Shan-Ying – Korea University – Korea
Semester 2, 2022
Bachelor of Business (International Business)/Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science)
In semester 2 2022, I was lucky enough to do a one-semester exchange at Korea University (KU) in Seoul, South Korea. I have been to Seoul previously in 2019 on a holiday, and really enjoyed the food and culture and wanted to experience it again, and I knew the exchange would allow me to do that and explore even further.
After being accepted I had to complete pre-departure requirements, which for me consisted of sending my passport to Sydney to obtain my visa as there is no Korean consulate in Brisbane and needing a PCR test 24 to 48 hours before I got on my plane and 24 hours after I arrived. Next came the issue of housing, and I applied for the student dormitory and luckily got a spot at Anam International House, one of the two international student dorms at KU. I will say however that is it super competitive much like any uni sign-on, and making sure you’re logging in right on the dot is crucial. It took some weeks to announce whether or not you’ve been accepted to the dorm, so looking around for other housing (share houses, goshiwons, etc) would be beneficial during this time. In my dorm I was allocated a double room, meaning I would have a roommate.
I was quite nervous about this, as the rooms were quite small in comparison to what we typically had in Australia and we’ve all heard roommate horror stories. Luckily, my roommate and I clicked and we became really close friends throughout the duration of our stay. Although there is the chance of ending up with someone you don’t like, I would recommend living with someone, whether it be in dorms or share houses, as it’s a great way to meet people in a totally new country.
Campus and classes
The campus is located in Anam in the northeast of Seoul, and it was somewhere I had never been before. The suburb is packed with great restaurants and bars, and because it is a student area, all stores are cheap, much cheaper than anything you’d find in Australia. I ended up really loving the place by the end of the exchange as it really felt like home.
When it came to uni life itself, there were actually a lot of things that surprised me. First was the actual diversity of the classes and teachers. As I was taking English classes at a Korean University, the classes consisted of mostly international students with some native Koreans (this was my experience in the business faculty), and it was a nice environment to make friends and learn about so many different cultures and backgrounds. A lot of the English-speaking teachers were also surprisingly international, and out of my 3 classes, I had a German, New Zealand, and Korean professor! The teaching style is also vastly different, consisting of mandatory weekly classes that took attendance instead of the format of lectures and tutorials. The campus is also huge, so make sure you make time to get to classes. I lived on campus and it still took me a 23-minute walk to get to the business buildings!
Social life in Seoul
KU also has events throughout the year, and I would strongly suggest going as it was some of the most fun I had. During the second semester, we had the Korea University vs Yonsei games, which are two of the biggest unis in Korea versing in 5 different sports over 2 days. The cheering and atmosphere for these games were insane, and there were after-parties in the streets of Anam after both days.
An important point to mention is to make sure you have a variety of courses available for you to take if you are coming to KU. Originally I was enrolled in one science course and two business courses, however, I was informed at the beginning of the semester that the practicals for my science course were going to be conducted in Korean, and it would be difficult to complete this course if you weren’t fluent. Even though it was listed as an English course, I had to unenroll and luckily had a business course that I was able to do instead.
Tips to enjoy yourself most
I had an absolute blast in Korea, and this exchange was for sure one of the best experiences of my life. For the last bit, I’ll leave some extra tips that I think will come in handy from my time abroad.
- Learn the language: this might be self-explanatory, but if you are going to a country with a different language, make sure you at least know the basics. I went over there with survival Korean; knowing how to say hello, thank you, how to order in a restaurant, etc. and it took me pretty far actually. If you are in Seoul most people will understand basic English, but there definitely was sometimes google translate had to be brought out. There are opportunities to learn Korean at uni, and I would recommend it however my study plan didn’t allow me to do so.
- Immerse yourself in a different culture: Korea has such a unique and rich culture, and I was lucky enough to be able to learn about it and see it firsthand. My friends and I were able to explore Gyeongbokgung Palace while wearing the traditional hanbok dress, and it was an amazing experience.
- Make sure to explore: While on my exchange I made sure to see as much as I could and explore as much as possible. During the semester I was able to travel to many different places in Korea such as Busan, Jeju, and Gangneung as well as internationally to the Philippines and Japan. Travelling with new friends was such a rewarding experience and I have so many memories that will stay with me forever.
- Bring cash: Korea has a lot of amazing food and clothes markets, but a lot of these places will accept cash only. When you become a KU student they will set up a Hana Bank account for you (Korean bank account), but it’s quite complicated and the app is purely in Korean. To avoid foreign transaction fees on my card I tried to use cash as much as possible and just got my Australian dollar converted at a currency exchange (if you do this, try to go to a currency exchange in Myeongdong rather than the airport as the rate is much better).
- Be social: Also self-explanatory but being in a new country by yourself is extremely daunting. Exchange is the time to put yourself out of your comfort zone and be more open with people, so I would encourage you to just start talking. I met some of my best friends from exchange on my third day in Korea in front of a phone store as we were waiting for our SIM cards just because we striked up a random conversation.
“If I had any advice, it would be that this will be the time of your life, so live in the moment and enjoy it because time really flew when I was having fun”
Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.