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How To: Make Friends in Korea

Have you seen my last article? You can check it out here. As always, a large portion of your questions can be answered by going to my list of resources page here, or the contact page here. There are article-specific resources at the bottom of the page.

I love and advocate for solo travel, especially by millennials when at all possible, though one does have to recognize the unique barriers to entry that millennials, however, the hardest part of traveling alone is building a support system and a life that has meaningful relationships in it. Once the excitement wears off, being in Korea can be really tough if you don't make friends. Luckily for you, through trial error, I've learned some (almost) foolproof ways to make new friends while you are in Korea. While a few of these tips are generalizable, some of them are Korea-specific. Just remember if you're feeling really lonely, reach out to someone! You'll be surprised how compassionate people are, especially in your time …

How To: Prepare the Night Before A Big Trip


Long time no see! I moved to a different continent, how are you? You can check out my last post here. 

I was extremely fortunate enough to have a really pleasant and overall stress-free experience flying from Chicago to Busan. Considering how cheap my flight was, which you can read about using the link in the “Resources” section down below, I was surprised I didn’t have any troubles with logistics of the three-day flight itself nor the experience surrounding the settlement into a city that was completely foreign to me before now. There are a few things I would suggest before making your long-haul flight to your study abroad location or new home. 




Tech Stuff

You may need some apps for translating quickly with those at the ticket counter. On my trip to South Korea, I had two instance where the language barrier was so bad that eventually, the check-in counter person had to call several people. Stressed, I could’ve saved myself some time by simply translating. Even though I had my boarding pass saved, checking in all the baggage still required some human interaction that I wasn’t quite prepared for. 
A big part of a study abroad program is assimilating to your new city in order to get a full cultural immersion. A big part of that for millennials is using whatever messaging apps they use in that country. For China, it’s WeChat, for Western Europe it’s WhatsApp, and for Korea is Kakao Talk. A lot of the time you don’t even need a full-fledged international phone plan if there is enough wifi available in your accommodation and public spaces because of these apps. Let your family in friends know ahead of time that they need to make accounts on these apps and try to start to transition before you leave. It will save the most money when someone inevitably tries to call or text you and it costs you big time. 
Speaking of the Internet, consider downloading a VPN for your personal devices if you want access to some of the things you have the luxury of having access to at home like certain Netflix and Amazon Prime shows and some social media sites. You can find more links below. 

Documents

Do you have your original birth certificate, social security number, even your voter registration? Good. Firstly, make sure that all of your documents are in your carry on luggage in case any of your checked luggage gets lost. Secondly, make copies of everything, including all your valid visas and passport passes and put those somewhere else in your carry on, or better yet a purse. Also, email a copy to yourself and whoever is listed as your emergency contact. If you have a contact in your destination country, I would send a copy of the visa and passport information as well as the flight information to them as well as keeping a copy readily accessible to you. Having hard copies is old fashioned, but useful if your reservations can’t be found, or you lose your passport and you need to get to an embassy outside of the airport.




Airport, Luggage, and Other Logistics

This may sound weird, but please check your flight time. I have heard a handful of horror stories about messing up the A.M./P.M. (a huge upside to 24 hour time, I know). So just triple check. Confirm that you have made reservations at any hotels and that transportation to and from the hotels is possible. On your luggage, make sure that you either have sufficient tags on your luggage already or that you get one of those paper ones from the check-in counter. If you suspect your baggage may be overweight, make sure you have a backup plan for getting rid of some the weight. Ask whoever is dropping you off at the airport if they’ll send you things that are making your bags too heavy or give yourself enough time to go to the post office, there is one in most airports. You’re welcome. 
If you have a long or overnight layover in another country and would like to leave the airport to explore or sleep, please check the visa-free transit rules. Even if you have a connecting flight, sometimes you need to leave the customs and immigration area, and often have to explain your final destination even though you’re not leaving the airport. When using visa-free transit, you will need hard copies of your confirmed flight to a third country as well as a visa for that third country. Trying to show flight itineraries on cell phones wasn’t accepted. For China, I only had to use the 24-hour visa-free transit and had to use the rules for a layover and just to transfer my bags. If you need to call the immigration in your airport make sure to do so.
On the note of bags, please ask if you need to pick up your luggage and re-check them in or take them with you overnight and check them in the next day. For my journey here, I had to do both, and it was stressful because I didn’t know until the last moment. 
In the United States, our security protocols are insane, but in other countries? Not so much. Please pay attention to the signs when you get to security. You may not need to take out your laptop or phone, you probably won’t have to take off your shoes or jewelry, and you may have to get a personal pat down. Some countries really emphasize the lithium-ion batteries, and so if you have any battery packs to charge your phone, camera, or headphones, you may very well be asked about them. 



Lastly, be sure to check your operating airline on your flight itinerary. Although you may have booked your flight through one airline, it may be operated by another. For the final stretch of my journey, I got into the China Eastern check-in line for my flight from Qingdao to Busan. However, after waiting for half an hour to get to the front and waiting for a supervisor that spoke English, I found that it was a China Eastern Airlines flight using a Korean Air plane, meaning it was being operated by Korea Air and their check-in counters were where I needed to go. Luckily, I got there like five hours early, so by the time I got to the Korea Air check-in counter, I still had three and a half to spare. Don’t spare the details. 

Traveling is so exciting but can be highly stressful especially with connecting flights, layovers, and language barriers. Hopefully, with some of these tips, you will be able to learn from my experiences and navigate your study abroad trip more smoothly. 

Good Luck
Myaia 

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