Recently I studied Korean language in South Korea for 10 weeks during the summer. I had visited South Korea once before in Autumn of 2018 for 2 weeks. I fell in love with the country and decided to return in order to learn Korean. When it comes to choosing where to study a foreign language in other countries, I always choose a smaller city rather than a capital city. I don’t really like a big city with a lot of people. I think going to visit a capital city as a tourist for a short time and living there are different stories.
When I studied English as my 2nd language 12 years ago I went to Adelaide, South Australia when most of Thai students went to Sydney and Melbourne. I could understand why everybody heads to a big city where they think it is more convenient and would give them the best experience of living in that country. I also chose to study Russian language in St. Petersburg instead of Moscow 5 years ago. The two experiences of studying a foreign language in a smaller city, not a capital city, gave me many benefits, e.g. I did not meet any Thai students in South Australia and this helped me to develop English faster as there were no Thai people to talk in the school. I also chose St. Petersburg over Moscow because I thought that Moscow was too big and too busy. Also the cost of living in Moscow was more expensive than in St. Petersburg. I was very much in love with St. Petersburg and had so much fun living there. The city was very pretty during the summer with many beautiful places to visit. I have been travelling over the world and still no other city can beat beautiful St. Petersburg!
So, this time, I decided to study Korean in Busan, the 2nd largest city in South Korea after Seoul. Busan is located on the south east of South Korea and right beside the sea where you can enjoy eating good quality of seafood and beautiful beaches. The population is about 3.5 million whilst the population of Seoul is about 10 million.
The school that I chose has 2 branches in Seoul and Busan. The one in Seoul is located in Gangnam, the most expensive area of Seoul. I could not find any nice apartments near the school for a reasonable price in Seoul, and most of the apartments are very, very small for a lot of money. And then I looked in Busan where the school is located in Seomyeon, the city centre of Busan. After looking for a while I saw a big difference in price between Seoul and Busan. Therefore I did not hesitate to chose Busan over Seoul.
I found a 40 sqm apartment near Seomyeon where I just walked about 15 minutes to the school. The location of my apartment was very convenient and everything just on the door step – even a beautiful park for jogging everyday. I found this place via Airbnb. Here is my cozy apartment where I stayed for 10 weeks.
The Korean Language School:
After comparing many Korean language schools I ended up choosing a private language school in Busan. I took the Intensive 25 hours a week class which from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm Monday – Friday. I did not realise when I signed up that it would be too much to study morning and afternoon. If I go back again I would take the Intensive 15 hours a week then I would only study from 9.00 am to 12.15 pm. and have the free afternoon to enjoy other things.
I very much enjoyed the class and the teachers were very nice to me. They always wanted to help students to develop the language and they were very kind and had a sense of humour which I like most. One thing I like about their teaching system is that they have an exam every Friday to measure what students learned in the past week. I really like the exam as it forced me to study hard. My speaking was the worst in the class but I knew whether my Korean skills had improved or not by the score of the exam every week.
The school also provided many activities every week, e.g. sport, visiting museums, cooking class, art, culture learning, etc. The school also organised the “Meet Up” with Korean friends. They not only teach Korean language but they also teach English. Therefore you will have a chance to make friends with Korean people. I met a few Korean people from the school and some of them became my good friends who I believe we will be friends for life. We exchanged languages and they helped me a lot with my homework and other things. I cooked Thai food for them from time to time in return! We also hung out together every week and did trips to other cities together. Having local friends gave me the best experience of living in South Korea. Without them I would not have had such a wonderful experience and fun.
Apart from the activities that the school provided I also did a lot of my own things. As I enjoy exercising, I ran regularly in the Busan Citizen Park in Bujeon located only 2 metro stations from my apartment. The park was very well maintained and very beautiful in the summer. After running I often went to the Bujeon Market to buy seafood and bring home to cook. I very much enjoyed eating seafood here as it was so fresh and not expensive.
Busan is a city of Art. On my first visit in 2018 I visited many art galleries. And this time I continued to explore more.
Korean Food: To eat good Korean food you need to have good Korean friends, both eating in restaurants and home cooking. I experienced eating Korean home cooking from 2 of my Korean friends. The first person is Hoyun, my Korean junior friend. We got to know each other from the school “Meet Up” and we became friends from the second week of my arrival in Busan. When we went on a trip together and it was my birthday he made me a traditional seaweed soup or Miyeok-guk. Miyeok-guk is traditionally eaten for breakfast on birthdays. Hoyun also took us to many places to eat where you would never find it on your own.
The second person is Junho, a Korean chef who I met on my first visit in 2018. I attended his cooking class and we become friends since then. Junho is a really good cook and fun person. I did recommend a friend to attend his class and my friend had so much fun cooking with him. I would highly recommend Junho if anyone wants to learn Korean cuisine. I did not have much chance to meet him during my stay as we both were too busy. However we managed to meet up before I left. He cooked a lot of Korean food for me and my friends and I also cooked Thai food for him.
I ate out a lot of the time with my friends. I tried to eat local food and explore different restaurants every day. There are tons of restaurants in Seomyeon. I very much like Korean food as they also eat rice like Thai people. I think I could live in Korea if there is no country such as Thailand!
Busan is very Asian city as you can find Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants and, of course, Japanese restaurants here. And not just a few of them, there are a lot of them. The 2 Thai restaurants that I went to regularly was “I’m Thai” and “Bamboo”, both located in Seomyeon. We also ate Italian from time to time when we became sick of Asian food!
Nearby cities to visit: I had a chance to visit 3 cities, Geoje Island, Deagu and Jeonju. The 3 of them are totally different. Geoje Island has beautiful nature, e.g. beaches, mountains and rural lifestyle. We climbed the 566 m high Gyeryongsan Mountain and visited Hak Dong beach, watched the most beautiful sunset and jumped into the rice field to chat with the farmer. Travelling on the island is more convenient with your own transport.
Deagu is a modern city like Busan and Seoul but smaller. We enjoyed the modern stuff e.g. the e-world amusement park, Seomun Night Market, Deagu Art Museum and Deagu Arboretum.
And the last city I visited before coming home is Jeonju. Jeonju is a cultural village with traditional Korean Hanok & Japanese houses & calligraphy & sake museums. Visiting Jeonju you must stay in a Hanok, a traditional Korean house which we did and we very much enjoyed the experience. If you have a chance to visit South Korea, apart from Seoul and Busan, I highly recommend to visit those 3 cities.
I had one of the best experiences of living in another country. My 10 week stay in South Korea was much more enjoyable than I expected. I chose the right school, I picked the right accommodation, I explored a lot of Korean culture and, the most important, I met good people. Kaxin, a Taiwanese girl would do anything for me if I cooked Thai food for her! She was like my personal assistant, bought me breakfast and medicine when I was sick and chased me up every times when I being late for the class! She is a beautiful, caring and loving person. Julie was the only Thai friend I met who I did not expect to meet! She was my personal translator in the class as her Korean was better than me. She would translate what the teacher said immediately when I just looked in her eyes! She bought me Thai herbs all the way from Thailand just for me to cook one meal. She is a beautiful, funny and caring person. Hoyun, my Korean friend, behaved older than his age! He was like my teacher and he never hesitated to help whenever I asked – even at midnight when I sent sms to ask about homework! He replied as soon as he was available. He joined us to Geoje island as he worried we would get lost! I have a lot of favours to return when he comes to Thailand!
I can’t mention about all of my friends here but everybody in the photos mean a lot to me as you guys helped create one of the best experiences of my life.
Hope you enjoy reading.