Soomin Kim has always wanted to return to South Korea during her studies and see how different the hospital system is.

Next year the Whangārei woman, who is studying medicine at the University of Auckland, will get to do just that. And the financial burden has been lifted because the 22-year-old has received a Prime Minister's Scholarship to Asia to complete a five-week elective in endocrine and thyroid surgery at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, her birth city. She came to Whangārei when she was 5.

"I'm pretty excited, kind of nervous because all the systems will be different. I do speak a bit of Korean, but English is more comfortable for me so it will be stretching me beyond my comfort zone. All the medical terminology will be in Korean as well so I don't know how much of it I can understand," she said.

Kim said she was surprised to find out she had received the scholarship, which will cover her return flight, application fee, and accommodation for the five weeks she is in South Korea.


"I didn't have much of an expectation. I just said I'd apply and see how it goes. But I was really, really happy because I don't need much support from my parents.

"It takes a lot of burden off my chest," she said.

Kim has just completed her fourth year of the six-year degree, and always wanted to return to South Korea as part of her studies.

"I've just been in Auckland and spending most of my time studying and I haven't had much exposure to much else. In fifth year we get a chance to choose a topic that we're interested in and we get to go anywhere we like in the world and build experience outside of New Zealand."

Kim said while she is interested in surgery, she is not sure what she wants to specialise in.

She said while in Seoul she will have the opportunity to see a bit of everything.

"I've always wanted to be a doctor, since I was in intermediate. I like working with people and I've had a number of family members who were quite ill, so I've been exposed to the hospital doctors and systems," she said.

Kim will leave for Seoul in March.