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Korea University

Korea University building ‘Woodang Hall’

Living in Seoul has been a fascinating change of pace from life back home in the suburbs of South-West Sydney. It has been a culture shock in many facets of everyday life, from shops and streets being alive past midnight on a weekday, to smaller lifestyle quirks here, such as coffee shops being treated as unofficial libraries by the local students of Korea University. The campus of KU has strong British architecture influence, and classes feel like being back in the high school system. (Attendance is expected/mandatory in most cases, mobile phones/laptops are confiscated from usage, classes are all in a classroom setting even for lectures)

The main street that KU students leak out onto after classes

New activities I have taken up while on exchange has been optional Korean language classes and a traditional cooking class. Despite having half-Korean heritage, growing up I was never really exposed to Korean culture as my family in Australia was near non-existent besides my mother and one auntie. I felt that beyond my exchange, it would be appropriate to learn some skills that would be applicable and usable back home whilst being a nice way to remember my time spent in Korea.

Something you could probably accredit to my upbringing in Sydney, but I have found it very unusual to be in such a homogenous country. Upon reflection this seems like a rather obvious statement but growing up as mixed heritage, and in a city where different ethnicities are found all throughout took some adjustment. Other tidbits I have noticed living in Seoul thus far;

  • I knew plastic surgery was quite popular amongst men and women, but I wasn’t expecting makeup usage to be as high as it is amongst men
  • The delivery service in Korea is incredible, most restaurants and even some grocery stores can deliver to my doorstep until late into the night, and most don’t even charge for the convenience.
  • Shoving whilst walking around train stations to get through crowds is pretty normal, everyone does it in such a fashion that would probably cause a fight on a cityrail train
  • I knew on paper Korea is a highly populated country, but it is still crazy to see people everywhere you go at all hours of the day, and clumps of high rise apartments even when heading out to the countryside, which I witnessed heading to Pyeongchang seeing farmland intertwined with 40 story apartment blocks.

There are plenty more examples of small things I notice that remind me that I am no longer at home, these are some of the more common ones that arise. If anything, I feel like I am learning more about my country by living here, as I am able to have a proper point of comparison for once. I definitely have a bigger appreciation for the beaches within driving distance to my home, as I realise the option for Koreans is a cross country train to Busan which is an all day trip. In fact, I no longer think our weather is that extreme, it was shocking to come from 30 degree weather to snow and borderline negative temperature in Seoul which almost never happens in Sydney.

Rare snowfall from my dormitory

As far as classes go, I am studying completely different material to back home. To make exchange work I saved all my elective classes available to complete here. As a result instead of studying core subjects in Construction Management such as cost planning or human resources, I have chosen subjects in psychology, Korean history and culture, and beginner film studies classes. It has been refreshing to experience a completely different type of university experience compared to back home, with much more contact hours and interaction with the campus in general.

In summation, it’s been a nice change of pace from home thus far, and I look forward to the experiences and memories to come throughout this exchange. Here’s to the next three months or so!

Andreas Kokkinis
Bachelor of Construction Project Management (Senior)
Korea University
South Korea

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