Students wearing traditional Hanbok dress at folk village in Korea

Experience Korea: unlocking new language and cultural knowledge

14 August 2023
From one basic greeting to navigating the capital city in Korean
Through an intensive in-country program, undergraduate students can delve into the local culture to learn the Korean language. We speak to Media and Communications student Nandini Dhir about her recent overseas immersion in Seoul.

Since 2019, more than 230 University of Sydney students have embarked on an immersive cultural adventure to learn a new language in Korea with a partner institution. With face-to-face language classes, interactive activities and field trips, Media and Communications and Marketing student Nandini shares how she gained new language skills and fresh cultural perspectives by applying her language-learning within authentic contexts.

Nandini Dhir in Korea

Nandini Dhir in the city streets of Korea

How was it like to learn Korean with our partner university in Seoul?

Learning the Korean language was such an enjoyable experience! Being in a class of absolute beginners, we helped one another build up our vocabulary of Korean characters and simple conversation. Studying at the Korea University campus provided us with a mini-exchange experience, as we got to explore different buildings and the variety of restaurants and cafes nearby.

Why did you choose to learn Korean?

I wanted to learn Korean because the country has become increasingly recognisable for its music, TV series, contemporary artists and cuisine. Through this learning experience, I was able to read more Korean characters within three weeks. I found it easier to navigate Seoul, where I grew to be able to read the names of subway stops and the restaurant menu.

What were some of your cultural immersion highlights?

We partook in cultural activities with Korea University which gave us the opportunity to learn Korean cooking, take a Taekwondo lesson, visit a traditional folk village and go to the National Museum of Korea. The cooking class was a personal favourite. We learnt how to make bibimbap (mixed rice) and seafood pancakes, which was a fun experience and a small piece of my time in Korea that I can bring home with me. 

What valuable skills and perspectives have you gained?

Learning to navigate an unfamiliar space has been one of the main takeaways for me. Adapting to cultural differences – such as minimal talking on public transport or returning your used dishes and cutlery to the counter at a small restaurant – are not taught in class, but learnt by being immersed in the country.

Overseas immersion brings you new and exciting challenges in studying a new language and exploring new places. You learn more about a culture that is different from your own and you can understand your own culture better by seeing it through a different lens.
Nandini Dhir, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications) and Marketing major

What advice would you give to others about learning a new language overseas?

Going into this unit, my knowledge of the Korean language was limited to 'annyeonghaseyo' (meaning 'hello'). My ability to read or write Korean was non-existent. Learning the basics of Korean made ordering food, catching the subway and shopping in stores a lot less daunting. After three weeks of learning Korean, you will gradually notice that the language barrier becomes easier to overcome in day-to-day activities.

Worth 6 credit points, In-Country Experience units are open to undergraduate students with little to no experience in the language to gain new language skills through cultural immersion with our partner institutions around the world.

Watch Nandini's Experience Korea video on YouTube and browse her photo album on Facebook.

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