Thank you for still following my blog. As some of you might have already known I had an amazing exchange time in Seoul this fall, and I want to briefly share how it went via this post. Due to lack of time, I basically copied and pasted the content from my mandatory exchange report. I hope you will have a great time reading it.
So 1, 2, 3 here we go
If you are reading this and in the process of applying for the exchange at Yonsei, I wish you good luck. You will notice that I purposefully wrote all the headings and cover page in blue, and that is because blue is the color Yonsei University proudly represents. I had an amazing time at Yonsei and in Seoul that I will never ever be able to forget. Referenced from a random account on Instagram “I think I will miss you forever like the stars miss the sun in the morning skies”, this is exactly how I felt after I left Yonsei and Seoul.
1. Top three highlights of the university
a. The SKY league
It can be found relatively different from how college entrance system works in Europe and other parts of the world, in Asian countries and especially in Korea the university entrance exam is considered a safe ticket entering life. Getting into a good university most likely will guarantee you a good life ahead, and Yonsei University is one of those. The university is in the group of SKY universities and is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, together with Seoul National University (SNU) and Korea University (KU).
If you love K-dramas and K-TV shows, you would easily find Yonsei as one of the venues that many of them are filmed at. The beautiful buildings here contribute to the reasons why many directors have chosen to film at Yonsei. The most signature are the Underwood College and Yeonhui Hall, which is also the building of College of Social Science. The building of School of Business is the most modern and well-furnished buildings at Yonsei I would say. I have visited Ehwa Woman’s University and Sungkyungkwan University and did go inside their business buildings but believe me they are not even in the league. But Ehwa Woman’s University and Korea University have a better overall and pleasant view if I am being honest. No offense, I still love Yonsei.
c. A different perspective at the sense of university identity and community
Students in Korea especially those who go to prestigious universities love their university and feel proud to be a part of the community perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. Every time I pay for the meal with the bank card aka the Yonsei ID card people would admiringly look at me. There is a thing in Korea called “university padding jacket” that students would wear when it gets cold in winter and Yonsei, of course, has its own line of clothes and accessories that are dedicated to Yonsei students only. More than that, they also have their own jacket that has the name of the department they are enrolling in not just only the name of the university itself. Therefore, don’t feel surprised if you spot people around you wear an ankle-length jacket with some sort of “College of Medicine” or “College of Social Science” on their back. Ah, it also goes the same with other universities too not only Yonsei. Because Yonsei is near to Ehdae and Sogang so you would easily spot the long padding jackets with the university’s name on the back too.
2. Top three highlights of the city
a. Technology at its best
As Seoul is one of the most technology and digital-based cities in the world, everything in terms of technology is pretty convenient. Delivery service and online and in-store cashless payments are top-notch. You would not believe it, but my bank card is incorporated into my Yonsei student ID card, so I did not have to carry 2 cards around when I am outside. Koreans use their bank card to tap in and out on transportation. When I told my Korean friend about the transportation card that I had, he did not even know that there was such a thing that exists. I bet Korean students studying in the Netherlands might feel a little bit annoyed having to carry both their bank card and OV-Chipkaart around too.
b. The city that never sleeps
Convenience stores are opened 24/7, restaurants and shops are open until 10-11pm. Foods and drinks can be easily seen everywhere. I feel like the city never sleeps as it was 1-2 in the morning and I still catch some groups of friends walking on the street. We all know that the vibrancy of Seoul is spread across the places that are popular with tourists, but making a stroll to many small and steep alleys you can see a different perspective of it, less noisy and more traditional. Cute with sophisticated touch is hidden in those small alleys that you and your friends might not want to leave after you enter, try a cup of rose tea and listen to the nice music there.
c. The distinctive eating and drinking culture
You would see a few drunk businessmen lying on the street around 11-12 or later after having dinner with your friend perhaps and you know what that is pretty normal in the Korean drinking society. So I took the Introduction to Korean studies course and I have learned some interesting facts about the eating and drinking culture here, and it is pretty insane if I am being honest. Koreans view drinking as a source to escape from their life. I never got drunk in the Netherlands, but I drank a lot while I was in Korea. Try soju with the famous Korean BBQ, that is the first combo and the second would be chimeak (short form of Chicken and Maekchu and of course maekchu means beer), those 2 were amazing. But my most favorite would be the second round when we finished the meal and headed to noraebang which is Karaoke in Korean. Imagine being drunk and singing “when we were young” with your friends. That was unforgettable.
3. Top three highlights of student life
a. Drinking, eating, and noraebang – Korean karaoke
There is this coin noraebang near Ehwa Woman’s University that I always went there with my friends at least twice a week in November and December, after getting a bit drunk from dinner. The experience was so nice that I think that is what I miss the most about Seoul after I left. Seoul is one of the safest cities in the world, so you don’t have to worry too much about robbing and stealing here. Speaking of which, it is also safe when you want to get home after you’re drunk, but make sure to have your trustworthy friends beside you.
b. The stress level
I feel like this is more like a long and knowledgeable vacation as I got to explore and learn so much about a country’s culture and people. As I had a lot of time outside study time, I traveled a lot. The exchange is not all about studying but also about improving your inner self and about regret. At the end, you might feel you have not been productive all months long. The sense of productivity is sometimes hidden, and you cannot feel it until you realize that you have become better in dealing with a different set of difficulties in the future and become braver and more persistent.
The stress level might be significantly less compared to when at RSM, if you know how to make it happen. I would advise you to take advantage of the exchange grading policy to not go to class every day by squeezing them into 2-3 days a week. Yonsei students are extremely competitive and serious about their grades. If you get into hard courses with a heavy workload, you might not want to upset them by not presenting for the group meetings when they conflict with your travel plan and make them do all the work for you.
c. Be friends with many people
I met so many people in Seoul, some of those you know that you will never meet again. So please appreciate the opportunity you are having to meet people and treat them with sincerity.
4. Top three of gained academic benefits
a. Presentation skills
There was the course Practice in Journalism that I attended, in which I had group presentations every week that helps improve my presentation skills significantly. When you get to do one thing over and over with the difficulty level being scaled up you will automatically see yourself gradually improve. And this is exactly how it works here. Honestly, I did not get to work on my public speaking skills very much due to a large number of written assignments back in my first and second year at RSM. The time at Yonsei has much contributed to this improvement. The fact that the people listening are mainly non-native English speakers somehow encouraged me to speak clearly and slowly. And that somehow makes me reflect on how I poorly performed in chances I had to present at RSM where I am afraid that if I did not speak fast enough and as fast as my European peers, I would be badly judged. The key to a good public speaking performance is the confidence not to be afraid of speaking anything you believe would make an impact on the audience.
b. Negotiation skills
I attended that course called “Business Negotiation” and this is mainly the reason. What I like the most about this course is that the organization of it. Every week coming into the class we jumped into the negotiation right away (of course after some sort of preparation). Because it was so open that everyone can learn from each. At the end of each class, we went back to the theories and practical tips in the lecture notes and necessary points and reflected on our performance where we need to pay attention to and should have paid attention to, but we did not.
c. The realization that confidence can be learned and built over time
In the Netherlands, I was always afraid that I speak English not fast enough compared to my European friends and that would me look bad in the eye of them. And that would prove that I am not competent enough. But you know what the ability to learn and absorb a different language than your mother tongue differs among people. Also, it is hard to tell if someone is smart or not just based on their speaking skills. There is a South Korean-born Economics professor at Cambridge that I really like and enjoy reading his books. I watched some of the videos on Youtube when he speaks at some conferences, and below people commented and made fun of his strong accent. But we all know how good he is in the field, we all know he has achieved so much regardless of his accent and his non-ability to speak English fast. I shared a room with an American and she speaks slowly to get her point across, and she advised me to do so. Accent and whether you speak fast does not matter but the confidence and the criticality in your thinking matter much more. And it can be learned and be built over time.
5. Top three gained personal benefits
a. The courage to solo travel
Because of the limited budget, I had to choose between Japan and other provinces in Korea as in where I want and can afford to visit. I chose Tokyo eventually as I thought it was economically better to fly to Tokyo from Seoul rather than from Amsterdam. I have a Vietnamese friend in Kobe, and I asked her to come to Tokyo so we can travel together. I was in Tokyo for 6 days and in the first 2 days, I was solo as she could not make it. Solo traveling feels actually amazing though. You would find yourself in hilarious moments the first days you get there and get mixed up between Korean and Japanese. Thank you = Anhonghaseyo in Korean = Arigatou gojaimas in Japanese. I had been used to say Anhonghaseyo in Korea, so I always said Anhong… halfway before changing to Arigatou gojaimas.
b. The empathy and patience we need to have towards encountering a completely different culture
I met some American friends from the University of California who hardly know anything about the Korean culture and people and do not have the intention to learn about it. Many do not feel the need to learn and understand a country’s culture when they first come either for visiting or business reasons, and I think that is disrespectful towards the people and the country. I learned that we all need to respect people whenever we go especially go to a different country where culture is completely different. And the process of learning takes so much time that it is essential to give yourself the empathy and the right mindset that any process takes time. Do not rush.
c. Money management skills
Seriously though, I don’t know why I spent so much money in Korea and Japan. These 2 places really know how to lure you into splurging game in which they are the ones who are controlling over. You learn a lesson about how to save money and manage your budget here better than in any other classes. As you might want to buy everything the second you see it, you buy it and come back home later researching for theories on “how to resist temptations”.
Featured image: Ikseon-dong, Seoul, South Korea. some time end of December 2019. Taken by iPhone 7.