First step into Sungkyunkwan University was an impressive one. I had never been used to study inside a big American-like campus. First, you enter by the old historical campus, which was built in 1398. It was indeed the very first university in Korea, and the place where the princes were receiving education. I think that this really gives its special atmosphere to SKKU campus in Seoul. Since I love ancient buildings, I would often walk around and take pictures there. The Friday before our first week of class, all exchange students had a visit and a meal with the Hi-Club, the student club in charge of welcoming international students in the university. We learned about the different buildings and places, and got to briefly meet each other around a table full of chicken and soju.
When you’re an exchange student in Sungkyun Language Institute, you have to pass a test beforehand to be attributed a level, which are the same as the Topik levels (1 to 6). Unfortunately, even if the administration is very quick and effective, they gave us by mail the test sheet and we had to send it back 2 days afterwards. Of course, at that time, I had no computer and was busy all day (and night, because, Seoul…) which left me half a day to think about how to pass the exam. I went to Hongdae to find quickly a PC room and the test was really difficult. There were a lot of grammar points I never studied, and I decided not to cheat, to be attributed the right level for me. I did it very quickly in 30 minutes, in order not to pay a lot. And failed it.
On the orientation day, I’ve been sent to level 2. I’d been studying Korean for 2 years, and others students of my class generally begun less than a year before. Needless to say, by watching the books, I already learned it all, except for 2-3 things. Other students from my class back in France were level 3. They were better than me, but still, I didn’t want to waste my time, learning everything once again. I decided to change to level 3. The thing is, you have to convince your teacher, and I had to use Korean for the first time in 4 months to do so which turned akward, but she agreed. And then another teacher made me pass a surprise interview. Such a stressfull first day of school… Anyways, I finished by being in the same class as my two French mates and was very happy.
Our teachers were great, but we soon realized we would have a lot of homework and personnal work as well to learn effectively and practice. The program which I studied in was the RKP for Regular Korean Program, and includes lessons everyday (Monday to Friday) from 9am to 3pm with 1 hour for lunch time. This was pretty intensive and as time passed, we all grew very tired. We had mid-terms and final exams, and since a term is 2 months long, that means we had exams every months. But I’ll talk about exams later.
The students in RKP are from all over the world, but mainly from Asia, and particularly from China. Also, there are a lot more girls than boys, which I was sad about, because things are funnier with boys in class! Everyone in the class took some time to really mix between continents. At first, I was always with the European girls, because we all were new here. Other students had already been to other level classes and some were already friends. Chinese people would be talking between them in Chinese… It doesn’t really help to mingle right? But still, after some time, everyone would talk with one another, and I think our class was pretty amazing! We had so much fun within classmates, have hangouts or meals together. We made a lot of good memories and getting separated into different classes afterwards was painful to all of us.
The exams were so scary. You had every exam within a single day. Three of them during one and a half hour. No time to think, you had to check the MCQ mechanically and write an essay very quickly. Well, at least, when you were done with it, YOU WERE DONE WITH IT. But, for people like me who need to take some time thinking about a problem, this is tough. The first time, I had no time left to take one of the tests. The second time, I took my clock and organized my work time; I wouldn’t be taken by surprise. It worked a lot better. Also, we only had exams during class for the practice lesson (실용 한국어); under, you can see us presenting the news for a car accident as a test! But my results weren’t very high; I passed to level 4 under the wire.
On the entertainment side, there was the festival! Since SKKU has 2 campuses, it was twice the fun. Of course, Suwon campus had the biggest one since it has the most students. I went on Friday the 24th, meaning I was able to see MFBTY and Leessang perform.
Before the performances, there were also some animations organised by the students associations, and I arrived when competitors were recreating the very popular show King of Mask Singer (미스터리 음악쇼 복면가왕). I was a bit sad to see there was only one foreigner joining the contest since there were so many exchange students.
On the two campuses, you could buy food, snacks, drinks, either from professionals or student associations. Some people were going in and out for dinner, since it was (of course) less expensive outside.
Even if I enjoyed some artists on Seoul campus, nobody could beat MFBTY and Leessang, and both bands set fire to the audience!
All these festivals are free and you could come even if you’re not a student. Festival periods of the years are very funny then, because you could go see concerts for free all the time.
This is it for the first part! I’m sorry I wrote that much!