Tom from the Netherlands2017.12.01 Narai Ahn 651
Tom Hollestelle (“Erasmus University Rotterdam” 2017 Fall semester exchange student)
Tom Hollestelle from the Netherlands has had lots of experience living abroad such as living for 18 years in Prague but this is his first time visiting an Asian country. He chose South Korea as his study abroad destination because he wanted to experience a new culture and in fact, he was faced with a fresh cultural shock at the very moment he set foot on the Incheon Airport.
Tom pointed out several cultural shocks he experienced, of which the unfamiliarity of Hangul (Korean alphabet) was first. European nations and many countries around the world use the alphabet so there isn’t much difficulty in inferring the pronunciation. On the contrary, he was surprised by the unfamiliar shapes of the consonants and vowels of Hangul. Although he has now learned how to reach the letters through his Korean language class, Tom says Hangul is still a very difficult language.
Another aspect that surprised Tom was the “busy-ness” of Korea and how system and order are maintained during all that “busy-ness”. While Rotterdam—where Tom lives—and any other city in Europe have relaxed and leisurely atmosphere and looks, he says Seoul is very different from them.
Lastly, Tom was surprised by the kindness of the Koreans. When he was lost finding his hotel on his first day in Seoul, people eagerly helped him out and was able to find the place successfully.
Tom is adapting to such cultural shocks well and is currently a part of the FC Yonsei soccer club on campus. Although Tom comes from Europe where there is a great passion for soccer, he was amazed at how the students in Yonsei gathered at 6:30 in the morning to practice. The most memorable game was against the Korea Military Academy, of which he praised the orderliness, stamina, and manner of the students. Because he is currently taking classes only available to exchange students, Tom says he is glad he is able to meet up with with Korean students on and off campus through the club.
Tom also likes traveling and has already been to Busan, Jeonju, Jeju and is continuing to explore different parts of Seoul. The hike to Bukhansan (Mt.) was a great experience that he will remember. As you can’t easily access such terrains in Europe, especially the Netherlands, he said he was able to feel the charms of Seoul again through this experience. Although some parts of the track were dangerous, Tom says that the joy of reaching the summit was indescribable.
In the meantime, Tom wonders why business start-ups aren’t as active in Korea, especially given its prominence in various high-tech industries. In Europe, there aren’t as many people who wish to work for big companies but instead prefer to start their own businesses. Tom hopes to see a more friendly environment for start-ups here in Korea as well in the near future.
Tom’s blog of exchange life in Korea: https://gingerwithaseoul.com/ Instagram @gingerwithaseoul
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