I’ve currently been in Seoul, South Korea for just over a month and it has been a completely different experience!
I applied for Yonsei University and the first thing I realised is that from it’s campus to it’s culture, it is completely different to back home. This semester there were 500 exchange students; the school has 603 partner institutions from 59 countries, so you can expect to make friends from literally all over the world! The campus is one kilometre square wide, so I would recommend you to search for dormitory near the gate closest to your classes. Furthermore the students are very proud of being Yonsei students; there are three prestigious universities in Korea which go under the acronym SKY, standing for Seoul, Korea and Yonsei university. And Yonsei is known to be the one that parties hard! On the first day (Orientation) we had an after party at a bar/club to be welcomed, and had been given an exclusive club pass which allows SKY students to go to the hottest night life scenes in Seoul for four days in a row (Wed – Sat night), free!
First of all you won’t be getting much sleep because there is so much to do within the area of the university (Sinchon) and Seoul itself. Everything in this city is always alive, vibrant and technologically modern (aside for the cultural aspects)! It’s normal to have three convenience stores right by each other, five fried chicken restaurants in one block, and ten cosmetics boutiques in one street. And it’s completely normal for these places to be open 24hrs! It’s also quite normal to be able to find a ‘cafe’ for everything. They have puppy cafes (where you play with puppies and take photos) to cat cafes, sheep cafes (where you feed sheep and take photos), hanbok cafes (where you dress up in traditional Korean clothing and take photos), Hello Kitty cafes (where the whole cafe is themed around Hello Kitty and you can take photos), and more.
It’s really interesting to come to a country with completely different mannerisms and ideologies. In Korea they place a lot of importance on being polite, and it’s normal for people to bow when they are greeting you, whether it be your peers or retail shop assistants. Public transport is very well maintained and you can expect the metro to always be on time, consistently. Travelling to the other side of South Korea (Busan) is also possible through KTX, a Korean high speed rail train, in less than three hours, which would have taken six hours by car.
Overall, it’s only the beginning but Seoul seems to have so much to offer! It’s been normal to come back home past midnight every day and to spend only 4-6 hours at home (studying is usually done in book cafes or any cafes as they are 24 hours) just to quickly rejuvenate to head back out the following morning! If you’re thinking about an exchange, I’d recommend Seoul, and I’d also encourage you to apply early!
Young Ji KWON