For so long since I graduated university last 2016, I’ve been deciding where to take my Master’s, I always knew I wanted to take it abroad but I was still unsure where specifically. When I went on a study abroad program in Korea University last 2014, I had the best time of my life but since programs in other countries felt more in line with my major, I’ve been having a hard time deciding. It is a real pain when the thing you like doing most is on an entirely different path than that which could give the best opportunity for your career.
Last June 2017, however, ever since I came back to translating Korean shows and articles, my passion for the Korean language (which I honestly was about to give up) got reignited. So many of the people around me would always wonder why I kept going back to Korea, why I wanted to study in Korea when there are much brighter and more certain opportunities opening up for me. And honestly, listening to these people continually question my decisions was one of the reasons why I had a hard time deciding what to do next.
I spent the majority of last year translating articles/news from Korean to English, and despite doing them for free and spending lots of time doing them, I didn’t notice the hours fly by because I was having such a great time. It is still a very unsure future, but I realized that this is where I excel most and this is what really makes me happy.
After a month in Yonsei KLI
So this time, I decided to give my passion another chance. I applied for the Spring 2018 term of Yonsei Korean Language Institute’s regular course. I chose Yonsei after a long deliberation because I wanted to try going to another university other than KU, and since Yonsei KLI was said to be the best language program offered by universities in Korea. In this post, I’ll be talking about the preparations I had to do for the program, more details about the program, and a review of my first month in the program.
Application / Tuition Fee Payment / Health Insurance / VISA
December last year, I applied on Yonsei KLI’s website, here you can see more details about the program, the schedule & deadlines of each term. After submitting my documents, I received an email from the program director asking a copy of my diploma from the universities attended so I sent one from my home university, Ateneo de Manila University, and another from Korea University. After the additional requirements I sent, I then received the acceptance letter from Yonsei KLI.
Next step was the payment of the Tuition fee which I paid through bank transfer: the total amount I sent was KRW 1,810,000 which consists of the application fee (KRW 80,000) and tuition fee (KRW 1,730,000). One of the things that held me back in participating with the program was the fee amount especially since I have already graduated, I didn’t want to burden my parents to pay a huge amount of money (add to that the living expenses I needed while studying). But I’m glad they are always supportive of me and what I wanted to do so they provided me the financial support I needed.
We were then required to send in a health insurance that covers the entire stay we’ll be staying in Korea. This is a step common in universities in Korea, I was required of this as well when I went on exchange at KU. One may opt to apply from their home country or apply through a healthcare service connected to Yonsei KLI in Korea instead. I applied for a travel health insurance from my home country which covers the months I’ll be in Korea.
The final step is VISA application. I was most confused with this part as I already have with me a Multiple VISA for Korea but since it is a regular tourist VISA, the maximum stay is 30 days which is unfortunately not enough for the duration of my study term. So I had to apply for a new one and pay a fee of PHP 2,000 to get the General Short-Term VISA which will last for up to 90 days. This VISA can’t be extended unless I decide to change to a Student VISA status so if I want to be back for another KLI term, I’d have to go back to my country and reapply another VISA.
*March 3 – Arrival / Housing
Instead of living in the dorms, I opted to stay at a Oneroomtel (also called Goshitel or Guesthouse). A oneroomtel is typically a one-room where college students or people reviewing to take exams usually stay in: it has a private bathroom and shower, television, WiFi, refrigerator, air-condition, heater, bed with a mattress and pillow, cabinets, and a desk. Compared to a goshiwon which usually don’t have a private bathroom or shower, a goshitel is slightly more expensive. Price per month usually is in the range of KRW 350,000 to 550,000. They also usually have public amenities such as washing machine and a kitchen which also has free daily food like ramen, cooked rice, coffee, tea, water for all residents to use.
When I was studying in KU: the oneroomtel I stayed at is called 2U Guesthouse and it cost 550,000 KRW per month. This is also where I stay at whenever I visit Korea (usually lasts at least 2 weeks) as I’m already close with the owner of the guesthouse. If you’re looking into studying at Korea University, I highly recommend this place because it is very new and is bigger than most oneroomtels I’ve seen.
My home in Sinchon (left building) with the beautiful Spring flowers
Here in Sinchon, I am staying at Barbie Oneroomtel. As suggested by its name, it is a oneroomtel only for females. I chose this from the huge list I had because first, it is very accessible: It is right in front of the big road and is just a few meters away from Sinchon station, Ehwa University, and Yonsei University. The location is very nice as the center of Sinchon is just right in front of it, whenever I’d get bored in my room, I’d just go down to grab a coffee and watch the buskers perform at night.
The monthly rent is KRW 440,000 which is slightly lower than the price from my old guesthouse in Anam. Below are pictures of my room with items I bought from Daiso and the mart (+ some K-pop merch if you find them). If you notice, the room is small (don’t fall for the pictures they post online, it is smaller than what you’d expect) because it is called a “oneroom-tel” it is literally just a mini one-room. However, since I’ve stayed in one before, I’m already very much used to the packed space and is actually comfortable for my lazy self.
Lots of cabinets. Filled them mostly of merch from NU’EST W’s concert~
Desk & Seat, Cable TV, Refrigerator
Cabinet for clothes and other items
Bathroom and Shower. Shower supplies were all bought from the mart.
*March 4: SInchon + Homeplus
Sinchon is a very nice place to live in: since it is at the center of three universities (Ehwa, Yonsei, Hongdae), it has everything you could possibly need. I was actually amazed when I first went around on my first night here because very much unlike Anam (where Korea University is), there were so many things to do every day, there are buskers performing every night, all kinds of shops to buy from, and the streets are always busy. Also, one thing I love in Sinchon is that everyone goes here: with just a month here, I’ve already seen MONSTA X and WINNER for a performance or fansign just by the street I live in.
20180327 MONSTA X – Guerilla Busking at Sinchon
20180408 WINNER – Fansign Event in Sinchon
Although there is a nearby mart at Sinchon (I’ll talk about this later below), I opted to go to HomePlus because I needed a power plug adapter. The nearest one from Sinchon is at Homeplus Yongdeungpo which is at Exit 4 of Mullae station (also at Line 2 so I didn’t have to transfer). Another reason I went to this specific HomePlus branch is that there was a Hang Ten branch here. Hang Ten had a promo where buyers would get a NU’EST W gift which includes 4 sets of bromide/poster + special photobook for a minimum of KRW 150,000. I needed spring clothes anyway so I decided to take advantage of this promo, plus they were on sale, too!
After shopping for clothes, I went back to Sinchon to bring back all the things I bought in my room. I also went to Daiso to buy the basic necessities I’d be needing during my entire stay. For exchange students staying in Korea, your best friend will be Daiso and Artbox. It is very cheap, has everything you’d need, and would actually last longer than you’d expect for its price range.
First set of groceries I bought from Grand Mart + other items from Daiso
The nearby mart I was talking about earlier is Grand Mart (Exit 8 at Sinchon station). The first floor is composed of the wet section: fruits, raw meat, vegetables, and the like. The second floor has the house supplies and food. I bought shampoo, conditioner, and everything else. Also quite cheaper than how much this size would cost me back in my home country.
*March 5: Placement Exam
For the placement exam, I was planning to “study” the night before or at least wake up early but of course, I never got to do it. So I ended up with nothing but stock knowledge for the exam, which is actually good so I’d know where the real level my skills are at currently.
Yonsei Korean Language Institute building
By 9:30AM, we were gathered at Room 121 (a big hall/auditorium) which I thought will be the exam room. I got a bit anxious from this point on because I could see the other people beside me studying and reviewing. We only stayed in the hall for 5 minutes after the instruction of the instructor, those who have never learned the Korean language is to stay in the hall and is automatically at Level 1 and those who are to take the placement exam were supposed to go to the rooms written on the piece of paper handed out to us as we left the hall.
Since I was right by the door of the hall, I got to leave and go to the elevator first. I arrived first in my exam room (#427) and I was asked to sit in the first seat by the door. Since I was quite early, I went to the bathroom first to pee but when I came back, the instructor already finished orienting everyone. And since I was sitting at the first desk, I was told to go to the room next door right away for my interview (So yes, a tip: don’t go too early or don’t sit on the first desk because you’ll go first for the interview).
The interview went quite well, it was less hard than I expected. She asked my name, where I came from and all the basic stuff. I was also asked why I was studying Korean and I told her I was deciding where to take my Masters, and since I’ve already been on exchange in KU 4 years ago, I decided to try Yonsei to see how it is. She also asked me what drama I enjoy the most these days for which I answered ‘Hwayugi’ and I spoiled her the ending (in my defense, she asked for it and I kept asking if it was okay to give a spoiler).
After my interview, I was told to go back to the exam room and call the next person. The written exam was 12 pages long (back to back), with the level of difficulty going a level higher each page. Multiple choice, completing a sentence, combining two sentences. The final part was the hardest for me: it was an essay where we were to give our position regarding animal experiments. Even if I was asked about this in English, I still would have a hard time explaining. When you’re done or decide to give up the other parts, you may just submit your exam paper and leave the room right away.
*March 7: Orientation + Exam Results
I arrived at 12PM on the KLI building because although I remember reading 3PM for the orientation, I was not entirely sure so I decided to arrive early just in case I read it wrong. I came back at 3PM and looked at the results of the placement exam. There are 6 Levels in total (6 being the highest) and I was expecting to have at least a Level 2 for the results so I looked for my name there first but it wasn’t there. So I moved on to Level 3 and it still wasn’t there so I went back to Level 1 to check just in case I was placed at the lowest level. And my name still wasn’t there and when I checked the higher levels, I saw my name under Level 4. Really unexpected because although I have been translating from Korean to English, I haven’t been practicing much of my grammar or writing skills formally for a while since I’ve graduated.
After checking my level, I went down to Room 121 for the Yonsei KLI Orientation. We were provided a booklet containing all the basic information needed as foreign students such as: a map of Yonsei University, Book Details per level, class schedule, grading, etc. I was honestly expecting a livelier atmosphere like how the orientation was done for international students in Korea University but it was quite… bland. I don’t know, perhaps since this was the language institute program, perhaps there might be a livelier program for exchange students in Yonsei. Anyway, for the orientation, there were two speeches done: one in English and the other in Japanese. The speech was just a run-through of whatever was written in the booklet we were given, and then a question and answer portion.
The orientation lasted not more than two hours (an hour at the least). When it ended, I went on to line up (it was a very long line) to buy the books required for Level 4. The entire set costs KRW 91,000 which includes five books.
Required books for Level 4 in Yonsei KLI
Higher levels also have electives in addition to the regular classes, which a student can choose from during the first week of classes. For Level 4, we can choose one either from: Listening, Writing, or Speaking. I chose Speaking so I can practice more my speaking skills. We were also required to buy the books for our electives, which costs another KRW 32,000 for two books.
*March 8: First Day of Classes + School ID
Originally, I chose Course B/Afternoon session but I decided to change it to Course A/Morning instead so I would be forced to wake up early and be more productive the following hours. I realized how good of a decision this was because Yonsei KLI is very hectic, even after 4 hours of classes, you’d still need at least 3 to 4 hours of self-study or time to do the school work so taking the morning session is something I highly recommend.
All the classes were entirely in Korean, and everyone is required to speak only in Korean as well. A lot of reviews I see online say that Yonsei KLI is not very good speaking-wise because there is rarely any talking involved. In a way, this is true. But what I’d like to clarify is that this is because Yonsei KLI is focused very much on proper grammar and structure. And this is what I needed. If you compared KLI students from other university students, others would probably be more confident in holding a conversation in Korean but if you look at the structure closely and grammar-wise, I believe Yonsei KLI students would be on a different level. Also because every day is hectic, you learn a lot more in just a single term.
I also received my Yonsei school ID from the KLI office. Do take note though that my school ID is not the regular ID which has T-Money and an ATM card (Woori Bank) in it because I submitted my form late. So if you want the regular ID with those features, make sure to send in your ID application form early.
*Yonsei School Cafeteria
If you want to save a lot of money (ranging from KRW 3,000 to KRW 6,000) and still want to eat good quality food, I highly recommend the school cafeteria by the Student Union building. We go there EVERY DAY that I must have already tried all kinds of meals they have on their menu. What we love the most is the unlimited amount of 반찬 (side dishes) they have: ranging from seaweed, fishcake, kimchi, miso soup, salad, and juice/tea. Below are pictures of my favorite menus from the cafeteria.
Galbijjim: my absolute fave thing in the world. All these for only KRW 4,600.
Spaghetti + Hamburger + Potato wedges for KRW 5,800
Ebi Katsudon for KRW 4,500
One thing that shocked me years ago when I first stayed in Korea was their coffee culture. There is no spot in Seoul that you would not find a coffee shop: Koreans would always have their coffee after a meal or during a chat or even after a night of drinking. Here in Sinchon, I was able to find unique coffee shops that are perfect for studying.
My favorite cafe in Sinchon is Doksori Dabang (독수리다방). It is located on the 8th floor of a building just a few meters away after crossing the road in front of Yonsei’s main gate. The cafe has been around since 1971 so it is quite a historical place in Sinchon. My teacher from Yonsei KLI actually mentioned that she remembers it has been there since she was a student and that the place used to be a popular meeting place for people on a 소개팅 (blind date).
It is the perfect place to study or have a meeting or talk for hours as it has different areas: a two-hour meeting room, study area where no chatting is allowed, sofa area to chat with friends, and terrace with a spectacular view from the 8th floor. The price of their drinks is quite on the expensive side (ranging from KRW 6,000 to 8,000) but this is because, with every drink you get, you get to have a free refill of a cup of Americano (standard is hot but you can have it iced for an additional KRW 500).
Free Americano refill
*Seoul Fashion Week
Seoul Fashion Week (SFW) was held this March at Dongdaemun Plaza (DDP); it is an event where various celebrities and models attend to watch fashion shows of designers. We went to DDP on March 22 and felt so underdressed after seeing how the place was packed with stylish and fashionable people. We got to see people who were obviously models based on their height and style. I couldn’t recognize the models because I was not that updated on the fashion world but I was able to recognize Han Hyunmin, a famous Korean-Nigerian model, because I saw his episode on Knowing Brothers so I went to take a picture with him.
Models hanging around after the show
With model Han Hyunmin
*Hair Color + Bleach: Elline Hair Salon
I was only supposed to accompany my friend to have his hair colored but then I thought I needed a touchup of my hair color as well. Every time I go to Korea, I always have my hair colored to red and at the same place in Anam (Jino Hair 30000) because it is cheap and lasts for a long time. I chose to have it done at Elline Hair which was right in front the building of where I lived, the salon had good reviews from blogs I saw in Naver. Would really recommend this place because of the friendly staff and the huge amount of colors to choose from.
Elline Hair Salon in Sinchon; floor above Olive Young
This time, the hair stylist suggested a purple/pink shade, Mulberry Wine, which is perfect for spring. To achieve the color, though, I had to have my hair bleached. I didn’t want to bleach my entire hair so she only did it on certain parts as highlights. The total price is KRW 145,000 which is much more expensive than I expected because I opted to get treatments as well since my hair has turned so dull and dry. The color turned out better than expected: not so light, the purple shade only appears under sunlight.
While having my hair bleached
Mulberry Wine hair color; shade when under the sunlight
*Class Tour: Seoul Museum of History
One requirement for our class is to go on a museum tour: for our class, we went to the Seoul Museum of History at Gwanghamun. For the many times I’ve been in Korea, I’ve never been in this museum. It has free entrance and is very informative, showing the history and culture of Seoul. Here is their website which includes the floor map and directions to the museum.
Aerial view of the map of Seoul
Seodaemun train exhibit right outside the museum
After the tour, we went to a Donkatsu 맛집 (famous restaurant) that our teacher recommended, the name of the restaurant is 돈까스백반. It was quite pricey (KRW 12,000) but it was worth the price because EVERYTHING IS REFILLABLE (yes, even the katsu). They only offer one menu which is the Donkatsu so as soon as you sit down, they’d immediately usher you with the side dishes. All the side dishes were at another level, every dish was savory and really what you’d expect at a 맛집.
돈까스백반, a must-try Donkatsu restaurant in Gwanghamun
Everything is refillable from katsu, side dishes, miso soup, doenjang jjigae, rice, and kim
Spring & MIDTERMS SEASON
Spring flowers in Yonsei (main entrance)
Spring is finally coming (I’d say it’s already here but it suddenly got cold again this weekend)~ The streets of Seoul have been filled with cherry blossoms and spring flowers. The next few weeks will be very hectic as Midterms season is coming and there are a lot of topics to be covered. Another requirement for Level 4 is a News Presentation where each student is to present a real news topic and then give his or her opinion regarding the topic – all within 15 minutes in pure Korean and must be memorized.
Sinchon filled with beautiful spring flowers
That has been my first month in Yonsei KLI. Although Korea is always familiar for me, my experience in Yonsei is an entirely different experience from what I had 4 years ago in Korea University. At first I felt quite lonely but after gaining friends which I meet everyday, I am enjoying my stay more and more. Yonsei is getting up in my ranks to decide where to take my Masters mainly because of how much I am loving Sinchon. So excited to see how much of an impact the next months would make to help me in my decision for my future.
What do you think of Yonsei KLI based on this review? Have you ever thought of studying in Korea, or have you ever had an experience similar to this? Also, if you have any questions about staying in Korea, I’d be more than happy to help out. Let me know on the comments below!