Michelle Vo

Date: SP2, 2014
Degree Program: Bachelor of Tourism and Event Management
Host University: Sogang University
Host Country: South Korea

Why did you choose your host university?

I chose my host university based on the country I wished to explore, which is South Korea. There were a few choices of host universities for South Korea but there were only two that I coulf apply for with my current degree. In the end I chose Sogang University, which is located in Seoul, as my top preference. I think that the location of this university is convenient as it is central to other regions within South Korea and it only takes roughly 30-50 minutes from Seoul to Incheon (International) or Gimpo (National) airports. 

What was the university like?

Sogang University is very strict when it comes to punctuality for classes. Unlike UniSA, if your timetable says the class starts at 9 it really starts exactly at 9 not 9:10. There is also a bell system and when the bell rings, you must be in class or the TA (teacher’s assistant) will mark you as late or absent. If you arrive 5 minutes late it will count as first warning and 3-5 warnings will equal to one absent. Be very careful with absences: if you are 10 minutes late to class it will count as an absent even if you do attend the rest of the class. Please note that 5 or more absences will equal to FA, which is a fail. It doesn’t matter if you receive high marks for your assignments, if you receive an FA, that means you have fail the course/class. However, absences with medical proof such as doctor’s certificate are exempted.

Depending on which courses you take, the amount of assessments may differ. From what I have noticed from the courses I have taken, the professors are not very strict with the referencing format. Unlike at UniSA where you must follow the Harvard referencing format, from the courses I have taken at Sogang as long as you provide a reference list you will not lose marks even if it is not formatted in a particular way. Each professor prefers a different type of submittion for assignments so pay attention when they mention it. Most, if not all, courses will have two classes on two different days of the week. Unlike at UniSA how the classes are split as one lecture and one tutorial (or workshop and etc.), the classes at Sogang are usually conducted only as lectures. Since the courses I had enrolled in did not have any exams, I am not sure about the exam process. However, if you do not have exams then you will also not have any class during the exam week, unless the professor notifies that there will be class. Grades and absences are posted in your Sogang student page.

Within the campus, there are many cafeterias that offers cheap meals, as well as some cafes and small restaurants. There is a book store within the campus that should offer most, if not all, required text books for courses offered at Sogang. There are also many study rooms available that are open 24 hours. The library also opens until late (around 10-11 pm) and 24 hours during exam period. Take notice that to print at computer labs in Sogang, you will actually need to bring your own paper. Hence, there is no cost to print in those labs. For students who chose to live at the Sogang’s dormitory, there is also a computing area at the dorm’s lobby which you can also use to print. This printer will provide you with paper thus it will also charge you for each page printed. However, the printing cost is very cheap, roughly around 5 cents per page.  

Student MIchelle Vo - South KoreaWhat did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

I have become more independent from the exchange experience. Since I went on exchange by myself in a country where I can only speak a little of its language, I had to figure things out on my own. It took some time for me to get adjusted to it but after that, I found that the independence aspect made my whole experience more enjoyable because I was in control of all the activities I participated in.

I am usually the quite one who is shy and does not approach strangers. However, I have become more of an extravert now. I personally think this is a great gain because I made more friends and I think once you are on exchange, this process will happen naturally, if you are willing to meet new people.  

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

As mentioned before, Sogang have a dormitory on campus. It is also the preferred accommodation that Sogang University itself recommend to exchange students. It is most convenient, especially when it comes to travelling to classes if you live in the dorm. Also, right beside the dorm is a convenience store that opens 24 hours. In addition, since the dorm is located near the back gate, it is also convenient for you to dine out nearby as the back gate area have various places to eat. However, if you do not wish to stay at the dorm, there are also small apartments, designed for student, nearby.

The pros of staying in dormitory is that it is convenient, cheap and you can make a lot of friends there. The cons however are that there is a room check every fortnight and there is also a curfew. However, the curfews for exchange students are more flexible than local students. On the other hand, the pros for not staying at the dorm are that you have more freedom and privacy but it might cost more than the dorm.

Student Michelle Vo - South KoreaI chose to stay at the dorm as I thought it was the safest option. Although, from my experiences during the exchange period, Seoul is generally a safe place so even if you do not live in the dorm it is also pretty safe. Each room in the dorm can facilitate two people so more likely than not you will have a roommate. Facilities available in the dorm includes free gym, laundry area, dry clean shop and cafeteria. These are all located on level B1 of the dorm. The cafeteria is open for breakfast and dinner only. When applying for the dormitory, you will also be asked to choose a meal plan. The three meal plans available are: no meal plan, 50% meal plan and 85% meal plan. The 50% meal plan means you will receive credits, on your dorm ID, to eat 50% of the meals available during your stay. For example, if there are a total of 200 meals during your stay, the 50% plan will allocate enough credits for you to eat up to 100 meals. The 85% meal plan is similar to the previous one but with 85% instead. Even if you chose the first option, you can still eat at the cafeteria but you will have to buy a meal ticket. The difference between the meal ticket and meal credit is that the meal ticket costs more. For example, if you have meal credits, each meal will costs roughly $2 whereas the meal ticket will cost rough $3 for each meal. The higher your meal plan, the cheaper each meal costs.

The accommodation cost of 3 months staying at the dorm was roughly $1500. I chose the 50% meal plan which totals roughly $400. However, since I did not eat much at the cafeteria, I was refunded roughly $200. Therefore, I spent almost $2000 on accommodation. I would definitely recommend living in the dorm. Although the rules and restrictions were somewhat bothersome, it was where a lot of exchange students met each other and became friends so I think it is worth it. On the other hand, I would not recommend the meal plan. If you are on a tight budget then definitely go for it since it is a great deal and the food is not bad. However, if you are willing to explore more, there is tastier food available out there which is relatively cheap, although not as cheap as in the dorm. 

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

Due to my classes’ timetable, I could not arrange enough time to travel to neighbouring countries. This is one of the biggest regret from the trip because now that I am back in Australia, I cannot afford to travel and experience those countries. It would have been cheaper to travel those countries while I was in South Korea if I had enough time on hand. On the bright side, I was able to travel to other regions within South Korea.

Student Michelle Vo - South KoreaThe first place I visited was Gyeongju. This place is a great destination for those who seek cultural and religious experiences as Gyeongju was known as the Silla Kingdom back in the days and it is also a place where you can visit beautiful temples. That was also where I saw bright pink coloured cherry blossoms. I was also able to travel to Busan on a very short trip. At Busan, I was able to visit the famous Haeundae Beach. I definitely recommend people to try out the seafood there if you do visit, as the place is well known for its fresh seafood. The last destination I visited was Jeju Island. It was once again a short trip but I was able to visit its Botanical Garden, which had different themes at different areas. Other than that, I was also able to visit the popular water falls that had such amazing scenery. A tip when planning to travel to Jeju Island is that your itinerary should be more than 3 days long because there is a lot to explore on Jeju Island and 3 days or less will definitely not be enough. 

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I did my research about the destination before I left and I found out it really helped out in adjusting to a different country. Not only that, I also studied a bit of the Korean language before I went on exchange. This had helped me greatly because even though many people from Sogang University can communicate in English, not many shop and restaurants owners can thus using Korean to communicate made it easier. Although, it was not always a smooth conversation as I am still at a beginner level.

Most of the friends that I made and still kept in contacts are exchange students from other countries and some H.U.G members. It was easier to make friends with other exchange students because most of them were also staying at the dorm. It is not to say that locals students didn’t want to be friends with exchange students, it is just that they are very shy when it comes to communicate in English. However, if you do approach them first and ask for help, they are all very welcoming and friendly.

H.U.G members are local students of Sogang University that are part of a group/club that helps exchange students settle in at Sogang. H.U.G members organise events, usually on a weekly basis, that gathers exchange students together to bond and build friendships. They are very friendly and helpful and I was able to make more friends thanks to the events organised by them. 

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Since I am studying a tourism and event management degree, in travelling to Korea, I was able to understand their culture and daily life. Therefore I think it is useful for me in term of finding a career that relates to that country such as an Australian organisation that co-operate or collaborate with a Korean organisation. Since living there was more enjoyable than I had expected, I am also open to opportunities to work in South Korea. 

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

If you are hesitant in joining the exchange program because you are worried about not enjoying your time at the exchange destination, you can think of it this way: the possibility for you to not enjoy your time at the destination will be significantly less than the possibility of you regretting for not taking this opportunity to explore while you still have time to spare. Even if you can travel after getting a job in the future, it will not be the same experience that you will have while travelling on exchange.

Top Tips:

As mentioned before, at Sogang University there is a group/club that is called H.U.G. My advice is that you should join most if not all activities organised by this group/club. This is because the main purpose of this group/club is to allow exchange students to bond with each other and learn about Korea together. 


Areas of study and research

+ Click to minimise