01 Mar From Cameroon to Korea: A New Life 12,000 KM from Home
Wondering what it’s like to work overseas?
Johnson Penn used to wonder, as well – but soon enough, he found himself flying from Cameroon to South Korea, and living a new life in a different continent!
Originally from the central region of Africa, Johnson first flew to Korea to pursue his Master’s Degree. He later found himself back in the country to pursue the Renewable Energy and Environment industry, and now, still resides there to continue his work.
Yup, almost 12,000 kilometers from home!
From packing up all of your belongings to adjusting to a new environment, moving overseas can feel intimidating. This is especially true if you have a specific line of work! A world of worry can overwhelm you if you choose to fret about every single detail. Would you be able to make it through? Would your knowledge still apply? We know these worries are normal when it comes to working abroad!
Luckily, we were able to talk some more to Johnson, who so openly discussed with us his experience of moving to a new country.
Absolute Internship: What was the motivation for your move abroad? Why did you choose to move to the city you live in?
Johnson: I initially moved to South Korea to pursue a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and Entrepreneurship, and later on returned to South Korea a second time for the purpose of launching a startup and building it to become a global company.
AI: What was a culture shock you experienced upon arrival?
J: I didn’t experience any major culture shock honestly as I am quite open! Although I’d say I still find the “having to look the other way when drinking alcohol in front of someone older than oneself” a little weird.
AI: What is the biggest difference you have noticed between your hometown and your current location?
J: The speed and customer service for sure – Korea is a country built around efficiency and pragmatism. Everything moves at an incredible speed in Korea, even the government admin services! What really gets the heart though is the great customer care in South Korea: here, the people will often even go above and beyond just to make sure the customer experience is enjoyable and complaint-free.
AI: What do you wish you knew before moving?
J: I wish I knew my Korean! Being able to speak Korean completely transforms your life experience here. There is quite a staggering difference in appreciation of the local culture and satisfaction of life in Korea between those who speak the local language and those who don’t. Even basic survival-level Korean may get you far.
AI: What is your favorite thing about the place you live? Favorite place to go or activity?
J: What I like most about Korea is the people; they are generally quite welcoming. Also as an entrepreneur, it really helps that the Korean government offers quite a plethora of startup support in the form of startup education, business mentoring & coaching, grants, and startup funding. Korean government support for startups is really unparalleled.
And if you’re a mountain hiker then Korea is for you! Additionally, because Korea is a small peninsula, the ocean views are always within a 3-hour drive wherever you may be.
AI: What advice would you give to students arriving to your city for internships?
J: For students visiting Seoul on internship, I’d say make sure you make the most of your brief journey in Korea. Make friends here and enjoy the local culture. Besides working hard at the office, also make sure to attend trade fairs and exhibitions, conferences, forums, and network with startups in your industry of interest – you never know what great opportunities could ensue from these interactions. All the best!
It can feel intimidating at first to move to a new country, especially if you’ll find yourself as a part of the demographic minority. Johnson, who came all the way from Cameroon, moved to South Korea – which has always historically been a single-race country! Despite being African in a predominantly Asian country, Johnson still did adjust well to the culture, and has made himself a new home. He continues to marvel at the efficiency and practicality of life in Korea, and has himself become a part of what makes the country a great place to live.
Curious about life in Korea?
Don’t miss the chance to learn more about Korean internship opportunities! Get to know what Johnson loves so much about the culture, people, and country when you take the first step towards your next adventure.
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