Tang Khyhay: My experiences studying in Korea

When I mention about Korea, what first comes to your mind? Immediately, you would say Korean pop stars. It’s a typical wave of Korean popularity on Southeast Asian nations. No doubt are my ASEAN classmates obsessing with Korean songs that they would never miss a single opportunity to go to concerts. Wait! I am not going to talk about Korean trend in my article. It is covered hundreds of times, and some of you may know about it much better than I do.

Tang Khyhay in KoreaI have been asked to write my personal experience a couple of times since I first came here under a one-year college exchange program, but I do not have enough impression about my staying here until now that I feel like to express myself through words. It would be too boring to talk about hardship of studying abroad such as weird food, horrible weather, and homesickness or culture shock since all of these are the common phenomena and shared feeling as ones move away from their home countries. You must have heard of such things from your friends or relatives, which would make this article hard to distinguish itself from the rest of others.

“I know you are not used to Korean food and Kimchi. You might miss your home food, and you certainly think of going back to eat all your favorite foods,” said one of my professors during the session of culture talk.

“You might not have another chance to taste Korean food once you go back, so enjoy your life here,” he added. Then, suddenly, I was awakened. Why not try embracing the differences rather than just keep carping about those burdens? It is a coin of ways of thinking to make you well-adapted in the new environment as I am doing right now. Try to enjoy every single opportunity of your existence in a new land. You might be amazed by what you will have gone through once you think backward to those “funny” experiences.

Tang Khyhay joining International Food Festival in Korea International Food Festival might perhaps one of the most memorable experiences I had. I guess Koreans are aware of new comers’ nostalgic feeling about their food, so they celebrate this festival for international students in my university. Besides cooking traditional food as suggested, two other Cambodian students and I also performed traditional dance. I cannot stop laughing whenever thinking back to that moment. You know what? All Korean participants were required to buy coupon in order to taste the food that international students cooked. We decided to make “Norm Ansom”, but we could not find banana leaf here. Thus, we replaced it with Aluminum sheets. It ended up misshaping, and some parts were not well-cooked. Surprisingly, they paid to eat the cake we did instead of tasting it for free. I had no ideas of what they were thinking of while eating our cake, but I wished we had had all needed ingredients and materials to make the real “Norm Ansom”, and let them experience the actual taste of Khmer food.

Tang Khyhay joining Saemaul Undong spririt training It would be incomplete if not mentioning about Korean stuff here. Have you ever heard of Saemaul Undong spirit? Google the term, and you will know its meaning. I once joined this training and felt as if I were at military training. Everything was scheduled, and we could change nothing, but follow. I shared a room with other four trainees (It should have been seven people in a room, but two were absent) from other countries. Of course, we had a public bathroom for all trainees in which you must be naked to have shower with other people. It was just a two-day training, but I felt like a day had more than 24 hours. We had a tight schedule. After all, everything was worthwhile. I got new knowledge of Korean foundation. Everything comes from the word “Share”.

It would not be enough if I describe all the experiences in a piece of article though I have just been here for four months. After a short winter break, I am going to do winter internship at one of the United Nation agency in Incheon, which means I will have to move to another new place in the next few days. Believe it or not, I prefer the peaceful city of Daejeon to the busy city of Incheon and the capital Seoul. However, it is worth exploring and encountering new taste of life within Korea. More journeys are waiting for me ahead.

“Remember, you are not a student anymore when you are on internship,” said the Director of International Office Relations who helps arrange all the internship places. This means I will have more responsibilities and new status role  than just be an international student here.