Switching Sand for the Snow in Seoul

31 March 2011

While most of us headed to the beach this summer, three students of the University of Sydney swapped sand for snow in South Korea to experience being a journalist in Seoul.

Philip Chan, Joni Sham and Hamish Boland-Rudder, Media & Communications students, completed four week internships in Seoul during January and February at the Joong-Ang Daily and The Korea Daily newspapers.

The Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF) funds these annual fellowships so Australian students can develop their knowledge of Korean society, it's economics, politics, culture and various bilateral issues while working in the media.

Before beginning work at the newspapers, the trio spent a week of orientation at the Australian Embassy in Seoul. At the newspapers, all students had their own writing published and undertook copy-editing for their fellow Korean journalists.

Hamish explored the Aussie expat community in Seoul. Joni wrote about the Prayer Mountain, a Christian retreat run by Korea's largest church. Philip published an article on an auction that sold vagina-inspired artwork, which tried to erase the stigma against unwed mothers.

Upon coming back, Hamish said he would be keen to cover more Korean-related events in the Australian media to raise awareness about how important the relationship between the two nations is.

For Philip the internship has inspired him to write more and he is keen to write for a local newspaper in Australia. "It has really opened my eyes to the newsroom, its culture and process," he said. "The added challenge of working in a different culture has furthered my experience."

Joni aspires to working in Korea in the future, possibly in the media. South Korea left a positive mark on the students with all three wanting to travel back there again.

"I am planning to go back maybe at the end of this year for a holiday and just to visit friends that I made there," said Joni.

The trip was not all work. The students had time to travel around South Korea and experience the culture. Joni and Philip enjoyed trout fishing in frozen lakes. The bathhouses were most memorable for Hamish. Though the street food was a delicious highlight, they all say their most lasting impression was the warm hospitality of the Korean people.

Though Korea and Australia may be far apart, the cultures have many similarities.

"Like Australians, Koreans are a people who love to socialise, enjoy a drink or two, and spend every spare second outdoors. Not even temperatures well below zero can stop them," said Hamish.

All three students recommend their fellow Media and Communications students apply for the AKF fellowships. "It's a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Philip.

Working and living in another country provides first-hand experience, said Joni, "and it also opens up new doors".

2011 marks the Year of Friendship between Australia and Korea. With the continuation of the AKF fellowships, the relationship between the two countries will continue to strengthen.

Throughout their journeys, Hamish, Philip and Joni shared their experiences on the Parallax blogs of the Media and Communications department. To read more, visit