Nine months ago, I left Shenzhen with five other exchange students to begin our life in South Korea. Now, as I enter my last month, I would like to share my experience with everyone.

We first arrived at Kongjiu Communication Arts College, a college in Ch'Ungch'Ong-Namdo in the western part of South Korea. I had no clue what to expect but I thought studying abroad was no longer a dream. I was going to realize it! Upon our arrival, we were scheduled to attend a Korean language course for 5 months. I got my new Korean name of 장효인 ( Jang Hyo In). I needed to start with the alphabet and pronunciation because they are really important when one is a beginner in Korean. And then I continued studying new words and expressions. As we know, grammar is essential to language, but if you want to learn Korean well by skipping learning grammar, the best way is to speak it more often! Here, I have to speak in Korean everywhere, not English. I feel happy because I am no longer a slave to English.

Mrs. Kim,Mrs. You and Mrs. An were my Korean teachers. They were the most patient foreign teachers I have ever met. Whenever we had troubles with our studies, they helped us enthusiastically. Every student in the class wanted to be friends with them. Although the language class is rather dull,these lovely teachers were my motivation to learn. In January, the coldest month of South Korea, I went to Daejeon with my Chinese friends and took the 21st Test of Proficiency in Korean. I still remember the day we waded in the deep snow for an hour to get back to our dormitory.

I didn’t go home to China during the Spring Festival but visited Daejeon for two weeks. To be honest, Korea did not have much public festivities compared to China. I think Koreans celebrate Spring Festival privately with their families.

The new semester started in late February. I was allowed to audit the major of Tourism and Airline. As an exchange student, I was quite different from my Korean classmates. We were generally encouraged to take a lighter course load. Outside of classes, beyond the time spent translating Korean to Chinese, and trying to understand what actually happened during my professor’s lecture, I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy being in Korean culture, interacting with Korean students, and chatting about Korean TV dramas.

I would also talk to them about cosmetic surgery. In both their TV dramas and real lives, they show that having cosmetic surgery is normal for them. I was shocked when my classmates told me that about half of our classmates have had cosmetic surgery. And then one day, my Travel Agency Management professor told us in class that he had a nose job last week. But you know, my professor was at least as old as my father. I gulped and had to accept the fact. Actually, like my Korean classmates,a lot of Korean teenagers’ parents allow their children to have cosmetic surgery after their college entrance examination. I also did a search on www,naver.com the data showed that about 50% of Korean women in their twenties have undergone some kind of cosmetic operation. The most popular Korean facial cosmetic surgery operations are Double Eyelid surgery and Augmentation Rhinoplasty. My Korean classmates told me they believed their chances of employment were largely dependent on their looks and would improve significantly after a cosmetic operation. I thought I’d already learned what it meant to be beautiful here.

Anyway, back to my campus life. In Korea, greeting is a very important etiquette. Comparing with our country, their daily etiquette is more precise. If you meet older people you must greet them with the highest standard of respect. So every time I met a new Korean friend, I was always asked about my age. And then, I would be aware of the type of honorary titles and dialogue to use. For this reason, I have to be careful in studying this “honorific system” which is used to distinguish the level of familiarity or difference in social rank between addresser and addressee. Honestly, it often brings confusion to my Korean learning.

Next month, I will go back home. About a year ago, I started this journey by telling my parents what I wanted to do. At that time, my mother didn’t back me up while my father encouraged me to do it. She believed that it was not a good idea because I was an English major student who is graduating in 2011. But I didn’t give up. Even though there was only a little chance of me going, I never gave up on my dream of coming to Korea. Now, I’ve been here since September. I did it! My time studying here has been fruitful. After my homesickness passed, I wasn’t ever really sad here. I have learned to get accustomed to South Korea – its weather, food and the people. But it just started and now it’s ending too soon.

Anyway, I would like to thank to my school, Shenzhen Polytechnic, for giving me this opportunity to be an exchange student in South Korea. And I also would like to thank my friends who came here with me: Cong Chen, Zhi Ying, Jing Ting, Ya Yao and Shi Min. We had so much fun and I never felt lonely with them around. I shall always treasure the memories of our days in South Korea. Finally, I wholeheartedly approve of grabbing the opportunity of being an exchange student abroad if you can.  It will bring you an unforgettable experience and great rewards!

(by ZHANG Xiaoyin, a student from SAFL)