Because Cambodia enjoys good cooperation with South Korea, the Cambodian government has each year sent a considerable number of Cambodian students to study there, and I have been lucky enough to be one of them. I had read several documents about the livelihoods of people and the accademic system in South Korea before leaving my homeland.
I was sent to Chun Chou University on a scholarship aiming for a bachelor’s degree in tourism. The course lasts three years and during that time all students will be required to learn Korean for one year before being allowed to study their respecive specilised subjects. My Korean class consists of students of different nationalities, including Chinese, Japanese, Mongolians, Thais, Laos, Americans, Africans etc.
Because we are foreign students, our lecturers always pay extra attention to us, especially the Cambodian students. Like others, I face extreme difficulties while residing in South Korea. The problems include food, weather and learning the Korean language. Korea has four seasons and three of these mean cool weather – in the spring, autumn and winter. Most of us are always exposed to the cool weather, which is a big problem for those of us who come from hotter countries.
Food is another problem for students studying in South Korea, as Korean food tastes very different from Cambodian food. However, the different food has not been a problem for me and most of the other Cambodian students because Chun Chou City is well known for its variety of food.
Learning the Korean language has also been difficult for all the Cambodian students. I used to think that learning a foreign language for the first time would be easy, but I changed my mind when I reached South Korea. Korean grammar, writing and speech are very difficult. Mongolian and Chinese students face fewer difficulties as Korean and their languages have many things in common.
For example, Mongolian grammar and Korean grammar are the same and Korean pronunciation is similar to Chinese pronunciation. The Korean language is totally different from Cambodian, but we Cambodian students are by far better at pronouncing the Korean language than some of the other students.
People travel by bus and taxi in Chun Chou. When I first arrived in South Korea, I did not dare to go out alone. I always went out in groups comprising older students as I was not used to sitting on a bus and was very poor at the Korean language. It was only after four or five months in this new land that I became used to traveling by bus and by then could I speak better Korean.
When I meet Koreans, I am always asked the same questions – what is your nationality, are you Chinese or are you from the Philippines? When I reply that I am Cambodian, they are surprised and asked me many questions since most Korean people know little about Cambodia.
Chun Chou University also organises various programmes for foreign students, including meetings among foreign students, conferences and exchanges of culture among foreign students, all at the expense of the university and the government of South Korea. Last month a conference was held in Mo Chu for three nights and four days and more than 880 students from 63 countries and 97 universities took part.
Through this significant event, I gained a lot of new experiences, including how to spread our culture to the world.