Jackson - Yonsei University

B. Arts
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

The courses I studied were courses related to my learning of Korean culture and language. Two of my courses were specifically related to the Korean language, and another was based on Topics of Korean language and culture that specifically delved into Korean society, the way society runs in terms of social roles and how language is used in society. One of my favourite and more challenging courses, however, was the Korean Language Intensive program. I feel like I learned a lot in my time taking those classes and was challenged to reach my highest potential that I'm capable of. Definitely recommend if one seeks to learn the Korean language. 

In terms of the academic system, it was all actually quite similar to how the University of Queensland's system works. Besides from how grading happens, Yonsei provided everything from great lecture theatres, top of the line facilities and libraries, and the "Ysec" website works much like Blackboard. Teachers upload important information from lectures, are free to email if you have any questions and overall it was a pleasant experience. And since it was relatively familiar, it took a load off my shoulders seeing as I had just come to a different country for the first time, and was having to adjust to that. 

One of the more challenging parts of my time here first in terms of academics and my learning was during my time in the Korean Language Intensive program. While my other classes were taught in English, the Korean Language program was taught 100%, all in Korean. I honestly don't remember speaking English at all with the teacher. At first, it was quite daunting, but after settling in, I got over it, and it really caused me to focus more and I'd say it really helped me. I think it would be awesome if lecturers instructing higher level classes were to only use the language they're teaching.

Personal experience

At the peak of "Namhansanseong" - mountain fortress city.
At the peak of "Namhansanseong" - mountain fortress city.

I gained a lot from this experience. I met a lot of people from all around the world. Americans, Canadians, Germans - Koreans of course! To my surprise, I actually met a lot of people from Australia - and a few that actually attend UQ too. I think this is great because now I'll be able to have more connections when I get back home.

I did a bit of travelling before the semester started! I went to Busan, a city by the beach in the south of the peninsula. Haeundae, the area I went to in Busan reminded me a lot of Surfers Paradise! South Korea is also a VERY mountainous country, so I did a lot of hiking with friends. Very tiring, but very rewarding!

While I've been here, I feel like I have increased my ability in speaking Korean substantially, but more importantly my willingness to actually speak the language. Before arriving in Korea, I was very nervous and anxious about speaking Korean. But now I've almost completely gotten over any sort of fear of speaking, and it has helped me learn a lot. It is really helpful when you actually need the language to survive, so you're forced to use it.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in a little apartment called a "one room". It was private so I could have time to myself, and because my girlfriend was also heading back to Korea at the time, if I was to have stayed on campus, she wouldn't have been able to visit. I heard that the dorms on-campus are split up by gender. They are by far much cheaper than the place I stayed in, but for me, it would have been quite inconvenient. If heading to Yonsei, there are many Goshiwons and one rooms very close to campus which are more private options. 

In terms of accommodation advice, if you're good with people and have had experience of living with roommates and want a more affordable option, the campus dorms are the-go. If you're looking for a more private option, "Goshiwons" are very small rooms that are still quite affordable, and if you have money to spend, rooms are pretty decent and much more spacious than the latter two options. If wanting to browse to see where rooms might be, costs and etc, try apps and websites like "직방" and "다방". These were crucial in me finding my place, close to the campus and for a decent price. I'd recommend if possible finding a Korean person who you can trust to help you out with the process, as there are many factors you have to consider, and dealing with the real estate agent could be frustrating if you don't know the language.

Budget

For me, I came to Korea with around ten to eleven thousand Australian Dollars. Now, I'm actually very bad with my money, I still have enough left, but I'd say keep track of your spending! It is very easy to see it disappear when you have it! Rent cost me around 660 dollars (550,000 Won) a month. Food, you can easily get by on less than 60-70 dollars a week if you were to cook for yourself. If you're living in the dorms, I didn't hear of people being able to cook their food anywhere so you may have to consider eating out or eating very cheap some days. Eating out is best with lots of people, it can be cheaper. I'd say on average if I was to go out and eat with friends, I was spending 10,000 Won each time (around 11-12 Australian dollars). The school cafeterias at Yonsei are extremely cheap. When going there, the max you could spend on a meal was around maybe 6,000 Won (7-8 Australian dollars, most of everything was in the 5-6 dollar range). Super cheap and food is decent and fills you up. 

For my phone, I went with the provider SK Telecom. My plan was unlimited texts, 100 minutes of calls and 6GBs of data. This cost me around 50,000 Won a month (60 Australian dollars), but I easily without a doubt could have gone cheaper. I actually only chose the 6GB plan, because I found that SK Telecom didn't have as much WIFI coverage as KT, another provider. Because Seoul has WIFI almost everywhere, looking back on it, I would have rather used KT instead of SK Telecom. Then again, I rarely used up much all of the 6GBs anyway.

Transport is super cheap if you're using a bank card, and gets taken out of your account at the end of each month. I probably barely used 15,000 Won a month on transport. This is mainly due to the fact I lived walking distance to campus. 

When I did go travelling to Busan it cost me quite a bit of money. The bullet train tickets go for around 60,000 Won each way, but there are cheaper options that cost less money that just takes longer. Hotels prices are comparable to Australia, but guesthouses are probably the best way to go when travelling.

Professional development and employability

I feel like I have gained a lot of people skills, become more independent in terms of managing my rent and bills, and have furthered my knowledge into the world of Korean culture and language. Studying Korean language, I plan to one day use the language in some way for work, and I feel like this experience has given me a lot of good practice and confidence with using the language and interacting with Koreans and people in general

Highlight

I feel like the friendships and fun memories I've made have been the highlight of my experience. Meeting all these new people from different places, learning about new things, all of it was worthwhile. I was able to learn and put to use my Korean more than ever before and I'll never forget that. I feel like now after having this experience, I will definitely be more attentive with studying Korean seeing as I may not have another chance to come back and be able to use it as easy as I was able to.

Top tips

  • I'd say definitely make a lot of friends!
  • Get to know people and join any of the clubs or groups that the University has. There were a few times during my first two-three weeks where I was pretty bored all the time and was just sitting at home doing not much. Then I joined a club and we went out for drinks and food every other week, met some people that I would eventually befriend and hang out with a lot. 
  • Also, get to know the area you're living in! I made it my mission for the first week while I was here to explore the streets of Sinchon. This ended up being really helpful because I never felt lost, and I ended up helping a lot of people get around.
Jackson - Yonsei University