FEATURE: ‘Seoul’ful experience for Bruneian students
BANDER SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - Three Bruneian students share their experiences studying in Seoul, South Korea - from learning a new language, making friends, travelling and many more.
One of the most difficult parts for students in the process of studying abroad is deciding which country they should study.
Studying overseas might be daunting for some students, especially in a country that has a completely different culture, language and menu. Over the years, South Korea’s capital city, Seoul has become a choice of destination for Bruneian students wanting to further their studies and is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the region.
Three Bruneian students studying in Seoul spoke on their experience of studying there - from learning a new language, making friends, travelling and many more.
Hazirah Suhaillah binti Abdullah is doing her PhD in Anthropology at Seoul National University (SNU), and has been there for almost four years. Prior to this, she did her Bachelor’s Degree in Scotland and later, flew to Sydney to do her Masters.
When asked why she picked Korea to do her PhD, she said that she was told there was an opportunity to study in Korea and was persuaded to apply for it.
“The scholarship looked good and learning a different language is definitely a plus. I had little knowledge about Korea at that time, but at this moment, living in Korea has grown on me.”
Hazirah selected SNU as her choice of university because of practical reasons considering that the academic market for anthropology is not only challenging but fragile.
“As for the reputation of SNU, I was not aware of it until I actually came to Korea. The top three universities are SNU, Korea University and Yonsei (SKY),” she said, sharing that she was told it is really difficult to enter these three universities.
She added that the students in Korea are very hardworking and studious. “If you go to any coffee shop, you can see them typing away.”
The hardest adjustment she had to make settling in Korea was adapting to the language. Recalling her first year at SNU, the language year, Hazirah shared, “It was exciting at first but I felt like an outsider and everything was alien, I had no idea about the language let alone reading the Hangeul.
“I remember when we were on the bus - I was thinking, how am I going to survive in this country?” she laughed.
Hazirah participated in the recent ‘ASEAN-Korea Train: Advancing Together’ programme organised by the ASEAN-Korea Centre to celebrate 30 years of friendship of ASEAN and Korea and 10 years of accomplishments of the centre.
Speaking on the programme, she said it was a great manifestation of how strong the relationship between Korea and ASEAN is.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as I had the chance to get to know other ASEAN fellows. I find it amazing that even as an ordinary citizen, everybody is working towards the same goal in building a bright future. On the train, I learnt more about my countrymates. I am amazed that we have a lot of talented and skilful people that I didn’t know of.”
Adding on about her experience as student in Korea, Hazirah said, “As a Bruneian studying here, I could say that I am proud to represent my country surviving in a foreign land.For those wanting to further their study here, seek to learn and come without expectation.”
Siti Nur Fatin Fauzan binti Haji Julaihi has been studying in Korea for more than two years, pursuing her Master’s Degree in Political Science at Yonsei University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Korea.
Prior to her study in Korea, Fatin did her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics at Keele University, United Kingdom (UK), and following that, she did her Korean language programme at Pukyong National University, Busan, South Korea.
“I got a scholarship under the Korean Government Scholarship Programme in 2018 and a year before that, I was already in Busan studying Korean language and I really love and enjoy my time here.
“The main reason why I wanted to do my study in Korea was because I am very interested in Asian politics. Having been exposed to Western politics during my undergraduate years, I felt like it is not balanced to study only the Western view. So I chose to study in Korea to balance my knowledge and have a rounded knowledge on global politics as a whole,” she said.
Asked about settling in Korea, she said it was not really difficult because she lived independently for three years in the UK. “That had made me become more resilient and adaptable wherever I go.”
Asked about what she has learnt about Korean culture, she said that while things are done fast there, the fact that the Koreans also appreciate and preserve their traditions is very admirable.
“Five things to describe my experience in Korea - independent, adventurous, self-reliance, learn different culture and life-long friends,” she said.
“For those wanting to experience studying in Korea, do not study here because you like K-Pop. Find something that you find worthy and explore how studying in Korea will help you achieve it.
“Studying in Korea is tough especially when you have to study Korean, but at the end of the day, it will all be worth it.”
Fatin also took part in the ASEAN-Korea Train programme, and described it as a good experience as it gave her opportunities to make new friends.
She also said that the programme gave her the chance to explore more of Seoul, Busan, Gyeongju and Gwangju with her new friends and that those memories have become irreplaceable.
“The networking opportunities will be useful for me in the future if I want to work within the region. All in all, it helps me as a Bruneian and them as ASEAN citizens to learn more about the diversity in ASEAN which is crucial for the development of ASEAN One Community,” added Fatin.
Bruneian Nur Atiqah binti Raduan who is a PhD student in Agriculture and Vocational Education at Seoul National University has been studying in Korea for more than five years now, including a year of Korean language course during her first year. “I have been studying for more than 10 years now. I did my undergraduate at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in Biological Sciences and later, did my Master’s in Environmental Biology.”
Sharing how her passion towards vocational education developed, she said, “After graduation while applying for a lot of jobs, I was teaching for a tuition school and I had two students who changed the whole course of my life.
“These two had been failing their Biology ‘O’ levels but I saw that their skills lie in the vocational field - one was good in entrepreneurship and the other was quite good in mechanics. I think everyone is intelligent in their own way.”
Asked about why she picked Korea for her PhD, she shared, “I had never intended to pursue PhD at all after my Masters. However, on the day of my Masters graduation, the application for Korea Government Scholarship Programme (KGSP) popped up in my Facebook so I finally decided to give it a try. In the end, I found out that vocational education in Korea has been one of the great driving forces of their economy.”
She picked SNU because, at that time, it had a separate department focussing on vocational education and workforce development.
When she first visited Korea, Nur Atiqah went to Busan Dongseo University to learn the language. “I couldn’t even read the Hangeul and the first three months felt like forever!” She shared that one of the many challenges in adjusting life in Korea was the language barrier.
Her first year was the toughest because all her classes were in Korean and she had only learnt the language for one year. However, her labmates and supervisor were kind and helpful as they slowly integrated her in their discussions and meetings until she was able to understand all the content.
“In one of our discussions in an ASEAN-Korea event in January 2018, we had been told to brainstorm ideas for future ASEAN-Korea events. I remember one of our groups actually presented the ASEAN-Korea Train, and we thought it was not possible at that time. Seeing that this has come into reality, I felt that, not just as a Bruneian, but also as the ASEAN Community, the young students’ opinions are actually taken into account, and I appreciate that.
“The last ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit was in 2014 when I first came to Busan to do my language year. Seeing that now it might be my final year in Korea, I think the ASEAN-Korea Train that celebrate the commemorative summit event is also a symbolic journey for my journey in Korea. From Busan to Seoul. Just like ASEAN-Korea, I hope my connection with people I met here will also deepen beyond graduation,” added Atiqah.
- ‘Seoul’ful experience for Bruneian students