"It was one of the most interesting, intense and incredible months of my life." Julia Lee is about an unusual exchange study experience at Chunan University in South Korea
Julia Lee, a third-year student of the bachelor's program "Business Informatics", spent four months at one of the best universities in South Korea, leading its history since 1918, at the private Chunan University. The Seoul campus provided Julia with the opportunity to explore the atmospheric city and get an unforgettable experience.
In the first semester of the academic year 2022-2023, I took part in an international academic mobility programme and spent an amazing four months at the Seoul campus of Chung-Ang University, South Korea. Although my departure was accompanied by some difficulties, which I will describe further on, the experience, new acquaintances and unforgettable emotions were definitely worth it.
So why did I choose this university? One of the main reasons was that the courses at Chung-Ang University suited my educational programme at the HSE Graduate School of Business. Moreover, I had dreamt to visit South Korea and to live for some time in Seoul for a long time. I was very glad that such an opportunity happened. Finally, South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world, so the prospect of living in a completely foreign country was not so frightening.
When I’d received confirmation of enrolment in the mobility programme, a long process of collecting documents began. First, a set of documents had to be obtained from the host university and a TB certificate. The students had to obtain a D2 visa. Chung-Ang University had sent the set of documents quite late, at the end of July, so it was almost impossible to get an appointment at the embassy to apply for the visa! I advise trying to make an appointment at the embassy as early as possible. It only opens twice a month, and there are a huge number of applicants! Because of the excitement on the website, mistakes occur in the process of making an appointment, you have to wait for a long time for the information to be updated, and there is no guarantee that you have successfully made an appointment. Collecting all the necessary documents also takes a huge amount of time and effort.
Before you leave, try to gather as much information about the country in general and about your university in particular as possible. Find out what the weather will be like during your stay, the specialties of cuisine, the rules of etiquette, read about the payment system, banks of the country and the transport system. For example, hardly anyone speaks English in South Korea. In the underground and other public places, information is duplicated in English, but you still need an interpreter App. Another peculiarity is the local cuisine. Korean food is very special: for many people, it may seem excessively spicy and sweet.
Finding accommodation in Seoul is not easy for students either. Renting a flat for a long period of time can be very expensive. Luckily, Chung-Ang University provides a dormitory for its students, but the number of places is limited. Accommodation for one semester cost 1,200,000 won, which is considerably cheaper than alternative accommodation options, so there was plenty of interest. The dormitory had rooms for two and four people, with each room having its own bathroom and one shared kitchen on the floor. There were also separate laundry rooms for girls and boys.
There are two canteens in the dormitory building where students are served breakfast, lunch and dinner at certain times. The food is not bad and the price is affordable. There are convenience stores on the ground floor of the dormitory where you can also get something to eat. The only drawback for me personally was that students couldn't be out of the dormitory at night on weekdays. From one o'clock in the morning until five in the morning you cannot enter the dormitory. If you want to go somewhere for a few days, you have to fill in a special form beforehand. You also have to prepare some documents and certificates before you move in.
But despite all the difficulties and challenges, I can say with complete certainty that the invaluable experience of studying abroad is worth it! You get the chance to meet and talk to people from all over the world, completely immersed in a totally different culture, taste unusual food and really explore life in another country. Personally, the most rewarding part for me was meeting new people. It's amazing that even when you're thousands of kilometres away from home, you can meet really good friends talking to people from different countries and different cultures.
Sightseeing in South Korea deserves a separate mention. Seoul is a city where the possibilities and options for leisure time are endless. You can walk among the high-rise buildings on Gangnam-gu, take a bird's eye view of the world from Lotte World Tower, stroll through Gyeongbokgung Palace in hanboks, or enjoy desserts at the Onion Café. Afterwards, head out to explore other cities, like Busan or Suwon. Each city has plenty of options for outdoor activities and entertainment, as well as beautiful places to visit.
I can say that these were some of the most interesting, fulfilling and incredible months of my life. I would like to advise not to be afraid of anything and to believe in your abilities to everyone who is going to participate in the mobility program. The emotions and experiences you will get here are truly priceless.