Mehtap’s interest in Korea, and her ambitions
Mehtap’s story: her passions, her story behind her impressive Korean comprehension, and her inspirations.
Support Mehtap and her current endeavors!
Special thanks to the editors, writers, and DIOKOS team for making this interview possible. We grow together.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Mehtap Isme, a content creator and actress, born and raised in Switzerland and migrated to Korea for the first time six years ago. Her story as a successful entrepreneur and actress in Korea spans years.
Mehtap arrived in Korea as an exchange student in 2017 at Busan National University, after taking Japanese studies course that sparked an interest in Korea. She thought as she has learned the Japanese perspective of the history of Korea and the colonization, she should also learn how Koreans see it.
After her exchange, Mehtap returned to Switzerland to work for a local company, but wanting to return, she proposed to open a Korean branch and was sent to Korea as the branch head. Now Mehtap works full time at her office job while pursuing her various passions on the side – filling each moment of her time.
During our time together, Mehtap shares with us her tips for learning Korean, the due diligence of working as both a content creator and a full-time worker, and guidance and passions that drive her forward.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Sydney and I am from Canada! I am currently a semi-influencer on Instagram, I made many guest experiences on YouTube channels and I currently am working in the entertainment industry as a freelancer for modeling, acting, TV programs, and whatnot, voice acting.
How’d you get your start in entertainment?
It just sort of happened. While I was teaching and I got a message from someone saying, “Hey do you want to be in my YouTube video? I interview foreigners.” I took the opportunity and from there, it kind of snowballed and I got more and more offers to be on people’s YouTube channels or the radio. I just recently started working full-time in the entertainment industry in April of this year.
You said this is the 4th anniversary of your distance in Korea. Can you talk a little bit about your timeline here in Korea, a little bit of that 왔다 갔다?
Yeah! I’ve been coming to Korea since 2012, so it’s been about 11 years now. I came on June 23, 2012, and ever since then, I’ve been coming back and forth all the time for language exchanges, work, university exchanges, and this time around, when I came on August 16, 2019, as an English teacher through the Korean government through a program called EPIK! I was a teacher for a year at an all-girls high school and I got accepted for a government scholarship program, which is the KGSP. I just recently completed my Masters in Applied Linguistics at Korea University through the scholarship program. I just graduated in February, so that’s why I just started working in April.
Amazing! Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience as an English teacher at an all-girls high school in Korea?
It was amazing. It was one of the highlights of my life. It was an amazing opportunity. I also got lucky with my school, my girls, my co-teachers, and my coworkers. I taught first and second-year high school, and I had around 300 girls that I taught. In the hallway they would be like, “Hi Sydney teacher! I love you!” and then they’d run away. They were adorable. Normally, you’re not supposed to speak Korean with the students, but on the first day, they found out I spoke Korean because I was talking with the other teachers. So we made a rule: in-class time, no Korean unless they really really need it. Because I speak Korean, I was able to have a far greater connection with my students and the other teachers at my school, because not everyone speaks English at the school. I was able to create a really deep connection with people (정) with my students and my coworkers because I spoke Korean and that just made my experience all the more fulfilling. It was sad to leave because I had thought I would stay another year potentially but because I got accepted for the scholarship program, I had to go. My students only let me go because I was going to a good university.
No wonder you’re such a great teacher, you’ve seen so many different teaching styles!
I’ve seen a lot of teaching styles, but the main reason why I’ve been able to teach is because I applied for a lot of scholarships.
It’s like a job, I applied for a lot of scholarships and I worked part-time.
Do you have any advice for foreigners looking for study-abroad scholarships?
In comparison to our parent’s time, it’s so much easier to find available scholarships. You can find them through your University, generally through their international office. Since I did a lot of my exchanges through international offices, I naturally found myself there. Just apply for as many things as you can, even if you’re not 100% applicable to that scholarship. A lot of the time, programs don’t get applicants for scholarships, but they still need to give the money to people. I think during my undergrad, I got over 10 scholarships to study abroad, and fund my university. It was a lot of work, you had to search, you have to write essays, and sometimes you need to prove documentation. It’s usually not a click-and-pick type of thing. There are also external scholarship sites as well. A big one is Erasmus, I’ve met a lot of students who have come via Erasmus, seemed like their funding was really good. They had some amazing master’s programs that I was really eyeing. The scholarship I got for my study in Germany was through my University, but I applied to a program that wasn’t affiliated with my University. But, because I proved that the language course I would be receiving would be equivalent to how many credits it would be for my German class at University, I was able to get those credits approved.
-One amazing thing about you is your fluency in Korean, which I am sure has helped you a lot during your time here. Do you have any tips on improving listening and speaking comprehension?
I think one of the best ways to improve your speaking skills is to speak Korean as much as you can. Find native Korean speakers and communicate with them in Korean, avoiding using English as much as possible. In my case, my boyfriend and I have been together for five years, and during the beginning of our relationship he didn’t speak much English, so I found myself speaking Korean with him very often. Since five years ago, I have spoken Korean almost daily. So, I told my boyfriend that I’ve learned more Korean from him than I have from classes. Of course, classes are important too, but the speaking fluency came from him.
-That still must’ve been nerve-wracking. I’m sure there would be sometimes when you made mistakes with a word or a phrase.
Yeah, there would be misunderstandings sometimes.
-What is the most surprising or unexpected thing about living in Korea?
One of the things that I didn’t know about Korea until I worked here was communication. In Switzerland, after you get off work, people better not text you or call you about work. Like if someone calls you about work after work, it’s a no-go. But here in Korea, someone can call you about work at any time. It can be midnight or whenever, and I would still have to wake up and respond. I would also say in Korea, companies tend to be on short notice, whereas, in Switzerland, things tend to be planned far in advance. I can give one particular example. Our company often does team-building events with our clients. In Switzerland, clients tend to book six months in advance. But here, in Korea, clients will book… maybe one month in advance? Sometimes, it’s even three weeks or two weeks, so the time to prepare is so much shorter
-With all the workload, there must be times when you feel very productive. What makes you feel inspired?
I am always trying to maintain a positive attitude while keeping myself busy. Lately, I feel like I have lost my inspiration a bit. I am trying to be inspired, but because I am working so much I sometimes lose it. At this stage, I would say I am trying to find inspiration again. I used to post daily on TikTok and Instagram, but right now I am taking it a bit slower. I want to take some time for myself to figure out what makes me feel fulfilled again. In the past, I used to put pressure on myself to post every day, which would make me feel unhappy with myself and what I posted. I am trying to take a step back and be more kind to myself these days – so I can get my inspiration back again.
-Do you have anyone that inspires you?
I would say that my sisters inspire me. They all live such different lives. One of them is a doctor, the other is a writer, the other is becoming a teacher, and my little sister is becoming an artist. It’s inspiring to see what they are doing. What’s also inspiring is noticing and watching the small things. When I am just living life, I am happy to see what strangers are doing. Sometimes it is the most mundane things about people’s lives that inspire me.
-It sounds like you like people-watching a lot.
Yeah, I do. It is very relaxing for me. I like to just sit back in a cafe and look around at people. I could sit there for hours and just watch.
-What are your plans for the future?
I want to buy a really nice house. I’ve been looking at the 부동산 or the realtor website, and they have so many nice houses, but they are just so expensive. I am looking at them and simply manifesting. Maybe in ten years or so, I suppose. I also want to be more active in acting. In a couple of years, it would be great to have landed some nice roles. I also want to keep at my social media, growing it while not losing myself in the process.
Follow Mehtap on her socials!!