Yo! If you’re looking for more information about living in South Korea and/or you’re unsure about what to do to get yourself started up here, you’re in the right place.
Hi, my name is Rebecca and I’m a third and final year BIT student. In this blog, I’m going to write about the logistic side of things rather than all the fun stuff – hopefully I’ll have time to write another blog for all of the places I explore later.
Depending on your level of knowledge of Korean culture and the language, living here can be a little daunting at first. Below are the topics that I will be talking about that can help prepare you to live here:
- On Campus Dormitory – SK Global House
- Internet Access in Korea
- SIM Card
- Alien Registration Card
- Course Registration at Yonsei
1. On Campus Dormitory – SK Global House
Info: SK Global House (SKGH) is the name of international dorm on campus at Yonsei University. Majority of students that stay in this dorm are international students on exchange here or in the KLI (Korean Language Institute) program. You can also choose to stay at International House (I-House) or off-campus. Below is information about SK Global House.
- Rooms: Single Bed or Double Bed
- Room: Desk, chair, bed, closet, shoe shelf, fridge (Single Room only), ethernet port (Note: There is NO Wi-FI in the rooms)
- Convenience Store: Located on the ground floor of SKGH, this place sells more than your average Australian convenience store. You can buy stuff from an ethernet cable, shampoo & conditioner to something like instant noodles and milk.
- Cafes/Restaurants: Also on the ground floor, these places offer you free wifi if you choose to eat/drink there.
- Laundry: Using the laundry machine will cost you 1,000 won ($1 AU) and the dryer will cost 500 won (50c AU). There is also laundry services which I think cost 3,000 won ($3 AU)
- Computer Room: These are SUPER slow but contains printers and scanners if you need to do those urgently.
- Lounges/Kitchen: Each floor has their own common room with a kitchen and lounges/study areas which have WI-FI access points.
- Music Classroom
- Fitness Room
What I Did: I chose to stay at SK Global House because it’s easier to meet people from across the world and its close to classes. I chose the Single Bed Room. Even though it was a little more expensive than a double, it is much more spacious and I definitely won’t regret it later in the semester when I need my time alone as well.
Advice: If you want to stay at SK Global House, apply when registration OPENS. These dorms get filled up really quickly and there are only 187 single rooms and 197 double rooms. If you want the single bed room like I did, click as fast as you can since you’re competing against approx 900 other international students. Make sure you make an account before you apply and don’t worry about paying. You’ll pay after they have confirmed your acceptance into the dorm.
2. Internet Access in Korea
Info: There is free Wi-Fi almost everywhere in South Korea with most places offering 5G (Yes, 5G – Australia is only just introducing 4G). The only issue is that even though free-wifi is everywhere, they are usually offered in cafes/restaurants. Therefore you would need to buy food or drink in those places to gain access to their network.
Advice: Get anti-virus software for your electronic devices. Tapping into free Wi-Fi here and there can be quite dangerous since these are public access points.
3. SIM Card
Info: You can buy a pre-paid SIM card with a data plan on the ground floor of SKGH or you can get a contract with a Korean mobile company such as Olleh.
What I Did: With Wi-FI access almost everywhere, is a SIM card needed? In South Korea, almost everyone uses Kakao Talk (Similar to Whatsapp) and that requires you to have a Korean number. I also have friends that live in Korea that I wanted to keep in touch with and thus I bought the pre-paid SIM card at SKGH. The SIM card with data was handy in case I couldn’t find free wi-fi.
- Local Korean Calls: 2 won per 1 sec, 120 won per min, 10,000 won for 80 mins
- Local Korean Texts: 20 won per 40 korean characters
- International Texts: 165 won per 40 korean characters
- International Calls: 57 won per min
- Daily Charges: 120 won per day
I then bought a 3G data plan for 16,500 won per month which also allows me to have free access to the Olleh WiFi network. There were also one-off start up costs including the service fee and SIM card itself which totalled around 50,000 won.
Advice: Make sure you do your research to find out what mobile plan/option suits your needs the most. I chose this out of convenience but I wish I had more time to look into more mobile plan options. If you want a SIM card registered under your name, it takes 3 days for your name to register into the immigration database. E.g. I arrived in Korea on the 25th Aug, I couldn’t receive a SIM card under my name until the 28th Aug. This meant that I had no SIM card until the 28th even though I bought it on the 25th.
Info: Most of the international students here opened up a new bank account with Woori Bank when they arrive in Korea. They offer you special discounts if you open an account and there is a Woori ATM all around campus since Yonsei is partnered with Woori.
What I Did: I didn’t go with Woori Bank. Before I went to Korea, I traveled to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. I wanted all my finances and savings set up before I left Australia so that I wouldn’t have any money issues when I was in those countries and Korea. Thus I needed a card that had no extra fees when I withdraw money and no extra international rates.
I chose the Citibank Plus Debit Card with the Linked Savings account. Best banking choice I ever made. As I was travelling to those countries, there were Citibank ATMs and branches in all the main cities that I was in. The card didn’t charge me any extra fees and I can also use it here in Korea! In the convenience store on the ground floor at SKGH, there is a Citibank ATM that I regularly withdraw money from. You can also use the card to withdraw from a Global ATM such as the Woori Global ATM. At most subway/train stations, including Sinchon Station, there is a Citibank ATM. Since the card is a VISA card, you can also use it to make credit card purchases and it works absolutely fine – no problems. With the Linked Savings account, I set up weekly bank transfers from the Linked Savings into the Plus Account. In the case of card theft or loss, I only lose amount in the card and not my entire savings. The card also withdraws and uses money according to the VISA exchange rate. It was always spot on. This is better than those Travel Money Cards that lock you on to a fixed exchange rate and when you lose the card you lose all your money in it – unless you prefer that.
Advice: GET THE CITIBANK PLUS DEBIT CARD. Enough said.
5. Alien Registration Card
Info: An Alien Registration Card is required if you’re staying in Korea for more than 90 days and you need to get it within 90 days of arrival. You can get your Alien Registration Card at the Seoul Immigration Office. However, before going to the immigration office you need the below documents
- Application: You can find the form at the immigration office and fill it out there as well
- Copy of your passport: They have photocopy machines and scanners at the immigration office
- Copy of your VISA
- Certificate of Enrolment: Yonsei students receive this in their orientation pack at the academic orientation
- 2 Colour Photos (Passport Sized): You can get your passport photos printed for 7,000 won ($7 AU) at a photobooth inside the immigration office
- Card Fee: 30,000 won ($30 AU)
- (OPTIONAL): 3,000 won ($3 AU) to have it delivered to your Korean address
What I Did: I found getting my alien registration card quite a frustrating process. I went with a friend to the immigration office and we had to go twice! On the first day we went, we waited for about 4 hours and they only got through about 20 people when there were about 100 people waiting in line to get their cards.
Advice: GO EARLY. This applies to getting it done early as well as going to the immigration office early. Make sure you have all the required documents with you. When you get to the immigration office, this is what you should do:
- Go to your district’s immigration floor. For Yonsei students staying at SK Global House, the district were staying at is Seodaemun-gu. At the immigration office, this is the orange floor.
- GET YOUR TICKET ASAP. The earlier you get your ticket, the less time you have to wait. Make sure you get the ticket on your district’s floor.
- Fill in your application form. Look for the application form with Alien Registration Card and tick that box. Paste your colour photo on the application form – they have glue and scissors on the tables at the immigration office for you to use
- PAY FOR YOUR CARD. At the office, there is a Woori Bank ATM for depositing money into. This is how you pay for your Alien Registration Card.
- Wait until your ticket number is called
- Hand in all your required documents AND your receipt that you receive from paying for your alien registration card at the ATM
- If you chose to have it delivered, you will get your fingerprint scanned. If you chose to pick up your card, you receive a form which shows you when you can pick it up and you do your fingerprint scanning when you come back again to pick it up.
- Receive your card in the mail or receive it at the immigration office. Done.
Info: In Korea, they use a similar system to the Opal Card that is currently rolling out in Sydney. You can purchase a T-Money Card that you store up with T-Money and use it to go on buses and subways.
What I Did: If you’re a Yonsei University student, your student ID card can also be a T-Money card. I didn’t want to have too many cards on me so I just use my student ID card when I traveled.
Advice: Go with what your comfortable with. I haven’t had problems with using my student ID card yet, but I heard it was better to buy a separate T-money card. I’m going to continue using my ID card since it’s more convenient for me.
7. Course Registration at Yonsei
Info: In Korea, they call subjects courses. At Yonsei, you will get an email stating the course registration time and period. There are two registration periods. One before you arrive in Korea and one after academic orientation in Korea. You need to enrol into all your subjects within the course registration period and can NOT enrol for subjects out of that allocated period. The email will also have information about a WishList. Before the course registration period opens, you can create a list of all the subjects you want to enrol into. When registration period starts, you don’t need to search for your subjects but you can just click on the subjects you want to enrol into directly from your wish list.
What I Did: If you think registering for subjects in Australia is competitive, here is worse. In Australia, one class can get filled within an hour from registration opening time. At Yonsei, all classes get filled within 5 seconds. I’m not even joking. During the first registration period, I was only able to get one class out of 4 classes I wanted.
I woke up early to create my wishlist. When you’re creating your wishlist, you can also see how many people want that class and how many spaces are available for it. One of my classes had 5 spaces open and about 120 people had it on their wishlist – it was insane!
Advice: Create your wish list and CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK as soon as registration opens. Make sure you have a solid internet connection. The faster the better. Plan your class schedule ahead of time, because you can NOT enrol into a class if there is a clash – unlike UTS.
To sum this up, if you have any questions about the above, studying at Yonsei or anything about Korea in general, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you out.
Didn’t realise how much I wrote. Ahaha!
I’ll end with a picture of me (left) and my American friend from Seattle (right) when we went to Lotte World – Korea’s version of Disneyland.
See y’all later!
Rebecca Nguyen 11379447