Annyeong haseyo from Seoul!
To whom it may concern:
After having spent a bit more than a month in Seoul, I feel like I can already share some experiences with you. But before I start telling you about my experience so far, I should probably answer the question I get the most: Why did you choose South Korea? My answer to that is quite simple. The Far East Asian culture has always been something I was very interested in. At the beginning, I was planning to spend my exchange semester in China and I even started learning Chinese for that. Unfortunately, it turned out to be very difficult to go there as a free mover. So I searched through the partner universities of the Europa-Universität Flensburg and I came across EWHA Womans University in Seoul. I did not know a lot about South Korea at that point, but I knew that I would love to change that. And what a better way to do so than to spend almost 6 months living and studying in the capital? Fast forward 9 months, I am now in Seoul and it seems like I was right. Whether it is the importance of people’s age, the fact that you probably won’t ever find a "fourth floor" (the number 4 is considered unlucky, and is associated with death), or the fact that in Korea, babies are considered one year old at birth. Not many days go by that I do not learn something new about Korean culture.
Speaking of learning, the university in Korea is very different from what I am used to in Flensburg. All of my courses are English-taught and at graduate level. The semester started at the beginning of September and it will end right before Christmas. Within the semester, there are two exam periods: one for midterms towards the end of October and another one for the finals in December. In addition to those exams, there are weekly tests, presentations, a lot of assignments and readings. While the workload is much higher than in Germany, the learning material is easier to understand, and the classes are overall less demanding (in terms of critical thinking, discussions and so on). As for the campus-life, there are also many differences to German campuses. The EWHA campus is huge and you can find everything in here. There are numerous restaurants, convenience stores, gyms, libraries and even a cinema. It is designed in a way that students do not necessarily have to leave campus for leisure activities. However, I still prefer leaving campus whenever I have time to do so to explore Seoul and the endless activities it offers. It is worth it and I remember feeling so accomplished when I was finally able to read and understand the Seoul Metro Plan.
Another question I get asked a lot is about the language. As I have mentioned before, all of my classes are English-taught, so you do not need Korean at university. I also decided not to take a Korean language course, but I am enrolled in a language exchange programme instead. Moreover, I was lucky enough to make quite a few Korean friends who are helping me with learning the language. I do not expect myself to be fluent in Korean after one semester in Seoul, but I am already noticing progress in speaking.
Before starting my exchange semester in Seoul, I was a little bit worried about how it would feel to be so far away from home, asking myself how long it would take me to adapt to the new culture and language. To my surprise, something about this country, or this city in particular, made the whole process of adaption so easy that I instantly felt at home while being over 8000 kilometers away from my actual home. That being said, I can only encourage everyone who is currently thinking about where to spend their exchange semester not to fear distance or the unknown. It is such a great opportunity, so just go for it :).