Email from abroad: Soy Sambocheyear writes from Korea

Email from abroad: Soy Sambocheyear writes from Korea

My name is Soy Sambocheyear, and I would to like to take this opportunity to talk about my experience of South Korea.

I got the opportunity to achieve my dream to study in Korea on a Korean Government Scholarship (NIIED) awarded to me because of my good academic record, among other things.

I studied computer science and engineering at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and graduated in 2010.

It was then I was selected as one of the NIIED scholarship awardees. I chose to to study e-business in Daejeon. In late August, I boarded a Korean Air flight which took about five hours to fly from Cambodia directly to Incheon international airport, which is about 70 kilometres from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. I have found my life in Korea is really interesting and challenging.

First of all, I would like to share my experience of different seasons. Because it was autumn, the weather was similar to that of Cambodia, so that I easily adapted to it. But now winter is coming and the temperature fluctuates. Frankly, it surprised me when the temperature reached 0 Celsius. In order to protect myself from this low temperature I was advised to have some necessary items such as winter clothes, body lotion and make sure I exercise regularly. Winter in Korea  is a new challenge, but it has become my favourite season, despite my not having  experienced it before.

Next, I would like to talk about Korean food. I found the food to be very spicy. Living here I am not only faced with weather but also the food. I cannot forget my first lunch which surprised me because I just ordered one dish but I actually got a lot of side dishes. I try to eat kimchi, which is well known, but there are a lot of dishes I didn’t know about.

Mostly, I found the food to be quite pungent. The first dish that really shocked me was dwen-chang-chigae, a type of miso soup. It was the most pungent food that I had ever eaten. I wondered why Korean people eat such hot food. As I understand it, eating a lot of spicy food affects stomach, but I see Korean people are healthy, beautiful and handsome. Moreover, because it was autumn and I ate hot food I felt very abnormal both inside and outside of my body. Without knowing Korean language, I used to order foods that I could not eat at that time. This was when I did not know the names and kinds of food and just to  ordered whatever. However, as time passes day by day and I eat the food I find I can adapt to Korean food very well because now I know the name and taste of each food and not all
Korean food is spicy. I have found some favourite dishes such as bibimbap (rice with meat and vegetables), ton-kasie (pork cutlet),) cham-chichikae (tuna stew) and even dwen-chang-chigae.

Another thing to be shared is my amusement at having to pay for plastic bags. Before I came to Korea, I used to think that there must be many differences such as the weather, food, lifestyle, culture and so on. But one thing that I never thought about is packaging. I cannot forget the funny story the first time I bought snacks. After the assistant gave me the bill I got only the snacks. I wanted a plastic bag, but I could not express this in Korean so I pointed to one. She understood my gesture and got one for me. I was handed the bag but she asked for 20 won (75 riels). I was shocked, but laughed after giving her the money. I wonder why they sold such a small item which is generally free when we buy something in my country. After that day, I reused plastic bags very efficiently.

So, the main points in my two months experience are having the right clothes for the weather, the hot and spicy food and paying for small plastic bags. There’s also life in a dormitory and the environment of Korean classes. Without knowledge of the Korean language foreign students will find it very difficult to communicate; therefore you must study Korean. Day by day my life here is getting better and better.