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S. Y.

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › English

Experience Faculty
A semester studying abroad taught me taking classes did not just mean learning the course material – each class showed me the country’s culture hiding beneath their content.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Financial Preparation

I made sure to save plenty of money at least a semester or two in advance by working. However, I also applied for bursaries and to the Suite of Study Abroad Awards which helped pay for at least half of my flight tickets. In addition, the budget planning worksheet helped to show where I would be spending most of my expenses during the exchange, allowing me to have a clear idea of what parts of my needs I needed to keep financial track of. It is incredibly important to have a part of your money saved for unexpected issues and emergencies as it was a common occurrence for computers to break abroad amongst exchange students.


As I would be studying during the months of March to June, I made sure to pack lighter clothes suited for spring and summer. However, the weather in Korea was more volatile than I had expected in that it switched quickly from sunny to rainy from early morning to afternoon. Other than weather suited clothing, I made sure to leave plenty of space for items I had bought during my exchange such as souvenirs and gifts for friends, family, and myself. Listing down everything I needed to pack in a memo was helpful as it allowed me to pack quickly and efficiently within only a couple of days.

Travel and Transportation

I took a direct flight from Vancouver YVR to Incheon ICN. Upon arrival, I was picked up by a family member living in Korea, however, there are taxis and shuttle buses that are easily accessible. Be aware that should you be taking a taxi, there are different prices depending on which taxi you take, and there is also an international taxi to facilitate your travel to the host university dorms.

Within Seoul, the primary method of transportation is transit (buses and underground subways). There are several subway lines which can be confusing at first, but the Naver Map or Kakao Map app will help show you how to arrive at your destination. When taking transit, be aware there will be a large crowd of people at the times people go to work and finish work. Thus do not be surprised if you find yourself squished amongst other people’s bodies in the subway trams at those times.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Attending the pre-departure orientation is recommended as you are able to meet other students going to the same destination or school. Furthermore, make sure you obtain all the necessary documents to apply for your student visa as they may be delayed at the time you are applying.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Orientation is mandatory as they share information about Korea’s mandatory health care, campus protocols, and emergency procedures. A campus tour is also led by KUBA (exchange student helpers), and each KUBA group has an after party when the orientation ends for you to get to know other exchange students within your group and meet your KUBA buddy.

Accommodation and Living

During my exchange, I was lucky to be able to stay with family living in Korea. Their place had accessible transit nearby, but it was quite far from Korea University as it took me on average an hour to arrive to school. There are dorms available that you can apply for as well, and

I believe exchange students are guaranteed a room should they apply by the deadline. For more inexpensive accommodations, there are Airbnbs and goshiwons (small rental rooms). It is highly recommended to get a place near a subway station to facilitate transiting to school.

Learning and Adaptation

The format of classes is mostly structured as a lecture where the professor uses slides or the white board to deliver the course content and prefers to open for questions at the end of class. Some professors do take questions in the middle of their lecture, but I have only seen this with professors teaching class in English instead of Korean. All classes are also very fixed towards their syllabus, thus you can expect to see little to no change in what is already covered in the syllabus unless the professor notes a change during their syllabus reading in their first class. As for class size, this is similar to SFU in that size decreases as the course level increases.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Some early challenges during the exchange period were enrolling for classes. Korea University had a quite complex system, splitting the days and times for when you can add courses into your cart, enroll in those courses, and make changes by adding or dropping courses. I suggest you read the instructions for how to enroll in courses carefully and take note of the dates.

An accomplishment during my exchange was increasing my interpersonal skills by going outside of my comfort zone and meeting up with new people. While the KUBA group gave me multiple opportunities to meet new people, I also initiated social activities by joining a club and easily started conversations with newly made friends.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

As aforementioned, the KUBA group presented me with many opportunities to socialize with other exchange students and the KUBA buddies. Each week, excluding the weeks with midterms and finals, there was a KUBA gathering for lunch, dinner, and other events. Though these gatherings were fun and easy join, there was lots of drinking involved in the dinner. Hence, if you are not a fan of drinking like I am, I would suggest to join mainly the lunches. For the KUBA events, I highly recommend you join these as it is a good chance to be exposed to and experience Korean life. Some events for reference were trips to the amusement park, a sports festival, and a picnic. Other than the KUBA gatherings, there are plenty of opportunities to socialize as Korea University has many clubs exchange students can join as well.

Reflection & Tips

A semester studying abroad in Korea was a great opportunity to not only learn about Korea and its culture, but also gain new connections with the people there including my family, the KUBA buddies and fellow exchange students, as well as the Korean students I met outside of KUBA. Moreover, being Korean myself, I feel like my experience studying in Korea helped me learn more about myself and my identity, building up a sense of pride in being Korean. In essence, my exchange semester was a truly eye-opening experience that I am sure will help me further my career, academically and socially.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The most valuable experience I gained during my exchange semester was learning about the Korean school culture and being able to experience it first-hand. Studying at Korea University fully immersed me into the Korean education system that I was interested in learning about, and while I attended classes there, I experienced how and in what environment Korean students learned. My experience there allowed me to better understand Korean students and other ESL students who were having difficulty adjusting to Western-style learning during my secondary school years. I am hoping such experience will help me be more open to and better apply methods for teaching international students in the future.

Advice for Future Students

If you have ever thought about studying abroad, but hesitated, I suggest you take the leap and apply for an opportunity to do an exchange. Preparing for an exchange is hefty work, but I assure you that it is worth the effort as it gives you invaluable experience that you can relate to personal, academic, and social growth.

For those already thinking of study abroad, make sure to do your research and prepare thoroughly. I believe studying abroad was enjoyable and worthwhile only because I had chosen a destination that I was interested in going to and learning about. Of course, going outside of BC itself can be fun, but going somewhere with a clear interest and purpose will offer you greater merit in the experience you gain.