Lachlan - Seoul National University

B Engineering
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

Studying at Seoul National University was an unforgettable experience.  

I was part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and I really enjoyed my machine learning and algorithms courses. My lectures were in English, and the teaching style was quite different to UQ. Attendance often forms part of your grade (10-20%), and lectures are less interactive – more like reading off slides of information from the textbook. Probably the biggest challenge was that learning lecture content was not nearly enough to pass the exams, and it seemed like it was necessary to spend hours in the library reading extra textbook content (unspecified) to do the exams. I know that students in other departments did not have the same experience so I think it might just depend on your professors!

Personal experience

Fall semester was the perfect time of year to go out exploring in Seoul. The transition from summer to winter was unexpectedly quick, but we all still found time to take some photos in the beautiful autumn foliage around campus and in touristy locations such as Nami Island. 

I highly recommend joining the SNU Buddy program, in which I met most of my friends and participated in weekly events such as group lunches, wearing hanboks at Gyeongbok Palace, Chicken and Beer at the Han River Park, hiking up Gwanak Mountain and of course the weekly Thursday pub! All the Korean buddies were so friendly and helpful, and often found time to hang out with us even outside the organised events. 

The best part about exchange was the friends I made. Everyone shared an enthusiasm about Korean culture and was always keen for a late night café hangout. We would organise our own field trips and dinners (I miss the food!), visiting places such as Busan, the old city wall, and enjoyed the nightlife in Hongdae and Itaewon. The variety of great people I met through exchange and the buddy program was definitely the highlight of my experience.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus but most people tried to get into the dormitory due to its cheap price ($600 for a whole semester). I enjoyed living a bit closer to the subway line in Nakseongdae and there were many restaurants and a market nearby. I would suggest to either stay around Seoul National University Subway Station or Nakseongdae if you do not get into the dorms - selection for dorms basically a lottery.

Costs

Overall the costs of exchange in Korea could be considered relatively low compared to Europe/North America. Accommodation is very cheap and there are many cheap options even if you do not get into the dormitory. Food is also cheap, and the SNU cafeterias offer set meals between $2 - $6. You can definitely experience what you want in Seoul without too much monetary stress, especially if you receive a New Colombo Grant!

Challenge

The biggest challenge was trying to balance the coursework with social activities. Often I wanted to just study and get on top of the content, but I also wanted to explore and spend more time with my friends!

Professional Development

I learned a lot from this experience and became a lot more independent. I put myself outside my comfort zone as much as possible, e.g. spa with the boys, and tried as many new things as I could. I learned to respect Korean culture and people a lot more, and gained many valuable connections. I also found my specific area of interest within my field from studying at SNU and learned to be more adaptable in how I learn.

Highlight

My highlight would have to be our buddy group outing to the Han River Park where families and groups of people had tents set up for the weekend. Firstly we rode rental bikes around the park – I tried the tandem bike with a friend and we almost died. After that we had a chicken and beer picnic and enjoyed the beautiful view and lovely ambience of the sunset. There was a night market to look around in and many acoustic bands playing music for anyone in the park. To finish off the night we played some card/drinking games!

Top tips

Join SNU Buddy and make the most of the 24 hour shops/cafes!