Navigating the initial days, weeks, or even months at university can be overwhelming.
Personally, it took me about a semester to fully acclimate to the education system and campus culture. However, with time and adaptation strategies, things eventually fell into place.
One notable difference I observed in the university system, particularly in comparison to my experience in Malaysia, is the emphasis on discussion work and after-class sessions in the freshman year. While group work is common, it can be a unique challenge for international students, especially if you happen to be the only international student in your class.
In my experience, there were instances where group discussions were carried out in Korean, leaving me feeling left out and clueless. Even if the class language is English, language barriers can still arise, creating a degree of stress when trying to communicate effectively with partners who may not be fluent in English, and I, in turn, may not be fluent in Korean. Yet, this is an intrinsic part of university group work – not just completing assignments but also learning effective communication throughout the process.
Another valuable insight gained during my six years in Korea is the importance of learning the Korean language. Whether or not you achieve fluency, making an effort to grasp the language proves beneficial not only for daily life but also for long-term prospects, such as securing employment. Investing time in learning Korean gradually, perhaps through language classes offered by most universities for international students, can significantly enhance your overall experience and communication skills by the end of your undergraduate studies.
Recognizing that it's unrealistic to expect others to learn English for you, I strongly encourage every international student to undertake the journey of learning Korean. Ultimately, this endeavor will be beneficial in numerous ways.
In my upcoming post, I will elaborate on the various advantages of acquiring proficiency in Korean!
Providing mentoring from applying to undergraduate school, graduate school or even applying for a job!
All the best in your journey in Korea :)