David Charles Sidwell

Date: SP2, 2014
Degree Program: Bachelor of Arts Creative Writing and Communication
Host University: Sogang University
Host Country: South Korea

David Charles SidwellWhy did you choose your host university?

I chose Sogang University because they held some interesting Writing classes that are relevant to my interests and future career goals. These classes (scriptwriting and life writing) gave me a chance to engage in creative assignments while also challenging myself to produce different types of writing. Additionally, I heard that Sogang University has very good Korean language and culture classes, which it does, and they were thoroughly enjoyable and hands-on.

What was the university like?

My classes where mostly for foreign students and were taught in English. The professors were enthusiastic and knowledgeable and engaged well with the students. Assessments were similar to those at Uni SA except also included exams (midterms and finals). The professors helped ensure we had plenty of time to prepare for exams and assessments. Sogang campus has a large library spanning three buildings and has plenty of resources available. However, I mainly used resources provided in class, which were numerous and sufficient. I was not aware of an online library portal and so if I needed to make use of one I relied on Uni SA’s online library.

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

My time in South Korea has made me more culturally open and has broadened my perspective on the possibilities of securing future work, studies, or relationships in foreign countries. For example, I am hoping to pursue either a start to my career in Seoul or undertake some graduate studies in Seoul, and I think in the future if I can work in collaboration with South Korean companies and Australian companies I would very much like to do so. A measure of cross cultural exchange and cooperation is more important to me now.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

I stayed on campus in the exchange student dormitories. The facilities and quality of the accommodation was quite high standard and their location was convenient. I shared my room with another student, and I chose a Korean to help me gain a bit more immersion into Korean life. The accommodation was affordable at approximately 400 AUD per month. I would recommend this accommodation to future students.

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I did a bit of local travel during the semester. Travelling around the country is quite easy and affordable. The KTX trains quickly travel to the Southern city of Busan, and flights from Seoul to the southern island of Jeju are quick and reasonably priced. However, I spent most of my time in Seoul. There are many temples, mountains, parks, forests, and tourist attractions easily accessible inside Seoul.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I found adjustment quite easy. Although at times there were language barriers because of my lack of Korean this was not a problem on campus. Korean students mostly speak English, and they are very friendly and show great hospitality to foreigners. I made friends with other exchange students and with some Koreans that I met from my classes or through my Korean roommate or during my time in the dormitory. Additionally, I joined a group called ‘H.U.G’ that assigned exchange students with a Korean buddy and organised events, culture classes, and activities, it was a great way to socialise during the semester. Korean culture places importance on eating with family and friends, and so I rarely ate alone and I sampled many Korean dishes.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

If I secure a graduate degree in Korea, then definitely. This exchange made me aware of that possibility. And my plans to stay in Korea and find some work for a year or so will also help as the first steps in my career. My job goals as a writer and editor involve being able to work with diverse audiences and on varied types of writing, so I think that working in Korea for a while could make me a desirable candidate for employers, especially if they have ties to an international audience or market. Having already spent time in Korea and having some awareness of it, and especially being able to say I studied at Sogang University, will be more desirable to employers in Korea than those with limited or no experience in Korea.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

I have no regrets about my exchange. In fact, it was more valuable experience to me than I could have known. I have made some great friends, had some unforgettable experiences, and as mentioned above, it has helped me to see a potential career path that I previously did not know was possible.

Top Tips:

As cliché as it sounds, the most valuable thing I did was to try new things and to be a bit brave. If it is deciding whether to go on a trip, or whether to try some new food, or how to tackle collaborating with foreign students in class, the best thing I did was being open.

A more practical top tip is to put effort in to learning some of the local language, culture, or history. If you can demonstrate even an interest in their language and culture it goes a long way to ingratiating yourself into a group, or stimulating conversation, or learning little things that you might not have otherwise.


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