How's university like in Korea?

Living in Korea | Inku

May 20, 2019

University life in Korea


You probably have seen many videos or blogs already about the life of a Korean student. However, in this blog, I want to tell you some of the important things that you have to know as a foreign student studying in a Korean university. The purpose of this post is to give an idea of what you can expect from your university life in Korea.


Many Koreans consider University as the first step into adult life. In Korea, students enter the legal adult age as soon as they start their university year. This is when they start drinking and enjoying the nightlife. Korean parents tend to be strict until their children complete high school, but after entering university, these parents often give freedom to their children. Therefore, students have more control over their life than they ever did.


1. 동아리 Dongari

Apart from the lectures and studying, students are engaged in non-curricular activities called 동아리 (dongari). This Dongari is like an active club of students with similar interests. It could be anything from sports or even looking for good food (matjib). In this Dongari, you can meet new people who are from different departments and even different universities. As for myself, I joined a photography dongari even though I had no knowledge in it. As a member of the photography dongari, we would go on field trips or events and take pictures. I joined a few other dongaris as well such as football and coding. I enjoyed the idea of meeting new people of similar interests. These dongaris are not just randomly organized groups but they go through a process of formal registration from the university. There are many Dongaris in each school and I suggest that you look into them when you are studying in a university in Korea, as they may be a big part of your university life.


2. 선배/후배 Sunbae/Hubae

One of the important community culture in Korea is the 선배/후배 Sunbae/Hubae culture. In its literal sense, it is closest to senior and junior. However, it is more complicated than just that. Anyone who came first in a certain community is your Sunbae and anyone who comes next would be your Hubae. The most common analogy would be in your school. If you entered a university in 2019, the person who entered the university in the year 2018 or earlier would be your Sunbae. Anyone who enters the school at 2020 or later would be your Hubae. In the past, this Sunbae/Hubae system formed a hierarchical society. However, most of this hierarchical culture have disappeared and left a culture of socializing. Your Sunbaes tend to help you as their Sunbaes did and eventually you will be helping your Hubaes as well.


3. Drinking culture in Korea.

Just like in any other universities in the world, drinking(alcohol) cannot be left undiscussed when talking about universities. It is not an overstatement to say that Koreans drink a lot. This drinking culture starts in the universities. As early as your orientation (or as Koreans call it OT), you will most likely be having something called 뒷풀이 (dwitpule). It’s like an after-party for any event. This is when people gather to drink and socialize. In these dwitpule it sometimes extends to 2차 2nd round and 3차 3rd round (or even more). While it is perfectly fine to enjoy this culture, overdrinking is a big issue in Korea and it’s always important to drink in moderation. Personally, I’m not a good drinker and I only enjoy an occasional beer. Hence, I don’t often join these dwitpule. However, it doesn’t mean that I will be left out. There are always other ways to socialize with others. If I do join for an occasional drink, I wouldn’t drink as much as others but still be able to socialize and be part of the group. Although drinking helps you socialize with more people, It’s important that you know your limit when drinking rather than drinking too much and making mistakes that you may regret.


4. 축제 Chukjae

Lastly, one of the biggest events in Korean universities are 축제 (chukjae) festivals. Every year the university open these festivals around late spring or fall. The school invites various singers, groups, band etc. to perform. You can watch your favorite groups/band/singers perform live on stage for almost no cost. (Depending on the school). There are also one-day booths set up by the students that sell food and drinks as a fundraiser during these festivals. These festivals are even open to public so you are able to visit other schools as well. In my opinion, school festivals are a great way to let off some steam from studying and enjoy being a student of that school.


Describing the university culture in Korea can be endless. What I gave you above is only some of the many things that you might get to know or enjoy while studying in Korea. However, I hope that this post helped you in understanding at least some of the important university culture in Korea.



Life of an international student in Korea


Hi! My name is Inku and this is my blog for foreigners willing to study in Korea. A little something about myself, I am a Korean who studied in Indonesia for 12 years and in Singapore for another 7 years. Then, I came back to Korea to complete my university here. Currently, I'm studying at Underwood International College (UIC) in Yonsei University. Being overseas for almost my whole life, I understand the struggles of international students living in Korea. Luckily, thanks to my ethnic background and familiarity with the country's culture, I could find my way of adjusting to life in Korea. In this blog, I want to share with you my information that international students need so that you know what to expect from studying in Korea and to prepare and adjust.