한국 보고싶어 (I miss Korea!) February 12, 2017

By (Psychology, Cottey College) - abroad from 08/16/2016 to 12/22/2016 with

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN): Seoul - Korea University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. I was critical of the US before coming to Korea, and being here made me more critical. It made me think more about where I wanted to end up in my future. I grew more confident, I learned to speak up more, and I learned not to place my self worth and value in someone else's hands. I learned how many kind strangers there were. I made so many beautiful and lovely friends, and had so many wonderful experiences that I would not have had back in the US. Yes, there was some down moments, but the good outweighs them. I am so glad I got to go to Korea, and it was very much worthwhile. Every moment.

Review Photos

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN): Seoul - Korea University Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The courses I had were fairly easy, with the exception of one (and it was an intense history course). I think unless someone is taking science or business classes, they may not have a tough time with their courses. Something that was difficult to get used to was not having constant tests or quizzes in my classes. Your grade primarily rests on your mid term and final exam. The classes I took were Popular Culture, Korean Speaking, Beginner's Korean, Intro to East Asian and Korean History, and Korean Culture and History. I did not enjoy my Beginner's Korean class and felt like I learned more self studying Korean than I did in that class. I found Korean Speaking to be more helpful and my professor was great at teaching. Popular Culture and Korean Culture and History were both enjoyable, and the former was not tough but required you to be able to analyze content thoroughly and apply theories. Intro to East Asian and Korean History was very tough and was not an introductory course. This course is good for anyone majoring in Asian or Korean history and has a good background in being able to study history and good memorization. There was issues of classes that were listed as being taught in English being suddenly switched to Korean. There didn't seem to be as many English-taught classes as advertised (so be wary of that if you need a required class/credit for your home college!) , and many of them became full fairly quickly. Overall, I did not particularly feel very challenged in my classes. They were good, but I believe they could've been better. I wasn't entirely impressed with Korea University and I wish there could've been other options to go to other universities in Seoul.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My on-site administrator frequently contacted my program group to set group outings and dinners/lunches! He always made sure to watch out for us, and was easy to get a hold of if needed.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was housed in CJ International House and I was not impressed with the living situation. There was constant issues of food being stolen from the kitchen but the staff said there was nothing they could do about it (despite there being cameras pointed at the kitchen). My room was not clean when I arrived and there was issues with mold on the curtains and rusty air vents. While we had cleaning ladies come in once a week to clean the bathroom and shower, it was mediocre and they did not thoroughly clean. While there were rules against having the opposite sex on a male or female-only room, there were still occasion where girls would sneak up boys onto the female only floors. Because of that, I did not feel security was very tight. CJ House was also located on a very long and steep hill, so this type of housing is not ideal for any one who has a physical disability that may affect their walking. Truthfully, I wished I had looked into more off campus housing such as goshiwon (a type of one room apartment). I had friends who stayed in various types of goshiwons and they were satisfied with their living arrangements. I'm not sure how the other on-campus housings are; I've heard mixed reviews about the,

* Food:

I absolutely love the food and how affordable it is! There's so many Korean, Korean-fusion, and other cultures restaurants here. Typically the portion sizes are great for the price, and since there so many restaurants around, it isn't hard to find somewhere to cater to your needs. Even franchises like Burger King, Taco Bell, and McDonalds are here, and in my opinion, they taste 10x better than the ones back in the US. Their menu has more variety to it.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Everyone who comes here will have varied experiences. I think it's important to remember that you're a foreigner and people will see you as a foreigner. I had many good experiences where people treated me kindly despite the language barrier, and others were not very patient or acted distant. Sometimes it was hard to find out about events or get information if you're not fluent in Korean (I think it's important to have some language background in Korean to help you out, especially if you're going to be here for more than a few weeks) or don't have a Korean friend to help you sometimes. For the most part, I did feel in place in Korea. I researched about Korean culture before coming, but I also had to experience it firsthand to learn. I learned more about Korea by being in the country than I did through my previous research,

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

While I had health insurance through my program, I never used it. Before going to Korea and attending Korea University, I had to get a TB shot and make sure all my vaccinations were up to date. My program helped me in making sure I had the right documents and which specific vaccinations were required of the university.

* Safety:

I feel so much more safer in Korea than I ever have in the United States. Of course, you should still practice common sense and make sure to be aware of your surroundings and who you interact with at all times. Other than that, Korea was safe. Me and my friend would frequently stay up until 3 or 4 am, out and about around Seoul, and we never felt we were in danger. The only time I felt unease was during the protests against President Park Geun-Hye, but there was always notices, news, and alerts sent to my email from the US Embassy about the protests so I knew which areas or subway lines to avoid and at what times. Other than that, I never had to worry about my well being. I wish I could feel just as safe in the US.

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

I have mixed feelings about this response. I'm really grateful for the program because they helped me so much! Especially with preparing for Korea, and the help I got once I was in Korea. They did so much for me and I picked them because I was nervous and confused about everything I needed to do for study abroad. However, I did not really like Korea University, and the only thing I wish I could change was being able to go to a different university.

Finances

* 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)

While things are cheaper in Korean than they are compared to the US, it's still important to watch your budget because it's easy to overspend! You should definitely budget if you're planning to shop a lot, go to concerts, and travel outside Seoul and to surrounding countries like Japan. I had to use money from my savings because the financial aid from my home college wouldn't come until a month after I was in Korea.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I ate out a lot because it was more convienent and also, I was out a lot when not in class! I mainly would get something to eat from the convenience store for lunch, and then would eat a large meal in the evening. However, in between those times I might buy a drink from a cafe or other small snacks or food (such as kimbap). In total, I think each week I'd spend on just food between $20-$40 USD, depending. (Keep in mind, when it came to larger meals, I frequently shared a dish or two with a friend, so that definitely cut the cost in half)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Before traveling overseas, I suggest you make a list of things you want to do that could be costly. Things such as concerts, traveling to cities outside the major one you're staying (for example, traveling to Busan or Jeju Island), and if you plan to travel to other countries (I went to Japan for a few days). And to budget for those and their expenses (train/plane fare and accommodation). I think if you're going to be in that country for a long period of time, it may be helpful to open a foreign bank account so you don't have to pay international transaction fees. I often would pull out a large amount of cash from the ATM, put it away hidden in my room, and would take a certain amount with me whenever I went out. A lot of times you might need cash instead of card for things, and it also helps to keep you aware of your spending habits if you're only taking the amount you might need for the day (and force you to stay within that amount).

Language

* 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

My program didn't really stress on learning Korean beforehand. I self studied Korean months prior to departing, I took language classes while in Korean, and am still continuing to study it while back in the US.

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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Just Beginners Korean and Korean Speaking 1.
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? I think I wouldn't have had a very easy time in Korean I didn't already have a background knowledge in Korean, including reading and speaking. You don't necessarily need to take a language class (unless your home college or community center offers it already--then go for it!) especially since they can be costly. There's a lot of free resources (free PDFs, books, blogs, Youtube videos!) online to help with language study. Even if you're not completely dedicated to learning the language or you're waiting to take a language class while in that country. I still advise learning how to read the language and at least know "survival words/sentences" to help you out (such as at restaurants or having to ask someone a quick question). It's also good to have language apps so if you can't figure out how to say something, you can at least type it and translate it. *Not everything will be catered to you, so you have to do your part and teach yourself too.* While I was in Korea, my school offered language exchanges and I also heard through online of other language exchanges organized at various places, so I recommend checking into those kinds of things if that appeals to you.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Pre departure and on site assistance
  • Orientation
* What could be improved?
  • Post departure assistance (especially for those who want to extend their stay in Korea)
  • Additional partnerships with other Korean universities
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That applying for and receiving my alien registration card would take a month, and that you need it before traveling outside of Korea (even if you have multiple entries visa). That I didn't need to leave on the date the program suggested and I could have extended my stay. That staying off campus wasn't as difficult as it seemed.