2022 Summer Student Exchange Program Experience

Špela Jelesijevič (ŠSSFD, Slovenia)

Seoul National University, Seoul, Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry


Travelling to Asia has always been on my bucket list since there are different cultures that I want to experience. So when I saw that South Korea offers a great research program, I did not hesitate and applied. At the end of April, I received an email from SEP SEO Young Eun saying that I was selected. I was thrilled and couldn't believe I would be in Korea in a few months.


My Korean experience started on 23rd July when a plane landed at Incheon airport. Two Korean students waited for me and Lea at the airport. After taking the PCR test we went on a dinner and got to know each other. They helped us find accommodation and explained the subway system. I am very grateful to Suwon and Dahye for taking time on Saturday night and welcoming us to Korea. 

Airport pick-up

In the following days, I went sightseeing around the city with Lea who also came to Korea for an internship. We visited together COEX, Bongeunsa Temple, Seolleung and Jeongneung, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Blue House, Bukchon Hanok village, Gyeongui Line Forest Park, and Lotte World. We celebrated Lea's birthday together with Dahye. She took us to a restaurant to eat seaweed soup, a meal that every Korean eats for their birthday. After that, we made her a cake and sang a happy birthday song in Korean. 

Lea's birthday cake

After a week of being a typical tourist, I started my internship at Seoul National University. I worked in the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry in professor Jeong's lab under the supervision of dr. Jarhad. My task was to synthesize an anticancer compound following a multistep scheme. After each step, I purified a product with column chromatography and analysed it using NMR. Although I had some experience with organic chemistry I learned a lot due to specific area. The lab members accepted me nicely, and we went to lunch together in the student cafeteria, or we ordered food. I worked in the laboratory for only one month, but I felt like I belong to them. The professor even invited me to their dinner after a meeting. 

Lab building
Korean BBQ with lab colleagues

The SEP staff organized activities and dinner every other day in the afternoon. The program was well-planned and I met new people at every gathering. We went to some tourist sites and also to places where they hang out as Koreans. I especially enjoyed spending time at Han river during late afternoon and night. Koreans recommended different dishes and I was really surprised at how delicious they all were. It took a few days to adapt to their level of spiciness. At these gatherings, I met other SEP students. There were seven of us, all from Europe: France, Poland, Hungary, Spain and Slovenia. In addition to SEP activities, we went hiking and even took a trip outside of Seoul, to Gapyeong and Nami island. Seoul was shown from a completely different perspective as if I were visiting as a tourist. Working during the day and hanging out with friends until the night, I felt like a true Korean. 

Lotte tower with KNAPS SEP staff
Laser tag with KNAPS SEP staff
Wearing Korean traditional attire, Hanbok

After the internship, I flew to Jeju island where I spent 5 days. Jeju island is beautiful and I am not surprised it got named »Korean Hawaii«. Although there is public transport throughout the island, I recommend that anyone going there rent a car. I spend a few nights in the southern part of the island and then a few days in the northern part. It was the total opposite of busy Seoul and I could appreciate the true nature of Korea. 


In the end, I was really sad when we had to say goodbye, but I knew we would meet one day.


In 6 weeks I meet so many nice people and enjoyed spending time with them. I am truly thankful to all the SEP staff for making my Korean experience memorable and enjoyable. Korea will always be in my heart and I promise to visit again!


Dinner with KNAPS SEP Staff
Laser tag with KNAPS SEP staff
Favorite Korean dessert, Bingsu
With other incoming students