Five Study Abroad Programs in South Korea

by Dawn Stanton, Apr 21, 2003 | Destinations: Korea, S / Seoul

The biggest obstacle to study abroad in South Korea seems to be a lack of students wanting to study abroad there. So if you're reading this because you're interested in it, you've already overcome a major hurdle.

Certainly, there are other obstacles, which anyone interested in study abroad in Korea will soon discover. Few universities in the United States and UK offer classes in Korean language and Korean culture, so, understandably, many students have trouble finding a Korea-related program at their home institution. You may want to study in Korea, but you may not have a chance to study the language or culture formally before you go.

Fortunately, administrators of international programs at many South Korean institutions are aware of this problem and have designed programs to meet students' needs. Many institutions offer intensive introductory language and culture classes to help international students acclimate to the new environment.

There are a number of advantages to studying in what Pat Quade, Director of International and Off-Campus Studies and Theatre Professor at St. Olaf College, calls "the unknown entity in Asia." Quade explains that because Korean schools require English language studies at an early level, Korean university students usually are adept at English, more so than in other Asian countries. So though you may not have a chance to study Korean before you go, you'll likely be able to use English to communicate with most of your Korean cohorts.

Andrea Price, a study abroad advisor at Portland State University, confirms Quade's observation. "I think a lot of students, when they go there, think it would be more of 'just Korean,' kind of like in China, where it's Chinese, and that's it, nobody speaks English. Then they go and they're surprised."

Second, the fact that many Korean institutions of higher education are trying hard to attract more foreign students can work in an exchange student's favor. For example, Paul Primak, Director of the Oregon University Systems International Programs, says the OUS exchange partners have worked hard to make their programs appealing and solid, their dormitories top-rate, and their fees affordable. Some universities, in an effort to attract students, are even offering tuition waivers and other financial incentives.

"The Soonchunhyang program just started [at Portland State University] this fall and is continuing this spring, as well. Students [in this program] are being offered substantial scholarships by the university-airfare, tuition, reimbursement of living stipend, and tuition fee waiver at the university. So it's very inexpensive for our students to go," says Ron Witczak, Assistant Director of International Education Services at Portland State University. Witczak credits the great financial incentives for an increase in PSU students signing up to study in South Korea.

Third, Primak points out that students who study abroad in Korea "position themselves very uniquely. They develop skills in both language and cultural expertise that not that many people have, and so in terms of the business world and the government world, they are relatively unique."

Homestays aren't as common as in countries like Japan, though some programs can arrange a homestay if a student submits his request early enough. In lieu of homestays, programs instead offer various other opportunities for interaction: a weekend with a host family and having Korean roommates in the dorms are two examples.

"Korea has a very hospitable culture that bends over backward in terms of accommodating students," says Quade.

Any consideration of study abroad in South Korea must take into account concerns about the unstable political situation in North Korea. In regards to recent activity on the Korean peninsula, most study abroad administrators are cautious but hopeful; they address it as something with both negative and positive aspects. Witczak recalls that PSU had students studying in Jordan when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred. The students opted to stay in the Middle East, and they returned to America with many unique perspectives. It's even possible that the political situation in the Korean peninsula may bring Korean language skills into greater demand in upcoming years.

Programs have been affected in different ways. While Witczak saw an increase in South Korea study abroad participation as a result of Soonchunhyang's financial incentives, other programs have had cancellations resulting directly from the news about North Korea. And while some, like Pat Quade, feel South Korea will continue to grow in popularity as a study abroad destination, others fear the instability in North Korea will hurt programs that are already struggling to attract students. Study abroad administrators all agree that the State Department's travel advisories (found on the State Department Web site) are the bottom-line guide in continuing or canceling a program.

Ultimately, you'll have to decide for yourself whether going to South Korea-or any politically unstable region-is worthwhile. Keep informed, and weigh the risks against the rewards.

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The programs listed here are accredited. Check each program's Web site or write to them for details.

1. Ewha Woman's University

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Contact Information: International Education Institute, Ewha Woman's University, 11-1, Daehyun-dong, Sudaemun-ku Seoul 120-750, South Korea, Tel: 82-2-3277-3158, Fax: 82-2-364-8019, Email:


2. Hanyang University

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Contact Information: Office of International Cooperation, Hanyang Unversity, 17 Haengdang-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, 133-791, Korea, Tel: 82-2-2290-0045, Fax: 82-2-2281-1784, Email: Email:


3. Seoul National University

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Contact Information: Office of International Affairs, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Shillim-dong, Kwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, South Korea, Tel: 82-2-880-6975 Fax: 82-2-880-6979, Email:


4. Soonchunhyang University

Location: Choongnam, South Korea

Contact Information: Soonchunyang University, 646 Eupnae-ri, Shinchang-myun, Asan, Choongnam 336-745 South Korea, Tel: 82-41-530-1115, Fax: 82-41-542-4615, Email:


5. Yonsei University

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Contact Information: Division of International Education and Exchange, Yonsei University, 134 Shinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, South Korea, Tel.: 82-2-2123-3486, Fax: 82-2-393-7272, Email:


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