasing tourism, or forging stronger relationships between Singapore and South Korea. KGSP has been a source of family for me, even when my family is miles away. I do hope that my story can encourage others to come to Korea to study, because it has truly been an experience that is one of a kind.

                                   By Jonathan Lee, Yonsei University.

2 comments:

  1. Hi. Thank you for your post. It is very helpful =)

    However, is it possible for KGSP student to get an another scholarship during their course of study?

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    Replies
    1. So sorry for the late reply. If the scholarship is a one-off scholarship grant it is fine, as long as it does not coincide with the tuition grant that niied provides!

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