Studying abroad in China vs. South Korea: 5 key differences

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Should I study in South Korea or China?

Asia Exchange offers a variety of destinations in Asia, and finding the right one can be difficult. If you ask yourself whether you should study abroad in Korea or China, this article will help you make the best decision! Despite the many similarities between South Korea and China, some key differences exist. Our destinations in South Korea and China are some of the biggest cities in the world, and they are also great places to learn and grow as a person. We wrote down the key differences to help you find the right place for your exchange experience. But in the end, your choice comes down to what you like best, and both countries are great places to study abroad.

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Country overview: China vs. South Korea

China is the biggest country in East Asia, so no wonder it is the second largest economy in the world. Moreover, China is known for its rich history and natural beauty. Regarding the academic system, it is one of the most reputable and competitive, which is one of the reasons why more than 490,000 international students study abroad in China in 2018. It also gives you the chance to establish contacts in the second largest economy in the world.

Also, South Korea offers a lot of historical value and nature apart from the high-tech infrastructure. It is the center of modern pop-culture, home of festivals and technical innovation. Due to international recognized programs and the outstanding academic system, South Korea has become a popular destinations for exchange students as well with over 160,000 incoming students in 2019.

University program China vs. South Korea

In South Korea, Asia Exchange offers three universities at two different destinations. Both destinations provide internationally recognized university programs. In Seoul, you can study abroad at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Hanyang University. Hankuk University is known for its language-focused programs and is one of the top private Universities in Seoul. Moreover, it is the number one international university in Korea. Whereas Hanyang University in Seoul is mainly known for its highly selective engineering and economic courses. The second location is Busan, the second biggest city in South Korea and the number one summer tourist destination in South Korea. In Busan, you have the chance to study at Dong-a University, known for its outstanding economy and business classes. All those three universities are located in the center of the city, surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and bars. Here you can study between beaches and mountains while enjoying the best education.

At Shanghai University, in you can study abroad in one of the world’s biggest metropolitans. You can spend a semester or two at Shanghai University. They offer a wide range of business and economics courses and take place #80 among the top universities in Asia. So no wonder Shanghai University welcomes around 3,000 international students every year. The campus is located in the very middle of Shanghai itself. For outside activities, the campus offers pools, tennis courts, and more for students to use freely.

Do you want to know more about studying in South Korea? Read also:SEOUL VS BUSAN: WHICH IS THE BEST CITY FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?

shanghai skyline city china
Shanghai is a fascinating city with a breathtaking skyline

How much does it cost to study in South Korea vs. China?

When it comes to planning your budget for your study abroad experience, it mostly depends on your lifestyle. However, an average cost is calculated for South Korea and China as a destination, including general expenses like housing, transportation, and meals. For Shanghai, the average living cost for students averages between 850 Euro to 1200 Euro. For South Korea, there is quite a big difference between the destinations, Asiaexchange offers. Seoul’s monthly student budget averages between 800 Euro and 1200 Euro, like Shanghai. In contrast, the budget you need in Busan is lower. You might need between 370 euros to 520 Euros on average. In comparison, the tuition fees are set the same for both destinations: 2900 Euro per semester.

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How is the transportation in China or South Korea?

Luckily China and South Korea have affordable fees when it comes to public transportation. The average cost of public transportation in South Korea can vary from 45 cents to 1,30 euros, depending on how long your way is. In terms of using transpiration, you must buy a transportation card called a T-money card. This card is available in every convenience store and easily changeable, either in the convenience store directly or inside a metro station. For both processes, you need cash, so make sure to always carry it with you. Shanghai had a similar concept with a transportation card that could be recharged. The Shanghai Public Transportation Card (SPTC) has different versions with different amounts of deposits. You can either buy them in convenience stores around the city or at the service desk in the metro station.

You might also be interested in: Experience of a Mexican Student studying in Shanghai

Language: Learn Korean vs. Chinese?

Regarding language, the Korean alphabet might be easier to learn than the Chinese Hanzi. Hangul (Korean Alphabet) has 24 characters, and Mandarin consists of more than 20.000 characters. Moreover, Korean might be easier to pronounce than Chinese since many sounds already exist in most European languages. However, knowing the basics of the native language of your destinations is helpful because there will be situations where speaking English is impossible. Especially if you visit the countryside of either China or South Korea, knowing the language will give you a huge benefit. Both universities offer language classes for international students to improve your language skills. Most regular classes, besides the language courses, are taught in English.

a street in Seoul city with shops and signs in South Korea
Seoul – city – South Korea

Living in China vs. South Korea

Living in Shanghai opens a whole new world around you. You are surrounded by modern skyscrapers mixed with old traditional Chinese buildings. It is one of the most powerful economies today, and studying there gives you a perfect chance to establish contacts for your future. Among Museums and music festivals, Shanghai is full of opportunities to experience modern and old Chinese culture. Moreover, the city is ranked among the safest cities in China because of the low crime rates. The size of the city and the number of people can be overwhelming in the beginning, but you will get used to it because you won’t be able to avoid it. In terms of the international community, Shanghai is a place where all different nationalities meet, and making new friends from all around the world is super easy.

Living in one of the two biggest cities in South Korea might be overwhelming at first. Especially Seoul, because you are skyscrapers, colourful panels, and people are always surrounding you. To relax, Seoul has a lot of parks, and riding a bike along Han River can also take your mind off things. If nature activities are not for you, you could relax in a lovely café, exhibition or go shopping. Since Busan is a coastal city with many beaches, outside and water activities are very common. Sports like Surfing, swimming, and hiking are popular, especially in summer, but you can still see people stand up paddling in winter. Nonetheless, you will find skyscrapers and people everywhere in Busan as well. Both cities are student cities and popular destinations for exchange students, which means you can find many fun, good restaurants, bars, and cafes to visit with your friends.

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Understanding and addressing the fear of studying abroad


Both destinations offer great academic opportunities as well as personal opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. As you can see, it might not be that easy to chose, because you have to consider multiple factors. However, if you are more interested in Pop culture and Korean language, South Korea could be your next exchange destination. If you want to make contacts in on of the biggest economies of the world and learn one of the most spoken languages in the world, you should think about studying abroad in China.

You want to know more about Studying in South Korea or in China?

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to ourmonthly newsletter!If you have any questions about studyingabroad, feel free tocontact us!We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.