Student interview with Nastassja, an exchange student in Seoul
Nastassja from Germany started her semester abroad in Seoul, South Korea, in February. It was her first time visiting Asia. Even though she was afraid to experience a culture shock, she felt comfortable from the beginning and fell in love with Seoul. Now, she even extended her stay for another semester!
What did you do to prevent a culture shock?
I watched K-drama before. I know that sounds funny, but I think it helps because I was familiar with the language and scenery. But all in all, I think it depends on the person. For example, I was very excited about Seoul. When I experienced the culture the first time, my mind was like, “Ohhh that’s so nice!” all the time.
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Where do you live in Seoul?
I live in International House A, which is a dormitory of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Luckily, I have a double room all by myself. I am a person that likes to have their privacy from time to time. Regarding my location, I am in the east of Seoul, which is quite far from the hip student areas or Hongdae, for example. When I take the subway, it takes 35 minutes. Concerning how big Seoul is, the distance is not too far. You simply have to plan your trips a bit.
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How was your overall experience as an international student at HUFS?
All my classes are online. Some classes are pre-recorded, which means I can explore Seoul and meet friends during the day and watch the online lecture according to my schedule. However, some days I have a full schedule and sit in my room attending live lectures.
I live close to the campus. Although we have our classes online, I am on campus quite often. I really enjoy that. I can recommend staying around the HUFS area if you want to have that student life because I can quickly meet my friends that live here. We meet to study on campus or in the university library. The campus is very nice and small. When we visit other campuses in Seoul, we realized how cute the HUFS campus is. We also meet up in cafés. If you go into a café, there will sit many Koreans studying. Consequently, we adapted to this quickly.
In general, the studies are very organized. And if some things are not as organized, we go to the international office to ask. But that’s fine, as we get the answers you need. We have an email contact if we have questions. Moreover, we can go and talk to the staff in the international office. They are always willing to help.
What would you say are the dis/-advantages of having your courses online?
For me, the most significant disadvantage is the Korean language course. We are many people in the class, and the teacher can’t check our pronunciation thoroughly when for example, all students repeat a word simultaneously.
Time management was the most considerable advantage. We are not only students here, but also tourists. And it’s very convenient to combine those two with online lectures. Because we can take our classes anywhere, or simply watch the recorded lectures in the evenings.
You finished your midterm exams a few days ago. Can you share your experience of your first exams at HUFS?
It was a lot of work, as we didn’t know what to expect. Because no one of us has ever written an exam in South Korea before, right? All international students asked themselves, “Will it be hard, will it be easy, how much should I study?”. Consequently, most of us studied hard. I concentrated on my six exams and didn’t do many touristic activities for the two weeks of my midterms. In the end, it depends on the classes, but my exams were good. Not too hard at all! If you attend the online lectures, it will be fine because you have heard all the content before, unlike in Germany where many students won’t go to the lectures and only study a week before the exams.
Could you explore South Korea despite COVID-19?
Yes, you can travel through Korea! Some of my friends have been to several places, like Busan, Jeju Island, Sokcho and many more. As I extended my stay in Korea for another semester, I only focused on exploring Seoul first. I will explore South Korea during my two-month summer break.
Seoul is such a big city, and if you get bored here, you are doing something wrong. Alone visiting all areas in Seoul takes a lot of time. I recommend writing a bucket list of what you want to do. While ticking off your points, you will come across many other places unintentionally. Despite the pandemic, there is so much to do!
What was your highlight in Seoul so far?
Oh, that’s hard. There were many. But the most recent one was when I wore a Hanbok in the Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁). For everyone who doesn’t know what a Hanbok is, it is traditional Korean clothing. You can rent it at the palace for a day. The weather was perfect, and I felt like a princess!
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This interview was conducted by Nele!