Three Bicol University students return, having completed two international student exchange programs for the Global Korea Scholarship at Dongseo University, South Korea, and the Youth Elite Exchange Program under the New Southbound Policy International Study Program at National Quemoy University, Taiwan.
Summer Jan Forrest Untalan, spent nearly four months in South Korea, and John Olan Gomez and Francheska Iubelle Perez, both had the opportunity to stay in Taiwan for five months. Upon their return to the Philippines, the three shared their experiences on the international student exchange programs in Korea and Taiwan. They shared stories of both their cultural and educational immersion, stating that the programs provided them with an opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures, as well as to build relationships with people from different backgrounds.
Because the international exchange program provided full scholarships and covered all expenses, the students were able to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience with minimal financial worries, except for personal financial needs. They gained a unique perspective of the world and were able to expand their worldviews by immersing themselves into foreign cultures firsthand.
In an interview with the International Relations Office Director, Dr. Dimson M. Rivero, Summer shared his story with excitement while recalling the experience he had as an exchange student at Dongseo University. He left the country on August 25 of last year and returned on December 23.
One of Summer’s classes was learning the Korean language. He said that he has been familiar with the Korean language since 2017. “Ever since, mahilig ako manuod ng K-dramas, K-films, and K-pop music.”
At the BU College of Arts and Letters, where he is currently taking AB Communication, they were also taught Korean as part of their foreign language studies.
As a film student, Summer had the opportunity to experience the Busan International Film Festival. “It’s inspiring to meet passionate international directors and renowned actors.” This experience fueled his desire to pursue filmmaking after he finishes his undergraduate degree.
He also enrolled in Dongseo University’s subjects on filmmaking, music, and animation.
Summer was the only undergraduate Filipino student who underwent the GKS program. He further explained that being an exchange student in Korea comes with beautiful scenery, rich culture, and vibrant cities. He said that Korea is more than what the bare eye sees, and this left him with a lasting impression and priceless experience.
Meanwhile, Olan and Iubelle also shared their takeaways during their stay at the National Quemoy University. Olan is from the BU College of Science, taking BS Computer Science, while Iubelle is taking BS Business Administration at the BU College of Business, Economics, and Management. They left for Taiwan last year on September 21 and came back on January 9, 2023.
The pair learned new languages such as Mandarin, Bahasa India, and Vietnamese. Through their exchange program, they were exposed to unique cultures and had the chance to learn different languages from their co-exchange students in Taiwan.
They had the opportunity to visit popular tourist destinations in Taiwan, including war memorials, museums, temples, villages, and other ancient and sacred buildings. They also visited corporations and establishments, like the Kinmen Ceramic Factory, where they had the chance of painting statues of lion gods.
As part of the student exchange program, they participated in international events, programs, and lectures that focused on Taiwan’s history. They also experienced Kinmen’s outdoor traditions, such as camping, sports events, and shooting games.
The Taiwanese cuisine was also a memorable experience during the student exchange program. Olan admitted that he particularly liked the Stinky Tofu because of its unique smell and taste, “with the side dish,” he added.
In addition to all of these experiences, Iubelle emphasized that the most crucial thing is how they learned to manage their time and money responsibly.
“We got to experience how to become independent, especially in managing our time and finances,” she said.
Olan and Iubelle spent Christmas and New Year’s in Taiwan because the exchange program didn’t end until January. Since Taiwan does not celebrate Christmas, Iubelle shared that their co-exchange students arranged a small party for them.
The international exchange program was an extremely rewarding experience for Olan and Iubelle. When asked about their key takeaways, the pair both agreed that it was learning the Mandarin language and doing outdoor activities.
“Dito sa Taiwan, iba ang Mandarin learning language. Mas madali mong maiintindihan if immersed ka talaga sa Taiwan,” Olan said.
Olan also received an excellence award as the outstanding student in the international exchange student program in Taiwan, representing NQU. Aside from Iubelle, another Filipino student from Caraga State University was also with them in the program.
“I was humbled by the experience… ‘yung nakita ko sa Taiwan, I hope I can also bring it here in the Philippines,” Iubelle said as her takeaways. She is referring to the hospitality of Taiwanese people, their well-preserved culture and history, and their love for their language.
Summer, Olan, and Iubelle were all grateful for the opportunity to participate as the university’s international exchange students. Without the support of the BU officials, their respective deans, and the BU IRO, headed by Dr. Dimson M. Rivero, the students would have never had this opportunity in the first place.
“I hope this experience can inspire other students. Dapat makita ng mga students that we can also travel the world, not because we are rich, but because we (Filipinos) have talent, we are intelligent, and we have the capability… Now that we have the opportunity, we have to grab it,” Iubelle said.
Additionally, Olan and Iubelle will be able to use this international exchange program to transfer their academic credits from Taiwan to Bicol University under their internship programs.
Photos from Summer Untalan, and Fracheska Iubelle PerezFran