There was a crucial dialogue going inside my mind before I make a decision to go to South Korea, as an international student from Nepal. Certainly making the decision was not an easy task for me because Korea as a country was not my first destination for my Master degree, although the MAINS curriculum was my first priority. Mostly what I heard about Korea was that most of the subjects are undertaken in Koreans (although it says that it is in English) for both Koreans and international students. I always wanted to go to the western countries especially English speaking countries and study the same course. Since there is no MAINS program in western countries, my husband, Jeevan Baniya recommends me to join the program in South Korea and ensure that it is in English.
Living and studying a year in Korea is absolutely incredible experiences that have opened my eyes to a complete new world. I found MAINS as a unique academic institution, not only because the curriculum is in English but MAINS itself is a product of civil society organizations. Now I can say without any hesitation that this is the institution I wanted and have been seeking to study. If I was not here for my Master degree, I can never experience anywhere not even in western countries.
Let me first begin with MAINS course that has been designed to balance between theory and practice. I feel myself empowered from the courses; I have attended with the profound study of human rights, civil society, democracy, peace and security studies, social movements, feminism and many more. I have found MAINS program related with everything as the study of human affairs and creating a just society. All the students who have admitted in this program are either activists or practitioners and have some prior experiences in their respective field. Sharing the experiences related with the course from various countries broaden the understanding and enhance the curiosity of students.
On the other hand, the university has provides its every effort to ensure that the actual need of activists and practitioners would reflected in the curriculum. During our second semester, I have some rare opportunities to explore, critically understand and interact with Korean civil society organizations and learn their activities. I am really fascinated and overwhelmed by the activities undertaken by Korean civil society. All of these activities has shown and enlightened me on Korean society. You can find my opinions about Korean CSOs here in my blog (http://sunitabasnet.blogspot.com ).
Similarly, while studying at MAINS and attending several conferences that are encouraged, recommended and supported by the university provide me lots of eye-opening experiences in my life. It not only help me broaden my knowledge but also lend a hand to network with likeminded people around the globe. Even the MAINS students from various countries are very caring and endless network. For instance, last month there was a flood in Thailand and all the MAINS students contributed to support the victims by organizing the fundraising campaign. The most interesting things were it was not just the students who care each other but also the MAINS faculties, staffs and board members who actively participated to support our initiative.
You will never have problem on making friends, although young generation in Korea are little shy to make friends so making Korean friends is a difficult task in Korea especially if you are from developing countries. Several times a total stranger has abruptly asked me, “Where I am from?” and once I answer that I am from Nepal, the conversation just ends there. I am not saying that making Korean friends is impossible. I have few but very good and helpful friends. However, you will have opportunities to make friends from neighboring countries and some of your Korean fellows in the class.
Staying in a dormitory and sharing a room with two other friends from Burma and Thailand has been a productive experience to understand and respect other culture, lifestyle, and tolerance and improve my English to some extent (since none of them speak in Nepali). Traveling to Korean itself provides an education that one cannot get from any book or receive from any university. Therefore, this is the university I would recommend if you are seeking to work for people and together looking for pursuing your Master Degree.
(This piece was written for a newsletter that published from the Sungkonghoe University, South Korea)