Hong Kong = Sleepless City!

Kate K.

Bachelor of Business – International

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2018)

Hi, my name’s Kate. I’m a third-year marketing student and I’ve just begun my year of exchange. I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I hopped on an aeroplane and began my adventure abroad on exchange at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It’s been a whirlwind of vibrant colours, breathtaking sights, mouth-watering tastes and incredible people and I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to leave this sleepless city!

I think Hong Kong is the kind of place that has something for everyone. It’s a buzzing metropolis where the buildings touch the sky, and the lights and people dance all through the night. It’s a culturally rich and diverse city with thousands of different cuisines at your door waiting for you to try them; and it’s an amazing country for anyone who wants to stretch themselves and open their eyes to a completely different way of life to what they already know.

Strangely enough I don’t think Hong Kong is a difficult environment to adjust to living in and I think this is because it’s so extensively diverse that finding a place to fit in with the way of life is pretty simple. I think the only thing I’ve found difficult to wrap my head around is using my transport card or “Octopus Card” to pay for services other than public transport. Here in Hong Kong your Octopus card can be used to pay for meals at both food courts and the university cafeteria, as well for any items at convenience stores like 7 Eleven (which is on every corner) and supermarkets. On the other hand, I think I may have adjusted my mindset almost too quickly, to how insanely cheap food is here, to the point where my initial reaction to a dinner costing over $100HKD (just under $20AUD) is that it’s really overpriced.

Every spare moment I have here I try to fill with all of the incredible things to see and do. I took the above picture at Victoria Peak, one of the best-known tourist hot spots in Hong Kong. I believe there are three parts to complete the entire Peak experience. The first is to ride the tram up to the top. It travels up hill at a very steep incline which causes all the surrounding buildings to look like they’re at a severe angle; and makes you very grateful that they’re no longer using the wooden one from 1888. The second part is of course to take in the amazing views offered from both the restaurants and Lion’s Pavilion (where the picture was taken). The third is to hike the trails down to either Pok Fu Lam, Central or Aberdeen and take in the luscious scenery.

Another experience which I can’t recommend enough is taking the cable car to Ngong Ping and climbing up to see the Big Buddha. The views from the cable car are absolutely spectacular… there really is no other way to describe it. The day we went was very overcast, so the cable car actually took us through some low clouds. The Big Buddha itself is simultaneously imposing and ethereal as he sits up with the clouds. I definitely recommend trying to go on a day that is a bit overcast or rainy because not only do you avoid the crowds, but also because the low hanging clouds give the experience an almost mystical vibe; as you can see in the photo below.

The things I’m looking forward to most on this exchange are the amazing sights I’ll see, food and activities I’ll try, but most importantly, I’m keen to immerse myself in Hong Kong’s global atmosphere and gain a greater understanding of cross-cultural communication. I’m also excited to embark on a well-rounded experience working with people from a plethora of cultural backgrounds on projects like university assignments; and expanding on that I would like to create friendships and connect with people who I would otherwise have never had the pleasure of getting to know without this exchange opportunity.

These first two weeks have been spectacular, and I’m eager to see what unforgettable experiences the next four months will bring.

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.

Dormitory Life in Japan

久しぶり(hisashiburi). Or in English, it’s been a while.
Semester one is long over and somehow, today Semester 2 officially begins of my study abroad here in Tokyo, Japan. It is hard to believe that I’m at the half-way point in my exchange, it feels like so much has happened yet I clearly remember the first day I moved into my dorm. There is so much to share, dorm life, studies in Japan, travel! With this I’ll divide my experiences into two, first Part 1 – dormitory life and being away from home.

To be honest with you, during my first semester of my exchange I felt no homesickness, this doesn’t mean I didn’t miss my family, but I was so absorbed with everyday life that nothing could overcome the excitement. However, after a brief visit back home to Australia in the Summer Holidays, I feel myself experiencing this very much delayed homesickness. Frequent calls with family help a lot and falling back into my routine assist in occupying my thoughts.

My everyday routine has become so normal at this point that returning from Australia back to my dorm for this semester, I remember thinking at the airport, wow I’m home! At this point, my cosy little room in my dormitory has really become a second home to me. Catching the trains back I couldn’t wait to get off at my little train station in Saitama and walk to my dorm. Keep in mind that my room has become so homey that I don’t know how I’m going to manage bringing all my goodies purchased back to Australia!

On a different note, an aspect of this exchange that I was not expecting was the goodbyes I had to say during my stay here. Whether I was a 6 month or full year exchange student. The goodbyes were always inevitable. At my dormitory called “Rikkyo Global House”, living with over 60 other students, I found myself making many friends. I made friendships in the last 5-6 months which I can proudly say will last me a lifetime. In my dormitory in particular, all my facilities are shared, with my only private space being my room with my bed, study desk, shelves and a sink to wash up. Due to this, every step in my daily routine is filled with interactions with the people in my dorm. Living on the 5th floor I have to go down to the first floor to cook my meals, have my showers and do my laundry. A simple day at home is filled with many human interactions, which at first was very intimidating, but soon became the reason for us becoming one big family. Spending my every moment of the day, including studying, with friends became natural and comfortable to the point that being alone felt odd.

The hard part of this was that most of these friends I made, chose to make the duration of their exchange as one semester rather than the two semesters, which I had chosen to take. This resulted in us having to part our ways. To be honest, I struggled at first with being left behind in the dorm as all the members of my newly made family left. But as I looked back on our time together and my reasons for coming on this exchange, I quickly picked myself up and am continuing with my determination to continue improving my Japanese studies and making the most of this exchange. Now I have made connections all over the world and whether I want to visit Switzerland, America, England, Indonesia and many more countries, I have a place to stay and arms that I know will be open to take me in on my travels. Not only this, but with a majority of us exchange students at Rikkyo being business students, this contributes to my worldwide networking which I believe will be of assistance to me in my International Business major. My eyes have been opened to all our cultural and language differences, and with this I feel like I have improved as a person.

With one semester left, I can already genuinely say I would never trade this experience and the things I have gained from this exchange for anything in the world.

5 Reasons Why Shanghai is a Decision You Won’t Regret!

Natalie Malins, Bachelor of Business – International

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Semester 1 2018

My BS08 degree entails a compulsory year abroad for which I chose to go to Shanghai and Paris. For my first semester abroad, I was lucky enough to receive the New Colombo Plan (NCP) mobility grant from the Australian government. I had many reasons as to why I chose to study in Shanghai, however, it mainly came down to the fact that I wanted to improve my Mandarin while learning more about the exponential growth of the Chinese economy.

The first few weeks were admittedly a bit of a rollercoaster (as they usually are with every exchange I suppose). Settling in and getting accustomed to the Chinese way of life proved to be a bit challenging at times, especially with the admin and visa side of things. Nonetheless, after getting myself sorted, I was able to relax and take in all that Shanghai had to offer. Four months later, I can happily say that I fell in love with the city. I could ramble on about it for ages if you let me, so here are the five main reasons why:

  1. University life

Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a very reputable and prestigious university in China. There are two campuses, one in Xuhui (the city), and one in Minhang (about an hour drive out of Shanghai). I attended orientation day at Minhang and was surprised at the large amount of exchange students. People always asked me, “aren’t you scared to go over there by yourself?”. The answer was of course! But I soon realised that everyone was in the same boat as me and there was nothing to be worried about.

I had classes from Tuesday to Friday, each class being around 2-3 hours. Classes were usually in a small classroom consisting of 15-25 students. Both campuses were nothing short of extraordinary and I was surprised at how well-kept everything was. I was at the Xuhui campus most of the time which had a canteen, restaurants, tennis courts, athletic track and not to mention, beautiful tree-lined streets.

  1. Culture

China’s culture is one of the world’s oldest cultures and if you ask me, one of the most intriguing. Shanghai is a bustling city with plenty of things to do from The Bund, to the French Concession, to the Umbrella Markets. What I found to be interesting was the mix of the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Shanghai. I lived in Xintiandi, which is a tourist attraction covered with fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques. However, walk 5 minutes away from it and you find yourself in what I would’ve imagined Shanghai to look like a century ago; butcher stalls with meat hanging from the ceilings, old men playing chess on the streets in their pyjamas, street sweepers weaving their own brooms, old couples dancing in the park. With Shanghai growing into a modern city at such a rapid rate, I love that it still maintains its own unique character and charm.

As for the food…I think you can guess how amazing (and cheap) it is.

  1. People

I discovered the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. The locals who lived in my residence were very chatty and pleasant, even when they couldn’t speak English. Additionally, the expat community is massive in Shanghai. I met people from all over the world and have stayed in close contact with many. You’ll find an international city like Shanghai to be quite transient, which is why people are more open to the idea of meeting new people.

  1. Nightlife

If you’re looking for a place with a CRAZY nightlife scene, Shanghai is your place. Many nightclubs have promoters, who give you free entry and free drinks all night. This is literally a city that never sleeps, and you can find something fun to do even on a Monday night.

  1. Travel

One of the definite bonuses of studying in China is its accessibility to the rest of Asia. I managed to travel to Thailand, Hong Kong, Beijing, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Zhangjiajie (aka the Avatar Mountains). There are so many interesting and beautiful places in China alone that you don’t even need to leave the country. There are multiple airports and train stations in Shanghai which make it very easy to get around. Trains are reliable, affordable and super efficient. My highlights were definitely the Great Wall Festival (yes, a techno music festival on the Great Wall), and also Zhangjiajie National Park, where the movie Avatar was inspired.

These are the reasons why I believe that choosing Shanghai is a decision you definitely will not regret. I had many moments of doubt at the start, but at the end of it all I can happily say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. However, none of it would be possible without the support of the Australian Government and the QUT Study Abroad team.

If any of you have any questions about exchange or studying in China, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

Preparing for Korean exchange: a haphazard guide

My preparation for going on exchange began in June 2017, a full year before now. The exchange process is crazy difficult to navigate and although QUT will try to help you as much as they can, you have to figure out the application process for your individual institution mostly on your own. So, if by some kind of miracle, you know anyone who has been on exchange where you want to go exploit them to the ends of the earth. Orignally, as I was studying Mandarin at the time I was dead set on going on China and reached out to any Chinese university I thought might take me. Unfortunately, despite my best stalking efforts of these universities I could not find one that a. would reply to my emails and b. had subjects that lined up with my degree. After being seen no reply’d by a whole country for a couple of months I decided to look elsewhere.

Read more

Off to Shanghai!

Hi everyone!

My name is Jemma, and I’m a travel-bug-bitten 2ndyear business (and mandarin language) student. After many months in the making, tomorrow morning is the morning when my alarm will sound at the lovely time of 3:30am, and I will board a flight bound for one of China’s most exciting cities, Shanghai! Armed only with my limited mandarin and one incredibly heavy suitcase, the excitement and nerves have definitely started to kick in.

Before I even started university, I always knew I wanted to do a semester overseas. I’m a person who loves change, finding nothing more exhilarating than touching down in a foreign city. Honestly, the bigger the culture shock, the better! This is all much to my parents dismay of course, who would love nothing more than if I were to move out one street over and live in Bris-Vegas for the rest of my days. However much I love this river city though, that simply won’t be happening (sorry dad!).

This will be the first time I’ve ever set foot in the city of Shanghai, or even mainland China. Aside from the fact that the local street vendors serve up the tastiest xiaolongbao known to man, there’s really not a lot I know about this ever-changing place. They celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of, eat foods I’ve never tried and speak a language I’m still struggling to grasp. I really wouldn’t want it any other way, however I can admit I’m a little sad about having to celebrate my first Christmas away from home. Oh well, small sacrifice.

For those of you also contemplating spending a semester in this exciting country, allow me to give you a quick run-down of some key pre-departure info. Firstly, my advice would be to make a list of what you need to do, and DON’T leave it to the last minute. There will be mountains of forms you will need to fill out, and all will have a deadline. Trust me when I say the last thing you want to do is wake up and realise you’ve missed something important, like the date to book your dorm room. Not speaking from personal experience, but I do know someone who had to endure the last-minute struggle finding off-campus accommodation, and it isn’t fun. Secondly, when you apply for your visa, you will have to leave your passport with the consulate for a couple of days. This in itself was a little nerve-wracking, heightened by the fact the man next to me was being informed by frantic staff his passport may or may not have been misplaced. Luck was on my side however, and I received mine without drama. Just a heads up. Lastly, check out youtube to find some videos that cover student life in the city you want to travel too. They’re full of handy hints, from budgeting to local transport.

That’s all I have for you so far. So, until I hit the dorms of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 再见!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan.

Excited would be an Understatement (Preparing for Exchange)

Hello everyone,

My name is Fraser and I am currently a third year Law/Justice student who is a little bit too excited (and undoubtedly very nervous) about his upcoming exchange to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. During my semester abroad I will be studying Japanese full-time – which is just as well, since I only have a very preliminary knowledge of the Japanese language (In fact, this knowledge is close to non-existent).

When I told my friends and family that I had decided to live in Japan for the next six months the common response could be summed up in one sarcastically spoken statement, “Good luck with that.” To be fair, this reaction is rather warranted – it is foolhardy for someone who can barely speak Japanese to live in Japan, let alone study there! So, why would I make such an impulsive choice?

Put simply, it is because Japan is a mystery to me. I have never been there before and know little of their history or culture; and the unknown is rather exciting to me. Stepping off of a plane, in a place that you have never experienced the likes of before fills me with adrenaline. I know that this reasoning may not appeal to everyone (and undoubtedly some of you will see me as naive); but this is first and foremost an experience for me to broaden my mind in ways that I cannot do in the comfortable familiarity of Australia. And what better way to do that then to experience a lifestyle, culture and place that I have never known before?

So, as I wait for tomorrow’s nerve wracking flight to Japan, I should divulge how the pre-departure experience has been for me and some tips and tricks for anyone considering an exchange to the, ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

Preparing for the exchange initially was a daunting task. It seemed that there was an insurmountable amount of work to be done ahead of me. Fortunately, the pre-departure checklist provided by QUT is a fantastic organisational tool and promotes a sequenced approach to exchange preparation. As a result, preparing for the exchange – on the formal paperwork side of things – presented little difficulties. One recommendation I can make is to constantly ask both the QUT faculty and your host university questions about any aspects of the process you are unsure of. They are there to help and seemed more than happy to answer the multitude of inane questions I posed to them.

Also, if you have never been to Japan before, like me, the most difficult aspect of the pre-departure process may be preparing for the inevitable ‘culture shock’. QUT also provides a lot of information on how to deal with culture shock; but for those considering an exchange to Japan, I must recommend that you watch the YouTube channel: Abroad in Japan. This site covers everything from must have experiences to Japanese language tips to the do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture. I found that this site has really helped with my anxiety and made me feel more prepared for a life in Japan.

If there is one thing I could recommend to those who are considering an exchange is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t go for a safe or easy option, really try to push yourselves into the unknown and experience what you may never get the chance to experience again.

As for me, the next blog will either demonstrate that the decision to throw myself into the unknown was a good one or one that was mislead by bravado and excitement. But, whatever the outcome, I will learn something.

Sayonara everyone, till next time.

A snapshot of my Singapore experience (so far)

Rusil W, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1 & 2, 2018)

In a bit under a week I’ll be flying back to Singapore for my second semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really finished processing my first semester. But I’ll do my best to summarise it here.

To start, the first few weeks felt almost surreal. Coming from the very compact Gardens Point Campus, NTU – with ~20 student residential halls, ~15 canteens and 2 supermarkets (just to name a few things) – feels like its own self-contained town. These facilities exist because the majority of NTU students live on campus during the week,which results in a significantly different student life. Dinner at the canteens would be shared with (for less than $5 might I add). The student club culture also seems far more invested because everyone is on campus. In Mid-February, lion dance performances for Chinese New Year could be heard from my room, and in mid-April, cheerleading practice could be heard into the late hours of the night.

The semester started off with a trip with some other exchange students to Pulau Ubin – a small island off Singapore which hasn’t been encroached by the concrete jungle. It acts as a kind of heritage area for the what the main island was like before major urbanization. This provided a great first opportunity to meet other exchange students from across the world – Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, China … too many for me to remember.

 

Most of the other exchange students I met primarily used Singapore as a gateway for travel throughout South-East Asia – using mid-sem break, public holidays, and even time between finals to visit countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, while I can’t begin to express my envy as I heard one friend’s plans to visit Vietnam between open book exams, Singapore isn’t just a travel hub. It’s also a cultural one.

People always think of Australia as a cultural mixing pot because of its very immigrant-based history, and Singapore is like that too, in a way. The island has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. While the Chinese population is clearly dominant, it’s fairly easy to experience all three cultures in various ways. This includes physical places like Chinatown and Little India, celebrations like Chinese New Year, and the food (most importantly).

In fact, Singapore is probably the best place I can think of for an east meets west experience (besides maybe Hong Kong). This lets you sate virtually any cultural desire – which in my case was music. In just one semester, I managed to see two on campus concerts, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert (for only $10!!!!) and Fallout Boy – while eyeing performances by MIYAVI (a Japanese rockstar), the St Petersburg Ballet, and a showcase of works by Monet and Renoir.

Before starting exchange, a semester abroad sounds like a lot, but while there the time just flashes past. I’m glad to have another semester to do some things I missed, catch up with some friends, and make even more new ones.

 

How to Teach Yourself Norwegian: A Handy Guide*

*Results are not guaranteed as I literally have no idea how to speak Norwegian. Sorry.

  1. Silently mutter the Norwegian words for things as you try and pack everything you own in to your car. When this doesn’t work (the muttering, although the whole car thing is a bit irritating too) spend a few hours watching Norwegian TV (with Norwegian subtitles on!) and get really excited when you understand the word for welcome (Hint: it’s velkommen).
  2. Attempt a conversation in Norwegian over text with an exchange student from France, before realising that they do not, in fact, speak Norwegian.
  3. Book a train ticket entirely in Norwegian! This is a great idea but honestly I’m not entirely sure … when … the train … is leaving …. yep.

Moving on from my “guide”, it’s almost exactly one month until I fly out to Norway! I’m unbelievably excited (and unbelievably scared) but mainly I’m just thinking about whether or not I can get a jar of vegemite through customs. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

At the moment my life seems to be a hectic mix of packing and admin. You would not believe that amount of forms and applications I have done in the last few weeks. Most of them actually are half written in Norwegian, which makes it exciting. Very difficult to tell the difference between a housing application and a cancellation form when one is a leieavtale and the other an angrerettssjema. Fun times all round.

It’s almost impossible to decide what I need to bring and what I should leave behind. My climbing and hiking gear are going to take up about 95.55% of my bag so I’m probably going to have room for a single pair of jeans and maybe a jumper, if I’m lucky. Hey, priorities.

If you look closely, you might find QUT? idk how good your eyesight is. 

Getting very, very excited to see this view ^ in 32 days! And no, I’m not counting. For real though, if you actually want to learn a bit of Norwegian my uni in Trondheim (NTNU) has made a handy little site which you can find here. Or you can just use my fantastic guide, which is really some quality stuff.

Cool. I’m going to continue finding new ways to procrastinate actually packing.

Ha det!

Invest in an Italian Experience!

Christen W. Bachelor of Business (Honours)

Short-term program: LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’

July 2017, Italy

It’s not every day that the chance comes along to attend an exciting, experiential summer school at a top university in Rome, spending two weeks learning from executives at Italy’s major financial institutions – so when the LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’ program appeared in the short-term exchange portal, I jumped at the chance.

Ready and eager for the program ahead, I arrived in Rome late on a warm July night, my senses immediately enveloped by the soupy summer air, the lively and historical streets, and the rich undertones of the Italian accent resonating around me. I knew I was in the right place.

The LUISS residence that would serve as our accommodation for the next two weeks was renovated in 2016, providing excellent rooms and facilities that you might expect from a high-end hotel. Great views, strong WiFi and lots of space – the dream trio – were all present. The University is only a five minute walk past coffee shops, small European cars and cobbled streets. I quickly grew accustomed to the friendly greeting of ‘Ciao!’ from reception on the way out each morning; I could definitely see myself living in Italy!

Fantastic, modern accommodation

At our lecture in the Bank of Italy

Our program was a fast-paced, content-rich exploration of the various financial institutions of Italy, including those that seek to regulate and ensure level playing fields, such as the Italian Competition Authority and the Bank of Italy, and those that seek to catalyse investment in projects to spur growth, such as the European Investment Bank. Our small group of eight students was fortunate enough to visit and hear from senior figures from several of these organisations, providing us a first-hand glimpse into their operations and role within the larger European framework.

The level of academic rigour and expectations of the class were quite high, but with the enjoyable nature of a summer program; it was easy to be motivated to complete assessments and engage with lectures in such a stimulating environment. Our assessment pieces consisted of an in-class open book exam and two reports to be completed outside class times. Active participation was also encouraged and recorded to be put towards our final result. Being such a small group was a great advantage of this program – we were able to leverage maximum benefit from the classes, business visits, and our Professor, and I now have a network of fantastic friends around the world.

While in Rome, there were many chances to explore the local attractions and history, enjoy the famous cuisine in its home country, and even travel outside of Rome on the weekends. As I held the title of travelling the longest distance to participate in the program, it made sense that I would maximise the spare time on the program. The train network in Rome and Italy, including the Metro, inter-city and regional trains, are highly efficient and affordable, making them a great option for travellers; this is in contrast to the buses and trams of Rome which were often less than reliable (and much maligned by the Roman public).

The Duomo, Florence

The Leaning Tower!

In front of the Trevi Fountain

On the first weekend, I took an early Saturday morning train from Roma Termini to the popular and beautiful city of Florence. The day was full of walking and enjoying most of Florence’s attractions, including the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Sunset from Piazza Michaelangelo sealed in my mind that Florence is no ordinary destination. After some final sight-seeing on Sunday morning I took the short trip west to Pisa, where I spent Sunday afternoon in Campo dei Miracoli, taking in and climbing the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the nearby museum. It wouldn’t have felt right returning to Rome without this stop!

On the last Saturday I headed east from Rome to the ancient town of Tivoli, which made for a fantastic day covering many kilometres through the highlights of Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Hadrian’s Ruins. Some of the best places are those that are little known or underrated – discovering them is one of the great joys of travelling.

A small piece of advice is to budget generously for food, as the delicious meals that Italy is famous for do come at a price. Try to occasionally eat in – your bank account will thank you! I would highly encourage anyone interested in this or a similar program to take the plunge; the experience, the international friendships, and the broadening of horizons made it beyond worthwhile. You won’t regret it!

At the Colosseum

The end of a great program!

Starting my New Colombo Plan Program in Seoul!

I am currently in my fifth year of a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Business  (Accounting) degree and one of 120 university students to receive the 2018 New Colombo Plan Scholarship. The New Colombo Plan scholarship has allowed me to undertake a Korean language intensive program for three weeks at Yonsei University, followed by a semester exchange at Korea University and then two internships.

Yonsei University Intensive Language Program:
I completed my Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in February 2018. The New Colombo Plan scholarship encourages and funds scholars to complete full-time language programs in order to not only connect with the local culture, but also to assist scholars on a practical level by giving them the skills needed to undertake basic tasks such as navigating the city.  This is especially important when there is not a lot of English available and it helps scholars settle into their new environment.

I arrived at my new home in Seoul on 1 February 2018 on a crisp winter night. During my program at Yonsei University I stayed with several other students at off campus accommodation arranged by the university. Whilst the accommodation was great, after all we were living in a serviced apartment, this did make it difficult to get to know the other students in the program. Lucky, as soon as classes begun, some four days after my arrival, I was able to get to know a range of amazing people from all across the world. Fortuitously, I also met a student from El Salvador that would be going to Korea University with me.

(Outside the front of Yonsei University during my last week of the intensive language program)

The Yonsei University program is certainly intense, but very rewarding. Already, I can see the benefits of this language training coming to fruition through the little things, like reading bus timetables and menus that are written only in Korean. Unlike some international summer or winter schools, the focus of Yonsei’s program was to learn Korean rather than foster relationships between students. Although this means that your language skills progress rapidly, it also reiterated a notion I found to often be true, you have to be the driver of your own participation. As there are little to no social activities set up for students, you have to be responsible for how involved you will be in the culture and how much you want to get out of the experience.

With the support of the NCP scholarship, I was able to make the most of my winter in Seoul by undertaking activities that I would otherwise be unable to participate in. Particularly, this applied to learning how to ski – a goal I have had for a while. I found my Korean ski instructor to be so helpful that I became somewhat overconfident and ended up on a slightly too advanced run for my skills set. Fortunately, I walked away only damaging my pride. Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Yonsei University language program.

(Learning to ski at Jisan Resort)

You can follow my experience as a New Colombo Plan scholar on Instagram at travel_life_sarah.