A Korean Woman’s Insightful Story of Studying in Vietnam

Despite only being in Vietnam for a brief amount of time, Kwon Jayoung was quick to adapt to living in the "S-shaped Land".

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Jayoung, a recent graduate from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, ventured to Vietnam on her own to study Vietnamese. Born in 1996 in Gyeryong city, South Korea, Jayoung shared in an interview with Tien Phong newspaper that her time in Vietnam not only allowed her to complete her studies but also taught her valuable lessons about kindness, friendship, and overcoming language and cultural barriers.

Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
Kwon Jayoung shines on her university graduation day. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung

Dr. Nguyen Van Dap, lecturer at the Department of International Studies and Jayoung’s class teacher, praised her as an intelligent and energetic student who received the school’s scholarship for two semesters, making her the first foreign student to achieve this accomplishment in over 25 years of the faculty’s existence.

Dr. Dap added that Jayoung graduated on time in early August 2023 with good grades despite her modest proficiency in Vietnamese. She successfully adapted and integrated into Vietnamese society, forming close friendships and participating in numerous activities.

Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
Kwon Jayoung received her bachelor’s degree at the graduation ceremony on August 5, 2023. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung

Studying in Vietnam alone

Originally a student at the Faculty of English Language and Literature in South Korea, Jayoung decided to learn Vietnamese as English is already a universal language. Aware of Vietnam’s high economic growth rate and the good relationship between Korea and Vietnam, Jayoung saw learning Vietnamese as a pathway to new opportunities in the future. In 2018, she arrived in Vietnam, choosing to study International Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi.

Engaging in the same classes and subjects as Vietnamese students, Jayoung gained firsthand experience of Vietnam’s culture and deepened her understanding of life in the country. Despite initial challenges with the language barrier, she persevered and earned the support and assistance of her classmates.

Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
Jayoung and her mother at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Jayoung had to switch to online learning after her first semester. Despite her family’s concerns for her safety, she chose to continue her studies in Vietnam until the end of her sophomore year. Online learning brought advantages, such as the ability to easily review lecture materials before exams. Jayoung completed her graduation thesis in English, focusing on the topic of “Labor Migration from Vietnam to Korea.”

Culture shocks

While Vietnam and Korea share a common Confucian culture, Jayoung experienced cultural shocks upon her arrival. She was particularly surprised by the traffic in Vietnam, as well as the friendliness and helpfulness of the Vietnamese people. Throughout her time in Vietnam, Jayoung was grateful for the support and assistance provided by her friends and lecturers.

Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
Jayoung travels to Hoi An town. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung
Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
Jayoung and her boyfriend travel to Fansipan peak in Sa Pa township in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung
Korean Female Student Shares Study Journey in Vietnam
College classmates celebrate Jayoung’s birthday. Photo provided by Kwon Jayoung
Hannah Nguyen