Living Abroad Experience – Korea

In this article, I’ll try to avoid any detail story about my work, my research, my study, or anything that is technical. This article is dedicated for telling a story about life and people.

أفلم يسيروا في الأرض فتكون لهم قلوب يعقلون بها أو آذان يسمعون بها فإنها لا تعمى الأبصار ولكن تعمى القلوب التي في الصدور

Do they not travel through the earth, so that their hearts may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts. [Qur’an 22:46]

Studying and living abroad is one big decision that I ever made on my life. Honestly, this is not merely one of my dream. In my country, I am quite happy living there. My life was so colorful. My friends are always around me. We are hang out together at every occasion. Even at the time I worked and lived at different city, Jakarta, I can take a short travel agency near my place to directly go to my college city, Bandung, just to meet my friends or walking around Bandung and go back again to Jakarta at one day. And you know, Bandung-Jakarta distance is around 3 hours, so I can took 6 hours go-and-forth just to do these things. And I am not tired to do that, in fact I was very happy. Friends, family, work, and even Bandung are my important things that I had.

There is, an epiphany moment at my live. I wanna do something different. Something that I want to do since child. I want to go abroad. I want to challenge live at foreign country, not as tourist, not as visitor, but as people who live and dwell together with people for several years. By doing so I hope that I can learn something and gain a new wisdom.

There are so many motivations behind this. My friends one by one also going abroad for various reasons. And I also want to take a chance for doing that by continuing my study. So I leave my lovely work at that time. Eventually I choose Korea for my destination. Frankly speaking, this decision is a combination of several feelings about this country. I have some kind of sudden feeling about this country. I am not a K-Pop fan who listen patiently to every Korean hits. I am also not a follower of K-Drama. But there is something, something about this country, that I want to know, as newbie.

My life is surrounded by many people who has direct or indirect influence by Chinese and Japanese culture, but few from Korean culture. It means, I have been so unfair for learning east Asian countries. Coincidentally, I have a big philosophical question about people who live at far east country. So, in order to answer this question, I should go there. If I had a time and passion, I want to write about this topic at different place. But I cannot promise anything. 😀

So, for short, I went to this country. There are sudden empty feeling at my heart. It is like, I lose my friends and job. I am very melancholic at the time. But, first thing I did so passionately in this country is language and history. I go to campus library. And read every philosophical book, language, and any historical book I can found at there. Although my Korean language ability is very limited, I read as much as I can about this country and trying to understand their culture as much as I can. Obviously, the hard part reading book with a new alien language is vocabulary. So, it looks like that the book is at my left and dictionary is at my right. Hahaha. That is one of exhausted moment I ever experienced.

First time I live here, there is a kinda big cultural shock for me. Adaptation is hard. For around 6 months until 1 year, I am home sick. I just want to go home at my country. Everything here is so different. The culture, the food, the environment, the people, the language, ah, you know, hearing people speaking something not understandable all the day is like you got all day long roaming service.

But there is a turning point. It is a language. Once you understand the language little by little, you can build smoother interaction with people. I am far from expert at Korean language. But my super broken Korean language and gut to speak with random people with my Korean skill helps me a lot to make interaction with people. Because you know, you will get frustration all the time if you don’t understand constant thing all the day, but your frustration will be disappeared one by one if you starting understand the thing you don’t understand. So guys, my message is, learn local language wherever you live, surely, although not 100 percents, it helps you a lot very very very much. The people you live will appreciate you very much if you try to speak at their language. Trust me, many strangers passionately hearing my broken speaking and responding my speaking gently. They liked you speak with their language.

You know, at my country also, I know many foreign people who lived at Indonesia. I often laughing while they are speaking hardly at my language. But I like them very much who speak with my language even by their broken Indonesian. It means that they respect my people and they really get a serious time to read a book and understand my language and my culture so they can speak and make interaction with our people. And now, I am completely understand those foreign people feeling at my country, because now I am becoming one of them. It is hard to learn local people language. Now, I respect those people more.

And things got better. Travel around this country, eat at their restaurant, seeing people activities, made you know something. I am starting to see something, something unseen before. It is people. No matter who you are, basically we are the same human beings. No matter people define a nation by its heritage, by its custom, eventually, we are the same human. I am starting to see their habits, their deepest habits, which is not different with my people. Until I realize that, they are same with my people. Their thinking, their basic needs, their basic feelings, are same. Skin and race are just clothes. Inside there, I am starting to see these people are basically having the same characteristic with my people. People from different country seeing people from different country usually have strong, strange and exciting feeling about each other. Even sometimes, they had false assumption about each others. Because actually we just don’t know each other for the first time. But when we already knew each other, then here you go, you got a sense that they are your brothers, just from far family you never met before.

At this time, I am starting to love these people. I am starting to love this place. But when I do, I have to move to a new place. Hah. It is kinda weird feeling for me. But live must go on. So, I continue to learn something again. Well, if somebody ask whether there are difficulties live at foreign country as foreigner, the answer is sure there are. But not much if you can understand the basic principal I said before.

One thing, keep smile. Smile really made your life easier when interacting with people. I know that excessive smile is not a good thing. Hahaha. But I don’t know, people mostly respond smile with smile. Now I am trying to remind myself, don’t so stingy to smile and talk with people. Because there is an authentic Hadith that is interesting to be known.

It is related in Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sahih Ibn Hibban, and Musnad al-Bazzar.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When you smile to your brother’s face, it is charity.”

So guys, let’s spread smile throughout the world. 😀