Moldovan student in South Korea: “The 21st century belongs to Asia and I see my future here” // INTERVIEW
More and more students from Moldova are going abroad every year to pursue a degree from a foreign university. They are aware of the challenges they have to deal with, such as studying a new language, adjusting to a different system, meeting new people– in other words starting a challenge in their life.
Inga Olari is a 26-year-old student originating from Chisinau, Moldova. She has won a scholarship from the Korean Government to get an integrated six-year long Master and PhD program at a university in Seoul.
In an interview with MOLDOVA.ORG, Inga explains her reasons for choosing an Asian university, the Korean lifestyle, as well as why is South Korea important to her.
MOLDOVA.ORG: How long have you been living in South Korea?
INGA OLARI: I have lived in South Korea for almost three years and during this period I participated in a student exchange program which was held at a small university located in a suburb of Seoul. The student exchange program at that university was held at the department of English Language and Literature, where I studied for six months in order to improve my English Language skills, to learn about Korean culture, and to also expand my personal horizons.
After completing these studies, I applied for a graduate scholarship program sponsored by the Korean Government, and as a result of my knowledge, cultural experience and academic success that I obtained from my study process, I was awarded a Korean Government scholarship. The scholarship, which I received, enables me to pursue an integrated master and doctoral degree program for six years at one of South Korea’s top tiered universities.
MOLDOVA.ORG: What are you majoring in?
INGA OLARI: In the Republic of Moldova I studied law at Free International University of Moldova. In the Republic of Korea I continue studying law where I specialize in the international arbitration law with special interests that centers on the scope of jurisdiction of the international arbitration board such as ICSID under the Korea - USA FTA, and which also facilitates in resolving international commercial disputes - a subject of international litigation that is another interest of mine.
MOLDOVA.ORG: Why did you decide to spend your student life in this country?
INGA OLARI: Frankly speaking, from the beginning of my freshman year to the end of my junior year of my bachelor’s degree I aimed to do my postgraduate studies in Europe but one day this all changed when I was accepted to university where I had undertaken my student exchange program.
From my point of view, the main reasons that I have decided to spend my student life in the Far East are related to Korean university education that combines tradition and modern technology. In addition, Korea’s thriving economy makes South Korea one of the most exciting places to study in East Asia.
As I have mentioned previously, I am doing my integrated master and doctoral degree at one of South Korea’s prestigious universities where the law courses are taught by distinguished professors who graduated from highly ranked universities throughout the world, and who have received awards for teaching excellence. Furthermore, the university and its knowledgeable faculty provide modern teaching approaches, methods, and techniques enabling its students to be in the vanguard of higher education.
MOLDOVA.ORG: What were the biggest challenges you had to deal with in Korea?
INGA OLARI: While I studied at the department of law at Free International University of Moldova, I used to interact with foreign law experts, overseas judges, magistrates and prosecutors for whom I organized roundtable meetings, and public lectures in order to raise law-student interest in international rule of law cooperation and discuss problems of international legal cooperation and mutual legal assistance between Republic of Moldova and countries abroad.
Due to my international experience of interacting with foreigners, I was determined to continue my postgraduate studies overseas, strengthen my personality and develop personal flexibility and acceptance of a different culture and people. Therefore, I knew that moving to a new country such as South Korea would offer me not only the experience of acquiring knowledge of another culture but also enable me to experience cultural shock and the adjustment of making personal transitions while pursuing my studies.
Continuing with your question, I would say that the biggest challenge I have had to deal with was the assimilation of Korean Language from beginner to advanced levels as well as passing the Test of Proficiency in Korean Language (TOPIK) level 3 during one and a half years. In order to accomplish this goal, I had to study diligently to pass TOPIK level 3 and enter graduate school. Nevertheless, this is not the end, but the beginning of my “linguistics achievement” because I shall have to put a lot of effort into passing TOPIK level 5.
MOLDOVA.ORG: What are the features that make Moldova and Korea so different? What aspects impressed you the most and why?
INGA OLARI: If I try to make a comparative view between the Republic of Moldova and the Republic of Korea in the context of economic system of both countries, then the latter one is identified as one of the G-20 major economies with a high per capita income and a well developed market potential. Also, the Republic of Korea is one of the Asian Tigers along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the other three members of the Asian Tigers.
However, the Republic of Moldova is a former Soviet Union country, which is based on market economy, facing difficulties in such economic areas as agriculture, industry, energy, and fuels supply etc. With Korea’s rapid industrialization since the 1960’s, the relationship between its infrastructure and its economy has always been an important issue, and speaking sincerely, this country has a well-developed information infrastructure, an outstanding urban public transportation system, pollution control, and high-speed rail etc. which makes life for the majority of Koreans, very comfortable and easy.
Another aspect that has impressed me is that the Korean Government continues to increase investment in education for its citizens as well as international students. Appropriate examples are the existence of numerous scholarship programs and funds destined to promote international exchange in education, as well as reciprocal friendship between the Republic of Korea and overseas countries.
MOLDOVA.ORG: Referring to the educational system, what are the distinct streaks of the Asian and European systems?
INGA OLARI: I cannot give an explanation about the difference between Asian and European educational systems, because I have never studied in any Western European countries. However, I could try to define, what the Asian educational system consists of. A traditional Korean proverb states, “Don’t even try to run down your professors’ shadow.” which from my point of view reflects on the existence of an attitude of high respect towards professors in Korea, no matter if it is a school or a university.
So, every time you meet a professor you will have to bow down to him/her indicating a social gesture of gratitude and respect. Usually, Korean professors are very strict putting forward high requirements towards either Korean or international students, but are very kind to those who are intelligent, diligent, and modest.
Generally speaking, the laws of South Korea represent a combination of some elements of European civil law systems, Anglo-American legal systems, and classical Chinese philosophical precepts. All of this means that the study of jurisprudence in Korean schools of law is based on close interaction between theory and practice, which implies possessing good analytical and logical skills. Another difference is that in Korean law schools, there is emphasis placed on subjects, which represent interest and perspectives for the evolution of law.
MOLDOVA.ORG: What should Moldovans learn from the South Koreans?
INGA OLARI: It is apparent these days that Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. It wasn’t like that when in the 1950s Korea ranked among the poorest countries. Compared to today, Korea’s economy is the 15th largest in the world, and the nation is destined to become an active player on the global economic stage following the hosting of the G20 Summit in 2010. This was made possible through the USA financial support and assiduous efforts made by the Korean Government which encouraged Koreans to study and acquire professional experience overseas.
Through this patriotic gesture Koreans provided an example of patriotism, ambition, and sedulous work to third world countries, as well as to countries with transition economies such as Moldova. Therefore, I do wish that Moldova could implement all the political, social–economic, and cultural principles, which have brought positive effects to the Korean economy in order to develop its eminent economic domains.
MOLDOVA.ORG: How would you describe a regular day of a Korean citizen? How much workload do they have to do at work or university?
INGA OLARI: As you are already are aware, there is an outstanding work ethic in Asian nations including that of Korea. I cannot describe a Korean person’s schedule at his/her office or school, but there's one thing I know for sure, that a regular working /studying day of a Korean begins at 7-8 AM and ends at 10-11 PM. So, the rush hour traffic jam in Seoul usually starts either in the early morning or in the late evening, when most people either go or return from work.
In the evening, Seoul is also very busy, because there are a lot of opened stores, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs etc. with a large working staff. Koreans are well known as being diligent and ambitious, so they can always be seen doing something useful for their lives.
MOLDOVA.ORG: After getting your degree from your Korean university, what are your future plans?
INGA OLARI: Time flies fast, thus I have to successfully finish my postgraduate studies as well as make important internships at well-known international law firms in Seoul. Also, I am interested in becoming a professor of international arbitration so I have to put a lot of effort into writing my doctoral dissertation which should contain unique ideas to represent a scientific interest that can be implemented in practice.
My aim is to become a professor of international arbitration and a negotiator involved in international dispute resolution and commercial transactions. I think that the 21st century belongs to Asia and I see my future here.By Valeriu Gonta