Hooray, you’re moving to Korea!!! You’ve packed (or not), prepared your going away party (WOO, PARTAY!!!), and your family (because even though they say it’s awesome, you know they’re probably freaking out), so now the only thing left is to mentally prepare yourself for actually moving and living in a foreign country for a year or more!
Of course, you’ve probably been poring over every blog related to South Korea in existence, or scouring Youtube for any and all videos that might be able to give you some clue as to what living in Korea is really like. To some extent, all of your researching is going to do you a lot of good, especially the ones about certain aspects of Korea’s culture. But of course, there are some questions you still desperately want answered. Here’s a few of the most popular ones I’ve gotten in the past few weeks.
1. Do I have to learn the language before I get there? How did you learn it? ARE YOU FLUENT YET?!
This seems to be a really popular question and the answers are: no, lots of practice, and absolutely not, respectively. Actually, lots of people (and I mean most people) come over without knowing a single word of Korean and they’ve managed to survive just fine. You certainly don’t have to know anything to get by, but I do suggest learning the alphabet and a few key phrases such as “Hello”, or maybe “Where is ____?”
Just knowing the alphabet will honestly help you more than you know, and it’s super simple because the Korean language is phonetic. If you know how the letters and what sounds they make you’ll be able to read any and everything. I picked up on all of my alphabet and key vocabulary on TalkToMeInKorean.com. This site was, and has been, pretty helpful for me because they have different levels of lessons for before you come to Korea and after. That being said, I am nowhere near even conversationally fluent just yet. You can read and study as much as you want, but until you’re around the language everyday and you’re forced to speak it doesn’t do you much good. I’ve picked up on more just being here and listening than I ever did studying on my own.
If you are coming through EPIK (or even a hagwon), your school will pay for your living arrangement. Right now I literally only pay for gas and electric and that’s never more than 25,000 won, combined, a month. Others only pay for gas or just electricity but I haven’t ever heard of those bills being super high either.
3. How much money should I bring with me?
I actually conveniently wrote a blog post on this not too long ago here 🙂
4. CELL PHONE!!! INTERNET!!! CONNECTION TO BACK HOME!!!!
Ok, not gonna lie I was pretty worried about this myself before getting here. In terms of a cell phone I was one of the 5% who paid up and got a 6 month contracted, pay as you go phone from The Arrival Store. I literally have nothing but great things to say about how quickly the process of choosing and getting a phone went and how helpful everyone was that I spoke to from the Store. They were very friendly and my phone was waiting for me at Incheon Airport when I arrived, geared up and ready to go. If you’re super worried about communicating I highly suggest this method. You don’t have to get a whole new phone either. If you have an iPhone or other popular smartphone you just get a SIM card for way cheaper.
Still, if you’d rather wait, that’s not problem. You won’t be able to get a cell phone until your Alien Registration Card (ARC) comes in, and that takes about 3 weeks. Still, most people just use their phones from back home and hit up the Wifi every chance they get to get online. Wifi is everywhere here so you’ll never be really disconnected, and it’s honestly not bad at all not to have a phone for a few weeks. Alot of people said that it was super relaxing to not have to worry about it all the time, and there’s always Skype and FB for getting in touch with people back home.
In terms of internet, we all heard we wouldn’t be able to get an internet “plan” until we got our ARC’s. Here’s where lots of people will differ: Myself and nearly everyone else that I’ve spoken to in Chungju just bought a 10,000 won router and we’ve had the greatest internet in creation ever since. It took ME five minutes to hook up and that’s saying something as I’m hardly tech savvy at all.
Last, but certainly not least, I HIGHLY suggest you telling your friends and family back home to get an app called KakaoTalk. It’s a free messaging and calling app that works internationally and never charges me for talking to my family back home. It’s perfect for being overseas and still wanting to feel connected to a piece of home.
5. Placement recommendations?
Ok, here’s where it gets tricky, because no matter what your preference is it doesn’t mean you’ll actually be placed there. That being said, here are some of the cities I’ve visited that people seem to really enjoy!
If you like big cities with crap loads of people:
If you want to be by the ocean:
-Busan (of course)
If maybe you don’t want to be either place but want to be conveniently located for travel:
-Really anywhere in the Chungbuk/Chungcheongbuk-do Province
If you LOVE nature:
-Anywhere down South
Unfortunately I haven’t been here long enough to experience more cities, but these are just a few suggestions I hope can get you on your way!
Of course this can’t be all of your questions as I know they certainly weren’t all of mine. If you still have any comments or concerns feel free to shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!