Topic(s): Computer Graphics, Personal Growth, Adobe Creative Suite
Sharing my experience and takeaways from studying abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. TL;DR at the end.
During the winter of 2021, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Seoul. The university that I attended was Yonsei University (one of the three most prestigious universities in South Korea). I enrolled in a Computer Graphics course so that I could further improve my skills in Adobe Creative Suite. But most of what I’ve learned during study abroad happened outside of the classroom.
I spent my winter break studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I applied to Yonsei University with the help of the USAC organization. My time abroad was fun and I learned a lot, but there were also a lot of challenges that I had to face.
The obvious challenge that I had to face was the lack of knowledge regarding Korean culture and language. I do listen to K-pop and watch the occasional Korean drama on Netflix, but there were some cultural norms that I had to learn on the fly. For example, I had to learn about public transport etiquette and proper interaction with locals (such as bowing and handing over items with two hands).
For learning Korean, I did my best to learn as much as I could in the little time that I had. However, you quickly find out that learning on your own does not prepare you for speaking with native speakers. Luckily some locals know English, so when my Korean was lacking we were still able to communicate. But most of the time I had to get creative with my communication or use a translator app.
Below are some of the resources that I used to learn Korean and resources that I think are helpful after returning (learning numbers and food):
One challenge I didn’t expect was the COVID-19 pandemic. When I departed for my study abroad, COVID-19 cases in South Korea were at their lowest. However a couple days after arrival the omicron variant was discovered.
As a result South Korea adapted their COVID-19 guidelines multiple times during my stay. Meaning I had to stay flexible and follow all rules set forth such as mandatory quarantine upon arrival, providing official Korean proof of vaccination, and complying with contact tracing rules.
The mandatory goverment quarantine was intense. Right off the plane they take you through customs and immigrations where they set you up for the Government Quarantine Application. After that, you go grab your bag and wait for the police bus to take you to the quarantine location.
When I arrived, the length of quarantine was 10 days and cost $1200 with 3 meals a day included. The quarantine location is a hotel which temporarily served as a quarantine facility. The hotel/facility I stayed in was the Marinabay in Gimpo. Apparently there's was a rotation of serveral hotels, so the location and room you could be put in is a lottery. From reading other people's experiences, it looks like I stayed in one of the nicer hotels.
Aside from the daily 3 meals, the hotel provided a kettle, coffee bags, teabags, wifi, tv, and various sanitary items. Between every meal we are required to do temperature check with a total of two COVID tests during our stay. After the 10 days, a bus drops you off at Seoul Station and you basically fend for youself. I had to hail a taxi and get to my Airbnb with my limited korean, so that was tough.
Despite the challenges, studying abroad was fun and I learned a lot from my course. My Computer Graphics course allowed me to gain more experience with Adobe Creative Cloud and a variety of presentation software. As a result of the course, I gained A+ course credit, a basic design portfolio, and some new knowledge about design theory.
I also did some learning outside my one course at Yonsei. I will probably do a more in detailed post on this topic in the future, but for now I'll keep it short. By living on my own in a foreign country I learned more about myself, gained new knowledge/insight about another country, and improved some of my skills. There's so much that you can learn by exploring a foreign country, trying new foods, handling rejecting as an outsider, and navigating a global pandemic.
Here are some useful apps for traveling in Korea: