Sunday, October 25, 2009

Experiencing Korea

I arrived in Korea to pursue doctoral program in Urban Planning in August 2007. Prior to coming here, I had not heard much about Korea and had no idea about its construct, but since then I have enjoyed here particularly, in language program at Kyung Hee University (KHU), rigorous academic activities at Seoul National University (SNU) and time to time some extracurricular activities. This article is meant to share on and off campus experience, first discusses about wonderful time in KHU, second, highlights rigorous research activities at SNU and finally, some other experiences beyond academic which have played important role in understanding tangible and intangible assets of Korea.

I – KHU’s life: learning Korean language a lifelong experience

We as a Korean Government Scholarship Student (KGSS) had a privilege to pursue Korean language from six months to a year prior to start doctoral program. That period acted as a transition period and helped a lot in settling down as well as to understand culture and society. That period was the most enjoyable moment in Korea, it helped to learn language as well as act as a platform to interact with the students from different disciplines across the world.

I cannot forget KHU’s superb teaching methods to whom I inspired and the academic infrastructure. KHU’s teachers were dedicated not only in teaching but also helped us on the other aspects too. Still I have communication with the teachers who were the mentors in the early periods.

Other interesting aspect was peer assistantship system, known as ‘Doami’ (도우미). I believe peer learning is one of the best way to learn however, first time I had experienced with formal way to peer learning. Later at the SNU, I also got the very similar setup known as ‘Buddy program’. The assigned students help us in solving day to day problem besides providing academic assistance and against that they get credit. This system helps to get familiarized with Korea and we got good friends in the new environment.

However, I feel regret that I could not continue language program for a year despite the provision, partly hurry to finish my study and underestimating its need. This was one of the mistakes; I am sure more language training has helped me a lot. Therefore I would like to suggest new friends to get masterly skills Korean language which will help you great during your stay here and even here after.

II – SNU’s life: training for rigorous research

After a semester language program, I got admission in doctoral program at Seoul National University. SNU is one of the prestigious public universities in Korea ranked 47 in the world by QS World University Ranking in 2009.

The most impressive aspect is the composition of Graduate School of Environmental Studies (GSES) at SNU. As we know planning is a multidisciplinary field from spatial planning to social and economical aspect of planning, fortunately this school has focused on multidisciplinary study. We have to go through two years (four semesters) of rigorous training through course work followed by theses writing and defense. The school has provided two unique features, first, selecting coursework across the disciplines and second, freedom for choosing research area and interestingly I choose a research area with the case study of Delhi. I also learned a lot from day to day ongoing conferences, seminars and workshops from macro issues like climate change to micro urban issues.

I equally impressed with the GSES professors’ kindness, love and their great affection with us beside their extra ordinary command over the subjects. An example of switching medium of instruction can depict all. The school has few courses in English and rest in Korean. Korean courses were very interesting and relevant to my research and I opted few of them. A number of professors changed medium of instruction from Korean to English or at least made bilingual for their classes due to my presence. It greatly helped me and this shows their great love and affection with us, international students.

III - Off campus experiences: exploring Korean spirits & culture

We come here to learn from academic institutions as well as from the tangible and intangible facets of Korea which is rapidly transforming. Korea in general and Seoul in particular have provided great avenues for learning. For example, public transport system of Seoul, which presents a success story in public transportation and acted as a laboratory for me. It shares many live stories from culture to fashion’s trend and many more stuff with the commuters.

Another example shows how we learned from the intangible assets of Korea. As a Blogger of Presidential Council of National Branding (PCNB) I spent time to explore Korea’s economic base and cultural heritages to comprehend it in broader perspective. In the end of the October 2009 we visited Donggreung and its vicinity. Recently, this site was designated as ‘World Heritage Site’ by UNESCO, hence came under the world’s limelight. This is a graveyard of nine royal mausoleums and seventeen graves of Joseon dynasty (1392~1897). It is the burial place of six kings, nine queens and a posthumously declared king and queens in nine mounds. It is located in a large forest area and occupies a larger area compared to the other tombs in Korea. This historical land mark is very similar to Taj Mahal of India with respect to culture, power, and history. Donggreung presents history of five centuries of one of the great dynasty of Korea, Joseon. Although Donggreung is a part of the history, its landscape setup, design philosophy is very much relevant today, especially in climate change regime. From this setting, we can learn to shape our environment with the nature.

We also visited Jeon Yak-Young house in Namyangju city. He was a leading Korean religious philosopher in Joseon Dynast. He was a leading think tank in Silhak (means practical studies), a Confucian social reform movement in late Joseon dynasty. This movement argued for reforming the rigid Confucian social structure, land reforms to relieve the plight of peasant farmers, promoting Korea's independent national identity and culture, encouraging the study of science, and advocating technology exchange with foreign Figure countries. He was a leading scholar whose thought has greatly helped in shaping the modern Korea. It is interesting to find that his house has been well conserved and converted to museum to spread his thought and ideas. These two field trips provide an overview of Korean rich history and there are many more unexplored areas which will provide further avenues to learn.

Besides rich heritages, Seoul itself presents an example of a dynamic city. Great efforts have been made to shape it as a global city. In this regard my experience as a vice president of ‘Seoul International Student Forum’ (SISF) was most vivid. The SISF is a student organization floated by the Seoul city government to bridge the gap between the expats and the Korean. During the association with the SISF I understood city’s function, policies and programs. I felt the degree of effort for making Seoul more globalized and multicultural. The efforts and wills to solve the prevailed problems by the local government were enormous and surprising for me. As a Seoul city’s overseas correspondent, I am feeling very similar experience where we have to update issues of the leading cities across the world to assist city’s government in policy formulation for Seoul.

At the end of the 20s of my life, I experienced with two vibrant campuses of Seoul, one helped me to get acquaintance with Korea and its culture and other enhanced my research skills and mastered me to compete with the world researchers. I am greatly thankful to Korean government for providing me this immense opportunity. In belief, I came here to learn now it is time to say good bye to Korea and depart to serve human kind.


maisam said...

Hi Sohail ,
The way you write is awesome , very interested and persuade reader to continue keep reading , I would suggest you to write some negative aspect and life's difficulties of foreigners in Korea as well.

maisam said...

Hi Sohail ,
The way you write is awesome , very interested and persuade reader to continue keep reading , I would suggest you to write some negative aspect and life's difficulties of foreigners in Korea as well.

Sohail said...

Thank you brother Maisam for your valuable comment. Your comment is very helpful for developing skills. Once again thanks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

aredia lawsuit

Site Meter