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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 …

Two Months in Busan: Classes and University Accommodation


Hey there! It's been a minute, but you can peep my last article right here. Always be sure to check our Ultimate List of Resources page here and our Article-specific Resources down below.

I've spent a little over two months living and studying in Busan, South Korea. It has been a culture shock, a lesson in loneliness, and just plain hard, but I'm doing what I came here to do. Not necessarily work my but off in a Korean Culture Through Media course, but rather get the space away from everything that's made me comfortable in order to grow. As much as the Korea-boos hate to hear it, for me, Korea has simply been the vehicle for which I have been able to grow inside of myself into a better person. Please let me know if you want me to post or share any exact images of what my dorm or campus looks like and I'll be happy to oblige.

Courses

I am taking seven courses, however, the normal course load at my host institution is four. I take the additional courses, namely Basic Korean and Korean Culture Through Media, for the cultural experiences and to learn how to navigate my new country. The most annoying things about the courses are the enforced mandatory attendance policies. Back at my home university, I could skip pretty much any class I wanted and as long as I showed for exams and passed, I would be okay. We were given the opportunity to study on our own time and prioritize what we need as students and as adults probably because the United States is a very individualist country. When I can't get out of bed on a good day (nevertheless during the winter), required attendance policies can get me in trouble fast. When I add that on top of a country that frowns upon mental health issues (see: Korea's suicide rates), I am stuck in a cycle of needing to explain why I haven't been to class (even if I'm turning in homework and acing exams) and feeling anxious about the judgment I'm sure to get.



Next, you might be wondering how I'm even taking classes at a Korean University in the first place when I don't know any Korean at all (I now know how to order food, ask for a discount, and exchange pleasantries. I can also read). While my university has a moderately large study abroad and international department, there were very few courses taught in English, and that short list was cut down even shorter the day before class. More so, when I actually arrived at my classes within that first week, two of my natural science courses and my advanced number theory course were taught in Korean. It wasn't to be rude, although one professor explicitly said "do not speak English to her" in Korean, but when you have a 20 Korean students and only 1 American, as their professor you want to make the majority of the student comfortable. The other side of this coin is that many of the Korean students explicitly took classes taught in English because they wanted to learn, and so in a way, the professors are doing their Korean student a disservice.

Accommodation

  The dorms are interesting. I live in a building 20 stories tall, with a cafe' and a gs25 (convenience store) in the lobby and a full cafeteria on the second and third floors. We use electronic keys to swipe in and out of our dorms, the building, and the laundry room, They're similar to hotel key cards, but smaller and a little thicker squares that maybe feel like a small Ghiradelli chocolate square. The price per semester was just under twelve hundred United States dollars with three meals included. Good deal.

   The very worse part of the dorms is the curfew. From one a.m. to five a.m. I cannot leave the dorms, and I cannot enter without getting penalty points which can get me kicked out of the dorms permanently. This means if I want to go out with friends at night, I either need to wrap up my night pretty early for Busan nightlife, or I have to stay out until my breakfast time. It isn't fair. During midterms and finals, the curfew is extended to three a.m. which I think is a nice sweet spot for young adults trying to have some fun.

   The food in the dorms is super hit or miss. I have all three meals in the dorms every day and breakfast is my favorite. It isn't a Western breakfast but instead white rice, kimchi, usually pork or tofu, and soup or cereal, which is about the sweetest thing we'll get. Sometimes we get quail eggs and I always fill up my tray with as many quail eggs as possible. Our options for drinks are... water, and they don't tend to eat and drink at the same time so we're offered shot glasses of water. Lunch and dinner are usually about the same. I always have the option to have white rice and kimchi and then there is a meat, side dishes (vegetables), and a soup. There is rarely fruit offered and if it is, it's probably in a vegetable salad.

It is extremely difficult for vegetarians and vegans as most of the things offered are in a meat sauce or are meat based. If you don't eat pork, they always have an alternative offered, which is usually a dry fish. It's not the best if you're not open to eating anything. Oh yeah, octopus tentacles are also a regular offering.

Conclusion

All in all, here my classes are about the same, with some minor hassles in acceptable etiquette. My accommodation is everything I could need and is hyper affordable. The classes are rough, but it's predominantly the university etiquette, not the courses themselves, which remind me of high school courses and not college level. Also, the accepted credit amount for one semester is definitely a lower amount of work for the accepted amount of credit hours at my home university. This on top of not having a job (updates on how I make money here soon), I have a lot of free time that I wouldn't have back home, which I use to have some fun and work on my personal growth.

As always, good luck
Myaia

Resources 

Campus Life in South Korea

Photo by Nam Hoang on Unsplash








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