As I mentioned in my first article (see it here), I am a Senior majoring in English Education with a minor in Linguistics. I’m taking four classes (12 credits) at Korea University as part of a transfer program called International Studies Abroad. I knew quite a bit about South Korea and Korean culture before deciding to study abroad here. However, you always learn the truth when you experience it all for yourself. Before even applying to school here I was told classes would be much more difficult than in the states –especially since KU is one of the top 3 universities in South Korea.
With this in mind, I decided to take 12 credits so that my workload would not be overbearing. I wanted the rigor of an ivy league, but I also wanted classes that would allow me some free time to explore the country. Yet compared to what others had told me about the classes being much more difficult than at USF, I find that the course load here at KU is very much similar to that at USF. I say this as a blanket statement though because I do believe it ultimately depends on your major and the classes you choose.
All of my professors are natively Korean and so are (most of) my classmates. This is because the classes I chose are not widely known or popular. KU is catered more toward business majors so my Education and Linguistics background offered a small number of classes to choose from. This also means that my class sizes are relatively small; they do not exceed 40 students. Because of this, I also stand out as a native English speaker. So much so, that most of my professors tend to call on me and the other exchange students more than any other students especially when wanting to discuss pronunciation, culture, and/or politics.
Now, this is not a bad thing in my opinion. I don’t consider them singling us out, but rather trying to include different perspectives in the class. It’s easy to notice that there are other students who do find this burdensome or annoying though. As always, I think that keeping a positive and open perspective will help you realize that since South Korea is a relatively homogenous country, sharing your own experiences as an American can help your domestic peers break down stereotypes/unconscious biases they might have about Americans.
In terms of my schedule here, it’s fairly spacious and allows me enough room to enjoy my campus and the surrounding city. Monday and Wednesdays I have a class at 3:30 pm and then one directly after which ends at 6:15 pm. Tuesday and Thursdays I have a class in the morning and then I don’t have another class until 2:00 pm which quickly ends at 3:15 pm. After that, I only have one more language class from 5:00 pm to 6:15 pm. This gives me time to not only study but to eat lunch with friends, run some errands, and/or just explore the city. I purposely built my schedule this way so I could take advantage of my time spent here. Korea University has a buddy program called KUBA (similar to USF’s iBuddy Program) that meets every Tuesday for lunch and every Thursday for dinner so I have time for these meetups every week. The most important benefit of an open schedule like this is that I’m not exhausted when I’m done with classes. I’ve met too many people who are too tired after classes so they miss out on a lot of school events and invitations from peers. This can honestly make or break your experiences abroad. If you don’t get the full experience of the student life during your study abroad, you might associate your academic stress with negative memories towards the country.
Above anything else, the best advice I can give you is to treat your classes as seriously as you would at USF. If you fail or get a low grade in a class it does show up on your transcript and it will affect your GPA. Sometimes the classroom culture in Korea might differ from what you’re used to and that’s fine, it’s all part of the study abroad experience. However, if you see that you are struggling to understand something, meet with your professor right away and get it straightened out as soon as possible. Talk to other students in the class and set up study groups –these are extremely common in Korea and they help out a lot when it comes to taking finals. Don’t be afraid to talk to the domestic students too, if you only hang out with other international students, you’re going to limit yourself from meeting some amazing people and from learning about a perspective different than your own.
As always, feel free to comment down below with any questions, thoughts, or additions. Safe travels~