검색
Contact us | KOREAN

NEWSLETTER

00707012
2012.10
background left image
background right image
background handphone image
background pen image
KOREAN

The Joy of Discovering Korean Culture/KF Fellow’s Account of his Exciting Sojourns

As a Ph.D. student of psychology at the National Conservatory of Arts & Crafts (Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers) in Paris, my thesis is focused on a cross-cultural comparison, of France, South Korea, and the United States in regard to the career development of college students. I recently received a Korea Foundation Field Research Fellowship that enabled me to conduct on-site research in Korea. This essay describes my personal experiences in learning about Korea and its culture.

First Encounter with Korean Culture

While traveling around Korea, I keep getting the same banal questions: “Why did you choose to learn Korean?” and “How did you learn Korean?” So, I think it may be a good introduction of myself to elaborate on my answers to these questions. But let me start by recalling my first encounter with Korea. While an undergraduate student majoring in psychology, I was surprised to find that I could get credits by taking classes on Korean language and culture at the psychology department, although it might be difficult to make any meaningful connection between the two areas. Probably because of my curiosity and some burgeoning interest in Asian culture, I decided to enroll in those courses and learn more about South Korea. At that time, except for taekwondo, I had very limited knowledge of Korea and actually no idea about Korean culture at all.

The writer guides a Korean exchange student from Jeju Island studying French in summer 2008. The Korean language and culture classes were very interesting, largely focusing on the practical aspects of Korean culture such as the social behavior of Koreans like their time-honored respect for elders, kinship, business culture, dietary culture, and table manners. Moreover, during the summer toward the end of the semester, there was a student exchange program every year between my university and Jeju National University, and my teacher was looking for volunteers to spend time with the visiting Korean students. So I came to have my very first interaction with foreign students and my first opportunity to communicate with anyone in English. My Korean language ability was extremely limited at the time; I could barely say, “Hello! My name is Laurent and I am French.” However, the Korean students were so friendly and full of energy, so we had little problem communicating with each other.

Summer at Jeju National University

Climbing to the top of Mount Halla in rain was not easy but left me (in yellow rain coat) with unforgettable memories. The next year I had a chance to travel to Korea for the first time to attend the 2009 summer school program at Jeju National University. I was very happy to meet my Korean friends again. The intensive two-week program included language courses in the morning and cultural activities during the afternoon and weekend, as well as social gatherings and even parties in the evening to enjoy the night culture. Also crammed into my already tight schedule were visits to many exciting places, such as a traditional market, a national art museum, Buddhist temples, the women divers’ museum, schools, a traditional costume museum, beaches, the city hall, and even Hallasan, the highest mountain in Korea. After the summer school courses, my classmates and I visited Seoul for another week, exploring many landmark places around the capital. I vividly remember how surprised I was with the city: All the buildings were so huge, the subway was crowded with people, and life seemed to go on without end, with markets open around the clock.

At the end of the trip, while my friends went back home, I stayed on for a month to serve an internship at Seoul National University and study about the Korean educational system. I had to read countless papers and books but I still found the internship really interesting because I could learn a lot by observing other students working on their theses in the same lab. I was amazed to see how hard they worked and how their relationships with their professors were so important as to guide their decisions. When I returned to France, my head was full of good memories of my first summer in Korea. My interest in Korean culture continued to grow deeper and I looked forward to coming back here again as soon as possible.

Volunteer Services and Social Activities

Through my ensuing trips to Korea to work on my graduate and doctoral research, I discovered many more aspects of Korean culture. Since I like meeting new people and exchanging ideas and opinions, I became more and more interested in human relationships (This might be why I like psychology!) and I found an answer to my desire to participate in social events through volunteer services in Korea. It was my new approach to Korean culture and I enjoyed it very much. Last year, within a month, I participated in as many as 40 events while working on my doctoral research at the same time. Most notably, I worked as a volunteer helping out sick children in a hospital, taking care of abandoned dogs at an animal shelter, and spending time with the elderly at a senior center. I also participated in various activities like a marathon race, conferences, festivals, and exhibitions. I even visited a kimchi factory.

Eventually, despite a heavy schedule focused on my doctoral work, I have ended up continuing my never-ending exploration of Korean culture through my active participation in various cultural and social activities. From my diverse experiences, I can say there are infinite ways to approach and enjoy a culture. Fortunately, Korea is open wide to foreigners aspiring to share its culture.

Sovet participates in a marathon race in Seoul in autumn 2011.

Laurent Sove
Ph.D. Student of Psychology
National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris;
Korea Foundation Field Research Follow

copyright 2011 한국국제교류재단 ALL Rights Reserved | 137-072 서울특별시 서초구 남부순환로 2558 외교센터빌딩 10층 | 02-2046-8500 | newsletter@kf.or.kr