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Korean Language Learning

Seoul’s Student Ghetto is Unbeatable

A peaceful garden in the metropolis of Seoul, South Korea.

With four large universities within walking distance of the center of Sinchon—one of the main districts of Seoul—you could be forgiven for thinking that you had arrived in a student ghetto. This is particularly true when regular classes are in session and the streets of Sinchon seem about to collapse at their frayed seams under the weight of the throngs. Sinchon is not pretty—there are no idyllic rice paddies or crystal streams tinkling merrily in the background—but it is exciting and about as “authentic” an experience of the real Korea as you will find anywhere in Seoul.

Sogang Univ. is one of the top universities in Korea, and its language program is easily in the top three in the country. The program is intense, very rigorous, and has really well-trained teachers. After one week in Level 1, you can read “hangul” (Korean script), and your confidence is soaring. In the second week, the hammer comes down and there is homework like you thought you would never see again: worksheets, workbooks, listening exercises (the texts all come with CDs), and long vocabulary lists demanding to be memorized.

At around midterm time I suddenly realized that I actually understood Korean. There is no way you will finish even Level 1 and not be able to read and minimally communicate with Koreans. This makes contact with your ajumma, the inevitably middle-aged female owner of your boarding house, much more pleasant. While ajummas are famous throughout Korea for their toughness, being able to speak a little with at least your own ajumma will prove that she has a soft side too. She might even make your favorite dish more often for dinner.

If you already know some Korean, it is possible to join various club activities at the university itself (basketball, tae kwon do, etc). What a brilliantly natural way that is to improve your Korean!

For More Info

The Korean Language Education Center at Sogang University, with a Jesuit background, offers practical courses on learning to speak the language with less intense emphasis on grammar.


If you intend to study for just one term, it is possible to do so on a tourist visa. However, if you wish to study for longer, it is necessary to get a short-term student visa. More information on visas is available on the KLEC website. The official website of the Korean National Tourist Office (KNTO) also provides lots of useful information, both on travel and study.


Lots of websites advertise homestays in Seoul. Finding a boarding house (which is usually cheaper) on your own can be a little more difficult; the ajumma usually only speaks Korean, but the KLEC office can help you find one. Rent, including breakfast and dinner, is usually between $500-$1000 a month, and the boarding houses almost always have their own washing machine.

Related Topics
Language Learning Abroad
South Korea: Resources and Articles

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