Foreigners Who Want to Study in Korea

Since I have come to Korea, I have met many young people from other countries that have either accomplished getting into the university in Korea or who would like to get into the university in Korea. There are many young people from Bangladesh, India, China, Canada,Romania, even America and other countries too who want to study in Korea.  Yes, I have even met young Americans who show up in Korea enthused with K-Pop or Korean Dramas trying to figure out how to study here in Korea.  Getting into a Korean university is actually a good thing.  Their universities are worth studying in, and they are cheaper than going to school in a place like America or Japan. However, if you don’t begin planning many years ahead of time, it may be virtually impossible to get into a university in Korea.  Korean parents know this, and they prepare for their children.  Sometimes, I wonder if some people falsify their records to make the Korean university happy, but I don’t recommend that to anyone. If you think you might want to study in Korea, you will have to begin many, many years before it is actually time to go to the university because they have some pretty unusual rules.

It takes more than being a fan to study in Korea.

If we want to go to the university in America, we are encouraged to get good grades, but if we learn a lot outside of school and take the entrance exam, but don’t have good grades, we can usually find a school in America who will take us on probation. If we make excellent grades, but destroy the entrance exam, we can also get in on probation.  It is always better to make good grades and do well on the entrance exam, but if you have messed up on one of them in America, it doesn’t mean you just can’t go to school. In Romania, it all comes down to studying hard for an exam, and it may take several years to pass that exam, but once they do, they get in.  If you are an American home schooled kid, you have no hope of every getting into a university in Korea. They just don’t think you can learn anything if you haven’t been in a classroom.  If you have been to an internet school, there is also no hope, some Korean universities will accept Korean students who have gone to school on the internet, but not foreign students.  If you want to go to a Korean university as a foreigner, you better be sure to go to all your classes and get good grades in everything.  They think their university system is superior to everyone’s in the world, and are very picky about letting foreigners attend their universities.

three toddler eating on white table
If you want to  study in Korea, you have to begin thinking about it here, in kindergarten. Photo by Naomi Shi on Pexels.com

The second thing you have to think about if you are a foreigner wanting to study at a Korean university is your records. You have to be thinking about records from the very first moment you enter kindergarten to the time you graduate from high school.  If any record is lost, you are out of luck in Korea.  In America, when you get to the university, they ask you to submit your high school records and assume because you could do high school work that you can do all the work of the lower grades too, but not so in Korea  When you apply to a university in Korea, they will want every record from kindergarten to high school graduation.  If you got a bad grade in kindergarten because you were little and didn’t like listening to your boring teacher tell stories, it will reflect on your records, and because you are a foreigner, it will be frowned on when they see your records. They hold you accountable at every age.  If you were a bad student in middle school, but did better in high school, those middle school records could stop you from getting in.  They let Koreans in as long as they have been to class. Everyone has to have attended all the classes from kindergarten to high school graduation, but they are more picky with the foreigners.  In a lot of ways, their ethnocentric attitudes protect the Korean students. If you want to study in Korea, check to make sure your mother has saved all you report cards. If any are lost, you are out, and there is no hope.

board chalk chalkboard exam
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lastly, if you think you might want to study in Korea in the coming years, study Korean.  The level of Korean required at different universities is different, and the lowest I have heard is getting a 3 on the TOPIK Test, the Korean proficiency. test. Some universities require a 4, but you can get into others with a 3.  Everything will be in Korean, although, there are some universities if you look hard that teach certain subjects all in English, but you still need that score to get into the university.  6 is the highest score you can make on that test, and very few foreigners get a score that high, but I know a few who have made it.  They actually began with the lower score, began studying at the university, and then went back and tested again and got the higher score.

closeup photo of woman on blue textile
Koreans love blonde hair, but if your hair is naturally blonde, your first language is a barrier that makes learning Korean harder for you. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These ladies would have a much easier time than a woman with a European background if they wanted to learn to speak Korean.


If you are a native English speaker and want to study in a Korean university, you are really asking yourself for a challenge.  Korean is one of the hardest languages in the world.  It is going to take a lot more than a high school class like when we teach Spanish or French in high school.  Those languages are much easier for native speakers of English than Korean is.  You are really going to have to be smart and put your brain to it for several years if you want to learn enough Korean to pass that TOPIK test.  If you are Japanese or from a place like Bangladesh, it will be easier for you because the grammar is the same as the Japanese and the Bangladeshi languages.  If you are Chinese, the grammar is someone similar, but the word order is different, but also some of the words are the same, so Korean won’t be as big a problem for you as a native speaker of English or Spanish or some other European language.  However, if you are Hungarian, Korean will be surprisingly easy because Hungarian and Korean are similar in many ways.  Mongolians will also have an easy time with Korean.  The point is, begin studying hard if you want to enter a Korean university because you have to have a good score on the TOPIK test to get in and to understand your professors.

group of people sitting on stairs
Korean language schools can be fun, and you can meet people from all over the world in your classes. Photo by Daniel Nieto on Pexels.com

Before you enter a Korean university, there are several language schools at the big universities, and they do a good job of teaching Korean. One specializes teaching what is on the page and another specializes in how to speak.  From what I understand, Yonsei University’s Korean as a foreign language program emphasizes the written, but they also speak, and Seoul National University emphasizes the spoken, but they also write.  If you are a student studying language at one of these universities, you can get a visa and work part time in Korea if you want.  When you are done with these language schools, you can get credit to use in a university in your country, but if you are planning on studying in Korea, they will not give credit for going to these language schools.  If you want to go to the university in Korea, bringing your Korean up to the level to enter the university is your reward.

close up of apple on top of books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are many young people today interested in Korea because of the K-Pop and the Korean dramas that have been sent out around the world. Korean universities cost a fraction of the price of American universities.  However, if you are so in love with Korea that you think you want to study in Korea, you will really have to prepare hard to get into a Korean university. There was an American girl here who slept on my couch for a while who was completely in love with some K-Pop idol. She was studying Korean and did everything she could to talk her parents into letting her stay around and study in Korea, but they said no. However, if they had said yes, the question is, “Would Korean universities have even accepted her?’  There was another American girl who came because she had been watching Korean dramas online and had fallen in love with Korea.  She didn’t have a college education, but wanted to work in Korea.  If you don’t have a college education, trying to work legally in Korea is just impossible for an American unless you can figure out a way to get a visa, and then get a job. She is back in America going to the university now. The visa is connected to the job for foreigners in Korea.  If you love Korea, you are going to have to prepare to live in Korea. It doesn’t just happen because you love the country. It takes work for foreigners to be able to study or work in Korea. If you are one who loves Korea as a foreigner and wants to study or work here, start preparing early, even as early as kindergarten is not too early.  Good luck!



Leave a Reply