Adapting to A Foreign Culture
Adapting to A Foreign Culture
  • 김은서 기자
  • 승인 2019.04.16 09:00
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Overcoming Challenges of Living Abroad

Malaysia, Taiwan, China, and Canada. Seowon University students with a desire to study outside of Korea during vacation time, for one semester or one full year, can choose many international exchange programs.

Taking courses at a foreign university might not be too difficult, but living abroad and adapting to a foreign culture isn’t easy. Before you travel, research the country. The Seowon University library has many travel guide books, such as the Lonely Planet series. Each book has a section on the culture of the country.

Search the Internet by typing the country name and ‘culture’ to learn about what actions are impolite, religious attitudes, and customs about clothing, food, alcohol, meeting people, and the cost of living.

English education professor Jo Hyung-sook knows all about adapting to a foreign culture. Professor Jo lived in various parts of the United States for seven years and wrote a book about her experiences.

(Picture = By reporter, Gim Seon-hwa) English Education Professor Jo Hyung-sook
(Picture = By reporter, Gim Seon-hwa) English Education Professor Jo Hyung-sook


Seowon News sat down with the professor to share her experiences studying and living abroad.

Seowon News : Where did you live abroad and for how long?

Jo Hyung-sook : I lived for two years in the state of Georgia in the southern U.S., one semester in Boston, Massachusetts in the Northeast U.S., and five years in the state of Florida, again the southern U.S.

SN : Why were you there?

JHS : While staying in the U.S., I pursued my degrees. Since I was a graduate student with an F-1 visa, I spent most of my time studying and conducting research.

SN : What were your biggest challenges?

JHS : The challenges that I faced varied, but I had difficulties going through financial problems. I quit my job in Korea and went abroad for further study. I frequently suffered from economic troubles. I could not buy necessities of life and school supplies for my sons, which caused me to feel sleep disorder and depression. Secondly, my sons and I experienced social isolation because of the language barrier and cultural differences.

SN : How did you overcome them?

JHS : To overcome the financial issue, I worked illegally in a laundry shop. My weekly payment was around 120-140 dollars. It helped for the living cost. For social support, I went to a Korean local Catholic church to meet Koreans. I could meet Korean immigrant families and Korean students to share information and advice. It was really helpful for me to get over my loneliness and emotional depression. I am always thankful for the Catholic sisters that encouraged me to keep going for my destination.

SN : What advice can you share for students?

JHS : Living in a foreign country is not easy. Foreigners are likely to experience financial difficulties, language barriers, and emotional problems.  Leaving their human network established in their native country, immigrants or students have to rebuild their lives from scratch in the new country. I hope that my students will have intercultural competences to communicate and interact with diverse people. Also, I hope that my students will be warm-hearted and supportive to foreigners who try their new life in Korea.

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