TIPS FOR TRAVELLING (AND STUDYING) IN SEOUL

08:40

My time here studying in Seoul is quickly coming to an end since I was studying in a one-month intensive semester. Which means I need to work quickly to get some of these blog posts up about studying abroad and any tips I have for any of you that may be thinking of coming here either to
study, travel, or even both. Now I know for some of you, my being here only one month doesn't seem like much, and you are right, in the grand scheme of things a month compared to a four month semester or full year, or even full degree is nothing but I have picked up things while I have been here as well I have many friends who have stayed here for longer periods of time so some of the tips I will be sharing are also from them!

Oh wise friends, who you have kept me out of many an odd situation and encounter.

Especially involving my (slowly improving) Korean.

So lets get on with the post!

With this update I will share tips on both studying here in Korea as well as travelling. I am going to break them up into to two separate lists so that for anyone who isn't looking to study abroad, they have just scroll down to the list that applies to them. Though I must say, reading both is helpful since one does lend itself to the other and some of the tips in the study abroad list may be help to you, even if you are simply travelling in Seoul and not attending school.

Much efficient, such helpful.

Is bad grammar like that even allowed in the blogging world?

If not...oops.

TIPS FOR STUDYING ABROAD

Depending on who you are and your experience with travelling solo, you will either find studying abroad easier than others, or vice versa. Because I have travelled many times on my own and spent long periods of time away from home; homesickness wasn't something that I have really felt at all during my time here in Korea. That is not to say I don't miss my mom...I'm not a monster. Of course I also miss my dog and the love of my life - my bed. But I haven't experienced the difficult and sometimes crippling affect homesickness can have on a person.

I have heard of a few people here, mostly younger students, struggling with being away from home, their family, and familiar surroundings, which is completely normal. The key is to just not let it take over your mind and seep into your day to day life. You will see all those things and people again, so enjoy your exchange while you can because time does fly by and before you know it, you will be on your way home and missing the country you were studying at.

So I suppose that is my first piece of advice: take advantage of studying abroad and see the country you are in; homesickness will happen but home will be there in the end. 

Unless a zombie apocalypse happens.

Then you have bigger problems to worry about...

  • Do not over pack, this applies to travelling as well. There are many things you can pick up in the country you are studying in; like toiletries and shampoo. Seoul is literally bursting at the seams with these types of items. Unless you have a reason that you absolutely need to take a specific thing (like I need to have toothpaste for super sensitive teeth or else life is rough), just wait and get it there. No need to add weight to your suitcase.
  • Do save your money wisely and over-budget. I have actually made a video on this topic and  you can check it out here!
  • Research in advance how to get to your university. It just saves you the stress of trying to figure it out when you get there; especially if you are studying in a country where you do not speak the language.
  • Get ready to become social. I am naturally a fairly shy person (until you get to know me...then I am just weird) so whenever I travel I make a point to force myself to become social and meet people, since I usually stay in hostels, one of the best places to stay when trying to find friends to travel with. This completely applies to going to a new university. You will not be the only new person there and as nerve-wracking as it can be to try and meet new people you'll regret it more if you don't put yourself out there. Just pretend you are the most confident person that has ever graced this planet, just long enough that you are able to say hi and then let it go from there (and remember to be yourself)
  • Make time to see the city you are in. I know it can be hard, with my program I was in classes four days a week, from 9 am - 5:30 with a couple hours break in-between. But as busy as I have been (and my friends as well) we have been trying our best to see as much as we can. Often that meant staying out late but as much as studying is important (and it is...I am a total nerd so I am in no way saying slack off. Don't slack off. Don't you dare) be sure to explore as well!
  • If you are going to be studying in a country where you do not know the language, make the effort to learn the language, at least the basics, before you leave. While I have been here in Korean, I have made a point to write down any new vocabulary or phrases that I learn, that are helpful in day to day life, thanks to my brilliantly Korean speaking friends. My Korean, before coming here, was basic but no where near where I wanted it to be and that is something I regret. Yes, now my Korean has greatly improved and I can go shopping on my own, order food for myself, even haggle at markets a bit and complain about how hot it is but I wish I had known some of these things before coming here. 
  • Don't expect everyone to know English. This kind of ties into my pervious point. There is nothing more annoying that bumping into people who have been here for over six months, teaching English, and my Korean is better than their's because they simply expect everyone to speak English or do it for them. Yes, a very large population of the younger generations in non-English speaking countries, like Korea, do speak English but if you are studying somewhere for longer than a few weeks, it would be better to learn the language of the country you are in to the best of your abilities. Many of the restaurants and shops you go to that are family owned or markets will have lovely people from the older generation working there and their English is not the best. So do yourself, and them, a favour and meet them in the middle by learning some of their language. 
  • Don't use being a foreigner as an excuse for bad manners or etiquette. A great example of this is something I have noticed when I ride the train here in Seoul. When you are on the trains here you will notice instantly that is it nearly dead quiet. And then suddenly, a rogue foreigner appears, yelling to their friends, swinging on the train handles and basically disrupting everyone on the trains. These are the people that give travellers a bad name. Don't be that person; find out what to do and not to do in the country you are in and be respectful of that
  • Right now I am going to run the risk of sounding like a cliche but, have fun. Honestly, enjoy it. Even if you are having a bad day abroad, remind yourself it is a bad day, not a bad life and there are thousands of people who would love to be in your position but cannot. 
Tips for Travelling in Seoul

Now onto the advice that I know most of my readers are looking for...tips for travelling in Seoul. Allow me to make your life just a little be easier...maybe. 

Seoul is a pretty vibrant city and it is easy to get turned around here, especially in areas like Myeongdong where you think you know where you are going, but then are easily reminded that your being silly and you very much have no idea where you are. But that's ok. Because you just found another food stand to busy yourself with. 
  • When you arrive in the airport, go to the corner shop (if you arrive in Incheon there is one near the arrivals area) and load up a T-Money card. A T-Money card is a transit card you can use on buses, the subway and taxis. This was a great tip from my friend, because than I didn't have to worry about that bit when it came to getting around the city when I first arrived. I actually later remembered that I did this same thing when I arrived in London, with the Oyster Card.
  • Don't be offend if people just bump right into you here or do not open the door for you. They are not being "rude", it's just how they do it here in South Korea.
  • If you travel here in the summer, stock up on bug spray and after bite. Daiso, which is somewhat like a dollar store here in Korea, has a cheap but affective bug spray for 2000 won and if you need after bite, there are pharmacies all over the city where you can pick them up for about 4000 won, the best type to get are the roll on ones. Be sure to take care of those bites...some people get nasty allergic reactions to them OR they just swell up and get irritated.
  • Check out hostels in Hongdae if you want to be close to nightlife, shopping and lots of places to eat, especially if you do not necessarily want to be around too many foreigners or foreigner restaurants or bars. Basically if you more want to meet locals rather then just more people from your own country. If you feel you'll be more comfortable with more fellow travellers around (there are still plenty in Hongdae) go to Itaewon and stay at a hostel there, it is the most foreigner part of Seoul you'll ever find.
  • Summers in South Korea are incredibly skin-melting hot, if you can avoid travelling here in the summer, than do it. It's still beautiful, if you manage to see through the sheen of sweat on your eyes. Yes. Your eyes will sweat. Totally true.
  • Don't be scared to ask for help at the subway stations, generally there will be an attendant or security guard you can speak to. But also, don't be scared of the subway stations, they are very easy to navigate with clearly laid out maps.
  • Don't just stick to the areas of Seoul you are staying in, hotel or otherwise, and don't just check out the main areas like Gangnam, Hongdae, Dongdaemun and so on. There are plenty of other awesome places to check out, like Ewha University, which not only has an amazing campus you can check out but is one of the cheapest areas in Seoul to shop in.
  • If you are a vegan or vegetarian travelling in Seoul the website Happy Cow is really helpful for finding places to eat (I highly recommend Plant Cafe in Itaewon)
  • If your a girl, try to cover up your chest area. Wear as short of shorts are you like but cleavage is not really accepted around South Korea in day to day life. When you go out to Hongdae or Itaewon at night, wear whatever you want but in the day-time just try to keep that in mind.
ONWARDS...

So there are some of my tips for travelling here in Seoul and studying abroad. As you can tell, one list kind of lends to the other so it is helpful to read both in the long run. I hope this list is helpful to some of you, I know things like figuring out transit and what areas to stay in while travelling in a new city can be tricky so I just listed the things that I felt I needed and wanted to know when coming here.

If you can any questions feel free to leave a comment either here or on the linked video.

Till next time...

Nicola

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31 comments

  1. I also wanted to study here in Thailand (I'm a Filipino) but it scares me a lot i might not understand my prof. as English is not their words of instructions here in Thailand. But it inspires me a lot that you survived studying in different country which is not an English country. I hope it makes me more positive in studying here. thanks for sharing ^^

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