I jumped off the plane, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for the short exchange experience of a lifetime, graciously facilitated by ANU Global Programs. I was going to Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea for a three week course studying East Asian International Relations, and it did not disappoint.
Yonsei University is one of South Korea’s oldest universities, and is impressive in its own right. They welcomed us in with a Kpop dance performance and a speech from the programs director and university head, all telling us to have fun, try our best, and most importantly – explore Korea.
The classes themselves were interesting and engaging, and it was extremely easy to achieve a manageable study/travel balance. Dr. Youngshik Bong was my lecturer and tutor, and him alone made it an experience to never forget. If you’re thinking of doing this program, definitely apply to his course. If you’re not doing International Relations/Security, or even if you aren’t at uni I’d still recommend it, I had a blast. He’s an interesting man and a gentle marker.
The Yonsei campus is located in Seodaemun, sister suburb of the more-known Dongdaemun – which is home to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza for shopping, performances and art. Seodaemun itself is quieter, but right next to Sinchon, which is a suburb full of interesting restaurants, street performers and the massive Hyundai Department store for all your shopping needs. The campus is conveniently located a 15 minute walk away from Sinchon station, which was the main place we would meet or visit during our stay in Seoul.
The university itself is large and impressive, with a rich history and impressive facilities, located at the base of a small mountain. We had our classes in the morning, from 9:30am to 12:30pm, and then we had a choice of doing Korean language classes or Taekwondo in the afternoon. I had chosen the level two Korean language class for the afternoon, as my Korean speaking level was on par with maybe a two year old Korean child, on a good day. But my friends took Taekwondo and had as much fun as I did, and got a sweet gi out of it too.
The weekends were free and ripe for trips to other cities, which was very achievable as South Korea is quite small, only a two hour drive coast to coast and a six hour drive from top to bottom, with buses running constantly. Check out my other article if you’d like some inspiration for the trips you might want to take!
Although the Korean winter was harsh, we still saw some snow and devoured bibimbap till we could feel our fingers again. But once you were inside and had the floor-heating Ondol fired up, it was much much easier.
All in all, the Winter Abroad at Yonsei program was absolutely fantastic and I would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in a quick and easy exchange, South Korea, or just a bit of travel to fill your summer break. But now, I’m back in Australia, sweating and missing South Korea.