As part of our effort to provide insight into the students' experiences throughout their outbound mobility programme and to inspire prospective outbound mobility students, we will be featuring a series of pieces written by our Outbound Mobility Alumni. In our second issue, we will feature an article written by Siti Maisarah Binti Azlizam and Nurul Izzati Binti Mohd Fauzi, from the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology who completed their outbound mobility programme at Jeonbuk National University, South Korea in September 2021.
Let us hear about the student experience below.
JBNU Fall Exchange 2021 was conducted by Jeonbuk National University located in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea. The program was offered to UPM students from any department. Two students from our faculty, FCSIT, were chosen as the participants for this program and we were given the opportunity to study abroad at JBNU during the first semester of 2021/2022. This exchange program offers credit transfer so that students do not have to worry about extending the academic year to finish their studies. UPM also provided an amount of funds for each of the participants to ease the application process.
During this exchange program, exchange students from all over the world were required to register for at least 6 credit hours of any preferred courses and to take at least one Korean language course. For Korean language courses, exchange students were required to sit for a placement test to determine their Korean language level. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Other than academics, exchange students also were encouraged to take part in cultural activities to maximize their experiences studying abroad. Almost every week, there will be different activities held by the exchange student department of the host university. There was also a buddy program where exchange students were assigned a Korean buddy. They can decide the activities they would like to do every week as part of cultural exchange. This buddy program also helps ease exchange students' daily life in a foreign country. During the whole semester, many activities were conducted such as Cultural Exchange Presentation through Zoom meeting, experiencing Korean traditional clothes and foods, visiting traditional places around Jeonju city and many more.
Going for a semester exchange abroad was not easy especially during the pandemic. There was lots of paperwork during the application processes and it was actually tiring as it happened during the second half of the semester. As far as I remembered, during that time, students were struggling to meet assignments and project deadlines so it was totally an unforgettable experience. We departed right after we finished our final examination and had to be in quarantine for two weeks. During the two weeks of quarantine, I was grateful to get to calm down for a bit and took it as an opportunity to rest from studying. We were moved to our designated dormitory after the quarantine was over. The dormitory was comfortable and we got free food at the cafeteria three times a day throughout the semester. Thanks to JBNU for sponsoring the exchange students.
During the early semester, classes were conducted through online platforms. Later, classes were conducted physically so students could get the opportunity to experience face-to-face classes after such a long time. It was such a nice experience meeting friends from different countries. I feel more confident and open-minded after interacting with them. Most classes were conducted fully in Korean language so we got used to it quickly. Lecturers were also very helpful in explaining Korean language and sometimes used body language to express the meaning. Taking Korean language courses, I feel like I found a new passion and I was lucky enough to produce a book, compilation of our beginner level essays homework. Not to mention our Korean language skills got better quickly because English is rarely used anywhere in South Korea except for tourist spots.
During the weekdays, I rarely spend time outside of the classroom and the area around the dormitory. I also tend to finish my homework and assignments as quickly as possible, having been influenced by the studious air among the local students in the campus. During weekends and the occasional Korean national holidays we get throughout the semester, I would go travel with my friends. I learned to communicate with the locals in Korean and to plan my trip extensively based on the public transportation available. Living in Korea was very costly, so I also learned to be extra frugal and to save money on transportation by walking to the destination. From these experiences, I learned how to manage my time and expenditure wisely so as to make the most of everything! I also learned how precious both time and money are and will definitely not waste either of these on unimportant things.
Stepping onto Korean land, I noticed how few Muslims were there! This phenomenon birthed a unique situation, one which I would never think I would be facing anytime soon: encountering people who have no idea what being a Muslim entails. I have had curious people asking about the hijab I wore countless times. However, most of the time, people would just stare from afar. I did not fault them for their wariness and curiosity, and were always happy to explain with my very limited Korean language skills. Besides, there was also another challenge for us Muslims in Korea, and that is the difficulty of finding a mosque or praying room. Most places do not have a praying room, or they do have one, but was closed due to the pandemic. I have never faced such challenges in Malaysia as Islam is the majority religion there and one can also easily find a prayer room. This situation made me appreciate my religion more. It also made me very grateful for Malaysia’s abundant mosques and praying rooms and how these commodities were always made accessible to the public.
Thinking back to the moment I found the advertisement for this program, I found it very interesting but there was also a feeling of reluctance as I have never been very far from my family and home. After consulting my Academic Advisor, I was convinced that I should try to apply for this program and here I am, not regretting that decision one bit! I definitely suggest other students to also try this program or any other outbound program they found. Outbound programs like this will bring us students many benefits. Not only can one sharpen their minds by experiencing different styles of education, but one can also be more immersed in learning about other cultures! Moreover, this is a brilliant opportunity for students to challenge themselves to learn a new language and immediately apply it to their daily lives. Outbound students also get to improve their personal growth as they can learn to be more independent in managing their life and studies. I implore other students to please not fear the unknown and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone!
Article By : Siti Maisarah Binti Azlizam (198481) & Nurul Izzati Binti Mohd Fauzi (198570)
Faculty : Faculty Computer Science and Information Technology
Program Name : Jeonbuk National University Semester Exchange Program (Fall Intake 2021/2022).
Date of Input: 26/04/2023 | Updated: 26/04/2023 | sh_najiyah
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