Let Me Tell You About SNU Buddy 

May 27, 2016 by

I’ve mentioned SNU Buddy before, but I think they deserve a post dedicated to them since they make up such a big part of your exchange at Seoul National University. This post will probably only be useful for those students going to SNU!

SNU Buddy is SNU’s buddy program for exchange students. It’s a huge non-profit organization run by Korean regular students. How it works: before the semester starts, exchange students can sign up for the program and choose a personal buddy from a list containing everyone’s profiles and self-written descriptions. It’s first come, first serve so you gotta be quick! Each Korean buddy has slots for three to four exchange students. These groups are then put  into groups of 30-40 people, ten groups in total. #huge

SNU Buddy is probably the best way to meet people. There are eight main events that you do with all ten buddy groups: International Opening Party, Olympics, Campus Runner, Hiking, International Day, Temple Stay, Membership Training and the Farewell Party. These are really fun because it gives you the opportunity to meet all the exchange students in the program. Every Thursday they throw an “Office Pub” which is basically a big party  at a nearby bar eitehr at SNY Station or Nakseongdae, that all groups can attende. There are also several group events that you do with your own group, for example city tours, biking at the Han River, a trip to the jjimjilbang, marathons, bungee jumping, museums, movies– basically anything fun the buddies can come up with, and you’re free to suggest ideas of your own (things you want to do, places you want to visit, dishes you want to eat etc.). Some groups also have regular lunches and dinners. And of course once you become closer to the point where you can call everyone your friends you spend time together just because you can🙂

My goal was to join ALL ACTIVITIES. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time (but I did joine the majority!!!!) and I ran out of $$$$$. You pay 80,000 won for membership and some activities have their own additional fees, which makes sense. And Ant’s all definitely worth it.


My group 5❤


City tour… by night!


Look how pretty traditional Korean structures look when they’re all it up


Pig foot restaurant. The buddies make sure you discover enough amazing Koren restaurants.


A picture taken at one of the main SNU Buddy events: Campus Runner


We went for a group trip to a park in Seoul to enjoy the cherry blossoms


We have lunch regularly.. This is a picnic on campus. What’s better than sun and jajangmyeon?! (Answer: nothing)


Bowling because we’re cool like that!


Me and my personal buddy Miji. So cuuuute


Another SNU Buddy event (International Day, on my birthday!!) during which people prepare and sell dishes from different countries. Yum!!!


#TEAMINDA (Because I’m the only Dutch exchange student here this semester and Team India needed more manpower. Plus, Indian food.


Joined another group on their adventures! #crazy


Calligraphy cultural event. We got to keep our masterpieces and got some freebies at the end!!


Group five went to the jjimjilbang together. How. Adorable. Are. We. One of my favorite activities we’ve done so far!!!

I’m so thankful for everyone that is part of SNU Buddy, especially the Korean buddies. I can imagine it’s time-consuming and I’m impressed they’re able to juggle this and classes at the same time. They have all done a really good and professional job at organizing everything.  I’ve made some really good, lifelong friends through this organization!🙂

That’s it for today… Cheers!


Midterm Period

April 27, 2016 by

A sunny good afternoon from my little cafe in Seoul! I’ve finally gotten the hand of ordering coffee (“Americano please”, “hot”, show my student card when they ask for size because it gives me a size up (!!!!!) and smile, “drink here”, hand over the bills, “gamsahabnida!”). Although I’ve probably made this place rich with all the money I’ve spent here, I’ve discovered many, many more study cafes in the area  that I probably prefer.

Speaking of cafes, it’s midterm period and for the past week I’ve been frequenting several cafes to (procrastinate with friends) study and get some work done (but mostly procrastinate with friends). For those people whom university is still part of their time in Korea  and work still must be done, I shall talk about some good places to study. First of all, the library on campus is amazing. It’s called Kwanjeong Library and, recently renovated, is probably the biggest library in all of KoreaIt’s the navigation point on campus (you can see it from almost anywhere),  you can reserve a seat with your student card, there is a rooftop and places to nap, there is a multimedia plaza with lazy chairs and tvs and booths to watch tv with friends…incredible. Great place to study.


For those who don’t like studying at libraries (like me, it’s too quiet and the atmosphere is full of stress and sweat from hardworking students), don’t worry, there is a great alternative. Cafes to study in are a huge part of Korean culture. In terms of uni life, this is probably one of my favorite things about Korea. There’s study cafes specifically for studying (silence..all you hear is the sound of furious typing), but even regular cafes have wifi and are often open 24/7, making them a perfect spot for working. A lot of Korean students apparently agree with me: I once left a cafe at 12am and it was possibly fuller than when I arrived.

Here is a list of (study) cafes that I love so far:

  • Caffé Bene (bagels galore)
  • Holly’s Coffee (The one in Gangnam, exit 11 is my favorite)
  • Angel-In-Us (this is my go-to cafe I’m always blogging from)
  • In the side street of Angel-In-Us at SNU Station, next to Dos Tacos there is a “book cafe” on the second floor , open from 3pm-1am and studying there feels like home– it’s super cozy, the owner keeps handing out snacks
  • The Orange Pencil in Nakseongdae
  • May Island in Gangnam

The first three are branches and there is usually one in every district in Seoul. I mostly work around SNU Station, but it depends on how busy it is and what I’m in the mood for. Although I don’t know if you’ll be studying much, it’s always good to know you have a place to go to when you’ve got to cram a night before an exam…

My Midterm Schedule 

I take five courses, and I have midterms for four of those courses. My first midterm was on April , and my last one will be on May 11. Having exams spread out over a course of six weeks is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand I have plenty of time to study for everything. On the other hand…. I spend plenty of time thinking about having to study for everything. Most of my friends have their exams in the time span of two weeks though, so my situation seems to be an exception. If you’re trying to plan things out properly you might want to check out the course syllabi when you’re looking for courses to take, as often test dates are known beforehand. Unfortunately, the majority of my professors schedule tests whenever they feel like it– very different from the fixed exam weeks back at Maastricht University. For one of my courses we even democratically voted on the date. One last thing to remember is that the deadlines for presentations and papers are usually right after midterms. If your friends are coming to visit make sure to factor in that you’ll be liberated from most of the stressful work a week or so after midterms.

That’s it for now! Thank you for sticking with me for this long. Time to do some work so I can go back to exploring Seoul ASAP🙂 I’m planing to make some posts about SNU Buddy, things to do in Seoul and out-of-Seoul-but-still-in-Korea trips soon!



P.S. A shoutout to my lovely little sister who turned 18 today. Happy birthday Linds! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there on the day you finally enter adulthood (kinda…..), miss you loads!

Post-Arrival Must Knows for South Korea

April 19, 2016 by

Time truly flies here…. in two days, I’ll be halfway through my exchange and just the thought is enough to make me sad. But then I realize I’ll be in South Korea for another two months and I get all hyped up and excited again. I’m going to post some last (hopefully useful) post-arrival information, and then I’ll go back to posting (if not useful, definitely fun for me) pictures and traveling tips!

Important Phrases to Acquaint Yourself With

The first thing my landlord asked me when I arrived was: Do you speak any Korean? I replied with “Aniyo…” (meaning “no”, which I’d learned from watching Lost) and I realized that my grasp of the Korean language was…..nonexistent. Let me save you the embarrassment I went through in my first week and give you some words and phrases you should probably learn before you get here…

안녕하세요 / annyonghaseyo – hello
감사합니다 / gamsahabnida – thank you
네 / ne – yes
아니요 / aniyo – no
매워요 / maewuhyoh– Is it spicy?

Helpful, right?😉

Post-Arrival information 

Airport Pickup
My liason for anything SNU related on the Korean front was Michelle from the Office of International Relations. She was super helpful and quick to reply to emails. In particular, she offered help with two things that are important upon arrival:

  • Information on guesthouses for if you can’t move into your place right away (this is especially relevant if you’re moving into dorms, because it’s not possible to move in until the last weekend before class starts)
  • Airport pickup (from Incheon International Airport)
    • There is a subway connection you can take, which I do not recommend if you are unfamiliar with the Seoul subway and have a lot of suitcases to drag around–however, if you’re a natural with public transportation in foreign languages then who am I to stop you.
    • There is an airport limousine bus service that the majority of the exchange students used, which is apparently one of the best and cheapest ways (around 9,000 won from the airport to SNU main gate) of traveling to and from the airport. I haven’t used it yet so this is all I can so about it!
    • Michelle offers to arrange a taxi pick-up, which is great because taxis in Korea are sometimes known for exploiting tourists who don’t know what is going on. Since this is arranged through the university it’s reliable. She’ll try to find other exchange students arriving on the same date so you can share the taxi fee together (unfortunately I was the only one to arrive on this day). I opted for this option because it seemed easiest in an unknown place with loads of suitcases after an 11+ hour flight. It ended up being around €60, but I paid 100,000 won because I knew nothing about Korean currency and I was so thankful the taxi driver was able to find my new home in this gigantic, unfamiliar city (I learned only later on that it is not usual to tip in Korea). Still, €80 wasn’t too bad for the convenience!

The First Week
The first week was spent orientating myself. I think I’ve said this before, but I was very lucky because I had the most amazing people help me out in the first few days that I was settled in in no time.

On the first night,  exchange students that had already been here for a semester fed me (the restaurant they brought me to is now my go-to lunch place), and they introduced me to soju (basically the only alcoholic beverage you shall be drinking here, besides beer). We went to a bar named “Ssamjang” at SNU Station, which is the hanging place for most of the SNU Buddy meetups.  What a great way to start off my exchange!

On my second day here I had a friend of a friend of my boyfriend show me the ropes of living in Seoul as an SNU student (Go Kiyeon!!!!). She showed me around campus and helped me figure out where I had my classes (checking out campus before class starts is so!!!! important!!!! It is gigantic, and you will get lost!). We had lunch at a Korean food all-you-can-eat buffet, so I’d practically tasted all of Korea’s most famous foods in one day. She also helped me find a pillow (this saved my life, I slept on an airplane neck-rest the first night..no fun! Make sure to inform yourself of the bedding situation at wherever you’re staying). She also helped get a Korean phone number. It is possible to get a Korean simcard at university, but I recommend to get one at one of the Korean providers if you have a Korean-speaking friend to help you out (SKT or Olleh).

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I present you SNU Campus. It’s the size of a small village..on a mountain… (Credits to Lukas for the picture! Thanks :))

On my third day I had lunch with my personal SNU Buddy. She was super sweet and showed me the pharmacy nearby (this saved my life the… four times I caught a cold in the past two months). A Culture Shock took place here, because when I complained to her about my cold she told me I should probably go to the hospital. At home, I wouldn’t even consider going to see my GP about a cold. Apparently here they don’t do GPs, they just have hospitals and medicine for everything. If you do happen to catch some kind of illness, they offer healthcare at university at the Student Center, building 63. She also showed me a supermarket nearby, and we bought breakfast foods so I wouldn’t starve to death in the mornings, ha ha.

Before classes started I also had several orientations: One CBA specific orientation, a SNU Buddy orientation and an orientation for exchange students in general Although some overlapping information is given, these orientations are a great way to meet people early on in your exchange so I definitely recommend going to all of them!

Other useful things to know beforehand:

  • You need a T-money card to use public transportation (subway, bus, taxi, you can even pay for it at convenience stores). You can buy one at any convenience store or subway station.
  • Having a Korean bank account can come in quite handy- You need it to do online shopping, you can connect it to your student card so you can easily pay for things at uni, it’s easier than carrying around cash all the time and you probably avoid a whole bunch of fees from your bank at home. The school will provide you with the means to open a bank account for free in the first week. I personally didn’t open one because I thought it was unecessary for the four months I’m here. I just withdraw cash at the “global ATMS” on campus.
  • Use the Subway app called….Subway.
  • Learn Hangul to understand the Subway signs…(It’s quite easy!)
  • Pay attention during the first week because the school tells you how to get an S-card (student card) and how to apply for your Alien Registration Card. It’s easiest to get the latter done ASAP (I left SNU station at 8am in order to avoid the line at the immigration office, and it’s safe to get it sent to your place so you don’t have to go through the effort of picking it up).
  • If you need anything for your place, go to DAISO. This store has everything, ranging from food to toiletries to cothes hangers and shower mats. Literally 95% of the household items in my room are from here. I love it.
  • Keep an eye out for SISA (SNU International Student Organizations), the student organization for regular international students. They have some really fun events and throw parties all for free, or for a very low fee. I joined a weekend trip to Mungyeong, and it was amazing. We played paintball, went wine tasting, slept at a nice guesthouse, went hiking and had delicious food for a mere 20,000 won. Definitely made some great memories there!

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Out of Seoul, into the countryside. What a view!

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Don’t we look badass?!

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This is the room I stayed it.. It was basically like sleeping in a bed of feathers.

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Wine tasting is always fun.

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Korean food is super colorful, almost too pretty to eat!

  • If you’re more into meeting local students, join a club! In the first week they have a club fair and you can walk around campus and get to know the different clubs they have here. It’s insane. Aside from the usual sports club, they have calligraphy, golf, scuba-diving, archery, dancing, traditional Korean music, anime and a plethora of others. I definitely recommend at least checking it out. A lot of them are international student/English friendly. I joined the Austronomy club! Yay for stargazing.
  • I also joined the Dream Mentoring Project, which is a volunteer project sponsored by CBA in which you organize events, provide education (in the case of international students: teach them English) and help uderprivelaged juveniles (North Korean defectors, cross-cultural children and orphans) with their development. It is a very fulfilling job, you get to meet a lot of local students and you get a lof of free food!! We also went away on a “camp” for a weekend. As much as I love Seoul, leaving it for weekend trips is always a fun experience.

That ends my mini-series of Must Knows that will hopefully prepare you for your exchange in Korea (or for whatever other reason you might be visiting for a prolonged period of time!). I hope it was helpful– next posts will be about my adventures here, and tips and tops of seeing Korean things and hopefully some traveling as well🙂

Again, feel free to ask me any questions!


email: marissajordan@hotmail.com

Pre-Arrival Must Knows for South Korea

March 17, 2016 by

Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Small update: I’m back in my favorite cafe, the sun is shining and I’ve got a cup of (hot) coffee. After almost a month I’ve finally figured out how to use the toilets here (there’s touchpads and codes involved, don’t judge me).

If you’ve decided to study at Seoul National University, this post is for you! I’m going to try to give you all of the information you need to make your application process and arrival a smooth sailing. First tip for any exchange student: accept all the help you can get! Some of the information will be specific to Maastricht University students, but most of the practical information can be useful for anyone traveling to Korea.

About Seoul National University

Maastricht University has three partner universities in Korea: Seoul National University (SNU), Yonsei University and Korea University. I personally knew I wanted to study in Korea, so I had no preference for a university. I ended up putting SNU as my number one choice because it is known to be the best university in Korea.


Vey reliable source.

For a regular student it’s incredibly difficult to get into SNU—only the top 1% students in the country are accepted. Exchange students are luckier, since we add to the inernational diversity and a lot of things are arranged through our universities. The grade admission requirement is a GPA of 6.

If you’re trying to decide whether to go in the fall or spring semester, the fall semester has about double the number of exchange students (600 vs. 300) and a lot more English courses available. However, the weather is absolutely amazing in spring, and you’ll (hopefully) have wrapped up all your business for your bachelors in Maastricht. Ultimately, it’s personal preference. I wanted to enjoy exchange without having to worry about things back home. For me, classes back in Maastricht finished in December, and since classes didn’t start here until March I had plenty of time to finish my Capstone (probably called bachelor thesis for you) and travel around beforehand (very convenient if you have a special someone to visit who’s on exchange as well🙂🙂🙂 ). Some of my friends even had time for an internship!

Pre-arrival Information

If I had to describe the application procedure in one word, it would be frustrating. It wasn’t difficult per say, but it took a long time. Whereas the spring semester is the second half of the school year for me, the school year starts in the spring for Korea so you’re mostly contacting people during their “summer holidays”. The time difference and language barrier in Korea made things a bit more challenging as well.


May 27, 2015– Announcement of allocation (“Yay I’m going to Korea!”

September 9, 2015 – First email received from SNU. This email contained a list of all the documents you had to hand in to IRO (deadline: October 2, 2015) who would send it to SNU (deadline: October 20, 2015)

  • Statement of purpose (A brief motivation letter about why you want to study in Korea and SNU in particular)
  • Two letters of recommendation (tutors are usually willing to do it, but make sure to contact as many as possible as soon as possible. They are very busy people!)
  • Certificate of enrollment (You can get this at Student Service Center)
  • Copy of passport
  • Two photographs (3×4)

December 18, 2015 – Acceptance package arrived

  • Once you have received the acceptance package, you can apply for a visa. My acceptance package didn’t include the “Certificate of Business Registration”, I contacted SNU and they emailed it to me.
  • The D-2 student visa is single entry—don’t panic, once you are in Korea you get the alien registration card which you need if you want to stay in the country for longer than 90 days. The university will give you tons of information about how to apply for it when you arrive.

January 22, 25&26, 2016 —Course pre-registration
January 28&29 and February 1, 2&3, 2016 – Course registration

  • The course registration seems quite stressful at first. However, if you figure out which courses you want and how to work the website beforehand, it’s pretty easy to do. During the pre-registration you can make a list of the courses you want, so during the actual registration period you can easily find the courses you want to enroll in. If you do not get the courses you need, don’t worry! The first week of classes is for dropping and registering for courses as well. In that week, you can try registering for the courses online anyway or go to the class and ask the professor for a signature. I was only able to register for 3/5 courses during the online registration period, but managed to get all the courses once I got here.
  • 1 SNU credit equals 2 UM credits. Most courses are worth 3 SNU credits/6 UM credits. This means that in order to get the required 26 credits back at home I needed 5 courses (equal to 15 SNU credits/30 UM credits.). I had to take 3rd and 4th year courses, and one course was allowed to be non-business related. Make sure to check the credit-requirements, they may have changed!

First week of February – Application for on-campus housing (dormitory)

  • On-campus housing is convenient for exchange students. It’s cheap, there are cheap cafeteries and there are a lot of other exchange students. However, you have shared facilities and it’s a bit isolated from the rest of the city.

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in the dorms. In my opinion the application date as well as the announcement of results (mid-Feb) were very late. Since they couldn’t guarantee me a spot I was more comfortable with hunting for a place myself. I had heard it was quite difficult for foreign students to find something, but I had a lot of help and ended up finding a great place.

My room is close to exit 1 and 2 at Seoul National University station, about 1.4 km away from the SNU main gate on campus. This area is the most popular alternative to the dorms, and quite a few exchange students live here. Mt room felt a bit barren at first, but after a week I was fully settled in and now I absolutely love it. I have my own fridge and bathroom with shower. There is a common kitchen (with an endless supply of free, cooked rice, kimchi, noodles and coffee) and a washing machine on the roof (not as terrifying as it sounds). I like to walk to university (it takes me about 20 minutes, up the mountain!), but there are busses and free shuttle busses in the area that go to campus. My favorite thing about my place is the location. SNU station is famous for its cheap restaurants and bars. Meetups usually happen around this area. I like being on time, so if I’m meeting people at 19:00, I leave my place at 18:58. The clubbing areas are easily accessible by subway (SNU station is on the green subway line, which is the main line) and later in the night you can take a taxi, which is a lot cheaper compared to Europe (especially if you share the fee). Another big plus: my landlord is a sweetheart.

If you decide to look for something yourself:

  • Contacts: Michelle from IRO, ziptoss, goshipages
  • Location: SNU Station or Nokdu. Naksongdae is a possibility as well, but the other two are probably better.

February 6 – February 22, 2016 – Application for the SNU Buddy program

  • Highly recommended!! The buddies are very active and it’s the best way to meet new people (exchange students as well as local students)

February 26, 2016 – First orientation

March 2, 2016 – Official start of the semester

After that: FUN!!!!

Of course, dates vary per semester, but this is to give you a picture of when to expect what. This is it for now! Hope it’s helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Next post will include post-arrival information!


email: marissajordan@hotmail.com



March 10, 2016 by

My name is Marissa Horst, I’m currently 20 years old (22 Korean age!) and I’m spending the spring 2016 semester at Seoul National University in South Korea. I’m a half Dutch, half Filipino regular student at Maastricht University. Loving life at the moment—sitting at a cafe near my place, drinking coffee (iced, they’re a fan of iced coffee here and my basic knowledge of Korean failed me), borrowing wifi and writing a bit. I’m very excited to be blogging about my experiences. Doing this in part to, hopefully, persuade future exchangees to choose my destination, but also to show my family and friends I’m still alive. It’s been quite difficult to find the time to update them about my adventures with the time difference (sorry!).

I arrived a bit over two weeks ago, and my time here so far has been amazing. This post will be about my time here so far, and the next one will have all the practical details for those planning on coming here after me🙂

Why did I choose South Korea?

A lot of exchange students I’ve spoken to have great reasons for choosing South Korea as their exchange destination. Some people have their roots here or a lot of Korean friends back home. Others are passionately in love with the Korean culture. I simply chose a destination I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit, let alone live in. This exchange is my first truly independent adventure, so I decided I might as well take a plunge into the unknown. As a friend of mine so eloquently put, doing your exchange in South Korea is a way to get out of your comfort zone, but in a softer way. Of course most things are very different from back home (the food, the people, the culture), but it’s similar in the way that the standard of living in Korea is quite high (a quick Google search says it’s above average), they are economically and technologically advanced, and they are open to westernization. Definitely not regretting my choice!

My experience so far  

The first few days were spent meeting new people and eating a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Culture point #1 I’ve noticed is that Koreans take their food seriously (my mom is the same. Go Asia!). Food to Koreans is what coffee is to Europeans. It’s social, fun and yummy. Fortunately, it’s relatively cheap. You can easily find a good-quality meal for 7,000 won/5 euros (on campus it’s even cheaper, because it’s all government funded). There is a a lot of pork, a lot of rice and sidedishes, and very little fruit (it’s there, but it’s too expensive for my student wallet!).

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Korean bbq. Yum!!

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These wonderful people saved me from starvation and helped me get over my jet lag on my first night here. Thanks for putting up with me after a ten hour flight and a lot more hours of no sleep!

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My personal buddy, Miji. She’s awesome! If the dishes in the picture tickle your fancy, go to a Korean restaurant and order “bossam”.

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Kiyeon, who gave me a crash course in “How To Survive Being An SNU Student”. Also known as Life Saver.

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A meal at one of the SNU cafeterias. 3,000 won and pretty good. This is called “bibimbap”. If I recall correctly, it means “mixed rice”, and you basically just mix everything.. with the rice…

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This is my favorite restaurant. They serve Korean bbq but with beef instead of pork! We went there with about 12 people and without reservations. I thought it was too full to fit all of us, but somehow the nice Korean lady managed to squeeze us in!

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This is my favorite Korean dessert from a place called “Sulbing”. It’s similar to another Korean dessert called “papingsu”, except instead of shaved ice it’s shaved milk, and it’s delicious. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it. My friend and I are on a mission to taste every flavor. I’ll update you on our top 3. The one in the picture is chocolate, yummmm.

I have so many more pictures of good food with even better company to show you, but I’ll contain myself.

After the first week, I thought I’d been doing way too much socializing and eating and not nearly enough “cultuur snuiven” (my favorite Dutch saying, it literally means “culture sniffing”). Surprinsingly enough I’d picked up a lot more of the Korean culture than I thought. I was able to relay a lot of information I’d learned from the people who helped me survive in my first week (mostly funfacts and Korean drinking games) and was often mistaken for a returning exchange student. Either way, I thought it was time to finally start exploring my surroundings. I went out to do cultural activities with friends, but also with the College of Business Administraton (CBA) faculty and Korean students that have an elaborate buddy program for exchange students.



View of Seoul from the N Seoul Tower. Pictures can’t do the city justice!


Koreans have a strong couples culture. It is seen as very important to be in a relationship. These benches can be found throughout the city. If love hasn’t found you yet, they will act as your Cupid!


Similar to the Pont des Arts in France, couples can eternalize their love for each other by attaching locks to the fencing around the N Seoul Tower. Alternatively, phone cases are used as well. So romantic!

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The Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must see. This is a pagoda in the area, I was lucky to see it covered in snow.


Colorful Korean architecture. Parts of the Gyeonbokgung Palace when it’s not snowing.



Myeongdong is one of the most famous shopping areas. It’s vibrant and crowded, and after five you can get streetfood there. My advice: taste as much as possible, especially the things that look a bit weird!

This is where I’ll wrap it up. It’s hitting lunch time and my water boiler finished cooking the water for my instant noodles (it’s called assimilation, guys.). Gamsahabnida for reading, and see you next time!



Goodbye Hong Kong… for now

December 25, 2015 by

My last weeks in Hong Kong were determined by the last course work of the semester and the exams that took place in the two weeks before christmas. Now I am finally done with everything and already travelling Southeast Asia for a few weeks, going to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, before my last semester in Maastricht starts. During the last weeks there were a few last organisational matters to be dealt with, such as checking out of the student halls and signing off at the university, but it was as usual relatively easy to master given the instructions provided.

In this post, I want to talk a little bit about my life outside university, especially travelling. First of all, and for some maybe most important for their stay abroad: Hong Kong is  a great base camp to explore the surrounding countries and Asia in general. Many of the people that I have met here travelled to such a variety of countries that you can’t even think of yet. I for myself decided to mostly stay in Hong Kong itself and see and explore as much as possible of the city. Hong Kong offers a great diversity of attractions, from experiencing the metropolitan megacity-life first hand in the streets of Mong Kok to doing hikes in seemingly untouched nature in the New Territories.

During the last months I tried to dive into the Asian culture as much as possible and find out more about their different way of life. For this purpose, I cannot stress enough how many great people you will meet, if you also go onto such an exchange, and that these people will facilitate your experiences and adventures.

Regarding my travels during the semester, I only chose two places for longer trips and did two daylong ones. First, I went to Taipei in Taiwan, which is a city/country I would probably not decide to travel to while being in Europe. Because of this I was even more surprised how many amazing things I found there, which made the trip a really great time. Furthermore, I went to Yangshuo in China to a completely surreal world of so-called “Karst” mountains that stick out of the ground. I explored the countryside by scooter and visited limestone caves.

My first daytrip led me to Macau, another special Chinese region that not only has a lot of Portugese colonial heritage, but is also the largest gambling city in the world. I also went to Shenzhen in China to experience a typical Chinese industrial city that emerged from a small Fisher village to a multi-million metropolis in just about 40 years.

I had a great time during the past semester in Hong Kong that I do not want to miss and I can only encourage everyone to seek such an experience as well.

Thank you for reading about my adventures in Asia during the last months and Merry Christmas!🙂

Halftime for my trip through Asia!

November 1, 2015 by

Here in Hong Kong it is already week 9 out of 13 in the education period and after I had various midterms during the last weeks, I am now working a lot on group assignments, essays and other additional work to the day to day seminar preparations. Furthermore, the final exams are approaching and I am already very much looking forward to the end of my semester, when I can travel and explore this continent without any constraints concerning work or uni.

I will go into detail about my different courses in a minute, but first a few general things that I experienced during the last two months. The courses here at Polytechnic University are mostly organised as seminar with about 40 people per class. The seminar then mostly is a 3h-lecture with some interaction and exercises. Given that there are (for UM students) five courses at a time and quite some group work next to the classes, the pace of study is relatively low compared to what I am used to from Maastricht. Given the constraints of SBE and PolyU, there is a relatively narrow choice of courses, but with some research it should be possible to find some interesting ones.

At PolyU there seems to be large emphasis on group work and essays, even more so than in Maastricht. Here, I have presentations, group reports and other assignments in every single course and this continuous assessment makes up about 50% of the final grades. Most of these extra assignments are due in the last weeks of the semester, so I am working on many of them right now.

Corporate Finance

Corporate Finance is probably my best course here. It directly builds upon my Maastricht Finance course and we learn about all the financial issues that a corporation faces and how to deal with them. Topics include securities, long- and short-term financing, dividends and capital structure. Maybe on a more general note, I made the experience that it is often quite helpful to read the book, since it can sometimes be hard to understand the teacher or what is going on in class.

Workload: High; Overall quality: Very good

International Finance

International Finance also builds upon my Maastricht pre-knowledge and looks at some concepts from International Economics out of a Finance perspective. However, it goes far more into detail. Topics include financial markets and its different players, portfolio theory and capital structure.

Workload: Medium; Overall quality: Good

Business Valuation

Business Valuation is in my opinion not recommendable for students with an Economics background, since you need quite extensive accounting knowledge as a basis to understand the new concepts introduced during the course, which unfortunately was not mentioned in the course description. For this reason, I can not really extract much knowledge or added value from this course, because I was not able to participate as much as I would be with the right pre-requisites. Topics include the different steps of the valuation process, from strategy, accounting and financial analysis to forecasting and the actual valuation.

Workload: Very high; Overall quality: Poor

Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing is in general rather easy and unchallenging, with the small exceptions of two group presentations and the final exam. Topics include various ways of doing business online, from product management and CRM to online strategy.

Workload: Low; Overall quality: Poor

Strategic Management

Strategic Management is probably the most unusual course I am taking here. The seminars are organised as a discussion round, where people are supposed to share their ideas about the topic “Strategy”, whereas the actual lectures with the course content are online videos. While one therefore does not actually learn anything during the seminars, the participation grade counts for 30% of the final grade. Furthermore, there are a lot of small and large assignments and essays to fulfil over the course of the semester. One of the good things about this course are the guest speakers (mostly alumni from PolyU) that come into the class and share their ideas about strategy.

Workload: High; Overall quality: Medium

Overall, I am mostly satisfied with my choice of courses, even though it is very noticeable that I have a completely different background than everyone else here. The courses are not very challenging from an economic perspective, but more about learning concepts and procedures. Maybe one last thing that I was surprised of encountering here, were the working ethics of many local students . They not only regularly come late to class (>45 minutes) and are hardly ever prepared, but also sleep in class all the time. These and other observations, in my opinion, show a work morale that would not be sustainable in Europe.

In the remaining weeks, I will try to enjoy my time as much as possible, despite the work for uni, and see even more of this great city, before I will start my travels to the rest of Asia mid-December.

The first weeks in Hong Kong

September 13, 2015 by

It has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Hong Kong. The first week was mostly about adjusting to the new surroundings and the environment (especially the weather), while in the last two weeks university already started.

After I had some problems with my flight to Hong Kong, I was glad to arrive with only a few hours delay. Even though I did not get picked up, it was very easy to find the right way to the city. You can go by MTR, taxi or bus, of which I chose the latter, because you can already get a nice overview of the city. I arrived too early in Hong Kong to move into the student hall of the university immediately, so I stayed at a hostel on Hong Kong Island for the first two nights. It was great to already meet some new people and getting to know the city from this other perspective.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University provides on-campus accommodation in the form of student halls for all exchange students. The location is here one of the main advantages: I live right in the centre of Kowloon in the district of Hung Hom. Also the price of the halls is practically impossible to beat. One can live here for the whole semester for less than 700€. With respect to the crazy high housing prices in Hong Kong, this is the best deal you can get. The house is located just 10 minutes walking distance from the campus. The hall itself offers space for over 3000 students from all backgrounds (local, exchange, post-graduate, …) that live here in double rooms with 4-shared bathrooms.

PolyU Student Hall Hung Hom

PolyU Student Hall Hung Hom

The furnishing in the rooms is rather basic and you have to buy your own bedding, pillow, blanket and whatever else you might need in addition to a desk and some cupboards/wardrobes. One more important thing about the rooms: WiFi is not provided, even though that is beyond my understanding of modern studying, so you need to buy a router. In general, the rooms are small, but sufficient to live in for a few months, especially with regard to the prices of a potential private flat.

During my first day in the hall most organisational matters could be dealt with and there were orientation and welcoming events to inform everyone about the hall and university life. In my opinion it was quite easy to get used to the new environment and there are a lot of exchange, but also local, students that are very open to meet new people.

University life here is somewhat different from what I am used to in Maastricht, but I am sure I will be able to adapt to that. I will post a separate blog entry about my courses and the general classroom experience. Overall, I am very satisfied with my choice of city as well as university for my exchange semester and look forward to the coming weeks.

Leaving an amazing time and country behind

August 16, 2015 by

Since you already know that my time in Taiwan is coming to an end, i will skip all the heart breaking memories of places where I have been and that I left.

Rather this time i would like to focus on the people who made this trip great.

Hitch-hiking, no problem.

Asking people to show you a hotel and ending up staying at their place with the most amazing dinner, no problem.

I could go on but i would bore you with events and people which you have neither eimagexperienced nor met.

Hereby i wish you farewell, safe travels and a lot of fun in Taiwan!

The Finale

August 14, 2015 by

Hello everyone!

My time in Taiwan has sadly come to an end and I am faced with the hard task of having to say goodbye to so many awesome people which I have met along the way.

I am sure that many Taiwanese families have numerous pictures of me on their phones and camera’s, because everywhere we went, there was always a camera toting local who was so amazed by my blond her and fair skin that he simply had to add me to his vast photo collection!🙂

The Taiwan chapter has taught me many a thing. It has opened my mind to new experiences, new ways of thinking, and new ways of preparing food!😀

The island itself has an amazing amount of hidden gems and unforgettable sites such as Alishan or Green island which are as different as night and day, yet still belong to the same country and are no more than a 3 hour hitch-hike apart! Walking among thousand year old trees up in the mountains or collecting sea shells on the beautiful beaches of Kenting with the sound of an ongoing festival in your ears, is an amazing way of living which I will not forget in a hurry.

To conclude this post here are some snapshots from what I have experienced.

DSC03634 DSC03644 DSC03708 DSC03709 DSC03710 DSC03728 DSC03731 DSC03770 DSC03773