Calling Seoul Home
By Vantharith Oum (2010-11-09)
Chum reap suor (Cambodian equivalent to hello), My name is Vantharith Oum and I am from Cambodia . I am one of the 2010 Graduate grantees under the Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) managed by the National Institute of International Education (NIIED). Saturday morning of August 28th, 2010, saw the first step I made in Korea , the land of the morning calm. My heartfelt gratitude to the Korean Government and its taxpayers, I truly regard this as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue my graduate study here in Korea . Studying in Korea was the best birthday gift I have received so far, just two weeks prior my 25th birthday this mid- September. It was another turning point of my life, and also a steppingstone of my three-year journey as an international student pursing my academic dream. Time really flies fast – from the first day to first week, and now it has been 10 weeks since I have been living in Korea . Many people asked me about my impression of Korea . My answer always remained the same, ”So far, so good!” I like almost everything – from the weather to food, education system to infrastructure, and good governance to advanced digital technology.
Currently, I am studying Korean as part of my one-year language program at the Institute of International Education (IIE) at Kyung Hee University (KHU). Under the KGSP/NIIED scholarship program, all grantees are obliged to master Korean at proficiency Level 3 of TOPIK (Test Of Proficiency In Korean) before pursuing their prospective graduate study. It applies to me also – I am going to pursue my Master of Public Policy in Economic Development (MPP/ED) at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management starting September 2011. Looking back at my first few weeks adapting to Korean life, there was a memorable experience that always keep me unconsciously smiling. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt uneasy with the term ‘Alien Card?’ While preparing the required documents to apply, I was very curious why such an outer space term was used instead of Foreigner Resident/Registration Card. My curiosity was always there. But my first two weeks of living as a foreign resident gave me the perfect answer to satisfy my curiosity. It was very hard to live in Seoul , and perhaps worse elsewhere in Korea if we don’t know the language ( at least most of the tourist attractions are in English, especially in Seoul and in other major cities).
For instance, I remembered having difficulty ordering food at the student cafeteria. It was funny – I needed to take a picture of the food showroom and show it to a cashier at the counter. This difficulty also applies to other aspects of life in Korea . So, language is a MUST, preferably at least some basic knowledge of Korean daily language.
At least now, I no longer feel like a stranger and, importantly, Seoul has now become my home. I have been abroad to several countries in Southeast Asia, but I stayed there for 2 weeks at most.
Anyway right here, and right now – 10 weeks living in Seoul is just the beginning, I have got a long journey ahead of me as I need to live my Korean life for another 2 years, 9 months and 2 weeks. So, I have run a blog titled “Calling Seoul Home” (or in Korean, 나의 서울, 나의 임시거처…) to share everything about my Korean life. Please pay me a visit! 감사합니다!
Link to original article in KHUL website is here.
I’m so excited to see my first article – will keep writing more and submit to KHUL magazine ^.^ (maybe next time on its printed version!)