Tahlia - Ehwa Women's University

B International Studies
Semester 1, 2023


I wanted to improve my Korean speaking skills through immersion and cultural experiences in Korea.

Personal Development

Firstly, I gained great confidence in my Korean skills to the point where I could approach staff in a variety of situations starting off in Korean or confidently answer the phone in Korean. These days I find myself responding automatically in Korean, even when first approached with English. When my husband joined me here for a fortnight, he was always impressed by my ability to ask for help or directions or hold conversations with taxi drivers in Korean. Those unexpected conversations covered a wide variety of topics and were often fun. I explored a few parts of South Korea with friends from school. I got to visit a number of Korean cultural sites, historical sites, see traditional activities, dress in a hanbok and take pictures in an ancient palace, go hiking, visit beaches, see North Korea from the DMZ, visit museums, see the cherry blossoms, ride a bike by Han River, enjoy Korean culture and see lots of nature. The Ewha campus itself is beautiful and seeing it in Spring was amazing, The gardens are well tended and watching the flowers that bloom one after another, changing from week to week, was enjoyable. I made friends with a few European girls from my dorm at socialising events that Ewha put on for the exchange students. I made friends with girls from Europe and South America in class. As exchange students we are all far from home and start off not knowing many people, so having the opportunity to socialise with others was a good experience. I made friends from many other countries at language exchange meet ups that I found outside of school. Some of my friends used Instagram to meet people, but I used the Meet Up app to join language exchange and hiking groups. I also made lots of Korean friends, mostly at events that I found outside of school. When the dorms kicked me out at the end of semester, I stayed with a Korean family for three weeks. Living in the dorm was hard for me personally; my roommate and I did not get along at all. But even that was a lesson for me in patience and attempting to understand someone with whom I had nothing in common and who would keep me up until 2:30 in the morning regularly. While often not pleasant I learnt after a few weeks how to keep my peace, and strategies for dealing with a person who showed me nothing but contempt in my "personal" space. Though highly unpleasant at the time, I guess I wouldn't exchange that experience for anything either because it did grow me as a person. I gained a lot of Korean cultural experiences and knowledge. I also did some things I never thought possible while on this trip, so I would probably rank higher in traits relating to openness to new experiences now. I gained a bunch of fun stories that will surely entertain people when I get home and they inevitably ask how my trip was. I gained some great pictures, some cute, some of amazing scenery, some of ancient palaces and some of flowers and old buildings that I saw at Ewha. I gained better coping strategies for when I am on the move than the ones that I use at home. Usually, I wait till I get home and hug my cats but without being able to fall-back on them, I had to find some inner strength on the go. As for other changes, I may have put on some weight. The food in Korea is too good.



Academic Development

It is probably too soon to talk about academic impact, other than to say my Korean skills have received a huge boost and that is obvious to people who have known me for the last few months. Many people told me that Ewha is well regarded in Korea, and one or two who know me in Australia expressed surprise that I could get into a school as good as Ewha, so having done a semester there could reflect well if I attempt to get a job in Korea in the future. I found Ewha's full time work-load easy enough but I'm not sure what my grades are, so it might be too soon to say that. I took the intensive Korean classes, so we had class for 12 hours every week less the weeks with public holidays, of which there were many. I often enjoyed this, but was mentally drained by Wednesday. If I hadn't have taken the Korean class I think the workload is much lighter than at UQ with much less reading and other self-learning expectations between classes. On the other hand, Ewha has a miss 10 classes and automatically fail policy, which was concerning to me with regards to a few classes. In part because I got very sick and barely got out of bed for a week and a half, and in part because when my husband was here I skipped a bunch of classes in order to show him around or because I slept in because we got back late at night. I think my grades will come back good, but I enjoyed having a semester that doesn't impact my overall GPA. I think the experiences I had here outside of my classes developed me as a person and sometimes I prioritised these over class attendance or performance. In Australia I almost never prioritise anything over grades so it was nice to have a more relaxed semester and to get out and see Korea or practice Korean with friends in real life versus in the classroom. I’ve already mentioned Ewha's beautiful campus but it was really enjoyable to walk from class to class and back to the dorm. I really enjoyed having my room to go back to in between classes. Additionally, there are lots of cafes near Ewha where one can go and drink refreshing drinks, eat snacks and sit and work on one's laptop for hours. That's an enjoyable point of Korean university culture. Another enjoyable aspect is the Korean university jacket and souvenir shop products. Whenever I wasn't at university and saw someone wearing an Ewha jacket I felt a little affinity and good will towards them. I even saw some girls wearing them on Jeju Island which is about as far away from Seoul as one can get. I don't own the jacket, but I have the newest Ewha plushie attached to my bag. I was quite far from Ewha one day when a girl approached me excitedly, checked the plushie, and told me that she was also a current Ewha student. Experiencing Korean student culture was enjoyable. Another fun point of classes was that even though my International relations themed classes were in English, the professors would sometimes re-explain things in Korean, so there were opportunities for listening to Korean and I heard many IR and political terms in Korean for the first time. Ewha's class selection system is super competitive and I didn't get into any of the classes that I originally wanted except for Korean, and that was probably because it was the first one that I applied for; the rest were gone in minutes. I didn't mind the classes that I ended up substituting for, but at the time I was severely disappointed in my failure to get into the classes I originally wanted.

Professional Development

Again, my Korean skills have leapt up and my confidence in speaking and understanding Korean has been tested and proven here. So, if I attempt to get a job in which Korean might be required I can potentially prove that I have what it takes, or at least be much more confident in my ability. I attended a few classes here with networking potential and learned much about the process for attempting to get a job in the UN and UN internship programs. I learnt patience and to keep poking on when highly aggravated and lacking in sleep thanks to a very unpleasant roommate experience. I learnt to be very open to new experiences and that they may work out better than I expect. I learnt to be more flexible on the go.


I didn't use any budgeting techniques and am not sure how much I spent. What I do know is that I started withdrawing from my Australian account much sooner than I thought I would.

All of the below are estimates and approximate figures.

  • Dorm fees: $1,850
  • Bedding, soap, air freshener, toilet cleaner, toilet paper, other dorm life necessities: $200
  • Other accommodation - hotels when travelling: $400
  • Other accommodation - arriving early and leaving late (homestay): free
  • Textbooks: $110 These were all the textbooks for the intensive Korean classes plus I purchased the extras that weren't strictly required but aided my learning greatly.
  • Transport - general sightseeing, visiting friends in Seoul etc: $200?
  • I'm really not sure how often I topped up my transport card or how much I put on it. It always varied depending on how active I was. Travel - domestic flights, trains and buses: $300 Domestic flights are often quite cheap, sometimes cheaper than the train so before I learnt this I spent more on train fees than strictly necessary. Of course not everywhere has an airport.
  • Travel (international flights) - Aus to Korea, return: $1,700
  • Travel - Korea to Japan, return: $300
  • Bank fees - withdrawing from a foreign card: $100
  • Seeing theatre productions: $50
  • Food: unknown It is possible to eat on about $10-15 per day here and some weeks I did that all week, but the experience is greatly improved if you eat more expensive foods with various friends regularly while here, or if you don't think too much about the price and try whatever you want. So my advice is to put more aside for this. Your average meal is cheaper than at home, perhaps coming in at around $15 for dinner.


I used the funding for my flights, accommodation, buying necessities for my dorm room, textbooks, and the first 6-8 weeks of living costs. Without the funding it would have been impossible for me to come and gain the experiences that I did. The first infusion of cash to get me started and tide me over until my Australian account could bounce back from initial drawings was vital and allowed me to enjoy my time here funding only the second half of the trip myself.


Ewha's application form includes some information on joining the dorms and applying is simple. Later came a few emails from Ewha with outside options but I had already applied for the dorms and I was happy with my choice. I was in D-Building of the dorms which I hear is one of the nicer ones. There was enough space, the bed was very comfortable, the desk, chair and lamp were sufficient for the tasks. There was a surprising amount of storage space for both me and my roommate. The refrigerator kept breaking down so we stopped asking for the maintenance man to fix it and went without after the first month. The toilet would easily get blocked, but that seems fairly common in Korea. The rest of our bathroom was nice enough but it didn't take long for it to stink and it was always just days after cleaning that it would smell again. The bathroom drainage was sub-par and the floor would flood when showering. The shared kitchen was large enough. In D-Building there were not enough driers in the laundry. It was often easy enough to get a washing machine, but at the wrong time of the day you would have to wait for a drier or take your wet laundry to A/B-Building's laundry. The pros were it was super conveniently located within the Ewha Campus so I could go back to my room and work on assignments or even take a nap in between classes. It was easy to apply for through Ewha and it was nice to know what the costs would be up front. I enjoyed living on campus because the gardens were lovely even the ones around the dorm.The cons included my roommate. We were assigned a roommate based on our student IDs, my roommate having a number one below mine. I wish Ewha had of put some thought into how they assigned rooms like I hear they do for the graduate student dorms where students are assigned by geographical region and other characteristics that may help them to get along. As for me I am 36 and was assigned a room with a 21-year-old American girl who would come back anywhere between 10-12 midnight and make noise until 2:30am every night without fail. When I mentioned how inconvenient this was to her face she loudly cried into her pillow until 4 am one morning. I would have appreciated a non-American and someone closer to my age if there were others, or at least past the partying all night age. Assistance from the housing office at Ewha was minimal. They said they would not change roommates and that we had to find someone to swap with then let them know if we wanted to change. Additionally, there was a group chat of exchange students in which many who had issues with their rooms complained about the responses received or the actions taken to resolve issues such as maggots in the room or the door locks only working half the time etc. Advice for future students: Don't expect to get a solo room. Ewha says they give them out first come first serve, but word is there is only about 20 of them, so expect to have to live with a roommate. Ewha suggests that you lay out ground rules with your roommate on the first day. Do it, even if your roommate is awkward about it and is indicating that she wants nothing to do with you from the beginning. At least if you have both established rules you have a basis to point to when they do unreasonable things like dance noisily in the room at midnight. That said the dorms at Ewha are conveniently located and I'm glad I didn't have to stress about other options when I first arrived because there is alot of stuff to do when you first arrive without adding finding a place to the list. Ewha requires a test for TB to stay in the dorms. Get it at the place they recommend. It cost me only around $15 and the results came out in 10 minutes, the cost and speed were unbeatable. I had some friends who found other places in Seoul and their results took 24 hours to come through.


Exploring Seoul and Jeju Island with my husband. Those moments when I realised my language skills had drastically improved. Riding a bike at sunset by Han River in cherry blossom season with friends I had made here. Just about every time I ate fried chicken with friends. Going to karaoke with my language meet up friends.

Advice/Top Tips

Firstly, just do it! You won't regret it. Secondly, make sure you have a handful of cash (in some circumstances only cash can be used) and a variety of payment options and means of accessing your money before you come. I really struggled for a long time and had to rely on my friends to access cash and do transfers because I assumed that paying in Seoul would be simple enough and put all my funds in one sport which turned out to be initially inaccessible. Moving this around was expensive. Thirdly, go see the country with friends or family. Korea is small and it's full of wonderful nature and historical monuments. It’s convenient and cheap to travel, you'd be crazy not to try while here. Fourthly, get out and make friends, use social media to network with other students before your feet hit the ground in Seoul. Ewha did not provide many opportunities to make friends with Koreans, especially in the initial weeks so find people with similar interests to you (you can use the Meet Up app for this or Instagram). Get straight into it to maximise your time with new people, maximise your comfort here and provide you with a network of people who will help you when you get home sick, or with whom you can eat a meal.