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It was one sunny afternoon. I became sure of myself that summer was definitely on its way. However, such heat was nothing to some people..the Iraqis. Especially for women, they were dressed in dark colored dresses called chador which made them look very conservative and shy. How did I meet them?
In KOICA(Korea International Cooperation Agency / 한국국제협력단), they select numerous high school students who are interested in cultural exchanges and have good grasp of English as “Junior Coordinators”. The selection takes place in spring, and all you need to do to be accepted is to write a self-introductory résumé. The role of the Junior Coordinator is to support people from overseas who have come to learn government related administration, during the weekends, when they go out to travel through Korean reality. We could accompany them, answer their questions, and lead the way during the trip.
They loved to take pictures, especially at the N Tower.
I myself joined the program this year, and went on a field trip with a group of Iraqi people who has come to learn about Public Fiscal Management and Reform in KOICA. They were all public officials back in Iraq, which made me feel uncomfortable at the beginning, having thought of the general tendency of public officials; authoritative and smart. However, they were all excited to get to know about Korea, and Korean students. I thought it was my chance to give them a fresh and pleasant first impression of Korea, and I assisted them as best as I could. I kept on reminding myself that they will judge Korean people through my conducts. I was a civil diplomat!
Starting from 9 in the morning, we visited Subway Control Office to learn how systemized the subway is in Korea. We were introduced the history of Seoul Metro, and saw Real-time Monitoring system of line number two and three.
At the Subway Control Office
At the Subway Control Office
When we actually went underground to take the subway, people were awed by it. They had nothing like this in Iraq, and this transportation was very new to them. Just when we were trying to get off, people had no idea how fast they had to move for people to get in and out within the certain time the door stayed open. Many of them thought the train will wait until they all got off, but eventually before less than half got off, the door was closed. They had to come back, and I think they were a little intimidated of the speed they require when living social life in Korea.
At the Seoul Metro
They were awed by the size and the complexity of the system.
Next, the famous Seoul N tower was waiting for them. The day was hot and the road was not easy, so women in chador had difficulty making brisk paces. Nevertheless, they tried to capture the moment in Seoul by taking pictures. For lunch, we had pizza. They all had vegetarian pizza, since they do not eat pork. Some of them were brave enough to try kimchi, and they liked it.
Nanta show in Myongdong was the day’s highlight. It contained rhythmic performances, which at the same time contained Korean traditional music, dances combined with modern feel. It was hilarious, and since it did not contain many lines, it was universally comprehensible.
Towards the end of the tour, two other coordinators, Iraqi visitors and I went to see the Royal Palace and The National Folk Museum of Korea. They became aware that Koreans take their shoes off once inside their own house. They could not understand at first, because they said they had inside slippers and carpets. But I told them that you could wear slippers, but many don’t because it is uncomfortable and the floor is kept clean enough to walk on bare feet.
At the Royal Palace
After the tour was over, I thought I had a good use of my foreign language skills, and was proud of myself. This activity also grants long hours of volunteering. I too, learned to accept distant culture and merge them when two different nationalities come across each other. What is better, this is not a one-time experience, because once you are a Junior Coordinator, you can participate in future activities whenever the spot is open for many years to come. Permanent and fruitful dedication is what makes a volunteer job worthy, and this program was definitely worth it.
QnAs all in one box!
QnAs all in one box!
1. What skills do you require to volunteer as the Junior Coordinator?
Respective communication skills in English.
2. What is the role of Junior Coordinators?
They follow around the group of people from overseas during their excursion around Seoul. You can accompany them, satisfy their needs due to cultural differences, help translation, lead the way, etc. However, there will be a head of the trip from KOICA to guide all the way, so it would only be like substitute guides.
3. What are some things to be careful about?
It is important to respect the others’ religion or culture. You should refrain from speaking in an offensive manner from their point of view. Also, you are not to keep in touch with the group ever again after the trip. It is to both protect the personal life of the group members and the junior coordinators.
4. When does the selection occur?
It selects new coordinators every spring. This year’s selected students are in the fifth year. However you can still participate even after your year is up.
5. How many times can you volunteer in a year?
Maximum three times, to give equal chances to everyone. Since the volunteer takes throughout the day, it grants about 8 hours of volunteer hours.