Kristy Ng is a 4th year, Commerce (International) student who went to Korea University between August 2017 to Mid July 2018 for her one-year exchange.
Interviewed and Edited by Megan Chen
- How did you choose which exchange university to apply to?
Personally, it was a combination of what I liked and what I saw myself doing in the future. I knew Cantonese and Mandarin and I did Japanese in high school but I wasn’t great at that. I like Asia and I felt that I could learn Korean pretty easily. I wanted to challenge myself a bit but not be completely out of my element. That’s when I thought, “Let’s go to Korea!”.
Korea University International Building
- How is Korea University and UNSW different?
The biggest difference between UNSW and Korea University was that there were no tutorials, no homework and no readings. It was mostly a detailed lecture where you write down notes. They would explain each and every little thing, unlike UNSW where they go through content quickly. They didn’t have any big lecture halls. It was mostly smaller, conference-type lecture halls that fit around 70 people. And you have actual tables, unlike UNSW where the lecture tables are always bouncing around when you try to do a test or write on the small surface.
Lecture in Korea University – with actual tables! In Korea, you tend to live closer to your university so you have a lot more time to hang out with people. At UNSW, because everyone comes from different places and everyone lives far away it’s hard to coordinate meetings. In Korea, you’re at university four to five days a week whereas in Australia, you’re only there two to three times a week.
- Where did you live?
I lived outside of the university. In Korea there’s this thing called ‘goshiwons’ and they’re like dormitories. They’re run by external people and a lot of locals live there because its cheap. I paid around $600 AUD and that was the top end quality. I had my own bathroom, bedroom and a shared kitchen. They would have food provided such as rice, eggs and kimchi.
Korea University in autumn
- What orientation programs/events and buddy programs were available?
We had orientation week with campus tours, tutorials on how to apply, etc. You just had to attend the set week before the semester started. There was a buddy program for all exchange students. When you get accepted, the university will notify you of the buddy system. They contact you around a month or so before the exchange. You don’t need to actively search since you’re automatically placed into a buddy system. There’s a separate one for the business school as well.
- How did you balance social life and study life?
Drinking culture is huge. Every week, the buddy group would go out and drink. Usually there’d be dinner and then soju till 5-6AM, and then you’d go home in the morning. Soju is so cheap – not even $2 AUD a bottle.
Korean Drinking Culture
Most exchange students don’t have class on Friday meaning we often went out on Thursday night or Friday night for buddy activities. This meant it was okay to balance the workload and social life. In Korea University, the full time load is around 6-8 courses, unlike UNSW which was 4 (back when it was semesters). Even though we’re taking their classes, we’re taking half of what they normally take so it’s not that bad. The subjects are not as in-depth as UNSW and relatively easier. I took Advanced Korean which was the most challenging, Applied Corporate Finance which was similar to FINS1613 with a couple extra topics, International Business Finance, Korean and Chinese translation.
- Three things you wished you knew before going on exchangeFor Korea specifically:
1) Don’t use Google maps – use Kaokao maps. Even if you don’t know a lot of Korean, Kaokao apps is still pretty intuitive to understand. If you can master buses, you’re going to get to places a lot faster and easily.2) Buy your groceries from actual markets and not supermarkets because the supermarket is more expensive and not as fresh. Gyeongdong Markets is walking distance from university where I bought a week of groceries for $10-15 AUD.
3) Apply for an international license so you can drive around Korea. Korea is so beautiful! One of my friends got a car during her stay in Korea and drove around Jeju Island.
Links to some helpful resources!
To read more about universities in Korea, click here for Yonsei University!
Read about our recent exchange story to Copenhagen Business School here!