Are you thinking about doing a Minor Abroad in the third year of your bachelor? Madelon Arnold, a third year Media Studies student, will tell us more about her experience with the minor abroad in Seoul, South Korea.
Why did you choose a minor abroad?
“That’s a very difficult question, but for me it’s something that I’ve always wanted, to be honest. I always had a perspective that I want to go abroad sometime in my life. And obviously, it’s not arranged by the university, you do have to do it yourself but since the university has a contract with the other universities, it’s very easy to go abroad. That’s why I was like, this is once in a lifetime, I should try and that’s what I did. It’s just something I’ve always wanted.”
“I can answer why I chose the place I went to. I chose to go to Seoul, South Korea. Initially there were two options for South Korea – Seoul and Busan – but Busan is not a capital city so I wasn’t interested in that. You can give two options for going abroad and I only chose Seoul and it worked out. Relatively there were quite a lot of spaces because there were four spots for the students from the faculty of arts and that’s quite okay. Seoul attracted me because I always had an interest in South East Asia in general since like high school. And I was very interested in how they are living there. Seoul is kind of a modern city so it was really interesting.”
How did you decide on this specific minor?
Did you consider any other countries?
“That was really up to me, so I could choose anything I wanted. I had a lot of conversations with Erika. I said to her what would you like me to take. The only rule is you shouldn’t take courses that are the same or similar to what you’ve already taken in Media Studies. And she said a maximum of 75% of first-year courses. That was doable but in the end, the whole schedule got changed and then I was forced to take five first-year courses and one fourth-year course because otherwise I wasn’t able to make a schedule but she agreed with that which was fortunate. So initially I took six courses but along the way I figured out while talking to other Dutch students that they took 5 courses. So I was wondering how is that possible because I thought we all had the same rules. I emailed with the exam board and then I could drop a course which was weird so that was not very good information. I took courses on Korean culture, Mythical culture, Digital marketing, Popular culture and Film arts.”
What did your minor entail?
Would you say it is difficult for Media Studies students to do?
“No, it’s doable. What I experienced, initially I didn’t believe it but since I was in quite a high reputation university I thought it would be quite hard because people say you’re not going to Seoul National University to make fun, you have to study and so on, so I was like what did I do? But then they know that you are an exchange student and they don’t really care, the professors are like ah it’s okay you know, they are there for half a year so they are not like normal students. They are kind of more lenient so it’s doable, but it’s quite hard to manage 5 courses at a time, to be honest. So, it was good that I had some first-year courses.”
“Yeah, so it’s different. The school system is different because here we have 3 courses for one block but there they just work with semesters. For one semester you have five or six courses so that doesn’t change.”
Are they all at the same time?
And how was the workload?
“That’s always something I find quite hard to touch upon because I think the workload is something you decide by yourself. So yeah for me it was a real struggle at the beginning because you try to have a balance between fun things but also have good grades, because otherwise I cannot graduate. So that was really hard for me and also because you are taking all these different courses you don’t know what to expect and you have never taken a test there so that’s a struggle. But if you work hard in a short period of time it will also work, so that’s what I did.”
“That also depended on the course. So, for the Popular Arts and Film Arts it was only essays, but the Mythical culturewas an exam, Digital marketing as well but also projects. Korean culture was also an exam and a presentation. The examination was doable. I would say Digital marketing was the only one that was quite hard but yeah it was okay. I would say it was easier than in Groningen.”
How was it with the examination?
What did you expect from the minor beforehand?
“That’s a good question. I was kind of scared because I thought how am I going to handle this. Only based on school I was scared because how was I going to manage six courses. But besides that, I was more scared about how to get housing and those kinds of things. So I didn’t really expect anything because I wanted to prevent myself from getting disappointed. So I had no expectations and came there with a mindset like let’s just see and go with the flow.”
“A lot. I had a really good dorm. I lived together with a Korean roommate, she was a second year. The dorm was newly built, which was great. Everything was well organised and communicated by the university, I could always come to their office and there was one woman that would always help us and that was so amazing. The country itself is also amazing, food is amazing and school was also fine, sometimes quite boring. But the library was amazing as well. So yeah it was just great to experience such a high standard university and it’s really different from Groningen.”
What were your positive experiences?
So what were your negative experiences?
“Well, I was really surprised when I found out that I was able to follow five courses. And even though I signed a learning agreement with the six courses, that was kind of beyond me. I had to email the exam board to see whether this was correct. But that was from the side of the University of Groningen, the Korean University couldn’t do anything about these kinds of things.”
“I would say there is room for improvement. So, at that time I was part of the programme committee and then I really experienced that there was a lack of information and I was also kind of disappointed about that. Because of this experience I decided to make some efforts to make the information supplied to other students, so I wrote a letter to people who organise the minor information also for abroad. Because of the lack of information you don’t know anything, you have no idea what you’re going to spend, where you’re going to stay. That was very hard, but the information from the side of Korean University was very good but yeah I would say that there are some things to improve.”
Was there enough information about the study beforehand?
How was the application process?
“That’s basically the same. Since the information is limited the application process is harder but if you put enough effort into it, it will be fine. So, for example, we had the application and my friend already experienced how applications kind of work in general and she said yeah you can also put in a recommendation letter and I was like what is a recommendation letter, I have no idea. I haven’t experienced these kinds of things at all and no one is giving me advice. And then my friend said yeah you can just go to professors and ask for their positive thoughts about you and then you can attach it to your application and I was like oh that’s great. And I just did that because there was a place for extra files and I had no idea I just thought that I had to submit only everything they ask for. But I guess that worked and I have no idea if that played a part in accepting me but I would say it wasn’t negative. Those kinds of things are really hard because no one teaches you how to do this kind of thing. So the application was okay but stressful.”
“When I needed help the mobility office was the right place to go. The mobility office is on the second floor in the Harmony and there is a high chance that there will be a line there so be prepared. Because during application time you have so many questions and you just want to go by and there is a line and you have to wait for like thirty minutes yeah it’s just ridiculous. For example, I needed to pick up my grade list transcription of records and I literally waited there for an hour because there were so many people. They are trying to have more people helping there but yeah you have to go there instead of Erika but it’s not that handy.”
How did it go when you went to study advisor for help?
What advice would you give to a person signing up for a minor abroad?
“A question which I got a lot was: aren’t you homesick? I’m a person that never struggles with that kind of thing but you should consider that. Because what if you’re not having a great time or if there are some disappointments, you cannot go home. So you have to look at yourself and ask am I prepared for those kinds of things? Because if you’re not, you will just break down and you’re in a foreign country you don’t speak the language, well that depends if you’re going to Europe for example but yeah that can be hard. It’s not something I struggled with, but I can imagine it can be. And I would say that during application just make sure you’re doing it right, that’s how you will make sure you’re getting in. But also if you really want to go abroad just count your chances because I chose something that I thought I could get in, but some universities have only one spot for the whole university and that’s kind of impossible. So, kind of be realistic at the same time as well.”
“That was also very great organised. I heard that only our university did that. So we had a busy programme, there were about 500 students and they would have 50 students per group including 10 Korean students and they would make a schedule and every week we would have at least three activities and once a week we had drinks with all the exchange students and that was just so well organised and we only had to pay like 50 euro for the whole semester and that’s how you meet new people and make new friends. That really helps and takes away the burden of making new friends and meeting new people, which can also be stressful besides going into a new school, once you have new friends and you’re doing fun things. So it’s nice that they made that for us, I’m grateful for that.”
What were your other experiences besides the study, such as meeting new people?
Any advice you would give in general to people choosing minors?
“I would say take your responsibility. You will invest quite some time if you choose to do a minor abroad so be patient but also be excited!”
“No. It was just so amazing and I would definitely do it again.”
If you had an opportunity would you choose something different?
What would you say you gained from this experience?
“Every day I was so busy so go to school, activity, maybe get a bank account … every day you’re so busy from 7 till midnight, for like four months it is super heavy so when I got back I started getting sick because I guess my body just gave up. But I would say I gained that you can just go with the flow. How to be active and participative. That makes you feel really good and what it also taught me is to just do it. Even though I already had that mindset but even if you’re in the city you also had to go out and explore and at the beginning it was kind of difficult. Because I was kind of scared because I don’t speak the language and those kinds of things. But yeah when you make friends and then you are kind of like okay lets go, that makes you independent and yeah it made me also calmer. So for example also here sometimes I’m anxious to talk to someone or say something and now that’s less because I overcame something in Korea.”
For more information about the Minor Abroad, make sure to check the information on Student Portal.