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Once upon a Hallyu

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My experience with Korea.

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.

감사합니다.

Korean embassy in Morocco *** NIIED *** Study in Korea

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.

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Do you, always.

Namjooned: A feeling that haunts you once you get to know Kim Namjoon.

Did you ever feel that you have finally found your other half only for them to be out of reach ? I did; sadly for me (sadly for all Hallyu stans out there), he is out of reach in every possible aspect.

Now, did the idea of becoming this idol’s confident cross my mind ? Yes, too many times than I care to admit BUT I sought comfort in him on an intellectual level, which was both my consolation and burden. I guess that’s why they call them idols: they appeal to you and become your role model, but you can never have a personal relationship with them.

It all started when I was receiving my “Hallyu homework”. Since Rap was my favorite genre, Mey suggested Yoon Mirae and introduced her as the queen of Korean Rap, and damn she was. She sent me some of her songs and there was a specific song for which I am eternally grateful because it literally turned my life upside down. I don’t mean to school you because I am new to the field myself but if you don’t know “Buckubucku”, then you probably missed out on one of the best songs of 2015. This song was a collaboration between many rappers and among them a special name stood out: “Rap Monster”.

When I came across “Rap Monster” for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. I told myself that, for someone to be called that way, he must be a fine rapper and I was not disappointed (this is an actual quote from a fan letter I sent that was forever lost in the mail *I’m okay*). When he initiated the song, I thought that he had that “IT” attitude and I was amused. Then, when his part came I was literally shook and flew out of my seat. I don’t exactly remember what I said or did because I have the memory of a goldfish, but knowing that my feelings haven’t changed, I can promise you that it was something like this: Damn homie, easy on this little girl’s poor heart!

And that was it, the moment I found my ultimate bias, the one and only Kim Namjoon. This being said, I will probably die or sell both kidneys before I reroute my devotion to another artist.

You see, I went through every single fangirl phase with this man for the past year, and everytime I thought it was time to unstan and retrieve my sanity, I found myself fall even deeper. What made my love, loyalty, respect, admiration … (The words are many and the feeling is the same) so persistent wasn’t that I fell for his looks or his title or his popularity; I fell for this man because he was literally the bestfriend I never had.

His rap was the first thing that caught my attention, and when I got to know him, I fell even deeper for his thoughts, his lyrics, his music and eventually his band and members. Unlike the traditional stanning criteria, I always pick my bias before I get to know the group, and Rap Monster was no exception: he made my heart flutter in War of Hormones (with a slight competition alongside V’s forehead in the MV, you know the drill) and he completely mesmerized me in Buckubucku as RM. Ultimately, his few mixtape releases which I happened to listen to and enjoy wholeheartedly made me realize that I have found that long lost soul that reflects my inner self.

Now all fangirling feelings aside, here are more profound reasons why Namjoon is my ultimate bias:

  • Through his path to success, he taught me that it’s never too late to have a dream and follow it.
  • Through his long training, he taught me that I can always improve and that time should be a friend, not a foe.
  • Through his strong leadership, he taught me that it’s okay to be independent, self-made, and passionate.
  • Through his lively character, he taught me that I can be myself, even if it defies the generic image that society sets for us.
  • Through his vivid writings, he taught me that my ideas – no matter how dark, twisted or vulnerable they can be – deserve to be inked, shared, and published. 

Because I’ve been living a lie for the past 23 years of my life, struggling between whom I should be and who I really am. By breaking all of his society’s standard rules, he showed me that as long as nobody gets hurt, I get to live my life the way I see it fit.

This piece might sound a bit all over the place. The only explanation I can give you is that when it comes to him, I can never think straight and this article is living proof as it has been saved as a draft for the past month. 

P.S: May 30th marks exactly a year since I was introduced to this beautiful human being and I hope that I will gather enough sanity to properly celebrate it by the end of the month.

Until then, and in this fine man’s own words: Do you, always.

A mixtape of love

You make me feel like an adult child,
At times I’m tamed and at others I turn wild
Do you realize what your aura does to me?
Your Voice, your existence bewitches me entirely
Your words Awaken the dormant thinker within me
You make me appreciate Life wholeheartedly
Something about you eases my deepest worries
When you smile, an adrenaline Rush gets me going
I don’t recognize myself anymore, is this a Joke ?
I’m supposedly taken yet I’m having a second love stroke
I wish I could be your Favorite Girl, for it I wish I could take your word
As you Promise Me The love of an eternity, it would be US against the world
I wish I could Converse with you daily, get High on your Reflections
After every talk, we’ll enjoy an interlude, a Monterlude of emotions
I’m dreaming Too Much, aren’t I ? allowing myself to Cypher my affection like this
You’re the Ruff around my neck, this feels Fantastic, an eternal bliss
I Believe that your Monster is soothing mine,
It’s healing my heart, soul and mind
This feeling is genuine, Please Don’t Die
While Unpacking my fangirling Bags through these lines
I felt Bucku Bucku writing these rhymes
Where U At Ramonie ? I am yours, Always.

Sincerely, the baddest female.

GZB: Abbreviation for Gijibae, literally meaning female

Lee Chaelin, mostly known as CL, 2NE1’s former (everlasting) leader and current maknae, and also the main reason I gave KPOP a chance. Here is 5 times the Queen of Pop caught my attention and gained my approval.

5. Hello Bitches

When I came across “Hello Bitches” for the first time, I told myself “Well damn if this ain’t Korean Nicki Minaj”. This statement is a year old; Diplo confirmed this later on. I think that what helped me enjoy this song the most was the fact that the lyrics were mainly in english, so I felt more familiarized with it. Also, this is the only song for which I knew the korean lyrics by heart … well most of them anyways: Hana, Dul, Set Bitches.

4. The baddest female

“This is for all the bad girls around the world, not bad being bad but bad being good you know”: through this song, CL delivered the slogan of a lifetime and the definition of her cause. This song also marks CL’s first act as a solo artist, and the word GZB currently serves as her fandom name.

3. Dr. Pepper

This song actually made me try the soda … For that matter, I advise you to stick to the song. In a more daring scene (so to speak), CL joined Diplo and other american rappers in this sick beat with an even sicker verse: Not bad for an american predebut.

2. Dirty vibe

Joining hands once again with Diplo and Skrillex this time, CL showed her true colors alongside her label mate and fellow leader G-Dragon and showered us with the funkiest vibe: the dirty kind. If you were asking yourself before whether CL is the perfect girl crush or not, she openly claimed it in one of her verses on your behalf.

1. Lifted

CL humbly lifted the US market through her american debut with this song, taking the high road in this one. Throughout the chill MV that shows a more bold image than we have ever seen before, the baddest female surely knows how to stay true to her name.

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