When I was ten years old, my father took a sabbatical from work and decided to take our family to New Jersey for 6 months. I have some of my best childhood memories from that time. While my father was always extremely busy back home, in the States we could spend a lot of time together. We would travel around the country or sometimes even just go to the park to pick up leaves. The memories of our time abroad lit a spark in my heart and it made me want to experience life in another country.
I was born in Seoul, South Korea, in the 90’s. By that time the country was already very developed, but a generation earlier it was a completely different story. After the Korean War, the country was very poor and people had to work exceptionally hard, get the best education, and be disciplined in order for the country to move forward. Now, we are better off, but there is still a mentality of racing for a bigger home, a faster car, and a more prestigious education that a lot of people of my generation find hard to relate to.
Going to a good university is important to most South Koreans and I was told to work towards that, so I did what is considered “the norm”; I worked hard, listened to my teachers and got into a good university. But once I got to that point, all of a sudden, I didn’t know what to do because no one told me what comes after that. At that moment, I realized my life had been some sort of a lazy river. That’s when I decided to study Sociology.
I thought back to those great memories I had when I was ten years old and decided to get my Masters abroad. I have to be honest, I did check the ranking of the University of Amsterdam before I came here 😉 I always knew I wanted to relocate somewhere in Europe and I don’t regret my decision, even though my mom still asks me from time to time if I want to go to the US so I can attend an Ivy League University for my PhD.
I’ve been in Amsterdam for almost 2 years now and my life is much more simple and I’m doing what truly makes me happy. When you go to school in Seoul, it’s not so common to see people speak up or ask questions. You simply go to class, listen to your teacher, and take notes. Here, I’m encouraged and even expected to participate and give my opinion, which I’m still getting used to. I really like how it’s natural to speak up and exchange views because it makes me colorful and vibrant as a person.