Tag Archives: Republic of Korea

Everyday life in Korea!

I came to Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea) about three and a half months ago, and it has been an amazing experience! Korea is so much different than Finland: the food, the people, the amount of people, the city of Seoul, everything is far from what I’m used to at home. The biggest difference is the studies. Koreans really enjoy studying everything by hard, and to spend a lot of time doing so. I’m used to learn how to the solve the problems and close the book, but Koreans keep studying from 9am to 9pm and extend that a little when exams are near.

When I arrived, this was a bit of a shock for me and I didn’t know how to catch with all of the local students and their motivation/memory skills. So, after some time I decided I would not do that and continued to learn the way I’m used to. This gave me way more time to enjoy Seoul and everything else outside of school.

Here are a few photos during my journey in Korea:

The temples. In South Korea, there are hundreds and hundreds of places to visit from the early ages in terms of buildings, sites and museums. This was something I really enjoyed, since it gave really fun way to learn about the Korean culture and history.

The food. In the picture you can see what is called Korean bbq. You order your meat raw and then cook it with your friends in the middle of table. Usually when we went for a bbq with exchange students, there was some beer and soju (Korean alcohol drink made from rice) involved.

The atmosphere. Seoul has a population of 10 million people inside the city borders. If you count the actual metropolitan area, the number becomes 25 million. And it felt like every single one of them took the same subway route, visited the same market and was on the move at the same time as I was. This was an amazing experience since my home town is only some 230000 people.

If you are considering Korea as your destination for exchange period, I can highly recommend! Flights to neighboring countries are cheap and short, the people and food is amazing and it won’t be anything you can experience in the western countries!

My student life at Korea University

When I first got the notice that I will be attending one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea I could barely contain my excitement, yet at the same time feel the weight of this opportunity resting on my shoulders. SKY universities are the schools all Koreans with high academic aspirations strive to get into and where only the select few, the brightest and the most hardworking actually qualify for. They were going to be my peers and the standard all my professors were going to be expecting.

The first two weeks of my autumn semester were spent attending classes which turned out to be completely different from what I had expected, then hastily scouring through the school’s course selection and enrolling to new ones. After a 4G high speed online competition for those few vacant seats in highly sought after courses, signing permission slips and dealing with a constantly changing curriculum I was finally enrolled to courses that were at least going to award me enough credits to not get me kicked out of the school before my semester even begun. To anyone planning a semester in South Korea, during the preliminary enrollment period be sure to read the course descriptions and syllabuses VERY carefully before you enroll and have your plan B, C and D ready.

Regardless of my early hurdles I was able to attend interesting courses and study subjects unavailable to me at Tamk. I had preconceived notions of students having to spend hours every day in the library cramming knowledge in to their over worked brains from an amount of related literature that vastly outweighs any doable level of effort that could be considered humane. Thankfully they turned out to be ill placed, at least on my part. While the materials for my courses still exceeded anything I’ve had to digest at Tamk during exam weeks, I still managed to pull through without a hitch.

Seoul is an unfathomably massive city for a young man who grew up in a city of not even 200 000 people. Thoroughly exploring the city, let alone the country is going to require a stay longer than just 4 months.

I have eaten pretty much everything I came across. I have seen the tourist attractions and accessed secret places only known to locals. I explored the concrete jungle, made my way though forests, hiked up many mountains and laid on beaches all over the country.

  

And yet I still have so much more to do…

안녕하세요 from Korea!

After a proper period of stay it’s good to make a little summarize about living in one of the biggest cities in the world. I have studied in the Seoul National University of Sciences and Technology in Seoul, South-Korea. There is a huge difference in an everyday living between Seoul and any city in Finland. Seoul metropolitan area with more than 25 million inhabitants is definitely stunning thing to experience for boy a small-town boy like me.

South Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and especially the last 50 years have been so explosive that the phenomenon is called “Miracle of the Han river”. Now that I’ve lived here for some time it is easy to understand what’s the reason for that. People’s studying and work motivation is just something else what I’ve never seen. It is totally common to see university students to study in library still at midnight and people are assessed, for example, in a job search situation based solely on grades. For this reason, studying in the university is a little different than what I’m accustomed to in Finland. Professors expect students to learn a lot of things by memorize and that’s something what I personally don’t believe to be the best way to study. Nevertheless, I feel that my studies have gone well, thanks to a good teaching and motivating atmosphere.

 

Here have been a lot of different things that have made a big impression to me and to name one is that even though city is that big, there is a nature quite nearby. Seoul city is surrounded by mountains and that make awesome view over city skyline, especially during sunset. Mountains were historically an important part of a city defense and those were another reason why Seoul was built at the place where it is nowadays. The city center of a Seoul is split by a river that you can see on a Figure 1. The river was the main reason for the birth of a city. Seoul was that close to the North Korean border that there was no shipping on the river because the other end of the river led to the other side of the border.

Even though Seoul is highly developed city as well as the whole South Korea as a country, here is a plenty of historical culture to see. One of the “must-see” things what you can find when you make a Google-search about staying in Seoul is definitely the palaces nearby city center. In 1392-19210 Korean Peninsula was ruled by dynasty of Joseon. The dynasty built five great palaces in Seoul which are popular tourist destinations nowadays. In figure 3 there is a photo of building belonging to one of these palaces.

So far, I have enjoyed my time in Seoul more than I could ever imagine and I definitely feel this city to be my home. The biggest reason for that is, no doubt, kindness of strangers and benevolence of peoples. One concrete example of this is food culture. It is very common thing that food is shared with every people in a table and usually the meals last a lot longer than I was used to in Finland. In figure four you can see maybe the most traditional Korean dish, called Korean barbeque.

Lastly, I hope every exchange student have had as awesome exchange period so far and let’s enjoy the rest of it what’s left!

Regards,

Juuso Järvenpää

Seoul, South Korea

In a city between the mountains

I ventured toward the Korean peninsula with the knowledge that my main emphasis during my exchange period would be more culturally oriented subjects rather than my major of media studies. One might wonder how such an arrangement may benefit me in a long run, but I can easily scoff off those suspicions, for I cannot see downsides in enlarging my worldly viewpoint and create contacts for my future endeavors. As I knew that most of my compatriots would choose the capital, Seoul as their destination, I opted to think outside the box and point my heading into Daegu and Keimyung University.

I’ve been concentrating on Korean language, history and language studies, all of which complement each other rather sufficiently as Korean happens to be one of the more difficult tongues to master and honestly, for a minuscule period of four months I need all the help I can get. I do have one media class, which has served as a great reminder for more technical aspects of DSLR-camera when using it for video purposes, though I shot myself in the leg when leaving my camera back home, so I have enforced many, shall we say, creative solutions in order to make the footage from my smart phone look “artistic” or “aesthetically pleasing ”. Been working so far.

The only routine I have developed in Daegu has been my dormitory gym. Being free of charge, it offers a nice outlet for students after a rough school day or intensive cramming session, which is pivotal in Korean student culture. Coming from a university of applied sciences and being used to practical learning, I do not put that much faith in learning all the matters between this dimension and the next by heart. Sure, I’m lucky to be interested in history, culture and languages, but the low level of English colloquial skills show that locals emphasize learning through theory. Aside from school though, we are not that different. I have wandered around Daegu with a group consisting of French, Hungarians, Norwegians, Danes, Germans, Koreans, Kyrgyzstanis and Russians. All have enjoyed bowling, arcades and drinking as much as the others while sharing bits and pieces about their native culture. I am a bit of a wild card in this regard since out of 187 exchange students here, I happen to be the only Finn. Makes you feel special. I have seen a professional football match in Ulsan and visited an UNESCO-world heritage site in Gyeongju. The amount of awe this country has instilled in me makes me grateful of taking my chance in coming here.

The time here has flown by. While I know that the moment of departure will hit me like a freight train when I board the plane on Incheon airport, I do miss the cold North and the one place I truly call home. Korean study culture is a bit straightforward and treading on same conservative tracks it has gone on for decades and even students here say that the long-proposed reforms are much welcomed. That is not to say that the system here is bad. Crime is low as in Finland, people may not know how to communicate in English, but are incredibly helpful and warm towards outsiders, especially when you yourself show to be interested in their culture.

My little dormitory room will not offer shelter for much longer, as this chapter in my life will eventually come to its end, having given me the most pleasantly potent culture shock I never even knew I wanted to experience so badly.

안녕하세요! Greetings from Seoul!

I am now halfway of my exchange, so I thought to give you my thoughts and experiences so far. I am studying in Seoul in Sungkyunkwan University, which is the oldest university in Korea, founded in 1398. Here I am doing mostly studies related to Korean culture, such as Korean language, political and economic development and contemporary society of Korea. As I am very interested in the local culture, I have enjoyed my studies here a lot, and I have done pretty well so far. Studying in a very prestigious university is different than studying in TAMK which is a university of applied sciences. Lectures are longer, and a lot of studying is required on our own time. And of course we have had exams. I was a little afraid on how my midterms would go, as I have not done essay exams in a long time and also a lot more is required. Week before exam week all the Korean students spent all their time in the library or cafes getting ready for the exams, and me and my friends decided to do the same.

On my free time I often go visit stores in Myeongdong, a shopping district that is only few metro stops away from my dorm. Another place I often go to is Hongdae. They also have restaurants and cafes me and my friends like to visit pretty often. One of the most exciting things for me here is the food. I love going out eat and drink with friends, Korean BBQ is one of the best things I know and I can’t understand why we still don’t have KBBQ restaurants in Finland. We also visit many historical places on weekends, there are many very beautiful palaces in Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung palace

I really have enjoyed my time, and even after spending two months here already, there is still so much to do each day. Seoul is my favorite city in the world.

안녕하세요 여러분! (Hello people!)

As you can see, I’ve learned some Korean while studying my exchange in South Korea. My actual studies were Business Information Systems (Computer Science might be easier to understand). I tried to be as open as possible to the new environment and people. In a nut shell, I got new friends, visited cool places, developed my ICT skills and also learned Korean alphabet and some common phrases during my four months stay in Korea.

My exchange started with first moving myself and my luggage to the SeoulTech campus and dormitory. To my surprise, I was soon greeted by a Finnish room mate. Actually there were quite many Finnish exchange students in SeoulTech. I also made friends with foreign exchange students and Koreans who I met especially in the numerous school clubs: music clubs, English conversation club, bowling club, running club etc.

Compared to TAMK the studies in SeoulTech were more reading than trial and error oriented. There seem to be more stress on the details than on understanding the big picture. The reason might be the nature of my studies, which was mostly software engineering (programming) so I can only speak of my own degree programme. There were also more lessons and less independent studying than in TAMK. I was mostly satisfied with the courses I had. I learned new programming languages, improved my Unix skills and learned to use Korean in some every day situations.

One of my favorite things in Korea was the beautiful nature. I visited several smaller or bigger hills, mountains and forests during the summer. The nearest small hill was my most frequently visited place where I went to refresh my mind alone or with a friend. Even the campus area itself was decorated with cherry, pine and other trees and a stream that crossed the whole campus and was surrounded with flowerbeds. There was a pond which surroundings appeard as a common living room to students. It’s hard to name which place was the best or most memorable. The longest trip outside the school was to Jeju and Udo islands. Speaking of nature, this time we went also under the rock to Manjanggul cave in Jeju island. Being 13422 meters long, it’s one of the longest lava tunnels in the world. We could see interesting volcanic rock formations along the 1 km tour and even touch them and feel the moisture.

South Korea can provide a lot more than I had time to experience. I’m happy that I chose SeoulTech as my exchange destination and can recommend it to you!

SeoulTech campus
Rainbow bridge in Seoul
Jeju island
Jeju island
Gamcheon culture village in Jeju island
Udo island
Haeundae beach in Busan

Lively Seoul in my eyes

My exchange destination was in South Korea. It had been in a great 4-month of a journey not only about studying but also about culture experiencing. The partner school for my exchange term was Sungkyungkwan University which is the Korean university with the longest history of foundation and development dated back from the Joseon Dynasty and locates in the heart of central Seoul.

Being one of the premier universities in the country, SKKU has been consistently maintaining its reputation internationally as well. During the time there, I had an incomparable experience in so many aspects besides studying. Despite located in the city center of crowded Seoul, SKKU’s campus is however huge. There are many old traditional Korean buildings inside the Seoul campus of SKKU. These include Munmyo (Confucian Shrine) and Myeongnyundang (the main lecture hall).

I chose various courses from not only my main major which is Supply Chain Management but also about Korean cultural and political history and language. I learned so much about the traditions and cultures of Korea and a basic Korean communication as well which helped a lot in daily life in Seoul such as reading to distinguish landmarks, location and inside the restaurant too. The Korean language does tell a lot about its culture which reflects a distinctively hierarchical society. I also had difficulties at certain times when there was a language barrier involved and in certain cultural differences. As I learned more about the culture and interacted with more locals, I quickly began to realize that as a foreigner adjusting to Korean traditions would take some time.

Food, shopping and vibrant city nightlife is my favorite part about travel. I really loved the Korean cuisine and the different types of spices that Koreans used in their traditional dishes.

Apart from the exam period, the rest of the time is quite enough for my exploring adventure in Seoul. I took part in several local volunteer activities and event for foreigners and it was an extraordinary experience and pleasure during my stay in Korea

In my opinion, South Korea is truly a lively, dynamic and lively country. There were so many activities held by Korean non-profit organizations for the foreigner. On one hand, it creates a plenty of unique and meaningful opportunities for the international student like me to socialize and get on with such exotic lifestyle here, while on the other hand it also acts as an extraordinary marketing tool and tourism promotion for South Korea.

One of the most unforgettable and meaningful activities that I had the opportunity to participate in was the Lotus Lantern Festival which was is one of the largest cultural events held annually in public to honor Buddhism, one of the most dominant religion in Korea. I have made many new friends including Koreans and other countries around the world. My university’s travel club in Seoul also offered me many chances to travel Korea not alone but with good companies and memorable experience which would be unable to obtain while traveling by on one’s own.

 

The academic experience I had in Korea was also distinctive comparing to what I have experiences in Finland and my home country. The higher studying program here is very professional and intensive despite the fact that there was a lot to do with online procedure and registration which sometimes made it appear lengthy and complicated to me. It was very interesting getting to see how Korean students studied and how the classrooms and courses were set-up. There are so many places in the school, which are set up as small studying cabinet, serving for self-studying with up to a large number of seats and can be used overnight.

The examination here in SKKU is also different from my home university Tamk. In my case, there is a great amount of lesson which required to be learned by heart in order to proceed with the exam paper and get passed. I think this might be one of the reasons that causes the very stressful and intensive pre-exam studying period here in Korea. In this part, I personally prefer the studying style in Finland which is more about logic thinking, teamwork and project operation

Annyeong From Korea

I am going to Kyonggi University, in Suwon, South Korea. It is a good university, though it was built in literally a HILL, so you would have to climb the hill to go to class. Not that I’m complaining though, it’s like working out, which is good for your health and body~.


I took some courses in English, related to International Business and the East Asian region. Actually, the selection of courses wasn’t that great, but enough. The classes in Korea are quite different from Finland, more about listening to the lecture of the teacher than discussing among students. It is not hard, I don’t have to put a lot of effort to get a good grade. But I believe that because my courses are left easier for they are in English. I’ve been witnessing Korean students study so so hard for their exams: no one playing sports, no one hanging out, just eating ramen and studying.

I also took an intensive Korean Language course for 10 weeks, from Monday to Friday every week, which is really “intense” and so I could be confident to say that I can speak Korean now. So if you are interested in Korean language, I highly recommend this kind of intensive course since you can really take something out if it (of course with a lot more effort) compared to the normal language course once a week.

 

I had quite a lot free time during the semester, considering taking only 4 courses. I usually hang out with other exchange students, most of which are from France or Germany, some from Mexico, and I am the only one from Finland. Everyone is nice and friendly. Together we try Korean food (most of which is SUPER spicy) and travel around. Suwon is less than 1 hour away from Seoul by subway so we go there quite a lot.

There are so many places to visit and many things to try so you have to be selective. My favorites are the palaces, museums, Korean sauna (called Jimjilbang), or just wandering around shopping areas like Kangnam or Myungdong.

 

 

 

Korean people are really friendly, you can get a lot of free services in restaurants and shops when you are foreigner. Some of them also love to ask about you and your country, in Korean most of the time of course. But Korean students can be very shy, if you are foreigner and speak English. I guess they are afraid of making mistakes in English. But when you got to be friends with them, they are really nice and fun. Korean students are good at drinking and having fun in clubs and bars, or so I’ve heard since I don’t really go there.

Oh and one thing, there’s literally so personal space in Korea, which I miss the most about Finland. People love to squeeze together over here. And sometimes, in the subway or elevator, they just come straight to you, pushing you out of your place so that they can stand there, which still puzzles me until now.

We went to the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) and that railway is supposed to be going to North Korea~

 

All in all, I’ve been having a great time in Korea. It is a nice blend between tradition and modernity. I found the country so young and lively and buzzling but also deep in rich culture and history and tradition. So I’ve got to experience a lot, all of which is precious to me, as well as to make so many great friends, not only Koreans but all over the world, each of whom is dear to be now.

 

 

Greetings from Seoul!

안녕하세요!

I am currently doing my 4 month exchange at Soongsil University in Seoul. My major is business administration, but since I had already completed most of the business courses offered in english, I decided to take other courses like, “east asian culture” and “history of Korea”. These courses are aimed at exchange students and I found them to be very interesting. Generally the level of english my teachers speak is much better than I expected, and many of them have in fact lived or studied in the United States. Workload-wise Soongsil and Tamk are quite the same, perhaps at Soongsil we have a bit more presentations. One of the most important courses I have taken is basics of the Korean language. I learned to read korean which is a big help especially on the subway. If you are considering going to Korea, I warmly recommend you take a beginners course prior to your exchange!

I only have school monday-thursday, making it possible to travel for the rest of the week. I decided not to go abroad this semester, but did a lot of travelling in Korea. For example, I visited Jeju-island, Busan and multiple cities on the south coast of Korea. The best time for longer travelling is during Chuseok, which is a ten day holiday beginning at the end of September.

  Busan

  Yeosu

  Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul

  Gangnam

I have really enjoyed my time here. Living in Seoul is quite affordable, for example lunch or dinner around the Soongsil University is about 3000-7000 won (3-5-€). People are very kind and helpful even though there is a bit of a language barrier sometimes since many Koreans can’t really speak English. Overall, I have found this a very eye-opening experience and I hope to come back soon!

Br,

Yasmin

 

 

Greetings from Korea University

Well, it’s time to say goodbye to South Korea. It was an amazing experience to study in a city that is four times as big as Finland. Gaining new friends and having new experiences made sure that this journey was worth it.

My studies consisted of human resource management, operations management and information systems management. I was a little surprised that all of the classes were only 1h 15 min long and we got a lot done during that time. The teachers were nice and they had a sense of humor. But, in addition, they were very strict about their subjects.

One of the main buildings in KU

Most of my spare time I spent with my friends, traveling around Seoul and in Korea. Usually we went to a new place in Seoul and spend the day there. One of the best experiences was the Lantern Festival in Daegu. We went there with 10 other persons and we saw a beautiful show made by the locals.

Lantern Festival in Daegu

Studies in KU was not as different from TAMK as I expected. We had to read more but the exams were not that hard. The biggest difference was that we had to do a lot of group projects. Each course had one or two projects and they were bigger than what we’ve had in TAMK. But, it was a fun way to meet Koreans like that.

VAK