Let’s face it, I personally choose Seoul for my study abroad destination because I had absolutely no clue what to expect. This is exactly what I was looking for as such ignorance of my host country would bring me a unique adventure, a feeling of pure discovery and great excitement. This is indeed, what happened all throughout the journey as I was always encountering new curiosities.
But not many students will make their desired destination based on such standards. Indeed, many will choose a destination because something particular attracts them about the location, culture or school. Everyone is different.
Many students were just like me and knew very little about South-Korea. As a result, I soon learnt that I was the only student from the UofM placed in Seoul. I mean why would one choose Seoul if Singapore, Hong-Kong, or Australia are on the list? Literally, because a majority of students are afraid or uninterested in the country. The culture is poorly known, the language spoken only on the peninsula, up North is a dictatorship, and who likes K-Pop anyway? Well, there are multiple reasons for sticking with South-Korea as a study abroad destination and for me, there is an obvious reason which I found interesting!
By going to South-Korea, you’ll be among the very few to know and understand the very unique Seoulite culture. It’s an opportunity for you to gain from an experience that is somehow uncommon, especially in the United-Kingdom for future graduates.
I was indeed the only student from the University of Manchester to choose Seoul, within my entire cohort, including every single degree. I will be the only student from a non-Korean descent able to narrate what South-Korea was like for me, the only one who will have studied at a partner University in South-Korean during my degree, and among the very few to understand a basic level of Korean. In a nutshell, just go to Seoul because it will make you special, and this very importantly when facing any future employers. You’ll have something that you only, can sell and tell to the world or on your CV.
And if someone asks you why on earth you choose to go there, just be like me and say
‘Because for the very first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know the culture, the landscapes, the customs and I figured this all out once in Seoul. Exciting isn’t it?’.
Seriously, it will say something very important about you, that you are brave, bold and independent. So yeah, just go to Seoul. You won’t regret it.
Also, I had fun doing a little exercise. If you wonder what an education in South Korea could bring you just ask me and I will let you know why you should indeed go to South-Korea and spice up your degree with such Placement, if you study:
- Politics or International Relations, with a special interest in International Security, Diplomacy and Nuclear Disarmament, Peace Building and Conflict Resolution – The Republic of Korea (ROK) or South Korea today is truly a vibrant democracy. It went from a devastating war, dictatorship to a South Korea’s transition to democracy in 1987 – a long political journey to investigate as a student then. To understand the politics of South Korea, it is also helpful to keep in mind the followings: (1) the question of unification with North Korea, (2) rapid economic development, (3) democratisation, and (4) the alliance with the United States. All those factors play major political fields within which to further study issues around reunification, threats of nuclear attacks and Peace Building procedures and approaches. And obviously, if you are passionate with International Relations in East-Asia, you’ll have a unique perspective on how the country which has been repeatedly threatened, invaded and colonised deals with the issues of IR nowadays.
- History related degrees, with a special interest in Japanese Colonialism, Long-lasting Empires and Cold War related issues – The history of South Korea formally begins with its establishment on 17 August 1948. However, you’ll be in a position to go back as far as half a million years ago when the Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla grew to control the peninsula and Manchuria as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Also, nowadays, the military-first North Korean regime doubtless looms over South Korea and an ever-widening part of the region. The South Korean government rightly remains on high alert; joint U.S.-Korea forces prepare diligently. And someday, something historic will happen in North Korea. But until then? South Koreans will probably continue to worry much more about the sky-high price of their housing, the super-competitiveness of their educational system and the next step in their remarkable economic climb.
- Anthropology or Sociology related degrees, with a special interest in Religion and an ethnically homogenous society and civilisation – Korea is a country where all the world major religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam, peacefully coexist with shamanism. Given the great diversity of religious expression, the role of religion in South Korea’s social development has been complex; and some traditions are best understood as important cultural properties rather than as rites of worship. Meanwhile, the people of South-Korea are known to be the most homogenous ethnic group in the world!
- Economics or Finance Related degrees? What a better way to analyse the fastest growth of one of the Four Tigers, that has risen from three years of devastating war with the North? Go and take a look at one of the most intense stock market in East Asia. The economy of South Korea is indeed the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest in the world. It is a mixed economy dominated by family-owned conglomerates called chaebols. Plus, South Korea is famous for its spectacular rise from one of the poorest countries in the world to a developed country in just one generation. This economic miracle, commonly known as the Miracle on the Han River, brought South Korea to the ranks of elite countries. It will dominate the global economy in the middle of the 21st century apparently!
- Linguistic or Literature degrees? Koreans share one language, with approximately seventy million people around the globe speaking Korean. The language structure, grammar and vocabulary are similar to Japanese. Dialects are regional; differing mainly in accent, but are so similar that comprehension for speakers, or listeners, is not an issue.
- Art or Cinematographic related degrees? Have a look at the brand new emerging perspective in East Asia along the fascinating cinematographic scene well known worldwide. Hallyuwood, a compound word combining the word Hallyu (Korean Wave) with wood from Hollywood, is the informal term popularly used to describe the Korean-language entertainment and film industry in South Korea. Something interesting is that Hallyuwood, along with Hollywood and Bollywood, constitutes the three major pillars of the contemporary world entertainment industry. The three are considered the most famous film-making meccas on Earth. Also, Korean art, the painting, calligraphy, pottery, sculpture, lacquerware, and other fine or decorative visual arts have been produced by the peoples of Korea over the centuries.
- Marketing, PR, Communication-related degrees? There are hundreds of marketing strategy books written about how best to reach your target customer. While every other author offers his or her own take, one rule in the marketing universe remains constant: Know your audience. Imagine, then, the difficulty for marketers in the Eastern Asian region coming from none Eastern Asian countries? So, if you fancy working in East-Asia, go and have a look at the special feature in South Korean marketing methods and the underlying cultural rationale that makes campaign strategies effective in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
I have to agree my lack of scientific knowledge makes other degrees a little touchy. But let’s be honest, scientific advances and knowledge are also very well placed in South Korea, especially when it comes to Civil Engineering. Get there and learn the culture and the language.
So, imagine having all the unique knowledge for yourself in an entire cohort of students! This will have great value for you and open doors you would have never imagined reaching.
PS . Here is a beautiful Short Film Timelapse of Seoul from the National Geographic Team.
Enjoy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALeKNQkGp6Y