Charlotte - Korea University

B. Arts / Communication
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

While I was abroad studying at Korea University I was luckily able to study both parts of my dual degree. For communication, I took human communication and persuasive communication. And for my arts, majoring in Korean, I was able to take Contemporary Korean Society, Introduction to Korean history and culture, and Advanced 1 (level 5) Korean language classes.

The class sizes in Korea are significantly smaller than class sizes in Australia. My biggest class has just under 100 students and this was seen as an irregularly large class. This was good because it means you can form a real connection with your lecturers and classmates. This will come in handy later, as most subjects in Korea have at least one group assignment per semester. Besides from language classes, all classes were taught only in a lecture style. Teachers also do not like being interrupted by questions during the lecture time. This means to receive any further explanation of assessment or topics you have to organise a time to meet with your professors, or quickly try to grab them after class.

The workload during semester was considerably less than what I was used to at UQ. However, exams were usually considerably longer with the same time frame. So be sure to write quickly.

Personal experience

From this exchange, I learnt many things about myself and about being friends with people from other cultures. I learnt to be independent in expressing myself in my second language and exploring a new and exciting country and culture. When making friends sometimes there were slight difficulties due to cultural differences. These are things you work through in your friendship, just remember to be open-minded and you'll make friends in no time.

One of the greatest parts of being at Korea University was the opportunity to be involved with the student organisation called KUBA. Every exchange student is automatically assigned a KUBA group and buddy, who are there to help you settle in but also become some of the greatest friends you can imagine. There are lots of student organisations available to join and I really do recommend them as they are a great way to make friends and experience a truly unique side of Korean culture. Drinking is a huge part of Korean friendships and it's much more social than what we are used to here in Australia. It is definitely something I recommend participating in at least once.

If you have the budget to travel outside of Seoul I also would recommend it. South Korea is a rich and diverse country with bustling cityscapes surrounding tranquil temples and palaces. Busan, Jeju Island, Gwangju, Suwon and Ilsan are some areas that I would recommend from personal experience.

Every year Korea University also holds one big event each semester. In first semester there is a huge celebration of the university, a festival called Ipsilenti. This festival is filled with cheering, relaxing, free mini-concerts and a huge day of performances on the actual day of the festival. In second semester it is a rival match between Korea University and Yonsei University. This is also great fun with every university proudly supporting their athletes and cheer teams.

Accommodation

During my time at Korea University I stayed in two different types of accommodation. At the beginning of the semester I was originally living off-campus in a one room studio apartment with some friends. This is quite an expensive option as there is a down payment, called key money, that needs to be paid. Rent, although cheaper than Australia, is quite expensive. Additionally, since this residence was a small commute to campus, travel expense built up and I decided to move. The second place I lived was close to campus, single-room called a Goshiwon. The idea of a Goshiwon is similar to a hostel but with more facilities. They are very cheap and a good option if you want to stay off-campus but don't want to break the bank. There are plenty of online reviews of many Goshiwons, but be aware that while they are cheap you get what you pay for.

Budget

As I mentioned before, the cost of living in Korea can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. I managed to have money to spare when I got home without feeling like I had missed out, whilst other friends of mine had almost double the amount and went broke before going home. So it's really up to you how much you want to spend.

Rent can range anywhere from $200 a month- $1000 a month. That is the difference between renting a room at a Goshiwon or renting a private studio apartment.

Transport in Seoul is unbelievably reliable and cheap. The subway can get you all around the city if you are willing to walk a little. Buses are usually cheaper, but beware that sometimes there will not be seats and the bus drivers like sticking to their schedule. Taxis are also much cheaper than in Australia so you will never find yourself stranded after a night out. Getting from one side of the city to the other usually costs less than $20AUD.

Travelling throughout Korea can also be cheap or expensive. Be aware though that ridiculously cheap hotels could be a love motel. There is nothing wrong with staying in these places, however, you may get some strange looks walking in the door.

Entertainment can be relatively cheap or expensive. There are free busking streets around certain University areas like Hongdae and Gondae. There are sometimes free Kpop concerts for foreigners that universities will promote. On the other end of the spectrum, there are weekend-long music festivals which are significantly cheaper than they are in Australia ranging from between $60-$200AUD.

Professional development and employability

I learned many skills while I was abroad. I learned to be more independent and how to connect with people from all around the world. I enhanced my language skills and created a network of people that I know will be there for me no matter where life takes me.

Highlight

The highlight of this experience was definitely the Korea University school festival. Ipsilenti is the biggest event of the year for Korea Univeristy. It is a week long celebration for the university and its students. There are free performances and eating and drinking venues put up on campus. You can go enjoy with your friends and even meet new people, everyone becomes friendlier around this time of year. The festival ends with a day long celebration, most professors will cancel class for it. There will be performances by student clubs and by nation-wide loved celebrities. The entire school dances and cheers announcing proudly that they are students of one of the most renowned universities in South Korea, Korea University. The amount of friendship and passion that was shown on that day is something I will never forget.

Top tips

The biggest tip I would give anyone going on exchange in the future is to research the culture of a country thoroughly. You don't want people to think you are rude. Also if you are coming to a country such as South Korea, where the foreign population is very small, learn at least basic greetings in the language of that country. It will help you out a lot and if you get a little bit caught up people will be much more friendly and open to help you if you have made a good first impression.