Back in 2016 after getting accepted as an awardee of the Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP), I suddenly thought,”How if I cannot pass the TOPIK 3 exam?”, and this question had been daunting me for quite period of time.
Afraid of not being able to continue to Master just because of a language requirement, I asked few people who were also KGSP Awardee about their experience during their language training, explicitly I had asked whether TOPIK 3 would be achievable during a short period of 1 year only, as requested by KGSP regulation. And fortunately, they said, “yes, it is really achievable. Almost all the time, Indonesians pass the exam.” well, that statement did make me relieved at that time
Several months later, exactly on the 5th of September 2016, I went to my first day of the Korean language training program and attended a welcoming ceremony for all of the international students in that university (Chungnam National University, CNU). The welcoming party was pretty short, one hour if I am not mistaken, and we did not have snacks like in Indonesia 😆
Shortly after, all of the KGSP students were gathered in a smaller auditorium in a building next to it (which is the language training college) and we were briefed about KGSP by one speaker from the National Institute of International Education (NIIED), and also about the language program in CNU by one of the teacher.
After the introduction, the teacher then asked those who already had knowledge of Korean to do a placement test and those who hadn’t to just fill out a form and then purchase the required books for the class, which were the Yonsei Korean Books (image source: Yonsei Korean Language Institute).
The next day, we had our first Korean class at 9 a.m. I was thinking that it was pretty late to start the class at 9 a.m. because I used to have classes at 7:30 a.m. back in Indonesia. But apparently, it is because of the difference of the sunrise time throughout the year, and 9 a.m. is just right to start a stationary working time if we want to see the sunrise every day (I just realized it until I experienced winter the first time, where the sun rises at 8 a.m.).
For the arrangement of the class, the 1st level or beginner was only for KGSP and it was separated into 3 class (1-1,1-2, 1-3). And the upper levels (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, advanced) were mixed with international students from outside of KGSP. All of the KGSP students from the same country were distributed to a different class to prevent them from talking to each other in their mother language. There was one exception for 2 students from Srilangka who were both my classmates 😆
I went to the 1-3 class and the homeroom teacher was Mrs. Lee Seon Hee (이선희 선생님). Here, homeroom teacher means the teacher who is responsible for the class and who teaches us the first period of the class entirely throughout the term. My other Indonesian friends, Gita, went to the 1-2 class with Mrs. Kim Su Yeong (김수연 선생님), and Bobby went to class 1-1 with Ms. Kim Eun Jin (김은진 선생님). We were all taught by them for the whole year, so definitely, we are really fond of them even until now.
Okay, the first day was basically filled with self-introduction for every student in the class, explanation of the history of Korean Language (why and how it was created, you may google this one, it is pretty interesting), and also learned how to read and write Korean alphabet from the easiest consonant first with “a” vowels (ga 가 na 나 da 다 ra 라 ma 마) if I remember it correctly.
For some of the consonants, it was okay. The real difficulty comes when you do not have the pronunciation in your own language. For example, I have difficulty in pronouncing ga and da even until now because it is actually not as simple as “g” and “d” in Indonesian, but the real “가” and “다” is in the between “ga” and “ka”, and between “da” and “ta”, respectively. The teacher told me about this issue when I already in the level 4, oh my whole life I pronounce it wrong! But I believe that they did not want to tell us in the beginning because it would have made us stressed over a little thing that might be able to be fixed with time.
And days after the whole first week, we learned how to pronounce Korean alphabet from consonant to vowels, learned to combine them, and also learned some simple vocabularies. Usually, in a fast language school (where you learn beginner level once or twice per week in one term), you will learn the pronunciation in just a day, and the teacher will not explain thoroughly. As a KGSP we had the chance to study Korean with super intensive mode (4 hours a day, 5 times a week, for 4 months for each level) so we could learn everything in detail.
And I really thank Korean Government for providing Korean language program before starting our degree, because it is so much helpful for our survival rate in Korea 😆 It is actually a mutualism symbiosis because if we learn Korean, the rate of Korean speakers will also increase and it will grow the spreading of Korean culture a lot.
The story of my Korean Language program will be continued next week! I cannot cover the whole story as I need to study for my exam this week. Please wish me luck!
SNU Dormitory, Sunday 13th of May 2018, at 9 a.m.