It was one humid afternoon five years ago. I was staying in our dormitory, striving to cram one semester’s worth of information into my brain for a test I will take in a few hours. Suddenly, my phone started vibrating and ringing, dancing to its own song.
“Hello, Kat! You don’t know who I am, but I know everything about you. You are a burnt out college student whose life energy is derived from Super Junior and all things Korean.”
“Well, that’s obvious from my Facebook posts, so I am not impressed.”
“Oh really? How about this: we know you lined up for 12 hours under the scorching sun, just so you can have the best spot in the Standing VIP area for Super Show. We know you empty your piggy bank so you can splurge on Super Junior merch and Korean products. We know you want to be an exchange student, and once you are in South Korea, you’ll make Heechul fall in love with you.”
“How… how did you know this?! Are you an S.P.Y.?”
“And yes, we recognize that reference from that Super Junior song. Anyway, your prayers have been answered. You will be an exchange student in South Korea for one year!”
*cue trumpet sounds and confetti*
Or at least, that’s how I imagined it to play out. Actually, I did not receive a phone call, but a much less dramatic text message. But that doesn’t change the most important part: I am going to South Korea!!!!
*cue trumpet sounds and confetti as I fall down on my knees and ugly cry my heart out*
Goodbyes and Hellos (or should I say, Annyeongs and Annyeongs)
In the program I would participate in, I would receive air fare, tuition fee, dormitory fees, and a modest stipend. I would also go with three other students.
The name of our university is Korea University of Technology and Education. It is situated in Cheonan, South Korea, around an hour from Seoul by train.
After months of fulfilling school requirements, accomplishing forms, securing a visa, packing bags, and saying tearful goodbyes to friends and family, the day had come!
We left the Philippines and arrived at Incheon International Airport on March 7, 2012.
On that cold spring night, we set foot on our temporary home, the International House Dormitory. Here, will also work part time as English teachers and residential assistants. We helped Korean students learn English through playing games, shooting videos, and chatting away.
It was both work and play for us, and getting paid for it was sweet bonus!
We also had to focus on our studies too. We continued our Korean language education, and also had courses on Management, Education, and even Personality Development. Good thing these courses are offered in English!
Also, our professors were kind. We even had bonding moments outside the classroom, like when our Korean instructor bought us on a field trip, and our Linguistics professor treated us to a scrumptious lunch at a fancy Chinese restaurant. They helped us feel welcome.
(To be continued here.)