Beyond Borders: Tia’s Experience in HUFS’s Full Degree Program – Part I

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Tia Kärnä is a Finnish student (25) who decided to pursue a full degree at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul, South Korea in 2022. After finishing her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Finland, she decided to pursue a full bachelor’s degree in International Relations at HUFS. Currently she is in her second-year, second-semester. Find out about Tia’s full degree experience in this interview!

Tia already has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. While studying for it in Finland, she was an exchange student for one semester at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. She fell in love with the country and hoped to return for an internship, but the pandemic dashed those plans. Back in Finland, her job didn’t feel right. So, Tia followed her passion for global politics and enrolled in a full International Relations degree at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Now, she sees endless possibilities ahead. She hopes to work at the UN or EU one day, or use her skills in big companies. Either way, she’s excited for what’s next.

Asia Exchange’s customer service has always been excellent.

Tia Kärnä

Can you share your experience with Asia Exchange?

What led me to choose Asia Exchange for my study abroad journey was discovering their full-degree program in international studies, perfectly aligned with what I had in mind. After finding them on my school’s website and participating in an informative webinar, I felt confident in my decision. My application process was relatively simple. The most tedious part was gathering and translating all the documents into English. Otherwise, the process was easy.

Moreover my experience with Asia Exchange has been so far overwhelmingly positive. Meeting Harri and Joonas during their visits was a nice experience. I remember that during the application process, I received a reply quickly whenever I had a question. Since I’ve worked in customer service before, I know how difficult that can be, but Asia Exchange’s customer service has always been excellent. I’ve also been a student ambassador for a while. Therefore, I’ve been interacting with many different people from Asia Exchange. It’s a very positive relationship with many mutual benefits. My journey with Asia Exchange has been therefore fulfilling, from the decision to study with them to the ongoing support and opportunities.

Could you provide some details about your accommodation?

I’m currently living in a co-living place. I have a roommate with whom I share my room with. We have our own bathroom and a shared kitchen with everyone on our floor. It’s also only 15 minutes away from the university by subway. HUFS also offers different kinds of dormitories, some with a curfew and others without. However, since you have to apply every semester for it, I decided not to live there. I think you could live there if you stay for only 1-2 Semesters. Before moving here, I used to live in a shared house with seven other people. That was however 50 minutes away from HUFS, which is why I decided to move.

HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN WITH COURSE REGISTRATION AND WHAT ARE YOUR CLASSES LIKE?

South Korea is known for having very competitive course registrations. However, I have been very lucky so far. Most of the time, I have gotten into the courses I wanted. I recommend always having a plan A, B, and C so you can get into at least one preferred course. As a freshman, you are the last one to choose the courses, which means that all the senior students, juniors, and sophomores pick first, and then you can decide on what is left. The further you progress in your studies, the earlier you get to choose than others.

Moreover most courses have had a 50/50 split between Korean and international students. There are some classes where the balance is slightly different, but that’s often not the case. The environment is very diverse, and you meet people from all around the world.

My major courses are all in English, excluding my Korean language classes, which are obviously taught in Korean. As a full-degree student, I must take major, liberal arts, and elective credits. While finding English courses for major credits is easy, it’s a bit more difficult when it comes to liberal arts and electives. The majority of them are in Korean, which is why I’ve only taken major courses so far. Once my Korean level improves, I will take those classes. For my major, the graduation requirement is to achieve TOPIK level three. That would allow me to understand Korean and take classes in Korean, which I will do starting next semester. It does get challenging to take classes; however, it also pushes me to learn the Korean language, which is positive.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STUDYING IN FINLAND AND KOREA?

Back home in Finland, attendance isn’t usually optional. So, I remember skipping classes when I wasn’t feeling right or for other reasons. However, South Korea is way more strict about that. You can only skip three times with an excuse, and if you miss more than four classes, you will automatically fail the class. So, it affects your grade.

Also, most of the classes in Finland are automatically given to us, so we don’t have to compete with other. Sometimes with specialization courses, it’s like first-come, first-served, You however can’t compare that to the course registration process in Korea,

In Finland, I had a lot of group projects and barely any exams. Mostly, I had to do research and projects. Here, it’s the opposite. I have many exams which take place as online or as multiple-choice exam and I often have t write essays. There’s a wide range of different exams. What’s similar to Finland is that, classes are very interactive, and you have to participate actively.

HAS THERE BEEN ANY SUPPORT SERVICES FROM YOUR UNIVERSITY TO SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?

Yes, we have student organisations that help you get to know Korea. They organise different activities together. We also have language programs where you are paired up with Korean students so you can learn Korean and teach them your language or English. There are many projects like that. Additionally, we also have international student services. So you can contact them if you have any issues regarding your academics. Alls in all, there are a lot of different ways in which the university tries to help you adjust.

Do you see differences BETWEEN DOING A SEMESTER ABROAD AND A FULL DEGREE?

I think when you do a semester abroad, you’re only here for a short while. That means you have a very limited time to experience your exchange country. You often focus more on traveling, and studying becomes a minor part of your semester. However, when you come as a full degree student, you’re more inclined to focus on studying while also having a lot more time to explore. Overall I can say that there is way more depth into doing a full degree than just a semester abroad. I still think that studying one semester abroad is already a big accomplishment, if you can’t do a full degree abroad. Therefor I really recommend doing at least one semester abroad during your studies.

Finally DO YOU FEEL THIS FULL DEGREE PROGRAM HELPED YOU GROW ON A PERSONAL LEVEL? WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SO FAR?

Yes i believe that, when you go for a full degree program, you will spend a longer time abroad, not just one semester or two semesters. In my case you will spend four years in another country. Therefore you have to learn how things work in another country, learn to be independent and solve problems and issues by your own. Of course, in my case, I have Asia Exchange and my university to help, if I have problems and issues. However, you still need to know where to find the answers and who to ask. This is why I think I have grown my personal character and have become way more independent through this full degree program.

Find out more about Tia’S experience in Part ii of this interview.

Do you also dream about doing a full degree abroad? FIND ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Full degree Programs here!

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