I arrived in Lithuania in January and left the country in July. In Lithuania, snow falls until the middle of May – this is the reason I describe Lithuania as a white, snow-covered country. My Lithuanian friends told me there are only two seasons in Lithuania: the white season and the non-white season.
Among many experiences, there were special occasions that made me learn more about Korea than when I was back in Korea. One was teaching Korean at the university and the other was the “Erasmus 4 School” project.
Teaching Korean at the university was a sudden yet fortunate experience for me. At the orientation for newly arrived exchange students, I met the head director of the International Relationship Office. She suggested teaching Korean at the university to me and other students from Ewha. We were instantly interested.
While teaching, I realized how scientific and easy Korean is to learn. It was surprising how after only two classes, every student was able to write in Korean.
I also felt the power of Korean pop-culture. I was curious why students here wanted to learn Korean – I never expected to meet a foreigner wanting to learn our language. Most answered that Korean dramas and K-pop were why they became attracted to Korean.
In Korea, when I saw articles about the Korean wave, I assumed it was a bluff by the media. However, after I met students from the Korean language class, I began to think differently. Yes, there are indeed people who enjoy Korean culture even in Lithuania. When I heard students wanted to learn Korean to be able to understand the language and someday visit Korea, I realized how influential culture can be.
Erasmus 4 School is a project in which participants visit a local high school and talk about each other’s country. Exchange students volunteer to be teachers and choose a topic to cover such as history, geography and language. History was my topic.
The high school was in a small town 300 kilometers away from the capital. It took around four hours by train. When we arrived at the school, all of us were tired, cold and hungry, but we had to give our presentations. Although the trip was exhausting, I did not regret my decision.
As my topic was history, I introduced key inventions of each period and spent most of the time explaining the period of Japanese occupation. As Korea is a country not widely known in Lithuania, I thought most students would be bored. However, I was wrong. Most students concentrated well and they sympathized with Koreans – they expressed anger and frustration to ward Korea’s tragic history.
Through this project, I felt proud introducing Korea to young students in Europe. Through these memorable experiences, I felt proud to be a Korean and felt deep affection for my country.