I am beyond grateful to have had this chance to take part in the Korean Immersion Program (KIP) at Dankook University. The three weeks I spent there may be short I did get to enjoy, learn and immerse myself in the beautiful Korean culture.
Everything in Korea was so convenient. You could easily use a card to make payments at any shop or small stall by the roadside. Their transportation system was impressive and it was a big help for us to get around. Taxi fare was relatively expensive in Korea, therefore, subways and buses became the best choice for us to get from one place to another. You could go anywhere with subways or buses with the help of a T-money card (we were provided with the card by our university). There were also Mandarin and English-translated signboards around the subway and in the broadcast of the stations itself. There were also many convenience stores in Korea, such as GS25, CU and 7-11, which sold different kinds of food and drinks. There were cooking machines and microwaves at these stores which made it convenient for people to heat up any food they bought. The food that was sold in these convenience stores were also cheaper in comparison to other places. The convenience store located at our dormitory lobby became our first stop in the morning for breakfast before going to class.
Our classes in Dankook University began from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during weekdays. There were three different levels of classes for students – Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The teachers of the Korean language classes were all very friendly and kind. All of the classes were conducted in the Korean language only, which helped us learn the language quickly. However, in some of the beginner classes, simple English or Mandarin would be used to guide those who could not understand Korean at all. They were all very helpful and caring towards their students. Some of the teachers even gave us recommendations of restaurants or places where we could shop and visit. We also received much help from the committee members of the ISS Team from the International Department.
Students were also given freedom to choose any after-class cultural activity that they were interested in, however, some of the activities required a certain payment or fee. One of my favourite activities would be getting to watch ‘Nanta’, a non-verbal musical in which the actors use only tools to make sounds and music while focusing on the usage of body language and facial expressions in the whole performance. Dankook University also provided a Seoul tour for the exchange program students and we got to visit the National Museum, Sejong Square and also Namsan Tower.
Because our classes would usually end at 1 p.m., we would then spend our free time visiting Seoul or some other famous landmarks by public transport. We would also take this time to do some food hunting and shop in the city. There were buses around the campus that depart from the university to Jukjeon Station, Gangnam station and also to Seoul Station. From each bus station, we could then take the subway to different places in Seoul, which was very convenient for us. We did not have to worry about getting lost as some of the famous tourist spots had volunteers in red uniforms to help guide tourists.
One of the best parts of this trip was enjoying the food in Korea. You can expect Korean food to be delicious wherever you go – from the roadside stalls to restaurants and cafes. Although the food can be quite expensive, their portion size was usually large enough that we could even share it with friends. Korea also favours the arts as their streets are nicely decorated with murals, sculptures or some artistic lights design.
During our three-week stay, my friends and I managed to go on a short trip to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. We travelled to Busan by train (Mugonghwa and KTX), which took about two to five hours for us to arrive. In comparison to Seoul, Busan was less busy and crowded. Our Busan trip was planned and toured by our ESC17 Korean buddies from HELP University. They brought us to night markets, traditional markets, cultural villages and also the famous seaside and beach in Busan. We also got to try out the traditional and famous foods in Busan.
This student exchange program in Dankook University was definitely a brand new and valuable experience for me, as I was able to immerse myself in the Korean culture. I learned so much from this program, from the people I met, the food that I tried, the places that I visited and the culture that I experienced. It will remain as a precious memory for me.