Recently students at the University of Seoul (UOS) have applied for exchange program to universities in the United States of America less frequently than, say, universities in Europe. This is because American universities require relatively complicated pre-arrival checklists and TOEFL scores. In order to introduce the best way to be ready for these problems for future exchange students, The UOS Times interviewed a student who studied at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
North Carolina State University
NCSU is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the United States and it was established in 1887. Raleigh-Durham International Airport is situated near the university and it takes about 20 minutes by car to get to the campus. Today, NCSU has more than 34,000 students and nearly 8,000 faculty and staff, and this makes it the largest university in the Carolinas. The Atlantic Ocean and the Blue Ridge Mountains are within two or three hours from NCSU. As a result, it provides opportunities for camping, hiking, and numerous other outdoor activities. Suh Hye-joon (Dept. of Urban Administration, ’14), a former exchange student at NCSU, said that the cost of living at NCSU is relatively lower than other universities in America. Also, Suh said the high public safety and educational level are some attractive factors that led her to choose NCSU.
Preparing to Become an Exchange Student at NCSU
After a student is selected as an exchange student from the Institute of International Cooperation and Education of UOS, there still remain lots of administrative tasks to complete, such as acquiring insurance and getting a visa. “Being a student at NCSU required many documents. Preparing immunization records, especially, was very tricky because I was vaccinated with many kinds of vaccinations at a designated hospital,” Suh said. She also added that she applied for an ID card, a dormitory, and school insurance. When The UOS Times asked for advice about the interview with the American Embassy for her visa, Suh replied that it is important to talk about your academic goals in America and show one’s intention to return to Korea.
Moreover, the spring semester at NCSU starts in January, but the winter semester at UOS ends in December, and this forced Suh to prepare more urgently. Although this process was troublesome, Suh pointed out that it could be the start of being accustomed to reading English before arriving in America.
Living at NCSU
“Because NCSU is far from cities, it has clear atmosphere,” Suh said. Additionally, she talked about the transportation system at NCSU. “It was convenient to move around on campus because of the frequently operated buses. However, it was uncomfortable for transportation users to travel to other states, so I used the mobile applications Lyft and Uber,” Suh said. She also said that unlike UOS, the price of food and housing on campus is more expensive than off campus. Dormitory fees, for example, are approximately 600,000 KRW a month and this is very costly considering UOS’s dormitory fees are 560,000 KRW a semester. However, since Suh was the only Korean student in the exchange student program during the spring semester, there were many opportunities to speak English at NCSU. Even though there were no Koreans in the dormitory, many parties were held there and they helped many students meet each other.
Opportunities for Traveling
“I usually took planes to travel and you have to book flights two or three months before you want to go to get a cheap one” Suh said. She traveled from North Carolina to Washington, D.C by mega bus, which took about six hours.
To prepare for her trips, Suh suggested using the applications “Google Maps” and “Earthtory”. She said the latter was especially convenient because it automatically finds the most optimal route. “I usually used ‘Hotels.com’ and ‘Airbnb’ to reserve accommodations. Although you have to plan your transportation and hotel, you also need to know the weather of the region you’re going to. Unlike Seoul, I suffered from the cold weather in New York in March,” Suh said.
Suh also suggested visiting Canada to students who are in America. “Applying for an eTA visa is not too complicated, and you can feel a different atmosphere in Canada,” Suh said. However, since people in Quebec speak French instead of English, preparing some sentences to communicate will help you adapt, if you plan to visit this region.
Advice for Future NCSU Exchange Students
When The UOS Times asked for some of the difficulties Suh faced at NCSU, she indicated that conversations were difficult because foreign students speak too fast, and all the NCSU students spoke English, which was different from what she learned in Korea. To endure this, Suh joined the English Conversation Club, where she could practice conversations with foreign students and make new friends. “If you are a Christian, it is helpful to enter a Christian Club since the members are kind and it is easy to improve your English when discussing religious topics,” Suh said. Most of all, Suh suggested that meeting new students is the best way to create special memories in America. “I recommend that you go to a gym to exercise. You can improve your health as well as meet new students who enjoy working out,” Suh said.
“I think just preparing for an exchange student program in itself is meaningful. This is because most of students do not experience this step. Moreover, since each student has their own goal, I recommend that you do not compare your goals with those of other students and instead invest your time and passion towards what you think of as invaluable,” Suh said.