It was almost twenty-two days before I was due to fly out from Sydney and arrive in Seoul. I was staying in my hometown, gathering all my paperwork, and packing all the essentials. Ding! I received an email, quickly jumped on the computer and opened up my inbox. I saw that I had one unread email. The subject line read: “Hi! I’m your buddy from Korea University.”
Jeong-Min Choi was my buddy in the Korea University Buddy Assistant program (KUBA) and now for life. Although I made friends with everyone else in our group, both international and domestic, we were almost inseparable from the beginning. Because we were the same age and shared an interest in seeing the world, it was no wonder we clicked. However, I probably would never have met her or anyone else I made friends with if it had not been for KUBA.
What is KUBA?
KUBA matches international students who are studying at KU with local KU students in an interactive and personal program. Students are divided into several groups and each individual KU student has 1-4 international students assigned to them. The program is designed to help international students adjust to life in Korea and teach them different aspects of Korean culture.
Positives of KUBA
From the moment I stepped off the plane, KUBA was there to take me to my dormitory, make sure I had all of the required documents and look after me. That first night I met my KUBA Leader, Ga Young Lee. From that moment, I should have known that I was going to be in the craziest group of people that I have ever met in my entire life. They were also the kindest, sweetest, most caring people and I now consider them to be a part of my family. Every week Ga Young and every other buddy in our group UNISIX, organised a new place to go visit in Seoul, a new piece of culture for us to experience. We cheered for our host university at every sporting event at the KoYeon Games until we could not speak. We went out to Hongdae for special events where we danced until four in the morning. We took trips to pensions, sheep ranches and mud flats where the goal was to eat, drink and laugh as much as possible. I also met with three of them at least once a week for a language exchange where my inexperience in the Korean language was obvious, but they took the time to teach me. Sometimes we took trips outside of the group because by then we had all become such good friends that there was no need for scheduled meetings. The night I was due to fly back to Australia I had everyone meeting me for last coffee sessions, messaging me to have a safe flight, taking me to the airport. Ga Young even called me before I went to the gate. I guess you could say that the most positive thing about KUBA is the people.
Negatives of KUBA
There were times, like any person travelling to a foreign country and staying for an extended period of time, where I was extremely homesick or needed help. Even though everyone I met were so caring and took time out for you, I still sometimes felt like I was not getting the full potential out of the experience. This was especially true nearing the end of my journey. By this time, it was the holiday season so everyone had either gone home or were not available. Maybe it was only because I had stayed one semester that I felt this way. There were some group activities that I did not attend either because they involved things such as mountain hiking and I did not want to spend the rest of my time in a hospital or on crutches. Also, I heard a lot of international students complaining about the program constantly. Some people were obviously not having the same experience I was and were intent on letting people know about it.
No matter what you say about KUBA, they are honestly unlike any other buddy program that I have witnessed in the past. I have not heard of such praises come out of any other Korean University about their international students support like Korea University. However, that could just be me being incredibly biased. Out of all the memories that I made in Korea, KUBA is a part of almost every single one. I will definitely not forget any of it. Especially UNISIX and our group motto/chant: Stay hungry! Stay foolish! Stay UNISIX!