After writing about places to visit here in Korea for tourists, I guess I would be writing about my life in Korea as a student and in it, a guide for students planning to come over to Korea and study here.
Korea combine with its modern cities and vibrant cultures - it naturally makes Korea a great place to live, study and work. Currently, I am a doing my undergraduate course in Korea as a Korean Government scholar. Malaysian government too has its own batch of students in Korea.
The students are what we called, JPA (Public Service Department) scholars or Malaysian Government scholars.
Scholars from Korean Government, Malaysian Government and Petronas at the embassy
When I arrived to Korea, I was totally not well-versed in Korean language and it was very difficult to communicate with the Koreans. (Note: Koreans can speak in English but they are sometimes "shy" to talk in it. If you try to speak with the older people especially the ajumas, it will be verydifficult)
So be prepared to face communication problem when you arrive to Korea unless you have basic Korean proficiency.
"The only thing that is free... is the air..."
I think this is the most important thing that comes to your mind. Honestly, I can't really give a rough estimate on it because in every city, the cost of living varies. I think a meal will set you back at approximately 3000 ~ 4000 Won but you can find cheaper meals in the student cafeteria.
In my city, Daegu (I am studying in Kyungpook National University), when I first arrived, I found out that a meal in Daegu, Korea is approximately 3 to 4 times the cost of a meal in Malaysia.
Delicious duck and pork barbeque in Jeonju 전주
Street food at Myeongdong
If you are on budget, try not to waste too much money if you are living in Seoul because you have to pay for your accommodation in dormitory (about 150000 Won ++), food, travelling expenses, etc. For Malaysians, treat 1000 Won as if it is RM 1.
"Life is not about only studying, it's about living and seeing!"
I think you are well aware of it since there are so many Korean dramas in Malaysia. Koreans especially in Seoul are generally more trendy compare to the people in other parts of Korea. Every city in Korea has high-end merchandise shops (ZARA, Guess, Uniqlo, etc) and most Koreans usually shop over there.
If you are a good "spender", for instance, always remember that in ZARA (from my experience), the clothings will always be changed every 2 weeks so you might get a "better" price for some of the clothing if you came at the right time. But, it's still not cheap.
Shop till you drop in Seoul
In Uniqlo (a Japanese brand), a cheap jeans will be about RM 100, ZARA about RM 200 but you can find cheaper ones in Homeplus (Like Tesco in Malaysia), E-Mart and other big hypermarkets.
Usually it will be about RM 60 for a pair of jeans there. Shirts there are affordable, maybe about RM 40. Just don't bring too much warm clothing from Malaysia because it can be easily purchased in Korea.
If possible, do not bring too many winter clothings! Buy them in Korea! The price is almost the same and there's more variety in winter clothings here than in Malaysia. Just bring clothing that is for the spring since you all will be arriving at that time.
In spring, you will be needing a thick sweater or jacket but you will have a bit of problem adjusting to the cold and dry Korean weather so it's quite hard adjusting for the first few days.
Karaoke time in Daegu
In Daegu, there are lots of places to play snooker, norabang (karaoke) and restaurant. I think it is the same as in Seoul or any other places in Korea. The price for the norabang is cheap by Korean standard, about 20000 Won for 2 hours if I am not mistaken so if you love to sing you can sing your hearts out over there.
There is not much variety of English songs but is still enough to make you "sing till you drop". A number of Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian songs are also available.
"Give a fish to a man, you feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime"
Korean language is difficult when you start but gradually you will become better especially once you are in Level 2. With level 2 proficiency, you would be able to converse with the people though it would still be hard to express what you want to say.
So there comes level 3 and 4. To those that will be taking science related course here, frankly speaking, I would say a year of learning Korean is insufficient no matter whether you are in Level 5 or 6.
In my course, I have to rely on my cellphone which is my "walking translator" and sometimes my electronic dictionary. Not all biological or chemical terms can be found in that dictionary, you will realise that buying a cellphone and an electronic dictionary that function as a dictionary is almost the same.
But the only difference is that you are not allowed to bring your cellphone into the exam hall. :(
When you begin your year 2 after you had completed your Korean studies, try to ask your major's professor whether you can write your answer in english during the exam or not (Suprisingly, all my subjects can be written in english) but usually the lessons are all conducted in Korean so life can be a lil' hard.
Super fast internet service in Korea
Anyway, don't worry about that, as long as you study hard, I believe all will be fine. Learning Korean will be your best time in your life, plenty of time to watch Korean dramas (Korean broadband is super fast, everything can be watched or downloaded online), lots of field trips and plenty of foreign friends to be met. Take one step at the time peeps.
"Mirror mirror on the wall, what is the nicest season of all?"
Spring is cold with lots of cold gush of windy wind. Summer is hot, humid and is almost the same as in Malaysia with lots of rainfall (but it depends on the place that you will be living in). Autumn is the same as spring while winter is freezing cold and lots of snowfall (Note: Southern parts of Korea have relatively few snowfalls). Between the seasons, there will be lots of rain so just be prepared with an umbrella.
For your info, I like winter
About the clothing, just bring warm sweater (if you are there during spring, during the start of semester), thick jackets and unless you cannot tahan cold weather, just bring one winter clothing will do. While for the rest of the seasons, just look and buy when needed, stores around Korea sell clothings based on the seasons so don't worry about not finding any clothing.
I always believe that it's better to learn through experience than through books. At the end of my Korean language class, I travelled to China. I myself do not believe that I would be traveling to other foreign countries within a year of my stay in Korea.
Believing is through seeing, experiencing is through traveling. Happy learning Korean, trust me, this is the best time of your 5 years in Korea.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
I earnestly hope you will learn and spend your time wisely. Remember that this will only be the beginning of a long journey studying in Korea. Hope to see you all soon.
*This post was written by me sometime back in another blog co-written by KGSP scholars of Malaysia. I edited some parts of it to bring relevance to this blog*