Seoul and I say hi!

South Korea was everything and more you could've dreamed of. Here's why.

안녕하세요! (Annyeonghaseyo)

My absolutely banging exchange in Korea has come to an end. I spent this time studying at Sungkyunkwan University. These past five months have been an incredible experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. From cute little cafes in Seoul metropolitan to the beach of the Southern city of Busan and back.

While studying in Korea, my main focus was on improving my Korean skills so that I could utilize those skills in my future career. For a long time, I’ve felt like knowing Korean could make a big difference in finding employment in the area that I’m interested in. For this reason, I took an advanced Korean class that had two 3-hour long classes per week and was worth 10ETCs. The course required a lot of pre-existing knowledge and practice so that the teacher could pick up where one had left off. To me, this was a perfect course, since it was fast-paced but didn’t require doing much homework, of course, depending on if you needed more effort to memorize the grammar points and vocabulary lists. The grading was based on the two tests and an in-class presentation that we had. One thing to note is that attendance is very important. Technically, they give a lot of leeway with 8 absences but in real life, those don’t get you too far. Let’s say you have a cold for a week, that’s two absences. Then you go to Japan for a week and a half and that can go up to four more absences. During one semester it’s easier than many would think to get a lot of absences if you want to experience things outside of school.

I also studied marketing and organizational behavior which were both online courses and so very flexible. They only required attendance and a couple tests. They are good choices for someone who wants to have as much freedom as possible to travel around Korea. These courses were both very “American style” because the tests were multiple choice and the only other factor was attendance.

As I’ve mentioned, I did a little bit of traveling, in and outside of Seoul. The size of the capital is kind of incomprehensible to a girl from a city like Tampere. There is just so much to do every single day, and I found new places I wanted to visit every day. The cafe culture is unlike any other which allowed me to get a bit too addicted to getting a high-quality coffee anywhere, anytime. The variety of restaurants and cafes is so huge that it left me to wonder how they all can stay running. The nightlife is also pretty nice and Hongdae especially is an area that never sleeps or is empty. The clubs are open until early morning so that no one has to go home before they feel like it. I’m also vegan which limited my food options but if you know where to find good vegan cafes and restaurants it’s not going to be a problem. Finding them can be a bit tricky sometimes since they don’t necessarily show up when using simple search words. I recommend downloading Naver maps and always saving every place that offers vegan options on your map. This helps tremendously when trying to find a place to go eat.

Most Korean students that I know study very hard, much harder than I’ve ever seen a Finnish student study. I expressed my curiosity to a Korean friend about why they study that much since I do just fine at school while using a fraction of the time they use. He answered: “I can’t just do fine, I have to do really really well. We also study a lot of stuff that’s not exactly required at an international level so it’s just extra”. There is also a much wider gap between teachers and students, unlike in Finland where teachers are often quite laid back and almost “friends” with students.

All in all, being an exchange student in Korea was one the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and I would highly recommend even just visiting the country if there is ever a chance.






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