Amelia - Korea University

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2018
Exchange brought back the motivation into my life. I was beginning to feel really uninspired and a bit stuck in life but going on exchange jumpstarted everything again for me.

Academic experience

While on exchange I did a full time study load of electives: Contemporary Korean Society, Urban Sociology, Environmental Sociology, Landscape Ecology and Introduction to the Sociological Imagination. While the academic sign on system was very intense and required some negotiation with lecturers, the subjects themselves were enjoyable and not too difficult (although this was probably because my subjects were mostly introductory courses). The language barrier sometimes made concepts a bit difficult to understand even though the classes were taught in English, but lecturers are more than happy to help you out and I found that asking my peers generally got the right answer. Some of the challenges with the different system had to do with no recorded lectures and notes not always having to be posted online, so I found having a group of your peers who can help each other out with note taking and studying the best way to overcome this hurdle.

Personal experience

Exchange for me was about broadening my horizons and launching myself out of my comfort zone. Being away from home and in a new environment gives you an opportunity to really go where you want and explore what it is you find interesting. It's a great opportunity to make friends because everyone is hoping to make them and you really can develop strong and long-lasting relationships with the people who you share this experience with. I learnt a lot about people and the world in these four months and it is definitely something I will remember and hold with me forever. It's a chance to break free, be independent, learn some things and just enjoy living somewhere else for a while.

Accommodation

I lived on - campus in the CJ International House girls dorm. I recommend when signing up for this that you submit the application ASAP to ensure that you get the dorm of your preference. At this dorm, you have access to a free gym, a kitchen on your floor that you will share with a few other rooms, and a lounge room downstairs next to the laundry room. The accommodation was cheap and fairly nice, especially if you were early to apply and got the single room with the shared lounge room. The kitchens can be a bit messy sometimes, as sharing a kitchen with other people is, but I found it also to be a place to mingle with others and make friends. One lovely girl from Moldova shared the strawberries she bought with me and we made fruit salad! The dorm is in a conveniently close location to the campus but it is up a huge hill, which can sometimes be annoying but also meant that we were very fit by the end of the trip. 

Costs

It's best if you save up as much as you can, that way you don't have to worry too much about your budget when you're deciding whether or not you should travel around or have certain experiences. Food and beverages in some establishments are cheaper than at home, especially if it's run by local people and not an overseas chain. Clothing, souvenirs and cosmetics are all also much cheaper than in Australia, particularly if you shop in the right places. Don't wait to get to the airport to buy your souvenirs! They are much cheaper at the usual places, such as in Jonggno and Dongdaemun. Transport by subway or bus is also around the same if not cheaper in South Korea than in Australia, so you'll find that most of your expenses will be on entertainment and travelling between cities, where fast trains can be quite expensive. I lived in the on campus accommodation which is definitely the cheapest option and is conveniently close to the campus (if you don't mind walking up a large hill to get to it). The only other expense to keep in mind is sim card - data is not cheap in South Korea if you are not on a plan, but if you go with a local student, they will be able to help you find the best options. That being said, there is free wi-fi everywhere in Seoul, so it's not too difficult to get around without one.

Professional Development

My independence, time management and social skills have definitely improve while on this trip. You talk to a lot of new people while abroad, which helps to improve how comfortable you are with talking to strangers and to people who don't necessarily speak your language. With the desire to travel and explore, hang out with friends and complete the class work to a suitable standard, time management is without a doubt a skill that I strengthened. Learning to be open minded and generally empathetic is also something that I feel I have strengthened, with it being important to always consider other people's viewpoints, cultural and religious perspectives and experiences when you are trying to get along with them.

Highlight

The highlight of my trip was riding along the Han River in the afternoon and eating ramen afterwards. The light reflecting on the water, the cool breeze, the view of the city - honestly it was such a beautiful experience and it made me feel so relaxed.

Top tips

Go for it. Don't let the fear of how it might go stop you from applying. Once you're there, everything will work itself out and you know it will have been worth all the preparations, the saving and the stress. It really is a life changing experience.