Allegra - Korea University

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

In terms of academics at UQ I study a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Korean, and a double minor in History and International Relations. Whilst on exchange, I did one History course on contemporary Western history, two International Relations courses, one of which was on international relations in Northeast Asia and the other was on Korean diplomacy, and two elective courses on Korean film and Korean history and culture respectively. 

Overall the content of all the course was really interesting and engaging, and the teaching staff were knowledgeable and competent. 

I think the structure of classes themselves varies greatly from UQ though. The classes are a lot smaller in terms of the number of students, and don’t run in the same lecturer/tutorial format that is common at UQ; instead courses usually had two 1 hour 45 minute lectures a week. 

At times it felt a little more like high school than university with majority of courses having strict attendance policies usually allowing for three absences in total, lectures not being recorded, and many lecturers not allowing the use of electronic devices, including laptops for note taking.  

The course enrolment and registration is an absolute nightmare. Be prepared with backup courses upon back courses upon backup courses. However, also be prepared to be flexible with your courses; at one point I was enrolled in a physical education bowling course because I had no other options. That said, the university does offer opportunities for you to try and enrol in a course after enrolment date has passed – so you do have options. But also be prepared to grovel, beg and plead with lecturers to let you into a course if you need or want it badly enough. 

While this account sounds overly negative, these are some of the thing I wish I had known before I went on exchange as they were some of the greatest points of difficulty and culture shock for me.

Personal experience

I think one of the biggest personal skills that is to be gained on exchange, no matter where you go, is a sense of independence. I think for a lot people, myself included, the idea of going to a foreign country and there living alone for an extended period of time is quite daunting however once you realize just how much freedom you now have it’s quite liberating.

Accommodation

I lived in CJ International House, which is one of Korea University’s on-campus accommodation dormitories. In general I had I pretty positive experience with the living there. I think one of the biggest benefits of living in on campus dorms is the opportunity it provides you to meet people and make new friends. My closest friends made on exchange ended up being the other people I lived with in the dorms. 

I’m not sure about the other on-campus dorms but CJ International House had security on staff 24/7, which was really nice and definitely made me feel safe at all times; I wasn’t worried about my security or anything at all.

While I enjoyed living on-campus for the most part, I think it does come with a few more restrictions than perhaps living off-campus might. 

CJ International House and the other Korea University dorms are all on top of a very steep hill. I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, after a long day of classes or a night out the last thing you want to do is walk up that huge hill. 

The on-campus dorms are also relatively isolated and so are further away from food outlets, apart from a convenience store which is located on the dorm campus, and public transport than say other off-campus accommodation near the university.

Costs

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really keep track of my spendings well I was on exchange. I really am not in the position to offer advice on budgeting. One thing I can say though is things for the most part are a lot cheaper than in Australia, this goes for food, alcohol, clothes, public transport, taxis etc.

Challenge

I think one of the hardest challenges I faced whilst being on exchange was taking myself out of my comfort zone to meet new people. I’m a naturally introverted person and so it isn’t always the easiest for me to put myself out there in social situations. It was really important to me though to make the most of being on exchange and the opportunities it provided for meeting such a variety of new people. In my opinion though the best way to overcome difficulties such as this is to really try and push yourself to go to different social events and interact with as many new people as you can. It is hard though. I think it is important to recognize that meeting new people, especially if you are more introverted, can be a tiring process and that it’s important to not push yourself too hard and give yourself down time as well.

Professional Development

Looking back on my exchange experience now, I think a skill that I gained that will contribute to my professional development is learning to be flexible. In this case it was learning to be flexible when it came to new and different teaching and learning styles, but I think this skill can be translated into other situations. The ability to meet, interact and deal with a variety of different people and personalities successfully is another skill beneficial to my professional development that I think I gained whilst on exchange.

Highlight

As corny as this sounds, I think that just being able to experience new things for the first time, live in a new city, meet new people, try new food, go to new places, was the highlight of my exchange experience.

Top tips

One of the best tips I think I could give, is exchange is what you make of it. The adage of you get out what you put in I think is really true when it comes to going on exchange. You can have a really academic based exchange experience if that’s what you want or you can choose to have a really social exchange experience. I think recognizing what you want to achieve while you’re on exchange and prioritizing those things is key to a successful exchange. 

That said, and this is going to sound so clichéd, but try and keep yourself open to new experiences. Exchange is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and so I think it’s important to really take advantage of that. 

Oh and take attendance seriously.