Pushing the Border: The Aftermath of Being Abroad

Rational Reflections on Moving Back to Korea 


Illustration by Lydia Ryu.

An opportunity to study abroad easily ranks as one of the luckiest things that can happen to a student. However, at the same time, there are some daunting struggles international students inevitably go through making adjustments: first when moving overseas, and second when moving back home. The process of assimilation that students have to go through can be challenging. I would like to share a few things that I had to go through as an international student myself, moving from Indonesia to Korea. 

First and foremost, I had to re-learn the Korean language and some of its grammar. For instance, when I first moved back to Korea, I could not distinguish when to use 되 and when to use 돼. Because of that, I made mistakes like writing “그래도 되” in times where it should have been “그래도 돼”. Not being able to discern whether to use 되 or 돼 doesn’t matter in speech, since they sound practically the same. However, when people write or type, using the wrong form of this phonetic syllable often makes people sound very uneducated, and some may even become aggressive or turned off when spotting too much of the wrong 되 in a sentence.  

The vastly different cultures between Korea and Indonesia made the readjustment difficult as well. For instance, the East Asian emphasis on “respect the elder” is something not as prevalent in places like, say, West Europe. Thus, to those who lived overseas feel disconnected from such notions (including myself), Korea’s social norms often feel forced on the younger generations.

Aside from the societal norms, keeping up with all the cultural trends in Korea was also a challenge for me. Upon first moving back, I became startled by all the changes that were made to the streets, and encountering new trends like malatang and escape room cafés was disorienting, to say the least. 

As a teenage guy, keeping up with game trends was difficult to adapt to as well. Socializing becomes a bit harder here for high school boys that don’t play League of Legends, since many students socialize at PC cafés to play games, which is LoL 99% of the time. There are so many references and memes related to League that are used on a daily basis too, which, as a non-League player, I simply don’t understand.

The climate in Korea – specifically Daegu – was also very challenging to adapt to. Korea gets extremely hot in summer and very cold in winter – Indonesia, on the other hand, has a moderate climate the entire year. I was not doing too well the first summer I got here, since I had to spend months without proper air conditioning. 

With all things said though, the opportunity to study overseas is definitely a blessing. Despite all the struggles that I’ve gone through, I would say that the things I’ve accomplished by studying overseas are definitely more valuable than the minor struggles that I’ve had to endure. Besides, the world is too big for someone to live their entire life in just one country. If you ever get the chance to study abroad, really consider it–it just might change your life.