2020 Summer Student Exchange Program Experience
Alexander Blöchle (BPhD_Germany)
Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry
Let’s start with the year 2020. When it became January 2020 I thought I have to go abroad in my student life, which is sometimes difficult with our major. I really wanted to join this year Student Exchange Program (SEP) in South Korea and was motivated to try my best to enter the research program. It seemed the best organized and well managed, so I wanted to give it a try. It somehow worked out, but then Corona happened. A lot of things changed very quickly during this time and I was uncertain if I will actually go this year or not. Through all these difficulties, the Host Student Exchange Officer (SEO) was always there for me and I came forward to her with any concerns I had. The visiting program students and all the other research program students got cancelled, so this year it would be just me – an adventure began…
After 2 weeks of quarantine, I got picked up by the SEO and Vice SEO and they brought me to my accommodation. Everything was just going super smooth. Every time I stumbled, I got help by every SEP Member of Korean National Association for Pharmaceutical Students (KNAPS). Over the days, I met a lot of new people and we became closer as time goes by. It was like growing into a new family, even if our roots were not the same. I have to say it was hard to come completely alone this year, but I never felt alone – never.
I was doing 2 weeks of research in the medicinal chemistry department of Kyung Hee University and I was doing an experiment with the help of the lab staff and my seniors. Everyone welcomed me very warmly, we had lunch together, laughed and worked together. What can I say, they were the best lab I worked in. Even if we weren’t from the same country or continent we shared the same values, the same work ethic and the interest in science. We had a lot of fun and they showed me really amazing Korean food called Jajangmyun (자장면) and I learned some useful Korean words. So even when Corona numbers were rising, we were carefully working altogether but with an even more responsible approach. In the end, I can only thank them, that they took me this year into their lab and let me have this amazing experience.
The SEP staff and I met each other nearly every day with new social events or just to have dinner together. I could see the real Seoul with their help and I visited a lot of amazing places in Seoul. Communication was never an issue. We hung out, told our life stories and exchanged our cultural backgrounds.
The last week I spent just some time with my friends I made and hung around in Seoul. Also we went to Busan for a nice trip. The weather is really good in summer, so if there is no Corona try to go to Busan and swim a bit there. A beautiful city with really delicious seafood. It will all be like an unforgettable dream.
After 2 weeks I was not just German, but a K-German. I want to remind everyone who is thinking about joining SEP the next years to get to know some customs of Korea and also behave in this country. We are not in our home country so we always should show our respect to the traditions and habits of other countries, which may have a different lifestyle. In the end, I became so close with everyone from SEP staff and even two other KNAPS staff that I made friendships I can rely on in the future. We had so much joy together that it was really hard to say goodbye and to come back home. I found a new small home in a very far away place.
I am writing all this to show you, who are reading this, how much appreciation I have for this organisation. I would say they’re the best in the world and it’s hard to find a place where you can get the same experience as in South Korea. So if YOU are interested in joining the next SEP in South Korea, then what are you waiting for? :)
In the end, just a big thank you to the best SEO of the world and to everyone from Kyung Hee University, Professor Lee and the best SEP team in the world. I will definitely come back, stronger.