“I wanted to know what it was like to live in a completely unfamiliar environment”

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Interview with Òscar Ferrer, a 4th-year Humanities student and exchange student in Seoul

“I wanted to know what it was like to live in a completely unfamiliar environment”

Òscar Ferrer is a 4th-year Humanities student who, as part of an exchange programme, has put his life in the city and at UIC Barcelona temporarily on hold to immerse himself in the culture and life of Seoul (South Korea).

Currently studying at Korea University and living in a student residence, he continues to pursue his passions: history, music, literature and art; passions he now has a chance to experience in a totally different, new and enriching city. 

Why did you decide to apply for a mobility stay in a city like Seoul?
I wanted to discover a different culture and learn all I could. I really like Europe, but I wanted to know what it was like to live in a completely unfamiliar environment. 

How are you approaching your Humanities studies in this city?
I’m focusing as much as I can on Asian culture and history, and not just Korean, but Chinese and Japanese as well. 

What is a typical day like for a student in Seoul?
It depends on the person, but most Koreans study hard and you have to keep up if you don’t want to fall behind. But they also like parties and night-life, and you can tell. Seoul is a good place to get a good education, and to have fun. 

How did you prepare for your arrival in this city and adapt to the language, pace and customs?
First and foremost, by asking people who had been to the country questions and for advice. Though, truth be told, I kind of took the plunge without too much preparation. If you’re ready to integrate and take full advantage of everything a new culture has to offer, there’s no reason to be afraid. 

And what’s your verdict on your decision to choose this country?
Above all, enriching. Studying the language, however difficult it may be, and starting to use it with native students is a unique experience. Forming new friendships, and not just with Westerners, but with Oriental people in particular, helps open your mind and raises questions you’ve never asked yourself before. 

How would you define culture in the Asian capital?
In terms of social culture, while the native students can be quite closed off, especially due to their level of English, Koreans are very obliging people and always willing to help if you ask for it. Plus, once you develop a friendship with them, they’re very close and empathetic. 

What about traditional culture?
Seoul is home to museums and musical institutions. For instance, the Korean War Memorial is crucial to understanding what the division of the country meant –and still means. Music is also important among young people. Karaoke, for example, and Korean pop music are everywhere. 

What did you find most eye-opening about its history?
The sharp divide between traditionalists and progressives. Also between the supporters of the current president, Moon Jae-in, proponents of a peaceful rapprochement with North Korea, and those who are fervently against change. And also the large number of churches, most of which are Protestant, or the influence the Confucian patriarchy still has on the way some people, both old and young, think.

What do you think an experience like this adds to your university studies?
A vision of the Asian world I never would have got if I’d stayed in Europe. It’s only when you leave and see the world that you realise how much knowledge you were lacking. I’ve had the chance to meet lecturers from other nations, with different ideas, who have given me useful advice about doing a PhD. 

Would you recommend this experience to other students from the Faculty of Humanities?
Anyone who wants to have a completely different experience and are open-minded will love this city and, most of all, its people.