I came to South Korea for my exchange studies on the 26th of February. When I arrived, COVID-19 was already an issue around here, but Seoul National University of Science and Technology (Seoultech) decided to keep their exchange program regardless.
I live on campus, on a very nice dorm room with my own kitchen, washing machine, and bathroom, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how big this campus is! We have a gym, a few cafés, multiple convenience stores, and a lot of places to just sit down and study.
The area where the University is located is a bit far from all the touristy and famous parts of Seoul, but the subway here is gigantic and covers almost everything you need!
Pro tip: Google Maps doesn’t really work here, since they only trust national apps – so Naver or Kakao Maps are your new best friends.
I ended up picking 6 classes, which is a bit more than the recommended and needed amount, and I will admit I regret it. It feels like more work than I had in Finland, specially since the teachers require weekly tasks to count our attendance for the online lessons (all our classes are online, because of COVID-19). Nothing compares to my Korean friends, who seem to have double the workload the exchange students do.
Despite the global pandemic, Korea never instituted a lockdown, so I was still able to visit the local highlights on my free time! The language is for sure an issue, since outside campus most people don’t speak English, but Koreans are incredibly hospitable and friendly, and they go out of their way to help even without speaking a word of it.
Cherry blossom season was for sure the highlight of my time here so far! I spent most of my free time hunting for nice cherry blossom spots, since the big parks were closed to prevent big crowds. It became a fun little adventure, and luckily, there are cherry blossoms everywhere! I’ve been having a blast photographing everything around here, and I carry my film camera almost everywhere I go.
I still haven’t left Seoul to visit Busan or Jeju – since travelling was prohibited until May 6th. Something good came out of the online classes though: I can easily travel and attend the classes as long as I have my computer with me.
I’ll return to Finland in the middle of July – hopefully, and I’m very lucky to be able to still experience my exchange studies in my dream destination in a situation where the entire world stopped, Korea didn’t, and the experience has been great so far!