BoKyung Kim – South Korean International student, Charles Sturt University
Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell
BoKyung – who goes by the name of Bonnie – is an exchange student at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. Originally from DaeJoen in South Korea, she’s half way through her year-long exchange. Bonnie has experienced much of the Australian culture and shares her experiences here.
What were you doing back in South Korea? Why did you decide to go on exchange to Australia?
I was studying Secondary English Education at Han-Nam University in South Korea. Studying English is important in my major. Han-Nam University and Charles Sturt University are sister universities, so there were opportunities to do an exchange course, so I applied.
Was it hard to get a student visa?
It was a little harder than I thought. I needed to get documentation from an Australian University to allow me to study there. It took time to send my application papers and get documents from CSU. Also, I had to undertake a medical examination only in certain hospitals, which the Australian Government designated. There are only three hospitals, which are located in Seoul, the capital city in Korea. I travelled to Seoul to get an examination.
Did you need to pass any English tests?
I needed to know more than the assessed points in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test to apply to exchange course in CSU. The speaking and writing tests are especially difficult.
Had you done much travelling before you came to Australia?
I have been to the United States in 2008. When I was young, my parents brought me to some Asian countries, for example, Japan, China, and Taiwan.
What were your first impressions of Australia? Is it what you expected?
Sydney is very busy; there are lots of Korean and Chinese. I wished there were not much Koreans, but I expected many different races in Australia.
How was the process of fitting into university? Was there support from the uni to help with the transition?
Orientation week was helpful to catch up with the Australian University system. And the international student adviser in CSU always helps with any problem from personal problems or with uni-life-problems. Free workshops about study in university – writing essay and report, critical reading, referencing, and so on – is really useful especially for international students.
Are you enjoying your course?
Yes, I am enjoying the course even though there are some difficulties. The first difficulty is language problems – I need to more time to read, think, speak, discuss, write, and so on. The second one is difference between class styles – In Australia, students are suppose to participate actively in the tutorial, however, there are no tutorial classes in Korean University. It's unfamiliar to me and also my limited English makes it worse. Last, and most, the lecturer or coordinator does not give special advantage for second language students. They help me when I ask about the assignments or lectures, but when they mark the assignments, they do it fairly, which they are supposed to do.
Have you been involved with the international students association at your university?
I volunteered for Harmony Day 2010. And I joined the morning tea at the beginning of the semesters. I have met other Korean friends and friends from other countries.
How did you find accommodation?
I am living on-campus, which I found through CSU.
Do you have a part-time job here too?
I want to get a part-time job. I checked the Internet but it’s hard to find any job because I don’t have a car.
What other work have you done?
I worked at a cherry orchard last summer. One of my Korean friends introduced me to the orchard owner.
Are you glad that you chose Australia?
Yes. I am glad to study English in an English speaking country. Australian people are friendly and nice to other country students and welcome others to join their culture.
What has been the best part of the experience? And the most difficult?
Living with Australian students in a dormitory is the best part of the experience. I can learn a lot of culture as well as language. It’s different to study the culture by book or lecture. The most difficult thing is a lot of assignments, especially essays and presentations.
What are your plans after you finish your studies?
Because I am doing just exchange course, I have to go back to my country, Korea, and finish Korean University.
What advice can you give to people considering coming to Australia to study?
Have an open mind and accept the Australian culture and nature. Then you can enjoy the relaxed, friendly, natural lifestyle. Study English if you want to spend effective and useful time in Australia.