Studying Abroad – Missing out on things at home

Today I write perhaps what will be my saddest post on this blog.

Yesterday on March 23rd, 2015, Singaporeans lost our founder, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We enter our second day of mourning and Mr Lee will be put to rest after a state funeral on Sunday.

What prompted me to write this post was the reminder that his death has triggered in me. I will write with my personal experience, as a preview to those of you considering study abroad of what you will miss out on back at home, and those feelings of homesickness that might attack. Hopefully you might be better prepared mentally or at least know what you are getting yourself into when you decide to study abroad.

1) Homesickness

You definitely, I guarantee you 100%, will get homesick. It’s just how bad the homesickness is, and when you get it.

Some people like me had my first bout of homesickness right from the beginning after my parents left Korea. I only met my new classmates for 3 days so far, and it was a little tiring trying to fit in and make friends, and worrying about what was the “correct” thing to say. After my parents left I shut myself in my room (after talking a little to my new roommate who didn’t speak English that well so the conversation was short-lived).

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[WOW Korea] Singaporean Coffee Shop in Korea?

This week’s WOW Korea mission is to introduce a restaurant with specialty from our home countries. There are not many Singaporean restaurants here, and they tend to be very expensive too so I haven’t been to any of them. So I would instead introduce to you a Singaporean cafe that I have visited a few times!

The first time I saw the word “Kopitiam” (it means coffee shop in Hokkien and it’s a commonly used word in Singapore) while walking along Edae I thought I must have seen it wrongly. But I heard from other Singaporean friends and realised that there was really a “Kopitiam” in Edae!

Kopitiam Singapore Toast and Coffee

They have changed the interior a few times since I started going, but their menu has remained true to Singaporean flavors. It appears to me as a kind of fusion between a Korean cafe where they have the usual Americano and green tea latte, and a Singaporean-style “kopitiam” where we would have coffee or milk tea and some kaya toast to go with it.

Iced milk tea in the summer with kaya toast!

Iced milk tea in the summer with kaya toast!

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Career prospects with a degree from Korean universities

Since I will become a senior in the coming fall semester, I guess this is one question I have become more informed about compared to my time as an innocent freshman. I do get quite some questions about this too, so I hope this post can help you a bit more in making your decision to come study in a Korean university.

Some basics you need to know about working in Korea before we start:

Local Korean companies vs Multi-National companies
For local Korean companies, they would definitely require Korean proficiency. And when I say Korean proficiency, it is not 반말 (the form of informal Korean you use with your friends), but formal, business Korean. So if your aim is to work in Korea, in a local company, you definitely have to be able to speak Korean well.
*Note: Korean multinationals like Samsung or LG are not really in this category

The number of multinational companies that choose to locate in Seoul has been increasing over the years, and Korean multinationals such as Samsung are becoming well-known brands worldwide. In this globalizing context, such companies have two tracks of employment. One would be the local track where they are looking for Koreans to work in local branches and contact with local clients, and the international track where they are looking to send employees overseas or back to their home countries, or deal with international clients. For the local track, it is the same as Korean companies – Korean proficiency is needed. Korean proficiency is not always needed for global track.

However the international track is becoming more and more competitive due to its better employee benefits and the opportunities for overseas posting. Also, working in the more global departments in multinationals gives one a higher chance of escaping from the strict hierarchy in local Korean companies, so many overseas Koreans are very interested and definitely well-qualified for this track as well. They are effectively bilingual in English and Korean, so they have an advantage over other applicants who only speak one language. So I cannot begin to stress the importance of Korean proficiency if you intend to work in Korea. Korean proficiency would also be an added bonus if you want to work in Korean multinationals as well, even if your aim is to be posted back to your home country.

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FAQ about Undergraduate Studies in Korea

Hello all! Hope everyone is having a good summer break!

As incoming freshmen for Fall 2014 are receiving acceptance letters and preparing to come to Korea, it signals the start of another cycle of applications for graduating high school seniors!

It’s been a little past 3 years since I’ve started this blog, and I’m approaching my final year of undergraduate studies in Korea. In the past 3 years, I’ve been asked many questions, and as the workload in college got heavier and heavier (as you might guess from my lack of posts), I have accumulated a great backlog of emails last semester (my busiest semester yet) which I guiltily cleared and replied a week or two before finals (Sorry to those of you who had to wait so long ><).

To make things a little more efficient, ie you being able to get information more quickly and not dependent on how busy I am, I’ve decided to compile a list of FAQ and will be setting that up in a new section on the blog! I will post again when I create the new section (:

In the meantime, one of my best friends in Korea who I got to know 3 years ago through this blog has created a youtube video on FAQ about undergraduate studies in Korea!

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Connecting with Singaporeans in Korea and New Classmates

I feel quite stupid for not saying this earlier (it’s been what, 3 years since my first post on this blog? Unbelievable), but for all of you Singaporeans who are coming to Korea for long-term and wish to get in touch with the Singaporean community, here are some things you might want to register for. (Same goes for those of you who are not Singaporeans, you can do so with your own country representatives!)

1) Join the Singapore Club Seoul (SCS)!

Currently there’s a Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/singaporeclubseoul/ which you can request to join.

You can also email them directly at singaporeclubinseoul@gmail.com

You can join even if you’re not located in Seoul too! We’re a small but tight-knitted community here I would say, and it does feel a lot more cosy and less “formal” than some other Singapore clubs in other countries that I’ve been to. The staff at our embassy here in Seoul are really kind and fun-loving too, and our ambassador is very friendly and approachable. We join events such as the Seoul Friendship Fair every year, mostly with food booth selling delicious Singaporean food that Singaporeans in Seoul all miss dearly! There are also various events organized by SCS such as potluck bbq and probably the biggest event in the year, the National Day celebrations where it’s another chance to feast on Singaporean food 😀 Do join and keep in touch with the Singaporean community here! There are just times when you need someone to speak in Singlish to and crack jokes that only Singaporeans can relate to, so it’s always good to keep in touch with other Singaporeans in Korea!

2) Register yourself with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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