This review of Best Friend Korean Language School is part of an ongoing Asia Options series to review popular (and not so popular) Korean language schools in and around Korea. The aim is to provide you, our loyal readers, with inside knowledge and share our own two cents, so you can then go off and create your own unique study experience. If you’ve already studied at Best Friend please also feel free to let everyone know what you think by leaving an honest and genuine comment in the student review section below.
When we first came across Best Friend Korean Language School we had to double check it wasn’t an early childcare center. But after checking the address we knew we were looking at a proper language school for foreign students 18-or-over. Why did we know that? Because the school’s campus is located bang-smack in the middle of the trendy college suburb of Sinchon. Sinchon is home to Yonsei University and is a hotspot for college life, centered around inexpensive chicken & beer, Korean BBQ, small drinking spots, karaoke bars, and coffee shops open until late to squeeze in last minute cramming before exam day.
The Best Friend Korean Language School is only small in size but that’s also one of its advantages as you will soon see as you read on. The school is also a great example of the new generation of small Korean language academies popping up in Seoul offering a highly customised experience and flexible program for language learners.
From 1-week programs, flexible starting dates, and tailored one-on-one classes, Best Friend goes well beyond the established university-affiliated language programs in regards to study options. Unlike most larger study programs, which only have 2-4 intakes per year, Best Friend accepts new students at the beginning of each new month. Modules go for one month and it is then up to your own discretion whether you wish to study half the module (2 weeks), a full module (4 weeks) or multiple modules (8+ weeks). Tuition fees are calculated per week of study and naturally come down in price the longer you study.
If only enrolling for the regular 1-month language program, Best Friend will start from 480USD per month depending on special promotions, although the per month cost will be discounted with your chosen length of time at the school. This price includes 48 hours of language tuition in classes of 4-10 students. In comparison to a university language program, Best Friend’s course comes at a higher cost but you should also factor in smaller class sizes. For those looking to study Korean long term, a university program most likely offers better value. However, for those studying short-term (less than 10 weeks), Best Friend allows you to enrol in shorter courses that aren’t offered at universities. This option is also cheaper than winter and summer language programs offered at the likes of Yonsei.
As mentioned, Best Friend is located bang smack in the middle of Sinchon in Eastern Seoul. Sinchon is famous for its lively night life and array of interesting coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and shopping. The main road from Sinchon Metro Station to the Main Gate of Yonsei University has also now been closed off to traffic and makes a great spot for young people to stroll down and admire the regular street performers and occasional skate boarders. The school is located half way up this road, which makes for great window viewing from the classrooms on the 6th floor of the building or the quiet study area on the 5th floor.
Nearby campus is a wide selection of places to eat, shop, study, and hangout. There is a top-notch gym just around the corner from the school, which even has shoes and workout clothing that you can borrow without extra charge. Latin dancing, English-Korean exchange meetups, and football games are other activities available nearby. The best way to keep up with what’s going on is to check out Meetup.com. We should also mention that while there are plenty of bars nearby, Sinchon is not a ‘clubbing’ district in the same light of Hongdae, Gangnam, or Itaewon. Instead, think wooden Korean taverns filled with college friends chatting and giggling over beer, somaek, makkgeoli, and snacks, rather than fist bumping to the DJ in a large-scale night club. But serious clubbing is also readily available one metro stop away in Hongdae, and which is an even bigger epicentre for college life! Hongdae boasts great night markets, street performances, nightclubs, and general good fun – without the glitz and expensive price tag of Gangnam.
The school is a 2-minute walk from the subway station and from there only one stop away from Hongjik Station (which connects with the Airport Express line to Incheon Airport). This makes navigating from the airport to the school relatively straightforward.
Living in the area is on the more expensive side, especially for a single studio. Expect to get a lot less for more with average one room prices around 500,000 KRW/Month beginning at 5,000,000 KRW key money. Hasukjips and dormitories will cost less but provide fairly small rooms with communal services. Best Friend offers various arrangement services for short-term accommodation including home stay, shared apartments, and a studio apartment or goshiwon. The goshiwon option is definitely the cheaper option. Host stay is a great way to really integrate into Korean culture and practice your Korean after class but ultimately your experience is going to depend on the family you are paired with. If you’re unsure, there’s always the safe option of single accommodation at a goshiwon.
‘Best Friend’ definitely doesn’t have the same prestige as the major universities in Seoul. However, students are attracted to the school not for resume building but for its rock solid Korean language program and its location. In particular, the school is well regarded by former students for its attentive admin staff, dedicated teachers, and small class sizes.
Best Friend offer a small tight-knit community of avid Korean learners. As many students at Best Friend are studying at the center short-term and are new to Seoul, classmates often hang out after class to grab lunch or to go out on weekends together. This is also made easy by the smorgasbord of places nearby to eat and drink.
The school also provides an array of cultural activities and excursions which allow students to mingle, but there is always the opportunity to study together too. There is a nice area to study on level five overlooking the main pedestrian street in Sinchon and offers a great view of the buzz of people below.
The demographic of students at the center is a mix of all nationalities, with a high proportion of Asian students, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, as well as strong representation from Europe and North America. You will also find plenty of local Korean students at the center studying English or revising their notes on the fifth-floor study area, providign an easy opportunity to find a Korean language partner. In addition, the program offers a buddy system for international and local students, but you will need to enrol in at least one’s month of classes to be eligible for this free benefit.
Best Friend runs an internship program for students, alongside an array of cultural activities and a buddy system as mentioned. The internship program is offered exclusively in hospitality and Asia Options is unable to directly comment on the benefits of this internship program, but if you know someone who has completed the internship program we’d love to hear what you think!
Given the central location of the school, it does offer the possibility of working nearby or in central Seoul (four stations on the subway to City Hall) and studying on weekends, night-time, or mornings. As mentioned, the location of the school also renders itself to numerous social and extra-curriculum opportunities as a major Meetup destination.
Asia Options Verdict
Best Friend ticks a lot of boxes and from our personal experience and research, it’s our top pick among private academies in the Sinchon area.
The school lives up to its name with its friendly staff and community but the school’s location is as good as it gets. You have everything you need on your doorstep, including Meetups, hangout spots, and easy access to Sinchon Station, Hongdae, and Incheon Airport. The school’s excellent bespoke service desk will help you in many facets of life in Korea – from finding you a language partner, arranging accommodation, cultural activities, and even an internship.
We also think that if you are not looking for academic credit, then a private school like this offers a better return on investment for short-term study. Private academies offer a lot more flexibility to suit your schedule than large universities, and Best Friend is no exception.
Although pretty readily available, accommodation nearby can err on the expensive side. If you’re thinking of staying long-term (more than 6 months) then we’d suggest you look into organizing your own accommodation on a website like Goshipages to save yourself some money.
|Isolated||Central||Close to everything|
|Affordable||Expensive||Flexible short-term options|
|Atmosphere and Activities|
|Studious||`||Social||Small class sizes is a plus|
|Opportunities and Reputation|