English skills help former North Korean students to a brighter future

English skills help former North Korean students to a brighter future

With the eyes of the world watching the diplomatic relations and sports at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, a group of former North Korean students completing their English language studies in Sydney reflected on what a unified Korea might mean to them.

Family reunification was their overwhelming desire, with students Chloe*, Jenna* and Ann* expressing deep sadness and loss on being separated from their grandparents for many years, following their escape from North Korea as children or teenagers.

These students are part of the second fully funded Former North Korean Students Scholarship program. The program allowed five university students (now South Korean citizens) the opportunity to complete 30 weeks of English language education at UTS Insearch in Sydney.

“The Sydney-based Korean community and the University of Technology Sydney are extremely supportive of international students coming to study at UTS Insearch.  These students have been warmly welcomed and really enjoyed their time in Sydney,” said Dr Bronwen Dalton, Director, Not-For-Profit and Social Enterprise Program, UTS Business School.

Chloe* has loved her education, as well as learning to swim and visiting the beach. “I’ve met good people and had a good education. In addition I have had various experiences outside of UTS Insearch …The New Year’s Eve fireworks were very beautiful, but the people I met made it memorable. I was with a group of seven people – two Americans, two Indians, one Chinese and one Colombian – and although we have different cultures and languages we can be friends; I realised again the importance of English,” she said.

Korean student Ann* compares her time in North Korea, South Korea and Australia. “Sydney is now my third home. I have seen so many positive things about Sydney and met kind and warm people.  I’m lucky to meet some of the inspired teachers at UTS Insearch. They all have a strong passion about teaching, making me think what education should look like in the future in a unified Korea,” Ann said.

Jayden* has thrived on meeting new people and made the most of his adventurous nature and Australia’s outdoor lifestyle.  “My favorite memories include participating in extreme sports, such as scuba diving, parasailing on the Gold Coast and skydiving in Wollongong.”

Supporting international relationships

Managing Director of UTS Insearch Alex Murphy said UTS Insearch is proud of being able to invest in improving the students’ English skills and to support bilateral relations with Korea.

“We believe that the scholarships, and the students’ experiences in Sydney, have enriched their education, career prospects and inspired a deep interest in Australia-Korea relations,” he said.

The scholarship students will return to South Korea in mid-February to continue their university education in areas such as business, logistics, engineering, communications and Chinese studies.

About the scholarships

UTS Insearch created the scholarship program with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australia-Korea Foundation, and the South Korean Ministry of Unification (through the Hana Foundation). The scholarships assist student defectors, formerly from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), who are now South Korean citizens.

The program covers the cost of 30 weeks of English language tuition, return flights from South Korea to Sydney, accommodation and living expenses in Sydney, with the total scholarship program valued at around $200,000 a year.

The third round of applications for scholarship will be launched in the next two months, and it is anticipated the next cohort of scholarship students will arrive in Sydney in July 2018.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy and security of the students and their families.