University of Lethbridge student Braden Alexander had lived in Canada most of his life when he decided a change of scenery would broaden his learning.
“University is a time where we, as students, should learn about ourselves and expand our horizons. What better way to do that than an exchange overseas?” he says.
Alexander opted to do an exchange at the University of Ulsan (UOU) in South Korea. He’s been living in Ulsan since the end of August, taking business, sociology and Korean language classes. Recently, at the recommendation of UOU, he received a $1,200 US scholarship from the government of South Korea.
“I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I got it. I knew that quite a few students applied for the scholarship, so I wasn’t anticipating receiving it,” Alexander says. “I was told that my personal statement about why I came to Korea and what the exchange would do for my personal growth was exceptional.”
UOU, with a student population of about 16,000, is located in Ulsan, a city built around the Hyundai Motor Company. Alexander has been soaking up the exchange experience, both on and off campus.
He has found a vibrant student life at UOU with many activities on campus, including English lessons, music performances and club events.
“I find it kind of neat that there are dedicated buildings for clubs and student groups. I saw some student elections and the campaigning is much more intense than Canadian student elections,” he says.
Alexander has met other students at UOU through a program where English speakers are paid to tutor UOU students.
“If a student knows you are an English speaker, they want to get to know you, be your friend and learn English. It’s not uncommon to have other students approach you and practice English or for a professor to ask an English-speaker to talk to some of their students,” says Alexander.
The ability to speak English is important in Korea. Alexander says resumés must include a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) score to be considered by a Korean company. As a result, English cram schools and conversation groups are very popular, as are English speakers themselves.
“It’s nice to see older Koreans practice their English when they see you and their smiles grow even wider when you speak to them in Korean,” says Alexander.
While at UOU, Alexander has been living in the dormitory and enjoying Korean food, especially the trend of having food delivered.
“You can have food delivered to the soccer stadium, a movie theatre or a classroom. Even McDonalds delivers here in Korea,” he says.
He’s also managed to get in a few sightseeing trips, both around Ulsan and to Busan, South Korea’s second largest city after Seoul. Alexander says he plans to visit Seoul over the winter break. Travel opportunities to other Asian destinations like Hong Kong or Singapore are within reach because of reasonable travel costs.
Alexander does not hesitate to recommend the exchange experience.
“Being abroad not only gives you a chance to look at different perspectives around the world, but the people you meet and the memories you acquire stay with you for a long time. I’ve only been here for three months and I am already counting the things that I’ll miss from Korea,” he says, adding he plans to return to Canada early next July.
The U of L’s International Centre offers exchange programs to six other universities in addition to UOU, including Southern Cross University in Australia, Otto-Von-Guericke University in Germany, Hokkai-Gakuen University in Japan, Muskingum College in the United States and, newly available in the fall of 2015, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo in Mexico, the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and Gakushuin Women’s College in Japan.
“An exchange semester abroad gives students an experience that is not only rewarding academically, but also personally,” says Diane Minamide, the U of L’s International Programs and Exchange co-ordinator. “When students come back to see me after an exchange semester they have changed. Studying in another country opens a person to new perspectives and viewing the world from a different framework.”
In addition, the International Centre offers shorter Study Tours to Japan and South Korea and can facilitate internships and externships. The Faculty of Management also offers full semester exchanges with partner universities in more than 20 countries.
The deadline to apply for an exchange program is Feb. 15. Interested students can contact the International Centre by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org