My first day at Korea University was very much a testament to the time we are living in as it was conducted at my desk in my dorm room. However, I can see one of the big school buildings through my window.
All of my lectures are still online but they are all live lectures, which give more of a sense of a normally scheduled school day.
Last semester at CBS, I didn’t have live online lectures but pre-recorded videos, so they are therefore very new to me. I am also gaining an insight into a different educational structure and learning approach, as the final grade here is made up of different weighting percentages in terms of attendance, participation, group projects, essays, mid-terms, and a final exam.
The weighting of each criterion is different for each of my five courses but overall, this structure does motivate people to be very active in lectures. This approach is very different from the one at CBS which has a higher purely theoretical teaching focus compared to the more hands-on approach they have here.
I actually like how they have different parameters counting towards the final grade, as it encourages people to participate more, which makes the lectures livelier and more interesting.
It also gives very educational insight into my Korean classmates’ opinions on different topics – everything from environmental issues to political controversies. Furthermore, I also like the fact that the final grade does not come down to one moment in time that does not always reflect your efforts throughout the semester.
However, the online format does make participation a bit more challenging though overall, people are really used to the ground rules and online etiquette which function really well.
I have the same two lectures every Monday and Wednesday, and the same three lectures every Tuesday and Thursday. My professors’ teaching methods vary considerably. In some of the lectures, everyone is asked to have their camera on, and the professors encourage everyone to ask questions and actively participate.
In other lectures, we don’t have our cameras on and there is not a lot of participation. Some professors follow a PowerPoint and point for point go through the presentation and key terms.
Other professors don’t use a PowerPoint and conduct the lectures more as a stream of thought session where they ask a lot of open questions to be discussed among us. In two of my courses, we have no set material to read but instead, we are provided with theoretical concepts that we then apply to exercises with our classmates and use for individual assignments. They very much follow the philosophy of learning by doing.
This approach is very different from what I am used to at CBS where around 70 pages pr. lecture is closer to the rule than the exception. For the rest of my three classes, I do have homework but on average it is still less than the norm at CBS.
However, anything we are asked to read, we are expected to know down to the smallest detail.
In four of my five courses, the professors are Korean but they have kept everything really professional and only speak English during the lectures, which I’m really grateful for since I have heard from other exchange students that it is not uncommon for professors to answer in Korean if someone asks a question in Korean.
Altogether, around 10-15% exchange students attend my courses, so the vast majority are Koreans. Even though all my lectures are online, I still spend a lot of time at the school, as we eat lunch in the cafeteria and make great use of the study-seat and room facilities.
Korea University, like CBS, is really modern and offers several different options for study rooms – everything from a chair in the library to a shared desk, couches, small one-man rooms and bigger group rooms.
Doing my online lectures, reading, and completing assignments at the school is a nice way of getting a change of scenery and seating arrangement while still being productive. The mid-terms are rapidly approaching so productivity is indeed needed.
This weekend, we took a trip to Busan, which is Korea’s second-largest city located in the southeastern part of the country. Busan is by the sea, and we saw colorful villages, their famous tower, fish markets, temples, several parks, took a cable-car ride, spent some time at the beach and ate a lot of nice food.
When we landed back in Seoul and switched off the flight mode on our phones, we were met with the great news that Korea is now back down to level 1 of social distancing. This means that facilities such as gyms, all karaoke places, buffets, and audiences up to 30% of stadium capacity, etc. are now allowed.
However, everyone still needs to wear masks at all times and keep entry logs at all facilities.
This loosening of the social distancing was decided as cases for the past two weeks have stayed in double digits numbers, combined with the consideration of how the stronger measures have negatively affected people’s mental well-being and the economy.
The country has therefore hopefully made it through both the Chuseok Holiday and Hangul day without any major breakouts.
This is the lowest level I have experienced, as the last period with level 1 was in August doing my mandatory self-isolation. I am very excited to see how this might change my everyday life.
I hope this means that there is at least a chance that some of the lectures will be conducted in person in the future.