It's one of the most enjoyable summers I have ever had

Daniel at the top of a mountain
Daniel Pickering
Summer school at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea
MEng Aerospace Engineering
Daniel spent a summer at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea.

How did you find the Summer School, academically?

The summer school was quite large with around 400-500 students on the programme. Each individual course had a maximum of around 60 students on each, although both my courses had between 15 and 20 students in each class. The method of teaching used was a mixture of normal lectures, with individual or group work in-between. Most classes were 2 hours 45 minutes long with a break of 10 minutes in the middle of the time slot. For assessments it depends on which course you go on, some are coursework based and others are exam based. Macroeconomics had 2 exams and graded homework, whilst Beginner Korean was just 1 exam at the end.

What extra-curricular activities did you take part in?

As part of the SKKU placement there are extra-curricular activities included in the price of tuition. Which meant that the activities were included in the Global Scholars placement, although it may change in the future.

First, the Monday before classes start, was the old city tour, this is when they take you to Gyeongbokgung Palace and you get a guided tour of the palace. The following Friday is a pizza party that the university did where you are able to meet new people on the summer school and eat some nice pizza. The following Friday you get taken to go see the Nanta show either in Myeongdong, a famous shopping area, or Hongdae, a famous cultural area. The Nanta show is one of the best things I saw whilst in Korea. The Friday after that they take you on a trip to Everland and Caribbean Bay, which are the most popular theme park and water park in Korea. Both have fun attractions that you can enjoy with the friends you make at the summer school. The final SKKU activity is the next Thursday where we were taken to do some Taekwondo, then get taken to a recreation of a traditional Korean village, followed by a BBQ at the university’s other campus.

There is also loads more to do outside of the activities the university runs. I went to N. Seoul tower, which is a communication tower on top of a large hill, which has a viewing platform where you can see out across Seoul in all directions. It is a great place to go to see some marvellous views with minimal effort. I also went hiking in the Bukhansan National Park up to Jaunbong peak which is 739.5m tall and allows you to get some of the greatest views. I also went to a small inland island called Nami Island. It is a small trip away from Seoul but can all be made for a reasonable price using Tmoney transport cards, which can be used on the metro which stops at nearby at Gapyeong and on the bus to get to the island ferry. On the island you can find different animals with ostrich, rabbits, peacocks and squirrels. There are also some interesting views to look at and some areas where a famous K-drama was shot.

What was the accommodation like?

The accommodation at SKKU was quite pleasant. The rooms are shared between 2 people, with the entire dormitory for only one gender. The university tries to match people from the same country or region to be roommates, with my roommate being from the UK. My accommodation was only a 5 minute walk away from the university campus and 10-12 minute walk from the Hyehwa metro station. Each room gets its own WIFI network along with air-conditioning and a desk for each person. The university has a student volunteers at each accommodation to help you with any problems you may have.

How did the experience enhance your international outlook?

In Korea it is common for people to ask for your age or the year you were born. This is because there is a culture of respecting your elder. That heating in Korea is normally underfloor heating. This is because in traditional houses they use to be lifted off the ground and have the cooking area on ground level. This allowed the heat from cooking to go under the house and heat the floor up. Food in Korea commonly involves 2-4 smaller dishes along with your main dish. The smaller dishes are called banchan and are mostly fermented vegetables, like radish and kimchi, along with sometimes having fishcake or small meat dishes.

How would you describe the experience overall and why?

Overall, I would rate the summer school with a 9/10 and would say it’s one of the most enjoyable summers I have ever had. Mainly I enjoyed meeting people from all around the world and being able to experience Korea with some good friends. 

The lessons were challenging enough to not be dull but also not too hard that you’re not able to explore the country. The university made sure that you were enjoying your time on the summer school.

What advice do you have for future students attending this summer school?

You need to take some of your own money and I would also advise taking the money in a 40:60 split, 40% in cash and 60% on a travel card. This is because almost all payments can be made using a card in Korea, exceptions are the Tmoney card top ups and train tickets as they only accept Korean cards. Having some cash also makes it easier to split bills with any friends that you go out with, although some restaurants will split the bill and allow you to pay by card.

Don't use your home SIM card! This is due to no British phone provider allowing the use of data, calls and texts from your contract. This means it would cost £5 for every 10MB of mobile data you use. For data I would advise using the phone store in the university, as they tend to overcharge at the airport. For £30-35 you can get around 10GB of 4G along with 100 minutes and 1000 texts for 30 days which should be plenty for your stay in Korea. As you are a foreigner they require your passport and means that only a few phone stores can give you a SIM.

You don’t need to learn much of the language as a lot of places have self-service screens with the ability to switch language and many people in Korea understand some English. I would advise learning some basic Korean phrases to show respect to people. If you’re going to study beginner Korean I’d advise learning the Korean alphabet before as the course is quite intense.