For Scott Koh, studying in Australia is just one chapter of his life lived overseas.
The first-year Bachelor of International Relations
student was born in Korea to a Korean family. When he was seven, he and his sister were sent to the Philippines because his father wanted them to learn English.
“All I remember is eating a lot of mangoes and going to a small school with other Koreans,” Scott says, smiling.
Then when he was 11, Scott, his sister, and their mother moved to Canada.
“My sister was sick and my parents were looking for a place that was better than Korea environmental-wise.
“My father stayed in Korea to support us financially.”
Scott says that before the move, he wasn’t that close to his father. But after they were separated, he made an effort to email his father every day and Skype with him regularly.
“Looking at other students that I studied with, they had their own family,” Scott says.
“Not having my father with me kind of made me realise I need to stay in more contact with my father.”
After completing primary school and high school in Canada, Scott returned to Korea for his gap year. He made up for lost time by catching up with his father. He also travelled extensively within Korea to reconnect with his heritage.
“One of the funny things about international students is it’s hard to identify with where you're from,” Scott says.
“I made a lot of friends who lived abroad and didn't know what to consider themselves; Korean or Chinese or Australian.
“For myself, even though I lived in Korea for 10 years and also lived in Canada for approximately 10 years, it was really hard for me to find my identity.”
In addition to visiting historical sites, Scott learned various Korean customs.
“There is this thing I learned from my father where you have to turn your back when you're drinking with an older person,” he recalls.
“It's a polite gesture to show them that you respect them.”
During his gap year, Scott took on internships and worked as a translator for the Australian Embassy in South Korea. The embassy held Australian university expos, and Scott worked at two of them, translating Korean parents’ enquires into English and the English responses from university ambassadors into Korean.
One university ambassador Scott spoke to recommended that he consider studying IR at the ANU.
“I was looking at the ranking as well and the ANU is the 8th in [the world] in International Relations,” Scott says.
“I was like, definitely this is my option.”
When he graduates, Scott wants to be involved in the diplomatic world in some form. He’s weighing up a couple of career options. One is working for FIFA, travelling the world and analysing different sports markets. Another is becoming an Ambassador for Korea.
Scott’s one certainty is who he is. And there, he’s come a long way since his high school days.
“I know that even if I work for a company that's not related to international relations, I will represent Korea since I'm Korean,” he says.
“At the end of my gap year I just knew that I'm Korean even though I lived abroad.”