By Vannesha Mae
Seoul is a big city with a lot of opportunities, a great place to study and live in! This year was not actually the first time for me to visit South Korea. I have visited the country several times and honestly was not too fond of it. I could never relate to my friends and family who are in love with Seoul and I thought to myself if I was doing something wrong, or experiencing it wrong. Thus, I came to the decision to go for an exchange semester in Seoul to attempt it again and it was the best decision I have ever made!
I arrived in Seoul relatively late and close to the start of the semester as I am pretty much familiar with the surroundings and how things work in Seoul, and that I did not need some adjustment time in the beginning. However, it was enough time for me to discover the environment and the neighborhood around the campus. Unlike Groningen, where the classes are scattered around in different buildings throughout the city, Seoul National University campus buildings are located in one area, 5-10 minutes bus ride away from the Seoul National University subway station, which is also one of the areas for off-campus housing surrounded by great restaurants, nice pubs, and karaoke places (noraebang) which is one of the main activities that Koreans usually do! The public transportation in Korea, which is mainly the subway and bus is definitely superb and inexpensive, which makes it easier to travel to campus or just throughout the city. Nevertheless, cab is also relatively cheap especially compared to the Netherlands, when you split it with three other people, as the subway and busses do not run 24/7.
For most people, exchange semester in Seoul National University was also made wonderful especially because of the SNU Buddy Program, which accommodates and facilitates incoming exchange students and provides various activities from culture, sport, and art. The Thursday pub nights especially is one of the highlights from SNU Buddy, something that we really looked for in the week as it is the perfect place for all exchange students to gather and get to know each other. All exchange students are divided into random groups that also consist of several Korean buddies who will be your personal buddies, and they are honestly the nicest people who are really welcoming and ready to help you anytime! Living in foreign country where people rarely speak English could be difficult at times, but their help definitely made it easier. Some of them are also the people you would find yourself going for a night out with and possibly having the best night of your life! The nightlife in Seoul is definitely amazing and there are a lot of nice bars and great clubs to visit. Though unlike Groningen, where you can easily cycle to get to a bar, going out in Seoul requires some effort by taking the subway from SNU Station area to Hongdae or Itaewon for around 20 minutes travel time. Most clubs require entry fees, which could make a night out pretty expensive compared to Groningen, so it would be advised to check on the events on Facebook or social media to have an image on what kind of music will be played and whether you will like it or now.
If you are a foodie, you will never regret coming to South Korea. Their culinary is define, from street food to restaurants and they are inexpensive at all for the taste and the service you will receive. Eating out is also a part of the culture for Koreans, I never had to cook a single time during my stay in Seoul. Other than that, the campus also provides meals for around 3000 won or 2,50 euros approximately, from breakfast to dinner and in every cafeteria in every college buildings including the dorms if you decide to live there! The dormitory is also the cheapest option to live in, though you have to share a room, it costs around 400 euros for the whole semester.
Last but not least is the courses in Seoul National University. The university only offers Graduate courses only and unfortunately very minimum selections of courses which are mostly revolving around private or patent law. To fulfill RUG’s 30 ECTS requirement, 4 law courses in SNU is mandatory, and different from RUG, all courses only consist of lectures in a relatively small class of three hours per course per week. Some courses are unfortunately scheduled on Saturdays but it might differ per year and it would not necessarily cut your leisure time as you would still have them at the beginning of the week to explore Seoul! Overall the courses are stimulating and could be challenging at times but still very doable!
All in all, study abroad in Seoul was an amazing experience and if you are a fan of big cities, diversity, and cultures, South Korea is the place to be!