Degree Studies

I’ve finally come back to Seoul!

(Actually came back about a month ago, but it’s been a busy month.)

I am now starting my Master’s program at Yonsei University GSIS.

GSIS, again (?), is Graduate School of International Studies. Yonsei had one of the first GSIS divisions, but now there are others at places like SNU, Korea University, Hanyang, Sogang, etc. These are departments within larger universities that generally have a completely different administration (admissions process, etc). They offer a limited number of subjects, usually having to do with international trade, international relations, international business, and some area studies (like “East Asian Studies” or “Korean Studies”), and the majority (if not 100%) of classes are in English.

I was lucky in that what I want to study is available at the GSIS because personally I would not have chosen a program that is not in English. (There are other programs that are available in English, but you need to check by university and department.) For more on the non-English graduate experience check out Lolaloveskorea’s video here.

My experience so far is nothing like that. At Yonsei GSIS you have to complete 48 credits, and a thesis is not required. (At other GSIS schools like Korea U., I believe, a thesis may be required.) If you choose to write a thesis (for which you need at least a 3.7 GPA in the first year) then you need 42 credits worth of classes and the thesis.

One class is 3 credits, so if you plan to finish in the standard 2 years, then you need an average of 4 classes (12 credits) per semester.

Right now I’m actually doing 5 classes, 4 regular ones and Korean language (for fun?) We’ll see how that goes. There is a point later in the term when I can drop classes without having a grade registered, so if it seems like too much I may do that. Other than Korean language (which has about 11 people), I have 3 “core courses” and one “elective.”
The core courses are required for everyone (필수 as Lola explained). At Yonsei GSIS those are International Relations, Introduction to International Economics, some kind of intro to research methods (there are two choices) and Academic Writing. Some of those you can get waived if you have previous equivalent experience. I don’t have to do Academic Writing because I’m a native English speaker, so that’s why I’m only taking 3 core courses right now.

These core courses tend to be quite big because most people have to take them. Each one has at least 50 people. (There are 85 new students total.)

My elective course (Modern Korean Japanese Relations) is smaller, with only about 15 people.

With only a few exceptions all of the professors did their graduate studies in English speaking countries, and most of them did undergraduate studies abroad as well. So far all of my professors speak excellent English (though I’m sure there are exceptions).

Evaluation is based on a variety of things. The core classes tend to be more focused on exams because there are so many people. I’m sure as I shift to more elective courses there will be more papers and presentations.

Overall, I would say that Yonsei GSIS is geared more toward professionals than academics. There are relatively few PhD candidates (only 2 new of the 85), and my impression is that most people do not write a thesis for their Master’s degree (if you plan to go on to do a PhD then you need to write a Master’s thesis). Most people, it seems, are planning to go directly from the Master’s degree to jobs in business or government. Which is fine with me, but is something you should consider when choosing a program. (Not all GSIS are created equal, so if you are considering a GSIS look into how they differ.)

In that sense it really seems like an extension of undergraduate studies (though granted, as an undergraduate the majority of the classes I took were actually graduate level…).

Different majors (especially in scientific fields) and different schools will be vastly different from my experience.

But if you haven’t yet please please watch Lola’s video. I’m certainly not saying don’t come to study in Korea, but come with your eyes open and know what you are getting yourself into.

6 thoughts on “Degree Studies”

  1. Hey I just got into the KGSP through the US Embassy and am being reviewed by Yonsei and SNU GSIS right now. I was hoping you could tell me about the Yonsei GSIS and your experience with it so far. I studied at Yonsei last summer through the international institute so I know what the campus is like and all that. I just don’t know what the GSIS is like. Thanks for your help!

  2. Hello Elizabeth, I hope your exams went well. Do you plan to update your blog again? If you do I thought maybe you could make an article about the courses you had at Yonsei GSIS (what they are about, what is the evaluation like…) when you have time. I think it might be useful for future Yonsei GSIS students like me, especially for the core courses.
    Have a nice week-end!

  3. Hello! Thank you for the blog posts. very useful, Much appreciated.
    I have passed KGSP’s third selection and hopefully I will start language year this September (Yaaay!). I will study at the regular graduate school at Yonsei later on. I was wondering what is the difference between GSIS and regular graduate school? Is the regular graduate school also in English? My major is Political Science and IR ^^

    1. Congratulations. The GSIS is a “professional school” designed to educate people with certain priorities, and the regular grad school is more purely academic. Within GSIS we can register freely for any class whether or not it fits our major, but there is a limit on classes we can take from the other grad schools (and vice versa). GSIS is definitely all in English, but the regular grad school is probably a mix of both (judging from a random selection of course syllabi). You can view course syllabi (even without a student id) at Even if the syllabus is in Korean it’s possible lectures are in English, but there are definitely readings in Korean (often a mix of English and Korean selections), so I can’t guarantee all lectures will be English.

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