Seoul National University Korean Language Program Review

Location
Gwanak-ro 1, Gwanak-gu, , Seoul 151-015, South Korea

Review

Set against the backdrop of Gwanak Mountain, the Korean language program at Seoul National University (SNU), one of Korea’s most prestigious universities, is much smaller in comparison to Yonsei or Sogang thus providing a markedly different studying experience. Keep reading for an in-depth description of what to consider before you choose to study Korean at SNU!

 

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Affordability

Of the prestigious SKY universities in Seoul, both the Morning and Afternoon programs represent average value and are slightly cheaper than the equivalent courses at Yonsei. As is standard practice, the university runs four terms per year, with two time-slot options for classes, morning and afternoon.

  • Regular Morning Class (Mon – Fri / 9am – 1pm)  Class –  1,650,000 KRW/Term (10 Week, 200Hrs)
  • Regular Afternoon Class (Mon – Fri / 1:30 – 5:20pm) Class –  1,500,000 KRW/Term (10 Week, 200Hrs)

 

Location and Accommodation

SNU’s unique setting nestled by Gwanak Mountain (which offers several walking tracks for the nature-inclined) on the southern boundaries of wider Seoul is undoubtedly one of its most divisive points.

The immediate areas around campus are filled with various accommodation options, but off-campus entertainment and cultural life are generally not considered within walking distance, with popular choices being Sillim (5 minutes by bus), or Gangnam and Hongdae (both 20 minutes away on the Number 2 train line). As such, your decision on where to live is likely to affect the social aspects of your time at SNU quite dramatically.

The most frequented area for students is in Sillim-2-dong, a little valley “town” at the base of Gwanak Mountain, colloquially known as “Goshichon” (고시촌). The first nickname is derived from the fact that the area is home to many students diligently preparing for the notoriously difficult Law and Civil Service exams. For better or for worse, tracksuit pants and slides are ubiquitous throughout the distinctly ‘nerdy’ area, which is also visited by students from the nearby Soongsil and Chung-Ang universities. Although lacking the excitement of other major universities’ immediate surroundings, there are still plenty of bars for stressed students to unwind and many cheap eateries and cafes aimed at students (where one cup of coffee can be as little as 1,000-2,000KRW).

Prices around campus vary by distance and accommodation type, but rental properties can be found for 2,000,000KRW key money or less, with around 200,000 – 400,000 KRW / month rent.  Whilst not for the faint of heart, there are also has plenty of tiny broom closet-sized rooms (Goshiwon) for rent similar rent or even less which do not generally require key money.

You also have the option of living in the areas surrounding Seoul National University Station or Nakseongdae Station (Bongcheong-dong). Both are excellent options and provide a slight upgrade to living in ‘Goshichon’. Here prices average around 5,000,000 KRW Key / 450,000 KRW per month rent for a nice one bedroom officetel. These areas provide something a little different to Goshichon and are a mix of apartment buildings and small officetelsjutaeks. The areas are littered with little marts, dry cleaners, and local pizza / chicken shops, providing a slightly more authentic community feel.

There are also shared rooms available in the SNU dormitory, but it’s location at the top of the campus hill makes getting to the language school building, and late night drinking down in Goshichon… a bit of a nuisance. It is also known to be quite competitive to secure a place.

Because students are likely to be scattered around Goshichon or other areas mentioned above, some students have reported that socialising outside of class is somewhat hindered by the inconvenience of having to take a bus to get anywhere off-campus.  Outside the price, your decision on where to live should take into account your priorities for your time in Seoul; living near the station means easier access via the subway to the rest of Seoul, but you will have to bear the daily 10-15 minute free shuttle bus ride to class. Alternatively, living in Goshichon or on-campus makes getting to class easier, but you may find yourself spending a significant amount in these areas rather than exploring Seoul (but you may find this is better for your studies anyway).

Get started in your accommodation search at Goshipages, or find some more detailed info on accommodation in Korea here.

 

Reputation

While SNU’s name carries the reputation as arguably the top university in Korea, the Korean language program is relativity unknown. From our discussions with past attendees, the consensus suggests the program is targeted toward the long-term learner. As many students in the course are aiming to fulfill a language requirement before they enter into a undergraduate or masters course at the university proper, you are more likely to find people who are looking to build careers in Korea rather than your K-pop enthousiast or those coming for a gap year/ soju bender.

SNU’s self-published textbook (which often attracted complaints from former students) have also been updated in recent years to a coloured and more engaging affair.

An Advanced Academic Korean class is also offered separately, alongside elective classes and cultural activities for Regular Program students, including Chinese characters, TOPIK, and pronunciation.

 

Atmosphere

Fortunately, SNU ‘s language program seems more diverse in student backgrounds than at other universities. Whilst there is significant Chinese representation, you can expect to come across some Mongolians, a few Americans, Europeans, and a token Aussie or Kiwi. There does not seem to be as many Japanese or Russians as other programs.

A studious atmosphere pervades the campus, contributing to a strong sense of an academic community. As mentioned however, social life outside class can be somewhat inconvenienced by SNU’s isolated location. This being said, if you live in Goshichon, there will still be plenty of opportunities to bond with your peers over food and drinks. Social occasions tend to be more low-key – quiet barbecues, pool, darts etc. – especially in comparison to the almost nightly party atmosphere of Yonsei. Furthermore, since many SNU students will be in Korea for several years, you have the opportunity to get to know each other without the feeling that each term will be a brand new party with brand new people.

 

Opportunities

Don’t expect the same amount of opportunities as Yonsei to appear on TV shows or find jobs as an English tutor, but there are still a few part-time opportunities posted on the SNU notice boards. From what we have heard, the Korean teachers are not great pathways for job opportunities either. As most students are preparing to go into university, there is not an abundance of networking opportunities for the slightly older business professional.

 

Asia Options Verdict

For those that are not so fond of the hustle bustle of urban Seoul, living in a quiet valley under Gwanak Mountain can provide a nice break for SNU students and provide a focused environment in which to study. SNU is an excellent choice for students levels 3 or beyond (intermediate learners) and for those who are committed to learning Korean.

The immediate area is not particularly lively and daily transit (e.g. to and from the station) can be a hassle depending on where you choose to live. This tends to impede opportunities for socialising with fellow students.

Despite its highly-regarded name among Korean universities, the school’s weakest point is the lack of opportunities compared to other programs.

 

What Students Say... 1 Leave your rating
Studied Korean at SNU
My experiences will be outdated now as I studied levels 3 and 4 at SNU language school in 2005 under the KGGS or NIIED Scholarship program before completing a Masters degree at SNU Graduate School of International Studies.

Pros
1. Text Book - hands and away the best Korean language text book for me at that time compared to the other schools (I also sourced text books from Sogang, Yonsei and others as I really needed to learn the language).

2. Language Exchange
SNU offered language exchange with volunteer students from the University. I met with my 'mentor' once a month for cultural and language exchange for two semesters and as she was a student of the Korean musical instrument 'Kayageum', I also had the opportunity to attend many concerts and events that she participated in.

3. Location
The school is not that easy to get to as it requires a bus or 20 minute walk from Seoul National University station, however if you do choose to live in that area, there is plenty on. Back then Mow Better Blues in Nak Song De had the best underground jazz scene in Seoul, and Sillim and Nokdu had less foreigners. If you have a car/scooter / bicycle then there is ample parking for a small fee.

4. Amenity
If you are into swimming or health - SNU has a nice indoor pool that you can access that is next to the language school

5. SNU
SNU is a premier school in Korea. I learnt a lot there from some amazing professors and from other students. It also was a great platform to enter Korean companies at that time. I would suggest to study at the SNU language school before taking courses of formal study at the school.

Cons
1. Student Mix
I found that most students were Chinese and Japanese and seemed to pick up the language much faster than westerners or Europeans and the teachers didn't seem to understand that this is because there are clear synergies for these students from their own languages. ie when you have a list of 20 new words, and the Chinese guy next to you already know what they all mean just from looking at the Chinese characters, the teacher should perhaps go easier on you for not being able to match him/her

2. Local Korean Interaction
Was difficult to interact with Koreans who wanted to practice Korean (ie practicing Korean with a foreigner who is speaking broken Korean back to you can have you learning the wrong way). The students on SNU campus are in other areas, and generally stick to themselves, so if you are expecting to be able to mix with the crowd of Korean students - you will have to go and study a course in the main school or have other ways to get that.

3. Networking
Did not get too much from the school in terms of opportunities. I did become friends with an Aramco executive, however other than that there were no other companies sending their staff there.

4. Coffee
Your options on coffee and food were limited due to the school being isolated although there was a western style coffee shop located at the school.

Summary
All in all - the experience is what you make of it. The school worked for me because I tailored my life around it. I found a small one room apartment for 200,000 won a month that was nearby (actually walked through a forest to get to school everyday) - so if Seoul is getting too much for you and you need some nature it is a good option. I also dated another student on the course who was Japanese (same level, different class) - which allowed me to leverage our lessons during the day yet after hours. I also was lucky to have some of my good friends from SNU grad school come and study with me at the same school, so there were always some familiar faces around, and we had an elite drinking team of 3-4 of us who practiced Korean every night at a talking bar in the area over a bottle of whisky or in a soju hof. That said, if these guys weren't there, would have been quite dull.
January 22, 2016, 7:35 pm
Location5
Affordability3.5
Classes and Materials6.5
Opportunities8
Atmosphere4.5
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