Gilman Blog #5 | Taking Classes at Ewha

I have already received so many questions from others asking me about Ewha and the differences between Ewha and Macalester, so in this post, I will address some of the aspects of Ewha in contrast with Mac. Here are some background info on both schools first:
Macalester College (Saint Paul, MN)
Founded: 1874
Undergrad student body: ~2,100 students
International students: 25%
Students who study abroad: 60%
Full course load: 4 classes (16 credits; 4 credits each class)
Average class size: 17 students
Ewha Womans University (Seoul)

​Founded: 1886
Undergrad student body: ~15,000 students
Number of exchange students: 400-500 each semester
Full course load: 5 classes (15 credits; 3 credits each class)


Break time during Practical Korean class!

My classes at Ewha:Β 

1) Introduction to Korean Culture
This is my favorite class this semester probably due to the fact that it resembles a class that I might take at Macalester. Most students are international students and class participation is more frequent because the class size is around 25. The professor is Korean-American and she teaches in a way that is very engaging and requires students to think critically. I personally really like the content of the class. So far, we have learnt about Korean shamanism, Confucianism, and the Korean educational system. Later in the semester, I will be researching and presenting on urban spaces in Korea so I’m really excited about that (if you know me, I really enjoy learning about sustainable urban development in the East Asian context).

2) International History of East Asia
I have really mixed feelings about this class. While the syllabus covers everything I would like to learn about East Asia, the course format is 100% lectures. The class has about 60 students (the largest class I have ever been in), and the professor isn’t the most engaging. I learn best when I am given the opportunity to answer questions and to think/form my own opinions, so I feel like I learn the most from this course when I complete the assigned readings.

3) Social Problems in the Contemporary World
At Ewha, this course is listed under the Social Welfare department. Compared to Macalester courses, this class is a cross between Poverty, Health, and Development and Intro to International Human Rights, both classes under the International Studies department. While the class is interesting and adds a bit of policy and theories into the mix, I feel like the content of the class is a bit repetitive. As a student participating in discussions (in class and in the online class forum), I feel like my academic background on the topic is more law-related due to the fact that I took two classes with Professor von Geldern at Mac. This means that my answers and supporting evidence tends to come from international law and UN declarations versus personal opinion and assumptions.

4) Korean Economy
In all honesty, I have no clue how to study for this class. While I have taken Principles of Economics at Macalester, this class touches more on history and facts instead. The professor often goes on tangents and I have a hard time concentrating on the purpose/point that he is trying to make. (Usually this happens in other classes as well if the professor is proficient in English but not fluent; the language barrier makes it difficult to understand more complex concepts) So far, I find some of the information interesting, but I don’t know if I should be memorizing dates and random facts for the final exam or….

5) Practical Korean I
I really like taking language classes, especially introductory language classes. Everyone is always accepting of others’ mistakes and all of us have a good time laughing and learning together. Although I have taught myself hangeul (Korean alphabet) and know a decent amount of Korean vocabulary, I have absolutely no knowledge of Korean grammar. I know nouns, but I needed to know verb conjugations and participles to make sentences. I will admit, the class is easier for me because I have previous background in Korean, unlike others in my class, so studying doesn’t take as long. Plus, having knowledge of Chinese is extremely usual as many Korean words sound similar in Cantonese and Mandarin.


My Social Probs class in a lecture hall. We have a lecture hall for 120 students, but the class only has 45 students πŸ˜€


At the E-lounge writing this blog post!

Ewha Campus Complex (ECC): Opened in 2008, the building is renowned for its unique architecture done by Dominique Perrault, a French architect.


Life outside of classes:Β 
For two hours each week, I dedicate time for tutoring Ewha students in English as an E-Pal. Students are able to make an appointment online with me and I can help them prepare for English exams or just improve conversational skills. If no one is scheduled, I am able to do homework at the E-lounge.

Study Abroad Fair
In November, Ewha will host a study abroad fair for its students. I will be representing the US as well as Macalester and answer questions from local students.

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and in no way representative of all Macalester or US students studying abroad at Ewha or South Korea. If you would like me to elaborate on my views, don’t hesitate to contact me via messaging or email.

Personally, being at Ewha made me value the education I am receiving at Macalester. Yes, I do realize that Ewha is a top-tier institution in South Korea and is actually much more selective than Macalester if I were to apply as a local Korean student. However, I enjoy the small class sizes at Macalester (my smallest class had 9 students) and the close relationships that I have with my professors. I miss having intellectual discussions with students every day at Cafe Mac. I miss the ability to drop by my professors’ office hours unannounced and “complain” about my problems. I have never regretted choosing Macalester, and being abroad has reaffirmed my choice in selecting a small liberal arts college as my home for four years. I value my time here at Ewha and in Seoul very much and will treasure all the memories that I will make here, but at the end of the day, I do think that a small higher ed institution is for me.


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