Korea on the Brain: The Mundane Student Life

As midterms come to an end and I reach the halfway mark with my first semester of my exchange abroad, I can’t help but compare on occasion the similarities and differences between Kyungpook National University (경북대학교) and my home university, Algoma University.

Differences

For one thing, the biggest difference I would have had to notice is the size of the campus. Kyungpook (경북) has a number of buildings spread out over a vast area, with the school even having a separate campus on another plot extremely far away from its Daegu (대구) branch and its own hospital. Although I know in Canada we have campuses just as big, however, my home university is not one of them; using its small size to its advantage in its marketing. I could travel from the dorms to my classes within a five minute walk but here in Kyungpook, it takes me fifteen minutes; and that’s only if I power walk.

The second difference I noticed was as an effect of my first point; this is because as the school is so large it makes it hard for people of different departments to know one another. Therefore, if one is a business student, pretty much all their friends are also business students unless one has met a mutual friend of a friend in another field, however that is very rare. Even when they have school events, it’s usually for a specific department. However in my home university, no matter your department or major, we all know each other and that’s one of the things I love about my little university.

Lastly, I think one of my most dreadful differences between Kyungpook and my home university is the importance of attendance. Back in Canada, depending on the professor, attendance had little to no meaning, don’t get me wrong there were some professors who saw attendance as a must but it wasn’t that often. However here in Korea, it is a must. Attendance alone could carry 25-30% of your final grade in a class and at most you can only miss four classes in the entire semester or else one would automatically fail the class. So as one of my pet peeves; which was attending early morning classes, I could occasional skip without a thought in Canada. However here, I could never dream of skipping these classes which for me is a total bust.

Similarities

There are however quite a few similarities between Kyungpook National University and Algoma University, or Canadian Universities in general, and that is the poor student lifestyle. I believe no matter where you go students will forever be the lowest on the wealth chain. However in both cases, the Universities provide enough support for all its students, which I feel is good no matter where you go.

Another similarity is the student social life. Once again, no matter where you go, students will party as hard as they can when given the opportunity – from staying out all night to suffering that regrettable hangover the next day. A little disclosure is that Korea is known for its strong drinking culture and this is portrayed a lot in their dramas and movies, however it doesn’t mean that they can hold their alcohol that well. They also tend to start really early, from 6pm, but their laws are just as strict about underage drinking as Canada so that’s good.

Finally the last universal thing I noticed is that exams and midterms are forever feared and resented, and I guess that’s just part of the student aesthetic, but isn’t that everywhere?

Final Thoughts

Although I think there are far more differences than similarities, I think that’s all part of the journey. After all, I wasn’t expecting to be completely accustomed to anything in Korea. In fact, I looked forward to all the differences there would be and better prepared myself for the culture shock. I think that this fact is extremely important because I have met many exchange students who didn’t prepare their minds for the change and are having difficulties as a result. Therefore I look forward to how these changes will shape me as a person.

Till next time Anna Falls.

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