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Rain Kim

SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business
Co-operative Education

Program:
Location:
Experience Faculty
Being a first-generation Korean immigrant, the opportunity to go back to my homeland, immerse myself in the local lifestyle, and spend time with my relatives was highly insightful. The exchange term helped to enhance my understanding of South Korean culture and language while also adding a layer of global perspective to my education at SFU, fostering adaptability and enriching my academic journey.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation

Arriving in Seoul for my exchange program at Seoul National University was an exhilarating experience. The second I stepped out of Incheon International Airport in the hot, humid, and heavy weather I knew this would not be the family vacation that I usually came to Korea for. As I settled into my new surroundings, I couldn't help but feel a mix of excitement and anticipation for the adventures that awaited me.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

In terms of preparation, the packing process was tough as I had to consider 2 extreme seasons from September to December. Packing the essentials for both daily life and academic life helped streamline the process. It only took me a day or two to pack, ensuring I had suitable clothing for various seasons, travel documents, and personal items. SFU's pre-departure resources guided me on what to bring, facilitating a smooth transition to life in Seoul. Ensure you bring an extremely warm jacket for the winter months as the cold is much harsher and biting than Vancouver’s wet winter.

Arriving in Seoul involved well-planned flight arrangements, minimizing any potential delays. The learning curve with the subway system was steep initially, but with the help of countless subway apps and through practice, I quickly adapted to the public transportation system. Make sure to download KaKao Map and Taxi as you’ll be relying on those every day. If you don’t have a bank card, make sure to get a T-money card for transport as well.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

During my first month, I focused on familiarizing myself with the campus and getting to know my fellow exchange students. The first couple of weeks were undoubtedly difficult. Being alone in a foreign city where the public transportation system is larger than anything you’ve ever seen was bound to be tough, but as I settled in and began to meet an endless number of people, all of my worries faded. In terms of the first weeks of school, orientation at Seoul National University was a well-organized introduction to both academic and cultural aspects. The format included informative sessions, campus tours, and a large gathering with freebies such as water bottles.  Highlights included cultural immersion activities, language crash courses, and networking sessions every Thursday with snacks and coffee. This introduction helped in smoothing the initial transition more than I had initially thought. This is also where you will meet many of your new friends so it’s vital to attend. 

Day to Day

Exploring the city of Seoul was a top priority for me. I spent my weekends visiting iconic landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace, N Seoul Tower, and Bukchon Hanok Village. The rich history and vibrant culture of Seoul fascinated me at every turn. I also indulged in the amazing food as every step you take there are unique cafes, restaurants, and bars. Seoul's location in South Korea also allowed for easy exploration of the country. Weekend trips to historical sites, temples, and other cities- became a regular part of my experience. It is also extremely convenient to visit other countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and more for cheap prices. I took several weekend trips outside of the country, as the opportunity would cease to exist back in Vancouver. I would also highly recommend visiting Busan, Jeju Island, and other cities as they have very different environments, lifestyles, and overall vibes from Seoul. 

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Although I did not participate, several language clubs for foreigners on campus exist for those who wish to improve their Korean. Seoul’s cafe culture is also extremely vibrant and you will never run out of crazy cafes to visit with creative concepts as well as countless photobooths on every block. There are tons of activities to participate in within the campus and the city. You’ll never feel bored.

Wrap Up

Looking back on my time at Seoul National University, it's been a diverse mix of experiences, challenges, and lessons. Adapting to such a new city became a learning experience, broadening my understanding of not only educational systems, but of people, culture, and most importantly, myself. Forming connections during the exchange went beyond socializing; it was about building friendships that transcended nationalities and language barriers. Being on exchange with others who are in the same boat as I am, from late-night study sessions, convenience store runs, and mental breakdowns, was truly a unique experience.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

Although this was not my first time being in Seoul, it was my first time experiencing the city from the perspective of a Korean student. This opened up countless opportunities for me to immerse myself in the culture in a way I have never before, particularly the academic aspects. Even mundane activities such as taking the subway to school were experiences in of itself. I’ve only been here for a month but I’ve already learned so much and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester brings.

Advice for Future Students

Advice I would give future students is to firstly, don't freak out! Everything will sort itself out. Realistically, it would help to familiarize yourself with the local transportation system in advance and determine your mode of transportation from the airport to your living situation as it can be confusing off the bat. Learn some basic Korean words, most people can communicate in broken English but depending on where you are and what you need, it can help to at least learn hello or thank you. Also, learn about the culture as it is not only respectful to do so, but it will minimize culture shock and help you enjoy your term to the fullest.

Author

Rain Kim

SFU Student Undergraduate
Beedie School of Business
Co-operative Education
visibility  158
Oct 4, 2023