An Insider’s Guide to Korea University

An Insider's Guide to Korea University 1

In 2016 I moved to South Korea to study at Korea University. At the time, there were so many uncertainties for me. Even the information which you would think would be readily available was often very difficult to find.

I am now in my 4th year at KU. Over the years I have been here, some things have become easier to find and understand, but there are still many questions that I receive regularly. Both from an official standpoint (where is this building?) and from a personal standpoint (what is life like at KU?).

In this article, I intend to answer some of the most common questions that I receive about Korea University. I will cover the most important aspects that you need to know as a foreigner (or even as a local!) coming to Korea University.

If you are interested in studying in South Korea, I have a more in-depth article. This article covers aspects such as scholarships and has much more general advice. This post is focused on prospective and current KU students.

If you notice something missing that you would like to hear more about, please feel free to contact me.


This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to my affiliate disclaimer for more information.


Korea University Overview

Korea University is located in Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu. Seongbuk is a region in north-eastern Seoul, and one that is generally not as famous as others (think Gangnam-gu, Mapo-gu, Dongdaemun-gu). That isn’t to say that the area is bad – in fact, I am quite fond of it. However, it’s also not a place that people visit unless they have a specific reason.

Korea University is a private university and is at the time of writing, the highest-ranked private university in Korea. The university was established in 1905 and currently houses 30,000 students. Within this 30,000, 20,000 are undergraduates and 4500 are international students.

Universities in Korea, and particularly Korea University, may not be exactly as you are imagining. It has a truly impressive campus that has nearly everything one can imagine. Sports stadium? Check. An ice skating rink? Check. Hospital… Multiple hospitals? Check. The campus is incredibly large and hosts an impressive number of facilities.

On top of this, nearly everything else that you might need is included on the campus. There are banks, restaurants, mobile phone stores, cafes, and much more located on the campus.

All of this is to say that Korea University is a large university with many different areas to explore.

Quick Tip: Before you coming to study in Korea, make sure to check out the different student housing options avaliable.


Campus

As I have just mentioned, the campus at Korea University is very convenient and staggering in size. In fact, it’s so large that navigation can be very difficult and overwhelming, especially at first!

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Korea University Map. Office of International Affairs.

The Seoul Campus of Korea University is generally split into four main areas. On the bottom left of the map is the science campus. In this campus, you will find most classes that relate to sciences, engineering, and computers.

Just across the road (numbers 53-55) and the buildings behind (33, 36, 41, 80, 82) is the KU Hospital. This area includes not only the hospital but also many of the medical facilities. The school of nursing is also included here.

On the bottom right, is the biggest campus. This campus is the humanities campus, and this is where most of the non-science and non-medical classes are located. Here you will find buildings that house language, law, business and political classes.

Finally, at the top right you will notice the dormitories. This area isn’t only for the dorms, but also includes other facilities such as the Tiger Dome (Korea University’s sports stadium), swimming pools, and an ice-skating rink.

For the names of the individual buildings included in the map above, please refer to the Office of International Affairs website.

Building Codes

One of the most confusing aspects of Korea University is the building code system. When you sign up for classes, you won’t receive the name of the building. Rather, you will receive a code that looks something like 138-320.

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Korea University building codes. You can find the complete list here.

These codes have two parts, the first 3 digits and the second 3 digits. The first three reference the building number that the class is in, while the second three reference the classroom within that building.


Daily Life

You will often find that you have a lot of ‘free’ time. Many people will spend this time studying, but there are also many who prefer to spend it in other ways. Towards the middle and later half of the semester you will find that the workload becomes far heavier and it’s usual to spend most of your spare time studying or preparing for projects.

The good news is that classes will usually only take a few hours every day. You will often have spare time between classes, and classes end at 6:15 at the latest. Although the table below says 6:50, classes will actually end at 6:15.

Timetable

When you are studying at Korea University you can expect to take between 5 and 7 classes per semester. Each class will require two and a half hours per week. This means that you will either have two one hour and fifteen-minute classes per week, or one two hour and forty-five minute class (with a 15-minute break).

Classes run on a period based system. Each period lasts for 1:15 and there are a total of 8 periods per day. However, usually you will only have a few periods in class each day. Although period 3 and 4 are listed as 50 minutes each, they actually combine and run from 12-1:15 with a 45-minute lunch break. 7th-period classes will also end at 6:15 and there is no period 8.

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Korea University Registration Guide 2017.

The week is divided into three categories. Monday/Wednesday, Tuesday/Thursday and Friday. As I mentioned earlier, each class will either have two 1:15 classes or one 2:45 class per week. Monday and Wednesday classes copy each other, and the same goes for Tuesday and Thursday classes. That is to say if you have one class at 10:30-11:45 on Monday, you will have that class again, in the same period, on Wednesday.

The same goes for Tuesday and Thursday classes. If you have a class at 2-3:15 on Tuesday, you will also have that class from 2-3:15 on Thursday. There are some exceptions, but this is the general rule.

Friday, on the other hand, it usually for 2:45 classes. These classes usually run from either 9-11:45 or 2-4:45. Occasionally you may find these classes on other days, but they are usually on Fridays.

Depending on what you prefer and your class schedule, it is possible to have no classes on Fridays, or even to have no classes on two other weekdays.


Classes

As you may expect, classes at Korea University are varied and it’s hard to clump them all together. However, I have found that classes vary a lot from professor to professor – even if the class is the exact same course number as another.

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A typical classroom at a Korean University.

In-class education is one of my biggest frustrations with Korea University and in my opinion, the biggest downside to studying in Korea. I went into more detail on this post about studying in Korea, however, I will briefly go over the general class structure here.

As you would expect, most classes require you to do prior reading or study. Course materials will be given, and usually, course books can be obtained very cheaply – it’s possible to print a coursebook for $20 or less.

Course Registration

Ask anyone who has attended KU what the worst time of the semester is. I almost guarantee you that they will say it is course registration. Although it’s normal to be able to get all of your required classes when you need them in other universities, Korea has a slightly different system.

In Korea, course registration is extremely competitive and you will have to be very fast to get into the most popular classes – even if they are major-required or prerequisites for other required classes.

Every grade has a different day to pick classes – 4th years go first, followed by 3rd, 2nd, and then by freshmen. If you are in the earlier years, do not expect to get classes you want (If they are popular). You might be able to get them, but only if you are lucky!

Course registration is a very stressful time, and you are unlikely to get more than one or two popular classes. You can talk to the professor and ask to be allowed in, but often you will have to wait for the next semester.

When course registration is approaching, make sure to pick one class that is the most important to you. Make sure this class is the first you register for, as you are likely to be too late for the second and third picks.

Attendance

Attendance at Korea University is dependent on the professor, however, it can be very strict. Some professors will only allow one absence before they begin taking points away from your final grade. Some professors will allow up to three, or five classes before points are removed.

You can expect attendance to be very important. Although some professors won’t take it, the majority will, and it will be important when it comes to your final grade.

Class Materials

Along with the attendance, the differing policies on class materials are the biggest annoyance to many international students at Korea University. There is no universal policy about whether or not materials should be uploaded, and this means that many professors don’t upload course materials.

With the attendance policy, many professors will expect you to come to class. Since you are expected to come to class, that is often the only place that you will be able to view the PPT or other course content.

While this is understandable, it’s also frustrating. Some professors are happy to upload their content for later reference, meanwhile, some won’t upload a single document throughout the semester. The inconsistency is frustrating, to say the least.

Quick Tip: To save some money, get your textbooks printed at printing stores. This can save you a large amount compared to purchasing the textbooks normally.

Workload

I would rate the workload at KU as similar to most other universities around the world. Towards the start of the semester, it’s usual to have a lot of spare time, but this will gradually change as midterms and then finals approach.

Unfortunately, I can’t give a more detailed answer here. Some professors give very light workloads, while some will give you 100 pages of reading per class. In my major (International Studies), I would say that the average homework per class is to read two chapters. This usually equates to around 60 pages of reading per class, per week.

Some classes will have papers throughout the semester while others will have exams. Some classes will have both! In the end, the level of study and preparation expected differs from professor to professor.


Accommodation

Finding accommodation is one of the biggest difficulties that most international students face. I have already covered student housing in Korea extensively, and I recommend reading that article if you want a full run-down on the different types of student housing options around Korea University.

You will generally have a few options for accommodation. Korea University dormitories are one of the most popular options. They have a wide range of pricing options available, as well as single, double, and triple rooms.

If you aren’t interested in the dormitories, or can’t stay in them, there are other cheap options available. Goshiwons are a popular type of accommodation that many students choose due to the cheap price.

Seoul Goshiwon Large Room

A goshiwon in Seoul.

A goshiwon is essentially an off-campus dormitory that is small, but also affordable. These rooms can be rented for as low as $250 per month.

If you are looking for something a bit bigger, then one-room (studio apartments) are also available. These rooms tend to be a bit more expensive, but can also be found starting at around $300 per month.

Quick Tip: Want to know more about the cost of living in Seoul? Check out this post on the cost of living in Seoul as a student.

Korea University Dormitories

Korea University has many different dormitories that cover many different price ranges and living arrangements. Although there are more dormitories, only three are relevant to foreign students, Anam Dormitory 2, CJ International House and Anam Global House.

The CJ House is often the most sought after as it has a generally nicer interior and has single and double rooms. The Anam Global House, on the other hand, has single and triple rooms, with the majority of students getting a triple room.

Anam Dormitory 2 is male-only and offers combined rooms that mix Korean and international students (something which you won’t find in the other dorms). These rooms are all triples and bathrooms must be shared with other members of your floor.

Prices range from 780,000KRW for a triple room in Anam Dormitory 2, to 2,000,000KRW for a single room in CJ. Personally, I lived in Anam Global House for one semester and I was pleasantly surprised.

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Image from Korea University Accommodation.

Although the living area is very small for three people, it has its own shower, toilet, and sink. On top of this, the laundry facilities were located just a few floors down and were easy to access.

The biggest downside is that the kitchen isn’t ideal. There is a kitchen, however, it is shared and I often found it to be too busy for me to actually use. If you can avoid peak hours, though, then it’s not a bad option.


University Life

Life at Korea University is fast-paced, exciting, and at times, stressful. Korea is very much a country of both working hard and playing hard. Outside of university, there is so much that can be seen and done. Seoul is an exciting and energetic city.

Within the university, it’s hard not to get caught up in stress and worry around exam periods. Korean school culture is infamous for being incredibly stifling and even depressing. The good news is that at university students begin to relax a bit. However, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the stress at some point.

Of course, everyone takes this stress and pressure differently, and no matter where you study there will be pressure. But I want to emphasise that while many people love studying in Korea, I don’t think anyone will deny that’s there is a lot of pressure at times.

The good news is that outside of university (and even within the university) there is a lot to see and do to help you release that stress. I can’t go into everything that Seoul offers here, because it offers almost anything that you could imagine. However, have a look at these activities in Seoul if you are wondering what there is to see and do!

Within the university, there are many festivals that take place around the year. These festivals vary widely from massive sports competitions to international festivals where you can eat and drink all afternoon long.

Ipselenti & KoYeonjeon

Korea University has many different events throughout the year. Despite the many events, a lot of pride revolves around two events in particular – Ipselenti and KoYeonjeon (also called YeonKojeon by some people. That’s wrong).

Ipselenti is a big festival that takes place every spring semester. The event is the biggest festival of the year at KU and is something that many people look forward to. Taking place in the afternoon and evening, many K-pop artists will come and perform for a crowd of thousands of KU students. This is one of the best ways to see live performances for a very small fee.

An Insider's Guide to Korea University 7

Ipselenti – KU’s biggest yearly festival.

Afterwards, there will be an incredible fireworks display and a massive afterparty. The after-party often goes until the early hours of the next morning and often spreads away from KU to the nearby areas. People will go out to the streets and cheer, there will be free drinks (if you go to the right places!), and the general atmosphere is something truly unique.

KoYeonjeon is the second big festival of the year and one that takes place in the fall semester. This event is a massive sports competition between Korea University and its rival, Yonsei University. Five sports are played, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby and soccer. The first three of these sports take place on Friday, and a lottery takes place for entry – the lottery is free to enter.

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KoYeonjeon games!

Rugby and soccer take place in a large outdoor stadium and can be viewed by any student of KU or Yonsei. The stadium is divided into a red half and a blue half, and everyone cheers like crazy for their respective team. There will be fireworks, cheerleaders, music, memes (mocking the other university) and more. The event is a once in a lifetime experience. Or… If you study for four years, I guess a four in a lifetime experience.

But of course, this wouldn’t be Korea without an afterparty. The afterparty will take place either around Yonsei University or KU, alternating every year. Similar to ipselenti, the streets will be packed with people having fun and partying.

Quick Tip: There are also many festivals outside of KU which are fantastic and well worth experiencing. Check out some of the best spring festivals.

Other Festivals

As well as Ipselenti and KoYeonjeon, KU has many other festivals that take place throughout the year. A list of some of the events can be found here.

Another popular festival that takes place is the International Festival. This takes place once per semester on the campus, and it offers a wide range of food and drinks from many different countries.

Not only is there a lot of food and drinks, but it is free! And yes, they do serve alcohol on the campus. The International Festival is a great place to hang out with friends and there are many different stalls and performances that you can even take part in!

University Clubs

Another area in which KU does fantastically is with the variety of student clubs available on campus. Unfortunately the only up to date lists online are in Korean. However, believe me when I say there are a lot!

To find out which clubs there are, and when their application periods are, I would recommend visiting the club building on campus. They provide pamphlets which show the meeting times, requirements (if there are), and other details that you need to know.

There are a large variety of sports clubs, academic clubs, and also clubs for everything else that you would expect.

Vacations

Korean universities have plentiful vacations, and they are also very long! The summer and winter breaks are usually around two and a half months long each, giving you a long time to explore the country!

On top of the two vacations, Korea also has many public holidays. The biggest of which are Chuseok and Seollal. Although Seollal takes place in the winter vacation, Chuseok takes place in the semester and is usually a five day holiday.

You will also find other days spread throughout the semester which are public holidays.

KU Pride

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Korea University is one of the SKY Universities.

This is something that I just wanted to touch on quickly, and something that I have been rather scathing of in the past. Elitism exists within Korean Universities (and Korean education in general), and it’s something that you will experience at KU.

You may not notice it at all, but it’s often there. It may be a small remark made by your professor about how ‘this class has the smartest students in Korea’, or it may be extra privileges you get due to the university you attend.

Of course, it’s normal to have pride in your university. You worked hard to get there! However, there’s a difference between being proud and toxic. Students who attend KU are proud, and it becomes a part of many of their identities.

I just wanted to mention this in passing as it is something I have noticed while at KU. Once you mention you attend KU, Korean’s attitudes towards you and how they act will often change.


Anam-Dong

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Anam isn’t the most exciting, but it has the essentials.

The university campus has a lot of activities, but what about the surrounding area? Korea University is situated in Anam-Dong, a suburb in Seongbuk-Gu, north-eastern Seoul.

Anam is not particularly liked by most KU students. This isn’t to say that it’s bad, it’s just small and a bit limited. The biggest highlight of Anam is the university itself.

There are a lot of restaurants and a decent amount of cafes. Even better, there are some unique places which stand out – such as the famous sandwich cafe. Anyone who has attended KU will know the one of which I speak!

Where Anam lacks is in diversity and nightlife. Anam is great if you want to drink soju, but if you really want to party you will have to go somewhere a bit more lively. Anam does have a lot of international food, but if you want something specific you will have to head to a more popular area.

All of this is to say that Anam has everything that you might need as a student. What it lacks in is having the activities and choices that more popular areas of Seoul have.

The good news is that there are more lively areas nearby. Many students visit Sungshin Women’s University Station area for more choices, and Hyehwa is another good choice. If you don’t mind travelling a bit further, there is always Dongdaemun and Myeongdong.

Korea has fantastic public transportation, and travelling isn’t bad. But it is important to keep in mind that you may find yourself wanting to leave Anam often.


Should You Study at Korea University?

If you have already been accepted at KU, or if you are already studying here, then feel free to ignore this section. This is aimed at those who are still considering whether or not they want to study at Korea University.

In comparison to other universities in Korea, I think that KU is a fantastic choice. Although I have never had the experience of studying at another university in Korea, I have never wished to either.

Many of the problems that exist at KU (such as class materials not being uploaded, strict attendance, etc) exist at most universities across Korea. On the positive side, KU has one of the better educations in Korea, and the campus and student life are fantastic. It’s also one of the most international universities. This makes KU an easy university to recommend for anyone wanting to study in Korea.

In comparison to universities outside of Korea, there are some issues that stand out at KU. I’ve already discussed most of them within this post and I have discussed them in even more detail on my post about studying in Korea.

However, one thing is true. That is that many international students enjoy their time in Korea and I personally know many who want to come back. The student life at universities in South Korea (and especially in Seoul) is dynamic, exciting, and never dull.

I understand that studying overseas isn’t an option for everyone. But, even if you don’t think you can afford it, I would recommend considering the option. KU has many scholarships, and some of them completely cover tuition. There are even scholarships which cover your rent, and more.

My Experiences

Although I have written a lot about the downsides of studying in Korea, and particularly at Korea University, it is an experience that I have greatly enjoyed.

Sure, there are frustrations and difficulties that wouldn’t exist elsewhere, but given the choice again, I would happily come back to Korea to study. No country is perfect, and Korea is a great example of that. Further, no university is perfect, and KU most definitely isn’t.

On the flip side, my life has changed greatly after attending KU. Although, I would only attribute some of that change to KU. The country had played a bigger part in changing my life.

For all of the frustrations that KU and life in Korea have given me, I have also had so many amazing experiences. I’ve met amazing people, seen amazing things, and done so many things that I never would have had I stayed in my home country.

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