Seoul, South Korea is a brilliant study abroad destination! Whether your course of study is business, technology, history, or culture, there are many universities in Seoul that offer a variety of wonderful programs. Seoul is situated in the northwest part of South Korea on the Han River. It is comprised of many different districts that each have unique characteristics. Downtown Kangna, or Gangnam, is the city center and most modern area while others have a much more traditional feel. Surrounded by mountains and rice paddies, both the city and area around it are rich in things to do and see.
Geography & Demographics
Seoul, is the capital of South Korea, and the third largest metropolitan area in the world with a population of 10 million people. It is home to about one-half of South Korea’s population and is known for its population density. There are about 45,000 people per square mile! Despite the multitude, it is known as a friendly, clean, and safe city.
Seoul enjoys all four seasons and the variety that comes with them. Spring and fall being the most popular times to visit. Temperatures stay between mid 50s and low 70s making for several months of easy comfort but the summers are hot and have a heavy monsoon season. The winters can actually be lovely although very cold. Tourists are nowhere to be found, skiing is a popular sport, and the pagoda roofs wear thick white blankets of snow.
Food & Culture
Seoul has the perfect harmony of modernism and tradition. Don’t be surprised by a Dunkin Doughnuts chain kitty corner from an ancient Korean palace. A mesh of modern and tradition shows how the Korean people have kept hold of their past while moving forward and embracing a new Korean culture. Seoul has continuously kept up with the changes of the world. They currently have the world’s fastest internet connection. Along with their commitment to technology is their commitment to the past. There are five historical palaces all located within the city: Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonghuigung. These spectacular landmarks will give you an extensive look into Korean history.
Things to Do
As an international student in Seoul, make sure to participate in the local activities. Everyone who visits Seoul needs to get over their fear of singing in public. Karaoke, or noraebang as the locals call it, is a very popular entertainment for Koreans. Whether you are renting a karaoke room, or on a karaoke bus, it is an activity not to miss.
Another favorite pastime in Seoul is spending an afternoon in a Korean sauna, or jimjilbang, which consist of different hot tubs, showers, saunas, and more. After a relaxing day at jimjilbang, the Namdaemun market will be calling your name. The Namdaemun Market is a huge shopping center located beside the ruins of the old Namdaemun, Korea’s oldest wooden structure. It is a national treasure and was one of the gates to the ancient city’s fortress wall.
A major must do during any study abroad program in Seoul is a visit to the Noryangjin Fish Market. It is Seoul’s largest indoor fish market with around 700 shops selling fresh fish. The market is open all hours of the day, but is most lively in the late hours of the night.
Studying in Seoul
There are a few important pieces of advice to know before traveling to South Korea:
- Stay away from red ink, a Korean name written in red ink means that they are dead
- Be sensitive about placement of chopsticks. If a person leaves their chopsticks sticking out of a rice bowl it is very disrespectful because that is a rite reserved for the dead
- South Koreans traditionally eat with metal chopsticks, not wooden ones, which is a bit more difficult so be prepared and put in a little practice
- It is acceptable to enter a Buddhist temple at any time just go in through the side door and remove your shoes
- Avoid tap water unless it has been treated or boiled
- Strictly follow pedestrian laws or expect to be gawked at endlessly