Many of my American friends are very curious about the daily lives of Korea, a place that has changed from one of the poorest countries in the world to the most dynamic. And more specifically, many blog readers in Korea are wondering what the difference is between Korean university life and the one in the states. For this reason, I have decided to write my blog here to present my opinion about Korea, precisely the university life. To give you a more deeper insight of Korea, I am going to first talk about what university is like at the moment for me.
Before I entered my university at HUFS, I tried to find people online and offline who are in the same situation as I am, but it was quite difficult. And sometimes, I felt the regret of sacrificing my twelve years of education to come here to Korea. In fact, my friends have kept inducing me to stay in the states, and continue my education there. Others have hurt my feelings by telling me to go anywhere in the world except Korea, because of the harsh alcohol culture.
To answer these statements, I cannot give out a straight black and white answer. Some of their statements might be true, but most of these statements were from people who have never experienced Korea, and in order to find out if these negative statements were true, I came to experience it for myself. Although I have found the alcohol part to be partially true, I find the culture of Korea to be fine, a mixed feeling of both good and bad.
Korea is just like any other countries around the world. The only thing that I found Korea to be different from the country that I lived in was the culture. Socializing and studying at a Korean university, I find people wearing shiny hat, expensive watches, wearing colored dresses (females), and more. Although it is not a requirement to be a fashion-guy, it is one way to attract other students in Korea. I know some American friends at my school who get 'secretly' cursed by other people around him about the way he wears. This is one way to notice that you are not following the standards of the school. By the way, the reason they curse you or make fun of you indirectly is that they want to tell you that they don't like something that you are doing or wearing without having to lose friendship.
One thing that foreigners are jealous of who study in America is that the students are individualistic. Nobody really cares about how you wear your clothes or what action you take as long as it does not offend the other person, whereas in Korea, it is important to consider other people as one part of you. So, to all foreigners or Korean Americans here in Korea, I definitely do not recommend you to wear sleeping suits, and bring a huge backpack filled with five books to the classroom. Your Korean friends will feel embarrassed to talk to you, although they may never tell you they do. Even if they don't feel that way, Koreans want to interact with people with those that have the same attitude, fashion, and possibly, thoughts. It really depends on the person, because I actually met one female student majoring in mass communication who dreamed of having a boyfriend who wear casual clothes with no fashion and just live the American life, but I find this case to be very rare.
Does this necessarily mean that Korea is bad, and that you are restricted from making your own social decisions?
Definitely not, but I am only saying that you should change yourself in order to join the "Korean bubble."
And make sure not to get the wrong intention without following these steps. Some think that they can show off their English in order to get more attraction from other students. That is not necessarily false, but you are getting more people for the wrong purpose. In this case, they tend to want you to improve their TOEFL or TOEIC scores by interacting with you in English, but that is not getting mixed into the Korean culture. Instead, you are separating yourself from others, and they are simply calling you for help when they need it. A Korean guy that I met from another university told me not to hang around with other foreigners, because they will not be your 'real' friends, which I was a little offended. Anyhow, you should follow these steps, and focus more on yourself to get a positive view from Koreans.
I think I've talked enough about the clothing part. And I know more than you think that clothing is not all there is. In fact, there are tons more to learn, but everything cannot be taught with words. I advice foreigners to visit Korea if you haven't, because it is a fantastic country, and if you are in Korea, I think you should hang out with Korean friends more often. This is not just to improve your Korean, but to make connections where you probably will stay for a long time. I know foreigners that are studying in a Korean university to find a job here, and that requires people, which is one element to success when it comes to career. My university professor in business told me that he would never have gotten this position without the help of his friend, whom he knows through connection.
You might need to get a hands-on experience here before you take my words, but the last part that I can add is the membership training (MT) in both colleges and Korean companies. The purpose of the membership training is to get closer with people whom you will interact with inside the company and college classes. If you don't know them, and you work with them, it can be a little awkward sometimes, so in order to alleviate that, they have created the membership training. Plus, it's a good way to know about the organization before you actually begin. In college, you first join the club, and then, you get a notice from the leader of that particular club to participate in the training, where you will visit the countryside of Korea, and play around inside a small pub.
One thing that might scare you, though, is what you might actually do inside the membership training (MT). When you hear the word 'training,' you might think that you are going to actually learn about the program, and do activities do get more information, and get used to the company or the things that you will be doing inside the club or classroom. Unfortunately, that is not what you do in there. You can simply think of it as a Korean party, where you drink a ton load of alcohol and play games using the beer. In terms of days, it depends on the type of club you join in school, and the type of company that you work in. However, it tends be around one to two days. So, to all new members of Korea, I hope that you learn the games before you actually go to the MT. Don't be scared though, because they will kindly teach you if you don't understand, and if you cannot play the game at all, they will kindly ask you to wait until the next game, which won't take that much time. Some of the games in which you must know are things like '369,' where you will clap your hands whenever the end digit of the number starts with three, six, or nine.
I often think about the length of time in college as it seems short, but at the end of the day, it is all up to you. It is really how you make of it, and I am doing all that I can to make my college life effective and educational. Drinking alcohol, I believe, is one part of education in which you must know before you join Korean company, or work under a Korean boss. I will do all I can with my power to strengthen myself to withstand the pressure of Korea, and I know you can as well. Good luck, and I hope this post has helped you. If not, it would be enough to get a general idea of what Korea is like before you start out fresh.