Selasa, 18 April 2017

[Exchange Student Life] - Chuncheon Family

The first time I got the news of I go a chance to live in Korea, I was overwhelmed by the joy. It was difficult not to, I've been dreaming of living abroad since I was in elementary school and it was just a step away!

It was true that I was almost devastated waiting the acceptance announcement from the university and the scholarship back then. The university acceptance announcement was quick, but the scholarship wasn't. Back then, if I didn't get the scholarship, I wouldn't take the offer. Studying abroad with self-funding had never been any option for me, and my family of course. Finally, the scholarship announcement released about 1,5 months later, I was about to scream joyfully if I were not in the office. I was on my internship back then. 

The preparation was a little bit confusing. I was only given about less than 2 weeks before my departure. I had to handle lots and lots of thing including moving my stuffs from my boarding house in Semarang to my relative's house in Solo, the visa stuff, tickets, LoA, an so on, and so on. But as I recall, that time, I didn't feel it was difficult. True that I was in a rush, but not so difficult. 

Although the scholarship was fully funded, from airfare, accomodation, health insurance and even a settlement allowance, I didn't know that I still had to prepare some money for all the preparation. NIIED, the organization which gave me the scholarship through Kangdae, rather than giving me money for me to buy the airfare ticket nor they buy me ticket, the reimburse mechanism was used. I asked my father to lend his money for the airfare ticket, and we bought a discounted ticket from Garuda Indonesia. As I remember, Garuda Indonesia gave 30% discount if you're a student from appointed university. 

My father and my mom role-playing before my departure, somewhere in Solo's market.
D-2, I asked my friend, Dita, who previously got the same scholarship in the same university as me  about the preparation should I do. It was late, I know, but it's better late than never right? She said, that I have to prepare some money because the scholarship will be given around 1,5 months after my arrival. She mentioned that it was around 5 million rupiahs, at least for a living cost for a month. She didn't know about this too when she came to Korea so she borrowed some money from a friend.

Uh Oh. I wasn't anticipating it. 

I didn't brave enough to ask my father for more money. I had asked him for the airfare ticket already. I said to him the program was entirely free. Until the time I flew, I didn't tell him about this. I only had like 100 dollars in my hand, it was given by my mother's boss. I gotta spent it 30 dollars for the blanket and another 10 dollars for the dormitory guarantee fee. Of course, with that money, I could only survived for about a week, and I had no idea how to continue my life in Korea after that.

Kak Elok

Long story short, I met fellow Indonesians who studied in the same university as me. They were mostly Master and PhD students who had lived in Korea for more than 5 years. One of them is kak Elok, she was an undergraduate student. Actually, I am older than her, but she's more senior in Korea so I got used to call her with 'Kak' or 'Sis/Unnie'. Back to my survival story, so I had no option rather than talking about this matter to kak Elok. It was very uncomfortable, talking about financial matter with someone whom you just know for about 1-2 weeks! I told myself, that I wanted to live independently here in Korea, without financial support from my family. That was uneasy.

Swallowed my pride, I came to kak Elok. She answer with a quick yes that saved my life in Korea, at least until I got my scholarship. She lent me like 300,000 won at that time, and I promised to pay it back as soon as possible.

So, I survived...... not, till I got a letter said that I supposed to pay like 450,000 won for my dormitory. I thought the dormitory was already paid by NIIED but it wasn't. I went to theinternational students affair, asking if there were any special privilege to postpone the dormitory payment... or if the universitu could pay it first for me then I will definitely return the money once I got the scholarship. I also called Dita again, asking what she did for the dormitory payment back then. She said during her studies, she was allowed to postpone the payment. Probably in 2013, thw office considering a lot of things so that privilege was stopped by the time I enrolled. I was too embarassed to ask for money to another fellow friends. Finally, I gave up. I called my father that I need this money to pay for my dormitory, if not, they will kick me out. Evidently, we will all come back to our family in the end. But I learned a lesson from what happened. I found a family, 5000 km faraway from home, here, in Chuncheon.

what made the poor me poorer... but the room indeed was nice
There were several Indonesians who studied in Kangdae back then in 2013. We made a group in Kakaotalk called Chuncheon Family. We made a lot of activities together. We went to Gangneung to have a sakura-picnic for 2 days 1 night in Spring. Sometimes, we celebrated someone's birthday or even holding a religion celebration like breakfasting, together with our Moslem fellow from Pakistan and Egypt, or did Eid El-Fitr Prayer. We played bowling, we went to sport center to play badminton. We also hang out together, ate sundubu jjigae at Aemakgol, then went Karaoke. Karaoke - or Noraebang in Korea is fantastic. If we reserve for 1-2 hours, as long as there aren't any customers waiting, the ahjussi will give us extra time. Sometimes, the extra time even longer than the the duration we reserved. So we were most likely to spend like 5 hours alone inside the karaoke room. 

On Chuncheon Family trip to Gangneung

The people I met in Chuncheon, indeed they are great people. They were so strong, mentally and physically. Before I flew to Korea, I thought that getting a scholarship as and exchange program was a big achievement. But I was little bit embarassed when I met a lot of great people in Chuncheon alone. An exchange student title felt so low comparing to the Master and PhD students here 😅

Potkot sightseeing in Gangneung

I met mas Muhlis, who've been in Chuncheon for around 7 years, and he was like a father for Chuncheon Family, we called him Pak RT at that time. I met kak Elok, who got an undergraduate degree scholarship who speaks a fluent Korean. I met mas Sisko and mas Rois who were so good at their subjects, thus they have published a lot of international papers. I met kak Fandy, kak Adrian and kak Raymond, as people who I barely found in my circle of friend if I were only stay in Indonesia. I met kak Regga who has a broad mind and deep understanding about Law, the subject he was studying. I met kak Eneng, and kak Kelvin. I met Umi, a funny girl who always said that she's from a small village who always have fascinated stories to tell. I met Festina, Anin and Khusnul... who are younger than me, I met my bestfriends Isna and Ratna here in Korea... to whom I can rely on and last but not least... I met kak Dira, who is so thoughtful, so clever so you can speak anything to her. 

Football match with locals!
 The Korea land is remarkable, but my fellow Indonesian friends has made it more remarkable. 

Grocery shopping with Festin

 In Korea, I met people whom I could look up to. Not only my family in Chuncheon, but also other countrymen who happened to be in Korea too during my stay. Indonesian students who lived in Korea at that time, made an organization named Perpika (Persatuan Pelajar di Korea Selatan). They held a lot of event, mostly in Seoul. Sometimes it was a content meeting but sometimes it was just a picnic. When we just meet and have a small talk with them, they may appear like common people, but the more we talked to them, they mostly have admiring experiences, as they're so good in Indonesia so they were sent to South Korea to pursue something higher, be it degree, or another academic experience.

Kak Elok and Kak Yuni

Studying in Korea has taught me about how important it is to keep intouch with your fellow countrymen. Even when you barely know them, they were almost always ready to help you. I think it is because they have experienced the same thing as you, or even worst, so they tend to be more helpful. It wis almost impossible to live that independent when you're abroad. Sometimes you miss your home, sometimes you want to speak without thinking with your mother tongue, or sometimes, you really need a help. I am not saying that the other friends weren't being helpful but there are helps that can only come from people who knows you, knows your culture, your language, or even your situation.

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