I am a senior student in an international business university in Daejeon. I have been here in Korea for almost 4 years and beginning this year I have been actively looking for an internship and building up my profile. Part of it is because I have pre-graduation anxiety and constant fear of unemployment. I feel the loss and worry of every student in this stage of life. It is even more worrying when you are in a foreign country and your foreign language skill is not that good. But don’t worry my friends, this article is for every university student who starts off with zero Korean skills and is struggling to find a place here in Korea.
I am from Vietnam. However, my courses at the university in Korea were all in English. As a result, I didn’t need to have Korean skills to enroll in this university. I started off with zero Korean. I did not even pre-study Korean before coming to Korea because my main focus was English, the language I would be studying in.
During my 3 and a half years here in Korea, I started studying Korean. But, to be honest, I have so many classes and school activities to participate in, so learning Korean was not my priority. After all, I was already living in a second language, and adding a third was just too much while pursuing my degree.
Fast forward to now, I am a senior in my last semester with topik 3 (I know, so low T.T). But what I gained instead was an online internship for a Singaporean company. It was a summer internship in an NFT company located in Seoul. And, this upcoming semester, I am about to do another full-time internship in a marketing company in Seoul.
School, specifically the CDC (career development center) at school. I applied for every internship opening (and job openings as well but of course, I don’t get any yet). I found that my school had a good network to help students find internships. Plus, a good network with alumni to further connect prospective graduates with potential job leads.
I understand that having anything lower than topik 4 (and not having a Topik certificate) will limit your job options. But, since the jobs are introduced by your school, there is a possibility that the company wants students from your school. This means you already have an advantage compared to normal candidates that apply through different means.
However, keep in mind that the competition for the internships from your school may be high, that’s when your grade and your relevant activities come in handy. Even if you don’t have a language certificate (yet), you have your grade to prove your academic profile to the coordinators at school.
I applied for everything. At first, what I got was just a summer program for a company. And having that on my CV helped me get more and more internship offers. It’s getting easier for me to get an internship. I’ve even had job offers for positions that normally require Korean topik 4. You can ensure them that you will improve your Korean in the near future.
My advice is to try to apply for jobs and go an interview, even if you know you won’t get the job. What you get is the experience and better preparation for the next interview.
Meanwhile, I increased the Korean classes on my schedule and prepared for the Topik exam. You HAVE to get at least topik 4 when you graduate to ensure that you meet the minimum requirements of most job openings in Korea. Plus, there are extra restrictions when applying for working and job searching visas if you don’t have a topik 4. That’s why I took a lot of classes just to increase my score on the topik exam.
Also, sometimes universities open some classes for students to prepare CVs, interviews, etc… Join all of them to get the perfect and most relevant CV in the future.
You need to have thick skin and a certain level of confidence in yourself. Here in Korea, the competition is high, especially for non-English native speakers. Regardless of your topik score, acing a Korean interview is key to getting a job or an internship. Which, let’s face it, is 70 percent confidence.
You definitely have to have a plan to study Korean, even after graduation. Having topik 4, or even a topik 6 but not being able to speak Korean, will result in unemployment.
Last but not least, jobs are not only in Korea. For some, working here just isn’t in the cards. I have heard stories of people getting hired in a heartbeat. However, some people do everything right and have a great resume but for one reason or another, opportunities don’t come on time. If you are facing that circumstance know that, as discouraging as it is, this isn’t the end of the line.
You always can apply for other jobs in either your home country or other countries where they may value your skills in a different way than in Korea. You can always try coming back when the time is right. Be flexible and well-prepared because the job market is not easy. Good luck to you all.
If you don’t have access to a university Career Development Center, don’t worry there are other resources. Click Here for the best places to look for jobs and internships in Korea.