Korean University: Culture Shocks


If you are going to study abroad in Korea, then you might want to know some of the culture shocks that I have experienced. 

1.) Campus Fashion

The first thing I experienced when I came to Korea, is the campus fashion. I don’t know about other schools, but at my school is America I always wore t-shirts, jeans (or shorts) and some lazy shoes (like flip flops or converse all stars). Nothing fancy right?

In Korea, everyone is dressed nicely. And I mean nice. Keep in my mind that Dongguk University is on a mountain so there are MANY steep hills and stairs. But girls walk around in huge heels, skirts, and dresses. Even in the rain or during the winter. It was insane to me at first. I even attempted to wear heels on campus, but I gave that up after one day. Even the men dress nicely. Everyone looks so stylish and put together. At my school in America, it would have been considered way over dressed, just for classes.  Now I dress a lot better than I did in America, but I still think I am one of the laziest dressers in Korea.

2.) Group Projects

Korean professors, especially in the Business school, love group projects. I am not talking about a simple group project that is over in a week or two. I had two group projects this past semester that lasted ALL SEMESTER LONG! It was a struggle for me, considering I was the only foreigner in my groups. Luckily I liked my group members though, but not everyone is that fortunate. In the US, the longest group project I ever had lasted about 3 weeks. So that group project thing was a little hard for me to adjust to at first.

3.) People don’t linger on campus

In America sometimes after class I would linger on campus, either sitting on the front lawn, did homework in the library, or met people in the student union for hours on end. In Korea, the students come to school, do what they have to do, then leave. You don’t often see students lingering around campus just for fun. When it was warmer (it’s winter now) there was some lingering, but not like the US. My friends would come to school, then just leave right after they finished their classes or team meetings.

4.) Familiarity between people with the same major

I cannot tell you a single person who is also a senior and in the International Business Program at my school in the US. But many Koreans can at least recognize everyone, and most likely give you the name, of everyone in their grade level in their major. Korean students have a strong relationship of the Sunbae (older student) and the Hoobae (younger student) within a major. They also have strong relationships with people of the same major. I could probably recognize people in the Business school at my college in America, but to the point where I would even consider myself as their acquaintance. This strong bond between Korean students probably comes a lot from the MT experience. As a freshman, Korean students go on membership retreats with their classmates and build relationships.

5.) The dorms are NOT party central

They keep the dorms pretty locked down. Boys and girls are separated (not a big deal) but there are some crazy rules. There is a 12am curfew on the dorm (the foreign students kind of ignore this) and students are not allowed to stay out over night without permission at least a day in advance (once again we usually ignore this rule). In the dorm I barely hear a sound in the hallways. Everything in the dorm is so silent. In America, there always noise coming from somewhere. Usually at least one party or loud hanging out going on somewhere in the dorm. Not in Korea. I have seen no traces of anything like that here. I was so surprised.

Also, it’s not common for Korean students to live in the dorm. There is only one dorm on the whole campus, which houses many foreign students.


4 thoughts on “Korean University: Culture Shocks

  1. Hi! I was wondering if you could explain the life in the dorm and the rules and how it is if foreigners dont follow the rules. I’m american and will be joining dongguk soon and really would like to know!

    1. Foreigners do NOT need to follow the rules. They will not do anything to you if you do not follow the rules. Korean students have to be home by midnight and cannot stay out all night, and they have many rules. But I came home at 2am, 4am, 9am, and no one said anything to me. It’s not a problem at all. The rooms are small, since you share with one person. But it’s not bad. There is a vending machine on the 4th floor. Boys cannot go to girls rooms and so on. On the…7th floor, I think, there is a door that leads outside. That is locked after midnight, but during the day you can sneak friends in that way. I never brought guys in, but girls were fine.
      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      1. Thank you so much!! I wasn’t sure if you would see my comment at all or not, but reading this makes me so happy! Are you currently in Dongguk right now or did you go last year? How was your overall experience around the university, classes, and trying to make Korean friends? Did you notice many english speakers as well that went to Dongguk? Thank you again for answering my questions! Feel free to give me a link to any blogs you might have written about the questions I asked :]

      2. Hey!
        So I left Dongguk last July, but I am currently in Korea again as an English teacher.
        I really loved Dongguk. I took mostly Business classes, so MOST of my professors spoke in English and expected every student to speak in English. I had a couple of classes where the professors spoke Korean, but I got straight A’s….so who cares? Haha.
        A LOT of English speakers attend Dongguk. There are a lot of people from Europe, and more Americans are going too. A lot of the international students hang out together. I didn’t spend much time with them, because I had many Korean friends. But it depends on the people.
        When you go you will get a Dongguk Buddy. Some are REALLY helpful, and will be really good friends with you. Others…are not. lol. MY dongguk buddy and I were friends in the US when she came to my school, so we got lucky. But if you join clubs like Haram, they teach Korean to foreigners, you can meet a lot of Korean friends and international friends. I also joined a hip-hop dance/rap club. I was the only foreigner, so it was kind of hard, but I had fun.
        Just put yourself out there and you can make friends~

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