Emirati youth ambassadors learn language and about culture, industry and business as part of 'unforgettable' three-week programme to South Korea.
Emirati students welcomed home by Crown Prince
Twenty students who recently returned from a youth ambassadors programme to South Korea have been received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi.
The three-week scheme introduced 10 male and 10 female Emirati university students to Korean language, culture, industry, government and business.
"It was an intense and unforgettable experience," said Saeed Al Kabaisi, 24, who studies at Abu Dhabi Men's Higher Colleges of Technology.
The electrical engineering graduate admitted he knew little about South Korea until he applied for the trip.
"When I started researching about it for the application essays I became fascinated," he said.
Mr Moon Byung Jun, who runs the programme at the South Korean Embassy, said it was a significant step in strengthening UAE-South Korea ties.
And it certainly kept the students busy. "Can you believe I didn't have time to answer my family's phone calls?" asked Ahmad Al Shanqiti, 23, a civil and environmental engineering graduate from UAE University.
Their day began at 8am with intensive Korean language classes, followed by lectures from prominent guest speakers at 3pm and finally a cultural activity, ending at about 9pm.
The language was quite a challenge. "The pronunciation in Korean is totally different but the programme challenged us and gave us 'Mission Possibles' where we could only use Korean when we greeted people, ordered food, and shopped in stores," Mr Al Shanqiti said.
After two weeks they were required to pass a language test.
"I didn't think I could do it," he said. "We had met other Khaleeji [Gulf] students who had been studying for four months and couldn't pass it. But you know what? In the end, 90 per cent of us got an A."
Immersion into Korean culture was a key aspect of the programme.
"We were introduced to Korean music, or K-Pop as they call it, and saw a couple of live shows, witnessed the martial art tae kwando and visited green tea farms," Mr Al Shanqiti said.
Guest speakers included the senior secretary to the Korean president and the minister of knowledge economy.
What was particularly impressive, said Mr Al Shanqiti, was that all the speakers arrived on time or early.
The students also visited major Korean companies, including Samsung, Hyundai and the Korea Electrical Power Corporation (Kepco), which is building the UAE's nuclear reactors.
"Kepco gave us details of how they won the bid and it is no surprise as they, like other Korean companies and sectors, heavily invest in research and development, and have their vision set clearly," Mr Shanqiti said.
The message he has brought home is that a country's human resources are its most valuable asset.
"Korea showed us what is possible with a solid work ethic and dedication," he said. "Like Korea, the UAE has come a long way in a short time and through their human capital, both countries are set to continue."