Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 21/09/2021Back to Blog
Stepping of the plane to arrive at Seoul Korea, I was immediately greeted with the humid heat and blazing sun. This was a clear indication of a fun and exciting summer to follow. A summer full of good food, endless activities, popular events and most importantly meeting a great community of people to create the most fulfilling and memorable experience; all because I decided to take a leap of faith.
Prior to making this big decision I found myself seeking advice about life abroad to get a micro picture of what was to come. I already eagerly invested my time into learning about the culture, the language and way of life which was another factor determining my choice to partake in a study-abroad programme, but I always knew I wanted to live and experience another part of the world (wherever it was) and the opportunity felt right at the time.
Nothing could prepare me for the adventure I experienced. As well as being such an enjoyable trip it was also a steep learning curve. Travelling abroad, sorting documents and all that jazz allowed me to become more independent and force myself to do things I never would have considered. Furthermore, having never moved out prior to this trip, this experience would also be my first chance to get a feel for how to fend for myself for the first time. In order to afford the trip, I worked several jobs beforehand in order to save up, as well as utilised the bursary scheme my university had. Furthermore, I also got some financial help from my parents. I really advice anyone to save up as much as you can as at the end of the trip, I was still well into my overdraft!
Studying in Seoul was refreshing. A new environment partnered with supportive professionals at hand to help me in my journey individually as well as reaching targets as a whole class. Being consistent and pro-active in my learning was a major expectation, forcing me to get the most out of my experience and out of my comfort zone. Classes were fun and engaging so I never felt like it was a chore.
I studied Korean at an advanced level having already gained some command of the language previously, as well as Korean traditional dance at Ehwa Women’s University. I really enjoyed the Korean language class as I got to meet some cool people, as well as learn new Korean grammar points that I could use outside of class being in Seoul! We had both a female and male teacher in order to hear the language from the perspective of both the genders. Although it may have been stressful having more intense homework compared to my friends in the beginner classes, and having to manage this workload with other tourist and city exploring activities, I’m thankful that it reinforced what we had learnt. Working with passionate students alike meant interacting as much as possible and being keen to use what was learnt and applying that to my daily life as a student abroad. This also meant much more friendships and communication everywhere I went. My favourite class by far was Korean traditional dance. Every afternoon we would start by intense stretching (I don’t think I’ve stretched to that extreme since then) and then we would learn traditional Korean dance moves. This would eventually lead to whole choreography including Korean feather fans which we performed at the farewell ceremony in traditional Korean Hanbok. The performance in the end went really well and I was really happy I stepped out of my comfort zone in choosing this class. My favourite part was that it was a lot more relaxed compared to the intensity of Korean class allowing me to manage my workload better.
Ehwa has such a beautiful, picture-esque campus with lots of history, I really enjoyed touring the campus and taking in the wonderful scenes. The campus also had a convenience store, book store, various study spaces and even a campus bank plus more allowing you to fully embrace the Korean student life.
The greatest piece of my enjoyment came from the vast amount of entertainment and fun things there was to do in Seoul (and Busan which I later travelled to with a group of my friends). From restaurants, bars, clubs, karaoke, shopping, concerts and much more. The feeling was surreal and overwhelming. Everything I had seen on my tv and laptop screen in real life! My most favourite part of the trip was the food! As the accommodation I stayed in lacked a kitchen, I had to eat out everyday. Although that meant a lot of money spent on food, Seoul definitely caters to all budgets. Some meals cost me less than 10 pounds for a skull stomach. Eating out as a group is a huge part of Korean culture which also makes eating out less expensive. I also enjoyed stocking up on skin care and cosmetics, and took full advantage of the many store offers and discounts that summer. My bank account was definitely something that was suffering at the end of the process so next time I know I need to budget better.
I recommend learning a bit of the native language you go to as it makes a huge impact on being able to interact with locals and make the most of the experience. Communicating with locals was one highlight of my experience as me and my group of friends I went with was showered with numerous compliments and had multiple moments of being able to have funny conversations with Ajussis and Ajummas. Most people may understand English, and may even wish to practice with you, but a lot of locals may be to shy or unwilling to speak English hence why I recommend learning some few basics. Being able to read Hangul will also be a potential life saver for an exchange trip in Korea.
I studied a bit about Korea before going, thus I knew a fair bit about the culture, language and the people. However, the biggest culture shock was definitely seeing how serious education is in Korea. I was used to attending class on my own accord in London, but in Korea attendance is mandatory. I was also pleasantly surprised as to how Seoul is practically open all night long! My first weekend in Seoul, I was shocked to see people still on their night out on Sunday morning. In this magical city, you can eat and enjoy a night out with your friends for as long as you want.
Going abroad has raised my levels of confidence and made it much more better for me to make important decisions for my life. There is so much to learn about the world, people to meet and things to experience so I try to take on any new opportunity given to me. I have no regrets taking that flight together, and I came out the other end a new person, with lifelong friends and a lifetime of memories. It was so great I could Potentially, in the future, move to another country and start out my life.
Credit – Olakemi Komolafe