This episode is the last one hosted by Lara, so she thought to report about her semester abroad in South Korea. As an interview partner she invited Pia, who spent an unforgettable semester abroad with her at Konkuk University in Seoul. Together they talk about many crazy experiences on Jeju Island, the extreme hospitality of the Koreans, the good and spicy cuisine and about the wonderful campus life where it felt like a second family had grown together. But also, house parties in empty houses, trying on traditional "princess dresses" and trips to Japan and Vietnam are thematized. Are you curious? Then listen in and let yourself be inspired by the Asian world. Let's start the journey!
Produced by Lara Yargiman and Paula Kroemer in cooperation with the economics student body of FHWS
Sound and editing by Paula Kroemer
Lara: Hello and welcome to our podcast of the FHWS #BIMdannmalweg. Yeah, in this podcast we talk about experiences of students who have been abroad for a semester and this project is sponsored by the Faculty of Business and Economics.
Ah well, I would say this project ends at least with me, soon as well. So, this episode today is also a special episode. We are going to talk about a country in which I did my semester abroad and for that I have invited lovely Pia, maybe you can introduce yourself.
Pia: Hello, I'm Pia, of course I'm also studying International Management, where I also met Lara and with her, I spent a wonderful semester abroad.
Lara: Yes, actually we wanted to record this episode as a group of three with Alicia, because we were in which country together, Pia?
Pia: In South Korea!
Lara: Exactly, we were allowed to travel to beautiful Seoul, specifically to Konkuk University, and had a great time. But since Alicia, our globetrotter, is already back in the next country, we will record this episode as a duo today. So, this episode will be a little bit different, because I will also tell a little bit from my perspective. That's why this will be a rather relaxed episode in which we will talk about our semester abroad together.
Pia: That sounds great!
Lara: Well Pia, how do we start? Chronologically?
Pia: We can do that.
Lara: I remember that day very well. It was first semester; it was in October. That was also the day that the student representatives were elected and that was the day that I sat next to Pia. And as everyone knows, in the first semester you are still quite strangers to each other, but you have to decide pretty quickly where you want to go abroad. My first choice was Finland-Lappenranta, my second choice Israel-Telaviv and my third choice Moscow. But then our dear Pia sat next to me. Tell me what your choice was like back then?
Pia: I informed myself a bit about the partner universities in advance and found everything very exciting. Then I read up a lot and did some research. And it was clear to me relatively quickly that I wanted to go to a country where it is completely different from here or other European countries. Then I looked at the range of subjects offered at the various universities and Korea quickly stood out for me and I made that my first choice.
Lara: Yes, exactly and then Pia said "Lara try something exotic" (laughs) and this sentence was enough and I ran up to the International Office and said "okay I will also decide for Seoul" - but Pia I really have to say, I don't know if you know this, but I had not even informed myself about this university. For me it was just "okay, I'm in" and Alicia we convinced in this hour - so she was the third in the group.
Pia: Yes, exactly, I can still remember that you just asked me a question like " Yeah, Pia, did you have a look at the university and the country a little bit? "Yes, I can totally recommend it!" "Yes, okay then I'll do that too!"
Lara: The trust in Pia has always been very high. Yes, then we signed the contract in December and then we started in the summer of 2019. We applied for our visa in Frankfurt - was everything very easy, right?
Pia: Yes, totally. We went there with the train and our documents and were done after a few seconds and then we went back, and our visa came by post - so everything went very smoothly.
Lara: I also remember that you were most concerned about the Learning Agreement. I was always like "Yeah, I'll do it, I'll do it". Can you tell me something about that? Do you remember how that went?
Pia: I was a little unsure at the beginning - whether all the subjects I wanted to take would be recognized in the end. But with the application for recognition, everything worked out well in the end and was no problem at all. Students from the previous semester who were already at the same university had also given us examples of the subjects and you could also find out on the website of the FHWS, which achievements have already been recognized. So everything was very easy.
Lara: Exactly, then we flew from Frankfurt to Jeju Island via Seoul. After all, we still had a week before the university started. Yes, we arrived there, it was humid it was hot, but just a real summer feeling I would say.
Pia: Ah, we dropped off our luggage in Seoul before we continued our flight.
Lara: Ah right! What I can advise you in any case, take a suitcase with you, because I had the great idea to save my weight from the suitcase and take a backpack and a travel bag. The travel bag ultimately had 14 kilos - and 14 kilos on a distance of several kilometers to carry is not so easy (laughs) especially with a humidity of 98% and 35 degrees Celsius. Because that's how you get to your limits sometimes - I'd like to say that for a moment (laughs). So just be as smart as Pia and Alicia and buy a nice light suitcase and then maybe life will be easier.
Pia: Exactly that is a good tip in any case here at the beginning!
Lara: Exactly, then we arrived on Jeju Island and went to a hotel, which was also super nice. You have to say in Seoul less people speak English, but on Jeju Island we found almost no one who spoke English - so the whole thing was a challenge, but somehow also cool. I wouldn't say I had a culture shock either.
Pia: No, not that! You can really say from experience that I didn't have a culture shock in Korea. Afterwards I was in Vietnam and I have to say that I had a culture shock going from Korea to Vietnam, but not from Germany to Korea.
Lara: First we went to a restaurant and got a soup. I didn't know what was in it, but Pia found out that it was oxtail soup. I didn't like it, but Pia did.
Pia: I was generally very enthusiastic about the food!
Lara: Well, let's talk about the food. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical about the cuisine at first, I had imagined it to be a bit like Japanese cuisine - but I have to say that I didn't have that much experience with Korean cuisine before. I always found it quite spicy and very meaty for my taste. I didn't really enjoy the cuisine there, but in retrospect I love it all at once and cook Korean food super often. You can definitely find your way around I would say, for vegetarians it's more difficult, but I also know someone who was there and lived vegetarian and she also managed, so I think for everyone there are some options.
Pia: Exactly, so basically the cuisine seems very meat-heavy at first, but once you get used to it, it is also super healthy and totally diverse. In general, the cuisine is very spicy. But what I've totally celebrated is that I've been able to increase my level of spiciness over time - but it's not unbearable at this point.
Lara: Definitely! Do we have any tips for Jeju Island?
Pia: If someone goes there then just check out in advance what you can do there and then just use the time well. Because I think we had not done that, that we look at what we can do.
Lara: We were in this green tea museum if I remember correctly. I think that was really cool. So, if you are fans of green tea, since we tried some things with green tea - ice cream, cakes etc., you will like it.
Pia: We did a hike to a big mountain called Mount Halasan. Unfortunately, only two of us since Lara turned back shortly before because there was a snake on the ground and Lara is very afraid of snakes.
Lara: Yes, I went back to the hotel very quickly and then waited there for Pia and Alicia. But you also said that there were many posters of snakes hanging there, right?
Pia: Yes, but in the end, we didn't see any snakes, but maybe it was better for safety reasons, Lara.
Lara: But you had a beautiful view and a beautiful nature, right?
Pia: Yes, it was really beautiful, I can only recommend it! So, if you are on Jeju Island, climb Mount Halasan. And then we went to Udo Island and rented bikes, right?
Lara: So, as you can see it's been a while and the memories are starting to come back (laughs). But what I also remember is that we walked with umbrellas in the blazing sun. Because we saw that many people do that to protect themselves from the sun and then we just did it.
Pia: Exactly, you often see that in Asia or Korea, that especially the women use umbrellas or sunshades, because the sun is very strong.
Lara: And then we flew back and I think we had turbulences and I just remember that Alicia was a little bit scared. And then we went to Konkuk University and we decided that we wanted to stay in a dorm. That was a good decision because actually everyone lived in the dorms and with everyone who didn't live in the dorm, that was always a bit problematic because you weren't allowed to invite strangers. Above all also to predrink was, pretty cool. Then the trip started again with the 14 kilos, but hey we finally made it! I had forgotten my bed linen, you had to borrow then there, but that was no big deal. And otherwise, you didn't have to take anything with you, everything was furnished.
Pia: Exactly, and then you got your first groceries in an e-market. It's a huge store, similar to Kaufland. There you get everything that you didn't take with you. Because you had to buy the trash cans and so on. Or table lamps, but many of the predecessors just left things there, which was really cool.
Lara: Exactly, we lived in a dorm like that, two of us, and I don't think there was any other option. I also thought to myself, okay, I'm going to live with some stranger in a room for 4 months, which was about 12 m2. With Pia and with me it worked out super well. So, we were not together in a dorm, we both had exchange students from Sweden and Finland in the room. And I got along super well with my roommate, we had a cool time and it actually works out because you're on the road a lot and then maybe you take a weekend trip, where you can then recharge and relax in an AirBnB. Pia, it went really well with you and you still have contact with your roommate too, right?
Pia: Exactly, we still have really good contact and I have to say, you get used to sharing rooms so quickly and you get along super well and we didn't get on each other's nerves once in the half year and it was just really cool and I would do it that way again anytime.
Lara: Definitely. And I mean honestly, we had some people with us where it didn't work out so well and that can happen. And even then, they were able to talk and change rooms or something. You can find a solution. In general, I would say that the rooms are, yes, suitable. It's just a student dorm. The bathrooms are also different. You take a shower and everything is kind of wet, but you get used to it.
Pia: Yes, I think that's also something typically Asian.
Lara: Otherwise, there's always hot water there to get. So you can actually always make these instant noodles or fill up your water and then there's also a little supermarket downstairs, so even if you get hungry at night, I think it was open 24 hours.
Pia: Yes, I think it was closed for a few hours, but then there were always delicious snacks. For example, there was kimbap, which is Korean sushi, which was always fresh every day and lots of great things. So you were never hungry in any case.
Lara: (laughs) That's right, we ate well.
Pia: Exactly, and then there was also the restaurant right next door and a little bagel store, and that restaurant was really our lifesaver for hangover breakfasts or sometimes we ate there three times a day because it was just so good.
Lara: Exactly, that's the thing. We didn't have the opportunity to cook. That's not so common there in Asia in general. But we had the restaurant right next to the dorm. As Pia said, we really used that. That was also inexpensive, I can not remember exactly, but I think was about 4-5 euros per meal.
Pia: Exactly, we usually ordered a stew or soup and then kimchi or Mandus in addition, which are these Korean dumplings, that are fried or steamed. Super delicious, I can only recommend eating that as often as possible while you are there. And we have paid maybe 6-7 euros for it. And water is always free, that's the great thing, you didn't have to buy any drinks.
Lara: Right, there were always these metal dispensers that were also a little bit chilled. Yeah, I would love to go back to that restaurant.
Pia: Oh yes, oh yes.
Lara: That was also totally the cool experience to live on campus, to really experience the campus. It's something completely different than FHWS. You drive on there and we have our own lake, where you couldn't go swimming, but it had such a feeling when you walked across the bridge to your lectur. Also. there were different dorms. We were in an only female dorm and I think there was a mixed dorm and a boys' dorm. They are very strict about who is allowed in there. Actually, you can't take anyone in there who doesn't have a card and there is a check-in counter. That was a bit of a disadvantage, but actually we all lived in the dorms and then you could visit each other there the whole time. And downstairs was the supermarket, the hairdresser, the bagel store and the Korean restaurant. It was kind of all in one place and you have like such a small town, I would say.
Pia: Yeah, it was. And then the Imad, who I told you about earlier, lived only a 5 minute walk away and you could always get to the other street super fast, where you had lots of restaurants. So the variation was very diverse and the selection was great. The campus itself always had jungle sections where you had the feeling that you were in the jungle. I posted a story on the way to the lecture: 'Am I in the jungle or the big city in Asia?’ That was also really beautiful.
Lara: Yes, full on. And I would also say, I think this is also a relatively renowned university for Seoul and that was also noticeable. I also thought that the quality of the lectures was really good. We also had many American professors, where you could improve your English a bit. I had a really heavy workload, because I had to catch up on a few lectures that I didn't manage in Germany, so I had a lot to do, but in the end I finished with good grades and could really take something with me. It was very practice-oriented and I can remember a lecturer who took us to a lot of lectures where we could collect our credits. You simply had the opportunity to make good contacts. That way you really got an insight to the life of an economist.
Pia: That's right, it was really easy to get good grades. Especially, what I think is the case in all Asian universities, that you get a part of the grade by being present. That is, you should attend all the classes and then you automatically get like 10% of the grade.
Lara: Yes, and I think you can always talk to the lecturers again and say that you come from a German university, in case there are any problems with the conversion.
Pia: Exactly, they are actually always quite relaxed. Even if you think at the beginning that they are very strict or something, you can always talk to them.
Lara: Yes, and then we got to know a lot of other internationals relatively quickly. What I also found cool was that we got to know a lot of Koreans and were really friends. Because I've already done a lot of podcast episodes and a lot of people told me that they were only together with internationals and I think through our buddy program we really had the chance to immerse ourselves in Korean life.
Pia: Totally. That's also something I can only recommend. That you definitely try to spend a lot of time with the locals, i.e. the Koreans, and make friends and get to know people and not just hang out with internationals. Let alone only with Germans. So that would be a real shame for the time.
Lara: I think the cool thing was that we were thrown into rooms with others and didn't stay among us FHWSers. That you got to know the internationals a bit more and not just the Germans. And then there was the buddy program? Or what was that called?
Pia: Yes, we had the buddy program and then these clubs.
Lara: And there I would definitely recommend you, there is a week where you can find out what is available, for example tennis, and it costs nothing.
Pia: Exactly, sometimes you have to pay a small amount, but there are probably 20 or more different clubs with tennis, sports and everything. And then also what you probably were getting at, this International Friendship Club. It felt like all the internationals were in there plus the Koreans who wanted to hang out with internationals. That was also cool to get to know people.
Lara: Yes, totally. Because then they really went out with us, knew which places were good to go to. I don't know how many times we ate Korean BBQ, then went to a bar and then clubbing. So they knew their way around and it also became a real friendship. I mean you still facetime with Eugene to this day.
Pia: Yes, that's exactly how it is. The ones who are there really want to make friends and are super open and even if they don't seem to be able to speak English very well, they are still there and are really happy.
Lara: That was a really good time, but I wanted to go back to Jeju Island for a bit. I remembered the story that I first associate with Korea: that Koreans are super, super hospitable and yes, Pia Alicia and I, we wanted to go to a park. And like I said, not so many people speak English, but I just approached this young guy, I thought maybe he could speak English and it turned out that he was Korean, but he has lived in Canada. And he was so nice, and he just accompanies us to the park, because he could not describe how to get there. Then he went there with us in the bus, although he actually wanted to go somewhere else completely and then he walked with us for two hours through the park. Just out of politeness. And he was also super nice and at the end his dad is also coming. He informed him and then his dad just came and then we went to the beach, they showed us the beach but then you're still always a bit skeptical.
Lara: So at least I was. And when they said: Yes, we have now organized a cab, get in. I was on the verge of saying, "Okay, we're being kidnapped." But we weren't. We were taken to a really cool restaurant where they invited us. And I thought it was one of the best Korean barbecues. It was super authentic.
Pia: That was also our first Korean barbecue that we have ever eaten then. And he explained to us right away how to eat it, it's a bit special with a lettuce leaf and then you put your fried steak piece in there and then different pastes and it was really great to get to know it with them. And yes, as Lara says, here in Germany you would think that it's a bit creepy when someone just takes you to a restaurant and whatever. But there it's just the hospitality and they were so happy to bring us a little closer to their cultures. And I thought that was really great that we were able to experience something like that in the very first week.
Lara: Totally. And then we also invited him to Seoul and then we invited him to dinner. It was just such a nice give and take, but we just thought it was a totally nice experience. And yes, we even still have him on Instagram.
Lara: Okay, now back to Seoul, we arrived there, settled in a bit, the courses started. It's just like at all foreign universities that you have to do a lot more during the semester than here in Germany, but at the end you don't have this blatant exam stress. So there are also midterms and you work a little bit towards these midterms, you also have a lot of submissions, but I would say that it's all within reason.
Pia: Yes, totally. So it's also different to when you live here now, or what your everyday life here in Germany is, because you have actually nothing there. So you don't work on the side, you don't have any obligations, you don't have a family, you're just there.
Lara: Exactly. And then I also had visitors, you did too. Then you also do a bit of the tourist program with them. For example, we tried on these Hanboks, that's what they're called, right?
Pia: The dresses? Yes something like that.
Lara: Totally sorry that I am now so uninformed here. But anyway, these are traditional dresses that you can borrow there. And with them you can then look at palaces and just feel a bit like a princess. I thought it was super cool and my visitor liked it too. Yes, then we went to Busan. Once with you and once with my visitor, that was also super nice. I really liked Busan, because it's a completely different atmosphere. I would describe Seoul as very busy. Simply a metropolis, as one imagines it. Everywhere bright light, there is a lot going on. Lots of partying, this and that. And Busan was a bit like a vacation, there were palm trees, it was by the sea. You can go down a bit, I thought the weather was super nice in Busan and there is such a place where there are lots of colorful houses. Of course, you can also take beautiful photos. I found the atmosphere there kind of cool. So I would definitely recommend Busan.
Pia: Yes definitely. But really, it was like a small vacation. I think people definitely go there on vacation.
Lara: We had a fun experience there too, want to share?
Pia: With the hostel?
Pia: I don’t know, the opinions differ there I think.
Lara: Yes, so I would say, maybe you expect something different under the hostel than we experienced there. We ended up staying with more or less people in the apartment who rented out a room. Yeah, we survived it. I would say there were different opinions about it, different moods, but you can definitely have a really cool wellness trip there, in Busan. There's a really cool sauna area there. Um, and the funny thing is that you wear clothes there when you go to the sauna. So, we all got the same clothes and they were all knee-length pants and T-shirts. And what I also found interesting was that everyone sat in the sauna with their iPhone or cell phone, because they simply have a different culture in terms of media, I would say. So again different than here, but was definitely an experience. But it was also super cool and we also used a bit of the thermal area.
Pia: Yes, exactly, but that was then separated into men and women, if I remember correctly, and that was then also completely without clothes, but that was also a really nice experience to try out such a Korean sauna. So yes, really cool.
Lara: So I would also recommend it. And what else did you do in Seoul? I wasn't always there for your trips.
Pia: Seoul really has so much to offer, just like any other big Asian city, of course. And at some point I started to look around: What cool cafés are there? Because there are super many themed cafés, starting with the Raccoon Café, Harry Potter Café, 2D Café, and it was just totally cool to go there all the time. Of course, you just bought a drink, for example, which was a bit above the average price, but then you were just happy to be in this café. So I can only recommend it. Exactly. I also went to the dog café and the cat café, of course. So it's incredible what you can do there. In the meantime, I'm sure there are many, many more themed cafés that I didn't even know about. But that was definitely super cool. Then there are, I think five traditional palaces, I was in three I think, they were also super, super interesting and exciting and beautiful.
Pia: Otherwise, there is the Lotte Tower and the N Seoul Tower. They are two huge towers, you then go up with an elevator and then have a great view. So in general, Seoul also has a beautiful skyline, which, by the way, you can also see well from the dorm room, if you have your room on the right side. And yes, we would definitely recommend it.
Lara: Yes, they really have a great skyline. We were also there. I am not sure, maybe in the ninth floor.
Pia: I was in the tenth floor.
Lara: Yeah, it has a super view. And even if you were partying or something and walked across the dark campus and then stood in front of this lake and in the background were this skyline, everything has lit up. I also thought it was super beautiful all the time.
Pia: That's right, I still remember when we went back to Germany, we took a bus to the airport and then I just looked out and looked at the skyline and thought to myself: my God, I'm going to miss it so much, this beautiful skyline.
Lara: Totally. I would also say, Seoul has somehow also a vibe? I found it super super beautiful. I flew to Tokyo on a long weekend with a friend, because I thought I'd be interested in that, too, and I compared it to Seoul. I think Tokyo is also the largest metropolis in the world and you just noticed that. Seoul is already busy, but you can't imagine how busy Tokyo is, and I found it a bit overwhelming. Actually a great experience if you need some tips. I can recommend a really good hostel. Um, yeah. And of course the Japanese cuisine blew me away even more. We ate really, really much sushi there. It was super delicious. I was really glad that I did my semester abroad in Seoul and not in Tokyo, because it kind of overwhelmed me a bit.
Pia: Yes, I can imagine that. Well, I haven't been to Japan. Before Korea, I made up my mind that I would definitely go to Japan at least twice when I was there. But then I realized that Korea itself has so much to offer that I'm not going anywhere else. I would recommend doing that at the end and using the time during the semester to explore Korea. Because there really is so much to see.
Lara: We also then went once more to the other city with Alicia at the very end.
Pia: I think Suwon?
Lara: And I also found that it was a really interesting city, that was designed a bit more village-like. So as soon as you leave Seoul a little bit, it's still like this, this typical village life from Asia, which you might know from TV or something. And it is also really very interesting there..
Pia: Yes, that's right. I was when you weren't with me, in the south in Jinju and there was a lantern festival and there the whole city was full of lanterns and really big lanterns, which were then formed into different sculptures. And that was also really, really beautiful. It was very very rural. So, we had the feeling that we were somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Korea, then this whole city illuminated at night with lanterns, that was wonderfully beautiful.
Lara: I think so, and it's a shame that I wasn't there. Speaking of the village, I just remembered something.
Lara: The international friedship club has actually always organized something for the weekends, so you were never bored and then we were told there will be a house party. But you can imagine in a city with such a skyline there are hardly any houses but only small apartments or the dorms. This also differs from our house party culture in Germany. However, there is the option that you rent empty houses in the more rural area that are used specifically for house parties. There are then also mats available if you want to sleep there. At that time we all went there, I think about 50 people and then you actually just celebrated in such an empty house where just nothing is in it. That was a special experience but also kind of cool because you knew you wouldn't bother anybody and you wouldn't get in trouble. I'm not sure what else was planned by the international friedship club.
Pia: They also used to have a sports festival.
Lara: That's right, and they often offered hikes, too.
Pia: And also bowling. They offered a lot of things, they really put a lot of effort into it, so I can really recommend it.
Lara: Especially for us, when you left the campus, you came directly to a street where there was a lot going on, there was then one or more bars, barbecues and also bowling, etc.. Then there was also the typical party district or the typical shopping street, for which you had to go somewhere else, but that was all petty well connected. And we also had such a card that you could load up and use whenever you went on the subway and that was also appropriate in terms of price.
Pia: Yes I think a ride was always around 2€ maximum. That was really great. And what we have also done, although not together but each alone or with other groups, was to stay the night in a Buddhist temple and that was also a really incredible experience because you sleep there for a night in such a temple and take part in the temple life and that was really a wonderful experience. I wish I could have spent a few days there. At 4 o'clock in the morning it was time to gt up with the gong and hike to the place of prayer and then one makes there the chants with the monks together. It was possible to watch or take part and that was also insanely exciting and I can only recommend to everyone.
Lara: It was super nice for me, too. I did it towards the end fo my stay in Korea with Alicia and Alina and we also thought it was very cool. We also only did it for one night. We got these clothes at the beginning, which you probably also got. And then we started meditating and I realized how hard it was for me. Then I was told to count and not think about anything else and as soon as you thought about something else, you had to start again from the beginning. I found it super hard but also really cool and then we also did these Buddhist prayers there or adapted them for us. Then we also had to thread together some kind of necklace, I remember that I definitely still have that necklace. Furthermore, the food there was amazingly good. They eat vegetarian, and I especially liked the tofu they prepared there. We have then also cleaned the kitchen all together and we had blend in their somehow, we were then even allowed to hit this gong.
Pia: I also thought the food was really good and then we had breakfast together with the monks in the morning and there was a very specific ritual that was explained to us in the morning, namely that you are not allowed to speak during breakfast and you have to follow the rules exactly. That was another interesting experience.
Lara: Definitely, I can especially recommend this excursion to you. So let's move on to the questions that I ask my other guests. Did we have any fears before we flew there?
Pia: Well, when I think back now, I was really only worried about the learning agreement and that something would go wrong, that I would do some courses there that couldn't be credited and that I would have invested my time in vain. But I already mentioned that before, everything was easy and uncomplicated. I was generally not afraid, there were three of us, so it was relatively relaxed. We had the dormitory, where everything was taken care of, we got a bank card, that was all relatively problem-free.
Lara: Yes, that's how I see it, too. Since I was already abroad, it was not so bad. I remember when I was in New Zealand, I had more fears, but then I was alone and this time we were really always the three of us together. Instead of fear, I was really looking forward to it, especially since everyone was going abroad for the semester, so you weren't afraid of missing out on anything, because almost everyone went out into the world.
Pia: Yes, there were no other fears either.
Lara: And the Korean system in general especially the health care system there are good. I had to go to the hospital there once.
Pia: Yes, me too. I had a cold for such a long time and then Lara and I went there together, which was also an experience in itself. But it was good.
Lara: Yes, and I think it's always good to have someone with you who can translate well, especially for things like that. Luckily we had our Korean friends who sacrificed themselves for us. And anyway, you have to take out an international health insurance, which we also very much approve of, because it really brought something. Would you do anything differently if you were to do a semester abroad again?
Pia: Actually, just take it easy and try to spend as much time as possible with the locals and try out lots of great food.
Lara: If I were to go again, I would make sure that I didn't have so many open courses in advance, because that sometimes spoiled my mood there. I would have liked to have a little more free time but that's the only thing. Otherwise, I think I would do everything the same way again. And if you have the money at the end try to visit a few surrounding countries. I mean you went to Vietnam.
Pia: The culture shock from Korea to Vietnam was definitely there. It was really surprising how two Asian countries can be so different. I think this could be a podcast of its own if I talk about it more now.
Lara: How would you describe your semester abroad in 3 words? I was just thinking about it now.
Pia: Well, one thing definitely fits, that would be life-changing, you can definitely say that about the experience there.
Lara: So I would have definitely also said spicy.
Pia: Yes that would be positive for me and neutral for you.
Lara: And then also kind of flashy. When I think back to all the streets like that, it's very different from here.
Pia: Or karaoke.
Lara: Oh my god karaoke.
Pia: Or soju.
Lara: Yes exactly that's right. But especially crazy. So I would describe life there completely different than here.
Pia: But just again very disciplined and orderly on the other hand so really compared to Vietnam Korea was really structured and orderly and respectful. That would be another word too respect, hospitality and respect how they treat each other and among themselves is very important there. many Germans can cut a slice from that respect they live there.
Lara: In any case, so I think that also refers to the professors again, I had a conversation with Sami, because I think that is handled a little differently in Taiwan, but in Korea it is definitely so that you are super respectful with your professors and treat them differently because of the hierarchy. So you can really make sure that if there is anything to discuss with the professors, that you do it in a charming way. Because otherwise you'll quickly be unliked by them.
Pia: Yes, definitely, so this hierarchy is still very important there and the respectful treatment.
Lara: Yes, I completely forgot about karaoke. I think we went to some karaoke bar every weekend. It was actually really fun, especially the voice is disguised a bit so that you don't have to pay attention to how you sing.
Pia: Yes, exactly, then it sounds almost as if you could actually sing.
Lara: Yeah, super cool, there are dark rooms, I'd say, with a bench inside, a table where you can put down your soju, Pia's favorite drink, and then they just sing for two hours and then move on. So I would also say that this is a bit of the culture, that you do everything for a relatively short time and then move on. So on one evening we were always in several bars and clubs, that was also really an experience.
Pia: Yes, for us it was always like this. We had Korean barbecue together then moved to karaoke and then to some bar or vice versa. So karaoke you just have to get involved and it's super fun. In the beginning it was so funny to watch how all the internationals were super uptight, no one dared to take the mic in their hands, the Koreans had a great time singing while we were all totally shy. But after a month, everyone thawed out and in the end, everyone snatched the microphone out of each other's hands because everyone wanted to sing, so it's best to get involved right away and then it'll be fine.
Lara: I can also still remember when we were at a karaoke bar with Koreans for the first time and I realized, ok Lara you have arrived in Korea, that was somehow such a moment that I will not forget. And Pia maybe you want to tell us something about soju and what that is, because maybe some here do not know yet.
Pia: Yes, that's the schnapps in Korea and it's pretty cheap and you can buy it in any supermarket for about one euro, mostly in 0.33l bottles. There's with flavor, which is then a bit weaker so about the 12-13%, which in the beginning tastes more like juice and then there's one without flavor. This has around 19%, but then actually tastes like water with a slight vodka aftertaste. So pretty tricky as you can already imagine. And I can only recommend everyone to be careful with it, which can also be confirmed by every international who was in Korea, because everyone has made their own soju story, so just be careful. There is also to buy here, but of course much more expensive.
Lara: And you can actually mix it with beer.
Pia: Yes, exactly the Koreans do that quite often, they order beer and soju and then tip the soju into the beer simply to get drunk faster. Because beer is usually a bit more expensive there, so in the supermarket a 0.5l can you get for about 2.50 € and the soju costs only one euro and that's why they do it that way.
Lara: Because you just talked about prices again, I think many are also interested in how much you have spent there approximately. I have to say honestly that I haven't written it down anymore, I only know that we got promos, but I think different amounts. I think I got 1,700€ as a one-time payment and I think you got more.
Pia: a little more yes that's right. Generally the price level was I would say like here, partly cheaper partly more expensive, but you need a little money in any case. It's also nice to treat yourself to experience things there, but it's not incredibly expensive.
Lara: Well, what I found expensive was the dorm, so for what you get. But I think you already paid for everything beforehand, so that was already gone for you. I think that was about 400€ per month, which was actually covered or party covered by the promo money, but otherwise yes you maybe get a bagel for breakfast, but otherwise we actually only ate warm once a day, I can't remember exactly. But you get a handle on that somehow.
Pia: Yes exactly everyone finds their way somehow, a little rummage at the supermarket or buying oneself something in this 7/11 store, Then it was pretty easy for everyone to find something nice to eat.
Lara: Well, I'd say we had a good time and I can't say exactly, but I would estimate that I spent 500-600€ a month for my free time, my food and everything.
Pia: I can't even estimate that anymore.
Lara: Well, I would have said that roughly. But everyone can deal with money individually and one person can do better, the other worse. On a scale of one to ten, Pia, what do you rate your stay abroad?
Pia: A 12 definitely.
Lara: Very cool! Well, I have to say I also found it super nice, I would give it a 9 or a 10, but I think because I'm also a person who compares incredibly much, but looking back it was definitely a super great time. Yes, otherwise insider tips, etc. I think we have said everything. Try to go to the alley next door. Many restaurants may not look so appealing but however the food tastes very good. I remember that there was a restaurant near campus that we happened to go to, and it was one of my favorite meals. It was rice with chicken and kol fried in a huge wok pan in front of you and then mozzarella came in, where I thought at first the combination is a bit weird. But then it was very delicious, even though it might not have looked that inviting. But most Korean restaurants are different than here, rather walk-in snack-like, but still tastes really good.
Pia: Totally, so if you've maybe already watched Squid games, there's also a scene where he's in front of the restaurant, and that’s what it is like in Korea, you're there and you're just happy and it's quite normal and it tastes super delicious.
Lara: And finally, what did we learn for our lives from the semester abroad? I would say to be more open again, so I would describe myself as very open person, but I was perhaps not too interested in Asia, but then when I was there I noticed how many countries and cultures there are, and how interesting that is. I also noticed the difference between Korea and Japan. You just have to let it come to you and also in relation to the cuisine, I was very reluctant at the beginning, and then in the end I have tried tried so many different things. Just try everything that comes, although I would not like to impose on anyone who may not have such a strong stomach.
Pia: Yes, I can only agree with everything. There is nothing to add.
Lara: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Pia: The most I can think of is that Korea is a very safe country, so you could even leave your laptop or wallet in the library, a Korean would never think of stealing anything. Or even to rob you at night, so we had to adjust a bit when we were back in Germany. Otherwise, I think we have told relatively much and hope that we have made some of you want to travel to the beautiful country and get to know the great culture.
Lara: So what I just remembered about learning. You can also study very well there. There's a library just like ours, but there are thousands of tables with partitions. That was definitely a different feeling, because everyone sits quietly at their place and learns. And also on campus there was a café that was open 24/7 and that's also kind of the culture that you go to the cafés mainly to work or to have team meetings and I think that's kind of cool. Sometimes you even had a guilty conscience when you came home from partying at 5 in the morning and the first Koreans were already back in the café.
Pia: Yeah, well, I never saw anyone from us there.
Lara: But somehow I also find it a cool culture. You treat yourself with a great cup of coffee and then sit there for 5 hours and no one shoos you away from your seat, you really had the opportunity to experience a completely different working atmosphere.
Pia: Yes, totally. I don't think you can do that so well here in Germany. I tried it out the other day when I was in town again and then, after I had drunk my coffee and eaten a little piece of cake, I thought I'd better leave now. Then I took my laptop and actually went home. There it would have been different in any case. But here, unfortunately, that does not work so well.
Lara: Yes, definitely. Then I would also say that we are slowly approaching the end, now we have also talked for a super long time and this is or was also unfortunately already the last episode that will be broadcast, so from my side. I was allowed to make and found the project now for a year. So the idea for this podcast actually came to me in Korea in the dorm, I thought I would like to make a podcast, but that will never work anyway. And then I realized that you just have to give your dreams a chance and do something for it and then it will work out. And that wasn't such a big hurdle to get this podcast off the ground. Simply communicate and Professor Kiesel was also very nice and supported me. I was allowed to do it for the Faculty of Business and Economics for a year, but everything has an end. My studies are coming to an end. Now I'm just going to write my bachelor thesis and then hopefully I'll go abroad again. Travel fever is definitely there. And so I'm going to hand the podcast over to new hands, but I definitely wanted to say thank you to everyone who supported me on this and sometimes took away my insecurities, and to all my guests who were here. I had a time great pleasure to record the podcast and really listened with great interest to all the stories. The whole thing was always transcribed, so even if you have friends who don't speak German or can't hear, the whole thing is also available in written English on our website. If you have any questions you can always contact us, either via Instagram @fwiwi.fhws or via email firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have specific questions about this episode you can also contact me via Instagram @lara.yagimann, now I've officially said it here and Pia has a more complicated Instagram name, so I would just leave that here in the show notes and then we're always open to answer your questions, give tips about hostels, hotels, restaurants, whatever. That's it from my side, I find it a bit emotional and I'm getting really sentimental right now. But it was a really great time and I hope that this podcast will continue to be available on Spotify. When I want to think back to that time, I will listen to it. And I also hope that it was useful for you, because I remember exactly how I had no plan in the first semester where I wanted to go and I missed these experience reports. And that's why we are now collecting the reports here bit by bit for you and you have people to contact. So I hope that something good has come out of all this.
Pia: Yes, definitely.
Lara: Pia, thank you for being here.
Pia: It was a pleasure. Yeah it was really cool to take again about that experiences.