Students from over 50 different countries study at CNU’s Daedeok Campus. It is common to see people from all around the world on campus, and this makes for a more international academic environment.
However, how well do we know our foreign peers?
What is Worldwide CNU?
In Worldwide CNU, we interview CNU’s international students. During the interviews, we share our interests, feelings, and stories with our peers from overseas.
Our Story for Today — Alysse Herrou-Bebin
In the 267th publication of The Chungdae Post, we will learn more about Alysse, a student from France. Alysse is not like most foreign students at CNU, though. She is currently a graduate student working on her Ph.D.
In this publication of Worldwide CNU, we decided to ask Alysse why she came to Korea, and why she decided to study in Korea. Furthermore, we asked her what it has been like to stay and study in Korea, at the same time as getting to know a bit more about her.
Please briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Alysse, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geological Sciences here at CNU. I come from France, and I started studying here at the start of March 2019. Before that, I completed my undergraduate program in France and Canada and achieved my master’s degree in France.
What led you to study in Korea as a graduate student, and in general? Had you been interested in coming to Korea before you chose to live part of your life here, or was it a sudden choice?
My master’s program ended with a 6-month long internship under one of my professors. She was at that time a leader at an international marine geosciences workshop, of which my current supervisor was a participant. She knew that my current supervisor’s research interests coincided with mine, so she gave me his contact information, and I ended up on his team of graduate students!
I was interested in Korean culture, like a lot of younger French people, and I wanted to come here for a vacation, but I had no plans to actually live here. I am the type to just jump at opportunities to live abroad, though, so when I got accepted at CNU I was ready to come.
What is it like studying in Korea? How are you liking your department? Does the learning environment in Korea differ from that in Western countries?
Studying in the Department of Geological Sciences is a lot of fun! The department is not very big, so I interact with almost all of the students there on a weekly basis, and my lab in particular is a welcoming environment. When I first came, I did not speak Korean, so I had to learn on the fly, but my colleagues were patient and eager to speak to me, which made the whole experience a lot nicer. The learning environment in Korea is a mix of what I have experienced in North America and Korean culture, which makes it familiar and foreign at the same time. The time management and cultural freedoms of North American universities mix with the hierarchical culture of Korea in a way that somehow works, which is fascinating to me!
How has your time been so far at CNU?
The application process was a lot harder for me since I was still in France at that time, and I had to get a lot of help from my professor and colleagues here, but once I settled in Korea, life got a lot easier. CNU’s Office of International Affairs takes care of a lot of administrative and visa-related procedures on a student’s behalf and offers a lot of free cultural programs during non-Covid 19 times, so they definitely made my life a lot easier! I have met a lot of people through these programs, and I am still great friends with some of them a year and a half later.
How are you finding life in Korea? Is it easy to live in Korea as a foreigner? How’s the culture? Are there some things you like better in Korea, and what don’t you like?
Korea is a very welcoming country for foreigners who try to learn the language and understand the culture. I have had a lot of positive interactions, and I enjoy learning about the culture from my friends and colleagues. Two years into living here, I still experience culture shock sometimes, but those times are always good learning opportunities! I like the convenience of Korea, where everything is designed with the customer/user in mind, but I miss the seaside and the wilderness of my hometown. I have also been facing more health issues due to the dry climate and the pollution, so I would like to be able to go back to my hometown for the holidays, but it is hard this year...
What is something you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy sewing while listening to a good podcast or watching a movie. When I go out, it is usually to a small café to meet some friends, and I will sometimes take my sewing or a book there. As a Ph.D. student, however, free time is limited, so I try to rest as much as I can so that I can focus all of my brainpower on my research.
What are your social circles like? Do you have a lot of Korean friends or more foreign friends? Do you get along with people in Daejeon?
My social circle is quite diverse! I am the only foreigner in my lab, but outside of work, my friends are from all around the world, Korea included. I try to interact with new foreign students at the start of each semester so they feel welcomed, so I have a lot of foreign friends. But through student clubs, I have also met a lot of Korean students.
How has Covid-19 been for you and international students in general? Do you believe in a post-Covid-19 world, and do you think that things will be better? If not, why not, and what are you doing to prepare yourself?
Getting through the pandemic in Korea, I have felt a lot safer than if I were to still be in Europe, but it has also left me quite worried for my family and friends back in France. I think a lot of international students, especially those of us from countries that have managed the pandemic poorly, feel like we are in this weird realm of relief and worry. I would like to believe in a health-and-sanitation-cautious post-Covid-19 world, but I think we are still very far from the end of the pandemic, and we will probably never go back to a pre-Covid-19 normal. We have to redefine normal life, recover from the public health and economic crises, and deal with the long-term effects of the virus. So even after the end of the pandemic, we will still have a lot of work to do!
Do you have anything more, or a final message, to share with our readers?
The time we are going through right now is not fun, but we, international students, will be able to go back to our hometowns sooner or later. So let’s hold on until then and wear our masks!
by Quedahm Chin firstname.lastname@example.org
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