Category Archives: East Asia

Growth

Now that my program has officially come to an end, I can’t help but feel a little sad. I’ve made so many memories and I’ve met many amazing people. I can confidently say that I’ve grown as a person and as a student.

I quickly adapted to the new culture and I realized that, at some point, I could even see myself living in Seoul. The massive comfort that I felt is partly due to the amazing friends I’ve made. Emmy, Cherry, Passang, and Bianka made this program even more special than it already was. We encouraged, protected, and deeply cared for one another. We became close pretty fast and now it feels as if we’ve known each other for years.

claudia crowd

They have helped me grow more confident in myself and to not let my positivity be affected by others. I used to be extremely wary of doing seemingly hard or new things, but my friends, and the circumstances that I’ve found myself in, have allowed me to make quick decisions and be more independent.

For example, I’ve seen my friends successfully use the bit of Korean that they know, so I stopped being scared to speak Korean. I’ve used it while shopping, at the pharmacy, catching a cab, and more!

My friends taught me that regardless of what happens, they’re there for me, and that I can’t let some setbacks stop me from doing what I need to do. When we were filming our interviews and editing we ran into a few problems, including faulty equipment, unsuitable set locations, unreliable people, and last minute shooting reschedules. As the director for my group I felt like it was my responsibility to fix all of these problems and there were times when I was really stressed out.

claudi hongdae

For instance,  we had to shoot in 100 degree weather two days before the final project was due. It was tough finding suitable shooting locations but after it was done I felt extremely proud of our group.

My directing, cinematography, and editing skills have improved significantly. Now I hope to obtain a media internship either for this Fall or next Spring, and I will want continue taking Media Production courses.

claudia video

When we finally exported the final version of our project I was overjoyed. In the past I’ve had group film projects that were problematic, which caused me to dislike our end product. This time however, I was there for each step of the process, and I had a supportive and talented team. This project turned out to be what I had envisioned. It was great seeing how an idea of mine could take shape and evolve into this wonderful and quality video project.

It was an amazing experience! Thank you to the Gilman International Scholarship for supporting my future!

claudia students

 

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Filed under Claudia in South Korea, East Asia

Embracing the nature

From the moment you start heading out of Incheon Airport you will notice the beautiful and natural landscape that is South Korea.

City landscape

First off, if you walk around the capital, you will notice that Seoul’s urban landscape was built according to the existing land. Streets and buildings were developed on or around mountains and, as a result, some streets feel narrow, steep, long, or hilly. Even the university I am staying at (Dongguk) was built on a mountain! Everyday I climb up and down this long hill (which has been a struggle since we are currently experiencing one of South Korea’s worst heat waves). Throughout Seoul you will find that there are many trees and some nice resting areas. It is a great combination of a developed metropolis and wild beauty.

If you head to other cities where there are less tall buildings, you will get to experience even more of South Korea’s natural beauty. In the city of Gongju, mountains and hills are everywhere. During my two day stay there, I noticed local and older residents who seemed to be fine walking, hiking, and working, up and down these steep streets.

The beautiful nature found throughout South Korea is perhaps one of the main reasons Koreans take street cleanliness and recycling very seriously. It was one of the main aspects of this country that stuck out to me the most. Most stores charge you money if you want a plastic bag, there are barely any public trash cans. Although, if you manage to find any, they have labels on them for the proper type of waste. As a result, I have become very conscious about what I buy. I always think, “does my purse have enough space for this?”, “is there somewhere I can throw this out?” Which leads me to buying less or nothing at all!

I would love it if New Yorkers could adapt these recycling habits. However, that still seems highly unlikely. For now, I’ll just enjoy Korea’s streets and beautiful nature.

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Filed under Claudia in South Korea, East Asia

Realizations

Have you ever been somewhere for a while before it finally hits you that you’re there?

Yup, that’s South Korea for me.

It could have been that intense 14 hour flight, or maybe the fact that I am surrounded by an amazing group of new friends, but it took me a few days for it to finally sink in that I’m in a whole new country. I’d like to think that this means that I’m incredibly comfortable with my surroundings. Despite the differences in culture.

When we first arrived it was late at night, and I was a little concerned about how our large group of “foreigners” would stick out and be received. However, almost immediately I saw how people generally welcomed us. Anyone we spoke with was polite and understanding of our lack of Korean. There have been instances, mainly with older Koreans, where they will blatantly look at some of us with extreme curiosity or shock. It’s actually kind of funny.

Something that has actually really shocked me is the amount of food they all eat. Our Professor was born and raised in Korea, so whenever we go out to eat lunch and dinner he urges us to continue eating even when we’re already full. Sometimes he gets food for us even when we say we’re not hungry! Meat is eaten a lot here in Korea, and I can’t believe I’m actually craving a salad right now.

We get breakfast from Dongguk University’s cafeteria every morning, and even those can be a lot sometimes too. Below is a picture.

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Despite all of this, I feel well adjusted to South Korea.

I got a hang of their weird sidewalks that double as car routes, their constant steep hills, the humidity, and found beauty in their vast mountains and the architecure. I made a lot of new friends and I am making great memories here.

We recently went to eat ‘samgyeopsal’ (grilled pork belly) and that was an amazing experience. *Note: this was before I started craving salads.* We had a a whole room to ourselves since there were 20 of us, and we split up at two long tables that were filled with little side dishes and a little hot grill. The meat came and we had to cook them ourselves. We were each given seat cushions for us to sit on the floor and aprons to not dirty ourselves. The room got hot, so the owner came in to open the windows and screen doors for us. The nice summer breeze came in and kept me comfortable for the rest of the night. We laughed and chatted all night long and I remember thinking that I wish my friends from New York were here to enjoy this too.

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It was this moment that made me finally realize that I’m actually here in Korea. I was sitting back, eating my pork belly, enjoying the summer breeze that came in through the window, and I was watching everyone cooking meat and picking up food with their chopsticks. I looked down at my apron and my legs spread out in front of me and thought “I feel so relaxed.”

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Filed under Claudia in South Korea, East Asia

Getting ready!

Hello everyone (or anyone)!

My name is Claudia Paguay, and I am extremely excited to be sharing my journey to South Korea with you all.

This upcoming Fall semester I will finally be a Senior at Hunter College, where I study both Urban Studies and Media Studies.

During my time at Hunter College I dabbled in many different areas of study, and my many interests left me worried about which career path I should follow. Thankfully, last semester I took my first documentary production course and I discovered that I loved it! I began to seriously think about working in this field when I luckily learned about the Media Production and Cultural Studies program in South Korea with Brooklyn College. It was perfect for me!

Not only will this summer study abroad program allow me to improve my production skills, but it will also allow me to travel, explore Korean culture, and make beautiful memories.

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to some aspects of Korean culture, like the food and music. After that, I began to do my own research and I felt like Korean traditions and customs were so interesting. On top of that, I was enticed by the beautiful sounds of its language. My respect and love of Korean culture even lead me to take two Korean language courses.

CP1 school supplies

In fact, I am hoping that I can use what I learned from those two language courses in South Korea. I want to be able to correctly translate street signs, menus, and I would love to hold a conversation with a native Korean. I gathered all my notes from my Korean classes and I am re-writing them into a neat little notebook that I will take with me. I want to explore South Korea without getting lost or feeling scared, so this notebook will help me do that.

I leave for South Korea on July 10, and I have yet to pack. Before you give me an “are you serious?” look, I would just like to say that I have a very good reason.

CP1 group

My summer program’s final projects consists of us creating documentaries that compare two different aspects of American and South Korean culture. We were broken up into groups of four and had to start on our American part of the documentary. I was put in a group with the fun and amazing Cherry, Emmy, and Nia! We all instantly got along and have been working hard on scheduling interviews, shooting, creating a project presentation, and editing. We finally finished our second rough cut last night, so now I can finally focus on packing.

I have a lot ahead of me, so I hope you stick around and experience this journey with me!

P.S HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

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Filed under Claudia in South Korea, East Asia

My Experience in Singapore

While I was walking to work one morning, an elderly man approached me and asked me for directions to a building. To my surprise, I instantly knew what building he was talking about and was able to navigate him around the area. This experience may not seem to be much, but to me, it meant I was fully integrated into the Singaporean way of life. In that moment, I no longer felt like I was a “foreigner” studying and working in Singapore, but I truly felt like I was a local Singaporean and that I had fully adapted to the country I am studying in. However, this was not always the case as I did experience a huge culture shock when I first arrived in Singapore.

 

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The symbol for Singapore is the Merlion. Its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura (or “Lion City” in Malay) and its body represents Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village.

 

When I first arrived in Singapore, I was so excited to start my journey because it was my first time traveling outside of North America. I tried to visit and eat as many things as possible during my first few days here with my fellow university students. However, once a week or two passed by and I had started my internship every weekday from 9 to 5, and I started to feel a little bit lonely.

I lived in a single room, and that was honestly one of the reasons why I often felt alone during my time here. Unlike the dorms in the United States where the halls are alive and students would hang out with each other in the lounge, the dorms here are the exact opposite. First of all, it was during the summer, so there was barely anyone on campus. Everyone from my university was spread out and lived in different buildings, so it was really hard to find someone to talk to especially during week nights. Because everyone had a full time internship that usually didn’t end until 6 PM, it was really hard to balance working and socializing during the first few weeks. Furthermore, there was no lounge area in the dorm for people to sit in and socialize which made it harder for me to stumble into new people and talk to them. As a result, during the first few weeks of my time in Singapore, I often felt like I had no one to turn to. I often felt homesick and missed my family and friends at home. Thankfully, we tried to keep in touch as often as possible even with the huge time difference, which definitely helped me deal with the new environment.

 

I lived in a single room at one of the residences at the National University of Singapore.

 

Work was also a huge difficulty, as the work culture is so different from the United States. Singaporean work culture is definitely very different from the United States’ work culture. One of the biggest shocks that I have experienced is how employees really value teamwork and collectivism. What I mean by this is unlike the United States where individual achievement is highly valued, Singaporeans focus more on working together to achieve success. In a collectivist culture, Singaporeans strive to work together, share responsibilities, and achieve rewards together rather than strive for individual recognition. I learned this when I was working with my supervisor who was nominated for a Media of the Year award. When working on a video to highlight her achievements, she told me to focus on her whole team as they are the ones who helped her get where she is today.

Another thing I have noticed is how hard Singaporeans work and how punctual they are. Working hours are usually from 9 AM to 6 PM but almost everyone stays past 6 PM. I asked several people on my team why they always stay later than their work hours, and they said they usually stay until 8 or 9 PM in order to finish everything and prepare for tomorrow. I never thought I would have to work overtime as an intern, but I actually had to work overtime on many occasions. There was one time where I had to stay past 11 PM in order to meet deadlines as everyone was piling workloads on me. However, this was a time when the Singaporean “collectivist” value came into play as a lot of my coworkers offered to pick up my work and help me out. In fact, during the night where I had to work overtime, one coworker stayed with me to make sure I finished everything by the deadline. Although work was very difficult and I had a lot more responsibilities than I had anticipated, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by people who cared which helped me adapt to the culture.

 

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Everyone’s so busy and concentrated on their work. OMD is not ranked as the best media agency in the world for no reason!

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I love my team at OMD! I learned so much from such awesome people!

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This picture was taken during my first excursion in Singapore with new friends that I met. Singapore’s architecture and city plan is honestly the best in the world.

 

Lastly, although many people criticize Singapore’s work culture to be very hierarchical, my company is quite different. In fact, everyone is very chill and friendly towards one another and often makes jokes too. Even an intern like me who is here for just two months can make fun of my bosses. I had to direct a video for my supervisors to use for a sales pitch and during the filming process, we did a lot of silly things in front of each other. I had full creative license during the process and could do anything I wanted. As a result, I felt like my company had more of a laid-back and Western cultural approach.

Now being back in the United States, I realize how diverse Singapore is. At my workplace, there were people from all parts of the world: China, India, Russia, Australia, and so many more. This is my favorite part about Singapore and the thing that I will take with me the most. I believe that each person can and must learn from other cultures in order to grow and create a more harmonious society.

 

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My company celebrating Chinese New Year.

 

I was a little hesitant to study abroad at first not only due to my financial situation but also because it would be my first time traveling outside of North America. However, this experience in Singapore has exceeded all my expectations. I have never seen a place so diverse, clean, regulated, and architecturally stunning as The Lion City. Throughout my time here, I have learned so much about not only Singaporean culture, but also my role as a global citizen in this globalized world. Using my internship and courses, I have noticed how Singapore and my workplace can be described as a unique mix of Asian and Western cultural influences due to the increasing amount of globalization. Furthermore, I definitely feel like I have grown and become more independent. I have never felt more “adult” as I did when I commuted to work using the public transportation, bought my own meals, and planned out my schedule every day. I will continue to use what I learned during my time here in Singapore to become a better global citizen. To anyone who is thinking about studying or interning abroad in Singapore, please do it! Everyone here is so friendly and willing to share their experiences and if you’re a foodie and photography junkie like me, this will be absolute heaven!

 

I am so grateful to have this opportunity to experience the Lion City up close and personal!

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Filed under East Asia, Tan in Singapore

Globalization in Singapore

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Filed under East Asia, Tan in Singapore

A Day in the Life of Tan in Singapore

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Filed under East Asia, Tan in Singapore