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Jamaican post grad student talks about studying in Korea

Published:Friday | January 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Contributed Photo Jamaica Public Service Company/ Korea East West Power scholarship winner Leon Samms, takes a break in Daegu.
Contributed Photo Leon Samms
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Gavin Myers and Leon Samms were recipients of the first Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) and Korea East West Power (EWP) post-grad scholarships. Both young men went to South Korea in March 2014 to study and are returning to Jamaica in February to do their theses, the completion of the 18-month programme. They told The Gleaner about their experiences in the Asian country.

Samms, administrative specialist in the College of Business and Management at the University of Technology (UTech), learnt about the scholarship through an advertisement from UTech.

"I saw this scholarship as another avenue through which I could develop the requisite skills to develop my country, starting with one community at a time," said Samms. "Also, I could avoid working and studying, which many of us find difficult."

The bond period of the scholarship is two to three years in Jamaica. Like his fellow scholarship winner, his knowledge of South Korea was limited to famous world brands like LG and Kia.

"I thought learning a new language that did not include the English alphabet was interesting," said Samms. "Just imagine this little Jamaican guy speaking Korean, and majority Jamaicans would not understand him, super cool!" Samms also admitted he always had a keen interest in learning about different cultures, and this was the right opportunity.

"Lastly, I wanted to experience the advanced technologies existing in Korea, they have met my expectations," he said. Samms and Myers were based in Daegu, South Korea's third-largest metropolitan area, and site of the IAAF World Championships in 2011. Being a stranger in an exotic land can be challenging, but Samms wasn't too perturbed. He said adapting to the different culture wasn't as hard as he thought it would have been.

Culture shock

"The food was the biggest culture slap in the face. The Korean culture surrounds its meals around healthy living," he explained.

"For the first couple of weeks, I had one meal per day. However, as time passed, I opened my mind to trying their various cuisines."

Samms said he had to use gestures to help people understand him, but that could not happen for the food because there were no substitutes.

"I managed better in getting around, because Koreans were attracted to me like Jamaicans to jerk chicken, so they helped in the translation," he said.

Now on his way to Jamaica, Samms said his thesis will focus on the leadership and management of innovation in the agricultural transportation system in Jamaica for sustainable development. He noted that Jamaica depends greatly on its agriculture sector for survival.

"The research seeks to understand the impact of improved leadership and proper management of innovation in the agriculture-transport system on the development of the rural areas, which ultimately translate into national development," he said.

"It has been argued that the transportation system is lacking proper leadership and innovation to overcome the challenges farmers currently face, which have resulted in many problems both for farmers and the Government of Jamaica."

Samms, whose major is in community development, said he intends to transform Jamaica, one community at a time.

"Many of the rural communities are in very poor conditions and need the right kind of attention for their development. Being a rural community does not mean they are to be less developed, with lower incomes, than other communities across the island," he said.

"Policies and leadership are key avenues to materialise the desire developments of both rural and urban communities. Findings from my research will be shared with the relevant authorities, through the proper channel, to assist them in their decision making."

One thing he will definitely take from his experience in South Korea is the power of volunteerism.

"Jamaica has a long history of volunteerism. However, that is changing for the worse," he said.

"We have to restore the spirit of volunteerism and participation in our country moving forward towards development."

- D.K.