By Holly Tran, Summer School in South Korea, Seoul National University
Having spent more than 18 years of my life in a tiny village up North West of England, I have always resided cozily within my little comfort zone. Last year, I decided to make a change. In order to further challenge myself, I took the opportunity to study abroad at the Seoul National University (SNU) in South Korea.
Truth to be told, from packing my suitcase to boarding the airplane (by myself for the first time!), it was a truly daunting experience: Who do I talk to when I get bored? Who do I laugh with when I make jokes? Who do I panic with when I get lost? And who do I sit across while eating my meals? These thoughts flickered incessantly through my mind as the date of my flight drew closer. Little did I know, they would turn out to be nothing more than a figment of my hyperactive imagination.
Right after landing at the Incheon International Airport, I was greeted by the delicious scent of Bulgogi (불고기). This timely welcome, as it turns out, served merely as a sign of what was to follow. Korean cuisines are delightful. I cannot stress how good a Korean barbeque is (still makes my mouth salivate just from thinking about it!) From street food to fancy dining, Korean cuisine (Hangug yoli, 한국 요리) has it all!
Aside from food, Korea is also renowned for its vibrant entertainment scene. The list of activities to do and the number of places to visit is simply endless. If I have to pick one thing I regretted about my time at South Korea, it would be that I did not extend my stay after the University programme ended to travel more. Nevertheless, during my stay, I was able to experience a wide variety of Korean delights! The photos below show some of the activities I got up to:
Regarding the educational side of my trip, there is one thing I would like to address first… SNU has a Movie Library! I repeat: A MOVIE LIBRARY?! You walk into what seems like an ordinary library, except that all the books on shelves were replaced by movie DVDs/Blu-Rays. You then proceed to spend an exorbitant amount of time to choose a movie out of millions (a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist). And once you’ve selected your Final Destination (pun-intended ;)), you make your way to your own little cosy set up and enjoy the film. The set up includes plush black leather reclinable arm chairs with a personal flat screen TV, headphones, coffee table and remote controls. Just when I thought our University of Manchester’s Sleeping Pods (in the Learning Commons) was the next big thing… SNU did well.
For my course, I chose to study Entrepreneurship in Asia and Korean Language. Entrepreneurship was thoroughly enjoyable as we got to visit Tips Town (Tech Incubator Program for Startups) as well as the engineering department of SNU to try out their 3D printer. We had the wonderful opportunity to design our own stamps on their state-of-the-art software and then watch the 3D printing do its magic.
As for Korean Language, I never thought learning a new language could be so fun. We had 3 teachers who rotated between each class, but all of them were very passionate, enthusiastic and encouraging. They used a range of different teaching methods (from videos, songs to roleplays) and the classes were filled with laughter and fun. The only downside was perhaps the amount of homework and prep we had to do for each class as we had mini tests (which contributed to our final grade) almost every class. However, with careful time management and planning, it was more than achievable. One approach I have taken to tackle the workload was cafe studying with my friends – it was fun, relaxing and productive.
Despite having so much fun in the country, I can proudly return home with a GPA of 4.18 (4.3-Scale)! It was challenging to absorb new information, whilst having to manage 2 group presentations, a final exam, 7 mini tests and 7 role-plays (all within a month of studying?!), but the journey had been thoroughly rewarding and I would recommend anyone to take on this magnificent adventure!