Amalia - Pusan National University

B of Commerce/Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

Life as a student at PNU was SO different than back at UQ. I took 6 subjects (the maximum load) in comparison to only taking 4 subjects back home. The registration process is pretty similar to UQ's and is equally as competitive, so wake up on time. Alongside having six subjects, I pretty much had a class every single weekday (I'd hoped to have Fridays or Mondays off, but it didn't work out). This took a lot of getting used to, especially since attendance is mandatory, as I was used to only being at uni 3 days a week.

Though I found I had a heavier work load, it was actually pretty easy to manage and the teachers are immensely helpful. The subjects in the Global Studies department were super interesting (I personally cannot recommend Globalisation enough and Korean Politics) and the Korean language courses I took definitely challenged me to improve a lot faster as the whole thing is all in Korean. Unfortunately, a lot of the Korean courses are generally around the same time, so it takes a bit of planning.

Personal experience

When people say going on exchange is often one of the best decisions of their lives, I never fully understood until now – it has honestly been the biggest eye-opener and one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve ever had. I have not only immersed myself in just one culture, but multiple cultures from around the world and grown significantly as an individual. Korea is a beautiful country (Gyeongju being my personal favourite city), and I highly recommend learning the history and language.

In terms of friendships made, I am genuinely very thankful for everyone I came across. I met a mix of local Koreans and exchange students from across the globe (mainly from Europe - I was the only Australian) who were amazing enough to teach me various things about where they're from. The people definitely made adjusting to life in Busan so much easier. I'll definitely miss the random outings and taking hours to decide on just what to eat for dinner. I'm sure I've made friends for life and will stay in contact with many of them for years to come.

Accommodation

I stayed in the all-female Jayoo dorms and it was pretty good. My dorm was located in a super convenient location – 5 mins away from the two buildings I’d use for classes. However, Korea is a mountainous region and they’ve conveniently built all the universities on mountains. Jayoo isn’t too terrible as it’s near the bottom of the mountain; the male dorms, on the other hand, are at the very top of a steep hill. With the dorms, Woongbee and Jayoo are the nicer built dorms, especially since Jayoo was recently renovated.

Costs

I travelled a lot, thus my expenses were significantly higher than most. Budgeting for $6,000-$8,000 (especially if living at the dorms) is enough to live very comfortably in Korea. Regarding food, it's pretty cheap especially if you stick to Korean food mostly. If you've got dorm food, that also helps regarding food costs, but the food is either a hit or miss for most people. Transport is also incredibly affordable, even when travelling between cities. For intercity travel, I definitely recommend taking the bus! It's cheap, convenient and pretty comfortable. Since South Korea is pretty compact in terms of land, the cities are very well connected and travel time isn't too long either. Accomodation wise, if you’re going to look for accommodation outside of the dorms, be prepared to pay a very high security deposit which you’ll get back at the end of your tenancy.

Challenge

I found that the language barrier was definitely a bit of a challenge. Thankfully I knew enough Korean to get by on the daily, but during some occasions, it became a bit frustrating to convey what I really wanted. Thus, I really delved into my language classes and studying. I also tried to use Korean as much as possible to practice further.

Professional Development

I definitely developed quite a range of skills during my semester abroad. However, communication was definitely my most developed skill that I practiced alongside a cultural sensitivity. When you meet people from not only Korea, but across the globe, you learn to communicate in various ways and you also learn what not to do due to cultural differences. It has definitely made me more of an open-minded person.

Highlight

The travelling was definitely my favourite part of the whole exchange. I visited Seoul at least four times, and once to Gyeongju, Ulsan and Geoje island. I was also able to do some extra travelling after the whole exchange for two months before coming home (AirAsia is your friend)! I learnt so much about the cultures in the numerous countries I visited, and I've also created so many beautiful memories. If I could, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Top tips

- Try to join a club and/or attend events (I recommend PNUF, but all clubs to exchange students)
- Be open to being outside of your comfort zone, but know when to say no
- Definitely plan in advance and do your research
- Explore! Busan is a beautiful city with lots to do, and if you run out there's lot of nearby cities to also explore.
- On the note of exploring, try to keep Fridays free of class. It's incredibly useful for when you want to catch up on studies and mix exploring or socialising in between.