International Institute of Korean Studies

Student Experiences

  • Through academic partnerships IKSU and UCLan students have the opportunity to experience the life and culture of Korea, while taking courses, or spending time abroad.

    Gyengbok Palace, Seoul

UCLan Students in North Korea

UCLan students, Emma Barker, Brendan Cartwright-Foster and Martha Howson were awarded the UCLan Travel Bursary to visit North Korea in 2016. Throughout this scheme, the UCLan students have been able to widen their global horizons as part of their studies at the UCLan.

Students’ Report:

In March 2016, we were fortunate enough to be awarded the UCLan Travel Bursary to visit North Korea for 1 week. We were extremely excited at the opportunity to experience life in North Korea first-hand. During this time we visited Pyongyang, Pyongsong and Kaesong, all of which offered a very different perspective of life in North Korea. The trip ironed out many misconceptions that we had before visiting and also allowed us to develop a less biased opinion of the state. We were able to experience a variety of organised activities as well as an up close view of day to day life. The contrast between Pyongyang and Kaesong was of particular interest to us as it was so drastic. Brendan liked Pyongyang's grand scale and organisation whereas Emma and Martha liked Kaesong's rural and rustic feel. During the trip we got to try a variety of different, traditional, North Korean meals. This included Pansanggi (a Kaesong traditional meal consisting of 12 small dishes per person) and Sweet Meat Soup (which consists of dog meat and vegetables in a spicy broth) which we all agreed was delicious. During the trip we were able to form good relations with our guides and discussed many matters as well as many anecdotes from our personal lives. On the last day of the tour we even were able to visit karaoke and were asked by our guides to join them in singing Arirang. Overall the trip has been eye-opening and an experience we won't forget. Without the support of UCLan and the advice from IKSU we wouldn't have been able go, let alone enjoy this opportunity to it's fullest.

Brendan, Emma and Martha. Taken outside Kumsusan Palace of the Sun - the resting place of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il - in Pyongyang


View of Pyongyang from the top of the Juche Tower

A view from the front of The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang.


View from the North Korean side of the DMZ. A surprising lack of presence from the South Korean side

Workers commute in the morning, downtown Pyongyang


"One Korea" - Taken outside the entrance to the DMZ. This display outlines the DPRK's strong view of reunification

UCLan students on their year in Korea

UCLan students spend up to a year in South Korea when they study Korean in their undergraduate degree. Their experiences are overwhelmingly positive as they absorb learning, living and generally getting to know the culture as well as the modern, dynamic, exciting and ‘wired’ society that is contemporary Korea.

Marie-Charlotte Lazar

Read about Marie-Charlotte's experience (.pdf)

Melania Torrecilla-martin

Studying in Korea has been great! Ewha offers a buddy program and each one of us is assigned to a "Peace Buddy" in groups of 5-6. The buddies are in charge of organising trips, going out for lunch, cultural experiences, etc.

Having Korean friends in the university is very hard (but not impossible) as everybody is very focused on studying; people are busy and have no time to make new friends. Don't get me wrong, they are super kind and help you any time but it's hard to meet outside class and do fun stuff together, so you will see that you end up with a group of friends (foreigners only) where nobody speaks a word of Korean.

It’s a good idea to make Korean friends. In Seoul there are several cafes that organise "language exchange" programs and many Koreans go there to learn English/Spanish/etc. I have made many many friends and we use a mix of languages to communicate but it's lots of fun and they are always willing to go out drinking with you and show you how to experience the real Korea.

One thing I have learnt is not to sit on the red chairs in the subway! I haven't done this myself, but I have seen foreigners being judged because they were sitting there. These chairs are only for elders and disabled people and it is frowned upon to disrespect this.

Be careful not to spend all your money! Korea seems super cheap when you keep exchanging your Wons into pounds. Make up, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, socks, food, kpop – everything is cheap compared to the UK. After the first month we had spent hundreds of pounds, so we decided to understand 1,000W as if it was £1. 10,000W didn't seem so cheap anymore!

Don't be shy to speak Korean even if you are not yet fluent. Take turns in the restaurants to order the food, to order the coffees, put a few words together and make sentences. Koreans will never judge you and they will be very pleased to see that you try. It makes you feel great when someone looks directly at you and says "한국말 잘해요!" My method was simple, if you don't know how to say something, and you don't have access to a dictionary at the moment, just point at it and refer to it as "이것/그것" I have never used a word so much in my life. "그것은 뭐예요?" "이것은 너무 매워요?" "이것은 어디에 있습니까?" Don't let an unknown word stop you! It's not a matter of fluency, it's a matter of communication. I am not fluent in Korean, I was not fluent when I arrived and I am not fluent now after 4 months living there. But I can speak to Korean people, keep a conversation, communicate and survive. That's a lot!


Melania in Korea

Korean Meal

Korean food

K-Pop Festival

View at night

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KPOP comes to UCLan – exclusive visit by KPOP star DABIT to Preston campus of UCLan

KPop Star Dabit visited UCLan in November 2015 where he played at a concert organised by the UCLan Korea society.

Dabit started by singing a few of his songs 'Zone Out', 'Lonely Love' and 'The Rain Song'. He then moved onto a question and answer session, where students asked a wide range of questions. This lasted for about 30-40mins, before he covered Jason Mraz's 'I'm Yours' and Adele's 'Make You Feel My Love'. He also performed his own songs 'Up & Down' and 'Whoo Whoo Whoo'. Dabit closed the show by bringing up 5 members of the audience to join him on stage for the last song. Following the end of the show, Dabit signed albums and talked with fans for just over an hour.

Dabit was born in Ohio to Korean parents and is signed to KoffeeDream Management. He debuted in 2013 with 'Whoo Whoo Whoo', and has since released his second single and first mini album in 2014 and 2015 respectively. He has also stared in Korean Dramas, 'Endless Love' and 'My Unfortunate Boyfriend', as well as DJ-ing on Arirang Radio with fellow Korean singer, Kevin of ZE:A.

The event was featured on the UnitedKpop website, which is the biggest website for K-Pop news in the UK.

Photos courtesy of: Emma Barker of the UCLan Korean society.

Dabit concert - group photo


Dabit - selfie

Dabit - signing

Dabit - singing

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Introducing Korean studies to new students at UCLan

At UCLan students can take an undergraduate degree focused on Korean Studies. They can also choose to study Korean as part of a Certificate in Korean Studies, which they take in addition to their degrees. At the annual ‘module fair’, UCLan students investigate their module options and also obtain a taste of Korean culture. 


Introducing Korean culture 

Trying on Korean traditional dress

Introducing Korean culture

Trying Korean food at UCLan

students trying out Korean costume

Xi Chen at module fair

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Ellen, Mahera, Mitchell, Russel and Sophie, all Foundation year students at UCLan, were awarded a two-week fellowship by the university to attend a two-week Summer School at Pusan National University, one of our partner universities in Korea, in August 2015. All five have since decided to carry on studying languages at UCLan for a full degree and below are some of their comments about their experiences and some of the photos they took in Korea. I am really delighted that they enjoyed learning about contemporary and historical Korean culture – and about Pusan in particular, with its lovely beaches and (they tell me) wonderful night life!

Professor Hazel Smith, Director IKSU

panoramic view

"…spending two weeks in Busan made me more aware of another culture. The main thing that I have learnt is the experience of learning abroad; this was very helpful in terms of what to expect, the dos and don’ts as well as experiencing other learning methods. It was also very helpful when we learned about the history of Korea to understand the attitude and culture of the country.

On the other hand, outside the city, staying in a temple opened my eyes to a Buddhist lifestyle. We were also told that we were fortunate to experience the Sunday breakfast ritual. Overall, the temple stay was a very relaxing weekend after exploring the busy city of Busan. For the leisure part of our stay, although Busan is classed as the second city in Korea, two weeks was still not enough as there are thousands of things that one can do and visit. There is Haeundae beach, Gwanganli beach, Centum city and Nampo that were only a 30 to 40 min ride on the metro…"

Russel Bangayan

Ellen, Mahera and Sophie

Making Korean food in Pusan

Russel, UCLan student fellowship awardee in Pusan

UCLan students in Pusan

"…With regards to the Korea trip it was fantastic. I learnt so much simply by being there and it will be unimaginably helpful with my course and general understanding of Korea/ Korean culture. There were so many stigmas that simply weren't true. It was also interesting to witness school life in Korea as I had read and written a lot about it. 

The most memorable part of the trip was the temple stay. This was a fantastic opportunity that really gave a face to the values of one of the main religions in Korea. We got to stay for their Sunday breakfast which was a rare treat for us. The local people were so friendly and gave us some unsuspecting victims to practice our Korean language skills on, which improved immeasurably while we were there.

Overall it was an experience that words can't really explain..."

Sophie West

Learning martial arts

Learning to scuba dive in Pusan

Mitchelle and Sophie learning to cook Korean food

Pusan National University Summer School 2015 

" I really enjoyed the trip and I feel that I have more confidence in speaking Korean as I was placed in situations where it was necessary for me to speak and understand the language as English was not spoken and I could not fall back on my mother tongue language. Even when it was simple things like ordering food and getting a taxi… The culture classes were really good… the teacher was very enthusiastic and passionate about the history and art of Korea and that showed in the class. When we went to visit the Buddhist temple after her classes I could pick out certain features and appreciate and understand why they were used and are important. Even when we got the Korean Won, I did not understand who and what was on the back of the notes but I know now! 

I met other people from Japan, Guam, China, Costa Rica and Turkey. As a mature student I was worried that I would not fit in with the younger students but that was not the case. The Chinese students were particularly keen on learning about why I returned to education and told me that this does not happen in their country, which is a shame.
I also liked how Pusan University gave us a Korean buddy to help us and they joined in many activities with us and showed us parts of Busan that we would not have been able to find or go to. They were really helpful and nice."

Ellen Kolk

Pusan visit



UCLan students - summer school in Pusan

"The trip was amazing, I knew very little conversational Korean when I first arrived and couldn't understand very much. The Korean language classes helped and after the first week spending time with native Koreans I picked up a lot Korean quickly and easily. By the end of the trip ordering my own food was a breeze. I also got a chance to spend time with Japanese students and to practise Japanese with them and surprisingly I picked up a bit of Chinese too. It was a great experience and was so much fun to practise and learn at the same time. The lessons were very interesting, we learnt a lot about the history of the Joseon dynasty though the art made at that time, this helped understand the culture a lot better. Our buddies were really helpful. The trips were fantastic! The marine sports was the best, we went kayaking on Gwali beach and got to ride a motor and banana boat in the sea which was an amazing experience! The stay at Beomosa temple was really nice. We learnt about Buddhism in our classes so we had an understanding of the sacredness of it before we went. We had the chance of experiencing the food ceremony which was interesting. We had to eat all the food that we took and had to clean out bowls with a piece of kimchi and water at the end and drink it, this is to make us realise the importance of food and to appreciate it. I think the fact we got to experience these things first hand ingrained what we learnt in our lessons.

I'm really glad I was able to go on this trip because I've made lots of international friends and not only have I learnt so much about the culture that I've come to appreciate it, it has motivated me to continue learning Korean and Japanese."

Mahera Hussain

Mahera, UCLan student fellowship awarded in Pusan 2015


Pusan student visit

Sophie and Mitchell at Pusan National University

"The trip to Busan was an insightful opportunity to dive into South Korea's History and culture both old and new. We met lots of wonderful people who were passionate about their country which only fuelled my interest to the Korean culture more. During the two weeks intensive studies at Pnu we looked in to the history and the art work of the Joseon Dynasty as well as the Korean language. Also during our time with the university we went on many trips visiting and staying overnight at temples, museums and the war memorial and in the evenings we were free to explore Busan for ourselves, seeing the city at night as well as trying many types of Korean dishes. The trip was a once in a life time opportunity and I am very grateful I was chosen to take part on this trip."

Mitchelle-kellie Gass

Pusan trip

Buddha statue

Sophie learning about Korean culture


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Aidan Ross McFarlane


"Taking Korean at UCLan is not a linear or two-dimensional experience. This course will take you beyond the textbooks and classrooms and encourage you to really immerse yourself in Korean language and culture. This course will challenge you and teach you the key skills for learning Korean in the classroom, by yourself, and with native Korean speakers. My lecturer, Dr. Haesung Jeon, using her specialty in linguistics, is able to deconstruct Korean language elements, such as grammar points, Korean language honorifics etc in a way which is very clear to non-Korean speakers with humorous anecdotes and examples which help you to truly grasp the various concepts within the Korean language and culture.

With group discussions in the Korean language based on movies/articles, frequent, high status guest speakers and visitors, the very active IKSU institute of Korean studies, several opportunities to visit and study in Korea during your course and the weekly conversation classes put together with a number of our Korean exchange students in which you are able to discuss common trends in Korea and, more importantly, practice the language in a more informal, constructive and friendly environment, this really is an exciting course, full of opportunities which will put you in good stead for the future. As South Korea's economy and cultural influence spreads across the world, the demand for people who speak Korean is ever increasing and the work really pays off when go to Korea and experience the hospitality of the Korean people when you've shown proficiency in the Korean language! "

Images courtesy of Aida McFarlane

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

Aidan McFarlane - Korea Images 

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“I went to South Korea for language and culture study and stayed for nearly two months. I received a scholarship to study at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and I can’t even begin to describe what an enriching experience it was; on a social, cultural and educational level.

Not only was I able to discover first-hand the cultural and traditional side of Korea, but I also improved my linguistic skills.

It really was a life-changing experience for me.”

Images courtesy of Shanei-Rochelle Hypolite

Entrance of Gyengbok Palace, Seoul 

A construction of a ritual site, Korean Folk village, Seoul 

Shanei picturedin a cut-out of a traditional male 'yangban' clothing 

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Nan-Sol Choi 

Korean Students at UCLan

Nan-sol Choi

Pictured here is one of the Korean students who visited UCLan this year, Nan-sol Choi, helping us out on our University Open Day.

Nan-sol came from one of our partner institutions in South Korea, the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul's major academic hub for foreign languages and cultural studies.