Nepal is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-caste country. Being born and brought up in Kathmandu, I had little opportunity to visit places outside the valley. I was unaware of the diverse cultures and traditions that we have across the nation.
But as people started migrating to the capital city in search of better opportunities, the valley embraced diversity in it true sense.
When I first reached South Korea, I found it monotonous. They had a strict life and only one language. I found some subtle change in tones at different places of Korea.
Studying in Korea was a completely new experience for me. I received a scholarship at Korea National University of Arts in Art Major Asian (AMA), which is provided to all Asian countries, by the South Korean government. Once I started college, I got to meet with people from all different countries of Asia. I made friends from Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Australia, India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and many more countries.
Having the opportunity to be with all kinds of people was an amazing experience in itself and to study with them was like icing on the cake. Those from different countries, other than Koreans, had to learn Korean language and study in Korean too. Everybody had different majors, but we still came together and bonded.
I was very anxious before flying to Korea because I was unsure if I could adapt to the culture. But I adjusted pretty easily with the Korean culture. Since I belong to Newar community, I noticed that Korean culture was very much similar to Newari culture. Even some of the words in Korean were similar to Nepali and Newari languages, and I think that helped me adapt even more easily. Finding differences and similarities between the cultures was the best part of my stay in Korea.
It was also an amazing experience to see Korean people’s love towards their nation, culture, language, food, heritage, history, and how well they had preserved everything beautifully while still managing to be modern and technologically advanced. I went to visit many interesting places in Korea like Seoraksan Mountain, Sokcho Beach, Jeonju Hanok Village and various art museums. Travelling to different places was always exciting as I got to experience their culture, food, environment, art and architecture.
Being an art student, these visits were inspiring and fruitful. As I observed these places, all the colors, shapes, sizes, and the origin of their culture were an inspiration for me. I realized that being advanced and modern is not about forgetting your own culture and language, but it is about being proud of what we are and moving ahead with time. And that’s the major lesson I learnt there.
I was also inspired to contribute something to our nation after coming back. I came to Nepal from Korea in 2014 and opened an alternative art center with a café called Bikalpa Art Center. The art center became a platform for different professionals to come together, interact and explore their artistic sides.
People in Korea were very kind, helpful and respectful to all. But as there are always two sides to a coin, I met different types of people during my four-year stay. I had some bittersweet experiences as well. But, the stay there taught me that no matter how similar or different we are, all we seek is happiness in life though the meaning of it might vary for every individual.