Wow, I don’t know even where to start ! It has been amazing opportunity to travel and study abroad. Few weeks before leaving to Korea I was really scared and stressed out about whole travelling. I never travelled alone before and I don’t have much travel experience anyways. I was also scared of the new university. Ajou University is Top 15 (highest rank was 2nd place) best universities in South-Korea. I was really scared that I cannot pass courses there. On top of that, I was already missing home before even leaving home ! Idea of cancelling whole exchange crossed my mind many many many times. I had many sleepless nights because of this exchange student program.
Meeting new people – Well time passed and I was already on the way to Ajou. I met cool people in the bus and few of them became my friends who I talked to almost daily. Meeting new people was really exciting but I also felt bit nervous. I was so insecure about my english skills. But when I got used to it, now it almost feels weird to talk finnish again. And not everyone talks perfect english plus some people have really strong accent from their home countries. Their accents kinda shows how their home language works and how they are used to pronounce their language.
In other hand, meeting new peolpe from different countries gave me new ideas and ways of thinking about how I see the world and how I see where I come from, Finland and also what similarities we have, even though we live miles away from each other. Korean people are not talktive, but are honest like finnish people. Asian people tent to touch same sex persons as sign of friendship and caring, but in Finland it is not that common, we actually might feel really uncomfortable. When I visited my Korean girlfriend’s family, I wanted to buy a flower, but I heard it wasn’t a good idea. It is sign of love, only given to the significant other. So I asked few suggestions and the most funny one was watermelon, so I brought that and they were really happy about it !
Also, meeting new people around the globe, means you have international friends. Now when I travel somewhere, I can pick the country that I already have a native friend there, who can help me with stuff ! And I would do the same, if one of my international friends pay me a visit in Finland.
Studying – this is the reason we go exchange right? Well no comments. Studying in Ajou University is actually pretty straight foward. Go to every class, it will affect your grades if you are absence. Most classes taught by Korean Professors are basics lectures, go there, sit and listen and homework, but foreign Professors tent to be more laid back and have conversation based classes, much more enjoyable for us from Finland and probably other europeans as well. Korean students don’t talk much during the class, because they are not used it or they have been lazy and haven’t read the study material. Some foreign students talk all the time even though they don’t know anything and try to out smart the professor. Of course there are goods students, koreans and foreigners who keeps up the decent conversation, but I didn’t experienced any.
Exchange students are graded usually bit more soft than Koreans, they are graded by the “curve”. In the end, it doesn’t make much difference in easy-normal classes. In hard classes, the “curve” system” is beneficial if you study hard and rest of the students are not good, because there are limited amount of As, Bs, Cs etc…
Dormitory – (New Int. Dorm) Living with random person for semester is quite tough, especially if you guys have different schedules. You will bother each other a lot and if you have sleeping problems like I do, you don’t sleep much. Koreans like to stay up late doing…something.. I don’t know. They supposed to study, but they text and play mobile games or computer games really late. And while they study, they need a lot of lights. I had pretty decent roommate, he even spoke english, unlike 90% of other’s roommates. But his schedule and study habbits were really clashing with mine. I am early sleeper and early riser. He was late sleeper and early riser. Yeah he didn’t sleep much during the weekdays, max 4-5hours. But he helped me with a lot of things and he was really nice. You can read about him when I went to Busan.
Or you can live with your friend/exchange student in Hwahong dormitory. This dormitory is.. okay. You will get used to it. It is now great, everything is really old and dirty and this specific asian people are really loud. You will know when you get there. Otherwise they don’t differ that much, new int. dorm vs hwahong, but definitely I would live with random person in new dorm rather than with friend in that old dorm.
Growing up – Before I went to Korea, I though I was mature and had all though out, but I was wrong. I grew up a lot mentally while going through a lot of struggle alone. I used to be scared of being alone, but after coming from exchange program, it is not that bad. My mind is more open about different things and cultures. I am more curious about other countries and I want to travel more. Before Korea, I used to live in Finland-bubble, I was happy and satisfied living here and had no reasons to travel abroad. I wasn’t interested of going anywhere else. Finnish people really needs to break that bubble, all this time I was spending my money to local bars, clothes to show off and cars to brag about. I could have save that money and travelled, being rich by experience. Not tangible stuff. In the end, life goes by really quickly, you cannot buy happiness, unless is the flight tickets to somewhere unknown to you ! This whole exchange program proved my that, things I had means nothing, the experience of going abroad really had huge impact, that shape me the way I am today. Now I can proudly say, I grew up a bit, I am a bit more mature. I am there mentally, where I want to be.
Go exchange ! – Do it, I guarantee it is the best time during the University you can have. It doesn’t matter do you go far or near, the experience is so meaningful that it is worth of challenging yourself. And your government is giving you bit of money to support this opportunity, there’s no reason to stay at hometown and drink or do whatever you think it’s cool. It will change you, as a person to better one. I experience stuff that I never could have even thought about. I learned so many things about myself, from others and of course from what I studied in Ajou. Skills can be learned if you missed out some courses in your home university, but changing your attitude and how you see the world is bit harder than just learning, something you need to experience to learn. Many employers appreciate international experience. It shows you are brave and ready to challenge yourself. You are capable of dealing with different people. You can represent your country/company/yourself internationally. Skills can be learned, but attitudes not.
About Ajou University – if you don’t want to be in big city, but still want to have close connection to Seoul and other places, Ajou University in Suwon is perfect. I love Suwon, if I ever move to Korea, Suwon would be the place to be, at least for me. In front of Ajou, there’s a lot of decent restaurants, a lot of cafes and PC rooms. And you can easily take the bus to suwon station for bigger shopping malls or travelling other cities/provinces. I recommend Spring over Fall. I let my blog be the reasons for going in spring to Korea.
Thank you JAMK of this opportunity, I will always remember this. It was the best year of my life.