THE WAIT – FIRST HURDLE

Hello everyone! I just got back from a memorable vacation and a really busy month at work. We have about another month to go before we fly to Korea! Indeed time is passing by really quickly and everything has already sunk in, which means a lot of time is dedicated to planning and basically just getting ready for the 3 years stay.

So for this blog post I will be sharing my experience on the first round of KGSP-G application process for embassy track, which is basically the embassy interview.

About a week after the application deadline, I received a call from an unknown number while I was working. Turns out it was from the Korean Embassy and I was invited to the interview through the phone call! The interview was scheduled a little less than a week from the invitation phone call and subsequently on the same day itself, I received the interview invitation via email as well. I recall myself feeling really reallyyyyyyy happy and accomplished (despite it’s only the first round interview lol) to the point where I couldn’t hide my happiness. So in celebration I did silent “YES!” and a fist pump at my office stairwell where no one is around. 😀

Since this isn’t my first time going to an interview for a scholarship, I kinda have a rough idea on what kind of questions they would ask. I simply did some really simple preparation for some commonly asked interview questions and some trivial questions as well just in case.

So here are some questions that I anticipated (those in bold were asked during my interview):

  1. Brief introduction of myself
  2. What are my strengths/weaknesses?
  3. What difficulty do I think I would face while studying in Korea?
  4. What do I like about Korea?
  5. Why do I want to study in Korea?
  6. What is my favourite Korean food and why?
  7. Do I know how to speak Korean?
  8. Since I am from a science major (during degree), why do you want to study MBA for masters?
  9. Tell the interviewers more about my thesis (that I submitted in my application)
  10. Have you visited Korea? Tell us about your experience/what do you like about Korea?

Here are some questions that were asked but I did not prepare/anticipate:

  1. You mentioned that you like watching Korean dramas (because I mentioned that I learned and polished up my Korean by watching K-dramas and listening to K-pop). Which drama have you watched recently and what is your impression on Koreans after watching those dramas?
  2. Do you think it will be difficult for you to learn how to speak Korean in 1 year? (I do not have any TOPIK qualifications at that time but I know how to speak, read and write simple Korean. I guess since I did not hand in any TOPIK cert the interviewers assumed that I have 0 background on Korean language.)
  3. I was also asked to explain my future plans that I have written in my application in further detail. I said my long term plans is to be a lecturer/teacher so that I can share my knowledge with future generations. They asked if I am planning to teach food science (my degree major) or marketing (master’s major). I gave a vague answer at first because this “long term plan” was simply too far away (i.e. I have not thought it out deeply and in detail yet). I just said I will see which field I have more experience in at that time. After answering, it seems like they weren’t very pleased with my answer and I was prompted to make a choice there and then. To those who wanna know what I chose, I picked the latter.
  4. Why did you pick Yonsei (as your first choice)? What makes you interested to study there?
  5. Why do you want to research more on “crisis management” as written in your study plans?

The embassy interview was scheduled to start at 9.30am. I started my journey from home as early as 7.30am that day because the traffic to the city centre where the embassy is located can get really bad in the morning. True enough, I took almost 2 hours and I managed to reach around 9.20am because I took a few wrong turns and got stuck in a traffic jam that could have been avoided if only I took the correct route (I was planning to reach at 9am btw since it’s always better to be early than late).

I guess after working in the marketing field for two years, I have became super detailed and cautious on every single preparation for the interview. Aside from the journey planning and interview questions preparations, I also knew the importance of good dressing and attire. Like what many websites would say, it is really important to look smart and presentable. Plus, I believe since Koreans put a lot of emphasis on appearance and professionalism, I gotta up my dressing game to match their expectations as well.

Rule of thumb: FORMAL

While some of you might think wearing super formal (with coat etc) is a norm for interviews, I think in Malaysia we are more laid back on this matter. In many cases that I have personally experienced (interviews/formal events/work place), we generally don’t wear a suit/coat often since it is super hot here in Malaysia everyday.

I have also read somewhere that dark blue/navy blue are the best colours for a meeting that involves a discussion or to come up with an amicable solution or agreement to something. In layman terms, if you want someone to agree with you on something, they will be more inclined to do so if you are wearing blue.

 

Fashion crisis alert

The night before the interview, I had to choose between 2 blouses. One is a bright pink short sleeved chiffon blouse and the other is a navy blue long sleeved blouse. I was planning to pair either one of them with a black knee length pencil skirt and black heels. Despite knowing the fact that blue may be the better colour for this, I chose the pink blouse instead because I kinda knew that NO ONE would wear that colour for an interview as it may be deemed to flashy. I was right. Rather than choosing to blend in with everyone else, I thought bright pink would stand out and make the interviewers remember me better. Not a very mainstream judgement I guess.

AND…. I DID NOT WEAR A COAT……oops….

As I reflect on my choice of attire, I guess clothing does make a difference. I took quite a big risk on that and I nearly had to pay for the consequences for the second round #drama . Anyway, you will know why I said that if you read what happened subsequently.

OK so jumping back to the embassy interview. There were 12 of us that are shortlisted. If my memory serves me right, there was a balance between male and female candidates. Most of the people I talked to applied to different universities and a different major compared to mine. With exception of that ONE guy who also applied for Yonsei Global MBA #stress OMG why….. I found out about this when we were introducing ourselves while waiting for our turn for the interview and immediately I can feel the emotional stress. Why the coincidence whyyyyyyyy??! I still feel shudders down my back just by thinking of this. The stress of having a direct competitor for the first round itself is overwhelming. And he was wearing a suit and tie btw #soformal #attirewinmeliaolo

After registering and settling down in a small but cosy waiting room, the interview started at 10am and the first candidate was called into the room. Only then we found out that it was going to be an individual interview and not a group interview. I breathed a sigh of relief since individual interviews are better than team interviews. I had a bad experience with team interviews previously and I know how it goes in a team interview. It is literally survival of the strongest in there and I dislike that feeling of having to fight others without mercy #moredrama #nogiveface

While waiting for my turn (I was second in line to go), I managed to make some friends in the waiting room (which also turned out to be my fellow KGSP scholars now hehe). That is when I found out that basically everyone else in the room did wayyyyyyy more preparation than me. They have researched thoroughly on the scholarship, read about past student experience online (which I didn’t!) and even prepared their interview questions in Korean (Debbie, if you are reading this, I am talking about you).

As we were busy talking about how nervous we are, it’s my turn already omg! The first candidate’s interview took merely 15 minutes. I remember my mind suddenly turning blank and everything just happened in a flash because my interview took 15 minutes too!

Once I entered the interview room, I was greeted by 4 interviewers (3 males, 1 female). They were all really kind and friendly. We had a few good laughs here and there while I answered some of the questions. But nevertheless, it is kind of expected that sharp questions will be thrown at us during an interview. I remember being thrown a lot of questions in a never ending wave and before I know it, 15 minutes is up!

If I were to rate my overall performance for that interview, I would probably give it a 7/10. There were things that I could have done better. I should have spoken some Korean when they asked me to (I was too shy) and probably gave a better answer on my study plans and future plans. Overall I was feeling all the good vibes after the interview has ended.

The best advice I can give is to be sincere and honest. If you truly believe in your dreams and stand firm on your principals and perspectives, those around you (interviewers included) will be able to sense your confidence. Be sure of what you write in your application (letter of introduction, study plans and future plans) and be ready for questions about what you have written. Remember, you are fighting with the best of the best in your country (at this stage). It’s a whole new ball game compared to high school, college, or even university. Up your game, leave a good impression… Most importantly, make sure you are sure of what you are getting yourself into and just be yourself in the interview. 

 

That was it for my first round of embassy interview. Little did I know for the next coming three months, I will be experiencing an emotional roller coaster……

 

 

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