Studying in Korea: The Good, The Bad..and a tiny bit of ugly

As a follow up to my last post about being a student in Korea, I’ll be going more into detail about student life here.

*Since I haven’t talked about it before. Why did I decide to transfer to Korea to study? After two years at Uni, I took a break and came to Korea to teach English. I loved living here so much, so I decided to continue studying here.

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I’ve been studying in Korea collectively for around 2 and a half years now. First, I started at a Language Institute (Post coming soon) but now I’m a regular University Student at a Korean University.

I transferred into my University in Spring of 2016 into my third year of Visual / Multimedia design and oh boy, there were so many problems from the beginning.
But let’s start with the good.
*Keep in mind, these points depend on the University and not everything may apply to you.

The Good
Your Korean proficiency will improve SO much

At my Uni, there aren’t a lot of English taught classes, so it meant taking classes taught in Korean, textbooks and online materials and reports all have to be written in Korean. Honestly, if you’re not a native Korean speaker, the professors will understand that it won’t be perfect but you should still try your best. It really helps if you can ask someone to look over your essays to make sure it’s correct. When I wrote essays, if I knew my professors understood English I would submit both an English and Korean written copy of my essay so they check if they don’t understand something I wrote in Korean.

Opportunity to make International and Korean friends
Of course, studying at University, you have the opportunity to make a lot of friends, but especially studying at a foreign University, you can meet other foreign students, whom you can relate a lot to, concerning being far away from home and adjusting to a different lifestyle. Making Korean friends is also a great way to settle into Uni life, however it’s not as easy as you would think. More on that later.

Learning patience
This is something I’m still really working hard on. Since you’re learning in a language that is not your native language, it can be really difficult and at times downright frustrating and discouraging when you don’t understand something and you can’t get help, but this really teaches you to take a step back, focus and work hard, or work harder than your classmates to make sure you understand and do something well.

The Bad

STRESS!!!!!
Man let me tell you. With the classes being all in Korean, it gets so stressful because after hours of getting so much information in a different language, your brain gets a bit saturated and there’s a point where you literally cannot concentrate anymore. So you do end up just sitting in class at some points staring into space and not really knowing what to do.

Lack of Friends
I mentioned before that you have the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends but I find it so difficult to make Korean friends. Maybe it’s the fact that I go to an all girls’ University but it seems as if no one really wants to help you. I would ask my classmates, in Korean, for help with something and they give the shortest most direct answer and that’s it. I also asked my other friends who go to Korean universities and they have said the same thing happened to them.

There was one time where I was in an English taught class, where the students know some level of English and someone wanted to walk behind my chair and there wasn’t enough space and instead of asking me she walked all the way around and when her friends asked why, she just said “Oh I don’t know English”.
Even though these girls knew I spoke Korean they really didn’t have any interaction with me.

SOME teachers being less co-operative
*In no way do I mean to insult exchange students or lump everyone together.
Some teachers tend to have a negative image of foreign students since, they have complained that exchange students don’t speak Korean and they tend to waste a lot of class time. This negative image, maybe came from one or two students they had in the past but I’ve found that foreign student = exchange student = can’t speak Korean. Which isn’t the case at all, since I know quite a lot of both foreign regular and exchange students who speak Korean really well.

The Ugly
SO SO UGLY
There’s only one thing that was seriously, incredibly inconvenient and downright frustrating that beat anything else on this list.

If your Uni isn’t used to having a lot of foreign regular students, then Uni life may be a bit more difficult for you.
Again this was particular at my Uni, so it doesn’t mean it will happen to you, just take precautions to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.

So summary of what happened. As I mentioned, I transferred into my third year which brought over credits from my old university. In my first semester here, the staff at my major department said they transferred some, not all of my credits.

This semester I went to clarify some of my credits, since my credit sheet didn’t really make sense to me. The administration building said they couldn’t help me so transferred me to the credits team. Credits team spoke no English and no one could really go with me so I talked to them on my own and they ~kind of explained it but it still didn’t really make sense, so I asked a Korean friend to come with me to talk to them a second time. When we went in, the lady seemed a bit hesitant and explained everything she said to me in more detail to my friend (which was expected since she knew I couldn’t understand Korean fully) only to tell me I was missing over 20 credits still, so there’s no way I could graduate within the next year and recommended I stay two extra semesters. Which to me was a bit ridiculous, because I asked multiple times, to multiple offices and everyone said my credits were okay.
So I sent off an email to the Admin office, since if I need to stay two extra semesters, I’ll need to extend my visa and submit extra paperwork. Met with staff and they seemed confused as well and went with me to the credits team AGAIN.
This time……honestly the lady at the credits office didn’t seem to happy, since it was my third time coming in for 2 weeks.
Basically, thanks to the Admin staff coming with me we sorted it out and I’ll maybe only need to stay one extra semester. But talk about stress and no one really knowing what to do in this situation.

They don’t really have a lot of transfer students so this isn’t really something they deal with often.

——

If you’re transferring remember to:
* Check exactly how many of your credits transfer.
Sometimes the school transfers a certain amount but only accepts a portion of it. (Eg. they transfer 60 credits but only accept 40 of them. Meaning you still have 20 credits to take at this new school)

* If you’re a native English speaker, check if you have to take the mandatory English classes, and if you don’t, there should be some paperwork to fill out so you don’t have to take them.

* Make sure you’re listed as a transfer / regular student and not exchange. For the longest time, my school had me listed as Exchange which meant that I wasn’t allowed to sign up for classes until a week after everyone else. Also meant I didn’t get the email and notifications that regular students get.
No matter what, I’d say it’s a good idea to get contact info of a member of staff who speaks English (or a Language you’re comfortable with) and ask if it’s okay to go through them if you have any difficult questions.

Some schools have a buddy system, where they pair a Korean student with a foreign student to help with any issues and to help you settle into Uni life.

Overall, just check, double check and triple check to make sure everything is okay.

——-

To be honest, I listed a lot of negatives but it’s really a blessing to be able to study in a foreign country and experience so many new things that others can only dream of.
Pay attention, keep your mind open, stay calm! and you’ll create some great memories.

——–
If there’s anything I didn’t touch on and you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at karina.khan07@gmail.com

See you next time!

-Kari

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7 thoughts on “Studying in Korea: The Good, The Bad..and a tiny bit of ugly

    1. Hi~I actually haven’t written about it yet. (But I’ll add it to the post, thank you!) I took a break from university after my second year and came to Korea to teach English. I loved living here so much that I wanted to stay for a bit longer, so decided to finish my degree while here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Its just the culture. It was insular, still is to a certain extent and will take a little bit of time to change. You will have to be one of the catalysts for change! Lead the charge!

        Like

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