Born into a family in remote Ratanakiri, Som Sakora, 22, never imagined she would win a scholarship to the buzzing South Korean capital Seoul.
“It was a turning point for my life when I got the admission letter from the school accepting me as a scholarship student.”
Right after Sokara finished her bachelor’s degree in law at the Royal University of Law and Economics in 2013 she won the scholarship for a master’s degree in international law at TLBU in Seoul.
Her university lies on a mountain surrounded by lush greenery. Unlike in Cambodia, where students head home after class, Sokara lives in a university dorm and has her daily meals at the university’s canteen. There is also a garden to relax in and a gym to exercise at.
But there is little time to relax. “We spent most of our time studying in the library,” Sokara said.
“Study is a challenge, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have fun.”
Besides studying, Sokara also spends time cooking with friends and visiting theatre performances.
“Life outside of school is much more exciting,” she said, adding that “people in Korea are very active and fashionable. They change their style of clothes according to the season.”
Of all the seasons, Sakora said she loves winter the best. “It was breathtaking when I first saw the snow falling from the sky,” she recalled.
One of Sokara’s less pleasurable experiences in South Korea was traveling via public transportation, something that she found nerve-wrecking.
She explained that it was very easy to get lost for a tube-newbie because of the vastness of Seoul’s transportation network and the millions of people that use it every day. But the South Koreans – and Sakora – have a way to handle it and avoid getting lost.
“Thanks to a smartphone app we know which train we have to take and when it arrives. The map helps you remember where you are.”
Sokara also had to get used to the food in South Korea. Most remarkably, she found that kimchi (pickled cabbage) is served with almost every meal. Kimchi tastes spicy and sour. People in South Korea prefer food that is not salty and they usually drink a clear wine called “soju”.
“I am so happy to experience the development of other countries because I can bring back the knowledge to Cambodia upon my return,” Sokara said.
“My time abroad affected every aspect of my life for the better and I can’t even imagine not having that experience,” she concluded.