Thursday, 2 October 2014

Seoul National University (SNU) Korean Language Program Review

Arguably the most prestigious school in Korea and set against the backdrop of gwanak-san the Korean language program at Seoul National University is in comparison much smaller than at Yonsei or Sogang but does provide a much different experience

What foreigners say: Really isn’t much said about this program. Those who have attended it would say that it’s more for the long term learner. This assumption is based on the fact that many in the course are there as a requirement to enter into a university course and or masters course at the university; So you are more likely to find people who are looking to build careers in Korea rather than just have a gap year soju bender.

Cost: Regular program during the mornings is 1,580,000 KRW/Term (200 hour course) roughly 100,000KRW cheaper than Yonsei / Sogang but the unpopular afternoon class times are available for 1,420,000KRW which seems like a bargain.

Living: From my very biased opinion the living area is the real selling point for SNU. Surrounded by Gwanak Mountain there are multiple areas with easy access to the university which also provide competitively priced officetels and quick access to local nightspots either at Sillim, or further down the train line with Gangnam and hongdae both 20 minute trips either way.

The main area for students is in Sillim-2dong, a little valley “town” of Gwanak Mountain which is colloquially known by most as “Goshichon” (고시촌) or “Nokdugori” (녹두거리). The first nickname is derived from the fact that the area is home to many well-known law hagwons (Academies) and study rooms (독서실) which are filled with aspiring lawyers who are preparing for the Korean equivalent to the BAR exam. There are the 3 famous tests in Korea, the Law exam, the government servant exam and the foreign diplomat exam; all with ridiculously tough entrance requirements and even harder competition rates. Students preparing for these tests are known to go own self-imposed sabbaticals in which they live in Goshichon for 2-3years to focus on their studies. Add in the SNU students and also students for nearby Soongshil and Chungang and basically it’s a little town for nerds with track suit pants combined with sandals the fashion of choice. Despite the large population of students there is not much of a party scene because most are so concerned with their studies but there are plenty of bars for stressed students to unwind and more than enough places to eat on the cheap! Local coffee shops charge around 1,000 – 2,000 KRW and there are a selection of “Student” restaurants which will be a slightly cheaper version of Kimbab Cheonguk. Living in the area you are only a 5 minute bus trip away from Sillim Station which is a poor man’s substitute for Hongdae/Gangnam but none the less serves just fine as an alternative area to go out for drinks with friends. Beyond that you will be around 20-30 minute walk from the SNU campus and around the corner from the entrance to Gwanak Mountain, one of the easier and hence more popular mountain climbing trails in Seoul. Prices in this area vary but I have stayed here and friend have also stayed here for 2,000,000KRW Key money or less; paying around 200,000 – 400,000 KRW / Month rent. So it’s a good option for someone without key money and for those brave enough has tiny spaces (literally just a bed) available for practically nothing.

Beyond this area you also have the option of living in the areas surrounding Seoul National University Station (Bongcheondong; Nakseongdae) both are excellent options and provide a slight upgrade to living in Goshichon. I have previously lived in Bongcheon for 5,000,000 KRW / 450,000 KRW month rent in a nice one bedroom officetel. These areas provide something a little different to Goshichon and are a mix of apartment buildings and small officetels / jutaeks. In and around these areas are lots of little marts, dry cleaners and local pizza / chicken shops so they are great areas for anyone looking for a bit more of an authentic community feel in a less well known area. But just keep in mind that most of the students will be in Goshichon or nearby and so you will sometimes get annoyed at always having to take that 10 minute bus up and down the hill to get to the “Chon” (Goshichon)

There is also shared rooms available in the SNU dormitory but it’s location at the top of the campus hill makes it a bit of a nuisance for late night drinking down in Goshichon. Also there was a suicide there a few years back so that would put me off recommending staying there.

Student Body: Surprisingly a lot more mixed than at other universities. There is always a strong Chinese presence but as I have stated it also acts as a stream for non-Koreans to enter into SNU courses. Expect a good representation from Mongolia, a few Americans, Europeans and a token Aussie or Kiwi. Not as many Japanese/Russians as other places. It should also be noted that during my time there were almost no Korean Gyopo’s - a stark contrast to Yonsei.

Atmosphere: A lot more focused towards studying with a strong community feel. With the majority of students all living in Goshichon you get a good chance to create strong bonds over drinks. Definitely for the types that prefer the low-key style of fun – quiet barbecues, pool, darts etc. If I was to compare it to Yonsei/Sogang I would say that Yonsei is like going to a new party every night while SNU is like going to your mates to play video games. Because most students are set to be in Korea for 4-5 or more years it allows everyone to get to know each other without the feeling that each term will be a brand new party with brand new people.

Culture / Job Opportunities: Very limited. Don’t expect the same amount of opportunities as Yonsei to appear on TV shows or find English tutoring. That said there is still a few part time opportunities posted on the SNU notice boards. Teachers are not really well connected either for significant job opportunities. Most of the students are preparing to go into university so there is a lack of networking opportunities for the slightly older business professional. 

The Sawons Rating:


4 / 5 Sojus

I really wanted to give it 5, but the lack of networking and job opportunities meant I drunk the 5th Soju. SNU strong points lie in its surroundings and for those that are sick of the heavily urbanised feel of Seoul living in a valley of Gwanak Mountain can provide a nice break. I certainly recommend this university for any students about to go into levels 3 or beyond and for those who considered themselves a more focused student. If you are after the party life then SNU is probably not for you; but if you like going out at midnight for a quick drink and a bite to eat with your mates in your pajamas then SNU is your best options.

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  1. First off, I just discovered your site recently and it has been so helpful to me! Thank you for providing resources like this! You might have noticed my comment on your Facebook page lol

    Anyway, I am currently trying to decide which program I would like to enter after I graduate from my university in the US. I lived in the Sillim area for around one year while I was an exhange student at Hanyang University (yes, it was a very far commute lol). I absolutely love that area and I would love to move back there while I go through the Korean language program. Plus, SNU is the number 1 university in Korea and I feel like it would be very impressive to future employers that I went there for Korean language (I might be wrong on that, but I know generally the SKY universities are highly revered). However, I would also really love to get involved on campus at whichever program I enter. I think it's very important for me to make friendships/connections with Korean people. I noticed on your review of Chung-Ang University, you mentioned specifically that they have awesome programs to get language program students involved on campus. Does SNU offer anything like that? Is there a buddy program or ways to get involved in clubs/on-campus activities? I noticed you said that the job opportunities aren't very good there, but that isn't quite as big of an issue for me as being able to make Korean friends.

    1. Thank you for your comment Brittney, I'm glad my site has been helpful.

      I think choosing to live in 고시촌 / 봉천동 / 신림동 is a great idea. It's affordable, relaxed, close to a easily accessible mountain and definitely gives you that more authentic feel. I can't really comment on groups at SNU because I didn't participate in them - but I think Chungang is a viable option if you feel you need to save a bit more money and if you want to stand out just that little more on campus.

      As for employment opportunities - once Korean recruiters realise that you attended the Korean language college then all credibility of the university is lost haha. They are very much aware that anyone who pays the fees can attend those programs - however with that said, it will look good on your English resume when you return home. Obviously American recruiters will be oblivious to the ranking of Korean universities but a "Diploma of Korean from Seoul
      National University" certainly reads a lot nicer than from other universities.

      Thinking of that - because whether you finish level 1 or level 6 you will be supplied with a certificate I would recommend you call it a 'Diploma in Korean' which sounds much more credible than "Korean Level 3 Certificate"

  2. Hi! This was a nice read. How did you enjoy the program? I've been living in Korea for 3 years and considering trying out the winter program. Thanks!

  3. Has anyone tried out their Pronunciation elective class and know how useful it is? And does it have an exchange program with SNU students? I'm deciding between this and Yonsei. I really like that SNU has a pronunciation workshop, but Yonsei has an exchange program. I could always set one up myself, which I did in America, but it'd be nicer if it was all set up for me. However, no one can really teach you pronunciation without being certified to do so, or using software as SNU does. But, I really want to do short TV show appearances or modeling, which Yonsei would help me out with, sigh...

    1. by exchange I mean language exchange

  4. Hello, I'm debating on which institute to enroll in and your website has been extremely helpful! Other than just expressing my gratitude, I'll just like to say that there seems to be new programs at Seoul National U now (in case you would like to update this :D) So yeah, you have no idea how many people you have helped with this, cheers!

  5. How to achieve the full scholarship in SNU? I wanna study Journalism and Mass Communication in there, is it best training?

  6. Hi there!

    Thank you so much for all the information regarding all the different universities Korean language program! I know this post is way back, but I am looking for some advices and would really appreciate if you could reply me!

    I am a Korean that studied 14 years in overseas and am planning to return to Korea for University.

    Well, I had never studied in an actual Korean school but I can speak and read Korean but I doubt is up to standard as it is just causally taught by my dad. So, which University would you recommend me to go for the Korean language program?

    Thank you in advance!

  7. language not good so i cant understand your can i ask you a question? Now u are studying in snu? Can u add friend me on facebook ? My face is : kyut mai

  8. language not good so i cant understand your can i ask you a question? Now u are studying in snu? Can u add friend me on facebook ? My face is : kyut mai

  9. Hello, thank you so much for the information.
    I have a question regarding the morning and afternoon session you mentioned earlier.
    I am planning on taking afternoon session because I usually wake up very late but mant people convince me to take the mornng class because it was more popular.
    You please explain mewhy it is more popular, regarding the more expensive price, it seem like many people choose morning session so this realy concern me.
    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi ! I am not the owner of the website but I think I can answer your question, if you still need it since March !
      I learnt afternoon class is for level 1 and that all other levels are on the morning only... and that explains as well why it is cheaper maybe...

    2. People go to the morning classes as it enables them to attend the elective classes which are held at the same time as the afternoon sessions.

  10. I just have to say "thank you for the wealth of information you have here"

  11. Hi, this is so useful! Thanks so much for putting it together. I just had a question about studying as a mature student on an English language program. I will be 37 by the time I go to Korea to study, and I'm worried I'll be seen as a total weirdo! Does anyone have any experiences of studying in Korea as a mature student?

    1. Seconding this, I'll be 28 and it seems like a lot of the summer programs are aimed at younger students. Did you end up having any luck?

  12. Man you are just awesome