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Semester Abroad at Seoul National University, Korea

by Zuzana Vedralova

Studying in Korea at Seoul National University was a wonderful experience.  If you are considering studying here, expect a lot of bureaucratic hassle at the beginning but once you actually get to Seoul, it’s okay. The campus is incredibly huge, built around the Gwanak Mountain and there are even shuttle buses running around. You can honestly find everything you might need on campus, but if you feel like you want to see more of Seoul, the city centre is about 30-40 minutes from campus. The dormitories are the cheapest accommodation, but there is no guarantee you will get a room. A twin room at the graduate dormitories, with most usually a Korean roommate (who often does not speak much English) costs 208 000 KRW (around 208 USD) per month. If you don´t get a room at the dorms, there are student accommodations right outside of campus, but those are more expensive (around 400 000 KRW).


SNU offers quite a lot of interesting classes taught in English, but sometimes there are conditions you need to fulfill in order to be able to take some courses (belonging to a specific department, having passed other courses in the past etc.)  From what I have found out later, it is not as strict as it seems, although I would recommend talking to the professor before applying for such course. Graduate students are only allowed to sign up for 4 courses and trust me it´s enough, especially if you will also take up Korean classes and will also want to do some sightseeing and travelling. The classes I took were based on a lot of reading (about a 100 pages per week, per subject), writing a review, report or proposition for discussion and then discussing them in class. The quality of teaching is really good. A lot of focus is put on giving students a chance to express their own opinions and discuss them in class, so it also depends on the ideas and willingness of the students to participate. Class attendance is generally pretty strict, you can miss only twice out of the 15 weeks in order to pass.


There are plenty of foreign exchange students and there are international student associations organizing trips, parties and so on. Also if you want there is a SNU-Buddy system, where you can apply for a fee. You are assigned to a group led by a Korean student and it can be a lot of fun. You meet other international exchange students, you can join them on different trips outside of Seoul and in case you need a translator, your Buddy group leader can help as well.


I really recommend travelling around as much as you can and not only within Seoul, although with the workload from school, the attendance issue and all the events organized by the SNU Buddy system and others, it may be a little tricky to find enough time. Seoul has a lot going on but for me personally (in a tourist perspective) I found the outside of Seoul much more beautiful and more interesting. What was really tricky for me was food. I am not a big fan of spicy food, so finding something to eat was quite a challenge. Western food is usually more expensive and the possibility of cooking at the dorms is not as great (there is a common kitchen at the dorms, but it´s not really equipped-there is a microwave and 1 stove, nothing else). But it really depends on your preferences and cooking abilities.