Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ghana to Korea | Traveling 30 hours to Finally Arrive in Daegu with Full Scholarship


Personal Background
I come from Ghana; born, bred and lived most of my life in the capital city of Accra. I studied at the University of Ghana, one of the most prominent universities in the country and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics. My aim was to be a research officer or a policy analyst/consultant. However, my experiences as a field officer working across the countryside which exposed me to the poverty and economic challenges facing some people and communities across the country influenced my decision to pursue a development oriented career and my subsequent decision to pursue my current program of study, International development.

Pre-arrival preparations 
 Korea was not a country I originally had intentions of studying in; the heroics of the country in the 2002 Fifa World cup coupled with the constant media hype on the nuclear stand-off on the peninsular meant that I was not totally blank on the country, I however had not paid much attention to the prospect of studying here until my best friend moved here (Daegu city) some few years ago to study and recommended my current Yeongnam University to me. The remarkable economic achievements of Korea within a relatively short time frame gave me strong reasons to study development here in Korea. There was more to learn from Korea in terms of development than other places.

Daegu is surprisingly the best choice for African students
The choice of city, Daegu, is however coincidental, as my host University is located here. However, my personal circumstances and some features of the city made it a relatively convenient destination compared to other cities in the country. One such feature is the weather.  Ghana is a tropical country and for most parts of the year, we enjoy lots of sunshine and some periodic rainfall, temperature hardly go below 10 degrees Celsius and obviously has no winter.  I was therefore worried about how to survive the freezing winter conditions I read about. This was one of my major concerns before moving here. It was therefore a bit relieving when I discovered temperatures in Daegu can be very  similar to what we had back home, especially during the summer and the winter in the city is relatively milder than other cities in the country.

Boat riding on the Nakdong River

There is a good size of African student community in Daegu
Also, the network of Ghanaians who were already living in the city, and mostly in my university, whom my friend had introduced me to even before I arrived here, were also helpful to me. From accommodation, to finding my way around the city, these guys helped me to settle in and made my transition quiet easier. Also, the little experience I had in Seoul made me appreciate how simpler and relatively cheaper it is to live in Daegu than in Seoul. Daegu I can say is pretty much easier to find your way around and much more cost effective. In contrast, Seoul is relatively busy, overcrowded and a bit more expensive than it is in Daegu. This made Daegu a much more preferred city to me than Seoul.

Having dinner with the Ghana community in my University

Daegu is a great city to enjoy football
There was also the relatively small factor of Daegu city being the home of Daegu fc, one of the only two football clubs I knew in Korea at the time, it gave me the assurance of enjoying my favorite sport, football, once in a while in the city.

Inside Daegu Stadium on a Match day

Budget and Itinerary
Perhaps the most important aspect of the whole travel arrangement. Although Yeongnam University in Daegu offered me a 100% scholarship package including a monthly living allowance, I was required to finance air fare on my own and to come along with some amount of money to cater for the first month of my stay here (which was estimated to be about a $1000).  Giving an exact estimate of the budget for my trip and my settling here could be a little misleading. But on the average, a $1000 should be more than enough to sustain an individual for a month depending on the individual’s choices (accommodation type, utilities etc). Similarly, the price of air ticket can vary widely depending on airline, season, route etc. For my situation, there was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge), no direct flight from my country to Korea and my choice of flight was one that would provide the shortest route to Korea at an economically affordable price with the least waiting time. I did find one for approximately $800 .I travelled from the kotoka International Airport in Accra, made a transit at the Bole International airport in Ethiopia, made a brief stop-over at Hong Kong before finally arriving at Incheon. It took approximately 25 hours to get to Korea from my home country, excluding the additional 5 hours I had to travel by Bus from Incheon to Daegu where my school is located.

It has been almost 15 months now since I made my entry into this country and the experience has been very good so far. My graduate school is a special one as it assembles development oriented individuals from more than 50 countries across the World to study together. This environment has given me the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The knowledge and experiences I have gathered whilst studying here has been some of the best both professionally and personally and I will not hesitate to return to/recommend Korea/Daegu to anyone who wishes to study outside his/her home country.

2017 Christmas tour_ a visit to Korean royal tomb

With my friends inside Suseong Lake

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