Charlotte - Yonsei University

B. Communication / Arts
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

During my time at Yonsei University (one of the leading universities in South Korea), I took 3 courses, Intercultural communication, Traditional Korean Music and Culture, and the Korean Language Intensive course. Each of these courses was taught with a different approach. Class sizes were smaller which allowed the professors to personally get to know the students. However, questions and help had to be sought outside class time. Every class was in a lecture only format which was very different to the hands-on teaching I was used to at home. This was a challenge as it was a lot harder to understand exactly what was expected of a piece of assessment. Korea is a very study orientated society and it was easy to see that we were expected to put in many hours outside of class to achieve a high grade.

Personal experience

During my time on exchange I learnt many valuable life-long skills. I became accustomed to an entirely different way of life. The friendships I made were priceless, meeting people from all over the world and creating great friendships and networks for the future. I also was immersed in a culture and country where English is very much not readily available. I had studied Korean as part of my degree before studying abroad, however, my skills have improved exponentially since arriving in South Korea. This said, I now realise I have a long way to go before fluency and look forward to being able to practice and hone these skills with my new native speaker friends in the future.

Accommodation

Seeing first snow at Yonsei University
Seeing first snow at Yonsei University

The housing options available at Yonsei University are both affordable and convenient since it is hard to find a reliable place to live in Korea without having a high level of language competency and being able to speak face to face with a real estate agent. The facilities at the dorms were great and the rules were not stifling. My single dorm was a little oasis away from the stress of language barriers and university life. The only problem I experienced with living on campus was that the dorms were positioned far from the main part of campus and a good 20-30 minute walk from the closest train station. I would recommend living on campus if you do not have time to come to Korea to scout something out and are planning to live alone. Be aware if you are planning to live off-campus that many Korean apartments will ask for a large deposit before you move in (anywhere between $5000-$10,000 AUD). This is not always the case and I have made friends who happily have lived in their own apartments or officetels, but it is still more expensive than living on-campus.

Budget

Living in Korean has been relatively cheap compared to living in Australia. Food is both cheap and delicious if you know where to look. However, if like myself you need coffee to function be prepared to pay a little more unless you like plain black coffee. Transport is also reliable and cheap. For just basic living expenses you should budget around $700 per month. If you want to live off more than the bare minimum and explore with friends or be able to splurge or small indulgences, around $1000 a month would be a good budget. Travel would definitely be the most expensive part of exchange, but is definitely also the most rewarding. Korea is a beautiful country both in history and landscape and this can only be fully appreciated by visiting different parts of the country.

Professional development and employability

This entire experience has helped me in so many ways. I have developed an intercultural competency that I believe I hadn't fully been able to recognise before becoming involved with a culture so different to my own. I have become better at solving problems by myself as well as working with different types of people from all over the globe. My language skills and my way of analysing situations has been significantly influenced by the people and academic experiences I have had in South Korea.

Highlight

The beautiful scenery of Sokcho
The beautiful scenery of Sokcho

The highlight of my trip has been my trip to Sokcho (a seaside city north of Seoul) with my friends in early fall. The area and landscape were beautiful and we got to watch amazing athletes compete in the Mounted Archery World Championships. The fact that I got to experience this trip during such a great and mild season with people that are now irreplaceable in my life was an experience I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Top tips

My advice is to research the culture and history of the country just briefly before you come. It helps a lot if people perceive you as polite and genuinely interested in their country and culture. Budget thoroughly, you want to be able to try new cuisines and experience your exchange to the fullest. Pick one new thing to do every week/month, you don't want to regret not doing something. This experience is once in a lifetime so make sure you are willing to go outside your comfort zone and make the most of it.

Charlotte - Yonsei University