There are not a lot of universities that offer you the opportunity to study both Korean and Japanese at the same time

SEAS student Daria Stoyanova
Daria Stoyanova
Undergraduate student
Korean Studies with Japanese BA
Daria was drawn to Sheffield because of the ability to study both Korean and Japanese at the same time.

Why did you choose to study Korean Studies with Japanese?

During my teenage years I ended up coming in contact with both Korean and Japanese popular culture and naturally that got me interested in the countries themselves. When the time for me to decide what I should be studying in university came I knew for sure I wanted to learn at least one of the languages, as well as know more about the countries themselves, so I began searching for East Asian Studies degrees or degrees that could give me the opportunity to learn either Korean or Japanese.

When I realised I could do both at the same time, I was a bit intimidated but at the same time thrilled. Korean Studies with Japanese seemed like the perfect decision because I would be able to fulfil my long-time wish to closely study both countries’ cultures and languages at the same time.

Sheffield has ties with several very prestigious Korean universities, whose language schools are renowned for being the best.

Daria Stoyanova

Korean Studies with Japanese BA

What attracted you to the University of Sheffield?

The degree structure attracted me the most. Firstly, there are not a lot of universities in the UK, and in Europe overall, that offer you the opportunity to study both Korean and Japanese at the same time.

Overall while looking at some of the other options I realised that in most of them, when combining Japanese and Korean the focus fell on Japan and you had to spend your year abroad there. That is not the case for the University of Sheffield, as your major is Korean with a minor in Japanese. For me that was one of the main reasons I chose this university.

While I have an interest in both countries, my fascination with Korea runs a bit deeper so I wanted the focus of the degree to fall there. Moreover, when you look at year abroad opportunities, Sheffield has ties with several very prestigious Korean universities, whose language schools are renowned for being the best. That fact further solidified my decision that here is the perfect place for me to be.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

The part I enjoy the most about my course is the people I am surrounded by, both in terms of lecturers and my course mates. I have an opportunity to study alongside British students and internationals like myself and explore other languages, religions and other beliefs. On top of being able to study something I enjoy, doing it in such an amazing environment has truly been a blessing.

Plus, as I already mentioned the lecturers in Sheffield’s East Asian Studies department are great. They are amazing professionals when it comes to the fields they’re teaching in, but you can also feel that they truly care for their students. If I have any issues, whether more personal or just related to course-material, I feel like I can always turn to them and receive guidance.

Overall the East Asian studies department has an atmosphere that feels very close-knit and almost family like, and I honestly couldn’t ask for more.

How have you found learning the two East Asian languages?

It’s a bit challenging learning both Korean and Japanese at the same time, but it has also helped me organise my time more efficiently. In the beginning it’s a bit hard to get used to the incoming workload from both language modules but as you progress you find they actually complement each other and you can find similar structures in both.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your studies? (hobbies, interests, societies)

One thing I have found myself getting into this year is also cooking and baking. I have tried recreating some of the dishes I ate in Korea and as there is a big Asian community in Sheffield, I can find most of the products I need. I also really love just exploring the city with my friends, as there are a lot of nice parks and coffee shops. We also really enjoy going to the movies, so we frequently buy tickets from our University’s Cinema club as you can watch a variety of new movies for a cheap price.

What is Sheffield like to live in? Do you like the city?

Sheffield is very peaceful and as the city has a lot of students, including international ones, it feels like a very safe and friendly place. One of the pluses is that the housing and food pricing is a lot cheaper compared to bigger places. There are also lots of parks, and we have the Peak District nearby, so if you enjoy nature you will definitely like it here.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I do have several ideas, but for now nothing concrete. I just know that I feel both happy and a bit stressed out by the prospect of graduating a year from now. Korean Studies with Japanese is a degree that gives you a lot of opportunity for growth in different directions, so it’s definitely intimidating trying to choose something that would suit me best.

I think I feel lucky by the fact that nowadays with the rise of social medias such as YouTube and the emergence of careers such as blogging and vlogging the traditional norm of what you can work as is being broken. I am actually looking into opportunities to break into such a creative field, where I can use my language skills and travel experience and share my love for East Asian culture with others.

Your experiences of studying in the UK

What made you want to study in the UK?

I came to the UK because of the country’s prestige when it comes to higher education. British universities are very highly ranked internationally, and I knew that a degree from here would give me better prospects for both further education and employment.

Moreover, I find that a lot of other European universities, including ones in my own country, don’t really offer year-abroad opportunities as a compulsory part of the degree you’re studying. Here the situation is different, and whether you’re doing a Modern Languages degree or an East Asian languages degree, you are sure to spend about a year in the country, whose language you are studying. I find that extremely important as such an experience is not only the best way to learn a new language quickly and efficiently but is also very culturally enriching.

What has been the most difficult thing to get use whilst living in a different country?

I think it’s probably the home-sickness, combined with having to take care of your own daily needs that have had the biggest impact. The environment is definitely a bit different compared to my home country, but I would say it’s rather small differences that are mostly easy to get used to.

It’s the first few months, until you figure out everything and get settled in, that may feel quite challenging. I had never really cooked a lot or had to think about things such as banking and finances prior to coming here, so of course, I found that hard in the beginning. Maybe one of the most important things needed in that period, is finding the right people for you.

Everyone, whether an international student or not, tends to be going through the same struggles when beginning university, so having your friends around you is really a big help, as you don’t feel alone or helpless.

Do you have any advice for students from your home country thinking about doing Korean Studies at Sheffield?

I would advise them to not be afraid and to give themselves time to get used to being here. Any beginning is hard, but if you have a good grasp of English you will definitely enjoy being here.

One practical tip I can think of is using some of the time you have in the summer prior to coming here to study up on some basics like the Korean (and the Japanese, if you’re doing the double degree) alphabet. It’s small steps like this that will end up helping you have better results in the long run. Also don’t forget to frequently be in touch with your parents and have them send over some of your favourite snacks from time to time when you feel homesick.

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