Interested in going on exchange in Korea, but don’t really know what Korean universities to attend? Among many universities in Korea, Korea University (고려대학교) is well known for its position as one of the prestigious SKY universities that represent the country. While such abstract information as tuition and location is available online, information overload on the Internet makes it difficult for students to actually comprehend what student life is like at Korea University. There are indeed many aspects of being an exchange student at Korea University that you cannot see without actually being there. In this article, I will reflect on my personal experience and summarise some of the most frequently asked questions about being an exchange student at Korea University. I tried to find as up-to-date information as possible, but please bear in mind that things like price and course registration system are subject to constant change.
The photo is an excerpt from the course lists of the School of Political Science and Economics. You have to look at ‘(3) X’ to see whether a course you want to take is open to exchange students. Photo: Korea University
Going on an exchange program is indeed an important life-changing decision that will have a substantial impact on your life later on. Once you’ve got a letter of admission from your home university, you might be so thrilled to make new friends and experience exotic food and culture. But before all the fun starts, you should start thinking about what classes to take at your host university.
When you are accepted into an exchange program at Korea University, in most cases you will first have to consult with student services at your home university and discuss what classes are transferable and can be counted toward your degree. You will most likely have to fill out a form that lists up classes you would like to sign up for, and they must be approved by your home university prior to you commencing the program. Transferable classes totally depend on the area of your study, but for those who are studying humanities subjects, they tend to have more freedom in terms of course selection as they are likely to have more space for general electives. On the other hand, people who are in the fields of science and engineering are more likely to be studying similar subjects that they study back home. For your information, exchange students can take max 19 credits per semester, which works out to somewhere around 6 - 7 classes (I would recommend taking 4 -5 classes to allow some freedom).
At Korea University, faculties that are most popular among international exchange students are the Division of International Studies (DIS) and the Business School. The popularity of the DIS can be attributed to the fact that most of the classes there are offered in English, taught by professors and researchers who have teaching experience at overseas institutions. The Korea University Business School continues to attract students from all around the world with its renowned programs and high-quality courses taught. According to the Financial Times, Korea University’s MBA program ranked 27th globally in 2019, making it the best business school in the nation. And, because of its internationally recognised status, Korea University hosts various international conferences and invites renowned speakers, such as former-ambassadors and UN officers, for special lectures.
In Korea, class registration is a serious business, and students literally flock to PC cafes an hour before the system opens to get into their desired courses. While you will be joining this intense race of course registration, most classes offered at Korea University have separate class size caps for international students, so you won’t have to worry too much about it. Some courses are not open to exchange students even if they are offered in English while it is possible to take classes tagged completely in Korean, so be sure to check out and jot down some courses that might interest you by clicking this link.
Photo: 고려대학교 교환학생 교류회 KUBA Facebook
One of the top concerns of students who go on an exchange program is making new friends in an unknown country. And if that is your concern too, you need not worry. Korea University welcomes around 1,500 exchange students from all over the world, and it is just impossible that you get isolated in this massive international student body without finding any single person you can get along well with.
To help foster friendships between international students and local Korean students, Korea University runs a Korean buddy program called the Korea University Buddy Assistants (KUBA). KUBA is a student-run organisation that is designed to help international students get to know Korean society and culture, and you will be automatically signed up for this program when you go on exchange at Korea University.
Local Korean buddies go through the school selection process and interviews and are in general very good at communicating in English. Because there are thousands of exchange students coming to Korea University every year, KUBA does all activities in smaller groups. Closer to the commencement date, you will receive an email from your Korean buddy (1 Korean: 3-6 international) and what group you are in. Throughout the semester, you will be spending time with your Korean and foreign buddies, going to different sightseeing spots and participating in bigger events such as field trips and sports day with other groups.
At CJ International House, there is a gym you can use for free. Photo: Korea University CJ International House
One of the biggest advantages of choosing student dorms at Korea University is that you don’t have to go through the hassle of doing already difficult housing contracts in Korean. Once you get accepted into an exchange program at Korea University, you will be notified about their housing options. You will have to apply for the dorms by yourself between designated registration dates, but do make sure you get in quick as there are a limited number of rooms available and the application is processed on a first-come-first-served basis.
There are three on-campus housing options for exchange students - CJ International House, Anam Global House, and Anam Dormitory II. CJ International House and Anam Global House are the most popular picks among international students but tend to be more expensive (Single 2,000,000 KRW / Double 1,600,000 KRW per semester including utility bills, rent must be paid upfront rather than monthly). Exchange students can also go for Anam Dormitory II where you will be sharing a small room with other two local or international students. At the first two dorms, each room is equipped with a private bathroom while Anam Dormitory II has communal bathrooms and shower rooms on each floor. You can access more detailed information on the housing options at Korea University by following this link.
Some of the most often mentioned disadvantages of living on-campus at Korea University is that dorms are located on top of a hill. From the nearest Anam station, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the aforementioned three dorms, with the CJ International House being the furthest of the three. Another negative aspect is that these houses have only shared kitchens, and I have yet to see a clean, tidy, and organised kitchen in student accommodation anywhere in the world.
A quick look at various food menus offered at Korea University cafeterias. Photo: Imginn KU Cafeteria
The Korea University Anam Campus has a few cafeterias. Both the humanities and science campuses have their own cafeterias (Humanities campus: 학생회관 학생식당, Science campus: 자연계 학생식당) that offer a buffet type of service with various menus that change daily. In each meal, you get around 4 - 5 simple dishes like fried rice, grilled fish, sausages, salad, soup and of course kimchi. To be honest, the variety can be boring if you eat there 356 days a year, but you can just have a quick meal in between classes at a surprisingly affordable cost of 4,000 KRW - 5,000 KRW.
While these main cafeterias are open during school holidays, an amazing 1,000 KRW breakfast deal is offered during the semester. In the morning, you can also get a sandwich and milk or iced coffee at the Korea University Bakery (고대빵), located on both the humanities and science campuses for 1,000 KRW. This surprising pricing does not mean you will be getting less and is in fact made possible by generous donations from the Korea University alumni that stress the importance of having proper breakfast before one’s first class. The 1,000 KRW breakfast is available between 8:00 and 9:30 during the semester.
For students living in the on-campus student dorms, there is a cafeteria located adjacent to one of these buildings. While this cafeteria offers a buffet type of service as well, the payment system differs a little bit in this facility. In order to have access, you have to pre-purchase a meal card that comes in three different types - 120, 160, and 200 meals. While the price is subject to change, a 120-meal card costs 444,000 KRW (3,7000 KRW per meal) while you get a discount on a 200-meal card which is sold for 600,000 KRW (3,000 KRW per meal). Once you purchase a meal card, they will add the information to your student card, which functions as an entry pass to the student cafeteria. You can see the locations of the Korea University cafeterias and food menus by following this link (only available in Korean).
Students are dressed in the colours of their respective universities (Korea University: Red, Yonsei University: Blue) and root for their schools until their voices are gone. The Ko Yon Jeon Games is such a huge event that all five games are broadcasted live to the Korean public and appear in various newspapers! Photo: The Korea Times
Spending time outside class is as important as studying when you are studying abroad on the other side of the world. For those who are looking for a very exciting experience in Korea, school festivals are oftentimes highly recommended among exchange students.
Perhaps a majority of universities around the world throw some forms of school festivals, but Korea University and its students seem to take this annual special event to another level. At Korea University, the school festival called Ipselenti (입실렌티) is held around the last weeks of May. Technically, the main festival kicks off on a Saturday, but the celebration goes for the entire week that leads up to it. During the festival, students from different faculties open themed stalls where they serve original dishes and drinks and transform the campus into one big student town. While students enjoy a night of chatting over a few drinks, student clubs - music bands, dance teams, and drama clubs - perform what they have practised during the semester.
During the fall semester comes the Korea-Yonsei Games or Ko Yon Jeon (고연전) in Korean. The Ko Yon Jeon Games is a sporting event in which Korea University competes against its rival school, Yonsei University, and this inter-university rivalry is said to date back to as far as the 1920s. As part of the prestigious SKY universities, these two schools are engaged in the constant academic competition, but on the day of the Ko Yon Jeon Games, both students get out of the classroom and compete in five sports - football, baseball, rugby, ice hockey, and basketball. While students who belong to each universities’ official sports clubs run all day to get the prestigious trophy back home, other students also participate in endless cheering, led by their respective cheerleaders. Traditionally, the winner of the Ko Yon Jeon Games is bestowed with the right to brag about their victory and how their home university is ‘better’ than the other until the next game.
While the Ko Yon Jeon baseball, football, and rugby games are usually free admission, you need a valid ticket to watch ice hockey and basketball due to limited seating. The ticket information seems to change every year, and it is extremely hard to get a ticket - not only for exchange students but also for local Korean students. Weeks in the lead up to the Ko Yon Jeon Games see tickets go on sale at the Korea University student marketplace and are usually sold for around 30,000 KRW - 40,000 KRW. If you are very keen on attending all events, you should seek advice from your Korean buddy from KUBA.