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"It flew by so fast": Spring 2024 semester students reflect on their first semester at KDIS

  • Date 2024-05-17 09:53
  • CategoryStory
  • Hit772

KDIS News Center was joined by Ericka Nieto from the Philippines and Enelless Namagowa Gama from Malawi, two KDIS students who have recently completed their first semester at KDI School. 

Enelless is deeply passionate about youth development. With a background in social work, she made significant contributions to her country's youth initiatives while working at the Arts & Global Health Center Africa, particularly within the Department of Youth and Community Engagement. 

Ericka Nieto worked in Thomson Reuters, Primary Laws and Content Operations Department in the Phillippines. She has a background in journalism, writing, editing and professional hosting and volunteered at  Art Relief Mobile Kitchen, an NGO focused on providing hot meals for communities affected by different disasters in the Philippines.

The following is the edited excerpt of the interview where they share their first semester experiences at KDIS.

You have such rich experiences and background in your home country, what led you to pursue a master's degree here at KDI School?

Ericka: Since KDIS is known as a leading institution in research and teaching in public policy and management, I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree here as I aim to widen my knowledge and strengthen my capabilities to be of service to my countrymen. As well as deepening my understanding of policy-making, essential for my personal commitment to empowering women and protecting human rights, my passion for education is driven by my philosophy that to whatever extent I can exert, I will try to be part of the solution.

Enelless: I had always wanted to enhance my educational experience, and KDIS popped up as a golden opportunity for me. I liked how I could complete my master's in one year and return to my home country, back to the work that I used to do. The second main reason that attracted me to KDIS was the school diversity, which I considered an opportunity to learn about communities from other countries. And what better place to learn about Korean development than in Korea, although my obsession with K-dramas was another convincing factor to come to Korea (laughs).

What have you found most interesting about your first semester at KDI School, including any amusing moments while adjusting to life in Korea?

Ericka: The first semester flew so fast. And I would say, that’s also how fast I have adjusted to my life at KDIS. Living in the KDIS Dormitory is not just my first living in another country experience, it is also my first living in a dorm experience. And I would say that the Filipino community in KDIS are the major factor in how I easily adjusted. We sometimes cook together and go to church together. Adjusting has been easy so far because, with the common interests, we still get to live  a piece of life that we are used to in our home country. 

Enelless: My first semester at KDI School was my first experience in a different country, and as a student, I found integrating technology into the class systems fascinating. Everything felt systematic and efficient, which was quite interesting. And it was amazing to have professors who are experts in their respective fields, yet very approachable. 

Have you had any notable experiences with the extra activities organized by the school, such as the Buddy Program or field trips?

Ericka: I participated in the Buddy Program. I have 3 buddies (2 different groups). The first group is composed of me, an international student buddy, and a Korean member of staff. While the second group is composed of me and another Korean staff member. 

I have been to South Korea various times before, but this is my first spring in South Korea. I was able to witness the peak of cherry blossom season with my buddies. To add, my younger sister had visited me during spring and joined us during my trips with my buddies. The Buddy Program was a really good experience. There is cultural exchange and newly formed friendships because of it.

Enelless: Participating in the field trips was a memorable experience for me.  We went on a three-day-long Korea Field Research and Study (KFRS) field trip where we got to explore various organizations across three different cities in Korea. I also went on a field trip to Gwangju City as a part of my Korean Class.  

How would you describe the academic atmosphere here at KDI School, Have there been any professors or courses that particularly stood out to you during your first semester?

Ericka: As someone who was used to 2 semesters only per academic year, since we have a trimester here in KDIS, it is fast-paced I would say. But the professors are really nice, approachable, and knowledgeable in their field of expertise. The backgrounds of the professors are very impressive—they are experts in the field. For courses that I enjoyed, although I have enjoyed a lot of them, the Korean Language and Culture Class I was really fun. 

Enelless: I actually enjoyed most of my classes, but if I have to point out one, I’d say the Urban and Regional Development course really had an impact on me. The professor is well-versed in her field, and I was learning new things every class. Additionally, the Korean language class was memorable. We were nervous and shy learning Korean for the first time, but the professor was very supportive and provided a conducive environment for learning.

Looking ahead, are there any Korean traditions or cultural aspects you're interested in exploring further during your time at KDI School or in Korea?

Ericka: I am looking forward to exploring other provinces in South Korea. Although I am yet to decide where I’ll figure it out along the way. 

I am documenting my life in South Korea through my social media postings on TikTok and YouTube, so I am also looking forward to exploring more of Korea and sharing it there. Hopefully, this will encourage aspiring international students to pursue studies here at KDIS.

Enelless: Yeah! I want to explore more Korean foods. Jeju Island is on my travel bucket list, and I also look forward to exploring other parts of Korea, especially the places with historical and cultural significance.

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