Tag Archives: Republic of Korea

My Exchange Semester in Seoul

Hi everyone! I recently completed my exchange studies at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. When I was thinking about my exchange destination a year ago, it was clear to me that I wanted to get to know an East Asian country as well as spend a few months in a major city. Turns out, Seoul was the perfect choice!

Korea University Main Building
Korea University Main Building

I spent four months at Korea University (KU), and it definitely was a great experience. Apart from its good reputation, KU has a lot of more great things to offer. A great part about the exchange was the KUBA program, a buddy (tutoring) program, organised by KU degree students. All exchange students were divided into groups, and everyone got assigned a buddy (i.e. tutor), who takes care of the exchange student’s concerns. The tutors also organize multiple events each week for exchange students, so I got to meet a lot of great people quickly.

The course organization and implementation largely differs from TAMK. Course registration is very competitive, so it is highly recommended to do the course registration at the earliest opportunity (which was on some day in early August at 4 am). I was able to get most of the courses I wanted to take. The courses are usually oranized as lectures, so there is not as much exchange between professor and students, however, there are also courses which are very similar to TAMK (i.e. a lot of group work, practical approach). Therefore, it makes sense to study the course descriptions before deciding which courses to take, especially if you prefer courses with a similar teaching style as in TAMK.

The study culture is very different from TAMK, as the Korean students are under a lot of pressure from the family to perform well. Also, most exams are brutal, and it is, even for Koreans, very hard to get good grades. Before and in the exam weeks, I saw a substantial number of students studying until late in the evening at school and even taking a nap while sitting at a table in front of their study papers.

In my spare time, I visited different places around Seoul, especially in the early part of my exchange. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to travel to other parts of the country. However, there were a lot of other students who went to places like Busan or Jeju, among others, and from what I’ve heard, these places are really worth a visit.

Instead of travelling around Korea, I visited Hongkong and Tokyo during the semester. Especially Hongkong, with its amazing skyline and its mix between chinese and western cultures, is a must-see city when visiting East Asia or Southeast Asia.

View of Hongkong from Victoria Peak
View of Hongkong from Victoria Peak
Shibuya, Tokyo

So if you are thinking about choosing Seoul and especially Korea University as your exchange destination, go for it! You will not regret it.

My time at SeoulTech at Seoul, South Korea

In SeoulTech I didn’t have any problem enrolling to courses. Here we just did excel of courses we wanted that we sent to the person in charge. Most of the people got what they wanted. All of the courses were mostly in English, sometimes mix of Korean and English. Professors English might be hard to understand at first, but when you get used to the accent isn’t that hard to understand anymore.

 

I had six courses and that didn’t leave me much spare time with all the assignments in the end. But I still managed to experience most of the stuff I wanted to do since I prioritized my work and exploring (no time for Netflix).  Courses I had weren’t that hard but they did required lot of my spare time compared to Finnish studies.

 

After studying we did a lot of sightseeing around Seoul. With international students we saw most of the things that is advertised around Seoul, though it is much, we did spend almost four months there. These places were really nice and worth exploring, for culture we visited various palaces and a shrine that had interesting stories in them, worth taking the time and reading the story behind them. Also, Seoul has nice museums, especially the War Museum where you could spend days just reading and diving in to the history. For Korean culture the markets were a must-go, there is one for various of traditional goods, Korean street food, and one with various shopping centers. Lastly, I had chance to fulfill my childhood dream: visit abandoned amusement park.

Abandoned Amusement Park (Yongma Land)

For general sightseeing the nicest things were riding bike along the Han-river, visiting Haneul Park for sunset and awesome view of the city, walking along a stream in middle of metropolis, going for Namsan Tower for the mini hike, and lastly going for Lotte World Tower observatory for the awesome 123rd floor view. Lotte World Tower is must-go, but when we went there for sunset, we had to queue for two hours to get in, which wasn’t that pleasant. If we would’ve gone other day or other time, probably wouldn’t have to queue at all.

View from Lotte World Tower

We also did a lot of hiking around Seoul’s mountains. Since there is bunch on mountains around Seoul, it is easy to just take bus in the base of a mountain and just start hiking. When hiking you can see fit elderly Korean people just blasting through like nothing, and even some hikes have an outdoor gym where people can just blast a quick extra workout during the hike. One of the reasons to go for a hike, is to see the awesome sunsets, and we saw lots sunsets from the mountains. Of course, the sunset is just perfect with great people and few cups of Soju. I’ve never seen so many sunsets in my life that I get to see in this short time. After enjoying the sunsets, we had to be careful going down from the mountain, since it got dark fast after sunset.

Sunset views from the top of Buramsan Mountain

Highlights of the exchange was hanging out with great people around the world and sharing stories, cultures and ideas. We spent countless hours in campus’ cafe Two of Us just enjoying coffee and talking. Also, we enjoyed Korean culture in a way of eating every day, just ordering bunch of food and drinks for the table and sharing it, no better way to enjoy food like in this social way. All of us made life lasting great friends, and we already planned meet-ups around Europe.

Korean Barbeque

During October We had trip to Busan. It’s large port city on South Korea, and it’s known for its beaches, mountains and temples. Busan has population of 3.43 million which is around 65% smaller than Seoul. Traveling there with buses and taxis the whole place felt small, when we had already adjusted in Seoul. In Busan we did mostly sightseeing around docks, culture village, beaches, fish and food markets, and lastly a lighthouse, where we were stuck for an hour because we managed to go there just when it started to wind and rain hard. During nights we enjoyed Busan’s nightlife and lived in a little cozy guesthouse. Other than sightseeing we reserved one whole day for surfing in Songjeong Beach, where was just enough waves for complete beginners. First touch to surfing and loved every minute of it.

Busan’s surf day

 

Life as an Art Student in South Korea

 

I wanted to do my exchange studies in Seoul, South Korea because I wanted to experience East Asian culture. I have travelled quite a lot around the world, but I have never been to East Asia before. Now my studies here is almost done and after all, this has been a very exciting trip. Culture is very unique in Korea which has made this trip very interesting. South Korea has also given me a new interesting perspective to understand the world.

I chose Sungkyunkwan University because it was the best university in East Asia for my studies. I got enrolled in all the courses I wanted.  My major has been here Design and I have studied only art courses. I have liked all courses a lot and my professors have been very good. I have got many new ideas and learnt many new skills to do my artwork. I have studied 5 courses which are quite a lot for an exchange student in South Korea. It has meant that I have not had so much free time here.

 

 

The most challenging thing for me here has been living in a 25,5 million people metropole. There are people everywhere and it has been hard to find empty places and own peace. Many places are also very tiny in Seoul and it can feel uncomfortable first. I didn’t want to take a room from the University’s dormitory because there you have to share a room. So,  I have been living in a very tiny goshiwon room, which has been a unique experience too.

I recommend Sungkyunkwan University for all art students. Teaching is international and high quality. You can get here new inspiration and learn new technical skills you have not learnt in TAMK.

 

My Adventure in Seoul, South Korea

My time in Seoul in coming to an end. I can count the days I have left with my fingers. I have been studying in Kyung Hee University for the past semester. My major is hospitality management. I have had a lot of fun and I have met new people from all over the world.

Kyung Hee University, The Grand Peace Hall

Studying in Korea has been surprisingly easy for me. I have five courses and they have all been going well. Right now, I only have my finals left and I only have two of those. Registering to courses is very competitive here so I had to wake up at 4.15 to be able to register to the courses I wanted. I also needed to change few courses and got one more added before I traveled to Korea. I haven’t had any problems with the language of the courses, and I got to keep all the courses I registered to. Kyung Hee has a lot of international students so those courses that have a lot of international student and exchange students don’t have to worry about the language. I have had very few assignments during the semester, so I have had quite a lot of free time.

Library in the mibble of the COEX Starfiled mall

During my free time I either wander around Seoul. I have also traveled to few cities inside Korea and I also traveled to Tokyo during the semester. Busan and Jeju island are a must visit in Korea. Both are beautiful places and are very different compared to Seoul and each other. I also won tickets to a music bank concert so for that I had to travel to another city. But at that time, I did not have time to see the city itself. Seoul has a lot of places to visit and it is easy to travel in Seoul. There are many popular areas to go to clubbing or shopping. I had spent most my free time going to cultural places and going shopping all around Seoul. There are also many cultural places that are nice to visit in Seoul. The food is good and cheap in restaurants. I eat in a restaurant almost every day because we aren’t allowed to cook in the dorm and there is no kitchen in there. There are only few microwave ovens, few toaster ovens and a toaster. One tip if you want to travel to Korea there are very few options for vegans and vegetarians. So, if you don’t eat pork, beef or chicken you should think very hard about if Korea is the right option for you.

Geongbukgung

Comparing the education and studying to Finland. In Korea university is very competitive because grades are given in cumulative so only a certain percentage gets an a and so on. But most English courses are not like this. They are mainly point based grades. Because in Finland the grade is always point based and everyone gets a grade based on their effort. In here sometimes you fail a course because you just didn’t fit into the percentages. So, it’s very competitive and grades are very important here so getting the best grade possible is important. That is why many people spend most their time studying and not having fun the closer to the exams we get. Classes here are mainly lectures and it is not encouraged to ask questions during class you can questions after the class from the teacher personally. And you should always try to take notes because you don’t always get the lecture material for yourself to review.

I have had a lot of fun during the past semester. I have Made new friends and traveled to new places. I think Korea was a good choice and Kyung hee university has been a great place to study at.

Greetings from South Korea

South Korea is an amazing place to visit!

There is a lot to see and do, but the university system is really different compared to Finland!

I have to say that even though I had an amazing experience in Seoul I also had a lot of challenges. The enrolling system in Konkuk University is really hard to deal with: who is fastest to enroll ( and im talking about seconds) will get in the courses and since there is no spots reserved for exchange students you will have to deal with a lot of competition! Once you get in the course you might still find difficulties: some korean teachers ( all the teachers of the engineering field) kindly asked to me to leave the class. I ended up not being able to take courses of my major because even though the classes were supposed to be in english the teachers were asking foreigner students to leave so that they could teach in korean.

The other challenge i found was related to the food: i’m vegan and here in Korea being vegan or vegeterian is a real challenge. This is the reason why I had to move out of the dormitory so that I could cook my own food!

Once I moved out and the enrolling period was done I finally had time to enjoy Seoul! There is a lot of opportunities for cultural activities and hikes!

 

Hello from Seoul!

Hello everyone, I am an exchange student for one semester in Seoul, South Korea. I want to start with saying that it has been a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to be a part of the exchange program and witness the traditions, culture and beauty of an exotic country such as South Korea. I must say I have also encounter some issues as well, such as the unavailability of sufficient courses in English in my field (Energy and Environmental Engineering).  In my spare time I have visited many traditional sight seeings and temples. South Korea also has fantastic outdoor traditional markets where local elderly ladies provide various Korean dishes and delicacies. If I had to compare Finland’s education system to South Korea’s i must say that they differ in many aspects. Here students go under tremendous social pressure to excel in academics having minimal free time for other activities than studying. In Finland I would say the education system is more balanced with work and spare time. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed my time here and experienced many unforgettable memories!

Best Regards, Ikaros.

Experiencing Korea

South Korea is a truly unique country. I knew early on that I wanted to do my exchange studies there. TAMK has an amazing amount of partner schools in Korea and it was quite hard to choose one that would suit me best. In the end I ended up going to Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. The university has two campuses, but all my classes were located in the city center one.

The location of the school is amazing, being very central and at the same time having views over the city. The campus has modern stylish buildings where the classes are held and that house many other kind of services too. The university was originally founded in 1398 and still has an area of beautiful traditional buildings that were used for teaching.

 

All my classes were aimed at exchange students with topics revolving around Korean culture and language. The teachers mostly spoke good English so I didn’t have any troubles with understanding. They were also very nice and understanding, unlike my expectation of strict attitude based on pop culture. Even though natives were studying very long hours, I didn’t find the studies too stressful and studied pretty similarly to how I do in TAMK.

The neighbourhood surrounding the university is nice with lots of shops and places to eat. I spent a lot of my free time hanging around Hyehwa area with my friends or going around Seoul. The city has a lot of interesting events and so many cool things to see and explore. I also recommend travelling elsewhere in the country to experience a different side of Korea.

 

Far, far away

Time here has passed faster than I could have imagined, even though I had very high expectations. I’m studying at the Seoul National University of Science & Technology and the semester is coming to an end. The studies have moved on with good pace, but stressful during the exam periods. For every course there is a high attendance percentage mandatory, what firstly was a shock. At the beginning it was hard to get enrolled for
the courses, but after the beginning things have been moving on well. Every professor of every course speaks good English and the teaching has been good.

Picture 1. Gyeongbokgung Palace’s gate

My time here has been a great combination of studying and traveling the city. Living at the campus is a dream for a student. It is so easy to just get down stairs and walk for five minutes (maximum) to the lecture. The facilities are great too. At the first floor is a cafeteria, a convenience store, a gym and a coffee shop where you can hang out. The campus is located relatively far away from the city center, but with such a good metro system it is no problem to just hop on a train and travel anywhere in the city before you know it.

Picture 2. Han river at night.

There are so many great traditional palaces as there are modern buildings. I have seen lots of things in one semester, since almost every week we have discovered something new from this city with friends. Personally, it was really easy to adapt to the life here in Korea. In here one might feel like been followed, because of the camera surveillance, but most definitely this is a safe place to live in. This city is exciting and full of adventures. I’m going to miss Seoul.

June 14, 2019. Seoul, South-Korea.

 

My exchange experience in Seoul, South Korea

Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!

I have spent over 5 months now in South Korea and the final week at school has started. I wish I could stay another semester because I have been enjoying living in here. I have had an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.

I studied Film, TV and Media at the Sungkyunkwan University. I knew how hardly people study in Korea so I was surprised to see how similar studying was compared to Finland. I was expecting to see a lot of stressed, hardworking students but instead people went out a lot after their studies. Earliest classes started at 9 AM and the latest class ended at 5.45 PM. There were mornings when I could just sleep as long as I want and go to class at 3PM which is very opposite to my own university, where most of our classes start in the morning. We had a lot of home works to do outside the classes so between traveling and sitting in classes you had always something to do. I have noticed that the pace in teaching is a lot faster than back at home and sometimes it was hard to keep up with everything teacher was teaching. Also, 3/4 of my classes the teacher talked in Korean, even if 35% of students would be exchange students.

I lived 5 minute away from my Campus in a local house. It is usually very unlikely to get a studio as an exchange student but I got very lucky. I really liked the neighborhood. In Seoul the neighborhood around schools are cheaper than anywhere else in the city, since mostly students live in the school area. There were a lot of places to eat and I didn’t have to pay more than 5€ from my lunches or dinners.

During my free time I spent time traveling around the country. I travelled a lot of cities in South Korea like Jeju island, Busan, Ulsan and Gangneung. Since I have visited South Korea few times before I didn’t experience any cultural shocks and I had the benefit of knowing the language which made it easier to live in here.

When I wasn’t traveling I usually just spent time with my boyfriend by exploring the Seoul itself. We visited a lot of exhibitions, mountains and tourist attractions, and tasted a lot of different kind of foods and drinks. 

I haven’t regretted going to South Korea. This experience gave me a lot of inspirations and it widened my view of how much opportunities there is when you leave your comfort zone. The best thing during the exchange was getting to know this culture I have liked for many years by actually experiencing the local life. I made a lot of amazing friends around the world and we made a lifelong friendship through this exchange. Korea is amazing country with a big history and culture, and I can’t wait to come back.

Annyeoung~ Greetings from Seoul, Korea

Annyeong, folks~  I am having my exchange study in Korea, at SeoulTech university. Half of my exchange period has passed, and I have quite many tales to tell.

The lake in SeoulTech, during cherry blossom season

My major is environmental engineering.  I only study four courses which adds up to 12 Korean credits or 60 ECTS, while most of Korean students take six or seven courses , which is an equivalent of 105 ECTS per semester, crazy right?

Classroom setting between Korean uni and Finnish UAS are quite the same. There are black or white board, projector and projecting background. In Korean classroom there are built-in computers though, so professors do not have to carry laptops.

Classroom in Korean University

Contrary to my initial fear, professors speak clear English, and I understand perfectly. However, I have hard time communicating with Korean team mates. During our group meeting, they usually discuss in Korean, and then I ask one  to summarize in English for me. If one fails to come up with the English expression, we will use Papago – kinda like Google Translate created by and for Koreans.

The use of textbook is something different from Finnish education. Korean students use textbooks for both contact learning and preparing for exams; professors put contents from those books into their teaching slides. Korean students holding one or two textbooks around the campus is a common image. I feel like textbooks are bibles here. Yet, I do not feel the need to pay 30,000 Won (23 euro) to purchase a heavy textbook, so I download PDF instead.

Korean students engross in studying. There are studying rooms open 24/7 and, trust me, there are always students occupying those studying space 24/7. During the mid-term exam period, it is common to see all rooms are fully vacant even at 2AM. The pressure of getting good grade is  severe in this industrial country.

Not only do they “love” studying (it is a sarcasm),

The gang went out for some Korean BBQ and Soju

they LOVE drinking. When we head out of campus and walk around, we can see a myriad of diners offering good food and alcohols. My Korean pal teaches me how to mix soju and beer together, calling it somaek (“so” for soju, “maek” means beer). The golden ratio mixture is 3 soju : 7 beer; my Korean pal usually go with 1:2 for simplicity, or probably because he is so tipsy that he cannot deduce math anymore. Then the mixing part is considered an art itself. He places a pair of chopstick inside the cocktail, setting each chopstick a part, then slap both chopstick together to create turbulence and thus mix two type of drinks into one. If done properly, somaek turns fizzy and  rises up with bubbles, and the mixer is bestowed with the title “somaek master”.

 

We bust our arses in school by week days, then going on adventures by weekends. My gangs have gone to spots like Gwangmyeong cave, Han River, Gyongbokgung palace, De-militarized Zone (DMZ).  And then Avengers: End Game released, I went for the movie at 2AM. It was a lovely surprise to know in Korea cinema is opened throughout the night. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Smaug n Gollum displayed inside GwangMyeong Cave
Whatever it takes

Work hard, Party hard is undoubtedly a fitting motto for Korean locals. My experience in an Korean university brings me more insights on students around the globe, their behaviors, and mindset. Despite language barrier, I have enjoyable time in Korea. My exchange study is definitely worthwhile.