The greatest resource you will ever utilize while in Korea is your Korean friend.
My host university in Seoul has a great program for all international students, pairing them up with Korean students in an attempt to ease the transition and forge friendships. Korea University Buddy Assistants (KUBA) “Buddies” are great resources for getting around the school and practicing Korean. Beyond that, it provides study abroad students an opportunity to make friends from all over the world with different backgrounds, and from different departments, and grades that you would never meet otherwise. In my case, I became very close to a Korean buddy, Semi, who I met because she is my roommate’s “Buddy”. She has made my experience in Korea ten times more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I enjoyed talking to her about her experiences befriending international students.
For me, Semi is someone that I love talking to and hanging out with, not only because she speaks fluent Korean, but she’s been able to help me with things I didn’t even realize I struggle with. Communicating at a hair salon, asking about cultural customs, reading a Korean sign; these are situations with new words and phrases that you don’t think about until you realize that you’re not quite sure what to say on your own. Semi has never hesitated at helping me out. On more than one occasion she has been quick to volunteer, always with a smile. I’ve heard similar stories from other friends about Korean friends they’ve made, how they’re quick to help, and are always going above and beyond expectations. When I talked to Semi about her experiences with international friends, she claimed she was initially nervous because she is self-conscious about her English, however now she “wholeheartedly does not regret meeting” her friends that she has made so far. She’s also talked about how becoming friends with international students has been such a great experience for her because she’s learned so many different things from them. At first it feels like an unequal relationship, as if I have learned the most from my Korean friend. After getting closer with Semi, I realized that they’re gaining just as much from our relationship as I am.
The important thing to keep in mind is that your Korean buddy is first and foremost your friend. They can help you find places and meet new people, but the friendships that you form and memories you’ll make along the way will stay with you forever.
The world awaits…discover it.