Study Korean Language in Busan, South Korea

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 accommodation:

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!

I’m Thai

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.

Geoje Island
Hak Dong beach
Windy hill
Gyeryongsan Mountain

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.

the e-world amusement park
Deagu Arboretum.
Deagu Art Museum
LV at Deagu Art Museum

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.

Geoje Island, South Korea

I have been staying in Busan for 6 weeks now and just had a chance to visit Geoje Island (거제도) located not far from Busan. We rented a car from Busan Station and drove to the island on Friday afternoon after we finished the Korean class. There were 3 nationalities on the trip; my lovely Korean friend, Hoyun, and my crazy Taiwanese friend, Kaxin, and myself from Thailand.

I booked a 2 bedroom apartment via Airbnb. The apartment was so comfortable & stylish and located in the middle of the island, very convenient to get around. I would highly recommend to stay in this place if you visit Geoje Island.

On Saturday morning we went hiking up 566 m high Gyeryongsan Mountain (계룡산). It was the highlight of this trip. We were very lucky with the weather as it was not as hot as we expected. It took us 2 hours to reach the top of the mountain and 1 hour on the way back. All along the way I very much enjoyed seeing, smelling and drinking in the nature! Seeing all those beautiful mushrooms growing and drying, smelling those trees, hearing animals and drinking the water from the mountain gave me the energy to live longer –  I felt like I’m going to live another 100 years!

And when we reached the top of the mountain at 566m above the sea, we were rewarded with a spectacular view over the island. On one side the view is the rural area with green rice fields and many small villages and on the other side is the city view with modern high buildings. Seeing the rural side made me miss my hometown very much. We saw two different worlds from the top of Gyeryongsan Mountain!

Kaxin, my Taiwanese friend, had never been hiking before in her life. When I said that we are going hiking, she was like, “Really?” I said, “Yes, really!” She could not refuse to come with me probably because she likes my Thai cooking so much!   During the hike it was a bit difficult for her but she tried her best and she did a great job of hiking and entertaining us at the same time!

On the way back I saw Korean people with a lot of plastic bottles and they were taking water from the mountain. Hoyun told me that Korean people believe that the mountain’s water is the best water to drink. You will be healthy and strong as you have  received the energy from the mountain. Therefore many Korean people hike a long way to take mountain’s water to use in their house, some for drink and some for cooking. After hearing that, I did not hesitate to drink a lot of water from the mountain and even took one big bottle home for cooking in the evening. It was the most delicious water ever!

The beauty of nature..

When you visit South Korea you should not miss hiking. Therefore do a bit of working out to get fit before coming to South Korea.  I have enjoyed hiking since I was a teenager and I did 2000m in Thailand 3 times and I always try to hike when I visit other countries. If you have never hiked before, I highly recommend you try. Do something different than you are used to and you will enjoy a great experience of traveling in South Korea.

We reached the bottom of the hill around 1 pm and saw a beautiful temple at the bottom of the hill so we just went in. It was a small temple but beautiful and peaceful. There was nobody there which I liked the most!

After praying at the temple we went for lunch. We found a local restaurant near the car park and it was the real deal! I highly recommend this place. The restaurant is located just opposite the Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp.

After we finished lunch we went to the Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp located just next to the entrance of the Gyeryongsan Mountain. It was enjoyable.

After a very long day we went home and rested before going to see the sunset. The day had not ended yet! Hoyun took us to the most stylish sunset cafe on the island. We enjoyed expensive drinks with a stunning sea view! However, there were too many people in the cafe waiting to see the sunset. Hoyun told me that this cafe is very famous and popular with Koreans; I was not surprised to hear that.

After an hour of sitting in the cafe I felt like I could not end my day here. No way! Then I looked around and asked Hoyun if we can drive to the other side to check it out. It was not a waste of time as we found the most peaceful and beautiful location to watch the sunset privately! Our day ended so beautifully and colourfully.

On Sunday we checked out from the apartment around 10.30 am. We just planned to go to the beach and drive along the seaside and then head back to Busan. On the way to the seaside we drove to a small village with a beautiful green rice field. I asked Hoyun to pull over and we just walked in to the rice field. This rice field reminded me a lot of my childhood when I lived with my parents in the countryside in the north of Thailand. Living with my parents in the countryside is one of the most delightful periods in my life. Without that lifestyle I would not have become the person who I am today.

We also met a local farmer who was cutting grass on his own. I went straight to him to practise my Korean by saying hello and saying that he has a beautiful rice field. He returned me with a big smile and said that his rice is very good! He was so friendly and delighted to see us as probably no tourist visited his rice field before!  He even invited us to come to his house next time. How kind and wonderful he was. He reminded me a lot of my father who passed a way 20 years ago when I was teenager. My father was a hard working farmer and did his best for our family and to support me to go to college after I finished middle school in the village. But I did not have a chance to do anything for him.

After a great morning start at the rice field, we went to check out the Windy Hill, the famous viewpoint on the island.

After that we headed to  Hak Dong beach, a stone beach not a sandy beach like I’m used to but it was beautiful and different. There were a lot of  Korean people enjoying the weekend. I did not swim as I did not bring my swimming costume but it seemed no problem for Kaxin to swim with her jeans on! I like how spontaneous she can be; she keeps making me laugh all the time!

It was the most enjoyable weekend I have so far since I have been living in Busan for 6 weeks. The person who made this trip much more enjoyable than I expected was Hoyun, my Korean friend. He joined us at the last minute and recommended to rent a car and drive to the island. Hoyun is the most caring friend that anyone could ever ask for and I appreciated a lot his help and his hospitality. I hope I can repay his kindness when he visits Thailand.

Hope you enjoy reading!