The first day Cresti landed in Daejeon, a city 150km away from Seoul, she was full of excitement. “I was one of the 900 international students supported by the Korean government to study in Korea and I couldn’t wait to begin a new adventure in a country completely different from my own.”
Her initial days in Korea, however, were not that easy. As a dedicated Muslim from Indonesia, she was looking for halal stores from Daejeon, where the number of migrants is only 1.6% of the whole population.
“There was no halal store in Daejeon, so I only ate vegetables and fruits for a while, until I decided to compromise a bit and started to eat meat other than pork.”
Things got easier when Cresti moved to Seoul in 2014 to start her master’s degree in International Relations.
“After moving to Seoul, I started to hang out with more Korean friends because I met them from classes and also my Korean had improved.”
The more she adapted to the life in Korea, however, the longing for her own country grew deeper.
“I knew I couldn’t go back to Indonesia because I was in the middle of pursuing my degree, but I still wanted to do something for my people while I was here.”
Then one day, she came across a notice on social media that they are looking for a volunteer to give weekly lectures to Indonesian migrant workers in Korea. Most of them have not been to university because they had to work instead to support their families.
“They wanted to learn things university students would learn in classes, because that’s what they would have done if they didn’t have to work.”
Cresti applied for the position and soon heard that she was chosen. Since then, over a year, she has been dedicating her weekends to prepare and give lectures to the migrant workers in Ansan, a city 40km away from Seoul where many Indonesian migrants are working and residing. Even though Cresti invests much of her free time for the activity, she says it’s time well spent.
“I teach intercultural communications and it has been helping Indonesian migrant workers to communicate better with their colleagues from Korea and other countries, which in turn improved their quality of life in Korea.”
Cresti, one of the 84,000 international students living in Korea currently, hopes to return to her own country after finishing her study.
“I might work in Korea for a year to get working experience but will go back to Indonesia because more than three years away from home is too long. I might begin another adventure in the future but it’s only after I spend enough time in Indonesia to share what I’ve learned in Korea.”