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My Experience as a Global Korea Scholar

Sep 5, 2022
5 mins read



💼 Master's Student
⏳ Sep 2021 — Jun 2023
📍 Seoul,
South Korea🇰🇷
🗣 English, Korean
D-2 (Student visa)
Global Korea Scholarship
Global Korea Scholarship
📍 South Korea🇰🇷
🗣 English, Korean
💰 100% Financial Need Met

Hello! I’m a current student at Seoul National University, getting my Master’s at the Graduate School of International Studies. Following my undergraduate graduation, I received the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) which is currently funding my program. I’m here to tell you about the process and realities of living in Korea as a Scholar!

Seoul National University
Seoul National University

What is GKS?

GKS is a scholarship program given by the Korean government to support international MA and PhD students. It’s a three year program for a Master’s degree; covering one year of attending Korean language school, and two years of a graduate program.

What was the application process like?

The application process has two tracks: university track and embassy track. I would suggest going through the embassy track, especially if you are trying for one of the top SKY universities (SNU, Korea University, Yonsei). If you go through the university track, the amount of applicants you’re competing with is much higher.

The embassy track has two stages; in the first round, you are selected as a scholar by the Korean embassy in your home country, and in the second round, your application is forwarded to the universities listed on your application. That means you are essentially by-passing the traditional admissions processes at your intended university, so you don’t need to worry about submitting additional documents, your original scholarship application is enough. The application is free, though it will cost money to print and send it.

The application forms are numerous, with multiple copies needed of a lot of them. Physical copies of your application and letters of recommendation need to be sent to the correct embassy so ensure you are on top of the deadlines and all the forms that are required. Mail can be unreliable, so send them in advance!

Arriving in Korea: What to Expect

If you think the application process is tedious, arriving in Korea is another paperwork nightmare. The program does pay for your airfare though, and the language school you get placed in should help you through the immigration process and setting up a bank account. Be prepared to have an additional copy of your notarized degree.

During language school, you are expected to achieve level 3 on the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean). Even if you have no experience learning Korean, this should be doable after a year of intensive language courses. But, I would strongly recommend doing some self-study on your own before arrival. Try to at least get a hang of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, before the semester starts, as the class pace will move very quickly.

Language courses are usually for four hours, so you do have time to study on your own, as well as explore the area your school is in. Some schools are in quite rural areas, (I was in the outskirts of Gyeongbuk-Do) but don’t let this discourage you. Unlike Seoul, where it’s easy to navigate in English, you’ll have a lot of chances to practice Korean. Since you have a year to learn, use the time wisely and practice as much as you can! I joined a music club at my school, and I was the only foreigner. Yes, it was a challenge, but one that was really worth it. I find that Koreans are incredibly supportive of language learners. So don’t worry about making mistakes- just speak!

Hanok Village
Hanok Village

Student Life in Korea

I found that living as a grad student in Seoul is quite different from my experience in language school in the countryside. Firstly, life is much more expensive, especially if you choose to find your own place instead of living in the dorms. Unfortunately, the amount of scholarship you’re provided as a monthly stipend has not changed with inflation. In addition, even though a D-2 visa does allow students to work part time, the actual Global Korea Scholarship program has a stipulation that you are not allowed to work during the semester unless it is an on-campus job, which are scarce and pay very little. I personally find this rule to be quite frustrating, as while the scholarship is very generous, I don’t find it to be generous enough to regulate finding additional employment. This also makes finding an internship difficult, as a lot of internships in Seoul are paid opportunities.

Another frustrating aspect of this scholarship is regulating when, and for how long, you can choose to go home. Firstly, you cannot visit home during your year at language school. During the grad program, you have to apply for “temporary departure” and submit a form signed by your advisor to get permission to leave. Once you get permission, although the summer and winter school breaks are over two months long, you are only allowed to leave the country for 50 days at the maximum. And if you are gone for over 30 days, money will be taken away from you. I can’t imagine the reasoning behind these rules, but NEIID conducts regular passport checks to make sure that you are following them. Since Covid-19 prevented me from seeing my family for years, having more rules surrounding going home was (and still is) incredibly heartbreaking.

Because of this, I would heavily recommend that you have adequate funds before applying for this program. And if you leave for the maximum amount of time during break, be prepared to have around 600,000won (around $450 USD) taken from you and make plans accordingly.

While these aspects of the scholarship are frustrating, one positive outcome of this program is that scholars are given extra points towards applying for a residence visa (F-1 visa), which should make it easier to remain and work in Korea following graduation.


Overall, I would recommend this scholarship to people who are very interested in learning the Korean language, as the year in language school was incredibly valuable. If you are not interested in Korean culture and language, I think it would be quite frustrating to live outside of Seoul for a year. Be sure you have a good amount of savings as a backup, and keep in mind the regulations about visiting your home country. Once in Korea, it can be challenging to adapt, but most people you meet are incredibly friendly. And despite being a big city, Seoul is quite safe, which is something I’m very grateful for. There is always something to do; networking events, gallery openings, free museums, or just walking along the Han River, all make life in Korea (especially Seoul) lively and a great place for a 20-something.

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