If you're interested in studying abroad in South Korea, definitely go for it! It's a unique fusion of modern and historical architecture that comes together whenever you walk around the city. The food is amaaaaaazing and there are so many awesome things to list, but I wanted to describe how life has been for me during the first phase of my study abroad living in Seoul and attending Ewha Woman's University.
I was told by another student who studied abroad that if you had visited the country you were studying abroad before, then it was pretty unlikely you would feel homesickness. She was right for the most part. I only felt homesick on the plane ride going to Seoul because I was questioning whether this was the right decision for me. The thoughts of, "It's too late to go back, did I make a mistake?" Or, "Living in Seoul is going to be different from just visiting, will I adjust well?" All of these doubts and hesitations made me worried during the 9-hour flight over.
But as soon as I saw we were landing, I knew I had made one of the best decisions of my life. Landing in South Korea symbolized my freedom--the first time I would ever live on my own, live in a dorm, live with a roommate, live in another country for college.
That was the extent of my homesickness, and it will be different for everyone. Some people, myself included, felt more of a culture sickness, if anything. Not necessarily a culture shock, but missing aspects of our home culture as we first adjusted to living in South Korea. Koreans are much more reserved and tend to keep to themselves in comparison to foreigners such as Americans or Europeans who are much more open and show more energy in their mannerisms.
I arrived in Seoul a little over a week before school started, so I moved into the dorms and quickly became friends with my awesome roommate, Anne-Laure, and other international students living in my building. So what did we do during that week? Explore and eat.
King Sejong Statue
(My awesome roommate and our friend Kyle)
One of the things I highly recommend students to experience is to wear a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is free entrance into the Palace for those who wear hanboks. Many shops nearby offer affordable rentals. I brought the one I owned and we visited the palace grounds on a SUPER HOT day. I do NOTadvise you to do this during hot/humid weather, Fall may be a good time to do this since it will be cooler and you can see the foliage.
Some of the things my friends and I saw while we were hiking up a hill to see the Ewha Mural Village, which is perfect during sunset time because the lighting offers a very peaceful aesthetic.
While it's so easy to have ALOT of fun in Seoul, I also came to study at Ewha Woman's University. The most bizarre part of university in South Korea is registering for classes, and it is extremely stressful. Here's why:
All exchange/international students register for their classes on ONE day, and that day only essentially. The time begins at 9am and finishes at 5pm. Students must have arranged their schedules and classes beforehand so they know which ones to automatically register for. On that day, students were awake at around 8am, prepared to register. It was crazy. Some classes will only accept a few exchange students (ex. I had a class where only 3 exchange students were accepted out of a 60 person lecture class). If you are unlucky in registering for a class on that day, there is another period where you could register in case someone drops the course, etc. If that also doesn't work, you can also email the professor to request that you be added to the class.
Overall, registering for classes at Ewha was very stressful and time-consuming when you needed to figure out a different class to take that would fit your schedule.
One thing that might be really appealing for students interested in Ewha is that it is HIGHLY LIKELY that you will lose weight. The campus itself is built on rolling hills and it is a hike to get from the dorms to classrooms or from class to class. It takes awhile to get used to walking/running up the hills between classes (it took me longer than a month). Also, South Korea has some hills as you stroll through the city so you're getting a great workout while you're exploring!
Classes are mostly lecture-style, which is something new for me since I'm accustomed to small-size classes with more emphasis on discussions. Since these classes are fairly big (60-100 people sometimes), the exams are the biggest part of your grade (midterm and final exam). I prefer to do projects, rather than measuring your understanding through a test. The courses are much more relaxed in comparison to the work load at HPU, however, this means you need to be very responsible about your time management.
During my time at Ewha, there is only one class out of five that I have made Korean friends. There's a couple of reasons for this: 1) this is the only class I have based solely on discussion, so we must interact and discuss with each other, 2) the lecture style doesn't allow for international and Korean students to take advantage of verbal interactions 3) as mentioned earlier, Koreans are much more reserved than foreigners. I also think there is some intimidation about their English skills when speaking with a foreigner, so there's also a language barrier.
I hope you find this helpful if you're studying abroad in South Korea! :)