New exchange program in South Korea allows students to learn language, experience culture

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Photo Credit: Alekka Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

A new exchange program with Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, is now taking applications for spring 2020 study abroad.

The University had an affiliate program that allowed students to travel to Yonsei for a semester but switched to having a direct exchange program with fall, spring and summer options after interest in travel to Asia increased, program coordinator Thuy Nguyen said. Yonsei is one of the three SKY universities in South Korea, which Nguyen said are among the top universities in the country.

“(Yonsei) is a long-standing institution and historically renowned,” Nguyen said. “We try to partner with comparable universities to ensure the quality of the education of students when they go abroad is robust.”

Ethan Jewell, an international relations and global studies senior, has participated in three Seoul-based programs — an internship and two semesters abroad. Jewell said the faculty was comprised of good teachers, but they had a different relationship.

“Between professors and Korean students, there’s a huge power difference,” Jewell said. “You have to be very respectful to your teachers. I couldn’t even imagine a Korean student treating a professor poorly.”

Students in a direct exchange program with Yonsei are able to receive full financial aid while abroad, and credits taken are counted as in-residence. Jewell said another benefit to the program is the affordability.

“There’s a ton of scholarship opportunities, especially for Korea in particular, because not a lot of people go,” Jewell said.

The University has four other exchange programs to Seoul, but Nguyen said that Yonsei has a more manageable language course.

“Students who don’t want to do a really intensive track at Hanyang (University) for 13 hours can do a semi-intensive one and catch up on language credits,” Nguyen said.

Ngyuen said while students will not have the “fun” events that are provided by affiliate programs, the other benefits made changing the program to a direct exchange worthwhile.

“We decided, ‘Let’s just go direct with Yonsei,’ given the fact that so many students are able to figure out excursions on their own,” Nguyen said. “Students are smart and savvy. The benefits outweigh having the additional support.”

Nguyen said one of the reasons students say they are interested in studying in South Korea is the rise of Korean pop culture in America, such as the popularity of the band BTS and increased use of Korean beauty products. Spain is the most-traveled-to country by UT students, Nguyen said, but aerospace engineering freshman Diana Segura said she would study somewhere outside of Europe.

“It would be more interesting to explore other cultures that are less spoken of,” Segura said.

As well as studying in cities like Seoul, Jewell said students should also study in less populated areas in South Korea.

“If you just go to any major world city like Tokyo or New York City or Seoul, you’re going to get the same kind of experience,” Jewell said. “But if you go into a less traveled-by city, you’re going to get something more authentic.”

Students who are accepted to participate in the exchange program next semester will be the first Yonsei exchange cohort.

“We’re going to be navigating new waters,” Nguyen said.