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[Home Visiting Program] Discovering Korean Culture: Firsthand Experiences from International Students

  • Date 2024-07-09 17:24
  • CategoryStory
  • Hit248

The Home Visiting Program offers a unique opportunity for international students to immerse themselves in Korean culture by spending time with local families. This year's program featured multiple groups of participants from diverse backgrounds. Among them was a group that included Bhatkar Pooja Gajanan, Bhadra Mamta Jagdish, Htwe Ei Thaw Lwin, Thae Oo Khine, and Park Hyun Jun, who served as the host. I had the pleasure of interviewing Pooja and Htwe Ei about their experiences and insights gained during the program.

How did participating in the Home Visiting Program enhance your understanding of Korean culture? 

Pooja described her visit to Jun's home in Daejeon, where she and Mamta experienced traditional Korean hospitality. Yeon Jung (Jun's wife) prepared a variety of dishes for us, including spicy braised chicken, stir-fried glass noodles, and kimchi pancake. She even considered Mamta's vegetarian preferences.' Pooja, reflecting on this hospitality, thought that it demonstrated the deep-rooted Korean tradition of showing kindness and consideration towards guests. Htwe Ei agreed, highlighting the caring and close-knit nature of Korean households. She said, ‘It was joyful to see how Korean families care for each other and treat their kids with kindness.’ This first-hand experience of Korean family life provided both students with a deeper understanding of the culture's values and customs.

What activities or places visited during the program did you find most interesting or enlightening?

Both participants highlighted different aspects of the program that they found particularly enlightening. Pooja shared, 'After dinner, they served rice cake, cheesecake, and watermelon. Jun's elder son taught us magic and even served as our Korean teacher for a couple of hours, reading us his storybooks and showing us Taekwondo tricks. It felt like spending time with family back home.' Htwe Ei cherished the scenic views of Sejong that their host shared with them. 'Jun took us to see the mountain view of Sejong, and we savored a chilled-out pizza get-together. It was both calming and enriching.' Through these activities, the participants experienced both everyday Korean life and special cultural exchanges, deepening their understanding of Korea.

Can you describe any significant cultural differences you learned about through your host student?

When talking about cultural differences, Pooja and Htwe Ei had interesting thoughts. Pooja mentioned that there weren't many major differences, interacting with a Korean family allowed them to see the everyday aspects of daily life that we don't often hear about. Htwe Ei pointed out a specific cultural gesture that stood out to her. She mentioned,' In Myanmar, young students fold their hands and bow to greet elders, but in Korea, folding hands is considered rude. This was an interesting cultural difference that our host explained to us.' These little details are important for gaining a deeper respect and understanding of different cultures.

What were some of the most rewarding aspects of the program for you, and would you recommend the Home Visiting Program to other international students?

They both found the program incredibly fulfilling. ‘The connections I made and the memories I created will last a lifetime. It helped me learn more about Korean culture and also about Myanmar culture from my fellow participants,' Pooja shared enthusiastically. Htwe Ei emphasized the importance of the connections formed through the program. She said,' It's wonderful to extend your social network. The Korean hosts are really kind, and we can share experiences together. We now have a connection and can ask our Korean mate for suggestions whenever needed.' 

Both Pooja and Htwe Ei wholeheartedly recommended the Home Visiting Program to other international students. Pooja wrapped up by stating,’ The program enhances your cultural understanding and social network, helping you connect with Korean students and students from other countries’ Ei added,’ Absolutely. It’s a wonderful program, and you can extend your social network. The Korean hosts are really kind, and a great opportunity to share experiences together.'

To sum up, the Home Visiting Program offers an invaluable opportunity for cultural exchange, nurturing friendships and forging lasting memories. For international students seeking deeper insights into Korean culture and meaningful connections, this program is indispensable.

Interested in participating in the Home Visiting Program next semester? The program will most likely open next semester, so do apply.

To hear other stories from participants in the Home Visiting Program, why not check out the articles linked below: 

[Home Visiting Program] Professor Dongil Lee's Amazing, Fun-filled Home Visit with his Ph.D. Students

[Home Visiting Program] Interview with Professor Changkeun Lee

[Home Visiting Program] “I am glad that I participated”: Mrs Misun Han (Head of Finance and Accounting Division)

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ALI, Qamer

2023 Fall / MDP / Pakistan

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