Getting More Connected to Asian Cultures

Asano Kaoru
International Christian University

Studying abroad, particularly in Korea, has always been a dream of mine. I am grateful to our International Office at International Christian University (ICU) for assisting me in connecting with Sogang University in South Korea. I am also grateful to the Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA), of which ICU is an active member for the opportunity to study abroad through its SMS Student Exchange Program. During the 2021 Fall Semester, my experience in a foreign place began in September and ended in December.

I resided on campus in a student dormitory during my time in Korea. My roommate was a first-year university student from Korea. I had trouble speaking with her when I first moved in because I didn’t know Korean and she didn’t speak English. As a result, I was inspired to learn Korean so that I could communicate with her. In terms of learning Korean, I enrolled in the Sogang University Korean Language Education Center, which is open to all exchange students.

I learned that even if you travel to a nation where English is not the native language, you must speak in English since it is a worldwide language. Aside from studying the Korean language, I enrolled in Management courses.

Part of my daily routine was to take my breakfast and dinner at the school cafeteria in the dormitory where I stayed. It was buffet style, and there was always “kimchi” and many red and spicy dishes, food which is different from Japan. All cafeterias and restaurants in Korea served spicy food, and Korean food tastes delicious and pleasant to me. Aside from several restaurants, a convenience store that was opened 24 hours a day was just across from the student dormitory where I stayed, which was very convenient. Above all, the location of Sogang University was perfect. It is located in Sinchon, a famous youth town, and I could also walk to Hongdae. This made it easy for me to go shopping and hang out with my friends.

The buddy system was developed for the international exchange program at Sogang University. This buddy system was run by a student organization called HUG. During my stay, I had two buddies to help me adjust and learn more about life and culture in Korea. My buddies have helped me a lot, and we became best friends.

The student organization also planned events for the international exchange students to teach Korean culture and to help them adjust to life in Korea. It organized various activities such as sightseeing tours, board game cafes, squid game experiences, and Incheon sightseeing tours. By participating in these activities, I made many international and Korean friends.

The other one was volunteer activities with Seoul Mapo Police. We patrolled the Hongdae area at night with the local police to remind foreigners about social distancing rules and the wearing of masks due to the health risks brought by COVID-19. This group consisted of eight international students and several local police officers. The friends I met through this volunteer program were the ones I hung out with the most throughout my study abroad, so I was glad I signed up as soon as I received the email about the recruitment. The police officers with whom we worked treated us to lunch a number of times, and at the close of our activities, we received a certificate of appreciation from the cops.

Although the Asian countries’ cultures are similar, each has its own beautiful and distinct characteristics, and I felt that each country is proud of its own culture. As a result of my interactions with students from various Asian nations, I feel more connected to Asian culture.

Note from the Secretariat: Asano Kaoru is a Business student with minor in Media, Communication and Culture from International Christian University, Japan, and was an ACUCA’s exchange student during the 2021 Fall Semester. Our appreciation goes to Sogang Univeristy, Korea for graciously hosting our exchange student.