I´ve been in Seoul for around a week, how time flies! In this post I´d like to talk about the Korean university system and compare it to the Swedish/European one. I base all the arguments on my personal experience and what I have been told about by others.
10 Similarities and Differences
1. University in Korea feels like being back in highschool. Professors check attendance and you get punished if you miss a class or are late. Furthermore, there´s homework (very simple one) and professors basically tell you what to do. However, uni is obviously more difficult.
2. Oldschool learning. In Europe everything is about `critical thinking´ (whenever we actually think critically is open for debate). In Korea the sentiment is still: write as massive notes as possible, form study groups to go over the books and respond to the professor by quoting the text book. Even Though the professors are really trying to tell people that memorizing everything by heart won´t get them far, this has not really been effective. However, exchanges and international professors will allow the students to understand this concept. I´m positive that in around 10 years Korean university students will have understood that studying is not just memorizing everything.
3. Discussion ( at least that´s how they call it). In most of my courses the professors want to have discussions. THis is rather difficult, due to the size of the classes. In only one of my classes do we actually discuss things and people speak freely. In all other classes people are either too shy or simply rephrase what the book says. Students say something and not discussion by which I mean: EXCHANGE of ideas and opinions takes answers. It´s more like a Q&A.
4. Students sleep in lectures. Yes, we do that too by not like here. Koreans have to show up to lectures, so they are physically there but simply sleep thru the whole lecture. I personally dislike this a lot. If you make the effort to show up, then you better pay some attention or simply leave. If you are too tired or too bored just stay at home, that´s what I would do back home. Sleeping is highly disruptive, since it just looks weird.
5. Korean Unis are for catching up with everything you missed as a highschool student. Korea is a highly competitive society. If you don´t get into the top university´s you can forget about a career. Students basically study 24/7 during high school. When they have made it to the prestigious universities they can relax. Korean student´s can take various courses, even if there´s no link to their field of studies ( or maybe there is but I simply don´t get why a english major has to study international law). They can finally travel and have a social life. I was shocked to hear that most of the students only started to leave the country ( or even the city) after they graduated, before they were simply to busy. Yes, back home uni gives you more freedom and everything, but for Korean students it really is like breaking free from all that pressure before.
6. Pride.Students feel strongly connected to their university. I´m not used to this, I like my home university but don´t have strong feelings towards it. KU students adore their university. They all know how to cheer for their sports teams and are very active in the societies. Maybe this is because of the on campus university or because family is very important in Korea (really VERY!!!).
7. Societies. We have them too, sports, drama and music clubs. BUT: I´ve never seen that you have to apply and then attend an interview. I get that if you want to join the uni´s basketball team you should be good. However, joining the international affairs society does not really require much, except commitment and interest. I applied to join KIOSS ( Korea International Organization Student Society). I applied ( serious stuff) and was interviewed with three other people. Questions ranged from my personality to political questions. I doubt that the society has sooo many members that they have to be so selective. However, I know the reason. I talked to a girl that was interviewed together with me. I told her that I was amused of how the selection process works. She told me that the societies compete regionally and internationally, therefore they only want the best people to be members. Competition once again, I guess you can see the pattern. I surprisingly got in even though I don´t meet two of the requirements ( joining for 2 semesters and participating at the MUN at the end of January). I guess the chose me cause I´m rather experience and well: I´m not Korean. They claim to be a diverse society, I think that I´ll be the only foreigner, very diverse right 😉 I´m excited to join, as I want to meet more people and get involved.
8. TAs.Professors have Teaching assistant (TA). I know that professors have these too make in Europe. However, back in Malmö this is not the case. The TA answers questions, does the attendance and anything the professor needs ( getting the coffee or something).
9. Blackboard.We use Blackboard at KU; not It´s Learning, same thing basically
10. Computers. In most of the classes electronic devices are not allowed. This is surprising as everyone owns the newest Samsung tablet or computer
Things I really like about the University System in Korea
– you can choose your courses, it´s a pain but like this you can study what you are interested in.
-cafeteria food is sooooo CHEAP!
– there are lots of societies, Malmö has hardly any. Clubs create university spirit, more of that please!
– professors are funny! I was very surprised, they actually make jokes.
– reading packages: all the reading material in one book, saves money and is better for your back
– on campus university: lots of parks, all faculties are closeby, a huge area, we have shops and restaurants on campus (Burger King for example), there’s a shuttle bus
-in every room there’s air conditioning, professors use microphones, there’s a weird looking machine/computer in every room: professors do not have to carry around their laptops ( they know how to use the thing too)
– professors are top and have very impressive CVs, elite university after all
– they merchandize of KU is impressive, I could buy everything!
-copy shops, people are super helpful and make everything for you. Super convenient, as I don´t get Korean Windows 😉
-free water everywhere
That´s all, I´ll tell you all about exams when I wrote them.