Time is already passing by too quickly. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve already been in Korea for an entire two weeks!
What naturally proceeds from this is that a lot of what I have experienced so far seems to blur together in my mind. If I were to give detailed daily accounts of my life in Seoul, this blog entry would be a rambling block of text. So I think I’ll just compile a list of a few of the most useful but perhaps not obvious tips I could provide for the first week at Yonsei:
- Before you go, buy a three-pack of international plug adapters from Amazon in the US and make sure all your electronics are dual-voltage.
- Also before going, learn the Korean alphabet and whatever phrases you would think are relevant. It’s really not hard.
- Read this post for tips on course registration. Basically, just be as paranoid as possible when it comes to course registration.
- If you have a smartphone, download the KakaoTalk and Naver Map apps.
- To make an expat bank account, bring your passport to the bank in the student union building and use the dorm’s phone number and address as your Korean phone number and address. The debit card that they give you can also be used as a T-money card in the subway.
- Buy whatever dorm/home necessities like towels or laundry detergent at Daiso to save money.
To be honest, Seoul is pretty idiot-proof. It seems that the absolute worst thing that could happen is that I spend a little more money than necessary.
As someone who is biracial (white/Asian), I’ve never really been able to get a solid consensus from others about what my perceived ethnic background is. Koreans, from what I’ve been told, usually think I’m Korean for about half a second, which means that I can move through a crowd unnoticed. I have heard from others that they get glances or even stares, but since I don’t experience anything like this, culture shock has been pretty mild. The only thing about Korea that I’m having trouble adapting to is the frequency of meat consumption. As a vegetarian, I feel that generally Americans at least sort of understand why someone wouldn’t eat meat, but this is not the case in Korea. I did meet a Korean vegetarian, though, so I feel very fortunate that I’m not alone in that respect. Meeting people and making friends in general is facilitated very well by Yonsei’s international student orientation and Mentor’s Club, an on-campus organization that pairs a group of exchange students with a Korean “mentor,” a Yonsei student.
So far, classes seem similar to how they are in America. There are <5 non-Koreans in each of my classes, and in one of my classes, I am the only non-Korean. It’s a little strange to think that I have a Korean professor, completely Korean classmates, yet the class is taught in English. One thing that’s different is that many students print out the lecture notes (usually ppt format) before the class and write supplementary notes on those rather than blank notebook paper. I feel that the semester is not yet in full-swing, but I hope to be involved in the language exchange program eventually.
The differences from American culture that I’ve noticed never frustrate or confuse me, but instead make me realize little inefficiencies of my life back home. I’m always internally questioning my motives for doing things or why I hold certain opinions or beliefs, but this semester will definitely help me to actually develop better habits in day-to-day life.
Just a few of the pictures I’ve taken in the past couple weeks:
construction happening on campus
view of the Han river from the subway
view of Myeongdong from the Uniqlo store