For South Korean Heetae Lim, learning English from scratch wasn’t the hardest thing. For him, it was about getting away from home 7,000 kilometers (fresh out of elementary school) and adapting to a new environment – indeed a difficult undertaking for an 11-year-old.
With only a basic knowledge of English (the alphabet and a few common words and phrases), he set out to overcome all barriers when he landed in Australia. âIt’s the nervousness and fear I felt when I was in a completely unfamiliar place where I felt alienated,â Lim says.
Now a graduate of Cathedral College in the bovine town of Rockhampton, Lim plans to stay in the country to study medicine after excelling in school and being heavily involved in sports, culture and religion.
Below we talk to this outstanding South Korean graduate about learning English, overcoming obstacles, and his tips for non-English speaking students:
Tell us about your arrival in Australia and your learning English. What were the hardest things to adjust?
Before coming to Australia, I had a basic knowledge of English. The hardest thing to adjust to, I think, was the fact that no matter how well you know English, it’s the nervousness and fear I felt when I was in a place completely. unknown where I felt alienated.
I knew my dad was leaving (when I had just arrived) and I didn’t know how long I would have to wait to see him again. I thought it was really scary and it took a while for me to realize that I had to adjust and adjust to this new environment.
At such a young age and facing a language barrier, this is what made the trip difficult. However, it actually helped me adjust without any other distractions or thoughts as I think if I had come to Australia later I would overthink it.
Being in the Cathedral College boarding school has definitely enabled me to interact and speak with the people around me on a regular basis. So even though my speaking ability was not great, I still did my best to communicate and build new relationships.
What do you like most about Australia?
I appreciate how generous and kind people are here. It helped me overcome the difficulties that I encountered throughout my studies.
For that, I must salute the Bongers family, the Gale family, the Finger family, the Otto family, the Armstrong family and the Cho family!
What are three fun facts you can share about yourself?
I have played many sports since arriving in Australia. This includes football, rugby, futsal, tennis, athletics and anything else I have been fortunate enough to participate in.
I received an average mark in my subjects from grades 7 to 8. Then I received my first academic bronze award in grade 9 and my first academic silver award in grade 10. Now I have received gold academic awards, the Top of Mathematics Award. for school, and the role of embarkation captain in my senior year.
While studying in Australia, I only returned to South Korea once a year. Between the short school holidays, I went to my friends’ properties in Western Australia. Spending time with the families of my friends was an amazing experience as they greeted me with great hospitality and introduced me to fun things like horse riding and fencing.
What difference would it have made if you had studied at a local institution?
In South Korea, the emphasis is on education and students are expected to devote a lot of time to it. This means that there are no school holidays or weekends (after-school tutoring is called here “hakwon”) as it is very important for South Koreans to secure a place in the school. a good university.
In Australia, I was able to gain a lot of experience apart from the pressure of education and school performance. I met new people halfway around the world and built great relationships in a tight-knit community.
I made some unforgettable memories with my friends and am very grateful for all the opportunities. I cannot thank enough the person who supported me throughout my school career and learning English at Cathedral College.
Tell us about your future plans to study medicine in Australia.
I applied for undergraduate medical courses at JCU (Townsville), UNSW (Sydney) and UQ (Brisbane). I was accepted into the MBBS program at JCU and the MD Interim Entrance Program at UQ after my final academic results.
I hope to attend UQ in Brisbane and after graduation I would like to work in a rural community to pay tribute to them.
Are there any memorable experiences in Australia that you can share with us?
It would be going outback with my friend and riding a horse and rounding up the cattle. Riding a horse and herding cattle at the same time was a great experience and I think the hot sun made it more memorable too.
Share your hometown in South Korea a bit.
My hometown is Dansangdong, located in the middle suburb of Seoul, next to the river. I continue to invite my Australian friends to come visit me after COVID-19 restrictions end.
If that happens, I would take them to a few cultural and historical places like Gyeongbokgung Palace (the largest of Seoul’s five great palaces from the Joseon Dynasty) and history and art museums. For a more exciting getaway, I would take them to visit the Lotte World Tower.
I had an Australian friend who came to South Korea with me before the pandemic started and we went to the places mentioned above. But, as teenagers, we enjoyed karaoke, delicious street food in Hongdae, and shopping more.
What about local versus home food? Tell us what you like the most and the least.
My favorites in Australia are the sausages with mash, the steak with roasted vegetables, the beef pies and the spaghetti bolognese. I didn’t care much about the food as most of it is generally easy to cook and therefore tastes simple and pleasant.
However, in South Korea the cuisine is slightly more complex and takes longer to cook and prepare. Rice is always served with the main course and the sides have very unique flavors.
The difference is that Korean cuisine involves a variety of vegetables and spices to create this deep fusion of flavors. While Australian cuisine places a lot of emphasis on the meat in every dish.
My favorite food in Australia is the spaghetti dumpling and my favorite food is Vegemite – spit it out!
Are there any Korean restaurants you like in Australia?
I reside in Rockhampton and among the options available I really enjoyed visiting the Japanese and Chinese places as they share a similarity to my home cooking.
What would you advise non-English speaking students about the process of learning English and adjusting to a new country or Australia?
A new country means new people and it will always be difficult, but you have to reach out and seek support. Even if you haven’t mastered the English language yet, you still have body gestures, translators, and people helping you – know that you are not alone.
It is certainly a tall order when you come to a foreign country and learn English from scratch. I would really like to stress the importance of self-confidence, self-confidence and faith in what you can accomplish.
Keep your attitude positive and don’t be afraid of the negative. Expect a brighter future because every little progress every day brings a big result. Change can be scary, but what’s even scarier is letting fear keep you from growing taller.