Seoulinspired is an English blog based in Seoul by Ethan Brooke who is a photographer living in Seoul but a New Zealander at heart.
Follow this blog for photography & adventures & travels around both Korea and the world!
Recently I got the chance to visit Ttukseom Resort Station to watch the sunset. I must say, I wasn’t expecting anything special initially… It is the Han River, it is always picturesque! However, it was more than that. I would go as far as to say that it is the best sunset in Seoul. Ttukseom is a popular Han River location, and as such it has a lot of activities other than just watching the sunset. There are bikes and other rides for hire, food stalls, and often events. The night my girlfriend and I visited there was a Green Peace exhibition happening. This photo was taken from J-Bug (which you can read about a bit further down) looking out towards the river. The reflections are breathtaking! If you can speak a basic level of Korean (along with some hand gestures and such), it is quite easy to hire a bike via an app. Biking along the Han is one of the most overlooked yet fun things to do in Seoul. Furthermore, it is exceptionally easy and cheap to hire a bike and take it for a ride! Often times, you don’t even need to return the bike to the same location. There are usually more convenient places to return them along your way! Hungry? Well, you’re in luck! The convenience store at Ttukseom Resort has enough to keep everyone happy. It isn’t the best food (it is convenience store food after all), however, it is definitely not bad either. If you are interested in something different, there are also many different food stalls that vary depending on the time. In short, food is easy to find and Ttukseom is a great picnic location. The sun setting behind Namsan Tower. What more can you ask for? This is the reason that I love this location for watching the sunset. On to the sunset! As I said at the start of this article, I think that this is the best sunset in Seoul. Not only can it be enjoyed while picnicking, but also while riding a bike or strolling along the river. The sun sets right behind Namsan from Ttukseom Resort and it really makes for a fantastically beautiful photo opportunity. Once the sun goes down the river reflections can keep any photographer happy. This is definitely a place that anyone who loves taking photos should visit! There are a few common locations around the resort that have been photographed often, but there are also some very unique and stunning views to find if you look around. After the sun goes down more events usually begin. Everything from movie screenings to small-scale shows begins to take place. I would highly recommend checking each night’s events on Google so you can plan the perfect evening out. Jabeolle (also called J-Bug) is a building that has many different cultural works and you can easily spend a while learning inside the futuristic-looking building. This is by far one of my favourite images now. Taken just before the sun fully set, this is yet another view you can see at Ttukseom Resort! Even in winter, it is worth visiting. Events run year-round, and you will be able to sled and skate if you visit at the right time! Really Ttukseom Resort has something for everyone. So what do you think? Do you think that Ttukseom Resort Station has the best sunset in Seoul? Even if you don’t agree, I’m sure that everyone can agree that it is a stunning location to watch the sun go down! This post was made with the support of 42Share Student Housing. They are an amazing housing company that specializes in student housing in Seoul. If you are considering coming to Korea, or already live here, and need housing then you can check out their website here.
What is wrong with Seoul? I definitely think there is more that is ‘right’ in Seoul than wrong with it, but nowhere is perfect. I love Seoul and I love living here, however, there are some downsides that often come up in day to day life. There are also a few that usually stand out to foreigners as soon as they come here. As I mentioned above, Seoul is a great place and somewhere that everyone should visit at least once. It isn’t for everyone, but everyone should at least visit! I am writing this post because a lot of people have asked me to talk about a few downsides to Korea, and what I don’t like about Seoul. As a blogger that I hope people can trust, I think it is important to cover both the positive and negative, and that is why I write this post now. This original article comes from a Quora post that I was asked to answer. So this is my answer to the question ‘what is wrong with Seoul?’ Stress The general stress. Many large cities are always in a rush, however Seoul is a leader within stressful cities. From a crazy education culture (with many students studying for 14 hours a day) to bad work ethics, Korea is highly stressful overall, and Seoul is the pinnacle. If you want a calm life in Seoul, you will either have to avoid a lot of jobs/education opportunities, or avoid it all together. I believe that this is the biggest problem with Seoul personally. Size The city is massive. I know a lot of cities are just as big or possibly bigger, but if you aren’t used to large cities then this is definitely an issue. Don’t be surprised if you spend two hours on the subway going somewhere and coming back. For me to get to any of the ‘party’ areas of Seoul it takes about 40–60 minutes. That’s at least an hour and a half travelling just to go out for the night. However, on the flip side, the public transport is amazing and clean. Travel times are long, but it isn’t painful. I don’t really consider this a problem in day to day life. It is definitely a problem with Seoul though if you travel lots. Racism Korea, and Seoul, can be racist and discriminatory. Depending on how long you stay, this may not happen to you as I’ve found it quite rare. However, there will be times when taxi drivers reject you (because you are a foreigner), or you are not allowed to enter a restaurant because you are a foreigner (or a bar or club). I’ve had both happen, and yes, it was because I was a foreigner. I was literally told that. These are very rare occasions though, and in general the people and experiences here are positive. Taxi Drivers Taxi drivers! Public transport is great in Seoul, we all know that. As are taxis. However, taxi drivers can be frustrating to deal with! Sometimes they will reject you because you aren’t going in the convenient direction, or maybe because you aren’t going far enough! It is worth noting, that it is illegal for them to refuse you though. However, unless your Korean is good or you really want a conflict, this knowledge won’t do you any good. When it will help you however, is if you are ever in trouble. If you MUST take that taxi due to danger or an emergency, you can threaten to report the driver, they only have three strikes and they will be angry, but they will listen. However, this is only for absolutely necessary situations and if you just want to take a taxi for a normal situation, just hope out and wait for another. Crowds The number of people. While I haven’t noticed this to be too much of a problem in the usual places I spend time, this is definitely a factor if you visit areas that are more populated. Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam and Jamsil are all very very busy and if you don’t like crowded areas you will hate these places. Hongdae on a Friday night. It can get quite crowded! Language This isn’t so much something that is ‘wrong’ (the native language is Korean after all!), however, it is something that you may possibly have trouble with. As a foreigner looking at moving to Korea, I remember hearing that a lot of people here spoke English. However, this is not my experience at all, and depending on where you are and what you are doing you may have trouble with communication as not many people speak (good) English here. Once again, this isn’t something that is wrong by any means, it’s just something that you may have trouble with. A lot of people know English words, however not many people can hold a basic conversation. Just be weary. Climate The climate. It was 40.5 degrees here a few weeks ago! It was unbearably hot when coupled with the incredibly high humidity. Winter, on the other hand, can easily be -15 degrees and very dry. Spring also brings a lot of dust. This means that wearing a mask is essential if you want to maintain your health. Weather in Korea has some pretty crazy extremes. If you plan on visiting Korea, make sure you check the forecast! As weather patterns change this problem with Seoul will also become greater. Bad Drivers Watch out for bad drivers! The rush that everyone is in, coupled with bad driving in general means that many drives here wouldn’t be allowed to drive in other countries. Scooters on the footpath (be careful), cars driving through red lights, people not stopping at pedestrian crossings, you name it. Always keep an eye out when on the streets (and footpaths) of Seoul. If something happens from their bad driving it’s their fault, but you are the person who will be harmed. Even when crossing at green lights you should be careful here. Admittedly I am from New Zealand which has very strict driving laws, so maybe you won’t feel the same way as me. Trash Rubbish (trash). I feel like a lot of people will disagree with this because so many people say they are amazed at how clean it is. Uh, what? Once again, maybe I have a different opinion because I am from New Zealand, but Seoul is not clean by any means. I’m sure it’s cleaner than many cities, but it doesn’t even compare to other big cities I have visited. Coffee cups will be left on the street (people will just leave their cups wherever they want), rubbish upon rubbish on the side of the street. Not only that, but finding vomit in the streets isn’t uncommon on Friday or Saturday nights. In many places, you can smell sewage. Seoul is beautiful in many ways, but it isn’t clean. However, as I said earlier, the public transport is exceptionally clean. As a reader on Quora mentioned in the comments, it is also true that this rubbish is always cleaned up within the day. Vomit is also not a general occurrence, but rather an uncommon sight. So while the city is very dirty at times, it is promptly cleaned and the rubbish disposal system is very efficient. Trash Cans A complete lack of rubbish bins (trash cans)! If you EVER have a look at r/Korea you will find someone complaining about the lack of rubbish bins. This is probably the cause of the above problem, and apparently it is this way because people dumped their household rubbish in them. However, this lack of bins makes people place their rubbish elsewhere on the streets. If you are considering visiting Korea you may also find these books helpful. Lonely Planet Korea – Lonely Planet is known for being one of the best guide book creators out there. I have to agree as I think this book is great for anyone considering coming to Korea. Lonely Planet Seoul – Lonely Planet once again, this time the book just focuses on Seoul though. Definitely worth it if you are only visiting Seoul. Insight Guides Korea – Another very helpful guide that is useful to anyone visiting Korea. This is less of a book about places to stay and things to do (Lonely Planet is better). Instead this covers a lot of the background of Korea and certain locations. These are affiliate links and purchasing these books via the links will provide me with a share of the purchase. This comes at no extra cost to you and supports me at the same time. Once again, I love Seoul and there are far more good things to balance out the bad. However, no-where is perfect.I f you are interested in reading about some of the good (and great) things about Seoul and Korea check out these two articles: 12 Things Korea Does Better Than Anywhere Else! The Best Perks of Living in Korea!
This is a guest post written by Karen. For more information about her, please check out her social channels at the end of the post. It’s no secret that Seoul, South Korea has become one of the top travel destinations in Asia in recent years. With the popularity of all things “K”, K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Beauty, travelers from all over the world are drawn to Seoul, eager to experience what this metropolitan city has to offer. And for families who are looking to spend some quality and fun family bonding time, Seoul is the perfect destination. From food to theme parks and travel convenience, everything that you need and want for your family vacation can be found in this amazing city! Here are my top 8 reasons why Seoul should be on top of your bucket list for family travel. CLEAN AND SAFE Safety is definitely on top of any traveler’s concerns and that’s one less thing to worry about while you are in Seoul. Violent crimes are rare and although petty crimes such as theft and pick-pocketing are not uncommon, it can be completely prevented by exercising normal safety precautions when in Seoul. Leave your valuables at home and look after your belongings. Also, most major tourist spots are patrolled by police so you can get assistance anytime it’s needed. Seoul is not spotless clean like let’s say, Tokyo, but it’s definitely one of the cleanest cities in the world. They maintain a high level of cleanliness from the streets to public transportation and restrooms, which is very reassuring for every foreign visitor. EXCELLENT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM Seoul’s subway system is so extensive that you probably won’t need to use any other form of transportation during your visit. The only exception is if you are going out of the city for a day trip, in which case you can easily book a bus tour for convenience. And you don’t even need to choose a hotel in the central area. Anywhere in Seoul is acceptable. Most of the time you’ll end up in an area that has access to at least two subway stations, making it easier to travel just about anywhere. And while I encourage the use of subway to tourists, I recognize that it may not be for all especially for families travelling with babies or toddlers. But fret not because as an alternative, you can always take a taxi. Taxi fares are reasonable and are available in all parts of the city. And the best part of all this, the ease of payment. T-money cards can be purchased at convenience stores and subway stations. You can use it on the subway, public bus and taxi, and it’s also an acceptable form of payment for some convenience stores and attractions. Reloading the card is fast and easy, you get a slightly discounted transit fare, and you don’t have to get the refundable 500 won deposit on single journey tickets every time you get off the train. THE PEOPLE YOU MEET Don’t let their non-smiling faces fool you. Koreans can be a bit intimidating at your first approach but they are actually incredibly friendly and you’re guaranteed to meet some of the most fun-loving people in the world when you’re in Seoul. They are generous, hospitable and just enjoyable to be around. They work hard but they also play harder. If you want to have a good time, they will give you a great time. My experiences in Seoul (and in Guam when I was a hotel intern) will not be the same without the company of these amazing friends that I intend to keep for life. What’s more is that they value families and love children. Koreans, especially the elderly, are known to be accommodating and affectionate to children. It’s not uncommon for them to give special attention to kids, whether you’re just walking down the street and even more so when it’s meal time at local restaurants. Also, over the years, more Koreans are becoming fluent in spoken English so asking for directions or ordering a meal is now a less-awkward interaction for all. Plus, they are so used to tourists coming into their vibrant city all year round that you can even expect to find tourism officers stationed at the city’s popular spots CULTURE AND HISTORY Gyeongbukgun Palace is one of the many great historical sites around the city. No trip to Seoul is complete without learning a bit of its history. Koreans are proud of their heritage and are very nationalistic. A lot of their customs and traditions are still being practiced today which is quite admirable. Seoul invites its visitors to experience the Korean culture first-hand. They even encourage the tourists to wear hanboks, the traditional Korean attire, offering free admission to palaces and historic sites if you are wearing one. This is definitely an interesting way to learn about who they are and immerse oneself in their culture. And kids can have as much fun as you because Seoul actually have museums specifically designed for kids. You can find one inside the National Folk Museum of Korea behind the Gyeongbokgung Palace or take a special trip to the Seoul Children’s Museum. KOREAN CUISINE If you haven’t tried any Korean food yet, let me just say that you are missing out on something. It’s the only type of cuisine where the side dishes are the actual star of the meal. Bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi and grilled meat, are the most recognizable dishes but seriously, that’s just the tip of the Korean food iceberg. I haven’t even mentioned any of their street food! But of course, we can’t expect everyone especially kids to automatically love the unique taste of Korean cuisine at their first bite. Luckily, Seoul’s food options are endless and contrary to what most people believe, not everything is spicy. Eat at one of those BBQ joints or maybe some Korean-style fried chicken. If you are looking for some comfort and familiar food, there are plenty of international food chains to choose from and various cuisines that are bound to satisfy your craving. If you are considering visiting Korea you may also find these books helpful. Lonely Planet Korea – Lonely Planet is known for being one of the best guide book creators out there. I have to agree as I think this book is great for anyone considering coming to Korea. Lonely Planet Seoul – Lonely Planet once again, this time the book just focuses on Seoul though. Definitely worth it if you are only visiting Seoul. Insight Guides Korea – Another very helpful guide that is useful to anyone visiting Korea. This is less of a book about places to stay and things to do (Lonely Planet is better), and instead covers a lot of the background of Korea and certain locations. These are affiliate links and purchasing these books via the links will provide me with a share of the purchase. This comes at no extra cost to you and supports me at the same time. SHOPPING MECCA You can’t go to Seoul without doing even just a tiny bit of shopping. After all, this is where hip fashion trends are born and where face masks are sold by the bulk. Underground malls, outdoor markets and rows of mid to luxury department stores, there’s nothing that you want or need that you can’t buy in this city. Pick up a couple of traditional items and souvenirs at Insadong, bargain-hunt at Dongdaemun or shop until you drop at the very tourist-centric Myeongdong. Everyone in the family can take home a little something. PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS What better way to enjoy time with family than to spend a few hours strolling in one of Seoul’s numerous parks. In between the skyscrapers and modern buildings are beautiful parks and other natural attractions that will make you forget that you are in the middle of a concrete jungle. Enjoy a family picnic near the Han River or let the kids play at any of the open playgrounds you will see as you explore the city. ENDLESS ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR FAMILY Why not use some of your spare time to check out a board game cafe? Trust me when I say that you will never run out of activities when you’re in Seoul. The city alone has several amusement parks and centers that should keep you busy for a few days. Surely, there will always be something that you can do that would interest everyone in the family and for any weather condition. After all, spending time with the family is the main reason why you are all in this family vacation. Most major attractions have facilities for kids, babies and toddlers and pregnant women. Strollers are also commonly available for tourists to borrow or rent. Do you want a uniquely Korean experience that is fun for the whole family? Spend a few hours at a Jjimjilbang. A Jjimjilbang is a public bath house furnished with saunas, hot tubs, swimming pools, a recreation center and a sleeping area. While the rest of the world’s idea of a spa is that it’s an adults-only affair, Koreans made sure that it can be a fun family activity as well. Not all Jjimjilbangs are created equal though but Seoul, being a big city and all, you can be assured that you’ll find a Jjimjilbang that would suit the needs and welcome every member of your family. About the Author Karen is a part-time blogger and full-time SAHM (stay-at-home-mom). She loves to cook, eat, travel and binge-watch Korean dramas. Seoul is one of her favorite cities in the world. Read more about her travel adventures and tips at kgbinwanderland.com. Facebook: facebook.com/kgbinwanderland Twitter: @kgbwander Instagram: @kgbinwanderland Pinterest: pinterest.com/kgbinwanderland
As a photographer, there are two questions I get asked more than anything else. ‘How do I become a professional photographer?’, and ‘how do I become a better photographer?’. I still don’t feel like I am a good person to answer the former, however, I have some experience with the latter. That experience is what I would like to share with you today. If you are reading this post then you have already taken the first step towards becoming a better photographer. Being interested in photography is the first step. Maybe this sounds obvious, but please bear with me… It isn’t always. If you want to improve your photography then you have to be critical of your photos. What works and what doesn’t? Even more importantly, why? Being able to take a photo that you are proud of is an amazing feeling. You can stand back, look at an amazing piece of art that you created, and be happy. After you have spent some time enjoying your work though, spend some time being critical. What would you change if you could take the photo again? What don’t you like, and what do you like? This is one of my favourite shots I have ever taken. However I wish I had of taken an HDR image to remove the over-exposed highlights. If you are content with your photos you will never really, truly, get better. Practice is great, and it does help you improve. However, practice without aim, and without the intention of getting better (really it isn’t practice if you aren’t trying to improve) is either very inefficient or just straight up ineffective. Becoming a better photographer is time-consuming and requires a lot of learning. Thankfully, since we live in such a connected world, learning isn’t as hard as it once was. There are so many free (and cheap) resources out there that will help you take the photos you dream of. Or the photos you see on Instagram. Books and Youtube are the two best resources that I can recommend for learning photography. There are many amazing channels that provide free information about everything regarding photos. Really, the internet is wonderful. If you don’t mind spending some money though (although not much!), there are also a few great photography books I would recommend. These books personally helped me A LOT, and I honestly can’t recommend them enough. Books Stunning Digital Photography – If you can only get one book, let it be this one. SDP (Stunning Digital Photography) it an amazing resource that covers both the basics and more advanced photography for EVERY style of photography. Not only that, but it comes with video, and access to their Facebook group! This book will definitely help you in becoming a better photographer! The Beginner’s Photography Guide, 2nd Edition – If you are a beginner then this book is also amazing. It will help you get off the ground and learn the basics of photography. Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs – A beautifully presented and very helpful resource for anyone serious about taking photos. This book and SDP have both helped me greatly in becoming a better photographer. Tony Northrup’s Photography Buying Guide – A fantastic guide covering the gear side of photography. This isn’t essential, but if you are looking to upgrade it is invaluable. YouTube Channels Tony and Chelsea Northrup – As you can probably tell by my book recommendations above, I highly recommend these two. They make amazing and informative videos about anything and everything related to photography. Sean Tucker – Quite possibly my favourite Youtube photography channel. Sean doesn’t just cover the photography, but also shares his stories and background. He makes inspiring and interesting videos that are unique and fun. SLR Lounge – This channel is far more general and broad in scope, but it still has many useful tutorials. Definitely one to check out on your way to becoming a better photographer. Thomas Heaton – Possibly the best channel out there for landscape photographers. Thomas also covers some other topics and his channel is well worth looking into. This is one of my favourite portrait photos ever. But it isn’t quite perfect. Given the opportunity again, I would wait for there to be no people in the background. Gear The biggest jump start that I received in photography, however, was gear related. ‘But Ethan, photography isn’t about the gear’ I can already hear you saying. And yes, you are right. It isn’t about the gear. However, there is one important aspect that gear helped me with. There is a certain mindset when taking a photo on a phone (or even a point-and-shoot camera). Pull your phone out, snap the picture, and walk off to the next attraction. The nature of the world we live in is that of a constant rush. Usually, we don’t even about taking the photo, we just do it. Even more, 90% of the photos we take we will probably hardly ever (or never) look back on. This is where gear comes in. Any type of camera with advanced controls (manual mode), or limited pictures (Polaroid) forces you to slow down. Instead of being in a total rush to take each photo, you now have to think about what each shot shows, and why it is meaningful. On a camera with manual mode, you have to consider the camera settings, and why you are picking those camera settings. On a Polaroid, you don’t want to waste your precious film and money. So while gear doesn’t increase the quality of your photos directly, I believe it gives you a specific mindset. It encourages patience and consideration of each shot. This is the first step in taking beautiful photos. When purchasing this gear however, please note that you don’t need to spend tons of money. Becoming a better photographer is about you, not the camera. The first camera just has to be something with manual controls – something which many cameras these days have. If you are on a budget then you could consider a second hand budget camera such as this, or if you want a newer camera you can check out models such as this. Reviewing Once you have slowed down and put thought into your images, it is time to review them. Whether you do this on a computer, or within the camera itself, this is the most important step. Remember to be critical of your images. What don’t you like? Even if you love the image, what is something you want to improve next time? This is key because this is where you can learn for next time. If there is a specific aspect of the photo that you wish to improve, check it out on Youtube or in a book! I try to watch one informative photography video every day, and I feel like this helps me learn and inspires me to consistently try new things. Even if you consider a photographer worse than yourself, you should always listen. Because everyone can teach you something. For example, if I take a photo and I don’t like the models pose, then I will search on Youtube ‘how to pose a model’. I am specifically targeting an area I want to improve on in that particular image, and this information will be invaluable to me in becoming a better photographer. Further, I usually go through phases. For one or two months I will usually be interested in a specific type of photography, let’s say city-scapes. In that time I will do as much research and try to improve as much as I possibly can in that area. This means watching a video or two every day, reading about the topic, and practicing. If you are dedicated and motivated to learn then nothing can stop you. I’ve definitely been in a city-scape mood recently! Collaboration This is something which I find is often overlooked, and often a second thought. Collaboration is one of the fastest and best ways to becoming a better photographer. As I said above, everyone has something to teach you, and that is why this step is so beneficial. Collaboration can mean a variety of things – physically meeting other photographers, talking to others, following them on social media to see their photos, or really any kind of interaction. This will not only help you improve your photography but if you use social media it will also help you to grow. Try to find other photographers in your area or niche, and make contact with them. Some people won’t reply, or won’t be interested and that’s okay. All we need are a few like-minded people who are interested in sharing some knowledge (and they may not even know they are doing so!). This step is more hands-on than learning by yourself and online, but it is well worth it if you can manage. Not only will you learn and grow, but you might also make some friends too. I overlooked collaboration for a long time and it is one thing I wish I could go back and change. Lastly, ask others what they think of your images. It isn’t up to others what they think of your images, and your style is your own. However, sometimes they can offer us helpful insight as to what could make a photo look better. It’s impossible for us to not be biased when viewing and judging our own photos, so a second point of view is often very helpful. Only change the image if you want to, but at least knowing others views is also useful. Never Stop Learning Because there is always something new to learn, and something new to improve at. Learning is the key to becoming a better photographer, and it’s something that never stops. Even if you become a professional photographer that is world famous, there is still something new to learn. Learning and improving is fun though, so I look forward to a future of it. This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing the products I will receive a small share. This comes at no cost to you, and is just a way for me to earn some money from my posts.
When I thought about writing this article the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘how do I possibly answer everything in a short blog post?’. I’m still not sure how I’m going to manage that, but this particular question seems to be one of the most common questions I receive. So here I am, attempting to explain all of my experiences in a relatively short post. As usual, my words aren’t definite. Most of what I say in this post won’t be facts, but rather my personal experiences. I can’t say how your experience will be, but I can definitely guess. I have studied at a university here for two years, and I have met a lot of people in that time. This post is an aggregation of all of my experience along with what I have heard. And secondly, as usual, feel free to ask me any questions you may have, or to share your own experiences. Table of Contents SKY Universities Racism Campus Life Costs Student Life Classes Vacations and Timetables Conclusion About Me: I study at Korea University (Korean name) in Anam-Dong, Seoul. Korea University is one of the top universities in Korea and is one of the infamous SKY schools. SKY stands for Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. These three universities along with KAIST and POSTECH are known by everyone as the top universities in Korea. If you’ve looked into studying in Korea at all I am sure you are already sick about hearing about these universities. I don’t want to discuss SKY for long as I think their reputation is stupid and unfair. However, I wouldn’t be writing an article about studying in Korea if I didn’t at least mention them in passing. This first part of my post is rather scathing and shows my frustration with my experiences at a university in Korea. The article is far more positive after this, but this is a very important point that I want to discuss. Lastly, I wanted to get the negatives out of the way first. As such, I will begin this article with them. I talk about how bad the education is at times, and the possible racism, however please don’t let it discourage you from considering studying in Korea. There are lots of positives too, and it is up to you to decide if Korea is for you or not. Studying in Korea SKY – Are SKY Universities the best? I can’t say for certain as I haven’t studied at other Korean Universities, but I can make a few observations. If you plan to work in Korea after graduation attend a top 10 university (SKY, Ehwa, SKKU, KAIST, etc). If you don’t attend one of these universities your chances at jobs will be far lower and you will have a much harder time here. However, if you are here for an exchange, or you will move back overseas after studying, then you have more options. I’m sure there’s no limit to the number of people who will disagree with me, but I think it’s better to pick a university that suits you. Pick one that offers what you want. If you are here for an exchange this is especially important, as the university you do an exchange to isn’t really too important in the end. What’s the education like? Mediocre at best. Korea has incredibly high rankings for education up to high school, however, their university rankings begin to drop off a lot. At Korea university I often find myself wondering how such bad teaching can be allowed. I have had teachers who often give homework copied straight from another university (I don’t know if they are allowed to do this, but it seems very cheap at the very least). Also, I have had professors who can’t speak English well at all teaching English classes (if you sign up to teach one of the English classes it is my belief that you should be adequate, if not fluent in the language). I have had professors who publicly humiliate people. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of fantastic professors at my university, and in Korea. Further, I understand every university has good and bad professors, but for a university that prides itself on being in the top 100? The education can be terrible at times. You may not notice it, but if you attend a top university you will notice elitism. Sometimes obvious, sometimes not, but you will notice it. I have had professors say ‘If you don’t study well you should have gone to (Insert lower ranked university here) instead!’ Or ‘you are the best students in Korea’. Elitism does exist, and it gets to some people. Some people will refuse to date someone who didn’t study at a SKY university (especially if they studied at one themselves). It doesn’t matter if the uni was a great university, but rather if it was SKY or not. I understand wanting to date someone who has been successful, but this view of ‘success’ is extremely limited. Korea University Racism – Will you experience racism? Probably. But it’s rarely obvious, and it won’t prevent you from having a great time here. I have never had any direct racism at my university (as it is a relatively global university), however, I have experienced it on the subway, in restaurants, and in public areas. Sadly it also depends on your race. I am caucasian which means that generally I am viewed more favourably in Korea, so my experiences may differ greatly. I have heard of some bad experiences from my friends from Southeast Asia, and some Koreans look down on people from that area. Darker skinned people are often treated fine, but there will often be lots of staring. You will most likely have many experiences that aren’t really racism, but more just prejudice. I’ve been assumed to be American more times than I can count. Sometimes people will randomly say ‘I love America’ to me. Once an old guy passed me on the escalator and said ‘good job!’ (With a smile) when I walked past with my girlfriend. And more than anything, sometimes people (especially children!) will stare. People will also always assume you speak English. I don’t count these as harmful experiences, often they are even funny. But you should always be aware. What about racism in university? It’s there, but it’s not direct. Me and nearly every other international student I have talked to have been excluded at some point. Club meetings where you won’t be included (they may not even let you know there is a club meeting!), drinking events where you slowly get pushed out of the group only to end up forming two groups (foreigners and Koreans) and being outright turned down from joining the club. I don’t think the intention is to exclude, but it seems to naturally happen, even if you can speak fluent (or decent) Korean. Overall, racism wasn’t a big problem here for me, and often it worked in my favour. But everyone will experience it in some way. South Korea is the most homogenous nation on earth, second only to the more secluded Korea, and this is bound to have some effects. To conclude, if you are worried about racism then you can stop worrying. Racism exists everywhere, and while it is more common in Korea than many places, it is hardly ever harmful. Campus and Student Life Campus life at Korean universities in exceptional. Many universities have beautiful campuses that are large and interesting. Even if the university you are interested in has a small campus, Seoul has so much to offer. The transportation is so great that interesting areas are always close by. Dormitories are offered by most universities and they can range greatly in quality and location. However, usually, foreigners are prioritised into the nicer/more modern dormitories. Korea University has basketball courts, swimming pools, ice-skating rinks, tennis courts… Really everything you could ever want. Korea is one of the bigger universities though and is better equipped than others. Every university I have visited however has a beautiful campus. Ewha, Yonsei, and Korea all have an old European theme (with architecture) and are beautiful. Konkuk University has an amazing lake right in the middle of the campus, and Sungshin Women’s University is surrounded by a multitude of types of entertainment. I wish I could be broader and speak more about other universities, however, I can only speak about the places I have been. One thing I can say for sure though is that Korean Universities usually have amazing campuses that are interesting, large, and beautiful. But even if your university doesn’t have a large or beautiful campus, Seoul is fantastic and is an amazing city for students. You will be able to find lots of entertainment wherever you choose to study. Costs: This is something that I am often asked, and I have a more in-depth article here. Tuition in Korea is about 2,000,000-6,000,00KRW a semester. The cost is highly dependent on the university and subject, but it is cheaper than most western countries. I recently wrote a post on the living costs as a student in Seoul. Check it out here! Textbooks are incredibly cheap, just don’t purchase them ‘legally’. In Korea there are basically no copyright laws for textbooks, meaning that your local print shop will happily print the textbook you need for 10,000KRW. You can easily afford all the textbooks for the semester for around 50,000-100,000 KRW. Do not buy books from bookstores if you want to save money, just get them printed. Dormitories usually range from 800,000-2,500,000KRW a semester. However, often cheaper housing can be found off campus. Goshiwons (essentially a dorm that is off campus) are around 300,000 a month, and studios can be found as cheap as 300,000 a month with a 2,000,000 deposit (which is returned when you leave). However, often there will be minimum stay lengths, so if you are only in Korea for a short time usually a dorm or goshiwon is the best option. Food is dependent on what you like to eat. A cheap meal out is about 5,000, while a more expensive meal out may be up to 15,000. Eating at home is a viable option too. Transport is 1,250 one way for subways and buses. It is extremely cheap and easy, along with being fast. Transport probably won’t be one of your big costs. Student life in Seoul is amazing and it is definitely one of the highlights of studying in this city! Student Life. Did you know soju is the most drunk alcohol in the world? Well, now you do! Korean’s drink like crazy, and if you come here to participate and embrace the culture, so will you. Soju is cheap and can be found for under 2,000 won a bottle. It may not be the nicest, but everyone who has come to Korea definitely remembers their experiences with soju! Activities like karaoke are abundant and can be found everywhere, pc bangs (pc cafes) and arcades too. Nightlife areas are scattered all across Seoul and there is always at least one popular place close by. Hongdae, Itaewon, and Gangnam are all popular for their nightlife, and usually, you will be located close to at least one of them! If you want to experience the cultural and historical side of Korea then you are in luck. Palaces, temples, and historical sites are abundant in Seoul. Shopping is also great in this city! Basically, anything you want will be found here. Don’t worry about having a lack of activities. Classes at Korean universities are quite hard to keep track of at times. Let me begin at course selection. Selecting courses is competitive! Very, very competitive. There will be a set time where every grade fights for their courses, and speed is of the essence, you must be fast! The classes fill up within a matter of seconds (or milliseconds) and after...
Travelling to Seoul for the first time? Then make sure to check out these useful tips on things to know before making it to South Korea. This is a guest post by Marie, more of her information can be found below. 1. Climate The climate in Seoul can be quite extreme. During winter the temperatures can drop far below zero and during summer the temperatures can go up to 40°C. Seoul has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinctive seasons. The best times to travel to Seoul or Korea are in the middle of spring (April, May) and during Autumn (September, October) unless you are looking to celebrate Christmas in Seoul or go skiing. Make sure to pack and dress appropriately for the specific season. Check out this packing guide to know what to wear in Korea. 2. Public Transport Seoul has an amazing public transport system which makes it incredibly easy and cheap to get around the capital. When you arrive at the airport make sure to buy a T-Money card. The card can be topped up in any convenience store and works on all public buses and subways all over the country. It will save you time and money because you receive discounts on rides when transferring. It is also easy to get around by taxi but this is way more expensive than pubic transport. Try not to take any black or deluxe taxis, which are more expensive than white or orange taxis. The easiest way to navigate in Seoul is by downloading Kakao Maps and the Seoul Subway app. 3. Restaurant & Coffee Shop Culture Themed cafes are also incredibly popular in Korea. Cat cafes, Flower cafes, and Board game cafes are all easy to locate! When you walk around Seoul you’ll see a restaurant or coffee shop every 5 steps. Going out for dinner can be quite inexpensive if sticking to local Korean restaurants. You can get a decent meal for 5000 – 7000 won. In Korea there is no tipping culture, so don’t feel obliged to pay extra when in a restaurant, but if you do decide to tip the amount is entirely up to you. Korea also has a very big coffee shop culture which keeps growing and growing. All kinds of coffee shops can be found in Seoul like specialty shops, theme cafes, big chains, etc. Coffee shops are more expensive with prices starting around 4000 won for a simple americano. 4. Safety South Korea is possibly one of the safest countries when it comes to crimes like pick pockets, theft, scammers, etc. This makes Seoul an easy country to travel to for solo travelers, families with kids or a group of friends looking to party. One things to remember is that if you would get in contact with the police or the law, it’s often unfairly biased against international visitors or residents. For example, if you get in a fight with a Korean (even if he/she started) and you hit that person, the law would likely be on the side of the Korean. 5. Showers & Bathrooms When visiting a Korean house, guesthouse or traditional restaurant you might have to take of your shoes. So when going to the bathroom you can put on the provided bathroom slippers otherwise your feet/socks might get wet. This is because the shower is located in the same room as the toilet and most often there is no shower curtain or enclosed shower. If you are peculiar about sharing slippers with strangers, don’t forget to bring your own pair. Many toilets in South Korea do not have big pipes, which means that toilet paper should be thrown in the garbage bin instead of in the toilet. Most of the times there is a note on the wall to remind you of this. 6. Other Things To Note – Even though you can probably get around in English it is always useful to be able to read Korean for directions and when ordering food. You can learn this in less than 1 hour. – The Korea power outlet is the same type as in Europe, if you’re from America, UK, Canada, SE Asia make sure to bring the right travel adapter. About the Author Written by Marie, the blogger behind the South Korea travel blog Be Marie Korea. Before moving to South Korea in 2016 she lived in England and Belgium. Now she is working as a ski instructor, SEO expert and blogger. https://www.instagram.com/be_marie_korea https://www.facebook.com/BeMarieKorea
This is a guest post written by Gabriela Penelope Carolus, a South African woman living in South Korea. More information on her, along with her social links are included at the end of the post. Several foreigners who work and study in Korea seek a form of community. A sense of belonging regardless of nationality, sexuality or religious affiliation without discrimination. Some people are seeking advice, a space to vent, or comradery in a safe space. Online public forums offer an ideal location to speak freely about living in Korea. Expat Women in Korea (i.e. EWIK) offer a public platform to discuss “the lived experience” of being a woman in Korea. Two months, to be exact, before living in Korea, I came across an online community devoted to Expat Women in Korea. My concern was that being a liberal woman from a modern family would pose immediate challenges in a patriarchal society, such as the Republic of Korea. I was fearful of being a city girl and a beach bum, isolated and vulnerable to stalkers, sexual harassment and public indecency in the rural community. Several South Africans suggested that I join this group. I could pose questions about adjusting to the country, what to bring and how to adapt to living in Korea. Since the media and my family in South Africa saw the portrayal of living in Korea as living close to the nuclear switch. The move to Korea is considered a fatal move for a single Expat middle – class woman. But, the ability to pose my fears and uncertainty to a group of women living in Korea gave me an ally. I was no longer a solo traveller to Korea. I had several supporters along this journey from Cape Town International Airport, OR Thambo International Airport and Hongkong International Airport. Now, I could ask people questions when I landed at Incheon Airport. Women comforted me when I felt alone. They also helped me find my feet, school schedule and transportation. I found a community and a sense of belonging with people online. I was able to find clarity from women as they “lived” life as a student, graduate researcher or teacher in a foreign country. It is known in the TEFL community that teaching in Korea is tough. It is an isolated life with the one native teacher policy in Korea. Therefore, this Facebook group created a social space outside of Seoul. Facebook Groups for Women in Korea There are several Facebook groups online for women to join in Korea. The Facebook groups for women are as follows: Expat Women in Korea Mental Health – Expat Women in Korea Expat Women in Korea Buy and Sell All THINGS BEAUTY – Expat Women in Korea Party Women in Korea Asian Expat Women in Korea Indian Women in Korea Expat Women of Color (Korea) Pakistani females Scholars in South Korea WFWP – IWK International Women in Korea Wine and Women Korea Women Loving Women – WLW Korea Women Cyclists in Korea British Expat Women in Korea Korean Women’s Ultimate Half Korean Expat Women in Korea Expat women in Korea – Outdoors Gather The Women South Korea Empowering Women through Christ – Korea Expat Women in Korea Dance Independent Women Business Owners of Korea Non- Korean Women Married to Koreans SIWA Korea (Seoul International Women’s Association) Black Women Dating in the ROK Korean Men & White Women KAW Korean Adoptee Women Christian women married to Korean men Korean women entrepreneurs Association of Korean Women Scientists and Engineers Muslim / Jewish Women Married to Korean Men Filipina Women Want a BF / Husband Korean Men ☺) Indian Women’s Club (IWC) of Korea. Saffa Sisters in Korea Brothas and Sistas of South Korea Ladies of Gwangju &Vacinity Finding a cause and ally is not only tied to Seoul. Rather, through the interest groups on Facebook and online, a solo traveller can easily navigate the lonesome and isolated life of the one native teacher policy for the curious, adventurous teacher. The use of social media and technology create responsible social allies in Korea. In my opinion, women in Seoul are protesting in the streets to discuss issues of womanhood, feminism, comfort women, or #metoo movements. But, for the expat living in the rural communities or abiding the restrictions on their VISAs to not publically participate in protest actions, the online platform allows women to find an online platform or create solidarity among people with similar interest or causes. Here is a short biography about the author: I am a social scientist. I aim to write about terms and ideas that we take for granted as the ordinary and intimate. This year, I am working as a Guest English Teacher in South Korea. I hope that my readers will continue this journey with me to reveal the challenges of living and working across different continents as a millennial. Gabriela also posts on her own blog. Not only that, but she writes some amazing poetry. Please take the time to check out her other content, as it is well worth it! Poetry posts: https://medium.com/@gabrielapenelopecarolus Blog Posts: https://wordpress.com/posts/gabrielapenelopecarolus.wordpress.com Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sungshin Women’s University is home to what I would say is easily the most fun cat cafe in Seoul. Situated on line 4 (the light blue line), in the north of Seoul, Sungshin is a little bit out of the way. However, this is probably for the better as it allows lots of small businesses to pop up. Sungshin Women’s University Cat Cafe is one of these great little businesses. Today I visited Sungshin Women’s University Cat Cafe (as I believe it is the only one here) with my girlfriend. It was a lot of fun and the cats are active and possibly even slightly crazy. This isn’t to say they were crazy in a bad way though! Directions: Head out of exit one (top left), turn right, and continue straight until you find this intersection. To reach the Sungshin Women’s University Cat Cafe simply travel to the station and walk out exit one. Walk straight until you see a big road to your right, this is the rodeo (main) street of Sungshin. The street is obvious as it has pink and grey paint, and is the home to many stores. Turn down the road and continue walking until you reach a big intersection (it is the first big intersection with roads running all four directions). Right on the corner, you will see the cafe. Prices and menu: The drinks at the cafe aren’t anything special, but they are decent. The interior is clean and well kept. The entry fee is 7000 won and this does NOT include drinks. If you are interested in drinks then be prepared to pay an extra 2000 won. The menu is similar to any cafe and offers coffees, juices, iced drinks, and teas. There is no food at the cafe. Once you pay the entry fee you are allowed to stay for two hours. However, I have definitely stayed longer both times I’ve visited. Cats! Cats get into some weird situations…. The cat cafe in Sungshin is a lot more active and energetic than most of the cafes I have visited in my time here. The cafe is located on the third floor of a building and is, therefore, a bit harder to find – meaning there are fewer visitors normally. The cafe is smaller than most, but it makes up for it in other ways. The owner is friendly and doesn’t mind people playing with the cats (even when they are being crazy!). The cafe is also easily one of the most (if not the most) clean animal cafes I have ever visited. The Sungshin Women’s University Cat Cafe (which I will call it from now on!) has about 6 tables with two seats each. As I mentioned earlier, it is a small cafe. However, I have only ever seen it about half full at most. Most people opt out of sitting at the tables and prefer to sit on the mats and interact with the cats. In saying that, the cats will definitely come over and curiously investigate your table! These cats seemed to be at constant war with each other. I counted nine cats in total, but it is possible that I missed one or two as lots of them were spread out around the cafe. Some of the cats are rather lazy and just sleep, but some of the others are very active and will keep you on your toes. My girlfriend had her wallet on a neck strap, and they spent about an hour chasing it. I’ve never cats with so much energy! Other information: The cafe is open from 1 pm until 10 pm. Make sure to keep an eye out for the cafe, as like I mentioned earlier, it is located on the third floor of an otherwise unremarkable building. If you only want to visit one cat cafe while in Seoul, then this is the cafe I would pick.
My name is Ethan Brooke and I am a New Zealander (Kiwi!) who has lived in Seoul for just under two years now. Before I came to Seoul I liked to take photos, Seoul made me want to become a photographer. Seoul has always amazed me with just how big, fast, lively, and beautiful it is. Inspiration comes differently for everyone. For me, my biggest inspiration was and still is Seoul. It is this place that has inspired me to take more and better photos. I want to be able to share Seoul and let everyone know about how beautiful it is. This is what Seoul means to me. Seoul – The Most Beautiful City in the World My favourite sunset location in Seoul. Yeouido, along the banks of the Han River. The diversity and opportunity that this city offers is something I never truly experienced before coming here. To me Seoul represents many opposites; poverty and wealth, nature and urban, and modern and traditional to name but a few. I have never visited another city where the differences are as stark as they are here. Mountains exist surrounded by the city, temples sit right next to skyscrapers, and multimillion-dollar apartments look over dilapidated houses. Such vast differences exist that I had never before seen. The blue skies after a hot summer day. Location. Seoul initially inspired me to photograph as I wanted to share my experiences with my friends and family back home. Now it has become much more than that. I’ve come to realise that I will never be able to explore Seoul completely and that I will never stop finding unexpected places, things, and people. The fact that there is always something new to find is a big part of what inspires me to go out and shoot every week. There’s always a new story to tell. What Seoul means to me? Diversity, beauty, and excitement. Lots of Seoul is extremely wealthy, but a lot of it is the complete opposite. However one this is universal across Seoul, you always feel safe. However, there is one more reason that I go out to shoot as often as I do. Seoul is beautiful and I want to share that. They say that everyone sees the world differently, but I am lucky in that I am able to share how I see the world through my photographs. People don’t think of Seoul as a beautiful place, but I want to show everyone that it is. What Does Seoul Mean to You? Beautiful Seoul – A view that I feel not many people get to see. Location. I wrote this short story for my photos that will be displayed at Photoville in New York next month. The topic of the photographs and story was ‘Seoul’, and I thought this was the perfect time to describe to others what I see. To share some photos and show everyone what Seoul means to me. If you could share this post it would mean the world to me. This is a special moment for me, and I wish I could share the beauty of Seoul with more people. Pin This!
As Korean culture sweeps the world more and more, ever increasing amounts of students are looking at moving to South Korea. As the country develops more, however, the cost of living in Korea is steadily rising. With the eighth most expensive real estate in the world, Seoul especially is not a cheap place to live. But as a student who plans ahead and who has some income, it is definitely not impossible to live here and enjoy life as a student. When considering the cost of living in Seoul and what it’s like to be a student living in Seoul, I think it is important to think about the more important (and more costly) aspects first. As such, this list is in descending order of what I have found to be the most expensive aspects of life here in Seoul. Your costs may differ, but after living here for two years this is my experience. This chart shows my standard monthly costs in Seoul living costs Tuition Tuition is the most important cost to consider as a student living in Seoul and is also (often) the largest. These fees will either be very cheap or very expensive depending on what you are used to. For national universities, the costs will usually range from about $2000USD a semester to $4500USD. This is highly dependent on your major and university, with some courses (such as medicine) being near $4500, and others (like humanities) just being $2000. Private universities on the other hand range from about $3000 to $7000USD. There are many private and national universities and there are a lot of options open. Further, many universities readily offer scholarships, as does the Korean Government. Student living in Seoul is costly when considering the tuition fees, but relative to many other counties the cost is minimal. Even if you feel like you can’t afford these costs, it is still worth applying. As I mentioned above, there is a multitude of scholarships available to supplement your costs. If you simply apply you can often be offered these scholarships. Rent Student Housing in Seoul is affordable and there is a large variety of choice. For more information check out this post. Rent in South Korea is very affordable, with many different housing options available. Costs can range from $275 a month in a dormitory or goshiwon (an off-campus dormitory) to $1000 in an expensive one room. Really, there is something for everyone’s needs. Rent in South Korea is generally very affordable for students with many one-room apartments starting at $300 in student areas. Some places will also include utility costs and can be found for around $300 inclusive of these. That’s a total of only $75 for rent every week. For far more information on housing please check out this post from a few days ago. Utilities Utilities are another part of student living in Seoul that is very affordable. Monthly utility costs include electricity, water, and gas, all of which are cheap. Depending on the month, gas can be as low as $0 and as high as $100 in winter. Korean apartments usually have ondols, which is underfloor heating. Considering that it is around $100 for constant heating throughout the winter months, that’s not a bad price at all. Electricity is the same. In winter it is usually a minimal cost of under $20, but in summer (with AC and fans) it can go up to $100-$200 easily. However, if you are conservative with your use of AC then summer doesn’t have to cost much either. Something to keep in mind with Korean electricity costs is that they are exponentially increasing. This means that while using X amount of power might cost $5, using double that amount of power may cost $25, and double that might be $150. This is usually great for students as it means the costs are very low. But in summer you should always be wary. The final cost of utilities if you are a student living in Seoul is water. I’ve found that even when using a large amount of water that your costs will barely be $15 per month. Overall, utilities in Korea are very affordable as long as you manage them well. This can possibly be the biggest costs for a student living in Seoul, but if managed well it can easily be minimized. Food Korea has some of the best cuisine in the world! Image from here. Food is another major factor in the cost of living in Seoul and will usually be either the second or third biggest expense. When eating at home then you can expect to spend around $30-$70 a week. Depending on if you plan to buy wholesale goods then you also have options such as Costco which is very cheap for large amounts of food. If you plan to eat out then expect to be paying anywhere from $3 to $20 per meal. If you prefer to eat cheaply but want to eat out then it is more than possible to find meals less than $5. Also be prepared to possibly factor in bottled water. Depending on your house, tap water may or may not be safe to drink, and a filter may be necessary. Bottled water can also be purchased at around $3 for six 2 liter bottles. (check out the links for more detailed information on food costs). Transport As a student living in Korea (and probably travelling a bit), public transport will be your next biggest cost. Train rides and bus rides are around $1 each way, and this means that you can expect to spend around $2 for every trip. My usual monthly costs for transport are about $80. Internet and Phone The three main phone companies in Korea are KT, SKT and LGU+. Image from here. Internet and phone plan prices in South Korea vary greatly depending on what you are expecting. The Internet can be as had as low as $30 a month (100mbps) and as high as $50 (1gbps). Phone plans, however, have much more variation and it highly depends upon what you want. Plans start at around $20 and unlimited data plans can cost anywhere from $60-$120 depending on your carrier and exact specifications. More info can be found on the carriers sites, KT, SKT and LGU+. Health Insurance The prices in South Korea for medical insurance are very reasonable and far lower than most other countries. Foreigners are eligible for the National Health Insurance after being in Korea for three months. The insurance costs $50 per month, however, there is a catch. If you live in Korea for one year and then sign up for the plan, you will be charged for nine months (since that is when you became eligible). To avoid this charge you can leave the country and re-enter (for example by going to Japan for a day). Just keep this in mind if you plan to join the National Health Insurance. Other Costs Activities are another aspect that can’t really be discussed without knowing specifics. They could either be the lowest, or the highest cost! But on average, a night of drinking will cost about $30-$100. Cafes are usually about $3-$10 (they will be more if they are themed). Many other activities exist, but they are far too many to include here! Here are two links that provide far more detail on activity costs in Seoul. Here and here. Conclusion The cost of living in Seoul is comparatively low to most western countries. However, depending on where you are from it may also be very costly. As a student living in Seoul for two years now I have found that costs can often be high, but usually they are affordable. The rent in South Korea is low for a city such as Seoul, and in general the prices in South Korea are cheaper than many alternative counties.