Exploring the UK and British culture during 11 months at Kings London
Yujung Kim, from South Korea, has been studying the Diploma of Intensive English course for 11 months at Kings London. She talks about learning and living in London, and exploring British culture.
Hi Yujung, where you are from?
I come from Seoul, which is the capital city of South Korea.
What course have you been taking here and what have your lessons been like?
The general Intensive course, and I stay here almost a year. I think 10 or 11 months. I have morning and afternoon classes. I started from Level 6. When I first tried my Level 6 class I thought it was really hard so I asked my teacher can I go down a level, but I got 80% at the benchmarking test. Now I am Level 7.
I decided to go to Cambridge class and then I had a class with Tim, actually it was my favourite class. I knew how I made progress. Yes, he's very good at doing tutorials. I could see my progress and that was the time I study hard in London. Also my English skill developed well.
I think Cambridge class helped me a lot, because I didn't know which grammar was weak with me. In Cambridge class we deal with lots of different types of grammar so I know which is my weak part and my strong part.
Also because Cambridge have a speaking test I practised, and because you have to do that with a partner, it's working with someone else as well. When I did the first mock exam in speaking, I couldn't say anything, but I got 60-something in the FCE test.
Why did you decide to study English here?
Because a long time ago I want to take a gap year in my university. Unfortunately my country does not understand a gap year so I applied to many internships but I failed, so I decide to practise English more.
My dad wanted me to go to Canada but actually I really like English literature and I want to go to other European countries. And also at that time in Korea, British accent was very popular so I want to learn British accent like that, so I chose to come here. I went to agency EDM and they suggest to me Kings London, and then I think I have to study language, I think I need to be there a long time. So I decide to be there almost a year.
So do you have future specific plans that require English?
Well, before I came here I never thought of living in or working in another country, but my perspective and thinking were totally changed since I arrived here, and I think I will work abroad, I hope in England. I think after my university I will try to get working holiday visa here, and then I will find out.
And why did you choose Kings London?
Because the EDM staff told me central London is too expensive but when you go to Zone 4 or 5 it's cheaper than central London. Also because Kings is a little far from the centre, you can focus on studying. I think it was a good choice.
And where have you been staying?
First six months I stayed in a student house, then I changed to homestay. I liked both, but when I was in the student house, I got stressed from other students, they party every time. Well, I enjoyed the party sometimes! And then sometimes they never clean.
When I met really nice host family, I have bigger room and they treat me like their daughter. I feel like they are my English parents. It's far from school, but I am really satisfied in my stay. I think it depends on who do you meet.
What do you think about the school facilities?
First when I came here, I was quite surprised because in my university we don't have this kind of interactive whiteboard... it's better than I expected.
Have you taken part in any school activities or excursions?
First few days I went to a walk with them, then I realised I think it's better to go myself. I think it's helpful like an introduction, maybe you have a fear of, 'Am I going to get the right train? How can I get there by public transport?' But I met other Koreans and we made plans together, so I don't think I participated many times.
Also I went to the Book Club, and some lectures which I think are interesting. The lectures have interesting topics, and I went to Book Club because I decide to read English literature.
The most fascinating thing in England, because I'm feminist in my country, I watched The Suffragettes, that was based in London, and Emily Bronte. And I got inspired from that. Everything was so cultured.
Also, I like Harry Potter because I really like the accent when I watch the films, and I watch [British TV series] Skins, so popular in Korea with teenagers.
So do you think you've achieved your aim of exploring British culture, British feminism, music and literature?
I think so, because before I came here my aim was that I want to have a really long conversation and discuss some problem with foreigners.
Before I came here I had a part-time job in cinema and there were many foreign customers there, but I only talked to them in words like, 'Would you like something?' All my friends speak very fluently and make foreigner friends, I wanted to be the same.
Have you found any good places to shop, eat or explore in London?
I think too many! In Beckenham I really like the Kelsey Park, because they have swans, fox, and in central London my favourite place is Greenwich Park. Also the National Gallery, I always go there.
I have been to Korean restaurants. Not as good as the real thing, but good enough when you can't get the real thing!
Have you been on any trips to other parts of the UK?
I've been to York. York was really nice because I went with my mum. It looks older than London and very small. And I really like Bath because they have some Roman culture, different from London.
You're going to do a bit more exploring once your course finishes?
There are some UK parts I couldn't go to because you have to drive. Last week I was in Devon on holiday. I went to visit my cousin in Bangor in North Wales and she drove us everywhere. It's very beautiful countryside but I don't think we make enough of it — we should start offering trips to different places.
Was this your first visit to the UK?
Yes, it's my first time to come to London. In 2012, my mum and I made plans to tour European countries, but that time were too many people, too expensive.
Is it what you imagined?
Yes, because I imagined all the time raining! But I didn't expect people to be really nice — I thought [they would be] really cold hearted, but they aren't.
London is multi-cultured and you can meet different kinds of people from cultures, and that makes me see wide perspective. It’s expensive but worth it. And you have many things to do. I watched eight musicals here!
Can you tell us about the student lecture you gave yesterday, about the Korean language?
I introduced hango, why it was invented, how it works. How you can make a word out of the letters. And then I introduced sentence structure and briefly other expressions, and verbs.
Because Korean is my major, I didn't have any problem to talk about it — but the students came more than I expected, I think I was nervous and I talked too fast. When I practised with my host family I had interaction with them, also I made some jokes, but in the real time I couldn't do it, I was so nervous!