When I first found out I was accepted for the PRIMO International Summer Semester at Sungkyunkwan University, I was super excited, as several later-year students at my residence had previously experienced short course programs through PRIMO and raved about their times overseas, especially their Seoul experiences. However, that excitement was accompanied with a little bit of stress and uncertainty, as I believed a month-long program filling almost the entire semester break would then leave me with little time to explore a city and country I had never visited before. Fortunately, the course allowed plenty of leisure time, granting me every night and weekend as well as cultural activity trips on Fridays to explore Seoul and Korea.
Students can get 6 ANU Course credit (equivalent to 1 course in ANU) for completing PRIMO program. In order to gain 6 course credit at ANU, students must apply for either two courses (or three, if you elect to study Korean language). Each course occuers daily Monday to Friday for three weeks, fitting into morning and afternoon sessions (evening for Korean language classes too). I was lucky to be allowed to study my two preferences of International Negotiations: From Disagreement to Consensus and World Politics in Change: Global Governance or Great Power Rivalry, ultimately supplementing my chosen Bachelor of International Security Studies at ANU.
Classes at SKKU operated differently to tutorials at ANU. Instead of a separate lecture and hour-long tutorial as I was used to, during the program my classes were 2 hours and 45 minutes, which most of the time included a 10-15 minute break. The classrooms and buildings were clean and modern. They were also air-conditioned, a lifesaver in the often +30C temperatures of the Seoul summer, and aided in my survival of the long classes!
These were run in a seminar style, combining lectures and tutorials into a class that involved interaction between the students themselves as well as the professors, who were often from institutions from overseas. My own professors were employed at Kalamazoo College in the USA and Maastricht University in the Netherlands at the time of writing.
The International Summer Semester Program at SKKU was incredible in its global diversity and potential to broaden your horizons, as there were students from institutions located in Korea, Singapore, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, USA, Mexico, Grenada, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, Czech Republic, Russia, UK, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, and of course, Aussies. It was incredibly interesting to witness the exchange of culture and cultural norms amongst students, as well as the welcoming and inviting nature of the domestic Korean students. One thing to note, however, is that although ANU markets this program as a first-year program, many students from overseas had already completed undergraduate study and were in the midst of a postgraduate program, and I frequently found myself the youngest in academic settings.
The cafeteria in the Business Hall, where I had my classes, had a broad range of food options available, including local Korean food, such as bibimbap, a rice, egg and vegetable bowl served in a stone hot pot, and tteokbokki, Korean rice cakes, often accompanied with a spicy sauce (both are a must-try!), as well as dishes inspired by international cuisine, such as ramen and fried pork cutlets. They were extremely affordable, ranging from 3000-5000KRW (roughly $3.50-$6.00AUD at the time of writing), and the coffee shop was a favourite amongst the visiting students.
Another benefit of the program at SKKU were the cultural activities and the time granted to visiting students to explore Seoul and beyond. The International Summer Semester team at SKKU had organised a number of activities for students, including a tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace, an exclusive Nanta show screening, a visit to the Everland and Caribbean Bay theme park complex (bring your swimmers!), as well as a Taekwondo experience and a Korean BBQ party to conclude the program. Along with this, weekends were free time for students, with some finding time to visit beyond Seoul and explore other parts of Korea such as Busan, while others even managed to find time to visit other states such as Taiwan and Vietnam.
The International Summer Semester at Sungkyunkwan University was truly international, attracting students from all over the globe. It opened a Korean cultural experience to visitors, and provided a platform for the cross-cultural development of individuals. I am truly grateful to Global Programs and ANU for this opportunity, as I never dreamt that I would be able to complete an international program in my first year, let alone after only completing one semester. If you have the opportunity to undertake such a course, do so!