This is a letter filled with stories of regrets and/or disappointments which would hopefully serve as an advice to our 후배들.
Dear incoming KGSP student,
Congratulations! You must be very excited for your (first) trip to Korea. I was very excited too before and boy, sure time flies fast – it’s almost a year since I arrived here for the Korean Intensive Language Program.
If you don’t know a single Hangul (Korean writing system), don’t worry – you have 80% chance to pass the required TOPIK level 3 exam during the one year training. However, passing the TOPIK 3 exam isn’t equivalent with good Korean speaking skills, but it is enough for you to understand what is happening around you (i.e. how to order a food in a restaurant, send a letter to your friends’ back home, or purchase something online and return it if there was any mistake with your order).
Here in Jeonju University, we used Yonsei’s Korean Language Book. The first few levels have English translations on it, but on the higher levels (level 3 – above) they won’t provide translations for the vocabulary or grammar explanations. Most of my friends here doesn’t know what to do with their Korean books now (level 1-level 4) so if you want to get used books for free or at a cheaper price, because the entire set of books are really expensive, just write down a comment below.
Anyway, our language program ended weeks ago. Some of my friends went back to their hometown but most of us chose to stay here and prepare and process documents for course registration and visa application.
You see, unlike you, there wasn’t anyone who warned us about dealing certain issues re: gradschool accommodation, D2 visa application, nor what kind of classes should we expect in grad school.
For the past few weeks, I have been hearing lots of complaints and worried stories from my friends. You might think that it’s too early for you to think about these things because you still have a year to prepare for it; but seriously, you need to prepare some of these before you leave your country.
1. Official documents are preferred in the Korean language plus a stamp from your embassy (not in Korea) or an apostille. These documents can be your certificate of graduation, your transcript of records, etc. Most of my friends who came from non-English speaking countries (i.e. Dominican Republic, Italy, Bulgaria, Argentina, Myanmar) had a hard time because of these. They only had a few weeks left to process all these and these things takes a lot of time, fyi.
2. Take note of your universities’ dormitory application. Some schools are kind enough to do everything for you [standing ovation for Kangwon National University 😉 ] ;however, most universities do not give special treatment to graduate students even if you’re a government scholar. This year, almost all of my friends who will transfer to Seoul National University didn’t get a room in the dormitory so they’re having difficulties finding accommodation now.
Well, getting a place in Korea is relatively easy. All you have to do is go to a 부동산 (read: Budongsan) and they’ll help you get one legally. The bad thing here is that, if in case you’d like to get a 원룸 (read: wor-rum) for yourself. You have to prepare at least 2 million won for the deposit 보증금 (read: Bo-jeung-geum) and will have to pay for the place for around 300~400 thousand won per month. Electricity and gas bills are excluded. So, we’re talking about millions of won here and well, you should start saving on your first month here to avoid that. Or just apply for the dormitory early.
Another option is to get a room in NIIED dormitory. They said it’s cheap. I haven’t been there but i think it’s a good choice if your uni is within the said location. My friend wasn’t able to get any from these three options so she had to apply for a homestay which will cost her as much as 500 thousand won a month!
3. The language program is not solely for TOPIK (well 99% maybe). You see, i stopped studying Korean after passing TOPIK level three during my first 6 months in Jeonju. I started in level two and passed it on the middle of my level three term. If only I knew back then that all my classes in grad school will be in Korean I should’ve given more effort instead of lazying around. Take note that these Korean skill that you will master for a year should be enough for you to understand visa application process, dorm registration, course registration, making a contract for a one room, reading course syllabus and actually, surviving “real korea”.
A mere annyeonghaseyo will not help you survive during your preparation for grad school. So, just enjoy and learn the language. It really feels good once you’ve accomplished everything on your own 🙂
4. Leave your insecurities and bring some happy aura from your country. Some of my friends say they really don’t know how to dance in their country or they’re the shy types, but hey no one here knows about that from you. Being in Korea, on your own, means giving you an opportunity to improve yourself and dwell harmoniously with people around the world! I’m so thankful to have gain lots of friends where I can talk about almost anything here in Korea. And oh, yes, some of my friends ended up as couples here ♥ Ain’t that sweet and romantic? 😉
5. Embrace Korea. Its people, history, language, and culture. Be the polite 외국인 foreigner. Korea is such a lovely place to begin with. There may be some cultural differences but later on you will understand why they don’t say sorry when they run over you at the subway, etc.
So far, these are the things I can think of ♥ I’ll see some of you guys next week. I hope my letter will be of good help to everyone.
PS. I’m done with my course registration and visa application, and so far I didn’t have any problems with it. All thanks to Kangwon National University International Office Staff for doing almost everything for us – even the dormitory application. I can’t wait to move 😉