A lot of people I known of would ask me ‘where about?’ when I told them I am going on an exchange and they were all questioning ‘why South Korea?’ when I told them ‘South Korea’. My answer is ‘why not?‘
I always want to go on an exchange at least once during university to explore the beauty and difference of other countries and now I am on my fourth year, toward the end of university, it is time to take action. And why Korea, I guess it is because I want to go to a country I am not familiar with, but with interest in knowing more about the cultures, histories, languages, customs and the people there. I have never been to South Korea and I don’t know how to speak Korean, it is a brave decision to do an exchange in South Korea but I make it.
Fortunately, I have a few South Korean friends in my home university who I can ask about South Korea and I had also done some research before departure.
First, map to use in South Korea. I found out that Google Maps is not that useful in Korea and they have their own map system called ‘Naver map’. Naver map provides more detail than Google Maps. One bad thing about this app is that there is no English translation so it is difficult for foreigners to use.
Second, I looked up South Korean transportation cards. There are two types of transportation cards, T-money and CashBee. You may be curious about the difference between T-money and CashBee, so T-money is mainly used in Seoul and if you are thinking of travelling somewhere outside of Seoul, like Busan, you can consider CashBee.
Third, the transportation method to either your dorm or rental place from Incheol/Gimpo airport. There is an airport bus running between 6:30am to 11:00pm and the cost is around 150,000 KRW. If you are booking a flight, make sure to allow some spare time in case of delays and consequently missing the last bus. Also, prepare some cash with you because T-money and CashBee are not sold in the airport.
Fourth, finding a place to live in Korea. There is wide range of options by example of dorms, renting a place, Airbnb and I choose Airbnb. I would not choose a dorm because I don’t like living in boarding school and renting a place is difficult for foreigners because they have to deal with things like paying bills (electricity, internet etc) and they are written in Korean. Therefore, Airbnb is the best option for me as I don’t need to worry about anything and most of the amenities are provided. Most importantly, I can get to know the local family there. I found a place near Korea University but still need to catch bus around 20 minutes (excluding traffic).
So, I am ready to fly to South Korea. I attended the orientation yesterday and I met my Korean buddy there. Her name is Noyong and because the limitation of buddy assistants and the large number of exchange students each year, each Korean buddy are assigned to 10 exchange students. Nevertheless, she is keen in helping me out if I have any question. The morning orientation is about registering Korean student ID card and Korean bank account which will be used to pay printing fees and other university fees. After that, we are offered to enjoy lunch in the canteen for free. The afternoon orientation is optional and it is about life in Korea. The speaking guest is from the Korean Government Association called ‘Seoul Global Centre’. It is a very useful speech and fortunately I decided to go. After the orientation, KUBA (Korean University Buddy Assistance) organised a welcoming party for us to enjoy fried chicken and beers. There, I met each individual and made a lot of friends from different countries. Now I can’t wait for classes to start which still have 10 days left. I decided to spend this time exploring Seoul and prepare for lectures.
After all, hope you enjoy my blog and I will update more blogs later with more about the university, classes and life in Korea.
Bachelor of Civil Engineering, diploma in professional engineering practices
University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
Korea University (KU)