After being inactive for a million years, I’m finally back, and I plan to write as often as I can this semester before I graduate! (Yes, this is my last semester in Korea ㅠㅠ) It’s been a journey full of ups and downs and I really wish to document more of my thoughts and my life in Korea in these last few months here. Thank you for staying with me even though I haven’t been updating often, but I hope that my posts will be of interest to you!
As you can see from the title, I’m talking about something that might be a problem some of you are facing now – how to convince your parents that you’re making the right choice in studying overseas? In fact, I faced the same problem 4 years ago, and today I’m facing the same problem again as I intend to go to graduate school. Some of you have asked me the same question about how I managed to persuade my parents, so I thought I’d share with you some of my experiences and thoughts.First question is always, why Korea?
To be specific, the question my parents asked was “why don’t you want to go to NUS?” In the case for Singapore at least, we have pretty well-acclaimed universities and going to Yonsei appeared to be some sort of downgrade. I had good scholarship offers too, but the scholarship providers did not want me to go to Yonsei (and thus I rejected their offers in the end).
For this question, you would have to answer to three groups of people: 1) Your parents 2) Your relatives and friends 3) Yourself.
Answering to Yourself
No matter what you say to your parents or to your relatives and friends, you have to remember that first you have to answer to yourself. Why do you think that studying abroad (or in my case, studying at Underwood International College) is the right choice? Is it worth it to sacrifice a better-ranked university, scholarship offers that guarantee good career developments, and even leaving your family and friends behind?
To me, it was well worth it. My 19-year-old self knew that I didn’t want the type of education in Singaporean universities. I had a taste of it in JC, and I really hated how distant we are in lectures, and how you might never make good friends or relationships in uni since you only met tutorial mates once a week and tutorials are just taught by graduate students. I was attracted to the intimate liberal arts college setting of Underwood International College (UIC), the discussion-based classes, and I knew that if I wanted to break out of my dejection in studies, I have to try this style of education. Well that, and the fact that Yale-NUS (Singapore’s first liberal arts college) was opening 2 years later convinced me that a liberal arts education will be well worth it when I came back to Singapore too.
In my 3.5 years here at UIC, I had the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I was no longer under the protection of my parents; I had to deal with problems in daily life and academics all on my own. I had to take responsibility for myself and my own learning, especially since I came all the way here to study. Of course, part of it was to prove everyone who was doubtful of universities in Korea that I can do well in Korea too.
I met friends from all over the world, had my eyes opened to various perspectives in class discussions, and formed close relationships both with friends, faculty and admin staff. I could never imagine becoming so close to professors in a big research university. My professors were not only academic advisors; they gave advice for my career and in life too, and I’m immensely grateful to their guidance and their encouragement for my graduate school application. I found my passion in studying, and a passion in East Asian topics that I wish to pursue in my life. Now that I’m preparing for the next stage and looking towards my dream, I’m even more appreciative and thankful that I came to UIC, without which I might have just settled for a normal office worker life in Singapore after I graduate.
Answering to Your Parents
It might be difficult for you to take in so many considerations as a fresh high school graduate (on hindsight I find that my 19-year-old self did not take into consideration many possible challenges and was that little idealistic and naive), but once you’ve decided that going abroad or specifically to Korea is what you really want to do, the next step would be talking to your parents about it.
When I talked to my parents, they were a little doubtful because they’ve never even heard about Yonsei University! But I convinced them that it was really where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I had a good grasp of the education system in UIC and answered all their questions about the school. I convinced them that Yonsei is one of the top universities in Korea, and I would be able to find a job in Korea. I could add Korean to my list of language abilities and that would make me more employable especially with Korean companies expanding to many countries. (You can refer to my post here on career prospects if you need more reasons to convince your parents.)
Then they were worried about me going to Korea alone. I didn’t know anyone there, didn’t even know how to speak the language, they didn’t even know if Korea was a safe country. They tried hard to find someone who knew anyone in Korea, and eventually they managed to find a Malaysian professor in Yonsei (the closest they could get I guess) but we never met in the end. But the point is, it is natural that parents are worried about your safety or even how you’re going to cook and survive alone in a foreign country, especially one that they’ve never seen before or don’t know well about. That’s where you might want to look for fellow countrymen or clubs in Korea. For me, I started looking for Singaporeans in Korea (one of the reasons why I started this blog) and eventually I found the Singapore Club Seoul (plus Irene who came to Korea to study in the same year!) This definitely reassured my parents more, plus the fact that eventually they came to Korea together with me for a week or so. (For list of possible Singaporean clubs or international student clubs in Yonsei you can refer to my post here)
Don’t think about your parents as being annoying or overly worried. Even I am worried about going to the States now since I’ve never been there and I don’t know how it’s like over there. My parents too are worried (actually they are more worried about shootings or things like that) but it’s something that you have to overcome if you’re sure that this is the path you want to take.
Answering to Relatives and Friends
Well this is probably the least of your worries. Once you’re done convincing yourself and your parents, you’d have no problem talking to relatives and friends. Most likely they would ask you questions like why do you want to go there and things like that. Depending on how close you are you would probably already know how to answer accordingly, but most importantly you must remember that you should not be swayed by other people’s opinions. I’m sure that they care for you and want you to do well, but sometimes they may not understand what it is that you really want or what kind of school or environment is suitable for you.
For me, I didn’t do so well in JC not only because I was playing a lot, but because I was bored in lectures and unwilling to compete with the others who I thought were wayyyy smarter. I didn’t want to go to NUS, see the same people, or have others make assumptions about me just because of the JC I’m from. Maybe I was partly trying to avoid the problem too, so I searched for overseas universities and chances to study abroad. I was lucky that I came across UIC which fits me so well and from here, I found my passion and courage to dream and fight for bigger things. Coming to UIC was really a transformative experience, and I realised that things such as university ranking did not matter. What’s important is really finding a school that matches you, and taking the step forward. (Of course making an informed choice is important, which is why I try to provide as much information as I can so that I can help you guys make a better decision)
I hope that with this post I’ve helped you better prepare for studying abroad, and gave you more things to consider. Studying abroad isn’t as simple as I had thought, and there are also other external factors that might affect you too. It would help for you to really think about what you really want to do in life, or just what makes you happy. Then you can figure out which schools are the ones that can help you reach your goal in life, or keep you happy. I’m sure that your parents and people around you would support your decision as long as you’re confident of your choice.
For all of you applying for universities (or even jobs in Korea) right now, good luck! Hope that you will be able to find a school or job that suits you ^^