10 things South Korean students need to know about the UK

Photo of two South Korean flags

In 2019 just under 1,200 South Korean students came to study in the UK. If you want to know what they found different, interesting and downright weird keep on reading.

1) It can be difficult change your subject halfway through your studies.

Whilst universities in South Korea allow students to change their discipline fairly easily, British universites are not quite as flexible. Because UK degrees are so specialised, students begin learning specific knowledge very early in their academic careers.

The process of switching varies from university to university and from course to course, but if you would like to switch, there are some things you can expect. You will likely have to fill out some paperwork. You may also be required to attend an interview or produce some additional work to prove that you are serious about your studies. Additionally, you may have to take bridging classes to catch up on the basics of your new subject.

2) You’ll get lots of time away from your schoolwork.

UK universities have lots of holidays. Terms are usually about 10 weeks long, followed by three or four weeks off. You will also have a “reading week” every term, where you will have no classes or lectures. It is called reading week because it is meant to give students a chance to catch up on their assigned reading. However many students treat it as a weeklong break from studies.

3) Your professors will make an effort to get to know you.

British lectures are quite small compared to South Korean ones. There are usually between 20 and 40 students in a lecture. Because there are fewer people, your professors will make an effort to give each student a bit of their time. They will make eye contact with you while lecturing, remember your name, and chat with you if you arrive to class early. Some professors will even hang out with you in the student pub!

4) Your professors will make allowances.

If you are struggling with your course work, then talk to your professor. British professors care about the wellbeing of their students. Most will be happy to give you an extension so that you will have more time to finish your assignments. Tell your professor if you are struggling with illness or your mental health – they will help you to balance your workload.

5) British postgraduate students are quite young.

Many South Korean students do not complete a postgraduate degree until after they have had several years’ worth of work experience. In Britain, however, it is common to go straight from an undergraduate degree to a postgraduate one. If you are completing a postgraduate degree in the UK you may find that most of your classmates are in their early to mid-20s.

6) Student pubs are safe and friendly.

It might strike you as strange that there is a pub on your university campus, but like most pubs in the UK, university pubs are safe, friendly places with a cosy atmosphere. You will likely be invited to go to the pub with people whom you have just met. Having a drink together is a common way to get to know people in the UK. If a Brit asks if you’d like to go for a drink, they’re probably asking if you’d like to be their friend.

7) It’s easy to find sales and student discounts.

Student discounts – often called concessionary prices – are just about everywhere in the UK. You can get reduced prices on movie tickets, museums, trips to amuseument parks, exercise classes and even clothing. Always ask if there is a student discount. You will need to show your student ID card to take advantage of them.

In addition to these student discounts UK shops often run sales. There is usually a “sale rack” in every store where items are very cheap. Stores also regularly run sales on things like clothing or seasonal items. And, of course, there’s always the £1 shop.

8) It’s hard to keep cool in the summer.

As the British climate is often cool not all buildings are built for hot summer days. They are designed to trap heat and very few homes are equipped with air conditioning. On a hot summer day, you may have to go out to your local shopping centre or movie theatre if you want to be in an air-conditioned building.

There are only a handful of truly hot days every year and even on these days Brits still drink hot tea. You can buy iced teas and coffees here (though the iced coffees are different than Korean ones), but don’t be surprised if your British friends opt for hot tea on a summer’s day.

9) Lots of British couples live together before getting married.

It is common for British couples to live together before they get married and young people are not judged harshly for this. Many parents see it as a good thing; it means that the relationship is serious. There is also a practical element to moving in with your partner even if you are not married. If you live in an expensive area, it is a good way to save money.

10) Korean pop music is very popular in the UK.

A lot of young Brits like South Korean pop music and television dramas. Some universities even have societies dedicated to South Korean pop culture! If you like either of these things then you will almost certainly meet a native Brit who shares your enthusiasm.

Not the country you’re looking for? We also have guides for students from China, France, Japan, Sierra Leone and the USA.