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Yvonne shares her experiences of being an exchange student in Seoul, South Korea
Yvonne Bolhar is an Austrian student studying at Hankuk University in Seoul spring semester of 2020. Her major is corporate communication, but as HUFS doesn’t offer that major, Yvonne opted to take free electives that are related to her study program instead. These are her thoughts regarding student life in Seoul:
Why did you choose to study in Seoul?
I love foreign languages. I have been wanting to study Korean for a few years already, but Korean courses are thin on the ground in Austria. Spending a semester in Korea, experiencing the Korean culture, and studying Korean seemed to be the perfect opportunity, so I decided to join over 150 other students on their jour3ney to the city without trash cans and crosswalks, the city of Han-river and coffee shops at every corner.
How did you get to know about Hankuk University?
Hankuk University was introduced to me by Asia Exchange. I was convinced that it would be a good choice as they focus on foreign languages and “meeting the world.” The former president of the US, Barack Obama, gave a speech at Hankuk University during his visit in South Korea in 2012 which made me even more interested in studying here.
What is your impression of the university?
It is hard to describe a semester that is brought to us via uploaded power points, pre-recorded audio files, and zoom sessions. Our lecturers try their best to accommodate to the given circumstances and to still deliver their content in an interactive and engaging way (like with Kahoot quizzes). I love how HUFS seeks to bring international professors to the university who can give insight into the field study in their cultural context. The campus is clean and green with lots of possibilities to meet up with friends and sit down for a chat. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy local and international cuisine thanks to restaurants all around the campus. The closest metro station is “Hankuk University of Foreign Studies” (line 1) which is not even 10 minutes by foot.
What are your favorite courses?
I am taking seven different courses as I don’t get my language courses accredited by my home university. Seven is a lot, so I wouldn’t recommend taking more than six to anyone, but I manage. I like “Introduction to Korean Media Industry” as my professor delivers the content in a very natural, charming way and because the course has given me a lot of input for my Bachelor thesis. I also enjoy our discussions in “Introduction to Global Future Studies” which is a course related to how to develop a social concept for a sustainable future.
You might also be interested in: 5 Things To Do In South Korea As A Student
Can you credit all your courses?
The credits are no problem as I made sure to take courses that are related to my study program. At my home university, I went through the process of setting up a Learning Agreement, so my university could be assured that I would take courses that were beneficial for my studies, and I could be sure to get the number of credits needed after having returned. If you are unsure about your credits, I suggest contacting the Academic Coordinator of your study program at your home university and asking for further information on what courses you will get credited.
How is a regular day in Seoul?
For me, weekdays and weekends differ: During the week, I try to get up latest 8:45 am but during the weekend I will gladly sleep in. I have courses from Tuesday to Friday. If I don’t have class in the morning, I use that time to do my assignments. Recently, I have been taking a walk first thing in the morning: Han-river is about 20-25 minutes by foot and the scenery with the blooming poppyseed flowers and rose bushes is just beautiful to wake up and have a good start into the day. I usually eat at around 1.30 pm. I either eat out with friends or make myself some Ramen in the microwave as it is fast, convenient, and delicious. In the afternoon, I often meet up with friends. The dorm life can be very enjoyable if you make the effort to get to know people who live on the same floor. I signed up at a local dancing school, and I take dancing classes three times per week in the evening. As I enjoy running but the gym is closed, I run either along Han-river which is something a lot of Korean do (So, do not panic that you will be the only random foreigner running there!) or at the sports field on campus.
How is the student life in Seoul?
Despite the restrictions, student life in Seoul is exciting: Koreans, young as old, love being outside thus, the streets are always vivid and busy. There are coffee shops everywhere as many students go there to study. Most convenience stores are open 24/7 and offer a warm meal at any time. There are game shops and karaoke bars which are an alternative to a fun night out at the club. Most Koreans pay by card, Seoul has become more and more cashless I was told by locals, so do not worry about withdrawing large amounts of cash. Cash is needed when visiting local food markets, in Karaoke bars and game shops and if you plan on going outside of Seoul. Many students rely on Kakao Talk for daily communication, so if you plan on coming to Korea for a longer period, getting a Korean phone number and downloading the Kakao Talk app is a must.
What have you done so far?
Due to the critical situation of COVID 19, museums are closed. But there are still a lot of things to do: So far, I have been to various temples and modern monuments like the Gangnam style monument and Lotte Tower in the city center of Seoul. My Korean friend and I also went to Gyeongbokung Palace and rented Hanbok dresses. We visited the palace dressed in Hanbok and went to a coffee shop afterwards. It was a memorable and unforgettable experience to explore the city dressed in Korea’s national costume. One of the funniest things we have done so far, was going to a Karaoke bar, and staying there for five hours straight and singing our hearts out until 2 am. We had no voice for two days after that, but we concluded that we still needed to do it again.
Who would you recommend studying in Seoul?
Studying in Seoul is for everyone interested in Korean culture and language. Seoul is a pulsing metropole that offers a great balance between entertainment and education. Korea is a pioneer concerning technology, therefore a great choice for those looking for broadening their knowledge about research and development in global companies like Samsung and LG (The Samsung campus has a museum, and they also offer guided tours.) I would also recommend studying in Seoul to those who are planning on working in Asia as the Korean market provides a good understanding of Asian business etiquette and social norms and rules. Seoul is YOUR city if you are looking for an exciting time abroad and do not mind spicy food, a humid climate, and the smell of sweet spring blossom.
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