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University of Washington student, Ridwan, recently interned in the International Affairs office at the University of Ulsan in South Korea. Read about her journey in self-realization here.

South Korea Welcomes Ridwan

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to come to South Korea and experience a different culture.  I have not yet finished my internship here in South Korea. I started interning at the University of Ulsan this summer in the International Affairs and Education Office. Since I have been here I have learned a lot more in five months than I could’ve imagined. I learned more about myself as well as what I want to do in the future. I work alongside a group of people who’ve helped me have a new perspective on life because I was able to work outside of my comfort zone. Being in South Korea has made it easier for me to reflect on what I want to do in the future.

This internship has helped me come to the realization that I want to work abroad and not in the US. I want to always challenge myself and work in a country that I did not spend majority of my life in. I have the desire to see new things, experience new challenges, and find ways to overcome those challenges like I have been doing now in South Korea. It might sound weird to some but when I face a challenge I like solving that challenge. At first, I felt a bit overwhelmed and it took me awhile to face these hardships, but when I was able to overcome them, in the end I felt good about it.  The burdens I have experienced have shaped me to become a stronger person overall and have given me the confidence to know that I will be able to succeed no matter what life throws at me.

As of now, I have about 2 more months until my internship here in South Korea comes to an end and I feel bittersweet about leaving. I was born in Kenya and moved to America at around the age of 6, but had not been outside of the US again until this year. I have learned to be more independent and to not always rely on my parents and friends for everything. I was able to become self-reliant and have been able to grow as a person. Living in the comfort of my families’ home for 20 years and all of a sudden going outside and living on my own was not easy at first. I remember crying at one point or two during the summer because I was very homesick. Now I feel stronger and know that I can live without my family always helping me with everything. But I do still miss them very much. I am bitter to leave Korea but I am very happy to see my family soon.

During the summer I was a part of the UIP summer program as an intern. It was a very memorable experience as I was able to be a part of helping put together events for the students. I was able to meet so many amazing people from around the world who all wanted to be a part of a summer program at the University of Ulsan to either experience a new culture, or to be a part of something new. The UIP program is designed for students who want to learn about South Korean culture, society, history, language, and business. This program consisted of many classes, tours, and outings. We were also given the opportunity to visit industrial complexes such as Hyundai heavy industries. As interns I was able to put together various activities. Such as going to a village famous for pottery making where the students were able to make their own cups or pots. As well as going to a University famous for taekwondo where they taught the students taekwondo. Overall, working as an intern as a part of the UIP summer program was a hard, yet rewarding experience.  

After summer semester, I have been in the office every day from 9am to 6pm helping international students and coworkers with anything they need from printing to scanning and emailing paper work. The kind of work I do is very similar to what I used to do in my old college, which was helping international students adjust to being abroad. I am also a Resident Assistant in the dormitory and I help plan events for the international students. I am also part of a program named LATU, which helps Korean students learn various languages. I also help a group of students learn English and the tutors are all international students from Europe, Japan, China, and Mexico. Working as a tutor and in the office has made me a multi-talented person professionally.

One highlight of my experience has been my coworkers and boss. My coworkers are easy going and kind. Mr. Jung is the Deputy Director of the International Affairs and Education office at the University of Ulsan and is my boss. He is very helpful in many ways. My coworkers have been very supportive. They have been very kind to me with helping me adjust to South Korea and making me feel comfortable in the workplace. One hard aspect has been communication. When I first arrived in South Korea I was not very fluent in Korean and could not communicate as well as I can now. Now I am able to order food on my own and carry a small conversation in Korean. Learning Korean has been a big challenge for me because it is very different from English or Somali grammatically, but with the help of my friends and coworkers I have been able to learn a lot.

In the near future I want to come back to the University of Ulsan to study for my masters program. Korea has made me want to stay and learn more about it. I do not yet know exactly what I want to do in the future after my masters program. But I do know that I want to work abroad in an embassy in Asia or at a University.  This internship has helped me realize that I love working with people and that I love helping a group of people integrate into a society they know nothing about. My other goal includes the fact that I also want to become fluent in Korean and become trilingual.

The scholarship I received from IE3 has helped me greatly. I felt honored to have received the scholarship. The scholarship allowed me to use my money for my monthly personal necessities, and travel expenses for the bus or train. Without the scholarship, my time in South Korea would not have been as comfortable. This scholarship relieved some of the financial barriers that I had and has helped me experience many things in Korea. I would not have been able to enjoy this opportunity without the help of the scholarship. Before I was only able to study Korea through books but thanks to the opportunity of being able to intern abroad I was able to see a culture outside my own and experience the diverse uniqueness of Korea firsthand.