Arriving in Seoul Korea
21st of August 2019.
Sydney Airport. International Departures.
I knew it was going to be difficult.
It was daunting to embark on a journey which I knew was going to be the most challenging period of my life. Going on exchange would be the first time I would be living away from my parents and family for an extended period of time and learning how to survive on my own, be self dependent and budget well on my savings was something I was going to have to do while I was here in Korea on my own.
But to be quite frank, I didn’t quite think too much about that until after I got here.
I was more worried about my courses at Yonsei University and if I was actually enrolled in the university (“What if I had to go all the way back to Australia because I didn’t do the paperwork correctly??”). I was also worried about getting data, making my way to the university safely as well as getting an ‘Alien Registration Card’ that all my friends who went to Korea for exchange told me to do asap.
I had no idea where to start!!!
Thankfully, the one thing I didn’t have to worry about was housing.
If you are ever planning on going to Yonsei University for exchange, SK Global is one of the most difficult places to get student housing. This is because the website crashes the minute the housing application becomes available due to the significant overload of people trying to access the site at once – so one big tip is, plan accordingly so you can access the application as soon as it opens… maybe even open it with an incognito browser, its literally a war to get the room you want! But it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get into the dorms; a lot of my friends found goshiwons nearby the university)
I had already secured my single room in SK Global – gosh bless – so all I had to do was follow the email instructions and Naver Mapped my way to student housing which will be my home for the next 5 months.
Another tip!!! Google maps is terrible in Korea! Download the Korea Subway App/Naver Map/Kakao Map instead! Also if you need to use the taxi while in Korea, a good taxi app is KakaoT which allows you to see how much taxi trips should be (especially as some taxi drivers like to scam unsuspecting foreigners).
Settling in Yonsei Uni Life
Yonsei University actually provides a lot of support for foreign students and I personally think that makes sense as they get a LOT of foreign exchange students (this year they had over 1000 foreign students!!! Apparently Maddox, Angela Jolie’s Son also attended the orientation).
Yonsei helps set out a lot of things including emailing all the important dates for course registration, add/drop pick up, student housing options, SKGlobal check in, orientation dates, how to get Student IDs as well as the very important process of registering for your Alien Registration Card (which is needed for all foreigners staying longer than 90 days). This support really helps alleviate the stress of being in a new university environment and country, especially when the main language is not English.
Yonsei University in fact actually sets up the entire process of the Alien Registration Card (ARC) registration, which is known to be very tedious process when doing it by yourself. The ARC registration requires booking a time at the Immigration Office, bringing the necessary documents e.g. Power of Attorney, Certificate of Enrolment and Certificate of Residence, and then collecting your fingerprints. However, Yonsei provides almost all of the paperwork and sets up a period where you can hand the forms in to the Immigration Officers stall set up at the university! The only thing that you have to do at the Immigration Office is provide your fingerprints during the time period stated by the officer.
Yonsei also has specific orientations for foreigners. The first big global orientation started off with a bang as their Kpop Cover Group – Fever – performed on stage as an ‘introduction to Korea’ moment.
The orientation also went through the locations of all the key buildings of Yonsei, an outline of Korean law (e.g. drugs are a big no no here) and government bodies, Yonsei clubs promotion as well as an activities sign up opportunity. I signed up for one of the tours which was offered (the tour included a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Korea War Memorial and the Hangang river).
I also joined one of the orientation events which was part of the Mentor’s Club and it was a good opportunity to meet other students who are in the same shoes as you. The Mentors Club facilitated this meeting by taking the participating students to the restaurants in Sinchon (the area of Yonsei) and encouraging conversations over food. Our group luckily got to eat Korean Chicken and of course Korean beer to pair with it.
After the food, the Korean mentors brought the groups to Barfly to encourage further mingling and conversations over drinks and music and that was when the night formally ended.
Academic Life @ Yonsei Uni
So after the week of orientation activities were over, it was time for me to finally attend my Yonsei classes. I had enrolled in the intensive language course (Korean Language Intensive or KLI) offered at Yonsei as well as two other subjects which were Korean History and Film Analysis and Human Technology Interaction class.
Yonsei University boasts a massive large campus with multiple large architectural buildings and sights.
The university also offers facilities that I have never seen before, including multiple convenience stores on premises including in the basement floor of the school library offering all types of food from gimbap and ramen, multiple cafeterias specialising in different types of food such as spaghetti/pizza/korean traditional food, spacious solo study areas, a co-op store selling different types of Yonsei branded merchandise including toys and even a cafe on the rooftop.
Big Tip! I found exploring the campus prior to starting classes quite useful as this meant I knew approximately where my classes where, especially in a campus as big as Yonsei.
I found it also quite interesting to have a ‘campus’ as UTS’s facilities remind me more of solo individual buildings around the city and are not necessarily connected, so getting used to Yonsei’s layout was quite fascinating to me.
I also found that my classes felt quite different to my classes back at UTS. I only had classes/tutorials and no specific separate ‘lectures’ for my classes. However, with the non-language courses, the three hour classes had included sessions where the professor would present the ideas and make points like in a lecture, some of which even took two hours or more of the class.
I also found that , while there was still group work activities, there was not a huge stress on this in the classes, and most of the work required to be completed were individual. Also, depending on the class popularity, the class sizes could be massive, some tutorials even having more than 50 students when tutorials back at UTS would be capped at around 30. I also felt that there was not as much opportunity to be friends with the students around me as during class the opportunities to have discussions within groups was not a regular class activity.
However, with my Korean intensive language classes, as the classes would be capped to around 15 of us and we had class with each other everyday for two hours, I was able to get familiar with the rest of the students in the class. I felt that this allowed me to get a good sense of the personalities in the classroom and as all of the students were exchange or foreign students, it was a great networking space too.
Overall, it was clearly evident that there were plenty of differences between Yonsei and UTS, especially in the teaching styles. However, at the end of the day, both have their distinct styles and I am here in Korea to develop and learn.
Yonsei still feels like a great place to explore my potential opportunities, and I am ecstatic and grateful to be here! Looking forward to the rest of my time here!
Bachelor of Information Technology
Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient.
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au