JPSCo, EWP scholarship winner talks about his experience
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. This is the account from Gavin Myers, community development officer at the Social Development Commission.
Myers and Samms were based in Daegu, the third largest metropolitan area in Korea, with 2.4 million people. They studied at Yeungnam University which was founded by former president Park Chung-hee, considered the driving force behind Korea's dramatic development push. Daegu in the southeast of the country approximately four hours from the capital, Seoul. Myers saw the JPS/EWP scholarship advertised in The Gleaner and on Facebook.
"The timeline was tight but was a part of the preparation for the endless deadlines and busy schedules that would meet us in Korea," he said. He said the students had to be ambassadors for their country.
"We were expected to keep on the honours list and participate in activities of the school," he said. "We were also expected to send periodic communication to JPS/EWP. The best part about all of this was that our conditions were similar to the ones we had set for ourselves." Myers said he applied for the scholarship because the continent is the one of the main drivers of the world economy and Korea is one of the largest economies in Asia.
"A great portion of development studies literature speaks to the advances made by the East Asian countries, especially Korea over the last 50 years to have reduced poverty and transformed their economy successfully," he said. "Understanding this and seeing what lessons could be learnt and applied in some way to the Jamaican development experience is something that drove me to apply." Myers admitted all he knew about the country was limited to the major brands and companies (like Hyundai and Samsung); K-pop (the Korean music genre), Korean drama and the Korean War.
"I knew no one from Korea before I got the scholarship, but my friend had a friend who was from there," he said. "They began to give me some basic information on Korean people, and of course I did the important Google search and on social media." He said he had learnt of Korea's connectivity, the wide Wi-Fi coverage, the fast trains, the food (he jokes he was really looking forward to that) and the sites.
"I read up on their love for hiking and the temples that dot their countryside," he said. "I was also looking forward, with great fear and trepidation to being cold as I read about their temperatures." Myers said he had to get used to the language barrier, and the food.
"There was rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner; their word for a meal also means rice," he said. "The food was bland to me, but I was saved by the fact that people actually directed me to the right places when I was lost, gave me the idiot tourist look and taught me basic words." Myers said he was soon speaking the language at a three-year-old's level, even though he jokes children still laugh at him when he tries to speak or read.
"Our school is very culturally diverse with over 30 nationalities present," he said. "The Jamaicans shine here; we organised regular get-togethers. I cooked, played reggae music, chatted patois and danced and built a strong rapport with the school community. Even more, I travelled around the country and interacted with people, and learnt."
Myers said his thesis will seek to look at the decision-making process surrounding our energy policy, how the decisions were made and the level of knowledge of the process by some members of the Government, State, academia, civil society and the business community.
"This energy policy and decisions around this will lay the foundation for a major part of our development agenda and understanding how it is being developed and implemented is important," he said.