Getting your bachelor’s in Korea? Coming here for a study abroad semester? Congrats – it’ll probably turn out to be the best decision of your life. But remember that you can never be too prepared. Here are seven practical tips on how to successfully make it through a Korean college.
1. Go to class
This might sound like the most obvious tip out there, but believe me when I say that this cannot be emphasized enough. Korean colleges are rather intolerant about skipping classes. Most professors won’t allow more than three absences, and if you miss more than one third of your classes, you’ll unfortunately end up with an F on your transcript. But as long as you wake up in time for those (dreary) nine a.m. classes and keep track of your attendance, you’ll be totally fine. And at least you’ll be motivated to get the most out of your education!
TL;DR: go to class.
2. Learn Korean
Now if you enroll in a program that’s completely in Korean, then you should obviously have a good grasp of the language. For those studying in English, it’s possible to get by without even learning the tiniest bit of Korean. But I think that’s just letting a great opportunity go to waste. Put in a little effort and master the basics, because it’s just wonderful to bond with ahjummas over kimbap at a tiny street food stall. And never know when you might actually need Korean!
3. Get to know your seniors
It’s important you embrace opportunities to bond with the more experienced upperclassmen (and ladies) throughout your college experience. They are the ones who can help you with internships, exams, and career guidance. Even professors will remind you to mingle with your seniors; that’s how much Koreans value their sunbae–hoobae (junior–senior) culture. The easiest way to connect with your sunbaes is by joining one of the many clubs (dongari) that your college has to offer!
4. Take course registration very seriously
Forget midterms and finals – it’s course registration day that determines your college experience. Courses are filled on a first-come-first-serve basis and the competition is fierce. On the day of course registration, students wake up early to prepare both mentally and physically for the stress-inducing experience, which is fortunately over in just seconds. If you’re aiming at an all-kill, then you should start by stretching your fingers, finding a PC bang with the fastest internet, and simply getting ready for the fiery clicking.
5. Have access to Windows and IE
For some bizarre reason, Korean websites have been designed to work best with Internet Explorer (which even Microsoft has now abandoned), and many sites are simply incompatible with other browsers including Safari and Chrome. This means that MacBook owners will run into problems when trying to navigate some college portals and course websites. Fortunately, Korea has PC bangs just about everywhere, so you’ll have no problem finding a Windows computer for your course registration or checking your grades.
6. Know your bureaucracy
If you’re staying in Korea for more than three months, you’ll be required to apply for a student visa and get an alien registration card, which basically means trips to the immigration office with piles of paperwork. The key here is to be organized, know your deadlines, and visit the office early in the morning to avoid long waits. Same thing with academic life – ask your friends to help with setting up a bank account and applying for a student ID card. It’s important to deal with the bureaucracy and make sure everything’s in order, especially when you’re in a foreign country.
7. Put yourself out there
I mean, you’re in Korea! You’ll be surprised at how many open lectures, concerts, and other fun events take place all the time. Go out, explore, make friends, travel, party, eat, and learn everything about the fascinatingly vibrant culture. (And study.) It’s absolutely normal to have days when you just want to stay in bed and Skype with your friends back home, but try keep such days to a minimum. Always remember to make the most out of your time here!
an0ya is a Soompi writer who dreams about having more awesome Soompiers at Yonsei University’s Underwood International College. Moarrr. *dreams of a Soompi club*