I’m leaving for Korea tomorrow!!!! TOMORROW!!! So here is a generally condensed guide to everything I’ve done so far. I’ll try add things I’ve forgotten as I eventually remember about them, but for now here it is!:
CHOOSING KOREA / KOREA UNI
As a Film & Television Studies student, when I first started looking into study abroad options my first thought was somewhere in the USA as that was where most of the content related to my course that I consume outside of my course came from. But something about it didn’t excite me that much, I didn’t feel any great motivation to look farther than a glance at UCLA so I thought maybe study abroad wasn’t something I’d venture into. Until…I got into Korean music the summer before applying. When people started asking me “why Korea?!” with looks of disbelief on their faces I was a bit embarrassed to say but now I’ve come to embrace it. On a very basic level I only looked into going to Korea because seven beautiful Korean men captured my heart hahaha I admit it.
So here’s the full story: I started listening to K-Pop in April 2016 and spent the summer absorbing myself in the music, tv shows and whatever aspects of the culture those exposed me to. I also started learning the language around then too very casually, first by learning the alphabet then going from there slowly. Then the time came to go back to university and study abroad notices started circulating and I decided to just check if we had any partners in Korea for the sake of it, and lo and behold we had three partners!
I spent a few weeks coming up with course lists for each uni but it turned out that Korea University was the only one who had enough courses to cover all my credit requirements. They were still the best for film/tv/media out of the three as they have their own Media and Communications department and ALL of the courses offered there sound incredibly interesting. My excitement came back and thankfully my parents didn’t freak when I told them my plans so I decided to go for it! And now here I am. For those students who have also been introduced to the idea of visiting Korea through K-Pop but feel they won’t be taken seriously, that may have been how I started but now I’m just as excited to visit all the cities, landmarks, study exciting courses, become more fluent in a foreign language, meet new people and learn as much about the culture as possible as I am to finally see some of my favourite musicians in concert. So do your research, and go for it! (and for others who want to introduce themselves to a new culture, heres a link, enjoy!)
Here’s what I recommend doing first:
- Find your subject coordinator at Glasgow and email them for a general idea of what courses you should be looking for.
- Visit the international office page for Korea Uni and familiarise yourself with all areas for exchange students. You’ll be visiting it. A lot: oia.korea.ac.kr
- Familiarise yourself with the steps of the study abroad exchange programme on the University of Glasgow website and make sure you understand your timelines and what you need to have organised before applying.
- Have a look into the location of Korea Uni and be happy at how close it is to the shopping district.
- Living expenses for Seoul aren’t that expensive. Eating out is rather cheap, the subway is cheap and my hall fees are almost half the price of my rent in Glasgow but do your own research, work out your finances and decide whether one semester or a full year is more suitable for you.
Now for the more detailed aspects.
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for I would 100% begin looking at what the courses available to you. The requirements for Film & TV were also open to some Theatre and Digital Media & Info studies so I had a bit of leeway as long as they involved analysis.
To meet 120 credits a year at Glasgow, you need to meet 18 credits at KU. For me, that means 6 courses at 3 credits each. The link to the courses at KU is sugang.korea.ac.kr and there is a sidebar on the left where you can click ‘English’ then either Major Subjects or General Subjects. For exchange students it doesn’t matter where you get your courses from. From there you can follow the instructions to search for courses in your subject area by using the drop down list for departments at the top. The only problem I found is that there isn’t a keyword search so you kinda have to navigate yourself around to find what you’re looking for.
- Only the courses for the current year (2017) will be available for now but they claim the courses don’t change much from year to year so it’s okay to make a general collection of suitable courses from the past year.
- Make sure you look at both Fall and Spring options as they can differ!
- Make sure you’re on the courses in the Anam campus (should be automatic but don’t change the option).
- Make sure to check in other departments for courses that are relevant to you, as long as they meet the course requirements given to you by your subject coordinator at Glasgow it doesn’t matter what department they come from.
- All courses in English have the word in brackets following the course name. Top Tip: control+F/command+F and search the page for the word ‘english’ then they’ll all be highlighted.
- The first number following the department code of each course is its year level. e.g. JMCO224 is a second year Media and Communications course.
- There will be columns of numbers following the course names and you have to make sure the column for ‘Exchange’ (usually 4) is ticked otherwise you CAN’T take it.
Click the course code and it will open a page with all info about the lecturer and course times as well as having a downloadable syllabus at the bottom. I recommend taking note of all the course codes and basic course information for those you want to do in a word document so that you can easily send them to your Subject Coordinator for approval, because as I said, it’s impossible to search the course choice website so you’ll have to go physically searching for them again otherwise. I made a full colour coded document and faux-timetable and it was great.
In terms of timetabling, you’ll notice that the course times are represented as numbers 1-9 rather than actual times. Think of it like high-school periods. 1 is 9-9:50am and they follow almost identically in this pattern till about 6pm (9). Don’t worry too much about it, its easy to make a timetable as you just cant take any that have the same number on the same day.
So hopefully you manage to find more than enough courses for you to keep in mind for course choice in August! I’m making a separate section for that but please make sure you have WAY more than enough. One or two won’t cut it because there is only a 15% exchange student allowance per class so it’s very competitive and you need to have a confident list of back ups. But more on that later.
APPLYING TO EXCHANGE PROGRAMME
While I don’t remember the specifics of the process, I remember I spent a lot of time working on the factors for my application. Start early and you will be so happy with yourself when you see your friend who started it a week or two before panicking.
Make sure to join the Go-Abroad Moodle and keep up to date. Also attend all the info sessions. I found everyone very approachable through the process and I didn’t struggle very much. Be aware though it is very much something you have to take into your own hands. There won’t be anyone sorting anything for you, it will be you emailing your Subject Coordinator, making meetings in person, collecting your financial information and making a general funds plan (probably most time consuming).
Once all your documents are sorted there is a quick online application where you upload the documents. I had a bit of an issue where I wasn’t sure if mine sent but when I emailed the team seemed pretty used to the situation and sorted it immediately and assured me they had my application.
Oh remember too for your financial plan that KU is a U21 uni like Glasgow so you get the equivalent of $500 per semester for going. Woo!
And if you’re successful, you will receive an email (I cried) with the uni they can send you to and once you accept you’re officially a part of the Exchange Programme! However!! You are NOT yet applied to KU….
APPLICATION TO KOREA UNI
I had to apply in May after getting my Exchange Programme success email in February so I still had plenty of time in between to get my stuff organised. There’s not much to do until you receive an email that you’ve been officially nominated to KU where you will be given proper instructions. However, the application guide on the KU Int. Office page has the general documents you need so you can begin to start photocopying your passport, passport photo, printing out your HEAR, and things like that to get you organised.
The application itself wasn’t difficult but can take some time so make sure you have all the documents you need signed and scanned and sitting on easy access on your desktop to save time. One part that confused me was the credits section. The application asks you what your current GPA is and I just put the same as what was on my HEAR in Glasgow credits which turned out to be fine. Theres no need to translate to a 4.0 system.
There are some documents they ask for that they don’t expect you to upload in the application period. Once you’ve filled out the application and sent it off you can still re-access it for months to add SOME documents. Not all. Some you have to have uploaded so read the instructions properly.
For my letter of aims and goals I wrote about the incredible opportunity studying in Korea will have for my academic career and how I expect to learn well and work hard and I name dropped a few courses I was excited to take. I also talked a bit about my excitement to learn more about Korean culture.
Later you will need to upload a medical form which you should already have in your possession but the TB test section has to be completed after 1st of July and I’ll discuss my…situation…with this in the MEDICAL section. You also need to promise to get private health insurance by ticking a box and you then email this to them later. 31st of July was my deadline for all my documents and I assume that won’t change much year to year.
All in all that area of the application was easy-peasy! Here’s where I had some issues:
Not that I had much of a problem but my issue was that the request for medial insurance was pretty vague. As someone who was brought up with the NHS I had no idea where to begin looking for private medical insurance and many of the ones I were for America and $$$. My friend who is going to SNU (Seoul National University) said she didn’t have such a strong requirement for this so she was covered as much as she needed to be medically with a study abroad insurance policy.
I, however, did have the requirements that I needed to be covered for general doctor visits in Korea and hospitalisation as well as emergency. The plan I ended up going with was with April International UK and I went with them after a week of emailing back and forth with one of their advisors. They have a specific student medical insurance policy that is particularly for exchange trips. I was around £350 for 11 months but I actually feel really assured with how covered I am. I did shop around and this was the cheapest medical-only insurance I found.
I started looking at this in June but couldn’t actually buy and send the confirmation to KU until mid-July as that was the earliest time to purchase for the cover to start at the end of August. The advisor I was speaking to emailed me to remind me which was great so I didn’t have to!
Okay, so, that TB test I mentioned earlier? Theres a nationwide shortage of the most common tuberculosis test, the Mantoux Test, until no-one knows when. I called a tonne of travel clinics and they were all like “sorry, we don’t have it!”. Finally I got recommended a travel clinic in Glasgow called Emcare and they had a couple! But since I was organising this in May they were worried that they’d run out before my appointment if people were in for emergency ones so I was completely panicking. But luck was on my side and they still had one when I got there. It was £70 but I was so relieved to get it because its a really strict requirement for KU.
Previously mentioned SNU friend ended up having to get one too except she got the alternative which was a chest x-ray. She still had to pay for it but it was a bit cheaper. The reason I didn’t get this was kind of my own fault because I have no medical knowledge and assumed it would be difficult to get an x-ray so I didn’t look into it. However, I did go to my GP and tried to get referred to get an x-ray once I found out my friend got it, just incase things didn’t end up going well with the Mantoux. But what resulted was probably the only time I cried during this process and it was honestly because every single person I came into contact with at my GP (which I never go to cos I’m never ill) made me feel, just, horrible. It was just a really bad day and no-one was helpful and I left feeling like I’d taken steps backward rather than forward. And even though I’d had frustrations in the process, this was the first time I felt helpless. But I took a day off from working on things and I was fine the next day. After all, I still had my Mantoux appointment a week or two later and I thankfully had the money to pay more for the test.
At my appointment at Emcare they also recommended a Hep A vaccine as I was caught up on all my childhood ones. As a result of my bad experience at the GP, and due to the fact I was going back to Emcare in two days time for a follow up to the Mantoux I just decided to get that privately with Emcare and paid £50. This was what was best for me, but if you can try get it free from your GP as long as you go quite a bit in advance because they like you to make your travel appointments over 6 weeks in advance. Otherwise, Emcare were great and I highly recommend them.
The next course of action was the visa. The bane of my existence and the most frustrating experience in my life. However, fortunately for you, you have me to tell you what to do whereas I had no one who had been to Korea from Glasgow to help 😥
The required documents for a Korean student visa can be found here: http://gbr.mofa.go.kr/english/eu/gbr/visa/issuance/ and most of them are pretty straight forward, but I’m happy to answer any specific questions about them directly.
My problem came from two things: the Letter of Recommendation and the Exchange Student Agreement. Both me and my friend called the embassy multiple times and they eventually told us we didn’t need the Letter of Recommendation so that was fine. However, they always said they needed the MOU whereas the go-abroad team at Glasgow said we shouldn’t need it. Acting as a go-between for the go-abroad team and the Embassy for months was really frustrating, especially when I’d had the rest of my application ready since the middle of June. Eventually Glasgow got in contact after the Embassy directly and it turned out we DID NOT need the MOU since we were going to specific universities, KU being one that was exempt. So problem solved and I have my visa now!
One thing with the visa is that you can’t get multiple entry for some reason. If you want to leave and come back to Korea within your visa limit you need a permit from the international office which I do hope to do eventually so I’ll probably have that in another post on a later date.
Applying for accommodation is actually really straight forward and KU has been consistently good at emailing out detailed, visual instructions for all of the processes they ask of you. This was so easy that my dad did it for me since I was on holiday!
One thing is that the transfer fees for paying are ridiculous. At least for my bank. But just be aware of that from the beginning. Also, since the exchange rate is always changing there is a chance your payment may be under, like mine. In that case they let you pay the outstanding charges in your first week of arrival, where I’ll have to pay 10,000 won (around £7).
Just remember too to upload the necessary forms like your TB stuff and the receipt of payment (which you may receive in the post a few days later unlike straight away like I assumed).
Course choice was something I felt okay going into, but I now realise how naive I was! As I mentioned before, the courses are really competitive for exchange students. They first allow you to make a practice timetable which is really handy for registering when the time comes. Once again, you can’t search for the courses by keyword so you need to know all the course numbers for all the suitable courses as back up.
I was successful in registering for half of my courses and was on the waiting list for the other three. I eventually found out that I didn’t make it past the waiting lists and there would be another 24 hour time slot for me and other unlucky students to try and get some other courses.
Again, I was like, “this will be fine I have a tonne of back ups!” except… they were all full too. At this point I hadn’t realised the 15% exchange student limit which means some classes can only have as little as 1 or 2. So, there I was, panicking and near tears at 4am after only scraping one other suitable class from the General Electives. I have since learned that there is an option during orientation week where they sort you out if you’ve not made all the classes you need as not all classes have all their home student spaces taken and theres a chance to get those. Hopefully. As of right now I haven’t sorted this situation but will update once its fixed, fingers crossed!!
Unlock your phone if you haven’t already! Otherwise no sim cards you will get in Korea will work on your phone. As of now I’ve preordered a sim that is on the KT network which is one of the biggest. Right now, I’m not one hundred percent how they work so when I collect it on Sunday I’ll ask some questions and make a more in depth post later!
FEEL FREE TO ASK ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS!!