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Dancing club in Ewha : Piyusha Patil

Moving to a new country must be a huge challenge for everyone. You might have just a few friends in the first month, and might get lost in new places. But it is also an exciting experience which provides you a lot of new possibilities. 

Piyusha Patil is a Ph.D. student at Ewha GSIS, who got a Global Korea Scholarship, majoring in Development Cooperation. Apart from studying and doing research, she joins a student dance club in Ewha Womans University in her first semester at the school. Because dancing is the activity she loves.

In this interview, Piyusha told us that dancing unites her with the Korean community and Ewha university. She explained how this sense of belongingness fulfills her years as an international student in Seoul.

Why did you choose to study in Korea?

That’s a really long story. Back in 2008, I actually got into K-pop and Korean dramas. During that time, there were not a lot of people who knew about Korea, even as a country. I would tell my friends about how I like Korean songs these days, and they’re like “What is Korea?” It was that unpopular during that time. But then, I was so determined about studying Korean language. I actually wanted to take Social sciences or Arts as my major but my father is a physics professor. It kind of happened that my whole family was more like science background so I just ended up in sciences. That’s how I started doing engineering. But during my third year, I was doing an internship and it was kind of boring for me. So then, I realized this is not what I want to do. 

Piyusha Patil

I got to know about the East Asian Studies program. So after graduating, I started preparing for the East Asian studies entrance and then I got through. During that time I really got into the Korean politics, culture, and society and that’s when I decided that I wanted to do either international relations or developing cooperation as my major. I wanted to focus on Korea as a country and I thought that it would make sense to study about Korea in Korea itself, rather than in India or some other western countries.

About January last year, I applied for the GKS program and, honestly, I didn’t think that I would get it in just one go. So I thought this time I’ll just take the experience of giving interviews and see how it goes. But I actually got through and then I ended up in Korea.

How did you join the dance club in Ewha?

Honestly, that was very coincidental. I have a Spanish friend in the department. She wanted to join a Taekwondo club. Both of us were talking about the club fair which was going on during that time. “Let’s just try looking around what kind of clubs there are.” So I went with her. There were a few dance clubs, and then rapping one, MC one, etc. I saw a crew called ‘Raon Soul’ which was about a hip-hop crew, so they didn’t  just  have only a dance team. they had an MC team, Graffiti, and videography, etc. So, I thought it would be interesting. During the fair, two Koreans were sitting there and I just asked them if I could join. They said, “Sure! You can write your name.” 

A few days after, I got a message saying that we have to take an interview. Inside the club we mostly converse in Korean, so they wanted to call me and talk to me for just 2-5 minutes to see if I’m able to speak a little bit Korean. Once they called me, they’re like “Oh! You’re perfectly fine.” I was really nervous about it because literally it was my first time in Korea. But I thought that it would be a nice way to start a new life in a new country. 

I was really nervous …but I thought that it would be a nice way to start a new life in a new country. 

When they had the orientation, I was very overwhelmed because everybody was talking in Korean. I knew how to speak Korean, but then it hadn’t been so long that I started studying in Korea, so I was overwhelmed. I thought it’s a hip-hop club so there would be a lot of foreigners too because hip-hop is something that comes from foreign. But I was the only foreigner there.

There are different teams. I was part of the dance club “BGIRL” team. Once we started speaking one by one, it became really nice. I somehow realized that they were really considerate of me, as a foreigner. 

Raon Soul club in Ewha Womans University
How does the club run its activity?

We do a show, at around the end of the semester. Before that, we just met twice in a week and we practiced for one and a half hours. But not every time every member would be able to come. The basic rule would be you just complete the practice for 1.5 hours or 3 hours in total in a week. It’s better if you’re doing it in a team. But if you can’t do it in a team, it’s okay. 

The group is very organic about making their own stuff. People who are MCs would be writing their own lyrics. Some people even make their own music. Even for our dance, we used to refer to YouTube clips, but then we would mostly make our own choreography.

For the practices and rehearsals, we use the Ewha campus facilities mostly. But when we do the show, we generally do it outside around Hongdae. we join other schools as well, to do collaborations. Some girls from some performances came from Sungshin Women’s University. it was great because it’s not just us performing there but also some students from other universities. So it feels nice.

I really like their attitude about how they want to move forward as a team.

The rehearsals are pretty brutal. You have to work hard to get the perfect choreography. But it’s what you want to do so you wouldn’t feel bad about it or you wouldn’t feel like “Oh! What am I doing here?” 

Last time, the show was in November and it went great. I performed in about 4 songs. One of them was a theme song ‘James Bond 007’ which every member of the dance crew performed as a team. 

Did you get any valuable experience from this participation?

When I shifted to Korea, I did not have a single Indian person with me. In the beginning, I also used to lose my way on campus because it’s so big. So, I wanted to make friends or I wanted to get the sense of belongingness somewhere.Even if they are not Indians, I would not mind. Before starting the club, I was very nervous about whether I would be able to manage both the school and the club and a new life in the country. But, actually, all the members of the club were very friendly. Most importantly, I could use my Korean language with them and I could also improve it. 

the club gave me a new sense of belongingness in the university.

Another interesting thing about our club was that, in Korean language there is formal and informal tone, but in our club, we had a rule that we would always have a nickname and we would speak in an informal tone with everyone. We weren’t exactly allowed to talk about our ages or real names in the beginning. My club name was “Lavender.”  It was very nice because they started helping me out even in small small things, like, losing my ways on campus and getting a new sim card, even asking them for good cafes and good restaurants. That’s how I actually started getting very close to them.

I think we need leisure time in our life. It’s not like we can completely be studying all the time and even being just at home and not going out and exploring. It would have been a big regret for me in life. So I just think that it was one of the greatest decisions of my life. 

we had a rule that we would always have a nickname and we would speak in an informal tone with everyone.

I learned a lot because these people are very hard working, very organic, very considerate. Even when sometimes I wouldn’t understand them in Korean, they would take every effort to explain to me. I really like their attitude about how they want to move forward as a team. Also, the club gave me a new sense of belongingness in the university. so that’s how I also grew closer to my university. In the beginning, I would have just been going to school and coming back. But because I belong somewhere, I’m either saying I’m an Ewha student or Edae hak-seng. It changed my life.

Do you have difficulty joining the all-Korean community?

I was overwhelmed because everybody was Korean. But I would just say Koreans are very generous. They never let me feel the difference that I’m an outsider. They make me like I’m already part of the team so it doesn’t matter what country I am from. Sometimes I would just like “I can’t eat beef” so they’re like it’s okay then let’s order something which you also can eat. A lot of times when we were talking, they almost forgot that I am a foreigner. They just made me part of their life. In the beginning, it did feel slightly difficult. But I realized this is a part of life.

Could you give some tips for international students who want to blend-in with Korean culture and community, but too afraid to do so?

You can start with something that you find interesting, for example, painting, taekwondo, or music club, or some instruments club. There are various kinds of clubs people are doing, even the ones that actually look after cats on campus. Once you become part of their club, they also start considering you and they ask you for your ideas as a foreigner. Then, they try to implement your ideas into their own club curriculum. So that’s why I would say they’re very considerate. 

In the beginning, you might feel that “Oh my god! There is nothing for me”. But you have to make your own way to go there. Once the path is clear, you start enjoying it. It’s pretty good to do something out of just the academics. I would actually recommend every foreign student here to at least do that for six months. You can just get in to tell them that you’re coming here for a short time and then you would be leaving next semester. They would still be nice for you.

see the interview in video

Published by Khing Amatyakul

Thai, Working at SuperPlanet, IR grad from Ewha GSIS | @khingamat

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