South Korea is a poster child for the technological age. However, while the country seems to be on the fast track, it remains a land steeped in tradition.
South Korea has one of the most cohesive national traditions in the world-- until the early 1900s there was an unbroken line of more than one hundred kings for almost two thousand years. As for the Korean people themselves, they are fiercely proud with a character almost as spicy as their food. They are also incredibly welcoming, and you may find new friends within hours of your arrival!
Top Reasons to Study Abroad in South Korea
There are lots of reasons to go abroad in High School—languages are easier to learn before the age of 18, it looks great on a college application, you get a little independence and adventure… But why would you pick Korea? Here are our top 3 reasons:
- Korean Cusine—Try out Galbi, or Korean barbeque, or any of the many, MANY types of pickled vegetables. Even your pizza hut pizza will come with a side of Kimchi!
- History—You’ll find monasteries, temples, ancient burial grounds and palaces everywhere you go. The Korean people are proud of their history, and there are thousands of fascinating and well-preserved sites worth checking out.
- Noraebang—You may have tried karaoke, but this South Korean staple is even better. Directly translated as “singing room,” these private karaoke rooms let you belt out Miley Cyrus without embarrassing yourself in front of the whole establishment!
Especially if this is your first time, consider you’re interests very carefully before choosing a study abroad program. Are you looking for a year-long adventure? Do you just need a few weeks away from mom and dad? Would you like to study with Korean or American Students? There are tons of options when it comes to studying in South Korea.
The South Korean school year goes starts in March until mid February, with a couple vacations in between. The school day goes from approximately 8:00am to 4:00pm, although the older students are sometimes required to stay until 9:00pm or later studying on their own. Good news though! South Korea no longer has school on Saturday mornings! Middle school (grades 1-3) is for students ages 13-16. High school (also grades 1-3) is for students 16-19.
South Korean schools are sometimes accused of being too cutthroat- and certainly there’s a competitive culture that may take some getting used to, but don’t worry too much. Most study abroad programs offer academic support until you settle into your new school.
If you’re worried about FOMO and don’t want to spend the entire year abroad, consider a summer program. Summer study abroad balances travel, language classes and culture. It’s a great low-key alternative that doesn’t sacrifice the adventure of going abroad!
Planning Your Trip
There’s a lot to think about before you study abroad, but don’t worry! Housing, costs, and transportation—but don’t worry, we’ll take you through it step by step.
Most programs won’t require you to speak Korean before you step on the plane, but you might find it easier to get around if you pick up a few phrases before you leave!
- Hi!: An-nyŏng-ha-se-yo
- Thank you (very much)! (Nŏ-mu) kam-sa-ham-ni-da
- See you later! Na-jung-e bwae-yo!
- Good bye! An-nyŏng-hi ga-se-yo! / An-nyŏng-hi ge-se-yo!
- I need to practice my Korean Han-gung-mal yŏn-sŭ-p'ae-ya dwoe-yo
- Korea is a wonderful country Han-gu-gŭn dae-dan-han na-ra-im-ni-da.
If you really want to get involved in Korean life, focus on programs with homestays. Although it might seem scary to live with a bunch of strangers, programs interview all potential families and pick people who are excite about real cultural exchange. It’s great to have a home away from home, and it’s an excellent way to practice your Korean!
Do you have a valid passport? Before you head out, make sure you check out passport requirements AT LEAST two months in advance (average processing time is 4-6 weeks!). If you’re under 16, you’ll have to appear at your regional passport agency in person.
You won’t need a visa for short trips to South Korea, but if you’re staying more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a student visa at the Embassy before your departure.
South Korea isn’t terribly expensive, but the flight can be. Make sure you budget at least $1000-1500 USD round trip.
Many study abroad programs provide scholarships that cover some or all of the costs of studying abroad in Korea. Explore the specific information provided by each organization for more details.
There are also many opportunities to raise funds from your community—ask the local paper if you can write a weekly column from abroad in exchange for some cash, or start a lemonade stand (really, every little bit helps!)