Before coming to Korea, I was extremely excited and of course a little nervous. I’d done so much research on the language and culture before I came that I thought I would be totally prepared for everything, but I’ve learned that nothing can really prepare you for an experience like this. I chose Korea because I wanted to force myself to learn a new language and live in a culture that was totally different from my home country. I thought I knew what to expect, but I’ve realised that you can’t really understand a culture properly and know what to expect from it until you’ve lived in it, and I feel like I learn something new about Korea every day.
I had a lot of different universities in mind when I first thought about going on an overseas exchange, and I’m so glad I ended up studying at Chung-Ang. The campus is so pretty, the dorms are really nice, and they offer some great classes for foreign exchange students. Learning about Korean culture and language from native Korean lecturers has been so much fun! Another great thing about CAU is the Global Ambassador (GLAM) program. It means that from the moment you arrive in Korea and even before you arrive, you have help available in the form of a Korean student who can answer your questions and help you out either online or in person. It’s made things so much easier knowing that there’s always someone there to ask if I’m not sure about something or if something goes wrong.
Since arriving in Korea I’ve had so many incredible experiences and I’ve met so many amazing people from all around the world. Some of my favourite moments have been trying the street food and going shopping in Myeongdong, visiting Gyeongbokgung palace in Insadong, going to concerts and music broadcasts, and travelling to Busan and Daegu.
If I could give some advice to future exchange students, I’d advise them to learn at least a little bit of Korean before arriving. Being able to read Hangul, order food, and say things like please and thank you is extremely helpful! Don’t worry too much if you don’t know any Korean though; you’ll probably pick up a little on the way and a lot of people in Seoul can speak at least a little English. I’d also recommend doing a little bit of research on the culture before arriving. Korean culture is most likely very different to your home country, and there’s a lot of emphasis on showing respect and being polite to others. Having at least a small amount of knowledge on how to act in public and speak to other people can help you avoid unintentionally offending someone or drawing unwanted attention to yourself when in public. Most importantly, I’d recommend coming to Korea with an open mind and without any expectations. You’re going to experience a whole new world and meet a lot of new people who may be very different to you, so coming into such an experience with an open mind will help you appreciate every opportunity you have and every person you meet.
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to come to Korea and study at CAU, and I really can’t recommend it enough. I’ve made lifelong friends and had so many incredible experiences that I’ll never forget. Even though there have been times where I felt homesick, or felt like the culture shock and language barrier was too difficult to deal with, I wouldn’t trade this experience or these memories for the world and I would do it all over again if I could.