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An Exchange Student’s Perspective: ”A life-changing semester with unique opportunities"

Bobae (or Laura, as she's called while in Europe) came to Halmstad University as an exchange student with the expectation to gain knowledge on educational studies. Little did she know that she would end up in the spotlight during a world championship broadcasted on live television worldwide. She is now heading back to Korea with quite a few extraordinary moments to look back at.

– Majoring in educational science, I knew that the studies in the Nordic countries were good, so I actively applied for schools in this area. Halmstad University had suitable courses for me and seemed like a nice place to stay, says Bobae when I meet her on a sunny day outside of Campus.

She had no idea these months in a small town in country up north would become the best five months in her life. Being on exchange is not all about studying, it’s about learnings in all aspects of life. Bobae most definitely experienced the last part.

Practical studies and Swedish as a foreign language

– The studies in itself has been very useful for me, especially the educational courses as parts of them were spent on the field, observing teachers and students in an authentic setting. In addition to studies related to my major, I chose to sign up for a Swedish course to be able to get more involved in the society while staying here. I really recommend all international students to take a Swedish class, as there has been quite a few situations where I needed to interact with swedes in their own language even though they in general have very good English skills. For me, as a future teacher, it also helped me understand the pedagogical difference between teaching language as a 'mother tongue' and 'foreign language'.

In the spotlight worldwide

After a few months in her new hometown, Bobae received an e-mail which would lead to a life-changing experience. The city of Halmstad was about to arrange the annual World Table Tennis Championship which was a major event for the municipality where Halmstad University was involved in several ways.

– I received an e-mail from the Swedish Table Tennis Association asking if I would like to volunteer as a translator for the Korean team during the championship. At this time, I didn’t know about the big event but saw this as a great opportunity to practice my English skills, so I happily agreed on helping on site whenever they needed me.

During this championship there was a very important political moment as the South Korean and North Korean female teams decided to merge into one before the semi-finals. Reporters from all kinds of media channels wanted comments from the team and Bobae was suddenly in the middle of it all translating live on television, social media and radio which was broadcasted all over the world. – My parents were up all night back home to get a glimpse of me in action. It was definitely one of the most surreal experiences of my life, but a fantastic memory to carry with me. I’m so thankful for this opportunity!

Unique experience with learnings for life

When asking Bobae about what she has enjoyed the most with studying at Halmstad University, she finds it hard to pick out something specific. – It’s really been the best part of my life. For me it’s all about the full experience of living abroad for the first time, traveling around a new continent, developing a new language and making friends from all over the world. As I arrived during winter, I was mesmerized by the snow, but I have to say I was happy when spring finally came. The change of season is really affecting the whole society here, as people get more energy from the light.

One of the things Bobae considers her most important lesson from the exchange experience is the way living abroad has made her look at things from new perspectives.

– What I thought was the only way of doing things back home, is done differently here. For me this has been a big eye-opener and I feel like I’m understanding the world a bit better since coming here.

– Of course, there have been tough moments during the way, especially in the beginning while adjusting to a new culture and way of studying, but when looking back it’s a tiny part compared to the rewards in terms of friendship, newly developed skills and learnings about people and myself. I’m so grateful to have made such good friends from all over the world while studying at Halmstad University, whom I hope to stay in touch with for many years ahead. I will never forget this time of my life.

Text and image: HELENA BENGTSSON

Bobae "Laura" Jang

Age: 21 years old
From: South Korea
Home university: Korea University

Updated 2018-06-01