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Tianna Yik

she/ her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business › Marketing
Study Abroad › Exchange

Experience Faculty
During my time there I was able to gain independence, learn a new language, experience a different culture, learn in a new environment with different perspectives, and make friends I will have for a lifetime.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

Preparing for the exchange was somewhat challenging since I didn’t know what to experience as I had never lived outside of Vancouver or been to Korea before, so I was unsure of what to expect. I did most of my research by watching youtube videos of other students who also went to Korea on exchange. I also joined group chats with other exchange students going during the same term so I could see if other people had the information I needed. It was a great way to meet new people as well and plan meetups once we arrived. I also watched some Korean language lessons so I knew the basics before going to Korea.

Previous Experience

I had no previous experience of a school exchange or even traveling to Korea before this trip. Everything was very new heading into the term and I didn't know what to expect at all. I also had never travelled by myself before so I had a lot of nerves going into this. I am fortunate that I have traveled a lot in the past so I was confident that I would be able to do this independently. However, I was worried about the technical aspect such as the papers necessary, how to set up a new bank account, and residence cards. Therefore, I did my best to research long before the trip.

Location Research

The first thing I researched before going to Seoul was things I could do there, good places to eat, and places to shop. I searched what the weather would be like in the months I was there to ensure I was packing the right clothes. I also searched about the culture there, what to do and what not to do. However, when it comes to research before going to Korea, the most important information to look up is how to obtain a residency card and what to do once you’ve received it. It was a very stressful process when you’re in Korea so it is important to know before you leave.

Financial Preparation

For the financial preparations, I wasn’t sure how much to bring. I didn’t know if I should be using my credit card there and how much cash to bring. After doing some research on Sungkyunkwan University I found out they have a special program for their exchange students where they can open a bank account without a residence card at the Woori Bank on Campus. This was a great option because sometimes foreign cards don’t get accepted and online shopping in Korea prefers local bank cards. So with this knowledge, I gave myself a budget of $1000 a month in cash that I deposited into the Bank. I had some cash on hand as well since there are certain places that only take cash. I did keep my credit card for emergency funding.


During my exchange, I packed quite heavy that included a lot of clothes, but I found it wasn’t necessary. I recommend only packing basic when it comes to clothes as Seoul has a lot of shopping so your bag will fill up fast. As I went in the spring semester I brought a puffer jacket and a couple of sweaters, however by April the temperature was already really warm so I don’t believe it is necessary to bring a lot of long sleeves. Though in February and March, it would be nice to have some thermal shirts. Everything else I brought was skincare, other hygiene products, electronics, and charging adaptors. Everything else I bought in Korea to save space.

Travel and Transportation

As for my flight to Korea, I took Air Canada and arrived at Incheon Airport in the afternoon. The hardest transit you will have to go through is from the airport to your accommodation. I ended up using a taxi to get to the dorms which cost me around $100,000 won. Other than that first trip from the airport, the most accessible form of transportation is by bus and subway. To ride public transportation you will need a Tmoney card, which can only be reloaded with cash. However, I find taxis there are on the cheaper side as well. You can get everywhere, and the direction can be easily found on NAVER Maps. If you plan on traveling around South Korea the KTX train is a great option but beware that the train leaves right on time and will leave you behind if you’re late.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

From my experience here are some tips I gathered for future students. As I mentioned, I brought roughly $ 1000 CAD per month which looking back I felt was enough. However, expect there might be lots of pricier experiences you will want to do such as visiting Busan or Jeju Island while you’re there, which is something I did do. As for packing, I highly suggest packing light. Just bring the essentials such as basic clothes, skin care, oral care, and sanitary items. Many other home essentials can easily be found cheap at Daiso and easily disposed of later. As for transportation from the airport, the best way to get your living space is through Taxi or airport express bus. Taxis in Korea are generally cheaper, but from the airport, it is more expensive. I do recommend airport express buses as it is more affordable, and they stop at most of the busy areas and the stops are close to where you are staying. Also note that for transit such as subways and buses, they only take transit cards, which can only be filled up with cash.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I arrived in Korea around 5 days before school started. In those days I explored the area around my campus and bought all the necessary room supplies at Daiso. Before classes officially started there was an orientation day that all exchange students were invited to and must RSVP through google forms. There was also a dinner that cost $20,000 won but it was only for the first 150 people. At the orientation, they had performances and speeches from the student council. They talked about school life, how to get your residence card and the buddy program that is offered. The buddy group involved hanging out with a domestic student and going on field trips with them. After the presentation, they take you around campus and teach you the history of the school. The lectures were slightly different than what I usually experience at SFU. 

Accommodation and Living

For accommodation, I decided to stay at the dorms Sungkyunkwan provides. The price was $1,700 USD for the full semester. Unfortunately, you aren’t able to pick the dorm you stayed at or roommate but luckily I was put in the dorm that was closest to campus and my roommate ended up being another SFU student. I believe it was a good accommodation option as you have your own bathroom and communal space and kitchen, however not all of their dorms offer that. There are also some rules you must obey, or you get penalties such as being home by 1 am on a school day.

Day to Day

Outside of classes, there was so much to explore in Seoul. One of my favorites was to go café hopping as Seoul has so many amazing cafes to visit. I also loved all the photo booth stalls they had. I almost took one photo a day, it’s like a small souvenir to remind you of your outings with your friends and it's pretty cheap. My favorite area to visit was Seongsu because it is a hip area that has many popup stores where you can play games and they give out free things. I even took dance classes at One Million Studio which is a world-famous dance studio and it was a wonderful experience. Everyone was so supportive in the class and judgment-free. Seoul also has many shopping areas, you can find cheap and avant-garde clothes. There are also a lot of skincare and makeup stores such as Olive Young and Amore Pacific where I bought a lot of products. There are also experiences that I did that can only be done in Korea like renting a Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, and walking around the palace. I went with a couple of friends and we had a great time looking around the palace and taking photos. I was also able to go to a kpop concert of one of my favourite groups NCT Dream. Since they don’t go to Canada often, I was ecstatic to find out they were on tour and performing while I was in Korea.

Learning and Adaptation

Adapting to school life in Korea wasn't difficult. One thing I was surprised about was that they still have quite a few online classes, where 2 out of 4 of my classes were online. The classes are also much smaller, with only roughly 30 people in each class rather than huge lecture halls it is a more intimate style of teaching. Participation and attendance are also at least 10% of the grade in each class and if you miss more than 7 classes you are kicked out. Grading and assignment wise it is similar to how it is at SFU, with midterms, finals, papers, and group projects.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Overall, this trip has helped me crawl out of my shell and be less shy. Going there knowing only one other person, I had to be more extroverted to meet new people and I did make many new lifelong friends from around the world. I was even able to become friends with people who didn’t speak English. The hardest part for me was roaming around in a country where I didn’t know the language. It was scary at first because I was too scared to communicate, but I was able to learn some phrases and speak up in restaurants and shops.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

In Korea, there are some cultural and environmental differences from the ones we are used to in Canada. The biggest environmental difference was that the air is much smokier than in Vancouver.  The weather is hotter but also more humid in the summer yet still very cold in the winter. A cultural difference I noticed was that on the subway nobody sits in the pregnant and elderly seats no matter what, even if the bus isn’t full they won’t. There is also a big smoking population, so don’t be surprised if you see a big group of people smoking on the streets.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

There are many social and extracurricular activities in Korea and specifically at Sungkyunkwan University. First of all at Sungkyunkwan University, exchange students are able to join any club they want such as dance, calligraphy, and music. They have clubs day so you are able to see what they offer. They even have a club where domestic students and exchange students partner up so domestic students can better their English. The school also has festivals including a school festivals where I got to see famous Korean celebrities performed for the school. It was truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Schools’ dancers and singers performed as well as ITZY, and PSY. Everyone had so much school spirit and was dancing around. Outside of school there is also many things you can do. One of my favourites was going to karaoke and going on hikes.

Wrap Up

Nearing the end of my time in Korea I felt like there was so much going on. I had to focus on studying for finals, start packing, and finish up everything else on my Korea bucket list. One thing I regret is putting things off until the very end because it was overwhelming. Especially because my luggage was overweight, and I was trying to give extra things to other people. In the end, there were things I didn’t end up doing because I didn’t have time and I was too tired to do. Everything felt so fast-paced once you hit the last 3 weeks. The hardest part was saying goodbye to all the friends I made along the way since it will be hard to see them. It was a bittersweet ending to the trip but, I did feel ready to go home after 4 months of excitement.

Reflection & Tips

There were many ups and downs during my exchange. Especially in the beginning, I didn’t know what to do and it was making me really anxious but everything ended up working out. Even with all that stress I still had an amazing time in Seoul and I really fell in love with the city. I’m happy with what I was able to accomplish there in terms of meeting people, places to go, and things to eat. What made this experience the best was finding friends that went along with me during the whole journey. Having these shared experiences helped us grow closer and kept us stable during our time there.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Overall, I feel that my exchange helped me learn a lot about being on my own and how to explore new territories without relying heavily on other people. There were so many experiences that I had never done such as living on my own, booking flight tickets and hotel rooms. It was difficult from the start, dealing with residence cards and other payments was very difficult and it was a struggle, however, I was able to overcome it with the help of other students who were dealing with the same issues. You aren't alone in this exchange there are so many people to help you and what I've learned is that we shouldn't be afraid to ask for help especially from our peers because you're all in this together. I would love to go on another exchange because I had an amazing experience. It is something I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

As a business student studying marketing, the lectures provided a different perspective on global business which helps me develop a broader appreciation and understanding of different cultures and ways of life. There are also people from so many different countries in my classes so we would bounce different ideas and perspectives, and sometimes they would be completely different ways of thinking from me.  These as well as the life experiences helped me gain a stronger foundation for the rest of my time at SFU and onwards when I begin joining the workforce. I would love to world globally in the future and I believe that this is a great first step into what it would be like.

Advice for Future Students

Some advice I have for future students is when booking your trip to Korea give yourself some extra days before school to adjust and get settled. Do the things you want to do early before school gets in the way. Don’t leave things to the last minute or at least give yourself some days after the exchange to explore rather than leaveing right away. Specifically for the spring semester, go to the touristy areas at the beginning as it isn’t busy season, because once it hits April it becomes really busy. Finally, do a lot of research before coming to Korea and learn some of the language. Although you can get by without Korean, it will be more helpful if you knew simple phrases or knew how to read some signs as most signs have no English on them.