* This post is written by Shanna Tan, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers.
Many of those who have been studying Korean for some time will, at some point in time, consider taking Korean classes in South Korea. It will be the best form of immersion, allowing you to study Korean in a classroom, experience Korean culture firsthand and to practice your language skills in everyday life. However, such a decision does not come easy and there are many factors to consider. Cost, duration, program type etc are some of the first factors that people consider. Every programe type is different and each university language program will have their own style and niches. Instead of introducing the various programme types, here are some important factors of consideration that people usually miss.
What is your goal when it comes to Korean?
Before you make any decision, it is important to consider what is your ultimate goal in learning Korean. To be conversational? To be able to read formal business documents? To reach native-like proficiency? To be able to function in an academic setting in Korean? To be able to enjoy Korean entertainment without subtitles? Having a clear direction of what you want helps in making a good decision. Those who are looking at improving their Korean to native-like proficiency should choose regular language programs which are intensive in nature and offers a good grounding in the foundation and beyond. Summer programmes are good for those who just want short-term immersion to improve their speaking skills. The Yonsei program is famous for their “grammar intensive” lessons, while Sogang University is known for their focus on conversational skills. Knowing exactly what you want helps in your research for the most suitable school and programme type.
Why do you want to study in Korea?
Besides learning Korean, that is. Some people may wish to take this opportunity to make more Korean friends or to have ample chances in experiencing Korean culture / activities etc. If your main goal is to learn Korean, the regular program is most suitable as classes usually run from 9am to 1pm, 5 days a week, for 10 weeks (per term). If you do not want to be confined to the classroom for long hours and prefer something to balance your time, you may want to consider going for International summer schools. Korean classes are not the main focus in summer schools and you get to choose other courses such as Korean film history, Hallyu culture etc. If your main goal is to make Korean friends and learn about Korean culture from them, university exchanges are the best. Language programs are for foreigners/overseas Koreans and even though there may be buddy systems or other activities, it is harder to make Korean friends and you usually hang out with your classmates (who are foreigners too). University exchanges allow you to take classes together with Koreans, join their school clubs and basically immerse yourself in their normal school lives.
Any specific skills that you want to improve?
Ask yourself what you hope to achieve after the programme. As mentioned above, people who are looking for grammar intensive lessons may want to consider Yonsei while people who are mainly looking at improving speaking skills may prefer Sogang.
What is your learning style / what is your expectation of the programme?
Signing up for programmes without research or knowing what you want is the major cause of disappointment. The regular programs are often intensive in nature. Classes are fast-paced, you are likely to need to prepare for lessons in advance, complete homework / presentations / reports after classes. You may find yourself having lesser time than expected to play and have fun. I have met many people who are studying / have studied in Korea and many told me they sometimes felt stressed in the regular programs. The stress comes mainly from the unexpected level of commitment and workload and they entered the program not knowing what to expect. On the other hand, others may sign up for Korean courses in their university exchanges but find them less rigorous and intensive than expected.
Doing ample research is the best way to choose the most suitable programme and to avoid disappointments. There are many people who share their experiences in various programmes/universities on their blogs or in forums, a quick search can be helpful.
I will be introducing the various programme types in the next post of the series next week. For now, I will leave you with these questions to ponder.