While others may decide to tread a more conventional path in choosing where to further their studies, South Korea’s distinctive blend of age-old traditions and modern culture makes it a vibrant and diverse country for international students seeking a more authentic study experience that’s set apart from others.

In fact, South Korea is currently going through a cultural revival, placing it firmly on the map as an attractive option for students looking to study abroad in a dynamic and unique environment, offering outstanding research opportunities and challenging courses that are widely regarded as some of the best in Asia. But nowhere else is this more evident than in its sparkling capital, Seoul, where most of its top universities are located.

In March, the South Korean Ministry of Justice reported international student enrolment figures hitting a record high, with more than 100,000 foreign students registered at South Korean universities at the start of the year – a 14 percent increase on figures from last year. If you’re wondering about what makes South Korea such an appealing study destination for foreign students, read on.

Students in South Korea. Pic: Seoul National University

Outstanding educational rankings

According to the 2015 World Competitiveness Ranking from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), South Korea placed 25th in the world for its competitiveness. It was also rated 4th in Asia in education, meaning that any student choosing to study in South Korea can expect to reap the rewards of a high-quality and globally respected education.

South Korea is home to a number of internationally renowned universities – Seoul National University (SNU) is one such institution, offering students the chance to study at a leading university while in a location brimming with opportunities. SNU was ranked 36th – and is the highest ranked institution in South Korea – in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. Besides that, SNU placed 1st in South Korea and 9th in Asia as part of the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Global Universities 2016 rankings.  

First-rate facilities and technical programs

When it comes to education specialties, South Korea represents an excellent study destination for technically-minded students, as it is famed for its booming machinery, chemical and automobile industries. The country’s information and communication technology sector is also considered “one of the best in the world”, according to Forbes magazine, which added that South Korea’s success in manufacturing and exporting state-of-the-art electronics products has cemented its position as a leader in technology.

In terms of innovation, South Korea was crowned king by Bloomberg’s 50 Most Innovative Countries 2016 list, where it achieved top scores worldwide for value-added manufacturing, as well as for tertiary efficiency – a measure that looks at enrolment figures in higher education and the concentration of science and engineering graduates in each country. As an international student studying at a university such as SNU, individuals are exposed to a wide variety of new and break-through technologies, giving them a considerable edge over other students when entering a modern work force.

Cutting-edge research

For international students who fancy themselves as the designers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, the world-leading research and development that South Korea can offer is key. As the country’s leading research university, SNU embodies this spirit of innovation through the promotion of global exchange, and support of path-breaking research in all fields of knowledge.

SNUber. Pic: Seoul National University

At SNU, students form part of a vibrant and welcoming community, in which they are encouraged to share current ideas and theories, as well as constructing new concepts. Recent exciting research advancements have included the development of the university’s ‘SNUber’ experiment, a leading-edge breakthrough which combines the idea of a ride-hailing service with driverless car technology. Thanks to outstanding facilities and the mentorship of some of South Korea’s finest academic staff, SNU students are pushed and tested to develop innovative new concepts to challenge current leading market competitors.

An affordable option for international study

Aside from gaining a degree from one of the region’s most prestigious universities, choosing to study in South Korea can offer a much more affordable experience for international students. An international student choosing to study in the United Kingdom might have to face the prospect of over US$17,000 per year in university fees, with this rising to over US$22,000 per year in the United States. South Korea, however, offers much better value. For example, SNU’s tuition fees come in at US$6,500 per year, with costs that are still lower than in the U.S., even after factoring in accommodation and study material costs.

With a range of scholarships and competitive bursaries on offer from the country’s high-calibre institutions and the government, a lack of funding should not put students off. At SNU, students can expect to pay around US$5,000 on accommodation annually, about US$3,000 on meals and US$2,500 on personal expenses. International students who wish to apply for four-year undergraduate programs at SNU can also apply for the Korean Government Scholarship Program, which provides a tuition fee exemption for eight semesters and a year of Korean language teaching.

South Korea – an attractive destination for international students. Pic: Seoul National University

A unique university experience

With the combination of high-quality education and leading technologies, South Korea is able to offer students the very best in international university experience. At SNU, students have access to world-class facilities, such as the main library and its seven branches, which maintains a comprehensive collection of books and scholarly journals in support of the university’s research and academic activities. Besides that, its breakthrough programs in a range of fields from Modern Language to Engineering and Technology means the university has a broad range of courses to offer students.

Students considering Seoul as their study destination will be happy to note that it is ranked #10 out of 74 cities around the world by QS Best Student Cities 2016, consistently making the top 10 for specific categories in the list, such as university rankings and employability. The university also enables students to experience cultural diversity that is exclusive to the region, as there is more to life in the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ than just their studies. Whether they’re busy exploring large, bustling cities, or exploring the country’s vast coastlands and rustic countryside, students are sure to enjoy a variety of interesting sights and gorgeous views, like ambling along the beaches of Busan or Jeju, or hiking the trails of Bukhansan National Park, the only national park in the Seoul metropolitan area.

A rich and vibrant culture

Not only does studying in South Korea allow students to obtain top-class education, but it also provides international students with an insight into one of Asia’s most dynamic and modern countries, making it a great place to live and gain exposure to new things. Fantastic food, an excellent transportation system, and a one-of-a-kind culture make South Korea an excellent choice for students who want to experience Asia at its best.

Pop culture exports such as K-Pop and Korean dramas – the spread of which is widely known as ‘Hallyu’, or the ‘Korean Wave’ – helped put South Korea on the map, catching the attention and adulation of fans around the world. And nowhere else is Korean culture best represented than in Seoul. Dubbed by the Economist as “Asia’s foremost trendsetter”, South Korea and its pop culture is proudly featured everywhere in the nation’s capital, whether you want to style it up in Gangnam, catch a K-Pop concert, tune in to the latest episode of the latest K-soap opera, or enjoy your favorite street food, like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) or gimbap (the Korean version of sushi). The rise of ‘Hallyu’ is attributed to a massive spike in the number of visitors to Korea in recent years, and is a major draw for students who want to experience a unique Asian culture.

Gimbap. Pic: Flickr – manda_wong

South Korea is also one of the safest countries in Asia. Violent street crime is extremely rare and guns are virtually non-existent among the civilian population. Muggings, beatings, kidnappings and other crimes are a rarity in Seoul, especially among foreigners.

So whether it’s a prestigious education you’re looking for, an international experience that offers great value for money, or the chance to grow your knowledge and talents in one of the most exciting and innovative regions of the world, it’s clear that South Korea has the answer. And as South Korea’s number one university, no other institution comes close to embodying all these characteristics and opportunities than Seoul National University, which should be at the top of any student’s list.

This article was sponsored by Seoul National University (SNU). Founded in 1946, SNU supports and honours the ideals of providing students with a liberal education while providing students with a lifelong love of learning that will enable them to form the basis for continuous personal growth. SNU is also committed to preparing students to work and live in an increasingly competitive global environment, providing them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen subject area.

Built on the largest campus in Seoul, SNU has 16 Colleges, a Graduate School and 10 Professional Schools in which students are able to undertake their studies, thanks to the support and guidance of outstanding faculty members and academics. SNU continues to cultivate a vibrant intellectual community for its students, which has seen the university gain a global reputation for its academic excellence. At SNU students are educated as global citizens who will go on to share and better the world stage.

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