A couple of years of ago, some nine Ugandans came together to form an association of people who had studied in Korea, with the view to sharing their experiences with the rest of Ugandans about how to take advantage of opportunities in Korea’s education but also promote the positive attributes of Korean culture and business spheres.
The group baptized their association – The Global Korean Scholarship Alumni (GKS Alumni Uganda).
GKS is a fully funded Korea-government program that promotes international educational exchanges and friendship between countries by providing foreign students with the opportunity to study at Korean higher education institutions.
Since 2011, some 73 young Ugandans have benefited from the fully-funded scholarships, with majority of the beneficiaries at masters or graduate level.
According to Mr. Yi Seunghee, the Second Secretary at the Embassy of Korea, every year the Embassy selects five graduate students to pursue masters studies and one student to pursue undergraduate studies at one of Korea’s universities.
Stephen Mugera, the GKS Alumni-Uganda President, notes that members of the association were motivated to come together as a way to share ‘invaluable’ lessons about how to navigate Korea’s education spectrum but also about sharing experiences about life in Korea.
Reliving his experience in Korea, Mugera said: “As GKS living in Korea taught me valuable life lessons. We discovered the significance of perseverance, adaptability and open-mindedness. The scholarship opened doors to excel academically while immersing myself in Korean culture. Through rigorous coursework, engaging discussions and collaboration with professors and fellow scholars, I gained a deep understanding of my field of study.”
Mugera notes that through the GKS Alumni-Uganda, he and his colleagues have dedicated themselves to helping Ugandans benefit from similar opportunities that they tapped into. Through visits to universities and high schools, they also offer career guidance to students on how to navigate Korea’s education system.
He further notes that for one to succeed with education in Korea, they have to learn the Korean language not only to be able to understand some of the courses they are offered but also to be able to live comfortably in Korea.
Beyond offering advice to students, members of the association have organized community outreach activities targeting vulnerable sections of the population with support from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Uganda.
Mugera recollects that during the COVID-19 lockdown, the group donated essential items to Good Future and Hope Children’s home in Mukono.
“We have organized a number of corporate social responsibility activities during which we have donated essential items to needy persons such as orphans. We have also organized blood donation drives, and visited Naguru remand home to encourage juvenile inmates to embrace education,” Mugera stressed.
He added: “We have visited university campuses in Kampala such as ISBAT university in Kampala, where we gave career guidance to students.”
The group also intends to leverage on the growing commercial ties between Uganda and Korea to provide support to Ugandan business people who wish to trade with Korea.
Indeed, their good knowledge of the Korean language and understanding of the Korean culture puts them in a strong position to give meaningful advisory services to Ugandan business community.