Expat: Short for expatriate, is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship.
After my graduation, I was lost between the irritating internships and the fear of being held against my will in a major I did not fully embrace. To add some color to this dark canvas, I decided to find ways to make my field more enjoyable, and that’s how it all started.
I never thought of applying abroad before, so the whole process was an adventure for me. I was going to place a bet without even aiming to claim the prize. My bet (despite being rejected later) was on the Korean Government Scholarship Program, also known as KGSP, and it was a pleasant experience.
To be honest, the paperwork was generally bittersweet. Although the Korean Embassy provides everything on its website (Guides, application forms, list of universities …), when it comes to actually preparing the paperwork, all sorts of hurdles line up in your way. I’m telling you this because I almost gave up three to four times before applying, and I had several anxiety attacks during the form filling process.
Before I carry on with the storytelling, here is last year’s paperwork if you’re interested :
- Application form (Form provided by KGSP)
- Letter of self-introduction (Form provided by KGSP)
- Statement of purpose (Form provided by KGSP)
- 2 Letters of recommendation (Form provided by KGSP)
- KGSP applicant pledge (Form provided by KGSP)
- Personal medical assessment (Form provided by KGSP)
- Degree (Bachelor’s, Masters, Doctorate)
- School transcripts
- Applicant’s proof of citizenship
- Parents’ proof of citizenship
- English proficiency test score (Mandatory)
- Korean proficiency test score (Optional)
- Any other degree, attestation, or paper that could boost your application
- Essay about your experience with Korea (Extra)
The underlined paperwork is entirely up to you as you’ll get to fill these forms; and the more accurate your essays and informations are, the better your chances of being chosen are. The extra essay is solely requested by the embassy in order to give you a better opportunity of being picked by them during the pre-selection.
The paperwork in bold is up to your community, so-to-speak. Basically, every non-English document should be translated into English by a certified translator (acknowledged by court) and apostilled by the autority in charge. However, you don’t need to translate the proof of citizenship if you and your parents have valid passports.
The paperwork in italic depends on the professors whom you’d ask for a letter of recommendation on one hand, and your English level on the other hand, which should be no less than 5,5 for an IELTS score (preferred to TOEFL). If you have a Korean proficiency score, it would definitely be a plus in your application, even if it’s a level I.
Now, you’d think the writing part is the easiest part. However, it was the cause of my multiple mental breakdowns while preparing for this. You want to put yourself out there, but you don’t want to sound desperate, weak, or worse, a fanatic.
The translation process was less painful, although my translator messed up my grades on one of the transcripts and I didn’t pay attention until I was filing my application last minute, so make sure to review your translations word for word, especially when it comes to grades.
As for the letters of recommendation, I advise you not to prepare it until you need to submit it. You can talk to your professor(s) ahead of time just to let them know, but preserve the actual letter request until you’re chosen. The pre-selection by the embassy does not require a letter of recommendation, and is only meant to select the students that will eventually be chosen from for both Masters and Doctorate scholarships.
The apostille process was a huge disaster as I kept going back and forth between every administration and jurisdiction office out there. After a long hustle, I was able to solve the misunderstanding, which in my case was the fact that they forgot to update their list of certified translators, and told me that my paperwork was not eligible for apostille. So, make sure that your translator is certified.
If picked during the pre-selection, you will be called for an interview at the embassy, so keep your phone near you at all times. There are many questions that would be asked during the interview, which are sometimes general and sometimes more specific. Also, the Jury can switch languages at any moment, so don’t be startled, you can always keep answering in the language you started with. Most importantly, do not answer the judges to satisfy them, answer them with what you truly believe. Credibility is key, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show off your potential.
Furthermore, know that business majors are the most qualified to be chosen amongst the other majors (I think it’s because the student selection is considered an international exchange of potential, since the economy of Korea is one of the largest economies in the world). In my case, my interview was over before it started because I’m a dentistry major, and the first thing I was told when I entered the interview room was that foreigners that study in the medical fields almost never get picked.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed every bit of the experience, because I got to know what I was capable of, even if I didn’t fit. Once you get selected, your application is transmitted to NIIED, short for the National Institute for International Education. Since I didn’t go past the pre-selection, I can’t tell you exactly what happens next, but if you’re interested, contact me and I will make sure to do some research and post a rough script of the next steps.
As a sum up, you will find below the extra essay I submitted to the embassy, as well as some useful links to help you browse Korean scholarships and learn more about KGSP :
안녕하세요? 저는 모로코에서 온 아스마입니다.
Being a curious person, I have always showed interest in other cultures, but I never tried to engage profoundly in a specific culture until I came across Korea.
Like most of its dedicated fans, I was initially introduced to this beautiful country through Hallyu, and while the entertainment side appealed to me very much (Kpop, Kdramas, Variety shows …), I actually found myself grow a specific liking to the culture as a whole. For that matter, I spent my time doing a lot of research and, to my surprise; I found out that there were many Korean-Moroccan associations that introduced and celebrated the Korean culture in my country.
I attended many cultural events, yet the event that marked me the most was the one hosted by the “Moroccan Fans of Korea” organization, commonly known as MFK. By being part of this event, I noticed that the bond between our countries was growing by the minute, and the love that my fellow citizens showed for Korea throughout this particular event was truly moving. What made me even more amazed was the fact that our Moroccan contestants worked very hard and actually represented our country in the KPOP world festival early nominations. That’s when I realized that Hallyu was not simply an attraction but rather a heartfelt devotion.
My second best experience was even more delightful as I attended another cultural event where a Korean citizen gave a speech about how he spent a year of his life in Morocco. As a Moroccan, I tend to forget about the beauty of my country at times, but listening to him talk about his well-spent time here, his acceptance of our culture and his enthusiastic engagement in many traditional customs of ours made me genuinely grow fond of Korea even more, especially when he gave us precious pointers that may come useful if we ever visit his country in the future. His venture literally made me eager to be in his shoes so as to experience the very same cultural differences in Korea and be able to appreciate it the way he wholeheartedly did. Coming to think of it, this also made me wonder whether Koreans have an idea of our country the way we do of theirs.
Moreover, my third experience, which is my ultimate favorite since I’m a foodie, was the Korean culinary adventure. Sadly, Korean restaurants are very rare in my country; therefore I had to travel to Casablanca in order to enjoy a taste of Korean cuisine. When I first visited Seoul Garden Restaurant, I tried to make the most of it and had a taste of every possible famous Korean dish: from the numerous side dishes such as Kimchi, sweet potatoes and egg rolls to the main dishes such as Bibimpap, Japchae, and the various barbecues … Now, while Kimbap can easily become my everyday food, I actually fell in love with Jajangmyeon for its exquisite taste which instantly fit my culinary standards. Also, although I am not a huge fan of spicy food, I surprisingly enjoyed Tteokboki and found the meal to be quite delightful.
Overall, I have had a taste of almost every international cuisine, but Korean food won over my heart with a knockout. My mother often told me that my love for food will be my undoing someday, but I believe that if I have lived my whole life without having a taste of Korean food, that would’ve been my actual undoing.
On top of all of this, my interest in Korean culture made me want to be more active Hallyu-wise. Being passionate about writing, I decided to apply for a features writer position at Soompi, which is a veteran and popular news website that has been covering everything Hallyu-related since 1998. I recently passed the first steps of the hiring process and I am scheduled for an interview in the upcoming days. I am excited and optimistic about this opportunity because it will allow me to both express myself vividly and immerse myself further in Hallyu.
Last but not least, I was really touched to find out that Arabic language was actually taught in some Korean universities for about 50 years as the second main language. As an Arab, it brought joy to my heart to see my language cherished and instructed in a country that I have so much admiration for. In return, I found myself eager to learn Korean because it would deepen my dedication to the culture.
Ultimately, I managed to learn Hangul and I picked up a few words here and there from KPOP and Kdramas, and I am currently teaching myself Korean at home thanks to Language apps and online tutoring in order to master the language as a whole, be able to express myself in Korean the way I do in English and phrase my thoughts in this mesmerizing language with such a beautiful calligraphy, thus giving my writing passion a fresh color.
As a whole, I found comfort in Korean culture because, despite the cultural differences and customs, I realized that from the profound respect for the elderly, to the conservative lifestyle and even the commitment to traditions … both countries share the same basic principles, and this detail warmed my heart.
People often refer to my love for Korea as a phase, but I firmly believe that it has become more of a lifestyle. Indeed, I am Moroccan, but thanks to everything I know about this compelling country, I feel like a Korean at heart.
P.S 1 : Although long, I hope that this article was useful. I couldn’t go through with any of this if it wasn’t for the help and constant support a dear friend of mine provided, and I thought I could give a helping hand to those of you who want to give this a shot but are hesitant or lost.
P.S 2 : If you have any questions, make sure to drop them in the comments or send them via the blog’s contact page.