Hailing from Korea, Kum Ji Weon, (aka Kimchi Won) was able to overcome homesickness and culture shock by synthesising her own expectations with the Singapore culture she was confronted with, resulting in a unique blend of ingredients akin to the multi-flavoured dish, Kimchi. In fact, the former Regent Sec School student coped so well that she topped her Diploma in Business Process & Systems Engineering (BZE) course, clinching the course Gold medal in the process. She tells us how Kimchi inspired her success.
With my parents
As an international student from South Korea, my personal journey was a little different from the other students here in TP. Let me take a few moments to reflect on this incredible TP journey of mine.
When I started in Year 1, I was a quiet student. Dealing with the workload, finding friends and adjusting to polytechnic life were very difficult for me. Also, being away from my parents was the toughest experience of my life. Thankfully, I found a friendly, accepting and loving home at TP. The school’s dedicated lecturers and supportive students made me feel like a full member of the TP family. It was only through hard work and perseverance that I have made it this far.
At the beginning it was difficult for me. Being soft-spoken, introverted and with limited English language ability, I felt discouraged. The breakthrough came when, in Year 1, I joined the Community Service Club (CSC) – and discovered my passion for community service. Joining the CSC made me socially inclined and triggered not just my interest in volunteer work, but also my social skills. In my final year, I had the honour of being elected the CSC Sub-committee Head, where I organised and managed events. Despite all the looming assignments and group projects, I challenged myself to press on, to stay positive and to give my best.
While I was learning to relate to my CSC sub-committee members, they were also learning to relate to me. One day when they were calling our names, they mispronounced my name. Kum Ji Weon became Kimchi Won. From that day onwards, my nickname became “Kimchi”.
At first I did not think much about it, but the more I heard Kimchi, the more I liked it. Kimchi became a metaphor for my school life. Let me explain:
Firstly, Kimchi can be made from variety of ingredients. Many Koreans believe Kimchi cannot be made outside of Korea as they say that Korean chili powder cannot be replaced by chili flakes purchased at Singapore supermarkets. I, however, have proven them wrong. My first attempt to make Kimchi in Singapore using local ingredients was successful; I simply replaced Korean chili powder with local chili flakes and then added a touch of coconut oil. By mixing local ingredients and my mother’s traditional recipe, I discovered a pleasant balance of flavours.
Likewise, by coming to TP, I have used different ingredients to build my own life. Although I have used different ingredients, I have not lost my Korean culture; I still have the basic, genuine core Korean ingredients in me!
Secondly, we often say in Korea that there is wisdom in Kimchi, because how we mix the ingredients, or how we integrate them into a unified whole, is up to the wisdom and skill of the chef. The secret of making good Kimchi is to place it in your refrigerator for 6 months. Likewise, learning to create synergy in our lives is a long process of trial and error, which could take up to 6 months – or even longer! The perfect balance of flavours in our life is up to us to discover on our own.
I arrived at Temasek Polytechnic 3 years ago, and met people from different backgrounds. Over the past three years, I forged strong friendships and created joyful memories. Now, 1,195 days later, I have to leave. But I am not at the end of my “Kimchi journey”; rather I am at the beginning of an exciting new league in the journey. As I move on, meet more new friends and learn new things in Singapore, I am sure that my Kimchi recipe will continue to evolve – I will discover new ingredients to create new blends of flavours and perhaps I may even come up with an exciting all-new modified Kimchi dish!
With my course manager and fellow BZE medalists
To all those who feel tentative, unsure of yourself, or who feel that they lack confidence – including foreign students who may feel very much alone when they come to Singapore to study – my advice is, don’t be afraid to step out, socialise, and make new friends. What you need to do is to strive, persevere and never give up.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the lecturers and staff of Temasek Polytechnic for their dedication and support. Thank you, TP!
From Korea with love,