Reflections on Seoul

Almost three years since she set off for Seoul for an IT internship with Wilson Parking, we chat with Pang Suwanaposee about the internship and how the experience impacted her life and career.
Pang sitting sitting on a bench outside

Pang is back in New Zealand studying towards a PhD in computer science

Where are you living now and what are you doing?

I am living in Christchurch, working part-time as a software engineer and studying full-time towards a PhD in computer science at the University of Canterbury. 

Did the internship have an influence on the work you are doing now?

Yes! [Through the internship] I was able to improve my technical skills, which I have been able to apply to the work I am doing now.

I also really enjoyed developing and designing software at Wilson Parking Korea, which gave me more reassurance that I wanted to keep working in the software industry.

How did your time in South Korea change you as a person?

Because I was in a completely different environment than I was used to, I was faced with different challenges and was able to grow a lot as a person. For example, there was a language barrier but I found a way to communicate effectively. Although I cannot speak Korean, my colleagues gave feedback on how well I communicated and how I fit into their team. The experience was new to me and it has increased my confidence in general.

I feel like I am more willing to try something new in the future. If I was to work in a different environment and culture again, I think the things I learnt in South Korea will be transferable, and I would be more comfortable and have more confidence in myself.

Have you been back to South Korea since your internship?

I considered going back to South Korea to do my PhD, but then the pandemic happened so I decided to stay in New Zealand. I hope in the future I can go back to South Korea and if there are work opportunities for me there I would love to stay. Seoul was a very fun and vibrant place to visit but next time I go back I hope to explore other parts of the country, too.

Pang standing on a city walkway in front of an impressive modern building

Pang was in Seoul over the Korean winter when temperatures often drop below freezing

How applicable was what you learnt at Wilson Parking to the New Zealand work environment?

The technical skills I learnt at Wilson Parking relates to what I do as a software engineer in New Zealand. I was focused on back-end development and databases at Wilson Parking and I am still focused with back-end development and databases as a software engineer in New Zealand.

Have you continued to learn Korean?

I used to teach myself basic Korean grammar and vocabulary on a daily basis, but now that I have started my PhD I am not learning Korean as often. But I am still in contact with the people I met in South Korea and sometimes I learn new vocabulary from them.

Recently, one of my contacts in South Korea asked me to help teach English to Korean students online. I have agreed to help three times a week starting next month. I think this will be a great opportunity for me to connect with Korea again, give back my knowledge and refresh my understanding of the language, too!

What would you say was the most valuable aspect of the internship?

It's very hard to pick only one… The experience was totally immersive, contributed to my cultural awareness and was extremely fulfilling for my self-development.

I now have a good idea of what day-to-day living is like in Seoul. I also now know that in the future, if I decided to move to Seoul, I will enjoy living there.

Pang standing outside in front of a traditional Korean building

Pang: "The experience was totally immersive, contributed to my cultural awareness and was extremely fulfilling for my self-development."

Why do you think internships like the one you did are valuable for young New Zealanders?

I think internships like mine are incredibly valuable for young New Zealanders. The experience is very rich and comes with many opportunities. You get to experience a completely different environment than what you're used to at home and so face new challenges that allow you to learn and grow.

The experience also contributes to understanding of the world and broadening your knowledge of different people and cultures.

I think it is also valuable for young New Zealanders to have overseas work experience. Connecting with people internationally can open up global opportunities in the future.