This is my first post for Yonsei University, in Seoul, South Korea.
I apologise for this coming really late on in the semester, my laptop had an issue and I couldn’t get it fixed until like almost a whole month later. Yeah… things have been hectic… not great.
The semester period for Yonsei works just like our semester in Auckland, only that there’s no mid-semester break (!), and lasts 16 weeks rather than the 12 we have (yeah, that means 2 weeks of break gone and 2 weeks extra for the semester).
So! Let’s start before I even entered Korea (it was a pretty long process getting here in the first place), so for all of you considering exchange, here is a quick checklist of things you must get out of the way!
- Degree planning
- This is to ensure that you won’t end up affecting your graduation timing and can find the courses suitable for credit transfer with!
- Research on the universities you are interested to do an exchange with
- This is important for credit transfer! I came on a late exchange in my final (3rd) year, so it was slightly trickier to get done and still graduate on time!
- Make sure you go to the 360 International Office to check on this as early as possible.
I landed in Incheon International Airport on a chilly Saturday morning, when the temperature was still hovering around 0deg Celsius! The winters in Korea go down to -15deg Celsius or more, and this being late winter meant that 0deg was a normal (or even warmer) temperature for the locals to be experiencing.
Not me though!
I flew to Seoul from Singapore, and the average temperature there is like, 28deg Celsius. For the whole year.
And so the journey began!
Not until after I scrambled to grab my layers of warm clothing and getting fascinated with the mist I got from my breath.
Incheon International Airport is located a good 40 minutes to 1 hour away from the city centre in Seoul, with transport options being by taxi, airport limousine, or rail. It’s been voted as one of the best airports in the world for quite a while now, and it’s honestly really modern looking:
My university campus is located in an area known as Sinchon (pronounced as shin-cho-own), well-known for being a popular space for the university youth in Seoul. This is largely attributed to the fact that besides Yonsei, two other universities (Ewha Women’s University and Sogang University) surround this area as well. As a result, Sinchon has become one of the hubs representing youth culture and can be found to be populated with young adults pretty much all day (and all-night even, even up to 4-5am in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays).
Even though I had known for a long time that Korea was the place I wanted to go to for exchange, the proximity of the campus to Sinchon was the main reason why I decided to go with Yonsei! The other two South Korean partner universities affiliated with UoA are Korea University and Seoul National University, and both are located a lot further away from, let’s say, an area where you can find a lot of things to do.
Incidentally, these three universities (Seoul National, Korea, Yonsei) with affiliations to Auckland are actually the top three universities in Korea. This is often referred to as SKY, with S from Seoul, K from Korea, and Y from Yonsei. In Korea, entering a SKY university has immense implications on one’s social status and future career prospects, … let’s just say this influence is a lot more powerful than most of us can possibly imagine. I’ll leave that to you to read up on if you’re curious about it.
As a result, high school education in Korea is typically extremely stressful, with only the very best of the best performing students (top 1%!!!) in the notorious “college entrance exams” (College Scholastic Ability Test) able to make it to the SKY universities. Yes there’s a strong sense of elitism here, but I found it important to let you know about this, because it is such a big concept over here, even if it’s almost unnoticeable to unsuspecting foreigners sometimes. It’s sometimes also hard to imagine that the students belonging to what appears to be a vibrant university culture went through … pretty … challenging days… just a few years prior.
Keeping this in mind, I came to Yonsei with some sort of expectations that the academic load could end up being much higher than what I had been used to before, with the students here also feeling the impacts of those stresses.
I moved into my dormitory, a single room, a place which I will call home for the next four months! It is conveniently located on campus, and is a pretty chill spot, away from the main buildings, and from the main roads. Walking around the campus for the first time, you could literally feel the sheer size of the campus – this was something that you just don’t really feel used to going to the City Campus in UoA all the time.
I can’t wait to see how this place transforms with the change of the seasons.
That’s all for now 🙂