Hyoje Kim came with an exchange student programme at the University of Tartu, where he’s studying Social Sciences at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. This is how his experience has been, so far.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Hyoje Kim, and I’m 25 years old. I’m from the Republic of Korea (South of Korea).
What is the name of your university? When did you start studying?
My university’s name is the University of Tartu. I came here as an exchange student. My degree is in Arts and Humanities. However, my actual major at my home university is Department of Communication. I came to Tartu last January.
What made you choose this programme? How did you decide?
I had never been to Europe and I really wanted to experience European culture. I had other countries to choose from, but, for me, Estonia was the most unfamiliar among them and it seemed interesting for me to visit.
Additionally, my mom thought I was going to Ethiopia because the names sounded similar. She asked: “Are you going to bring me some nice coffee from that country?”. She is a big fan of Ethiopian coffee. But sorry mom, I can’t.
I just hope she knows where I am now!
What were the main challenges you had to face before being accepted to your university?
I had to take an English test, so I could apply for the exchange student programme. Also, I had to write a paper so I could apply. I think the main challenge I had was the VISA processing after I came here. Because we don’t have an Estonian embassy in South Korea, I needed to apply for a D-Visa after I arrived. The process was quite difficult. Actually, I am the first person who got a D-visa after applying for it in Tartu!
What are three things you like most about the university? Why?
First, the buildings are wonderful; they are so exotic to me.
Second, this school is open to everybody. Whenever I participate at the university’s events, I see many local people from Tartu and I have the chances to meet them and we talk with each other.
Third, the school is located on flat land. My home university is located on a mountain. I needed to take buses to go to the gym, which is located on top of the mountain. I’m just happy not to climb to take my classes.
If you could improve anything about the university, what would it be?
I just hope the bridge under construction would be finished soon. I have to travel to go to school and have to cross other bridges, and it is quite annoying in the snowing weather.
What are three things you like the most about the city?
First are the prices! Comparing to other countries, the living cost here is reasonable and somewhat cheap.
Second, I like the weather here. It rarely snows in my hometown. Therefore, I was so happy to make a snowman at the beginning of this semester. However, it might be the one thing I also hate in this city, if it snows in May. Honestly, I miss warm spring these days.
Third, pubs! I am a social drinker. I am happy that I can try many types of alcohol in cosy pubs, with my friends.
Name one thing you would have liked to be different about the city? Why?
The thing that people don’t care what I do. Korean society is quite conservative and social pressure functions heavily. Therefore, you should care what other people do when they start something new, even if it is their hobby. Still, I love that people enjoy what they want to do in this country.
What was the biggest surprise in your study adventure?
The British accent! I never had classes in British English. In Korea, American English is common in schools and governmental offices. I felt awkward when I first saw British words like “favourite”, not “favorite”.
How would you rate your experience on a scale from zero to ten?
7, because I like lively cities and sometimes I get bored. Additionally, from Tartu, excursions to other countries are not that simple.
Nevertheless, I like it here, since I can enjoy the real European life in a peaceful city.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could do it over again?
I don’t think there’s something that I would do differently. I’m enjoying the life here and it was one of the best choices I took this year.
What are your plans after graduating?
I’m still looking for this answer. Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question yet. However, I want to work in the field, where I can cooperate and help other countries.
Share your favourite spot, the university and the city with us!
Recently, I visited the rooftop of Tartu Cathedral thanks to my class, Estonian Culture. I loved the spot because I could see the whole view of Tartu. That day, especially, the weather was fantastic, even though it started to snow again now.
Were you inspired by Hyoje’s story?
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