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.

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