Tag Archives: Republic of Korea

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello from beautiful Seoul

After hearing that I got accepted to do my exchange in South Korea, I was beyond excited. I had never traveled to Asia before so I was excited to explore the new country and culture. I studied at Konkuk University in Seoul. Konkuk University is one of the leading private universities in South Korea. My studies consisted of business courses as well as Korean language and culture courses. Konkuk has a great selection of courses in English, especially for business students. However, managing to get into these courses is hard and stressful. All the courses fill up in seconds and only lucky ones manage to get into courses they want. I was lucky enough to get into couple of the courses that I wanted.

Student life in South Korea differs quite a lot from Finnish student life, especially studying. Konkuk University as well as the dorm had study rooms that were always full of students when the exam week neared. Many students would spend hours and hours studying for exams. Overall studying at Konkuk University was really different from studying at TAMK. Much more effort had to put in to studies and attendance was stricter. Studying in your own time was required because it wasn’t enough to just listen at the lectures to pass exams. Studies consisted of more individual work rather than group work which I was used to at TAMK.

My spare time consisted of exploring around the city and eating lot of delicious food. Seoul is a mixture of new and old so there is lot of historical places to visit alongside of modern shops and cafes. Seoul has lot of different coffee shops and restaurants where you can spend time when you are not exploring sights. Seoul had so many beautiful places to visit so I was never bored.

In the beginning Seoul seemed very overwhelming but nearing the end it felt like home. I definitely recommend Seoul as exchange destination for anyone who is interested in studying and exploring Asia.

Seoul is definitely my favorite city that I’ve ever been to.

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!

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