Since learning and knowing the English language is extremely valued, I went to study it in the Philippines right after graduating middle school in South Korea. Many South Koreans go to study English in the Philippines because the cost of living is much less. It is much higher in South Korea versus the Philippines due to the fact that South Korea is much more developed now. The differences between the two countries really defined my experience studying in the Philippines.
The first aspect that shocked me when I arrived in the Philippines was related to smartphones and the internet. The infiltration of smartphones in South Korea now is
really high. I started using the smartphone as soon as it was introduced in my home country. Smartphones soon became omnipresent, and free and fast Wi-Fi popped up everywhere. South Korea is currently ranked first in the world for the “fastest Internet speed.” When I was in the Philippines, however, no one was using smartphones, the Wi-Fi was really slow, and even 3G was unavailable. I could only use my smartphone as a traditional cell phone for making calls and sending text messages. I realized how much I depended on technology when I no longer had it.
The second thing I had to get used to was the food—more specifically, side dishes. The staple food for both countries is rice, but there are always side dishes that go with the rice. In Korea, multiple side dishes, at least three of them, compliment the rice. I didn’t realize how special having multiple side dishes was until I lived in the Philippines. In the Philippines, there was usually only one side dish that had a very strong flavor. The dish was usually salty or sour so that it could be balanced out by eating more rice. Ever since I was exposed to this particular food culture, my eating habits have changed. Even now while eating Korean food, I eat a smaller portion of side dishes accompanied with a lot of rice.
Lastly, the public transportation was, of course, different as well. In South Korea, modes of transportation included the subway, train, buses, and sometimes my mother’s car. In the Philippines, I took a motorized scooter or the Jeepney - a minibus remodeled after the US Army’s Jeeps. An interesting fact is that the US Army Jeeps were left in the Philippines after World War II, and they were what inspired the creation of the Jeepney.
The Philippines was my first experience living and studying abroad, and it provided me a lot of insight at such a young age. Seeing the world from multiple perspectives has helped expand my outlook in life and for my work as well. Living in the Philippines has left me really valuable memories that I won’t forget.