What to Expect as an International Student in South Korea

From K-pop to extensive skincare routines and delectable food choices, South Korea appeals to foreigners in many ways. One of the greatest attractions is higher education, and that comes as no surprise since some of the highest-ranking universities are in Seoul. 

Statistics released by the Education Ministry show that more than 140,000 international students were enrolled in 2018. The government aims to increase foreign enrollment to 200,000 by 2032. Out of every ten students, at least one will be foreign. If you’re one of them and you’re worried about not being relatable to others, that should help ease your mind a little.

Going to school in Korea may be nerve-wracking, but that’s normal when you’re faced with the unknown. If you’re soon to be enrolled, or you’re interested to know what life as an international student is like in South Korea, read on to learn more.  

Studying Will Take Over Your Life

If you have to prepare for one thing, be ready to spend extraneous amounts of study time. Colleges are already associated with a “work hard, play hard” mentality, but South Korean universities take their studies to a whole other level. 

The average school day is over by the afternoon, but students go to private cram academies (hagwons) and other locations to dedicate more time to studying as much as they can. This also doesn’t include extracurricular activities. If you’re motivated by challenging material and being the top of your class, you’ll fit in perfectly. 

Cost of Living, Tuition, and Other Fees

At South Korean private universities, fees are estimated around US$6,000 or more per semester. Scholarships are granted according to student’s economic situation, academic performance, and are awarded on a case-by-case basis by the institution, or by national associations. International students can also apply for scholarships directly from Korean universities or private companies.

Housing & Transportation

There are many options for students in Korea. Here are some terms you will become familiar with:

Goshiwons (고시원)

Goshiwons (often called goshitels) are more like an off-campus dormitory. Goshiwons are the cheapest housing available in Korea, around $250 per month. Depending on the location, you may be able to find these rooms even cheaper! It includes rooms, and shared kitchens, and a lobby. Be aware that the space may be smaller than what you are used to, but they are affordable and easy to find nearby universities. 

Hasuk Jib (하숙집) 

Similar to goshiwons, except they are nicer, more expensive, and it comes with more space. Breakfast and dinner are often included in the rent and served by the owner. While they are rare, you can still find one if you look hard enough.

Hasukjib usually comes with basic furnishing, and if there’s more than one gender present, they are separated by floor. The size of the facility determines whether a room is shared, but all other areas are shared with other tenants


For students that prefer privacy and freedom, you can always rent a one-bedroom or a studio apartment. What makes it more expensive is that utilities are separate. If you take this route, you’ll also need to make a deposit (also called key money) which you will get back when you move out.  

If you’re used to going to real estate agents and receiving professional advice from companies, it’s not too different in South Korea. Comparing rates and getting the best deal is a universal thing. BST Insurance Brokers show how important it is to get insurance that covers the tiniest details if you want to avoid problems. 

However, if you don’t speak and read Korean, we highly advise you to seek assistance from other sources before signing any contracts. There are English-speaking realtors and translators to help you out in these situations.

Can International Students Work in South Korea?

Yes, current student visas allow undergraduate students to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and unlimited hours in term vacations. However, they must provide a detailed work schedule to the institution where they are enrolled.

Securing a job in South Korea can be extremely competitive – especially for those who aren’t fluent. Luckily, speaking different languages and spending time abroad will be highly desired by many employers. If you are going to study in Korea, sharpen your language skills, if you need to, and gain experience that will make you a valuable asset to someone’s business. 

The Culture and Social Life

Just because you’re going to school in South Korea doesn’t mean you’ll no longer have a social life. You can build life-long friendships with locals and other exchange students from all over the world. Culturally, many traditions in Korea have been preserved, but you’ll find that the people are very hospitable and embrace the differences from one another. 

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Life as a student in South Korea can be described as busy, not just for school, but also for enjoying a night out with friends, exploring the culture, and many other amazing experiences. If you’re interested in being an international student at a Korean university, check out programs and other resources online.