International student Rick Punt explains how a summer school program in South Korea has opened up new opportunities, both in the classroom and beyond.

When Rick decided to enrol in the international summer school at South Korea’s Hanyang University, he was ready to make the most of new experiences – and that’s exactly what he has done.

You can probably guess this from the photograph, which shows Rick embracing the spirit of the Boryeong Mud Festival, one of the highlights of his time in Korea so far.

“Practically all the summer school students joined and the atmosphere was great!” he says. “After the festival we all enjoyed a barbeque accompanied by some drinks, including Korea’s pride, Soju [a traditional liquor distilled from rice].”

This memorable overnight trip to the festival was one of the social events included in the month-long international summer school program at Hanyang University, which has its main campus in South Korean capital Seoul.

Learning about Korean culture

Rick, who is studying international communications and media at Hogeschool Utrecht in the Netherlands, will actually be returning to Hanyang University in September, as an exchange student.

He explains that he decided to take part in the summer school program first, as it offered the chance to start learning about Korean culture.

Accordingly, he signed up to take classes in Korean history and culture, as well as in international marketing.

Other courses offered during this year’s summer school included business and economics, international relations, art and design, engineering and natural sciences.

There were also opportunities to study the Korean language, and to try taekwondo – the martial art which is Korea’s national sport.

Friendships that will last a lifetime

While the classes he’s taken have been useful, Rick has perhaps learned even more from the people he’s met during the program.

The summer school attracts students from all around the world, and during classes, social events and trips, there are plenty of opportunities for them to get to know one another and learn about each other’s cultural backgrounds.

“Seven field trips and one month later, I believe I have made friendships which will last a lifetime,” Rick says.

His main advice for others taking part in similar schemes is simply,

“Don’t be shy about meeting new people, and be open towards new experiences.”

He adds, “Some things might be awkward or weird to you at first, but try to understand that this mostly has to do with cultural differences. Don’t be afraid to go a little bit outside of your own comfort level.”

Having had such a fantastic time during the summer school, he’s definitely looking forward to spending more time studying in Korea as an exchange student – and possibly even returning once he completes his degree at the end of the next academic year.

At this moment I do not have a specific career plan, but I would like to learn more about other countries and cultures – not from books but from my own experiences, and maybe Korea is a great place to start.

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