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(Yonhap Interview) British student graduates S. Korean univ. with top honors

All Headlines 14:06 August 25, 2016

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- When Jack Webster, originally from Britain, came to South Korea in 2010, he was no more than a retired golfer seeking a new life in the unfamiliar Asian country. Years later on Thursday, Webster graduated Seoul-based Dongguk University with top honors in business studies.

"It is a strange story to a lot of people. I was a golf teacher in England. But I stopped that job when I decided to go to Australia for the working holiday. And during my time there, I happened to meet many Koreans," Webster told Yonhap News Agency at the graduation ceremony.

The 30-year-old said his experience of encountering many South Koreans led him to look for new opportunities in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

"When I lived in England, really, the only thing I knew (about South Korea) was Park Ji-sung," Webster said, adding he is a big fan of the Manchester United Football Club. Park played for the English Premier League club from 2005 to 2012.

Webster said when he announced the plan to his friends, the main question he got was "Where is it?"

"But an interesting thing I have noticed through my time in Korea, is that everyone in England has gotten to know about Korea more and more," he said, citing the boom of South Korea cultural content throughout the globe.

Webster said he first encountered difficulties overcoming the cultural differences, such as with personal space.

"In England, personal spaces are very big. Whereas in Korea, they are very small. Something as simple as standing in a line with so little space would be an example," Webster said.

"The way people talk to each other with a level of hierarchy was also something different," he added. "Such things were not easy to get used to."

Webster added how students interact with professors was very different from Britain.

"Very often, students develop relationships with professors throughout the semester. You eat lunch or even dinner with professors. But that would almost never happen in England," Webster said. "(There), professors just do the lecture and leave."

Despite the close relationships, however, Webster said he was surprised about how students were reluctant to ask questions during class.

"During class time in England, it is more active. If you don't understand it, you put your hand up and ask. But in Korea, I was the only one," he remembered.

Overall, Webster said he was satisfied with his Korean college life.

"I loved going to university early, getting coffee, going to class and meeting friends," Webster said. "In the evenings, we would go out for 'samgyeopsal,'" which is pork belly meat served on a grill.

Webster also studied Buddhism, adding he learned about focusing on the present.

"It was interesting how they said the past is done, while the future does not yet exist," Webster said.

Webster also said South Korean students need to be more passionate about what they are studying.

"More students need to study subjects they want to study and have passion for," Webster said. "Everyone wants to study engineering. And when I ask them why, they say because they want to work for Samsung. That's not an answer nor a passion for a subject."

Webster added that more students must make more efforts to find what they want to do, rather than just studying for college entrance exams.

"For example, one of the great careers in England is being a chef. But in Korea, it is kind of looked down on. I think that is a real mistake," Webster said.

After his graduation, Webster said he wishes to stay in South Korea and start a new business on English education.

"For quite a long time I have been developing my own material and textbooks. I want to create my own English education product," Webster said.

Webster said South Korean students tend to memorize things to take tests, adding that the education system should focus on helping them understand the structures of English language.

Spending more than six years in South Korea, Webster said he has become a big fan of stir-fried spicy pork, as well as "jokbal," boiled pork feet, along with "makgeolli," Korean rice wine. He is also engaged to his South Korean girlfriend.

To all potential foreign students wishing to study in South Korea, Webster said there's no reason to hesitate.

"I want to say, just do it," Webster said. "It is not as difficult as it seems. And because of 'hallyu,' more and more people are getting to know Korea. If you come and do it, it is really doable."


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