Words of Advice for Those Considering Going on Exchange with Yonsei University
Guest Post By: Yoo Jin Han, a Junior studying Marketing and CISB. She is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and she studied abroad through a Foster Exchange and Direct Enroll at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, during Autumn Semester 2022.
If only it was as easy to connect with full-time Yonsei students as it is to connect with public Wi-Fi in Korea. As an exchange student, it’s clear that you won’t be staying for long, so it is hard to make deep relationships with students who live in Korea. Being aware of this obstacle made it hard for me to reach out despite the many opportunities. Looking back now, it is my biggest regret. Everyone is so friendly whether it be in class project teams or the buddy programs (specifically Mentor’s Club and Yonsei Global), but they won’t proactively ask to spend time with you outside of their commitments. In Korea, it’s a greeting to say, “We should hang out sometime!” without any intention to meet. So, I would recommend being brave and trying to schedule a meet-up with Korean students yourself with a good time and place. I wish I also joined a dong-ari (동아리/club) which is a great way to be integrated in the Korean college community as they also hold events like Membership Training (MT) which is a retreat to socialize with club members. That doesn’t mean hanging out with exchange students from different programs is any less valuable. I had expanded my circle and was grateful enough to be invited to meet peers from various countries and a diverse set of cultural backgrounds. There’s also an app called 에브리타임 (Everytime) which is an app that compiles all university related information including professor ratings. You must verify you are a student at the university to join the community platform which can be difficult. All my classes were in English, and the Business courses had a good balance of exchange and full-time Yonsei students. On the other hand, the Area Studies courses were all exchange students. Attendance for Business courses were taken by scanning your student ID card in the lecture room, but my Area Studies courses roll called or used the Y-Attend app where you submit a specific code to be marked for attendance. The lecture halls in the Business building felt like a university, but the other buildings such as the New Millennium Hall or Baekyang Hall were like a high school classroom with individual desks. I would say the main difference in the academic system is that grades are not released for individual assignments. Instead, a final grade for the course is given after the Final Exam Week. Only one of my four courses released grades for individual assignments, but there wasn’t any personalized feedback. The learning environment varies heavily by the professor. Some of my classes were PowerPoint-heavy where the professor would read the slides word-for-word. Others encouraged participation and included hands-on activities.
Take advantage of how cheap everything is in Korea. Download KakaoTalk (the main messaging channel in Korea) and Kakao T (I literally rode the taxi for an hour from Ilsan to Sinchon for $23.36). The food is also so affordable compared to Seattle, especially without the tipping culture. Some of my favorites from the new food I tried was Yukhoe (육회/raw meat), Gopchang (곱창/beef intestines), 삼첩분식’s 누드 순대 (Korean sausage), and Jung Don (정돈)’s Pork Tenderloin Cutlet (안심 돈까스). In Seattle, people usually buy a dish for themselves, but in Korea, it is very normal to order a few dishes and share them among the table. Moreover, I know a lot of people plan to buy skincare at Olive Young, I recommend to wait until the “Ol-Young Sale (올영 세일)” to save a few bucks. Bring a travel adapter! I personally struggled to buy a USA to Korea plug adapter. Recycling in South Korea is very serious so when throwing away garbage it matters to separate recyclable waste and use a special bag for landfill waste. Korea also has a car-first mentality unlike the United States, so look both ways when crossing the street and be careful as they won’t easily yield to pedestrians.
In addition, there are a lot of events to attend and places to visit. I wish I had gone to a baseball game because I heard it is very different from those in America, but I did go to the baseball game during the Yon-Ko Sports Festival (Yon-Ko Jeon) and it was a huge highlight in my time studying abroad. Eating food or even the snack, “Homerun Ball,” is a must while you’re there. There’s also a study room on the first floor of the Central Library that is open 24 hours which is quite fun to experience as a Yonsei student—make sure to read the rules though, reservations are required for specific hours and laptops are not allowed in some spaces. I loved going to Korea in the Fall especially because there is the Seoul International Fireworks Festival. I highly recommend attending because you can also enjoy a picnic at Hangang Park which is something you should do. There are also a lot of great museums that have free admission for students. One I went to and recommend is the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (국립현대미술관/MMCA). If you are into K-pop or Korean music in general, I highly recommend looking through social media and attending college festivals to see famous celebrities perform for free. Public transportation is extremely convenient so there should be no trouble going to different Korean universities if you download Kakao Map or Naver Map to navigate where to go. As cheesy as it may sound—have fun! There are bumps along the way but making the best of each situation can turn low points to highlights especially if you surround yourself with good people.