A perfect Winter: K-Pop and Kangnam in Korea

The Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program provides the opportunity for participants to learn about Korean society through intensive academic courses, historical tours and cultural activities. Recently, several GLP students have returned from Korea after participating in the program. Read on to learn more about their time overseas…

Nguyen Kim Ngan (Nina) is a current GLP student completing a Bachelor of Commerce in Professional Accounting this year. During her time in Korea as part of the Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program she shared her story with us…

Picture1As early as my first week in Seoul, I realised that applying for the Sookmyung Winter Beyond Borders Program was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

I personally like traveling, but I had not been on a study exchange before. So I really appreciated the opportunity the GLP offers for students to take a short course in Seoul, South Korea during the long semester break. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I applied for the program. However, I was completely surprised because the program was so awesome!

There are about twenty students from Australia, Canada, China, and Taiwan. Basically, from Monday to Friday, we learn Korean language in the morning and either Taekwondo or Korean arts and crafts in the afternoon. Along with our study schedule, the Sookmyung Women’s University also offers us a variety of activities such as trying Hanok (traditional Korean clothing), a DMZ tour (going to the border between North and South Korea), staying at a temple, watching Nanta performances, learning to dance K-Pop style, cooking traditional foods, and so on. I was very excited to try every single activity. Indeed, all of the activities were fantastic and really worth trying!

Learning Korean is so much fun, not only because of our cute teacher but also the beauty of the language itself! However, my favourite class is the afternoon class where we are taught Taekwondo and Korean sports. At the beginning, most of us were so tired because we had to run, kick and punch a lot during the three hour. Although I had to stick many pastes on my shoulders, my back, my knee, and my feet to release the pain, I still could not hide my excitement whenever I came to class 😀 Although I didn’t perform all the kicks and punches as well as other students, my Taekwondo teacher complimented me on being the  best player because of my sporting spirit. Thanks to my sense of humour, I managed to bring a lot of laughs to the class. My teachers and my classmates were also very impressed by my voice. For example, whenever we played football or basketball together and I was facing someone else to catch the ball, I would usually scream out so loudly that he or she was surprised and lost attention.

The most valuable thing I have gained from this program is FRIENDSHIP! Honestly, the Sookmyung Buddy Leadership Group, U.R.I, did a great job in providing perfect experiences for foreign students studying in Seoul. Through this group, each participant is assigned a Korean buddy. The buddy is the one who remains beside the student, provides help and hangs out with the participant after classes. I felt so blessed because unlike other students, I had up to two buddies, who I met  during the Welcome Party. Three random students sat on a table with their buddies. I was sitting together with a guy also from Macquarie University and a girl from Canada. After that, four of us – he, his buddy, my buddy and I were so close to each other. It happened very naturally and we still could not explain why our friendship grew so fast and so strongly! We spent almost all of our free time together. We went through so many activities such as going to Kangnam (a very famous shopping place in Seoul), eating Korean BBQ, taking heaps of photos together, walking around many popular places such as Itaewon Market, Dongdaemun, Myeung Dong, the fish market, and Gyeongbok Palace. I truly appreciated the time and effort my “two buddies” spent with us. They took care of us every single day, were beside us to introduce us to their culture, people, and they helped us to solve any problems we had when we were in Seoul. I could not ask for more from any of the buddies because they were all so awesome and went beyond their role!

All in all, the exchange program exceeded my expectations and I learnt a lot from it. To be honest, I thought of my time in South Korea every day after I left Seoul. I really want to say “Thank you” to the GLP staff who offered me this unique opportunity, as well as my Korean teachers, my buddies, my Chinese roommate, my classmates and the Sookmyung University staff who provided me with such great experiences! I will definitely recommend this exchange program to my friends next year because of its high quality. And last but not least, I will absolutely come back to Seoul one day…

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Christine Lieu is a current GLP student studying for a Bachelor of Arts combined with a Bachelor of Commerce.  Here she reflects on the experiences she’s had as part of the Sookmyung Program…

Korea has great shopping, amazing food and a surreal night life. That was my preconception of the place and during my three weeks stay there, it definitely proved to be true. This January, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Winter Beyond Borders Program at Sookmyung Women’s University in Korea. This experience proved itself to be unlike anything else. During the course of three weeks, I had the opportunity to make friends from around the world, understand a new language and immerse myself in a whole new culture.

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Photo session after the NANTA performance

The WBBP offered intensive courses in Korean Language, Taekwondo and Sport Culture, and Arts and craft. The program also included trips to special cultural events and locations such as a trip to the Demilitarised Zone, trying on a Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), staying overnight at a temple, attending a NANTA performance, learning K-pop and making Korean delicacies during a cooking class. For me the most memorable experience was definitely watching the NANTA performance. I went to this event not expecting much mainly because I had no idea what it was. NANTA turned out to be a non-verbal performance that integrates Korea’s traditional rhythm, Samulnori, with comedy. I walked out of the NANTA performance absolutely amazed and I would definitely recommend anyone who goes to Korea to go watch it!

Furthermore, one of the perks of the WBBP program is that it works with a student organisation called U.R.I which mirrors our buddy program from Macquarie. Each of us was designated a Korean student, whom we called our “buddy” and they would act as our free personal tour guides! Just kidding! These buddies were the kindest, funniest and most enthusiastic students you could know. They help you out and try their best to introduce you to Korea.

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Having fun at the temple stay

Our trip to the DMZ where we learnt about the history of North and South Korea’s conflict, and had the opportunity to travel into one of the underground tunnels the North created.

Our trip to the DMZ where we learnt about the history of North and South Korea’s conflict, and had the opportunity to travel into one of the underground tunnels the North created.

Coming from a place where the  lowest temperature is around 9*C, to an environment where temperatures  ranged between 10*C to -12*C was in itself a whole new experience. Although not always, escaping the cold was one of the primary factors that drove me into exploring a wide range of shopping malls, restaurants and cafes. A few instances where the weather turned a bit frosty, I found refuge in a dog café, board game café, zombie bar and an amazing barbeque restaurant.

Nowadays when I think of the cold, one of the most memorable events during my trip resurfaces. After the temple stay, a few of us had decided to go along to a Jimjilbang (a public sauna and spa) to relax and recuperate. We were basically sitting down and chatting away when it began snowing outside. Needless to say, we all walked out like 5 year olds, running around and staring in awe, followed by a quick photo session before we froze.

The WBBP gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a whole new culture, learn to be independent and step outside my comfort zone. I learnt a new language, met people from across the world, experienced snowfall, and had to run back to my dorm to make curfew. I can say for sure that Korea now holds a special place in my heart and memory and I will definitely return in the future.

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Eating, sleeping and relaxing at a Jimjilbang. A jimjilbang is a public spa and sauna house. Families and friends gather at Jimjilbangs to relax and socialise.

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If you’re feeling inspired to apply for the Sookmyung Beyond Borders Program the GLP will be accepting applications mid-year.

Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more about what the program entails, you can read another short article on Sookmyung here

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