Last semester I studied at Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea as part of my undergraduate degree. The exchange was so exciting, but there are definitely things I wish I had done differently (or things I would recommend) during the process. So here are my top five tips for studying abroad!
1. Learn some Korean before you go!
I took some Korean classes at my home institution the year before going, and found them so useful for getting around. My recommended areas of focus would be learning the alphabet, numbers, greetings, directions and how to order food. Trust me, phrases such as “excuse me, where is the toilet?” are bound to come in handy! While locals won’t expect you to speak perfect Korean, you can’t expect them to be able to converse in English. Plus, it’s great fun to try things the Korean way!
2. Buy a one-way ticket
Seoul National University won’t let students apply for summer accommodation until a month before the term ends, so having a ticket with no exact return commitment allows for ultimate flexibility. I made the mistake of booking the wrong return date and actually had to change my flight; if I had purchased a one-way flight in the first place, I would have saved some money and be able to hang out a little longer with my friends.
3. Take courses that aren’t related to your subject
So this one is probably only possible if your university is flexibile with their course requirements; so please check first! I was lucky enough to be able to take anything I fancied, so I signed up for Korean Culture and Language (literally the most fun I’ve ever had in a seminar, ever, every week) and Global Marketing and Finance, which I had hoped would inspire some thoughts towards my dissertation project. It was so fantastic to try out things I otherwise will never have the opportunity of learning about in a classroom setting; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to add dimenstion to your education.
4. Pack home comforts
Oh man, I didn’t know I used so much deodorant in three months until I ran out half way through and had to bed my mum to send me some through the mail. I am not picky about many things, but I am a religious user of a certain brand of deodorant. Take the things you can’t live without, and take some back up. Trust me, you don’t want to have to use a knife to dig out the rest of your roll-on and spread it across your pits. I promise.
5. Prepare to have a roommate
Seoul National University students who live on campus all have a room mate; and chances are, they will be a Korean student. The workload for their courses is so incredibly intense, the thought of it makes me want to cry a little; eight modules per semester, with one being in a foreign language! Keep relations sweet from the start by bringing a small gift from your home country; cookies, stationary and postcards are all great options. Don’t forget your headphones so that you can listen to music without disturbing your neighbour. If you’re a light sleeper, some ear plugs and an eye mask won’t go amiss either – many students have to study until late into the night. So if you’re fortunate enough not to be in the same position, try to make it easier for them. It’s all about keeping the door of communication open and making life as comfortable as possible for each other.
Are there any other study abroad topics that you want to hear about? Let us know in the comments below!