Would I do it again? Without any hesitation!

Jan S.

Study Period: 
Spring 2013
Academic Level: 

SmitmansA little more than one year ago I boarded the plane that would bring me to Incheon International Airport, close to Seoul in South Korea. It was hard for me to believe I was about to spend one year in a country I just barely knew from reading Wikipedia articles, listening to some korean music and trying to consume a little korean media.

After a stop-over in Dubai, I arrived in Seoul almost a month before the actual study period began. I stood at Incheon International Airport with three other students from Essen and we had no idea how to get to the university, where we would move into the student dormitory. More on that later.

The Dorms

After trying to explain the taxi driver what we were looking for, I was wondering even more: Was this a good idea? The taxi driver barely understood where we wanted to go and without the help of some locals we would probably still drive around in Seoul. We arrived at the campus around dusk. After some negotiation with the international office we could finally move into the dorm.

The building is on a steep hill and at first sight we noticed how big and new it was. It just opened a couple years ago. All facilities were new and the rules were just as strict. We knew that before, but still the question: Was this a good idea?

All I can say is: Yes it was. And what a great idea it was!

I can never imagine who I would be right now if I would have been afraid to travel from my safe job, the usual student life to another country, another life.

Social Life

As I said before, I was living Smitmans in the student dormitory at that time, which was not only convenient and cheap, but also a social center in the life as an exchange student at CAU. Almost all the exchange students lived there. Of course, there were strict rules, such as a curfew and rules towards alcohol use but the whole social component made up for that. You could always go outside the dorm, to the smoking area to meet other exchange students. Either for a quick snack, a cigarette or just a small chat. Friendships were built, that will last. Nothing brings people closer together than a good mix of education, events and living the day-to-day life of an exchange student in Korea.

The universities international office hosted a whole bunch of different events for exchange students, ranging from Baseball games to PSY concerts (Yes, the guy from Gangnam style). On the academic side, the university had a lot to offer, too. I had korean classes, which were quite helpful to get a foot into the door that is korean society. I had business classes, which taught some interesting facts, that I would probably never know. And I had a job. I worked in the so called “english lounge” in the library of the university. Korean students could come there, when they want to improve on their english skillset. The workhours were fun and you get to know a whole lot of people, especially Koreans.

There is an ambassador program made for foreign exchange students who come to Korea, which consists of Koreans who are advanced in English to help you out with basic administrative tasks as buying blankets, a phone or open a bank account. In some cases, they even take you to a doctor to get your twisted ankle in a casket for about a month after a Saturday night out in Gangnam…

The Metropolis of Seoul

SmitmansThe city of Seoul had a huge variety of activities, food, drinks, clubs and nightlife opportunities to offer, which will never let you sit at home on a Friday night, if you do not choose to. Beside the huge amount of street food shacks where you can buy delicious snacks you probably never heard of before and probably never will outside of Korea. Same for drinks. Ever heard of Soju? No? Just like me when I informed myself about Korea. Let me put it this way. It’s a bottled wodka-like beverage, which goes for less than a bottle of Evian water. Enough said.

Nightlife and other activities

The nightlife in Seoul is HUGE and diverse. You can visit nighttime venues classier and snobbier than you can ever imagine. Venues in which a VIP table will cost you the rent of a month and a beer goes by 5€ and more. And you can visit hidden venues with space for less than 12 people, where the drinks are cheaper and atmosphere even better (Cabin, ask local CAU students, they will know about it).

Of course you can find a whole lot of thingsSmitmans to do during the daytime, too. Huge farmers markets, second hand cloth shops, shopping malls and others venues are waiting to be found by you. If you like classic monuments and places with a history, you will not be bored either. There are whole lot of places to visit: Ancient temples, monuments and even modern architecture in the Gangnam area.

Final thoughts

I just realized a couple days ago that one year ago I went to Korea. The experiences I made there are in no way comparable to anything I have seen or done before. It was a huge step to leave my home country, my everyday life, my family and friends, but true growth only happens if you leave your comfort zone and do something that scares you. Korea scared me. It did, but I would do it again. Without any hestitation.