Arra - Seoul National University

B. Education (Primary)
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I went four days a week, most of my classes starting in the morning and ending the late afternoon. Of course, there were breaks in the middle! 
Intermediate Korean was probably my favourite class. The professor was amazing, taught well and more or less kept the class entertained. Seeing as it was a class to learn Korean, everyone in it was exchange students.
The Korean Language was actually a theory/background history of Korean language class (only for non-native Koreans). I did enjoy learning about the theory/background but according to others in the class, they considered the class hard to understand. I think the only reason I didn’t find it so difficult was because my background was Korean (though not native!). Out of my four classes, Korean Language would probably be my least favourite. 
Elementary French was hard! Considering I had to learn French in Korean, and my Korean was not fluent, it was pretty challenging. Albeit, very fun. Luckily, I learned a bit of French in high school (which was why I chose the class) and it did make me study more, the teacher was great too and seemed to have a fascination with Sydney, after finding out I was Australian. I think every class afterwards he would point me out and say something about Sydney!
Topics in Korean History was interesting… the information really was interesting, and the only class I had to do an essay in (all the rest were exams). But, considering the class spanned across three hours in one sitting, it was a little hard concentrating! To be honest, I was shocked at how lax some of the exams/assignments were. For my final essay, the professor didn’t specify a topic; she said we could choose anything (literally anything from what we learned in the WHOLE semester!) and write about it. She said she didn’t care about font size, paragraph spacing, referencing style etc, the only thing she specified was that it had to be 10 pages, including title and references. My friend and I were understatedly shocked. Both of us came from universities that had a guideline, so it was a bit hard adjusting to a ‘no rule’ assignment structure.
My academic experience was truly amazing though, and the best part was SNU’s cafeterias!
SNU seriously had amazing food on campus! I think I tried most of the school cafeterias, along with restaurants and other non-school cafeterias on campus. (SNU station also has heaps of cheap, yummy food too!) I loved the Student Centre cafeteria in Building 63, and they also had a special going on where you could eat breakfast and dinner for 1000won (about $1 AUD) each sitting, refills included. I think the food helped my adjust to Korean life really well!

Personal experience

As said before, the food in Korea was awesome! While there for 6 months (I arrived mid-Jan as I had family in Seoul and left mid-July), I tried to try as many restaurants as possible. I found out an amazing dessert/coffee café called Twosome Place (have to try!), and a cheap Pizza buffet called Pizza Mall, located basically everywhere. I also did SNUBUDDY, and there were a few group events that called for dinner meetings. It was during these times I tried my first Korean buffet. 
Apart from food, I had a huge cultural experience. I participated in Korean calligraphy (through SNUBUDDY), went down South to Muan and to Gangwon-do, enjoyed the cherry blossoms, went to a Modern and Contemporary Arts Museum, visited Gyeongbuk Palace, and wore a traditional Korean hanbok dress. I also had the opportunity to go to a Korean wedding! It was strange seeing no bridesmaids…
My favourite outing had to be the Palace and wearing the hanbok. Personally, the last time I wore a hanbok was probably ten years ago, and the fact that I was wearing it again in Korea, was a huge memory for me. I loved the hanbok and loved the experience of wearing the hanbok in the Palace.
Through SNUBUDDY, I was fortunate to meet many people from all over the world along with Korean locals. Truth be told, I wasn’t going to join SNUBUDDY at first, but glad I did! Being buddied with a Korean local meant I had help close by and met people who were in the same situation as me; alone in a (somewhat) foreign country.

Accommodation

With family living in Seoul, I was lucky to be able to live with them, especially since SNU was so close to home. From what I've heard, both living on campus and off campus was a great experience - though if you're looking at saving money, living on campus is probably the cheapest, if you can get a spot!

Budget

Han River Park
Han River Park

I spent a lot of my expenses on food and transport than entertainment. I would recommend budgeting well, writing down how much you spend each week and having an estimate on how much money you can spend each week too, that way if you have any leftover money from one week, you can put it in a separate pile and splurge before going back home.

Professional development and employability

Many skills were developed during my semester abroad, but the most important one I believe was probably communication. By meeting not only local Koreans but other students from across the world, I think the way I communicate and how I communicate has enhanced along with the understanding notion that each culture is different and unique in its own way.

Highlight

Everything. Everything was amazing, from meeting people to trying new foods to wearing Korean traditional clothes to shopping to touring around the city. It was an amazing experience, and I definitely won't forget all the street foods! Probably most memorable!

Top tips

  • Eat on campus cafeterias!
  • Personally, I thought to buy ingredients and cooking for myself cost more than eating out; seeing as you could eat a meal for about 2500won on campus, or even cheaper if you ate Korean Kimbab (sushi roll)
  • Transport is super cheap and convenient! Google Maps worked for me, even though many suggested against it; however, I do suggest downloading Kakao Maps, it gave you the countdown to when the busses etc were arriving and the intervals etc. Lifesaver.
  • If you want Korean BBQ, check out 새마을 식당!
  • Visa – if you need to apply for Alien Registration Card when studying in Korean, don’t make the same mistake I did and end up going to the immigration centre four times! Seriously, make sure you make an appointment to get your Alien Registration Card (ARC) online (no one told me until I got to the actual place), also don’t make an appointment until AFTER you receive your formal enrolment letter from SNU (from memory, it was in the first week of classes when I received mine).
  • Bank account with Shinhan is the fastest – you don’t need an ARC for Shinhan, whereas everywhere else you do
  • Bargain wherever you go! And places that are high on every tourists’ list, the items are usually more expensive. I prefer going to the local markets – I found Anyang underground markets near Anyang Station Line 1 was really good compared to Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Express Bus Terminal etc.
Arra - Seoul National University