Daniel - Seoul National University

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018
It's 100% true that the people you meet on your journey make it worthwhile and memorable. As cliche as it sounds, a little piece of my heart will always remain in Korea and at SNU.

Academic experience

I was part of the School of Education and majored in English Education.

The classes I took were Practicum in English Teaching, Environmental Education, Korean Education Introduced in English, Globalizing Korean and Issues in North Korean Health Policy. They were all taught in English so there were no issues communicating with my professors. 

Attendance was a decent percentage of the grades in all my courses and in some cases, passing attendance meant you were given a pass for the course. Keep in mind that too many absences and tardiness can mean a fail for the course! Another thing I found different was that exams take place during your regular class time so there was not really an exam block like at UQ. 

A challenge was become burnt out and exhausted during the semester at SNU. They don't have a mid-semester break like we do here at UQ and simply go straight for 16 weeks, so I found myself quite exhausted during the semester. The friends I made at SNU helped me to overcome this as I always looked forward to going to school. Another was the workload. I took 5 courses and at times the amount of readings were overwhelming. It is very easy to fall behind at SNU, so make sure you're on top of everything. 

The enrollment/registration process is pretty straightforward, just carefully follow the instructions that UQ Abroad provide you with. Class sign-on can be really competitive and it is not uncommon to find Korean students pulling all-nighters at a PC Cafe to get their desired classes. Sign-on times can be really early in the morning so keep this in mind as well as the time difference between Australia and Korea!

Personal experience

I formed great friendships during my time on exchange. The friends I made, both Korean and fellow exchange students were all amazing and I wouldn't have gotten through the semester without them.  

I did travel and explore with the smaller group of friends I had, but most of it was done with SNU Buddy. I'll let you join the group and be surprised by where they will take you! They organize regular trips inside and outside of Seoul, so there is plenty of opportunity to travel with them!

I decided not to take Korean language courses as I was comfortable with my Korean ability and honestly just wanted a more free schedule, but definitely take the opportunity if you're looking to improve as your regular courses will be in English. All the friends I knew that took language classes really enjoyed them. I was still able to practice and improve as I tried to use as much Korean as I could with my friends.

Accommodation

I stayed off-campus at a sharehouse in Nokdu, an area right next to SNU. Although I did enjoy the privacy of my own room and my housemates, if I had my time over I would have applied for and hoped I got into the dorms. The cost of staying the dorms for a semester is similar to a month's rent at a sharehouse so if you want more money for food and travel I would definitely apply for the dorms. It is a lottery system so if you get it, don't turn it down but definitely have a back-up plan just in case.

Nakseongdae and SNU Station are other options close to campus you can explore.

Costs

With all the funding I received, I was able to rent my own room in a sharehouse and had the ability to eat out everyday on exchange. Rent can range from $400-$800 a month depending on where you stay and the kind of place you stay at and a semester at the dorms is about $600. As for food, the most expensive lunch at the cafeteria is around $6 and you can definitely eat really well for much less. 

Bus and subway trips are around $1-$2 and you'll most likely find yourself using the subway a lot. Entertainment is generally cheaper and travel the same. If you want to travel to Busan for example, you'll find the buses and trains to get there quite affordable.

Korea has quite an affordable cost of living, so the only thing you should be worrying about is how to maximize your time there!

Challenge

Maintaining a balance between study and social life was the biggest challenge for me. As much as I wanted to hang out with my friends, I had to dedicate enough time to make sure I wasn't falling behind. Plan and set your schedule as best as you can and you should be fine!

Professional Development

I was able to interact with diverse cultures, not only Korean but from the exchange students all over the world and I learned so much from them all. Communicating in Korean frequently and being able to adapt to the busy Seoul lifestyle and the extreme heat and cold of Korean summer and winter will be useful for me going forward as I intend to pursue an English teaching career in Korea after I have graduated.

Highlight

100% the friendships I formed and the people I met during my time on exchange at SNU. The weekly SNU Buddy Office Pub events, the weekly group lunches, group trips, just SNU Buddy events in general were all so enjoyable and the people even more so.

Top tips

Join SNU Buddy! You won't regret it. 

Enjoy the 24/hr cafes, convenience stores, PC cafes! Also the Korean food delivery services! If you have the late night munchies there's always something you can order and eat. 

Be open-minded! Embrace the Korean culture and it will embrace you back. Korean people are extremely kind, friendly and caring if you show just a little bit of effort to learn their culture. Brushing up on some etiquette can go a long way.

Make the most of your time abroad! You're really only there for a few months. So say yes to everything, try all the new foods, go to as many things as you can and go out of your way to make friends. Meet them as much as you can!

The semester will pass so fast and it'll be the farewell ceremony before you know it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!