Koreans were originally Muslims

Department of History and Cultural Studies

Ewha Womans University

Experience report from Ewha Womans University by Jonas Keßner 6.FS BA Korean Studies

One year of Ewha. It started off a bit tiring, with a placement test at 9 a.m. after arriving at 5 p.m. the day before, but everything was very relaxed after that. You have to do a total of 9 credit points per semester, but the language courses alone make up 6, so you only have to take one additional course (optionally also three sports courses, in which the atmosphere is particularly relaxed). When choosing a course, you can choose from a variety of courses in English, but you can also choose Korean courses. For example, I took one semester of Japanese, which was then explained entirely in Korean. Otherwise you tend to attend the English courses. Early risers get their money's worth at the Ewha. The language lessons start punctually at 8 a.m., however, there were no language lessons on Friday and if you didn't schedule lessons on Friday, then free (very popular among exchange students). I lived in the student dormitory directly on campus. All in all, that was okay and the double rooms, if not originally designed as single rooms, were also quite large. The dormitory was mostly quite clean, only in the "kitchen" (a mini oven and microwave) there were a few chaos who like to leave a mess. But that didn't bother me too much, since you usually went out to dinner with friends anyway. Whether you go out to eat or try to cook in the "kitchen", the price is usually the same, since food is quite expensive. The location of the Ewha is also very good. One subway stop away is the Sinchon bar area and one stop away is Hongdae, the student club area. If you like to go to clubs and bars, it doesn't have to go far and you will find enough people in the dormitory for the nightly tours. If you want to go further afield, e.g. to Gangnam, where the nobler clubs are, you can comfortably take the subway, but there are also buses that go almost everywhere. It's best to make your way through the bus system, which is entirely in Korean, but since it often saves you having to change trains, which in Seoul can sometimes take longer due to the long distances, the bus is often faster . If you are really lazy, you can take a taxi (necessary for return journeys, as local transport only runs until about 1 a.m.), which is bearable with the low taxi prices. Exchange students who have already been there for a semester can tell you how best to do something. They can usually give you the best tips, sometimes better than what the buddy you get can give. Otherwise you just enjoy life in Korea. The people are usually very nice and courteous (when they talk to you). They are happy to help if you can't find something, or help with everything possible. The good thing about a stay abroad is that you get to know people from all over the world. After the year I made new friends in Japan, China, the USA, France and of course Korea. If you want intensive Korean language training, it is best to go to one of the many clubs that are on the Ewha. There are music clubs, sports clubs and all sorts of others. I did kumdo (kendo) for a year. The members there could hardly speak English, so everything was explained in Korean. In the beginning it was a little difficult, but after a while you got better at Korean and it went pretty well. In the clubs everyone is nice to you and sometimes explains once or twice more for you if you have not understood it correctly. All in all, it was an exciting and unforgettable year.

Semester abroad at Ehwa Womans University by Theresa Maria Loske 2. FS MA Korean Studies

I completed my semester abroad at the "Ehwa Womans University" in Seoul from September 2009 to March 2010. Fortunately for me, the process of registration was not too complicated at that time. The head of our institute, Prof. Lee, recommended me to the university, whereupon an electronic registration form was sent to me by email. After receiving the registration papers and the information folder (which arrived at the International Office of Freie Universität (FU) and not at the Institute of Korean Studies (IKS)), I was not allowed to lose any time in applying for the visa at the Korean embassy, ​​as it took up to a month to complete can be. It is also advisable to obtain a credit card, as every business in Korea accepts it as a means of payment.

The Ehwa Womans University offers its foreign guests a lot of help to find their way around the university itself and in Seoul during the first days and weeks. The "buddy program" is particularly practical. The Korean "partner", who is provided individually to each student, is of great help, especially with organizational processes, such as opening an account in a Korean bank or obtaining a cell phone. In principle, you are never completely on your own, as the "Office of Global Affais" (OGA) is a contact point for all exchange students.

In addition to the language course, which took place Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and for which you were automatically registered by taking the placement test that took place before the start of the lectures, there was the opportunity to participate in other lectures (in Korean or English) and to have these credited in Germany. You were given a week to register in order to obtain the necessary signatures from the respective lecturers in the introductory events. However, this was very tight, because after this first week there was no longer any possibility of changing your decision. So you should be sure beforehand which events you want to take part in. The level of the courses as well as the workload depended on their instructors. In my opinion, the level of difficulty did not increase evenly in the language courses. While levels 1 and 2 were still at the level of the 1st to 3rd semester of the Korean courses at the FU, there was a jump to level 3, the level of which is equivalent to a language course in the master’s degree. In addition, at a Korean university you have to be prepared for intermediate exams in all subjects, which took place after about 2 months and were included in the overall grade.

The certificate was not issued on site at the Ehwa. In most cases it was sent directly to the ICS in Germany. However, it was also possible to specify a separate receiving address in the OGA. What you shouldn't miss after your return was to have the completed courses credited for the corresponding credit points (in Korea, the points are generally lower) via the IKS in a field of study, depending on the workload.

In this way, I had the opportunity to gain experience abroad without being thrown back in my studies.

Sogang University

One year in South Korea from Kate Fasano, 6th FS BA Korean Studies

From Feb. 2010 to Feb. 2011, I finally visited the country around which my studies are centered. I was supposed to study for two semesters at Sogang University in Seoul. Of course, I was pretty excited because I'd never been to Asia before and I couldn't really tell what to expect. Since I had heard in advance from some acquaintances that many Koreans have a tendency to racism, as a person of color I had another reason to feel downy.

In addition to the usual preparations for a long stay abroad, I also had to get a visa. Unfortunately, the visa application is linked to a very large amount of money that you have to show as a bank statement at the South Korean embassy. As I, as a “poor” student, did not have such an amount on hand, a time of “money hunting” began for me. I had relatives and friends transfer money to my account so that I could show the desired amount to the embassy. After that was done, of course, I returned the money to the owners

Upon arrival in Korea, Sogang University provides every new exchange student with a "buddy" who helps them to get used to Korean culture and all organizational matters (e.g. setting up a bank account) during their stay. There is also an “International Office” on campus that you can contact at any time. My buddy picked me up from the airport when I arrived and spent the first few days in Seoul intensively with me before the seriousness of life began with the start of university. Getting used to the Korean higher education system was harder for me in the first semester than I thought. As a core subject in Korean studies, you had to attend the Korean intensive course. Unfortunately, the course schedule was designed to be stubbornly memorized, which was less fun. Nonetheless, the teachers were very friendly and dedicated, and the sociology classes I took alongside the language classes were in English. Many English-language courses are offered at the universities in Seoul, so that even students who do not or only partially speak the national language can attend courses.

There are several clubs at all Korean universities that students can join depending on their interests. I can only recommend joining as it helps you to come into contact with Koreans.

During my stay in Seoul, I lived in the Gonzaga Hall dormitory, which is right on campus. The dormitory is relatively new and well equipped. Two people share a room; Single rooms are not available for students. Students do not have to worry about meals in the dormitory as breakfast and dinner are included in the cost. The dormitory is strictly separated by gender, access to the living area of ​​the opposite sex is strictly forbidden (the floors are therefore monitored with cameras). In addition, there are numerous rules that must be observed, otherwise there is a risk of punishment or, in the worst case, expulsion. Trying to move out of the dormitory turned out to be more difficult than expected. Flat shares are rather uncommon in Korea and owning an apartment was far too expensive due to the high deposit.

In summary, despite the strict dormitory, I had a good time at Sogang University. Although the language course was geared towards stubborn memorization, it was very effective in hindsight. My initial fear that I would be discriminated against in any way due to my ethnic background or that it would be difficult to make friends with Koreans was not confirmed. There have been strange incidents (e.g. touching my skin or my braids in amazement), but these were always out of curiosity and by no means out of xenophobia.

South Korea 2010 by Gabriel Dae-In Lux, 2nd FS MA Korean Studies

So at the end of February 2010 the time had come. I was supposed to fly to my mother's home country for the second time in my life and this time for an exchange semester, i.e. a full six months, at Sogang University in Seoul.


Apart from the usual preparations for a long trip, I also had to take care of a visa, which is mandatory if you want to stay in South Korea for more than three months. I also had to prove that my account was covered by an amount that was unusual for students. If you can't prove this, just ask - like me - someone from your family who should transfer the missing amount. After printing out an account statement with the amount to be verified, the money can be transferred back to the relative immediately.

University life at Sogang University:

At first I was lucky enough to sleep with friends for the first few months, but then had to look for a new place to stay. I found a pretty small room (barely as long and twice as wide as me) on Sinchon Junction just off campus. I recommend everyone to accept the offer of the university to share a double room in a student residence with a stranger at a reasonable price, even if the freedoms are limited, unless you have the necessary amount of money for a comfortable, unlike mine, accommodation to accomplish in Seoul. All the bureaucracy that awaits you after entering South Korea is usually taken care of by your personal Korean “buddy”. After an introductory event, you are assigned to your "buddies" and deal with the formal matters as a group with other exchange students, i.e.: residence matters, mobile phone, tickets, bank account, etc.

Before I was assigned to a Korean class, a group of teachers had to assess my knowledge. As a mono bachelor student in Korean studies, we are obliged to attend the intensive courses. These took place daily in the morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. or at noon from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The language courses were conducted with great commitment from the teachers and often with very playful means. Sogang University is known for its excellent training in the oral use of the Korean language. There is a wide range of English-language courses to choose from at Sogang University. I chose the “Korean Social History” course in order to deepen my interest in the Korean history of ideas.

All in all, studying abroad at Sogang University is particularly recommended if you are aiming to deepen your language skills in Korean. After and also on weekends while studying, I encourage everyone to leave the capital as often as possible. Domestic travel is extremely cheap and other cities like Jeonju, Busan, Gyeongju and many more. are not only simply worth seeing, but also give you the opportunity to relax, with all the big city stress that can build up in Seoul. In addition, you really get to know Korea in the country.

Yonsei University

Direct exchange at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea (March 2011 - February 2012) from Alexandra Bauer 5th FS BA Korean Studies

In March 2011 I started my stay as an exchange student at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Until February of this year, I was able to get to know the Korean university landscape, the people and their culture for two semesters. The prospect of studying in Seoul was a very clear and long-cherished goal and therefore of the greatest importance to me. Since I had worked towards this goal for a very long time, my expectations for studying at Yonsei University were of course very high. Obviously, acquiring the Korean language was one of the most urgent issues for me, but at the same time I was particularly curious about my personal areas of interest and whether I would be able to get a very precise picture of these on site.

The choice of courses for the exchange students was very diverse, so that every student had the opportunity to choose the most suitable lectures from this range of options. Only the course registration turned out to be a bit complicated at the beginning, due to the time difference, the large crowds and the competition that not only prevails among the universities but also among the students themselves. However, since these courses are mainly offered in English, efforts should be made to attend courses that are approved not only for the exchange students but also for the Korean students. A common subject makes it much easier to find contact with Korean fellow students, which unfortunately is not so easy in everyday life. However, this seems to me to be very important for learning colloquial language, as the language school, the so-called Yonsei "Korean Language Institute" (KLI) places more emphasis on acquiring grammar, scientific terms and the vocabulary of newspapers and news.

So if you prefer to concentrate on everyday conversation and fluent use of language, you should also find out about other language schools, as the KLI is not only one of the best, but unfortunately also one of the most expensive language schools in the country. In addition, the distribution of students with a lot of prior knowledge and those who are learning Korean as an absolute foreign language is often unbalanced. This became a problem for me because the pace of the class could not be matched to everyone and was often too fast for me and the atmosphere in the class was often clouded.

Regardless of that, I can nonetheless recommend this language school. The lessons and the exams take place on a very demanding level, which demands a lot of preparation and follow-up time from the students every day. Contact persons were available at all times and the teachers were always concerned about the development of their students. In any case, I felt safe and informed about everything in each semester, which was largely due to the excellent support and preparation on the part of Yonsei University and the Office of International Affairs (OIA), who went out of their way to look after the exchange students.

This year brought me a lot closer to my goals and my future and in conclusion I can only emphasize the importance of studying abroad.If it is possible for future exchange students, then a year is a very good time to meet positive and negative experiences and sides of society. The experience abroad can never be replaced by my own university and I am grateful to all those who made this unique and instructive time possible for me.