University Life Begins.....In Wonju

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

An official university student is what I am now! My week of fun in Seoul officially came to an end!

On Thursday 29th August, I moved into my university dormitory. Again, Shanika came with me to help me move in. Thankfully I got the bigger side of the room (hehehehehehe!). None of my roommates arrived until Sunday, so I literally had the room to myself for 3 nights.

I had received an email from the administration office earlier on during the week, about an orientation they would be holding for the new international students on Friday. Friday arrived and I went to the orientation. I was really disappointed. Amongst the international students, it was 98% Chinese students, 1% a Japanese student, then 1% me, the black British student. I have no issues with the make-up of the international students, it is what it is lol. What I was really disappointed with was the proceedings of the orientation. 

My name was the very first on their own pre-prepared register. Right next to my name it stated 'British'. The orientation began and of course it was in Korean, which I expected, that was not a problem. But then translation for the Chinese students I waited in expectation for translation in English.......nothing. The entire orientation was focused on important information we needed to know for our lives as students throughout the 4 years we will be here.

I sat grappling at every word to ensure I understood as much as I could, because at some point I gave up on any translation in English being offered. During the break, these 2 lovely ladies (who work at the university administration office) came up to me and apologised that there was no translation in English, as they had not expected an English speaker. Honestly, that statement really confused me because right next to my name (first on the register, mind you), clearly stated 'British'. But anyway, they told me I should come to either one of them if I have any questions, problems or things I don't understand. One of the ladies spoke in English so that was helpful. I wouldn't have had as much of a problem if the entire orientation had been conducted in only Korean, because that would be fair, but the fact that translation was offered to one group and not to the other 2% of us who were also present, I found to be unfair.

I went to visit one of the ladies the following week hahaha! I do have to admit, she has been extremely helpful!

The university system here is so different. Whereas in the UK, you apply for a course, e.g. Pharmacology, and your modules/classes that have to be taken are already picked for you, here in South Korea, similar to America, you have to pick these courses. The system of picking your courses is NO JOKE! The portal opened up on Wednesday at 9am and closed at 5pm. Literally within 2 minutes of being opened up, some courses were already full and there I was put straight onto the waiting list! It is a battle of fast clickers!

Waiting list!!!

I had previously been sent a document by the university stating the courses I have to pick in this 2nd semester of university. Note, I am starting in the school's official 2nd semester, but of course it is actually my 1st semester. Unbeknownst to myself,  I assumed that meant I had to pick the courses  listed in the document. These courses were the mandatory courses needed for my major, such as philosophy, introduction to Korean linguistics etc. Bear in mind, all these courses are conducted completely at university level Korean.

Anyway, the week began, and I started my classes. I understood about 50% of my first and second classes. A couple of days on, I had another class and understood 0.5%. The 0.5% consisted of when the professor called my name during the register. Of course I became very anxious! Those who know me,  know I always strive to do my utmost best in what I do. Literally being able to only understand 50% or even in the case of the other lecture 0%, I felt was unconducive in helping me achieving my results. I started to panic, but thankfully a lady I met in one of my classes, explained to me that in every freshman's first semester, you don't usually pick your electives. You pick subjects almost to prepare you for the next semester when you have to pick your electives.

This had not been explained to me!! Another thing that had not been explained to me, was the fact that there were actually available Korean language classes specifically for foreigners to help improve our proficiency and increase our university vocabulary in this first semester. We were only informed of this at the orientation, after we had already picked our courses and the portal had closed. I literally wanted to cry!

Thankfully they had a 'pick and drop' service that Thursday when I would have the opportunity to change my current courses for the courses I would prefer to take. I immediately emailed the lady I had met at the orientation to explain my dilemma and the fact that I believe it would be more productive for me to take the language classes this semester, then proceed to take my electives next year. She agreed and offered help if I happened not to get into any of the classes during the 'pick and drop' service.

Thankfully I did, literally by the skin of my teeth lol. The service opened at 8am and once again EVERY SINGLE STUDENT was logged in. So what happened?! Everyone's portal froze. Literally at  around 8:25am, it finally started working and clicking like crazy, I thankfully managed to get into all the classes I needed.

I am now taking: University level Korean for foreigners, Writing, Advanced Writing and Reading, Intermediate Korean Conversations and I managed to squeeze in an English class on Korean History!!

I haven't even gone into my experience so far outside of class! I believe I am the only black international student here at the university (here for the whole 4 years). There are other black students here, but they are either exchange students here for a year at the most, or on a special program, here for 2 years max. 

I stand out like a neon light stick in the dark everywhere I go lol. I cannot count the amount of times I have heard the word '대박!' ('WOW!') each time I walk past the students here or I enter a classroom full of only Koreans lol. As this is a Christian University, all students are obligated to attend Chapel once a week. I attended this past week and literally there was only one of me lool.

Each time I explain to those who ask me, what my major is, I am always met with 'WOW' that is amazing, not many foreigners study this. I understand why, it is HARD! But most certainly NOT IMPOSSIBLE!

I have become so appreciative of those who have reached out to find out how things are going. I am now here by myself and it has not been easy at all. At first, it was really lonely as I had no friends. Thankfully, I have made friends with some of the exchange students and my roommates now, which has helped. Even still, it is still hard to express my thoughts to them as of course I don't know them very well yet, so having people reach out to me literally just to check on me, has been so precious to me. You know who you are and I really really appreciate you!

I am really sorry for the long post! I still left out quite a few things that happened, otherwise I would literally be typing forever!!

Speak Soon.X

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