My experience of the Year Abroad in South Korea

Katie Morris
Katie Morris
Undergraduate Student
BA Korean Studies
Through my year abroad experience I have made many international friends, and to keep in touch with them I have to use Korean.

Which University did you spend your year abroad at?

Sungkyunkwan University

How different was the teaching and course structure in Korea compared to at Sheffield?

The first big difference I noticed was the class hours. In Sheffield we had roughly an hour a day in Korean lessons, five times a week, but in Korea we were in classes 9am till 3pm every day. The lessons were split up into grammar, conversation and then the final lesson of the day would vary depending on the day, including: writing, reading, listening and intensive listening. Unlike Sheffield, the entire course was taught in Korean and we had to use Korean in order to communicate with fellow foreign classmates. We were assessed through presentations a multiple choice grammar exam, multiple choice vocabulary exercises, reading comprehension (with multiple choice answers) a composition in which we were required to use a set amount of newly used grammar points and vocabulary, a speaking exam and finally a listening exam. We covered a wide range of skills in intensive long hour days.

Has the year abroad helped you improve your language skills?

Most definitely, as we are living in a country where we have to use the language to get by and we are immersed in not only the language, but the culture too, which is important in learning expressions. Through my year abroad experience I have made many international friends, and to keep in touch with them I have to use Korean.

How would you describe student life in in your host city?

At first I can be daunting, living alone in a foreign country. But the university made me feel safe and welcome. Sheffield’s tandem language partner programme also helped me as it allowed me to make Korean friends before I went to Korea and they not only helped me with various things on my year abroad, such as setting up a mobile phone, but they taught me about the country, came travelling with me and helped me to create precious memories.

Was there a lot to see and do outside of studying?

Yes, of course! Although the purpose of the year abroad is to study the language and improve one’s ability, there is plenty of opportunity to explore the country. Even going for walks and watching the seasons change was wonderful, autumn especially was very beautiful. If you make a good set of friends there is plenty of places to go at night as well. There’s also a lot of interesting areas to just explore, shopping and lots of interesting cafés and restaurants.

Did you get the chance to do any traveling whilst you were there?

I did a lot of travelling around Korea. I think it’s important to plan some destinations because they change depending on the season. I did things like long bike rides around a lake in Chuncheon,  going to see the country’s 31st national treasure, Cheomseongdae the world’s oldest surviving observatory to name a few. I also travelled to Jeju Island and went into the Manjanggul Cave, a lava cave and one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Not only that, Seoul is a wonderful city, open till late at night. The public transport is cheap so travelling is cheap and efficient.

What skills do you feel you gained from doing the study abroad year?

I’ve gained amazing communication and social skills. Having to speak in a foreign language also helps boost one’s confidence as you have to practice it all the time in order to get better.  I have also gained a stronger sense of motivation towards studying because I aspire to be able to speak fluently using Korean.

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