Life in Korea- a Moment to Treasure
Living in the vicinity of the busy town of Penang in Malaysia, I am pampered by the availability of local Malaysian foods, culture and of course the way of life here. Being a third year accounting undergraduate in the University Sains Malaysia, I need to make the most of life at the university to obtain knowledge, various practical skills and experience in order to face the reality of the work environment.
Ironically, the thought of stepping foot on Korean soil had never crossed my mind. Nevertheless, deep down in my heart, the hope to pursue studies abroad was always there. The time I needed to wait, however, was is not long when 17 of us from various universities in South East Asia were finally given the golden chance by the ASEAN University Network and Daejeon University to pursue our studies in Korea.
We came to ``The Land of Kimchi'' as perceived by all of us, student-ambassadors from nine different countries namely, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines and Cambodia. Together we came to share our culture as well as our thoughts, and of course to gain the experience of living in Korea for one year.
Other exchange students from China, Japan, the U.S. and New Zealand added to the excitement as we experienced culture other than that from South East Asia through interaction and communication with each other.
It has been six months since we arrived here and much has changed since our very first day in Korea as we have become accustomed to the life here in terms of climate, food, Korean customs and beliefs, and language.
First and foremost were the Korean customs and beliefs we experienced during our first two months here. There were indeed lots to be learned when it comes to these. One example was the evident seniority practice in the Korean community which means inquiring the age of a certain person when they first meet so that seniority can be determined and thus the appropriate titles such as ``oppa or hyung'' (elder brother) or ``nuna or onni'' (elder sister) can be assigned when addressing them.
This was rather interesting to me and a good example of it was during my home stay program with the family of one of my friends where hospitability could be really felt. I felt right at home and realized the respect given to his parents by my Korean friend when he talked to them.
Life goes on and almost everyday we need to improvise our level of Korean which remains our biggest worry as our everyday lives require us to converse in the language. Fortunately, the help of our Korean friends, particularly those who are close to us, has been a big help.
Besides that, our Korean language professors have been a big help to us too and this is still an ongoing process. The language was a rather interesting one for me and therefore, the process of mastering it so far had been a very interesting and joyful one.
Not to be forgotten too is the variety of food available almost everywhere in Korea. I never thought that most of us would be able to adapt well to the food here as it is rather different from what we have in our home countries.
I would say that Korean food varied in taste from spicy to sweet and sour depending on the type consumed. For the past six months, we definitely had the chance to taste a variety of Korean food and each meal was accompanied by 'kimchi'_ preserved vegetables _ and also sticky rice. This was again a rather interesting experience for us as this was the first time for us to consume rice and kimchi at every meal and eventually, we got accustomed to this diet.
As a conclusion, having a wonderful experience is our main aim during our one-year stay here. Although it was rather difficult in the beginning, I am sure that all of us will persevere and try to gain as much experience and sweet memories as possible during our stay. Our journey here will not be a complete one without mastering the Korean language and also obtaining more understanding on the customs and norms of the Korean community. Frankly speaking, we, the ASEAN students will look forward to a rather interesting journey for us during the rest of our stay in Korea.
Kenneth Koh is an accounting-majoring student at University Sains Malaysia and is an exchange student at Daejeon University.