First Week in South Korea

Published:

Countries

Demographics

Majors

Regions


My first week in Seoul did not go as smoothly as planned, then again not everything can go as planned. Things were hectic even before I arrived at San Francisco International Airport. There were so many documents I had to have on hand to get into South Korea and I was having issues obtaining all of them before my flight. I have never traveled before so it was a bit overwhelming trying to figure out the entire process. Thankfully my COVID-19 test came back negative, I got all of my documents in time, and I was able to fly to South Korea. It was completely surreal landing in South Korea. I couldn’t mentally process the fact that I was in another country. I was trying to accept it but there were more issues that appeared once I arrived at Incheon International Airport. We did not know that our dormitory check in time had been moved up, (we were notified by email, which we couldn’t access while we were on the plane) so myself and three other students were stuck at the airport as we had missed the check in time. We had no place to go and no way to get there. The worst part was that it was getting really dark really fast. We used every resource we had to get a taxi and go to a hotel. It was an extremely stressful process as none of us knew how to speak Korean and we didn’t know where to being searching for a taxi or hotel. Although we were successful in the end, this process made me regret going to South Korea at the time. The first night in the hotel was awful for me emotionally. I regretted leaving my home and going to another country. I immediately missed my family. I really wanted to go back and see them. For the first time ever, I let the words from the people who discouraged me from coming to South Korea get to me. All I could think of was, “They were right, I should have never came here. I want to go back but I can’t. I feel so stuck here.” That mentality lasted for two to three days. It took a lot of distraction and support from the other students here to make me feel better. I also realized that arrival had been the most difficult thing I had gone through. I thought if I could get through that I could get through anything. I felt the best when I realized that my home would still be waiting for me when I returned. I just needed to find a balance between South Korea time, family phone call time, and me time. It’s very common to hear people say that it’s important to take care of ourselves but I don’t think any of us really understand how important that really is until we begin to feel the psychological effects. Once I improved in those areas of my life I was able to absorb the culture, learn, and enjoy myself. It was interesting to see how strangers interact with each other daily. In the US, it’s very common to say excuse me when you need to get past someone but that is not something that people do here. Everyone silently lets each other pass or they push their way through a crowd without saying anything. That is something that shocked me at first and it still shocks me. I asked one of my instructors if that was normal and he said it was. It was also interesting to hear that it was rude to have conversations on a public bus or subway. One group of classmates were told by a local to be quiet on the bus because it was a public space. That is completely understandable but it still shocked me since public spaces in the United States are everything but quiet. It has been interesting to watch the gentle and respectful manner in which everyone treat each other. It’s been a great experience so far and I am excited to see what next week will bring!