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Meaningful Experience in Korea
By Thomas Reneze  |  hjournal@hanyang.ac.kr
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[321호] 승인 2014.03.10  
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On one of the hot days in summer, I received an advertisement from a Korean friend who was living in the same village where I was in my home country of Ethiopia. The ad was about the Korean Government scholarship program. A year ago I remember asking him if he knew if there were any higher educational opportunities I could benefit from in Korea after finishing high school. Then, a year later, I was reading the ad for the scholarship program  and I decided to apply to be one of the three student  needed from my country for this program. Fortunately, I was selected!
The process to come to Korea was very competitive. More than a hundred students applied although there were only three spots available.  Document screening and an interview were parts of the selection process. My university entrance examination results and my previous knowledge about Korea helped me to earn the chance to come to Korea. Even before this learning about this program, I used to read books about Korean history and also enjoyed watching Korean movies. After finishing the entire process to join the program, I arrived Korea in February, 2012.
I started my Korean language course the next week after I arrived.  The class was totally in Korean and I did not have any idea what was going on. I was particularly difficult since I didn’t even know the Korean alphabet, which the other students did, more or less.  Particularly difficult was the pronunciation for the vowels which seemed impossible for me at the time since my mother tongue has totally different intonations from Korean. These challenges continued for days and weeks. So I started to attend an intensive Korean class for six hours a day as well as tutorial classes. Being busy learning Korean everyday while studying hard helped my Korean skills to improve a lot and I started to receive better results on my exams.
In the beginning, I was interested in making as many Korean friends as I could. But making friends was not easy for me due to my poor Korean. But then I was introduced to a Korean helper from my school who became my first Korean friend.  I usually met the helper two times a week and that was an important time for me. He was such a nice guy that we used to practice Korean and visit different places together. He also taught me a lot about Korean culture. Without him, my first year in Korea would have been more difficult. Once I learned how to speak and express myself in Korean everything became easier for me and I was able to make a lot of Korean friends after that.
Another thing I had to do when I was in the language school was to pass the TOPIK, level three. Getting to level three was not a problem for me since I studied hard every day and my teachers and friends were always by my side helping me.  But even after getting to level three, I realized that it was not enough for me to enjoy a good life in Korea. So I continued learning and studying hard until I finished the advanced level course at the end of the year.
Currently I am attending an undergraduate program at Hanyang University. My experience being in the Korean language course for one year really helped me a lot while studying for my major. I had a lot of chances to meet and make Korean friends and experience Korean culture while practice in the real world what I learned in the language school. In the beginning, my first semester was a bit challenging for me because of the difference in teaching and learning style in Korea.  Korean students study very hard in the university and a great deal of effort is needed to get good grades.
But still, after two years in Korea I have gained a lot of good experiences and memories, which I will always keep. I hope the remaining three years I have left in Korea will be a very nice time, and I hope to continue getting more knowledge to discover more of Korea as well. I feel like this country is my second home and hope for good things to happen here.

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