Liisa - Yonsei University

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018
It’s ok to be afraid of new experiences that may be intimidating- use that fear and learn from them.

Academic experience

I took part in the KLI program at 2nd level- it was pretty tricky at first, seeing the classes were fully in Korean but it was incredibly beneficial to my Korean language education. Two hours a day, Monday to Friday- the teachers I had were incredibly patient, friendly and lovely and small classrooms meant we had a lot of direct contact.

I also took International Policies of the Korean Peninsula and Korean Contemporary Cinema and Society, both enjoyable and not too heavy coursework-wise. Global courses in general were a lot more relaxed than say or major courses held in English.

Course registration is all at the same time, so make sure you’re all clear on course codes, timetable and when it begins- man courses you can email the professor and seek to change things around but not with KLI. 
If you’re not sure what level, don’t worry- there’ll be an entrance test to place you. 

If you’ve studied much Korean before this do revise, because you will be bored in Level 1 KLI.

Personal experience

I became heavily involved with school clubs, which I highly recommend if you wish to make Korean friends and/or practice Korean language. In my case the Art Club, Calligraphy Club and English Club (the latter I didn’t participate too too much in).
Both Calligraphy and Art clubs had weekly activities, enhancing my skills in these areas while also other events such as trips to galleries, and even one weekend trip to Gangneung.
I got to practice so much Korean and learn so much slang. There’s so much to explore but don’t get too touristy- tours around South Korea are readily available, but the South Korean University experience is less so.

Accommodation

I avoided the dorms due to their rules and regulations, and so opted for a share house. I actually left this quite late but even so managed to find a place of craigslist. Decent sized room with a desk, cupboard bed etc, shared kitchen and bathrooms with facilities such as a rice cooker, big fridge and freezer, washing machine, iron etc available- this was about $560 AUD a month? But you could possibly get something a little more decently priced if you looked earlier than I did.
The dorm life is not necessarily a bad option, as students living in the dorm do have that ready source of friends and community around them, but it there was the occasional issue or hiccup.

Costs

Food and drinks are cheap, and so is public transport, but you will spend more on this that you think. The main cafeteria has some decently priced food, but the cheapest meals I found were off campus, at this little pork cutlet restaurant, with a meal set costing 3000 won.
Some places will give you discounts for having cash, and the cheapest clothes are at markets, Ewha shopping area and Hongdae.

Challenge

The biggest challenge for me was probably finding my place and support networks. This was not my first exchange, nor last, and every time it’s hard being away from friends and family. Unfortunately you can’t prevent missing out on things back home, and the more you try to focus back home the more you miss out on your exchange. I surrounded myself with good people, and made friends that I could rely on and we could talk honestly and openly about our problems. It was a challenge to find my safe community, but it is worth the effort.

Professional Development

Thanks to classes and Korean friends my language skills greatly improved. Clubs also improved other skills. Exchange also improves your independence and social skills, with making contact and friends not only from Korea, but all over the world. Yonsei also has a great reputation in South Korea, being one of the SKY universities.

Highlight

My highlight was probably spending time with the school clubs. It’s a very different culture than in Australian universities, and a good way to spend time with people with similar interest. Through Korean friends I learned about places to eat, things to do, slang, student life, and they all generally enriched my experience.

Top tips

Be careful not to get stuck in the exchange student bubble- don’t be a tourist! 
Get involved, keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of looking stupid or making mistakes. 

Taxis are cheap but the drivers may be discriminatory to foreigners. 

People will put corn in places it doesn’t belong ie pizza and ice cream. Like literal canned corn. Bar snacks of just like cold corn in a bowl?. Coffee is generally not great, but Café Kafka was the best I found. 

Google maps doesn’t work- you have to get either Kakao Maps or Naver Maps.