South Korea’s vibrant capital of Seoul, with its tangible ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle, is an incredible place to study abroad and you’ll want to do as much as you can while you’re there. Here’s how to make the most of it!

Make new friends

Studying abroad gives you an amazing opportunity to make new friends. At Korea University you will be paired up with a Korean buddy for your semester who will help you begin feeling connected to locals right from the start. Not sure which cafe near campus has the best WiFi, wondering how to check out a book at the library, or looking for some company when grabbing  dinner – ask your buddy! They are excited to show around new students and can practice their English while you work on your Korean.

Map out your semester so you are aware of what days you have to explore

You will notice that you don’t have many long breaks during the semester, so to make sure you take advantage of your time in Korea, check the calendar during orientation and map out your time with a budget from the very start. Do you want to stay in Korea for the semester and explore everything from the mountains to the beaches? Do you want to visit Japan during the semester or maybe on your way home?

It is easy and affordable to travel around Korea on buses and trains, but during the holiday weeks things can fill up fast – that is why we recommend starting your planning as early as you can! If you have a hard time getting your group of friends to commit, don’t be nervous to branch out and find some new travel buddies. One can never have too many friends and too many experiences!

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Get out of Seoul

You could explore Seoul every weekend and still not feel like you have seen all the city has to offer. That being said, there are amazing places to see just outside the city that we encourage you to discover as well. When you thought about spending your semester in Seoul it is likely you didn’t imagine yourself on a black sand beach, but the most popular flight path in the world is from Seoul to Jeju Island and if you book at the right times you can get really inexpensive flights for a weekend away on the beautiful isle.

For nature lovers, Korea has 21 national parks with Bukhansan National Park conveniently located just outside of the city offering excellent scenic walking and hiking options. Do your research and see more than just Seoul!

Cheonjeyeon Waterfall on juju Island
Cheonjeyeon Waterfall on juju Island | Photo by Ben Kucinski

Branch out

There are a lot of American students studying at Korea University for the semester and living in Seoul. While you should make as many friends as possible, make an effort to widen your circle and meet other international or Korean students. You have a special opportunity to get to know people from all over the world, so ask questions, learn about other cultures and broaden your outlook!

Get to know Seoul

We know that we just said to get out of Seoul, but we also want to make sure you explore all that Seoul has to offer. Whenever you have a free afternoon, go check out one of the 25 neighborhoods that make up the city.

Not sure where to start? Begin with our five favorite neighborhoods! There are also a lot of cool ways to spend your time that aren’t listed in guidebooks. If you want ideas on how you can get off the beaten path, check out some tips here from our Resident Director, Sandra.

Seoul city street
“Small, cramped streets, huge bright street signs, and the smell of chicken and Korean barbecue can be found on every side street of Seoul.” Photo & caption by Jenny Lo, University of Central Florida

Practice your Korean

King Sejong wanted to make reading and writing accessible to everyone instead of just the elite members of society so he created the Korean language to be learned in a short amount of time. You can learn to sound out words in Korean in just a few hours and get more comfortable speaking and writing in just eight hours – really!

While no one expects you to become fluent on the flight over, learning the basics can get you far, from helping you read street signs or using the Kakao Taxi app. Plus, if you wanted to only speak English for a semester you wouldn’t have decided to leave the U.S.

As a part of TEAN’s semester orientation you will be able to participate in our Resident Assistant’s Korean crash course to learn the basics like, hello/goodbye (annyeonghaseyo), thank you (gomabseubnida) and please (Juseyo). KU also offers different Korean courses that you can sign up for. While language courses aren’t mandatory, they are really popular and students tend to do well in the courses.

Remember you are there to study

You have done all you can to maximize your experience – you are sticking to your budget, you are making new friends, traveling outside of Seoul, practicing your Korean and then you remember there is one other reason you are in Korea – to STUDY! While it might be hard to always remember, you are studying abroad!

Korea University is one of the top universities in the Korea and it is very challenging to be accepted. Many Korean students scored a percentage in the high 90s on their high school leaving exams to study at KU, so you are taking classes with some of the top students in the country.

It is important to keep up in your classes and know that you have to study in order to do well. The professor might have a different teaching style then you are used to, and your homework and readings might take you longer, but stick with it. If you go out at night with your Korean friends, you might not see them up early the next day studying but, trust us, they will be and they will ace the next test – so you have to also work to keep up.

Plus if you are thinking about going to grad school, they will likely want to see your transcript from KU – so make it something you are proud of!

Korea University campus outdoors study spot
“One of my favorite spots on Korea University’s campus is this wooden stage area which has a bunch of tables and chairs, and where you can also catch students studying beneath the many maple trees that provide this area with the perfect amount of shade and sun.” Photo & caption by Jenny Lo, University of Central Florida

Learn the history of Korea

South Korea has a very long and intense history. It is recommended that you have some background knowledge on the Korean peninsula, why there is a demilitarized zone, when was it divided into North and South Korea, etc. Learning the background of where you are going not only shows respect but also gives you a more accurate picture when trying to understand the culture.


Korea has amazing food and we guarantee it will be in your top three things that you miss most about your time studying abroad. Don’t hold back and try new things! Start by grabbing a group of friends and make your way through our list!

Korean food in Seoul
A meal in Seoul | Photo by Yusra Adam, University of Colorado Denver

Have questions? Get in touch with our Program Managers for even more information about studying abroad in Korea.