“Are you insane? Why are you going to South Korea to get your bachelors when you could get it in your own country?” It was a statement that I had heard many times when I announced I will be attending university in a country that is 8,000 miles away from my home. I wasn’t entirely a stranger to Korea; during my first trip to Seoul in 2015, I was looking at universities in the city and stumbled on Ewha campus, which led me to visit OIA (Office of International Affairs) where they informed me on what it is like to be a student at their school and what kind of requirements were needed in order to be eligible. I had visited Yonsei and other schools, but Ewha just made me feel like I belonged there. At the end of 2015, I registered to attend Ewha language center and spent two semesters there improving my Korean level 3 to level 4. Turkey, my home country, is at an ongoing state of financial crisis for about four years until now, and I was hoping to receive some type of scholarship like EGPP (Ewha Global Partnership Program), when I applied as an international undergraduate. Unfortunately, I failed three times even though I got accepted to my department. It was a very sad time for me, but I persevered with the support from my father and managed to come to Korea in spring of 2018 to study psychology.
After experiencing this hardship, I’m trying to look at my school life positively, and I will try to explain how I survive alone in a foreign country as an international student: First, the first couple of weeks at Ewha are hectic and hard to adjust to, but there’s a way to handle these problems and responsibilities that are weighing on you.
The first thing to do is to try to adapt yourself to Korea and the way of living here and understanding the cultural differences that might throw you off balance at first. Being here taught me to be open-minded and accept Korean norms and even though I might not like them, I must respect them. The toughest time of the semester for me is midterms and finals season when we have to study more than usual. However, to not put all the work on your shoulders, you must try to read your notes every day, because the amount of information you have to memorize and review will submerge you and tire you out.
Secondly, even if you feel like an outsider and you don’t belong here, an effort to talk to people in your classes or around you should be made. Don’t be afraid to talk to new people and speak Korean as they appreciate when foreigners seek and aim to go out of one’s way to fit in and assimilate. Surround yourself with a circle of friends who encourage you to be better as a person and career-wise. Having too many friends is not necessary, but possessing a support group when you’re down helps to being yourself back up. I’ve noticed that I have received more information about school when I talk to my friends and they assist me with the guidance that I need.
To conclude, if you have made it your objective to make Korea your second home, you should learn how to strive better and push yourself to achieve a long term goal and your dreams. Improve your Korean and pursue your education to be the best you can make it to be. Endure the hardships and believe that after a storm, the sun always shines brighter.
Şeyma Gül (Psychology) firstname.lastname@example.org