I studied abroad at Yonsei University during the summer and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life! I chose to study abroad in South Korea because my friends said there are a lot of different ways to have fun and learn. I’ve also always enjoyed South Korean food and culture.
I flew to Korea not knowing much Korean except a few phrases, but besides a few awkward moments trying to order food we got by. Yonsei University was very accommodating and the students who were in charge of the international students were very friendly.
I will definitely do a different post about South Korean culture, so I will just slightly skim over this. When I was in Korea, I hung out with a lot of other Asian-Americans, most of who were familiar with Korean culture to a certain extent. Nevertheless, we were unable to escape the glares of the ajummas and ajusshis for being the loud “obnoxious Americans.”
Korean society is very homogeneous, so even though we were all Asian, we still stuck out like a sore thumb. We got stares and glares and everything in between. People did not try to talk to us when we were in big groups and avoided us. I highly recommend travelling with small groups, especially when you’re hanging out in the urban areas. Seoul is big, but also crowded, so space is limited. Koreans usually walk around by themselves or in pairs, never in groups larger than 4. It is hard to find seats in restaurants for large groups and even walking down the street is difficult.
I can seriously go on and on about our struggles, but I’ll save it for another day.
I took two courses, Korean Language and Culture and Beginner Korean. Both were taught by Korean professors who spoke limited English. Unlike my home university, classes at Yonsei were small and the professors were able to know almost everyone by name. Our beginning Korean consisted of students from all over the world, so the professor had to use basic Korean and gestures throughout the summer. It made for an interesting lesson.
If you want to take math or science courses, there are many visiting professors from America who teach these courses in English. Although they are intensive as the program I attended was only a summer session, it is still a great way to take required courses.
- Internships and organizations
Because our program was so short, there weren’t many students who took up internships. If you are interested in an internship, make sure you figure out if your home university guarantees an internship. If not, once you are at your host university, ask your international student leaders for help/guidance. This is usually how international students receive internships. Don’t be shy! Companies in Korea really value English speakers, so you have a high chance of interning at companies like Arirang.
There are many different clubs and organizations on campus. Throughout the school year there are student lead festivals, which takes a lot of preparation. Each club will prepare a booth or some type of event and needs a lot of student cooperation, which is a great opportunity for you to get involved.
There are many options to choose from. Many go with international housing at either SK Global or International House, but some choose to stay at a hostel or guesthouse in Sinchon as it is so close-by.
The dorm floors are strictly separated male/female. I stayed at SK Global and the first 4 floors were female and the top 3 were males. There are cameras and guys are not allowed on the girls’ floor and vice versa. Also, you are not allowed to have guests stay over in your room.
Overall, housing was not expensive at all compared to housing in the United States (765,000 won for ~6 weeks). Also, eating at campus cafeterias are very cheap (2,000 won for soondubu!), so if you are studying for a short period of time, you do not have to worry about cooking. If you want to cook, you can buy cheap pots and pans at Daiso, E-mart for groceries, and cook at the downstairs kitchens beneath International House.
- Financial Aid
The great thing about studying abroad at Yonsei is that the financial aid I regularly receive at my home university carried over to Yonsei. Tuition and living was less expensive, so my financial aid was able to cover all of it. I definitely recommend you consulting your international center’s adviser and figure out which university in Korea has the best relationship with your home university. Yonsei has one of the biggest international programs in Korea, and happens to be very close with my home university with ever SKorean study abroad student choosing Yonsei as their host university, which makes for easy transition.
Final Note: Make sure you read everything regarding study abroad. There are a lot of deadlines to meet and one of the biggest challenge was getting all my medical records checked off. I had to take a lot of shots prior to the trip. Also, depending on how long you are staying you may or may not need a visa. Since I was there for less than 2 months, I did not need a visa.
Good luck and if you have any questions regarding studying abroad or South Korea, feel free to ask!