Meet up with Seoul Mate

How I started Seoul Mate Community

The long chilly winter has finally gone and spring has already arrived. It has been thirty days since the Seoul Mate website was launched. Our website got over 6,000 hits in a month, and nearly 70% of visitors click on the “Korean Language” page. The Seoul Mate Facebook group has over 610 members and almost 430 Facebook users like the Seoul Mate page. All activities in the community are done by volunteers who manage to work together harmoniously without being forced to do things or think in a certain way. Except for two members, I’ve never met the other team members!

The Seoul Mate Community has undergone remarkable changes in an awfully short time. Still, I cannot believe that people came from all over the world – from Poland, Turkey, China to Egypt – are congregating around one website and discussing Korea daily. This international hub looks like a living organism.

Meet up with Best Partner

Although ‘Seoul Mate’ community was created purely by accident, it was inevitable.

Two months ago, I met Hassan Abid from Pakistan through the ‘Coursera – Meet up’ website where people find members who learn online courses. He sent me a message on Facebook and we met at a restaurant in Itaewon for dinner. We talked about the experience of MOOC (massive online course) as well as negative aspects of Korean society. He said that it is difficult to live in the closed Korean society as a foreigner. I already know that many foreigners who are disappointed about Korea have left this country. Although I couldn’t understand their situation perfectly, as a college student, I feel that all students who learn in Korea are divided into two groups on campus – Korean and non-Korean.

Hassan contemplated making a community to help newcomers like international students who are suffering from those difficulties, especially the Korean language, jobs and residences. He showed me his Android application ‘Seoul Mate’. Back then, no one knew what we were going to do together in the future.

Meet up with New friends in the worlds Actually, I have read many good-quality articles on blogs written by intelligent foreigners regarding Korean culture or issues in Korean society. I was so surprised about their professional knowledge and penetration.

My friend as well as an English tutor, Charles Cave started learning Korean by self-study. Thanks to him, I have found many resources about Korean language and realized that there are plentiful excellent materials on the web.

By the way, I saw one picture on a Facebook page, which described how to go to Universities in Korea to learn Korean language. I left a comment on the picture saying ‘I can help you guys who have problems to search for this information ‘. After that, over fifty people messaged me and I could not reply to all their messages. In the morning, I called Hassan and woke him up – “Please, save me. Open your Facebook group!”. That was the moment the Seoul Mate Facebook group was created.

Meet up with Seoul Mate Website

In the third meeting with Hassan, we thought carefully about our activities on the Facebook group. Every day members posted good resources on this group but they couldn’t easily find the information. To solve this problem I made Google Docs sorted into several categories: Korean language, News, K-Drama, K-pop. A few days later, people collected sites and uploaded in these documents. Finally, we had one shared online library for the group.

Also, people found similarities and differences between their culture and Koreas. Gradually, they wanted to listen to various stories from around the world. Finally, Hassan and I realized that we needed one interactive place such as a playground where kids can romp freely. Finally, the ‘Seoul Mate’ website came into the world. Everything happened within 20 minutes at one cafe.

Meet up with Seoul Mate Members

One day, I made a request in the Facebook group to translate the introduction to Seoul Mate into 15 languages. This work happened in one day.

We’ve come a long way and I have met many people from around the world who are interested in Korea. After listening to the story of SeoulMate, many members wanted to get involved with us. I made a database document using Google Docs and people collected resources for the website. We call them Curators.

Our team consists of enthusiastic people from the worlds, from programmer, designer, developer, English Teacher, writer, professor and students. They have brainstormed ideas to create the website. Rafael, designer from Osaka is creating logo and images. Charles, from Sydney is proofreading blog articles written by authors living in non-English speaking countries. Renee, from Texas is posting interesting cultural events. Magdalena, from Poland, Dohee and Sewon from Seoul are gathering resources about Korean Culture and History. Radwa from Cairo is managing community boards. Ant from Vietnam is making the iPhone SeoulMate app. I am designing the overall structure of this website and all this is achieved with the skillful coding by Hassan from Pakistan. They all enjoy contributing their effort for fun. As referred to earlier, we have never all met together face to face. We haven’t even had a Google Hangout – most communication happens in chat messages on Facebook.

In the past month, I have met up with new friends, created a website, and worked with dynamic team members. If someone asked me right now what is the next step of the website, I would speak hesitantly. The website has developed in ways I had never anticipated – all as a result of the collective efforts of many people. I have been pleasantly surprised at how the web site and community has grown and I am excited about the future!

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