Taemin Ko / Photo credit: Katrin Glückler

“I Like My Program Because It Is Challenging and Practice-Oriented”

Taemin Ko comes from Jeju Island in South Korea and is in his fifth semester of the bachelor’s program in Economics. Before coming to Germany, he learned German because he wanted to find out if he could imagine living in Germany. In his myUniMA story, he reveals why he chose to study at the University of Mannheim, what he learned at the Korean military and what tips he has for international students.

You asked us to interview you in German. Why?

Four years ago, I started to learn German and now I want to use it as much as I can. Here in Mannheim, I speak German a lot, so I have learned to express my thoughts in this language clearly.

Why did you choose to study in Germany?

Five years ago, I was studying Economics in South Korea and met a Korean professor who completed his doctorate in Germany and then worked at a German university. I told him that I would also like to study abroad, so he suggested that I could go to Germany. He said, however, that I should learn the language first and decide afterwards. That is when I started to learn German.

… and you decided to study Mannheim?

I made that decision only later on. I had heard that the study and work conditions in Germany were very good and that is why I decided to go to Germany. First, I attended a language school in Heidelberg and thought I might study there or in Berlin. But in Heidelberg, people were telling me to apply at the University of Mannheim to study Economics because of its excellent reputation. So I applied here and at other universities but eventually chose to study in Mannheim. I did some research on the university and realized that I wanted to study here, since I would have the best career opportunities with a degree from the University of Mannheim.

What do you like about the University of Mannheim?

I like that my studies are challenging. I learn a lot and not only pass my exams but can also apply my knowledge, which is really great. Right now, I work as a working student at the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW). At first, I thought my chances for that job were pretty low, but now I am sure that they hired me because of my skills. I can use many things that I have learned during my Economics program, whether in statistics, programming or the Macro A lecture.

Do you already have a degree from South Korea?

No, I had to do military service. But since I already knew that I would go to Germany, I chose to work as a cook in the military. Whenever I miss Korean food now, I cook it here in Germany - and my friends love it, too.

Do you miss South Korea?

Yes, I really miss my family and friends. It has been two years since I have seen them face to face. But I can call them or speak with them on FaceTime, so I do not feel homesick.

Do you want to go back to South Korea after graduating?

No, I would like to do the Mannheim Master in Data Science. I am already working on some projects in that area and am learning many new things. My personal goal is to stay in Germany for at least ten years, so I can not only study here but also gain some work experience. My parents would like me to come home soon, but many of my Korean friends who are already working keep telling me to get a job in Germany because it is so much better here.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to see more of Europe and Germany since up until now I did not travel a lot. I also hope to do a semester abroad during my master’s program, because I did not get that chance during my bachelor’s program due to the pandemic.

What is your advice for other international students?

Do not be afraid of German people! They are really nice and open-minded. And learn German. At the beginning, most of the lectures and even some seminars in Economics are held in German. Although my German is pretty good, I had a hard time understanding Law and Economic History. Studying in Germany is definitely easier if you speak German well.

Text: Luisa Gebhardt / September 2020