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  • Writer's pictureKat

Studying in Korea: My exchange experience [First day of school]

It is 7am in South Korea (6am Singapore time) and I am enshrouded within my cotton-candy pink hoodie and a pair of stone-grey slacks. Beneath the murmur of darkness, rectangular screen-light illuminates my face as I type away on the keyboard. My friends are all asleep. Two weeks of junk eating has flown by and the weather has replaced my clear airways with a stuffy nose and inflammed throat, a pain not yet salvaged by Panadol flu max and boxes of tissue. After slogging my time and health out for my Korea's living expenses for the past few months in Singapore, I am finally here. It still feels surreal. Yet, I know that time here will fly by too quickly. The person who remembers is always aware of the swiftness of time.

Things are different here. The sunlight does not burn. It does flare, slightly, into a thousand pale golden rays and the breeze merrily sashays your hair into a voluminous fluff. Here, white wisp is the sound of speech; hot air condenses into surrounding air and you see words being dispersed into water vapor before conversation reaches your ears. Here, people speak a foreign sound and words amount to nothing but angled scribbles printed on billboards and shop front. Back at home, printed alphabets have been a form of communication I have taken for granted. Here, I wish I could understand.

So much has happened in these two weeks that I learnt so much about myself. Through a series of unfortunate events I realized I could plumb a clogged toilet that reversed flow itself right down to my feet (lol epic), learnt that I could sleep on a shared bed without kicking my bed partner (haha) and ascend an insane amount of stairs. I discovered my inability to say no to extra food which my constipation-prone stomach cannot take, and my new level of positivism when I could not register for any pre-approved course during course registration. Most unfortunately, just two nights ago I discovered a new drug allergy which caused my right eyelid to pop at least five angry red humps, swelling half of my right eye shut.

Today is just the first day of school.

My university for the next semester! Sungkyunkwan university!

This picture was taken when I went to the orientation with my friends and we met up with the international students. The orientation was pretty basic but my only wistful thought was that there was an afterparty which I did not attend as I did not drink. I guess I am more of a coffee and conversation kind of person. I was kind of worried about not being able to fit into Korea's drinking culture initially but I guess I will survive! So far, I have been tagging along with my friends and we have been meeting up with various people from the campus we are situated in. I made a few new pals from my orientation group and I am really excited to see them again. It is so mind blowing to experience and hear about cultures that are vastly different from our own. Not sure whether it is my sickness that has caused me to be burnt out or that I am unable to keep up to flurry of activities with my introverted energy level. Nevertheless, I am really glad and rejuvenated to meet those international friends :) This subtle joy would linger till three months later when pangs of sadness would tug on my heart the day I have to depart for home.

I share an apartment with my friends. Living in a house of extroverts have made me understand more about myself. Coming from a family that does not speak more than 5 sentences to each other everyday, I find myself adjusting to speak more. I can be outgoing, I am drawn to and admire extroverts, but I realize I shut down really quickly after some time. I can feel close to people just by sitting next to each other doing nothing, or simply sitting side by side to read or engage in our own separate activities. However, I know this method of "bonding" does not apply to everyone and they might not feel the same. I can be outgoing, but sometimes I wish I could be more like my extroverted friends, forever never running out of energy or things to say. However I have long realized this is just who I am and I am happy with myself. As pointed out by others, I also learnt that my friendship is in silent concern, subtle actions and support when you need it, rather than loud display of affection (hahaha is this why my close friends told me I am too gentle that is why I am forever forgotten and overlooked?) Nevertheless, I am also learning to understand and tune into how others convey their well intentions and friendship because everyone is different. Definitely, this exchange will pose many more situations for me to improve, to learn tolerance, acceptance, and for good feelings to develop!

I have so much more to write but I am exhausted. I guess I will organize my thoughts and do a proper update soon! Ciaos.


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