Katy S. from York University in Canada.
Who knew one month could be so short, yet could also be so experienced to the fullest?! Four weeks in Seoul didn’t seem like much at first, but somehow, HISS managed to pack in a wide variety of field trips and events alongside enriching and engaging classes, and nurtured many new friendships with students from all over the world. With the diversity of HISS’ participants, it was a truly international and multicultural exchange experience! It was my first time in South Korea, and unlike some others, I went alone and did not know anyone. However, on the first night, I was immediately welcomed by my lovely RA and got to know other students in my building. By the end of the month, it was very hard to leave as it felt like I had truly gained a new family. I also picked up a fair bit of the Korean language, and every day it was an adventure exploring the amazing city of Seoul. I had been a bit nervous about going to HISS and since I was already preparing for an exchange year afterwards in another country, I had some hesitations before deciding to attend. It turned out to be one of the most exciting and memorable summers of my life. I have absolutely no regrets about choosing Hanyang International Summer School!!
Overall educational experience
HISS had one of the widest selection of courses available out of the several summer programs I had been looking at, and courses are taught by respected professors from well-known universities throughout the world. There were also fun, interactive courses alongside the more academic ones — for example, I took a taekwondo course, which was a great way to learn about Korean culture, meet friends, exercise, and learn practical methods of self-defense all at the same time.
Host Country Program Administration
What can I say? Everything was great and extremely well-organized from start to finish! The best part is that even from months before the program started to afterwards, English-speaking volunteers and staff were always available to answer any questions (from administrative to practical to food/sightseeing recommendations and directions, etc.).
Due to overbooking, I ended up being assigned a room off-campus (about a 20min walk) which made it slightly less convenient to get to campus, especially when it rained – as it does a lot for July in Korea. However, it was just a few minutes’ walk to a subway station, and it was a practically brand-new, loft/apartment-style dorm. It had a high-tech security system (fingerprint scanning!) and a private bathroom, kitchen, refrigerator, and laundry machine, shared with a roommate.
In general, food in Korea just can’t be bad, but the student cafeterias at Hanyang were not only inexpensive (2,500 won ~ 5,000 won for a full meal) but also offer several delicious choices that differ each day! Convenience stores are everywhere both on and off campus, and were my choice for cheap snacks & drinks and surprisingly good food 24 hours a day.
Social & Cultural Integration
Thanks to the large variety of trips and activities that HISS organized for us, and the fact that both local and international students live and attend classes together, I was able to get to know a lot of wonderful people. Even though I barely knew any Korean at all before coming to HISS, the local students and volunteers were great at teaching and encouraging us to speak Korean, and we were also able to commmunicate well in English. They were excellent guides who taught us a lot about Korean culture, and so through HISS, I really felt that I was able to learn and experience so much — things that I would never have known about if I had just gone to Korea as a tourist.
Korea felt very safe to me overall. Just know that Seoul is still a big city, so have common sense and don’t do things you wouldn’t do back home. Ask (or gesture if language is an issue!) the police if you need any help — they seem friendly and are posted throughout the city.