A Girl's Fall Semester in Korea Past Review

By (International Relations and Affairs., The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 09/01/2014 to 12/19/2014 with

Hanyang University: Seoul - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Communication is so important with confidence being key. I learned so much about international relations (but it may just be a drop in the bucket) and people know so much about America from history to even the "hottest" shows and music. Also, people from other countries may indeed know about and like American football! Since I think everyone's experience will be different, I will simply say it was completely worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Nearly every class involved reading with one class having 2 textbooks (550 and 120 pages) and the teacher assign pretty much the entirety of both books save 1 chapter from each. But the good thing was, at least with the set of courses I took, much of the information overlapped so you could easily apply and recall what you learned. Most classes involved either a presentation and a final or a presentation, a mid-term, and a final. There was no turn in homework, just assigned reading. Teachers were there for office hours and communicated well via email. If you're pretty deductive, don't be too afraid to try a course completely in Korean. The teacher will give you a heads up about the difficulty and make an alternative test. For my course though, I had to use a separate book and pick up frequently used terms. The teacher also sometimes uploaded the Powerpoints and word docs to HY-In. My test was always written response with the topics/questions given to me in advance however I could not use the notes I had written to study. It really wasn't too difficult of a class but remember every course and teacher is different. The teachers there are from all walks of life (with one of my professors even being a diplomat for I believe 38 years or so) and therefore each has their own personal story and flair in relation to the courses they teach.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The pdf packet you get with instructions may be a little confusing and the map in it doesn't have all the buildings numbered including the dormitory if I remember properly. The airport bus stops right at Wangsimni station and you wait there for the blue bus (the numbers may have changed so just check the routes at the stop) where you can either pay with t-money (3000won for the card then you have to load the card inside the station with the nearest entrance being Exit 6-1) or cash. You can also see if there's a taxi nearby and ask them to take you to Hanyang Women's University (한양 여자 대학교). The program staff wasn't the most helpful, but at least they were kind (the male kinder than the female). You'll need to find a machine to print out your registration form which is located in the cafeteria past the printing room on your right. It's the one on the furthest wall in the corner. I HIGHLY recommend checking "yes" for a mentor at application time because they can help you quite a bit (something new was the health check at the local clinic and my mentor translated for me).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The dorm was all the way at the corner of the campus which doesn't sound too bad but when your classes are on the other side of the beautiful yet extremely hilly space, it's a bit inconvenient. Don't be alarmed at the small size of the room or the fact the shower is the bathroom. However, the mattress was really dirty and sometimes the rooms have items/stickers left from previous roomers, but the latter's really no big deal. We didn't have ants or anything so it's a plus for that. The water fountain was pretty unpredictable, so you may get water to the face and maintenance comes quickly, but sometimes the come when it's acting normal so it seems like nothing's wrong. Also, no food allowed in the dorms. Snacks yes, food no. And when they say no drinks, they mean alcohol so it's okay to bring in soda and milk and such. There's a curfew, but you can casually go through the main dorm's basement to get in (staff doesn't mind). Each building has security so also a plus. Printers and computers (3) are in the main dorm as well.

* Food:

Food was relatively cheap ESPECIALLY at Hansot (한솥). But beware their mayo and soy sauce which was unbelievably good yet fattening haha! But don't worry, if you walk around campus enough and constantly jog, it should be easy to stay slim. They have food in the main dorm which was decent. There's also a cafeteria in the women's university and sort of the student building (tried neither). Also in the other student building, there are places to eat like Popeyes (but one piece of chicken is like $3 and they're often sold out of things like chicken strips) and Kimbap Nara (김밥 나라) which offers a variety of meals for good prices (most expensive was like $4.50/4500won). Also on campus is Tou les Jours which a good bakery that also sells breakfast foods. The GS25 (convenience store) near the dorm was almost always sold out of the foods you want at certain times of the day so you have to time your visits. Wangsimni station (near campus) also has tons of places to eat. Would not recommend eating phở while in Korea because the favor's just not the same maybe unless you find like a small restaurant and not a chain, but I do recommend bulgogi ddukbaegi (불고기 뚝배기). Also Gongcha is a fantastic boba tea chain (you should try the black tea with milk with pearls; it's an interestingly good flavor).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Many people will try to communicate with you via English so if you're into that, great! If you want to try to speaking Korean you may often feel like you're not getting the time of day, but some people are extremely kind and try their best to help you. Best thing I recommend is to be confident in your speech even if you have an accent. Practicing communication will help you out a lot. Sometimes it's hard to buy things online because the website may require a Korean cell phone number or payment card which is often through Inicis so just a head's up. It's somewhat common to be stared at (it may be because you're different or just due to the fact, according to one of the friends I made there, common practice) which may time some time to get used to. Cleavage is a no, but shorts and skirts are quite short so if you're well endowed, you might want to bring your own. Looks are very important even just for going to class, but I still went to class dressed casually often. Also, if you're big on K-Star music (K-Pop), it may be hard to find events. You really have to be alert for free concerts and such. Having a Daum is good but not necessary, sometimes friends know something you don't, find a really good Korean entertainment website, and twitter can actually be a big help as well. Fansigns may either be by drawing where you buy however many albums during a particular time at a specific store for a chance to be randomly selected. The one with the most involvement I participated was VIXX with I think 6,000 people. These events really check for identification so absolutely no exchanges for your friends (write their name down if you're buying for them). Other fansigns are first come to buy during a particular time frame at a specific location usually with the max of 100 also. These too can go quickly depending on the group. The closest I've come to missing was being #98 after 2 days of the purchase time frame. Some fansigns are public (in an open venue like a mall generally) others are closed (must have a winning ticket) and you can find information on music and bookstore websites. Also, drinking is the social norm but many people respect the fact you may not be a drinker and still invite you along and even order you a soda or water :)

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Cold medicine sold at the drugstore (약) in Wangsimni station was like $2. However, if you go on campus to the 3rd floor of the sort of student building (the one with the coffee shop above the bookstore), you tell the clinic your symptoms, they'll diagnose, and they'll give you medicine for free. The newly required health check at the local clinic wasn't so bad. They'll ask you typical questions and they only withdraw a really small amount of blood for the blood work and the lady who drew from me was extremely kind. Something new to you may be a rectal swab where you go into the bathroom and swab yourself so head's up but there's basic imagery showing how. The only pre-travel needs were a physical and international health insurance through the school.

* Safety:

Seoul and Incheon were really safe even at night. Make sure you know how to read a bus map :) But if you like walking, totally feel free to do so by yourself during the day, but make sure you're with a friend at night. Well lit areas are always great. Some cafes are open 24 hours if you need to stay for some reason and the subway runs from 5:30am to 12am. Don't be afraid to turn down a drink. When it comes to clubs, simply either go in or keep walking.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

1. I eat quite a bit and if you're like me, again Hansot (한솥) is a good place to start. 2. You're going to need to buy a pillow if you didn't pack one, skin care products if you're into skin health and didn't pack any, cleaning products including detergent and toilet tissue, hair products if you didn't pack any. 3. Clothes are relatively cheap and if you didn't pack nice ones or you packed too much for one season and not another you'll probably want to go shopping. I recommend bringing a coat/jacket if you're going for the fall semester because it snows. 4. If you're into the K-Star life, albums are $11-17 (11,000-17,000won) depending on where you shop and the group. A lot of people I'm into had comebacks and concerts. Smaller known groups sell tickets for about $40 (40,000won), better known groups sell theirs for about $70-80 (70,000-80,000won), and really known groups sell their tickets for $90-100 (90,000-100,00won). Don't forget to factor in money for goods which items can range from $5-60 and varies from group to group. Although the prices for concerts are cheaper than the ones held in America ($120-$180), they're still pretty pricey so I suggest really saving up the funds as soon as you can. 5. Transportation although cheap really eats up your money fast if you like to go and do a lot. Base rate is 1,200won ($1.20) and additional 10cents (100won) is charged based on mileage which can easily be found via search engine. Taxis have a fare hike at night so I suggest the bus if you can read the routes

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $150-175
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Having money from a job is certainly a plus. If you have an allowance or something, save most of the money.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

I can't even recall it encouraging to use the language (maybe it was implied in the pdf) but it required having 2 semesters of Korean.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginner II (second semester)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Constantly listen to Korean music, watch variety shows, watch dramas, say phrases/sentences out loud. If you're afraid to speak, it's not going to help you learn. Try keeping your feelings of frustration and such to a minimum even though it can be difficult (don't get discouraged). Being able to read is always great and important, but you can do so much more when you communicate.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The courses offered
  • The transportation
  • The overall experience
* What could be improved?
  • Campus event calendar would be nice
  • More transferable courses offered
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How to participate in fansigns :) And it's best to have some sort of imagery when attending events because sometimes what you're saying (in either Korean or English) may not come across clearly so you have to show what you mean.