Jake - Yonsei University

Bachelor of Arts/Science
Semester 1, 2018
If I could go back and do it all again I would over and over.

Academic experience

I used all four of my electives on exchange and studied two Korean history courses, and one intense Korean language course which accounted for two courses. The biggest change for me was that all classes are compulsory, and if you miss more than 3 classes you fail the whole subject (with the exception of the every day intensive Korean course where you can miss 15 classes), so if you're going to travel during the week, make sure you don't miss the same course too many times. Other than this, the layout of the classes at Yonsei are not too different to UQ. The difficulty is quite low in the classes made for exchange students, although if you take a class that is related to your major I heard from my friends that it actually gets quite difficult because they tend to hold your hand through content less than the lecturers do at UQ. Also, in non-exchange student courses even if a course is listed as English on their course catalogue, the lecturer will teach the class in Korean if you are the only exchange student. So make sure you have a lot of backups if you need to complete a specific course for equivalency.

Personal experience

During the four months in Korea, I became not just friends but best friends with people from France, Mexico, the US, Canada, China, the UK and of course Korea, and even though it's cliche I can really say that I'll never forget any of them and I can't wait to see them again. After exploring Korea with them and doing all of the things we did I really made some of the best memories of my life and that's the main thing I'm thankful for from this exchange. If I could go back and do it all again I would over and over. Personally, I believe I have become a much more confident and optimistic person because of the exchange, and have learned a lot about the world (not just Korea) from all of the people I met. Also, living in Korea for so long definitely does give you an opportunity to learn Korean that you can't get anywhere else, but if you are going with the main goal of improving your Korean, make sure you make a lot of Korean friends, because there are a lot of international students at Yonsei that you will speak English with and you won't get far without having to force yourself to speak in Korean.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus in the SK Global House dormitory, which provides both single and shared rooms. I lived in a single room, which had a fridge, floor heating, air-conditioning, and a private bathroom and shower and was about $3100 for the 4 months including electricity and water. This is $700 more in total than the shared room. In terms of location, the dorm is only a 10-minute walk to most classes at the university, and is literally in the same building as the Intensive Korean courses so it's really convenient. A lot of my friends who were in the share rooms had some problems with their roommates, so if you've never shared a room before or don't want to risk it, it might be best to just go for the single. Also, a lot of my friends who lived off campus had to commute about an hour every day to get to class and back so if you can't find a place close to Sinchon, it might be worth just staying in the dorms.  

The dorms are also about a 10 minute walk to Sinchon, which is an area you will really get to know as it's full of restaurants, bars, karaoke and every kind of shop you need. Sinchon is also just one station away from Hongdae, which is full of restaurants and shops by day, and turns into one of the busiest nightlife districts in the city come night; as the streets become packed with university students, and the roads are lined with buskers, dancers, clubs and bars that I personally went to way too many times.

Costs

During my 4 months in Korea I spent about $8000, including travel, rent, food, and transport. Breaking it down individually, rent was about $750 a month, and I'd say I spent about $50 a week on food. Although it's possible to cook in the dorms my friends and I figured that cooking for one person would probably be the same price if not more than eating out for every meal, and it's also a lot more hassle. The prices for food in a restaurant ranges depending on what kind of food you like, but, for example a typical meal in a Korean restaurant would be $5~$8 whereas western food tends to be more expensive at around $10~$15. If you're a fan of barbecue there's also lots of restaurants that do unlimited meat and side dishes for around $10 so eating Korean food is not just part of the exchange experience it's also pretty healthy for your wallet.  

In terms of daily transport, living at the dorms means you don't have to spend that much, but if you do decide to live elsewhere it will only cost you about $2 each way to university from basically anywhere else in Seoul. You can get a T-Money card, which is like a go card, from any convenience store when you get to Korea, and also from machines in the train station. They make life a lot easier. During my time in Korea I also travelled a lot outside of Seoul by bus to Busan, Daegu, Gyeongju, and Gwangju to name some, and the tickets one way were only around $20. You can also take the bullet train to Busan, but it's about four times the price and only an hour faster. I also went to Jeju Island and travelled to Beijing and the plane ticket was only $200 return (although you do need to get a Visa to enter China, which you can do in Seoul in about under a week). So from all the places I went to you can kind of tell that there was a LOT of stuff packed into that $8000 and if you budget well you can do the same if not more.

Professional Development

I believe that my time abroad in Korea has really developed both my professional and people skills. I have become much more confident socially, and have made connections across the whole world. Additionally, I can also now communicate relatively well in Korean which is always a bonus!

Highlight

As I said before, the highlight of my experience was making the friends I did. We partied and travelled enough for a lifetime, so much so that sometimes we thought we were going to pass out from exhaustion (but in a good way). There were two really magical places that we went to together though that blew me away: Jeju Island and the Great Wall of China. On the Island we rented a car and drove through the beautiful scenery and alongside the crystal clear water at sunset with music blasting, and it's something I'll never forget. The Great Wall of China was also amazing, you hear about it all of your life but you don't really grasp how big it is until you're there. We even met a K-Pop group filming a music video on the Great Wall!

Top tips

  • If you're staying at the dorms, talk to people as soon as you get there and add them on Facebook so you don't lose them! Everyone is new and nervous just like you so don't be afraid to make the first move (2 people I spoke to in line to pick up bed linen on the first day are now 2 of my closest friends ever so a little hello can go a long way).
  • It's okay to take days off where you don't do anything but make sure you don't become a recluse.
  • Being so close to Japan and China gives you an opportunity to travel for relatively cheap so if you find people who want to go with you absolutely try and go.
  • When you get there you will have to apply for a card which registers your legality in Korea. You will need a passport style photo so if you have any left from your Visa application bring them with you.