why studying in Korea is tough.

hello,

dear everyone who would like to study in South Korea.

I major in Business Administration and thank goodness for that I can have half of my classes in English because they normally have certain classes taught in English for the foreign exchange students. but the thing is, these classes run out. you might think that being able to speak in English would be a plus for you and that you’d definitely score in those classes because Koreans are bad in English.

and that is where you are wrong.

there are a huge portion of them who don’t speak Korean. but at least a quarter of them speaks or write better than you and me. they have been forced by their parents to attend English speaking schools, study overseas, live overseas for a few months/years, go to English tuition centers or just study loads of English. that’s what they do. and they are better than anyone could ever expect. NEVER underestimate Koreans for their English. and these are the kids who would sign up for the English classes. I know many Koreans from the country side (most of them do not speak English very well =S. but I’m sure most of them had a better childhood. haha.) whom had registered in a few English classes but pulled out first day because the Koreans inside those classes speaks fluent English. (every student must take at least 3 classes in English in 4 years. that’s why.) hence, studying in English will be like studying with the super smart students from the smart. and it wouldn’t be easy as well.

then, we have the bell graph grading system where they grade you relatively. what I meant was, out of the 60 people you have in your class, only 30% of them are eligible to get the A or A+ grade. which means, only 18 over 60 people whom are geniuses will be able to get an A. and another 30-35% gets a B or B+ and the rest will range from C, D, and F. if you’re a foreigner, you’re practically doomed in the Korean classes. bitch please, I got around 90 in some test and got a B+. hahahahahaaaaa. it was an English subject and the test was MCQ. imagine, these kids are the top students of South Korea and they battle their way in to these prestigious universities. even if half of them are lazy, half of them study very very very hard. which explains the 24hour libraries. I only used to go to the 24 hour library in Yonsei because it was close to my house and it was always very packed even at 2am. I am now one month into my semester and the library’s half full the last time I left it at 8PM. so if they are studying through midnight at the library, you need to double their amount. and that means no sleep at all. I’m practically a living dead. my eye-bags are so deep I need no on-purpose eye-bag surgery. except I look horrible with eye-bags.

if you plan to fight with these genius Korean people IN the Korean language, getting an A is almost like getting yourself to land on the moon.

DO NOT. I repeat, DO NOT take online subjects where the tests are in multiple choice questions. because Koreans memorize things rather perfectly. they are like machines. so always opt for those which requires a lot of thinking rather than memorizing.

some subjects are in bloody Hanja. like for me, I had to take this class which studies the Analects of Confucianism. everything the teacher wrote on the board were in Korean traditional writings. it’s the same with the traditional Chinese characters (China uses the simplified ones now. so, imagine.) and everything that’s taught in the class sounds very aliena to me. it’s good for the Chinese students as they could probably understand if not all, most of it easily. still, competing with Koreans who knows at least a little bit of Hanja is MADNESS. I’m only looking forward for a pass.

the average results for foreigners in my school was C+ and only 1/3 foreigners manage to graduate (apparently. I was told.)

there are assignments for almost every class and if not, you’d have to read 20-80 or more pages of the textbook to prepare for a class. that’s where all your time will go to. and those aren’t studying, it’s merely just preparing.

some teachers do not like foreigners (who look Asian).

people get annoyed listening to English sometimes. cafe owners might tell you to keep your volume down even if you speak at the same volume as the Korean people sitting at the table next door. especially old people, so you’d get scolded at least for a few times if you stay here long enough.

you’re always the black sheep in presentations. unless your Korean is super duper fluent like every other Korean. which is almost impossible if you’ve only learned Korean for less than 2 years.

you get not much social life because there’s literally not much time for it. other than during summer and winter holidays where you’d be suddenly so free you wish you were in school. there’s not much time to hang out. because if you go out, you’ll spend too much time on transportation already. unless you’re hanging out at your area, which would be boring. but the good thing is, there would actually be enough time to slip in 2-3 hours for dramas and another 1-2 hours for you to chat with your friends.

thinking about going to concerts or “bumping” into celebrities outside their dorms? you wish.

that’s of course possible if you do not care about your grades.

there’s no midterm break. so right after sleepless nights studying for midterms, you will need to rush for assignments and presentations right after.

“no matter how hard it is I’ll be able to survive though it. I’m good at taking stress.” that was what I thought when I first came. I was wrong. I do break down and cry because I felt so helpless. that no matter how hard I try I will never be comparable to the Koreans here. but I just forgot to remind myself that, it is already hard enough to study in a foreign land in a totally foreign language. so why should I compare. =S.

one tip on getting better results? well, go to schools outside of Seoul. as Seoul gathers all the smartest students. you’ll probably be able to live a happy life outside of Seoul. (well not including the A-listed schools and Seoul schools that has campuses out of Seoul). but I do have a very hardworking friend who sat for the Korean SAT 3 times just to get into a decent school. and such a student is already studying in the more popular school that isn’t located in school. so I’ll leave the thinking for you.

well, there are plenty of nice things about studying in Korea. like the beautiful 4 seasons and glorious restaurant and cafes. and amazing clothes. but I’m not sure if that’s a good enough trade for all the stress.

25 Responses to “why studying in Korea is tough.”

  1. Jane Says:

    Jamie, I am lost now too…. I have no idea what am I doing here T.T
    I can’t go back now…

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    Not too late to go back. You should know it too. Hahha.

    [Reply]

  2. Jamie liew Fan club Says:

    My heart goes out to you…
    The language alone is hard to learn, yet alone doing academic work in their language..
    You’ve already made it so far! YOU KNOW IT.
    All these studying will end once you graduate! Cherish it even if it’s hard alright :D
    You have the RESPECT and SUPPORT from all your readers

    ….at least theres so many cute guys around to motivate you!

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    Thank you hahha ur name makes me crack. Cute guys don’t last! Malaysian guys are nicer at some points too!

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  3. Airi Says:

    Jiayou~! You can do it!! Just don’t give up ^^

    And actually…this is *exactly* how I felt when I was in university. Study all the time, bell curve, no social life. I don’t know if this is how you’re feeling, but we call it Imposter Syndrome when you feel like you don’t belong (amongst all the smart students.)

    What you’ve said makes me wonder…Everyone always says that Koreans play more in University (compared to in high school), and that there’s a lot of drinking..but how do they find the time if it’s that hard?

    And thank you for a very informative post ^^

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    But it’s hard for a foreigner to maintain the grades in Korea Universities.

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    I’m saying this on a foreigners perspective. If you read my post, I mentioned that as foreigners we gotta work twice as hard. Or thrice. Usually koreans play during their first to second year, thats y most of their results aren’t that good. Plus they resit many papers. Many of them took tuitions on those subs before coming to uni too so they do not need to study as much. But yeah, my friend with good grades always invite me to study with him at the library till 11pm everyday. He’s korean btw.n they feel like they have more time cz high school in korea ends at 10pm. So for them uni is somewhat more relaxing than school. Thanks for the cheer :). Ill try my best to stay in track!

    [Reply]

  4. Meitzeu Says:

    Wow~ Seems hard to study in Korean.

    Cheers!

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    It is U.U. thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. Michelle Says:

    As difficult as it is, it will take time. I cried everyday during my first two and a half years in undergrad (basically almost my entire program) because the Australians are so much better than I am in English (and think about it, I come from a private school). We have to prepare 500-1000 pages per week (we take four subjects per sem) and some of the material is literally undecipherable because it’s written in Shakespearean English. Because everything back in school was rote learning, the idea of using your brain to think is so alien that I actually scored a 13 out of 30 for my first essay.

    But eventually, things will fold out. Your hard work will blossom and even if you don’t do as well as the others, the most important thing is, you have something to put out there in your resume.

    In the end of the day, the resume is what matters for the employers. You can be smart ass and scored 100 out of 100 for your tests but if you have zero critical thinking skills, it’s the end of you.

    I understand your feeling but don’t give up!!! YOU CAN DO IT!

    [Reply]

  6. Fiona Says:

    … amazing to know the differences. Korean Interns we have here at work would actually struggle to learn english/tagalog just to speak to us, if they aren’t fluent enough, they shy away or say sorry for not being so fluent. But we are really kind and would always tell them that it doesn’t really matter. Well, see the turn of things then, maybe if I will go to their place I can be the same. :) Good that I treat foreign people well.hahahahahaha :D

    with studying, well the way you say it, it is really hard. Its good that i have no intentions of studying in Korea though (well, it suddenly disappeared upon reading your post hahahahaha LOL). Perhaps, its not really a good bargain, I prefer to be a tourist ifever. :)

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    Yeah being a tourist is so much better. But nonetheless, its a good experience since I long to live overseas. Except there’s just too much stress sometimes. Or maybe I’m giving myself too much stress. Friends told me to take things lightly lol. Thanks for reading too!

    [Reply]

    Fiona Reply:

    Welcome. :) I do read/ scan all your posts. ;)

    [Reply]

  7. alex Says:

    OMG i was JUST looking online into graduate programs in the Seoul area today. I didn’t know it was this tough… I think i’ll just opt for a korean language program for the summer.Props to you for hanging in there! I envy your perseverance and for studying in Korea! thanks for this post =)

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    don’t be discouraged because the graduate programs here are known to be one of the best in asia especially SKKU. plus, there are plenty of foreigners and also the classes are in English so it’ll be rather fair =).

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  8. david Says:

    Just my 2 cents, thats just how working life is like (esp as you get higher in ranks), many times you will feel helpless, not having sufficient resource/info and work late nights/midnights consequtively, so I guess it is a good platform to prepare yourself for future, good job for coping well so far! :)

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    I guess working in Korea would be similar =S. but other than just helpless I do feel like it wasn’t fair. but I chose to be here, in an unfair world haha. so I couldn’t complain so much =S.

    [Reply]

    david Reply:

    life is always unfair i guess :) just need to get started n get moving, as long as we did our best -who cares if our grade is lesser than the locals/others? Essentially working life is about continually making positive progression, rather than hitting it right the first time we tried (because there will always be something ahead which we are unfamiliar/ disadvantaged of). I had few Malaysian friends who worked in Korea with initial zero Korean language skill as well, I presume they coped well, so can you :) In fact you already are!

    [Reply]

  9. Stephanie Says:

    hmm I know your position since I’m also a foreign undergraduate student now in Yonsei.. I feel it’s really hard to study in Korea especially the bell graph grading system, I feel it sooo unfair too.. no matter how hard you study, you won’t be able to compete with Koreans.. and as foreigner, we have 2 problems, language and the subject itself ㅠㅠ But I saw many foreigners who studied and graduated well also, so in my opinion, if other foreigners can do it, I can do it too..

    anyway, which year are you in now? I hope you are doing well in school since the midterm is coming soon~
    Just keep your hardworking and don’t lose your spirit! :) 화이팅!! <3

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    =(. I dunno. I wonder how did they cope with it. no wonder the average results for foreigners are so low T_T.

    [Reply]

  10. Sean Says:

    I was really considering saving up for the MBA program in Yonsei. It’s done entirely in English so language-wise I’m probably covered. In some of the online syllabus entries for their units, you would see the lecturers writing about how they would strive to be fair to all students and encourage honest opinions from everyone. I guess this was their way of avoiding the ‘hating on other Asians’ that you wrote about.

    Do you think you are facing a lot more stress because it’s an undergraduate program (your first degree) and that you also have to take more than half of your course in Korean?

    I am now totally re-evaluating my long-term goal of studying in Korea after reading your post o.O

    [Reply]

  11. Jamie Liew Says:

    I heard masters are tough but they treat foreigners there much better than us =(. so I guess you don’t have to worry so much.

    [Reply]

  12. Claris Says:

    How long did you take to study korean language? N u are really pretty
    Sometimes i just wonder whether studying in korea might be a good choice
    because it is really expensive to study there. If you do not mind are you on a scholarship?

    [Reply]

    Jamie Liew Reply:

    nope not on a scholarship. I was pretty unlucky you can say. and I didn’t want to wait for another year so I just came here on my own =). I studied about a year before going to Korea and another year in Korea. thanks! =D. I am not sure if it’s a good choice either but I guess stress is not something I am unfamiliar with.

    [Reply]

    ssyannelf Reply:

    did you apply for the korean government undergraduate scholarship?? I’m considering if I should apply it as we’ll need to wait a year late and start a year late and would be a waste if not selected and I don’t really think I would get selected as I don’t really get 80% purata throughout my high school years hahaha…..

    after reading your post I feel like maybe I should choose and study in some more rural schools outside of seoul it’s sooo stressful!! does the reputation of the school really important? like the seoul national/yonsei/kr/skw etc is graduating from a more unpopular school okay?? because I’m planning to study in busan haha where there will be less competition maybe?

    [Reply]

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