From Exchange Student to Local: Umeda’s Journey of Studying Abroad and Moving to Korea

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


Umeda (26) is from Denmark, where she did her bachelor’s at Aalborg University in language and international studies. However, she didn’t spend a semester abroad during her studies because she wasn’t that interested in traveling. After her mum got her into BTS and Korean culture during the pandemic, she decided to do a study abroad semester at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea anyway. This way, she could experience what it means to live in Seoul, one of the most fascinating metropolises in the world. In fact, she loved her experience so much, that she decided to move to Korea! Here is Umeda’s story.

Why did you decide to study in South Korea?

I discovered Asia Exchange around two years ago when I started looking into studying in Seoul. While my friends studied abroad (even in Korea) during our bachelor, I wasn’t that interested in traveling back then. I was like, yeah, sure, whatever. But after my bachelor, I got into BTS and Korean culture. That’s when I was looking online. And I saw Asia Exchange and what you guys offer, and I thought that’s my way to go! The first reason I wanted to come to Korea was my interest in the culture. And at that time, you needed to have either a working visa or a student visa. So, I wanted to study in Seoul while living here.

Find out more about the student visa for South Korea

When did you have your first contact with Korean culture? And what made you interested in living there?

Well, it’s a funny story because it started when my mom got interested in BTS three years ago. However, when she started to watch BTS, I was not that interested initially because Asian pop was never my style. But then COVID hit, and I was like, okay, I have nothing to do. Let me check out these guys out my mom talks about all the time. Finally, I saw a few BTS videos, and it was quite interesting! As a result, it escalated into me being not interested and not really listening to my mom and her obsession, to me “fangirling” with her. So that’s kind of how my interest started. When I was seeing more about Korean culture, how they live, and just everything, I really wanted to travel to Korea and experience it myself.

How did you end up Moving to Korea after your studies?

I just really loved my time in Korea. So, technically I never went back home. Only if I needed to, for example, for visa measures or financial reasons. I knew I only wanted to study for six months, so I was trying to find a way to stay longer. So, after my studies, I went back to Denmark. However, I returned to Korea as a tourist first as soon as the borders were open. At that time, the government was removing some of the COVID restrictions, and Korea implemented tourist visas again.

Umeda lives in Korea after her studies
The first reason I wanted to come to Korea was my interest in the culture

After Moving to Korea, did your expectation match the reality?

I’ve mostly been positively shocked. It’s been more positive than I thought because before I came, I saw many videos about foreigners living here and they would sometimes comment on Koreans not liking foreigners. Moreover, I heard about toxic beauty standards. But for me, I’ve never experienced any of this. Of course, there will always be people who will look at you, but you will see that anywhere in the world. So, for me, it’s all been a good experience so far.

Another expectation was a stressful life working in Korea, also based on what my Korean friends tell me. And during my studies, I never really got that. But now that I work in Korea, I get it. But it’s not that it’s hard work – it’s the Korean mentality that work comes before everything else. That’s why I wouldn’t say it’s a negative thing. However, now I can see the point.


Do you want to live in South Korea long-term or do you see yourself going back to Denmark at one point in the future?

Well, I think I would stay here for a long time because I’ve been living in Denmark my whole life. And I realized it’s not the lifestyle for me. The Korean lifestyle is more my thing. Therefore, I would definitely stay here long-term. But of course, I will go back and forth between Korea and Denmark.

If you would compare Denmark and South Korea, what are some differences?

One advantage of living in Korea is that everything is so easy. You don’t need to plan anything, for example, if you want to go with your friends somewhere. The subways are so advanced. Everything is really easy and fast. But you need to experience what I mean. For instance, delivery in terms of everything. You can order anything, and it will be delivered fast. Food will come in 30 minutes. If I need furniture, it will come tomorrow or 2 days. Moreover, there’s so much to do here in Korea. It’s not like one major attraction per city, you know. You have endless free time opportunities.

In Denmark, I had lots of benefits like free health care and free school. In contrast, I don’t have that here in Korea. But many differences are because I’m a foreigner. For example, I always need a certain visa to stay here. You know, there’s always this constant stress about, oh, okay, what should my next visa be?

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Umeda lives in Korea after her studies
Umeda feels at home in South Korea because she found a country that reflects her own lifestyle

how did you start to work in South Korea as an expat?

First, I worked in a bar here, which was an experience. But now I’ve been working since like September in a language school. I just got a teaching job, which is full-time. When I was younger, I actually wanted to be an English teacher, but I kind of fell away from that. That’s why it’s nice that I have the opportunity now.

I found my job when I was in Korea the last time around April because my friends from Norway started to work there. It’s not a school, more of an English academy. The students are 5 to 12 years old and come for extra English lessons. I do teach one on one classes, or I have classes with around 7 students. I told others about my experience. As a result, now 6 friends of mine from Germany and the Netherlands are working there with me, which is quite a nice living.

Was it easy for you to move to South Korea after your studies?

I wouldn’t say moving to Korea was easy. Of course, I had some difficulties. However, I’m very spontaneous. If I feel like I want to try something, I will do it. Most people I know have a specific plan for life and aim for a full-time grown-up job. While I am more like, “Okay, I finished my bachelor’s degree, and I don’t feel distressed or the need to finish another degree.” And I’m very lucky that I have the chance to do it now. I’m not married, and I don’t have kids. I don’t have responsibilities in that way. So. I’m doing it while I can and while I have the time, and then I’m just taking things as they come. Of course, those things are also essential for me to, but not in a way that I’m like, okay, I need to go back home and have a boring life, you know?

What influence did your study abroad experience with Asia EXCHANGE have on where you stand today?

Oh, a huge. I think if I had never found Asiaa Exchange, I don’t know how I would have moved to Korea. I would have found another way, but I don’t think it would have been the same because I had the opportunity to study in Seoul. Having that lifestyle as a student really opened up a lot for me.

Umeda studied abroad in Korea and now lives in Seoul

Do you want to know more about being an exchange student in South Korea?Find out more here!

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