Quest Exchange in South Korea

A land of age-old traditions and culture with a headlong rush into the 21st century, South Korea is a fluid mix of the ancient and the modern. It is a land of tranquil countrysides and urban sprawl. A superb transportation infrastructure in combination with Korea’s compact size allows visitors to go off the beaten path and visit its abundant national parks or travel to some of the more remote islands. Alternatively, urban life is full of cutting edge technology, metropolitan restaurants, and cultural expositions. Studying in South Korea gives students first-hand insight into Asia’s third largest economy and the opportunity to explore a cultural landscape full of pop music, movies and energetic entertainment.

Renowned for its incredible cuisine, South Korea is sure to satisfy exchange students’ taste buds. Kimchi is, by far, the most classic Korean dish and is essentially pickled cabbage with salt and other seasonings. It is important to remember your table manners while eating in Korea. For example, young people are expected to wait for their elders to begin the meal before they may pick up their utensils.

Come experience “Gangnam style” and K-pop culture in real life instead of Youtube!

3 Fun Facts
  • South Koreans love shopping, and the country has some of the biggest shopping malls in the world. The stores are open until 4:00 in the morning, while most restaurants, bars, and cafes are open only until 11:00 p.m.
  • South Koreans enjoy showing off their relationship statuses publically. It is common to see couples holding hands, kissing, and even wearing matching outfits.
  • South Koreans love sweet potatoes so much that there is every possible dish flavored with sweet potato, including main courses, desserts, chips, latte, bread, salads, and sweet potato-topped pizza.
Program Dates

Year

Early March – Mid Jan

Semester

Mid Aug – Mid Jan
Early March – Late July

Short-Term

Short Term
6 weeks
4 weeks

School Life

School in South Korea starts in early March and ends in mid-January. The Spring semester runs from early March through late July, while the Fall semester runs from mid-August to mid-January. Spring semester and year-long students should plan to arrive in South Korea in late February to get settled for an early March school start; however, there is also a mountain camp option for the month of February if students would like to arrive earlier. This camp is also available for one week prior to the August semester start date.

South Korean high school students take their studies very seriously. Students arrive at school around 7:45am to meet with their homeroom teacher and often take ten minutes for meditation. After this short moment of mindfulness, students are marked in for attendance. The school day is split into 6, 50-minute class periods with an hour-long lunch around noon. Similar to the U.S. school system, there are ten-minute breaks between periods for students to get from class to class.

The traditional Korean school system can be very intense, with a strong emphasis on standardized tests. Therefore, international students may be placed in “alternative” high schools that offer a more well-rounded curriculum than traditional Korean high school.

School teachers in Korea are deeply respected and have high expectations for their students. They address each other formally and with respect. Students can expect their teachers to be professional and capable. South Korea has one of the best academic systems in the world. Usually, students wear a uniform- slacks, and button down shirt for boys and skirt and button down shirt for girls.

Technology is deeply integrated into South Korean culture. Many students play video games, watch movies or go to cafes after school. Sports and traditional cultural activities also are popular with young people. Handball, soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, playing music and chorus are all popular pastimes.

Family Life

Students live with a local Korean host family. This provides an excellent opportunity for international students to gain a personal introduction to Korean culture. Koreans are famous for their hospitality and host families will be excited to share their lives with the international student. Many families are smaller than U.S. households with 0-2 children and a possibility that the host father works and lives in a remote location during the week. Houses and apartments are also usually smaller than in the U.S., but are very modern and clean. Students are provided meals, like any member of the family, and should be prepared for simple breakfasts and a lot of noodles!

Many host families will not speak English, but Quest’s in-country partner and Local Coordinator who interacts with Quest students does speak English. That said, language acquisition is an important part of the study abroad experience in South Korea, and host families are not expected to speak English.

Family is considered very important in Korean culture and there is a strong emphasis placed on the relationships and respect among family members. Exchange students should be extremely polite and courteous, especially to their host parents and elders. As an exchange student living with a host family, you will have a special opportunity to experience these relationships for yourself as a new member of the family.

Program Extras

Dorm-style homestay is available for semester and year programs for an additional $1000 fee. Students will stay with other students in an apartment style dorm with one volunteer host parent for each group of no more than 6 students.

Program Requirements

There is no official language requirement for South Korea. But, students must be willing to adapt to classroom instruction and family life in Korean and show an interest in learning the language. Classes will all be in Korean, and students will get more from their time in school with a higher language level.

Visas

For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the South Korean consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It usually takes several weeks to obtain a South Korean visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our South Korean partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

Will students have access to Internet/WiFi at their home and school?

Students can expect to have WiFi access at home, but not at school where electronic devices are generally not allowed.

Can students bring their own cell phones?

Yes, if students have an unlocked cell phone, they could use their personal phone with a South Korean carrier/SIM card.

Can students travel without an adult chaperone if given permission?

Students cannot travel outside of the host area without adult supervision. Travel outside of the host area with adult supervision is authorized if pre-approved by the natural parents, host family, local partner office and Quest.

How much money should students have for spending money?

Students should budget around $300/month for personal expenses, which include entertainment, personal hygiene items, long-distance calls, etc. Additional money should be budgeted for start-up school expenses, such as books, uniforms and supplies. These fees are in addition to Quest program fees.

What are some cultural norms that describe a typical host family in your country?

South Korean families are diverse, so family expectations, interactions and activities vary widely. Some families may afford the student a great deal of independence, while others may expect the student to participate more extensively in family life. Some families may be very active or outdoorsy, while others may prefer to relax at home. Thus, students must be open-minded and ready to adapt to their new host family dynamics.

How are host families chosen?

Quest’s in-country partner is responsible for locating, screening and matching host families with our students. Host families go through a careful screening process, which typically involves in-person interviews, home inspections and references.

How do students apply for the visa and how long does it take?

For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the South Korean consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It usually takes several weeks to obtain a South Korean visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our South Korean partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

How will the student get to and from school?

Students will generally take the public bus or walk. Transportation fees are the student’s responsibility and are not included in Quest program fees.

Is it possible for students to get tutors during their program?

Yes, tutors are available and prices vary based on the subject and duration of tutoring sessions. For Korean language tutoring, the cost would be approximately $120/month.

Can students receive an official document with grades and completed classes after finishing their program?

In general, exchange students in South Korea do not receive grades or grade reports. Schools do sometimes give them a certificate stating that they have attended classes and completed a semester/year of study in South Korea. In order to receive this, though, students must proactively seek it out, as obtaining this documentation is their responsibility before they leave South Korea.

Do schools offer different sports/activities?

Schools offer different sports and activities, depending on the school. However, participation is generally low as schools tend to focus more on academics.

THINK IT OVER

The rewards of life abroad are amazing and wonderful, but are you up for the unique challenges that come with this experience? You will be away from your friends, family and the lifestyle you are accustomed to. You will have to adapt to a new language, culture, school and family. You will have to make decisions on your own and make new friends. Think about it and do some research on the country you want to study in. There is a wealth of information on the Internet that can better prepare you for your adventure!

GET YOUR PARENT/LEGAL GUARDIAN ON BOARD

Your parent(s) or guardian(s) need to help you make your dream happen. The application process takes time and effort, so it is important, at this stage, to make sure your parents support your decision to study abroad and have given you approval to move forward. If they feel that you are prepared and understand what’s required from them, you are ready to move to the next step.

CHECK IN WITH YOUR SCHOOL

You may receive credit from your program, but it is your responsibility to make this happen. Only your U.S. school can decide which credits you can receive. You must approach your guidance counselor to determine if you can get the credits you are hoping to receive. Bring Quest’s Academic Guide with you, and be certain of what you will be responsible for.

CONTACT QUEST FOR PROGRAM INFORMATION AND PAPERWORK

Fill out our online information request form in order to receive important program information from Quest via email. This email will contain Quest’s Program Agreement and Program Guidelines for your review and signature. Carefully review all of this information with your parents and contact Quest if you have any questions. We are here to help guide you through the process so you can make decisions that fit your needs.

CONFIRM PROGRAM DETAILS

The Quest Program Coordinator will confirm with you the program details submitted on your original request form. If you’re unsure of your destination, we’ll help you narrow down your choices to the country and program season that works for you. We will speak with your parents and make sure that everybody feels informed and ready to proceed with the decisions made.

CONFIRM PAYMENT DETAILS

You and your parents will receive the online Payment Agreement, which states the total program price for your selected destination country and Quest’s payment process. Your parents will receive an invoice for the application deposit, which is due before you submit your student application.

COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION

Quest will send you a full student application for the program you have chosen. This application can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. Make sure you give yourself ample time prior to the application deadline to complete the application and supplemental documents.

SKYPE INTERVIEW

This is when you get to meet your Quest Program Coordinator and talk face to (virtual) face. During the interview, the Program Coordinator will assess your suitability for the Quest Study Abroad program. This call lasts 30-60 minutes. Parents will speak with us at the end of the call, but the first part of the interview questions must be answered by the student alone. There is no preparation needed other than to talk about yourself, your desire to participate in the program and why you feel you are ready.

WAITING FOR ACCEPTANCE

Your Quest Program Coordinator will review your application and interview documentation to determine acceptance. Our team members put a lot of thought into the decisions they make, and not all students are accepted into the program. In order to make our decision, Quest must review complete and accurate application materials. We choose students who are emotionally, socially and academically prepared for the study abroad program. We look at each student’s level of maturity, independence and ability to adapt to life in a foreign country.

ACCEPTANCE AND INVOICE

You will receive a letter of acceptance from Quest via email. Your parents will receive an invoice outlining the total cost with only the first 50% of the total due within 10 days. The final 50% of the remaining program fees are due within 30 days of the invoice date.

GET LEGAL – VISA AND IMMIGRATION

This is a very important step in the process and can be very time-intensive. We suggest that you get started researching the requirements as soon as possible with the nearest embassy or consulate for your destination country, as requirements vary by location. Because the process does vary considerably, Quest and our foreign partner office are not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application. Start filling out all of the paperwork well in advance, as visa approval can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to obtain.

SCHOOL AND HOST FAMILY PLACEMENT

This is the hardest part: waiting for your school and host family placement information! Making quality placements takes time, and we will need your patience during this important step. Quest will notify you and your parents of a confirmed placement in a school and then again when you are placed with your host family. Write to your host family as soon as possible to introduce yourself, and let them know how excited you are to meet them.

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT

Working together with you and your parents, Quest will confirm your arrival date and book your roundtrip international flight to your placement area. We will also book your student travel and medical insurance for your trip, so you can rest easier while abroad!

PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION

Your Quest Program Coordinator will help you get prepped for your trip with a pre-departure orientation prior to your departure. You’ll receive an agenda before the call. We encourage you to write all of your remaining questions down so that we can make you and your parents feel prepared for your trip abroad. We will go over the program rules, what to pack, what to do if you need support once you arrive, and more!

LIVE YOUR STUDY ABROAD DREAM!

Congratulate yourself and your family for making this happen. You are on your way to the study abroad adventure that you’ve earned!

Balance your time abroad — keep in touch with those back home, but remember that the point of studying abroad is to be present and active in your host country. Keep a blog or an online photo album so you can show all of the revelations you have had and the sights you have seen. On a rainy day, you’ll be happy to reflect on your growing experience abroad. Stay in touch with Local Coordinators and with Quest. We’d love to hear how you are doing!

Programs Available
  • Year
  • Semester
  • 3 Months
  • 2 Months
  • 1 Month
Application Deadline
  • Year/Fall Semester: April 1st
  • Spring Semester: October 1st
  • Short-Term: Variable
Apply Now

Quest International, a nonprofit organization, promoting international cultural awareness and compassion by providing educational programs for American and International students to live and learn together.