Korea WEST

The Korea WEST exchange program provides top South Korean university students and young professionals the opportunity to work, complete an intensive English study program, and explore the life and culture of the United States through immersion and independent travel.

As part of Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship, WEST scholars come to the United States for up to 18 months for a personalized exchange experience, which includes: English language training and acculturation, placement in professional internships, and the opportunity to travel and sight-see before returning home.

  • Formal English language instruction and cultural training (up to four months)
  • Career-focused internship with U.S. host company (between four to 12 months)
  • Independent travel (up to 30 days following successful internship)

Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST program is a joint initiative of the Republic of Korea and the U.S. Department of State. Since 2009, Cultural Vistas has provided over 1,100 students and young professionals the opportunity to enrich their academic studies and advance their careers through Korea WEST.

What's Included

  • J-1 Visa sponsorship necessary to gain valuable professional experience in the United States for up to 18 months
  • Up to four months of study in a well-respected English language programs
  • Guaranteed placement in a professional internship matches one’s field of study
  • Comprehensive medical insurance coverage
  • Ongoing guidance from our dedicated Korea West program team, including:
    • Pre-departure orientation in Seoul conducted by Cultural Vistas staff
    • Cultural immersion and orientation seminar upon your arrival
    • Assistance coordinating and preparing for interviews
    • 24-hour emergency support and assistance

Program Format

Compact WEST12 Months18 months
2 months of English study3 months of English study4 months of English study
4 month internship6-8 month internship 6-12 month internship
1 month independent travel1 month  independent travel 1 month independent travel

Program Details

Eligibility Requirements

Korea WEST candidates must pass a rigorous application and screening process conducted by MOE (the Korean Ministry of Education). After receiving MOE’s nomination, candidates then apply for Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship. After conducting an English-language Skype interview with all nominated candidates, Cultural Vistas submits the list of accepted candidates to MOE for final approval.

Career-Focused Internship Placements

Drawing on a vast network of partners across the United States, Cultural Vistas seeks to place WEST participants in customized internships that match their professional goals. Placements are based on participants’ field of study and previous work experience. Opportunities at companies of all sizes and industries including:

  • Small and medium private companies
  • Non-government and non-profit organizations
  • Federal, state or city government administration
  • Academic institutions

Duration

Most internships last between six to 12 months. The length of internship positions varies based on host company requirements. The Compact WEST program provides internships for four months.

Process

Upon being accepted to the Korea WEST program, Cultural Vistas staff will begin identifying internship opportunities that meet your skills and experience. Korea WEST staff will provide resume templates to assist participants in creating an American resume. Cultural Vistas staff will arrange and coordinate interviews with potential host employers and assist with interview preparation. Participants are expected to accept any interview offer related to their major and experience. Once an employer has selected you, Cultural Vistas will present you with an official internship offer, which must be accepted in writing to validate your internship under the requirements of the J-1 Visa.

Compensation

Most internships in America are unpaid. However, participants may be eligible for a Korean government stipend for a period of up to 32 weeks (for the 18 month program).

Travel in the United States

Upon successful completion of their professional internship, Korea WEST participants have 30 days to travel independently throughout the United States. While travel is allowed during language school and internships, it should not conflict with one’s language training or internship.


Costs

Costs for the Korea WEST exchange program cover tuition fees for the language school studies, internship sponsorship, including personalized placements, vetting of hosts, and insurance, application, and SEVIS fees.

Program LengthFees
6 months$5,750
12 months$7,300
18 months$8,900


Inside the Korea WEST Experience


English Study Locations

Participants are placed in four-month intensive language training programs (for the 18 month program) in one of four major U.S. cities: New York City, San Diego, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.

Each training program features a comprehensive curriculum focused not only on building English language proficiency, but also with assisting participants to develop the confidence and interpersonal and professional skills necessary to succeed in any business environment.

Go WEST: Study English in New York City

Live and study in one of the world’s most diverse and influential cities: New York. Through its partnership with Kaplan International, Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language skills and begin immersing themselves in American culture – right in the heart of bustling Manhattan!

At Kaplan, Korea WEST participants study together with students from all over the world in SoHo, a trendy, student-centered neighborhood in the middle of the Big Apple. English language courses are taught by experienced English teachers, and all classrooms are equipped with smartboards. Students will be placed in morning or afternoon classes, and include Business English courses.

Learn more about Kaplan International Centers.

Go WEST: Study English in San Diego

Live and study in the culturally diverse and thriving coastal city of San Diego, California.  Through its partnership with Kaplan, Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language skills and begin immersing themselves in American culture in one of the United States’ premier destination cities.

At Kaplan, Korea WEST participants receive formal English training from an experienced and well-known authority in the language instruction community. The curriculum features an array of language components, including classes geared specifically towards the WEST program, which help deliver a comprehensive program designed to build confidence, language proficiency, and the skills needed to succeed in professional U.S. internships.

Learn more about Kaplan International Centers.

Go WEST: Study English in Washington, D.C.

Live and study just blocks away from world leaders in the multicultural hub of U.S. politics: Washington, D.C.  Through its partnership with the International Language Institute (ILI), Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language abilities and begin immersing themselves in American culture in the nation’s capital.

Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., ILI has provided quality language instruction to thousands of students from around the world since 1970. ILI’s intensive ESL program consists of five hours of daily classes daily, Monday through Friday. Business English courses are held two times a week and focus on academic writing, presentation skills, career management, and American cultural orientation.  Korea WEST participants attend classes that are exclusive to the program, as well as ones where they are integrated with ILI students from around the world.

Learn more about the International Language Institute.

Go WEST: Study English in Seattle, Washington

Live and study in Seattle, a home to international renowned corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and Starbucks. Through its partnership with Kaplan International, Cultural Vistas provides Korea WEST participants with the opportunity to advance their English language skills and begin immersing themselves in American culture in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

At Kaplan, Korea WEST participants receive formal English training from experienced and dedicated instructors. All classrooms are equipped with smartboards and the school is located just a few blocks from the famous Pike Place Market. Korea WEST participants attend either morning or afternoon classes and include Business English courses.

Learn more about Kaplan International.

Cultural Vistas WEST Business Workshops

In addition to the regular curriculum, participants also benefit from occasional WEST-specific sessions conducted by Cultural Vistas staff, available via online webinars. Topics include: networking, marketing your international experience and various topics which will shed light on differences between U.S. and Korean business norms.

Cultural Vistas also offers an online interviewing tool for participants to practice on their own at their convenience, and record their practice interviews for review. WEST staff then provide tips, corrections, and additional practice before their actual interviews. These sessions are intended to supplement formal language training and prepare participants for the interview and internship components of the program.

Host a Korea WEST Intern

As hundreds of organizations across the United States have found since 2009, hosting a Korea WEST intern is an enriching experience.

Intern Profile

Korea WEST participants have completed at least two years of university studies or are recent graduates across a range of educational backgrounds that have been competitively selected by South Korea’s Ministry of Education. Once they arrive in the United States, they enroll in up to four months of English language instruction and cultural training, before beginning internships that can vary from 4-12 months.

All participants hold a J-1 Visa issued by the U.S. Department of State that allows them to intern with U.S. companies within the framework of the program.

Host Benefits

  • The exchange of culture, knowledge, and perspectives between U.S. staff and WEST participants is often invaluable.
  • There are no program fees for host companies.
  • Internships can vary in length from 4 to 12 months.
  • Participants enter the United States with all the necessary training documents
  • Cultural Vistas’ staff pre-screens students to assess English language abilities
  • Our team is available throughout the internship experience to provide support to both participants and hosts
  • Comprehensive medical insurance coverage for participants
  • 24-hour emergency support for participants

Eligibility

Host companies are expected to provide participants with meaningful training experiences that enhance professional skills and provide insight into American business practices and culture.

What must a host company provide?

The role of the company is first and foremost to provide an effective and well-rounded program.  In addition, your company will need to provide the following:

  • A suitable office space
  • A designated supervisor
  • Further official paperwork e.g. Tax ID Number, Worker’s Compensation
  • Complete a mid-program and final evaluation

For complete eligibility requirements and additional Korea WEST program information, contact us at koreawest@culturalvistas.org.

Interested in hosting a Korea WEST intern at your organization? Tell us some more.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for a J-1 Visa?

If you are accepted to the Korea WEST Program, Cultural Vistas will provide you with all the necessary documentation you will need to apply for a visa to the United States.

As a J-1 Visa sponsor designated by the Department of State, Cultural Vistas will issue the necessary form (DS-2019) for your in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Korea. Cultural Vistas and the Global Intern Team (GIT) will provide detailed instructions upon your acceptance to the program.

How do I apply for the WEST program?

WEST participants are nominated and competitively selected by the South Korean Ministry of Education (MOE). Prospective candidates cannot apply directly to the program through Cultural Vistas.

How do I become a WEST participant?

Korea WEST candidates must pass a rigorous application and screening process conducted by MOE. After receiving MOE’s nomination, candidates then apply for Cultural Vistas’ sponsorship. After conducting an English-language Skype interview with all nominated candidates, Cultural Vistas submits the list of accepted candidates to MOE for final approval.

How long can I stay in the United States? Can I extend my program?

As a Korea WEST participant, you receive a J-1 Visa that allows you to stay in the United States for up to seven, 12 or 18 months depending on which type of program you take part in. It is not possible to extend your visa past the 18 months originally assigned to you. There are no exceptions. The goal of the Korea WEST program is for you to gain skills in the United States that you can take home to Korea to contribute to the growth of your nation.

The U.S. government grants participants special permission to enter the United States as official guests sponsored by the Korean government, and it is important for the sake of diplomatic relations between our two nations that you graciously honor the terms of your visa arrangement.

Can I return to the United States for another training program after my program ends?

Korea WEST participants are subject to a “two-year rule” because they have entered the United States on a J-1 Visa through the sponsorship of their own government. Under this rule, participants are not be eligible to return for another training or work Visa until they have spent two full years out of the United States. This is intended to reinforce the understanding that J-1 exchange programs are meant for participants to return to their home country with improved skills and experience.

During the two-year period after your Korea WEST program, you may return to the United States anytime for tourism; if you become an international student or exchange student of a U.S. university, you may also enter the US through the university’s sponsorship.  If you wish to enter the United States on a training or work visa before the end of the two year period, you must apply to the U.S. government for a waiver.

Will I receive a refund if I choose not to participate in the program?

For complete details on the refund policy, please reference the Korea WEST application.

How does the placement process work?

Our staff draws upon a vast network of partners across the United States to place WEST participants in customized internships that match their professional goals. Placements are based on participants’ field of study and previous work experience. Internship opportunities come at companies of all sizes and industries including, but not limited to:

  • Small and medium-sized private companies
  • Non-government and nonprofit organizations
  • Federal, state or city government administration
  • Academic institutions

Upon being accepted to the Korea WEST program, Cultural Vistas staff will begin identifying internship opportunities that meet your skills and experience. We will provide resume templates to assist participants in creating an American resume. Cultural Vistas staff will arrange and coordinate interviews with potential host employers and assist with interview preparation.

Participants are expected to accept any interview offer related to their major and experience. Once an employer has selected you, Cultural Vistas will present you with an official internship offer, which must be accepted in writing to validate your internship under the requirements of the J-1 Visa.

How many internship offers will I receive?

Our obligation to you as your Korea WEST sponsor is to find you one suitable offer that fits the following qualifications:

  • Matches your academic background, work experience
  • Meets the qualifications for a suitable Korea WEST internship: Cultural Vistas thoroughly investigates all potential host employers to ensure the organization is reputable and offers a substantive professional training opportunity.
  • If these qualifications are met, you will be expected to accept the interview or internship offer.

How long is the typical internship?

Most internships last between six to 12 months. The length of internship positions varies based on host company requirements. The Compact WEST program provides internships for four months.

Where will my internship take place?

Internship placements with host companies can be located anywhere across the United States. Because each placement is tailored to the individual host and the specific skill sets of the individual, Cultural Vistas cannot guarantee placement with a particular company or in a specific location.

Can I change my internship or have more than one?

If you and your supervisor agree to change the details of your internship (dates, duties, pay, supervisor) you and your supervisor must inform Cultural Vistas so that a new internship training plan can be signed. Cultural Vistas will always encourage you to find ways to succeed in your internship if you are having problems, and we will always place a top priority on your safety and well-being. Our team is highly-skilled in workplace conflict resolution techniques, and we will gladly advise you on how to work with your supervisor to improve your internship if you are having difficulties.

For the 18 month program, if you still have several months remaining on your J-1 Visa after completing your internship obligations, you may independently search for another internship.  Cultural Vistas will be unable to assist you with your search.  After you successfully receive a new internship offer, please contact Cultural Vistas before you begin working. We will need to speak with your future supervisor to verify the appropriateness of the internship. You will have 30 days after successfully completing your previous internship to begin your new internship. If you do not begin a new internship within 30 days, you must return to Korea and end your WEST program.

What paperwork do I need to begin my internship?

Cultural Vistas will coordinate with your new Host Employer to create a DS-7002 form (internship/training plan). After the host employer completes and signs the DS-7002, Cultural Vistas will send participants the form, which must be signed and returned to be approved.  A new DS-2019 (work eligibility document) is then created and mailed along with the DS-7002 to your employer’s office for you to pick up when you arrive for your internship. A digital copy of your DS-7002 will also be provided to participants.

Will my internship be paid?

Most internships are unpaid, however, participants may be eligible for a Korean government stipend for a period of up to 32 weeks for the 18-month program.

Can I cancel my English classes early to begin my internship? Can I get a tuition refund?

The English language training program is essential to the success of the Korea WEST program.  Cultural Vistas has ensured that our language school partners provide first-rate instruction and service to our participants, and we expect that all WEST participants will take full advantage of this excellent learning opportunity by completing the entire duration of language training. All Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST internships will begin after the required language training has been completed.

How will I find housing?

For the language training portion of the Korea WEST program, Cultural Vistas works with its program partners to recommend and provide participants with resources regarding suitable housing options, including information on accommodations at nearby universities or home stays with U.S. host families. Participants should secure housing only for the language training portion because internship locations vary.

Participants are responsible for finding their own housing during the internship portion of the program. Cultural Vistas staff will provide resources to help with your housing search.

Cultural Vistas conducts webinars for each language training location to provide more detailed information on how to find housing, transportation, language schools, and other logistics prior to entering the United States.

Do I need to tell Cultural Vistas if I move to new housing or change my contact information?

Yes, you must inform Cultural Vistas as soon as possible anytime you change any of your contact information.  According to U.S. Department of State regulations, Cultural Vistas must always have your current contact information in our records.  Please tell us your new address, phone number, and e-mail address anytime you change your information.  This is extremely important, especially if we need to contact you in the event of an emergency.

Can I leave the United States during the WEST program?

If you wish to travel outside of the United States, you will need to have your DS-2019 signed by a Cultural Vistas representative before traveling abroad, and take this document with you along with your passport. While travel is allowed during language school and internships, it should not conflict with your language training or internship.

Can I apply for my own internship?

You cannot find and apply for your own internship on the WEST Program. Our team will match you to an appropriate internship at a Cultural Vistas host company based on your major and experience.

Can I see a list of host companies?

Please refer to Cultural Vistas’ Korea WEST brochure to see a list of previous host companies. Remember, certain host companies may not be available due to capacity, interest, specific qualifications or other circumstances.