Zoe - Yonsei University

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018
Going on exchange to Yonsei University was truly the most life changing experience I've had so far. I have such a deep love for Seoul and I can't wait to go back!

Academic experience

While I was at Yonsei University, I decided to take classes in Korean language and culture studies. This included Chinese Characters 1, Introduction to Korean Studies and the Korean Language Intensive program, or KLI, which is run two hours per day, five days per week. Sometimes this felt like a lot, however it was valuable because my Korean language ability improved tremendously. The greatest challenge was the attendance policy, which is a lot stricter compared to UQ. In most classes, if I missed more than thirty percent of classes it would mean an automatic fail.

Personal experience

Because the train systems in Korea are so great, I was lucky to be able to travel around the country and visit lots of different places, such as Busan and Gangneung, which are both coastal locations. I feel that I have become a lot more independent and adventurous, and through international clubs at the university I was able to make a lot of friends from Korea and all over the world. There were also a lot of special events for foreigners like K-pop concerts and cultural enrichment activities like kimchi or rice cake making.

Accommodation

I chose to live in SK Global House which is one of two international dorms on campus. The other is International House which is a female only dorm. I opted for a single room, which was super nice for me but a lot more expensive than a shared room. At first, I was envious of people with roommates because they had automatic friends, however having my own space was important to me and I quickly made friends anyway. Because the dorms are on campus, getting to class was super convenient. There was also a cafeteria and convenience store downstairs, as well as a café, ice cream shop and burger shop. If you intend to live in the dorms, make sure you submit your application as soon as possible because the demand is very high and many people miss out.

Costs

The cost of living is fairly cheap in Korea! Taking the subway is a cheap and efficient way of getting around and the buses are easy to figure out. One-way journeys cost around $1 or $2. There is no uber in Korea but travelling by taxi is significantly cheaper than in Australia, with a fifteen-minute journey costing around six or seven dollars. They can also be ordered using the Kakao Taxi app. Because the cost of fresh fruit and veg in Korea is quite expensive, cooking for yourself can become pricey, so I found myself going out for dinner with my friends almost every night. The meals in the cafeteria were very cheap (around $3-$4) but eating Korean food in town was also really reasonable (maybe $5-$10). I am really into fashion and I found the style scene in Seoul so cool! Because food and transport is so cheap, I think I ended up spending most of my money on clothes and entertainment. I would recommend a budget of about $8,000-$10,000.

Challenge

Prior to exchange, I had been learning Korean at UQ for three semesters, so I thought I would be prepared for the language barrier but I found difficulty overcoming shyness and actually speaking. KLI really helped with that because I was required to speak in every class, but mostly going out and interacting with people was what helped me come out of my Korean language shell.

Professional Development

I definitely feel as though the skills I have gained from travelling abroad have better equipped me for a professional environment. I have grown more confident and adventurous and feel like I can achieve any goal. Through forming so many international relationships, my social skills have grown and I have also made valuable contacts for the future. At the moment, I am applying for jobs in Seoul and hope to return there after I graduate this semester.

Highlight

The highlight of my trip was definitely the friendships I made. I’m still in contact with all of my friends and we plan to visit each others’ countries in the future. There are a lot of memories that stand out, but being able to explore and play in a new country together was so crazy and truly life-changing.

Top tips

-Download KakaoTalk! It’s a messaging app that most people in Korea use instead of texting or Facebook.
-Study up on Korean language before you arrive.
-Don’t sit in the priority seating on the subway, even if there is no one around that needs it. In Korea, they leave those seats open and you will seem rude if you don’t.
-Bring lots of deodorant! It is difficult to find there and also quite expensive ($8ish). Most Korean people don’t need to wear it, so the variety and availability is very limited.
-If you can, join a club or a sports team! It’s a great way to meet other students and make friends.