Yonsei University

Yonsei Changed My Life…

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Written by: Ki Moon, Foster School undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Korea

“Change your mind and it will change your life.” I changed my mind by choosing to study at the Yonsei University by applying through the Foster School of Business. Prior to my decision of going abroad, I relied heavily on the familiarity of my life; I was so afraid of the unfamiliar and often times said to myself that “I’ve never done that before, I’ve never been over there, and I’ve never hung out with these people.” However, I came to the realization that sometimes you need to go out of the comfort zone, and as cliché as that sounds, it’s very true.

On August 22nd of 2013, I checked into the SK Global House, which is one of the two international dorm buildings built for international and exchange students. I signed up for the single dorm because I read prior recommendations that it would give me space to quietly study. Also, you get your own bathroom, which I believe is a must. This was also the first time that I got the chance to dorm. Back at UW, I’m a daily commuter from the eastside area, so living at home was always part of my college experience. However, this was different and I enjoyed every dose of this part of the experience. For one, living by myself helped me to understand so much about myself. I found out that I’m much more capable of handling my responsibilities and chores. It’s just that I never had the chance to prove it or show it to anyone. One thing I’m really good at now is doing my laundry. Let me tell you, the first laundry experience, using the coin laundry system at the first floor of the SK Global House, was traumatizing. After washing and drying all of my cotton shirts on the high settings, I came back to my dorm and realized that majority of my large-sized cotton shirts turned into women’s x-small. I laughed about it and never did that again!

yonsei

The business building at Yonsei University

The one hard part about living on your own is the food. There is no meal plan when you choose to stay at the dorms. That means you need to figure out a way to crunch your appetite. Back home, this was like an automatic no-worry matter. Mom would always cook three healthy meals for me a day, but at Yonsei there were many times when I skipped my meals. Of course, there is McDelivery, which is a delivery service available at the McDonalds in Korea. I used that plenty of times – three o’clock in the morning McChicken and BigMacs will be unforgettable.

Now let me tell you about my first day in class. First of all, all of my business courses were taught in English. I had one professor who had a very strong accent but understanding him was no problem. Since I am fluent in Korean and am very familiar with the broken English that my parents speak, I could easily understand what the professor wanted to say. All courses, at least the ones that I was enrolled in, were pretty straightforward. You will have to do at least one lengthy group presentation (groups are either assigned to you or you get to pick your group members), take one midterm and one final (most are based on multiple choice format), and have to have good classroom participation (showing up to class). The coursework load is very minimal, which means you have a lot of free time after classes. Usually, this can be a good or bad thing. For me, I started to procrastinate leading up to my first midterm, and then I got the wake-up call. But don’t worry because the UW has prepared us so well to study and manage ourselves in any kind of academic setting.

Meeting new people and making new friends can be a challenge anywhere, and it was especially harder to do as an exchange student. Many exchange students felt the same. The biggest problem for this is because the exchange students live in a secluded part of the Yonsei campus. When class ends, all of the exchange students usually head back to that part of the campus. It won’t be easy making friends with students who are regular Yonsei attendees. The best recommendation which I came across is to sign-up for the extracurricular clubs provided and managed by the Yonsei students. This is done during the first couple weeks of school. I highly recommend this opportunity. Also, sign-up for the Mentors Club, which is designed to match one regular Yonsei student who will accompany you by eating lunch with you, studying with you, and familiarizing you with the Yonsei student life.

All in all, words can’t even express how much I enjoyed the study abroad experience. It’s hard to put all of the memorable and valuable pieces of this experience into such short blog post, but my time in Korea has been truly worthwhile.

My time at Yonsei

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Written by: Agnes Kim

One of the best parts of going to Yonsei was the experience of getting to meet new people from all over the world. Yonsei’s student exchange system is truly a world-class exchange program; more than 40 nations were represented by the diverse student nationalities. The opportunity to meet people of so many different backgrounds and cultures was very eye opening.
Often it can be difficult to truly grasp that out there is a world, a world in which all types of people can be found and that, just as often, these people can be radically different than yourself. Many people spend their whole lives surrounded by familiar experiences, people, and settings that never truly challenge their lives. It was truly an eye-opening lesson to find that your local and personal experiences and stories are not things that can simply be assumed to be true–the lives of others of others are so radically different from your own, even as they are taken for granted just as lightly from their point of view. And maybe it was because everyone’s story was different from each other’s but rather than having these differences separate everyone, it ironically ended up being a common thread that everyone could share and relate to. Especially in today’s globalized world, to be forced to learn first-hand that differences are gaps to be bridged rather than ignored at the expense of finding yourself friendless and a loner is a pretty humbling and valuable lesson.

At the same time, it was strange to see that this experience doesn’t exactly translate back at home either. Just as my own personal experiences or views were difficult for other people from around the world to grasp fully, I’ve found that now my experiences abroad aren’t easily understood by friends and family who stayed home, who haven’t seen what I did as well.
When meeting people abroad, they at the very least have the benefit of knowing that a lack of communication went both ways. Yet it’s strange and interesting to find that back home, people listen to your story and because of your familiarity, friendship, or kinship believe or pretend to understand when in truth they don’t. I was in that position before this trip and now know that I didn’t understand then. It’s an odd sensation to come home feeling you’ve grown and changed so much after having learned that there’s a world out there so big it could crush you, yet it seems everything is exactly as I left it since I left. I guess you call that growing up.
However, I also did notice that, particularly at Yonsei, studying abroad can be and is what you make of it. Although there are so many opportunities to see new things, it’s just as easy to stay insulated and see nothing new at all. This was a problem highlighted by the fact that the dormitories and even the associated lecture halls for foreign and exchange students are all gathered and stuck on one corner of the Yonsei campus away from everything else, being secluded and separated.

It can be very tempting to do nothing but take English courses taught by English professors in a class with English students while living in an English housing complex and only make English friends who you only go out in English districts and areas with. Although there’s nothing wrong with that since making new friends and networking is always a great thing. Plenty of the other exchange students, especially those from systems such as the EAP-UC programs that intentionally put you in that environment, did exactly just that. But I think if you’re bothering to go to another country and are surrounded by a global environment, it’s short-sighted to not take advantage of the experience to see a bit of the world and I’m glad to have put myself out there and did things out of my comfort zone and gained valuable experiences that are difficult to come by. I would strongly urge anyone considering studying abroad to do the same.

One of the most interesting cultural differences that I was able to observe in Korea was the drinking culture. Korea was recently mentioned in online research articles about worldwide drinking habits as the nation with the highest alcohol consumption rate per capita in the world and my experience at Yonsei definitely showed me that side of Korean culture; it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the capital of Seoul could easily steal the moniker of ‘the city that never sleeps’ from New York. The most fascinating thing about the drinking culture though was that it seemed to be so deeply tied to the social ladder and work environment. Alcohol serves not only as a rite of passage for newly graduated high school students (the legal age of consumption is 19) but as an engine of social cohesion and professional networking. Whether it is with groups of personal friends, student organizations, or work functions, there are nightly outings attached with the unspoken implication that your presence is required and alcohol must be consumed in order for you to be truly accepted into the fold.
This was both fascinating and baffling when in western culture alcohol is generally considered as simply being a social lubricant that isnt necessary for acceptance among your peers. Whether this is due to the Korean alcohol soju and rice wines being so inexpensive that they are unavoidable or because there is a separate underlying cultural reason I couldn’t tell. But I can attest to the culture shock that you can go through after witnessing a society that functions so normally despite having the level of nightly alcohol consumption and social outings.

Soju Think You Can Dance?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

By: Julie Dickinson, Foster Undergraduate

Korean drinking culture is intense…and I could write about it forever. It’s one of the most unique and highly ritualized drinking cultures in the world but in addition to being highly alcohol fueled, the practices really do say a lot about Korean culture as a whole. Drinking in groups (which is the preferred way of drinking in Korea) is really all about respect. It reminds me a lot of ballroom dancing…there are certain ways of doing everything and certain mannerisms, which translate into much larger meanings. I’m not going to attempt to tell you all of the rules because I would butcher them but I can convey the general gist of what I gathered.  As like most things in Korea, age is everything. Your age relative to the other members of your group will tell you who’s buying the drinks, who’s pouring the drinks, and who’s going to need to tap out first (usually involuntarily). It is very common for colleagues to go out together after work and I was lucky enough to be invited on some of these outings. Work is not discussed but rather jokes are told and games are played and everyone needs to have as much fun as the boss is having (which is quite often an exceptional amount of fun). One must never pour ones own drink, one must never let the other drinks at the table become empty, and one must never drink in a group without buying a meal for the table. The drink of choice is Soju: the most widely sold alcohol in the world (almost exclusively sold in Korea if that tells you anything) and in my opinion one of the worst tasting things you’ll ever encounter. The best (and I would say 90%) of drinking outings end in Karaoke. The only shame in Karaoke is holding back, one must go all out in one’s Celine Dion impersonation. And the number one rule in drinking with one’s colleagues? One must show up to work the next day looking impeccably fresh and pretend that one did not see one’s boss dancing on the tables the night before.

 

Why Psy?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

By: Julie Dickinson, Foster Undergraduate

At the time of this writing the video “Gangnam Style” by PSY has over 1 Billion views, making it by far the most viewed video in the history of Youtube. PSY’s antics are hilarious and the video is truly unique, but I’ve seen videos of cats trying to stuff themselves into too small boxes that rival the comedic value…so why PSY? Koreans are wondering the exact same thing. Living in Korea during the Gangnam Style phenomenon was bizarre to say the least because honestly Koreans didn’t understand the popularity and would frequently ask me if as a westerner I could provide insight. That being said, PSY is a national hero for the popularity he’s brought to the country and to KPOP. It makes me a little sad that this video is what 99% of the world population associates with Korea but at the same time it really is an excellent opportunity to open the world up to Korean culture. In October, PSY decided to give a free concert in Seoul to thank the people of Korea for their part in his success. I decided to attend and it was an experience that really very drastically changed my outlook on life and that I will never forget. The population of Seoul is around 10 million and I would hazard to guess that 9,999,999 of these people were at the PSY concert. I have lived in big cities my entire life and I thought I had some sort of concept for what that many people in one place looked like but I had no idea. Needless to say I arrived at the PSY concert 2hrs early and I probably moved about 3 feet between where I got off the subway and where I ended up. I couldn’t see or hear PSY but that was irrelevant. Seeing the massive amount of Koreans ranging in age from infants to the extremely elderly was an experience I’ll never forget.  To Koreans, PSY represents so much more than a silly horse dance, he represents hope for the country. As I said, to me its somewhat of a shame that PSY is the only exposure that most people will get to Korea because honestly if you think PSY’s funny or unique or quirky…he’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Kimchi for Breakfast…Lunch and Dinner

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

By: Julie Dickinson, Foster Undergraduate

I wouldn’t be doing Korea justice if I didn’t pay homage to one of the countries greatest delicacies…its cuisine. Before going to Korea I had never tried Korean food…not even once. I had heard it was incredible and quite honestly I’ve never met a food I didn’t like (except quiche) so I was very much looking forward to trying out a new thing. However, Korea presented three realities that I was extraordinarily underprepared for: 1. In Korea, you only eat Korean food 2. There are thousands of different Korean dishes but they basically all consist of the same four ingredients 3. This last one is embarrassing but…Korean’s use chopsticks…exclusively. Needless to say upon arrival I was like a fish out of water, or rather a white girl without her beloved fork and knife. My lack of chopstick knowledge is absolutely pathetic but honestly I’ve spent hours on end trying to perfect the art (I can’t hold a pencil correctly either so I suspect there is a high correlation between the two). Not only are fork and knife not used in Korea, they are unheard of. My amused but gracious Korean friend suggested I buy a bag of forks and keep them in my purse at all times. Luckily for me, my western tendencies amused the Koreans to such a great extent that I was able to make fast friends by bonding over my lack of knowhow. I digress…the point of the story is that Korean food is out of this world and if you’ve never tried it I highly suggest you embark upon trying it ASAP. Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is served with literally everything and by everything I mean everything… Upon leaving Korea I was having such bad Kimchi withdrawals and unfortunately unless you know how to make it yourself its hard to come by in the States.  Not only does Kimchi taste amazing (in my humble opinion) it’s also one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Not to mention Kimchi is so steeped in Korean history that there are entire museums dedicated to the art of fermenting the cabbage. Needless to say, if I had to spend the rest of my life eating one cuisine I would be more than ok with that cuisine consisting of spicy, fermented, sticky Korean food…even if I did have to fumble around with chopsticks.