by
on October 3, 2018 on 10/3/18 from

Korea = Convenience!!

10/03/2018. 16:08. P2

KOREA = CONVENIENCE!!

/Category: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving/

/Guide Question: Basic skills procuring food, transporting yourself, and communicating with others provide opportunities for some of the most fundamental problem-solving skills while abroad. What experience have you had that falls into this mundane and revelatory category?/

Housing:

What I was able to do: I’ve finally moved in! The actual process of moving in was no trouble at all, it was the settling in that took a lot of time. As you can see in the photos below, my studio was completely empty! Because I have always lived with my family, I never really thought about how much stuff I use day-to-day. It took a lot of trips to Daiso and ordering online for some needed appliances to finally get settled and be comfortable. Korean Daiso is really amazing, they have everything you need (e.g. cleaning, kitchen, bathroom, dining, stationary needs, etc.). They are also located almost everywhere in Seoul! KOREA = CONVENIENCE! So, I usually just passed by Daiso while heading home from school and slowly filled my house with the necessities of daily life.

BEFORE: Just moved in!

AFTER: Now it feels like home!

I’m really happy with my room because it’s quite spacious and is in a convenient location, albeit it is quite expensive according to my Korean friends. To me, it’s such a steal if you know how much rent costs in the bay area! Anyway, I think it’s a bit pricier because the real estate agency caters to foreigners. The whole service was in English, and the contract was in English, which I think is the most important thing to me at the moment because I don’t know enough Korean yet. I did my research about 5-6 months before I left the United States. I just googled real estate agents in South Korea and the ones with English services popped up. The only problem was verification on whether the company was legitimate. My friends didn’t know this company too, so I was on my own. You just have to be smart about it I think. For me, when I got in touch with my agent, she was very professional and attended to my inquiries without being very pushy. You have to make sure there is a contract that is in a language you can understand, and you have to see the room personally before making any deposit payments. I remember checking out so much websites and contacting different agencies just to get a feel of the price range and the dynamics.

I love Korea because it is relatively easy to live alone. People usually live in studio apartments that normally are already furnished. My room already had a fridge, microwave, washing machine & clothes rack for drying, gas stove, aircon, clothes closet, shoe closet, bed, desk, chair, and includes WIFI!! The rooms are smaller but they usually are enough to live in for a single person. In the USA, apartments are bigger and so to afford rent, most college students need to room with others. I am not a good roommate and I am very picky with the people I live with so I was really resolute on living alone and not in a dorm, so I feel very proud of myself for being able to find myself a place to live in.

What I want to be able to do: I want to know enough Korean to order online on my own. At the moment, I ask friends to order for me. Since they’re okay with it, I’m too lazy to make an account on my own although I probably should?? I don’t have a phone number yet and I think you need this to make accounts online?

 

Food:

What I was able to do: This is what all of my family was worrying about because they know I don’t like to – and cannot – cook. ? Feeding myself is not a problem so please don’t worry! I chose Korea for this specific reason! I don’t really need to cook and frankly, I don’t really want to cook! There are so many places to eat that are very affordable. There are also bakeries everywhere! So far, I spend about $6-15 per day. The cafeteria food alone makes me happy! These dishes featured below are around $4-6. Wish we had this in the United States!! Also, most universities here are surrounded by many restaurants and food stalls. Even convenience stores have ready-to-eat “bento boxes” (doshirak ‘도시락’ is the proper Korean term) and kimbap ‘김밥’ (Korean rolls).

This is but a fraction of the available food in school. Costs vary about $3-6. Couldn’t get any better than that!

These glass boxes (top left) lead to underground stores! We have Salady, Paris Baguette, Starbucks, convenience store, school bookstore, and the school parking lot/shuttle area located here. These stores are just one of MANY MANY stores within and around campus!

Sample of doshiraks that are available at any convenience store.

What I want to be able to do: I actually want to buy some fresh produce in open markets ‘시장’ one of these days. Fruit is generally expensive here, but I don’t know if those markets will sell them cheaper? Guess I have to find out!

Sample of Korean market (via google)

I want to explore the supermarkets more and check out Korean products. Although I’m pretty sure I am not going to cook any time-consuming meals, I do want to sometimes just stay at home and fix myself a meal.

Also, I need to learn how to order and have food delivered! I heard they can deliver almost anything! :D I will work on that right away when I get my phone number!

 

Transportation & Navigation:

What I was able to do: I don’t have problems going to and from places too because I’ve been here a few times, so I already know how the subway works. The Korean subway is amazing and I really admire it! It’s convenient (there’s that word again), clean, safe, fast, cheap, relatively on-time, and I can go almost anywhere in Seoul. There are barely any solicitors, or beggars, or performers unlike the NY’s subway, or SF’s bart. Most people are quiet and respectful, so it makes for a relatively pleasant ride. Back in the bay area, our bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system needs some serious upgrades. First, it’s not as extensive, you still need to own a car to get to places. The base fare here is around $1 for 10km and an additional 10c for each 5km extra for distances 10~50km / 10c per each 8km for distances over 50km. A round trip to San Francisco costs me around $10, and with that cost, I would like to have a pleasant ride at least, but no – there are so many solicitors, beggars, performers IN THE TRAIN ITSELF nowadays and that’s the last thing I want after a long day’s hard work. I’m aware that these people are also trying to make a living, but I think there’s a right place for everything – and inside the train is not it. Also, it’s getting very dangerous now to ride the bart. I have had experiences of being followed, and I once saw someone getting punched and robbed in DAYLIGHT!!! Crazy! I have had no problems riding the subway at 12am here in Seoul.

Anyway, they have really good apps here for navigating and planning trips so I have had no problems! Buses also run just as efficiently.

A trip to Ihwa Mural Village with some new friends! One of the many many many many places easily accessible via subway~

What I want to be able to do: I want to take the KTX train for some out of Seoul trips!

Communication:

This will be discussed in another post because this one is included in other provided guide questions.

 

Miscellaneous:

What I was able to do: Our school was very helpful in helping us get accustomed to our life in Korea. We had Visa services (to get our foreigner’s registration card) and bank services to open up our bank accounts.

I was quite surprised to find that transferring funds here are done via ATM. In the USA, it’s by online banking. I have no phone number yet so I can’t register for online banking and check out the features yet, but I thought it was interesting. Also, when you withdraw funds outside of bank hours, there is a withdrawal charge. Another interesting fact is that most debit cards double as transportation cards too! C-O-N-V-E-N-I-E-N-T!

What I want to be able to do: Get a phone number and cellphone plan. Since most of the cellphone places don’t speak English, I need to bring my friend with me to help me select a phone plan. I also need new contacts and glasses.

Oh! I should tell you guys~ I will have dental surgery soon! (I will talk about that unexpected fiasco later on)

Conclusion:

Overall, I’m just really happy to be here. I wake up happy. I sleep happy.

I know for now I am just here for a year, so I am just making the most of everyday and learning as much as I can. I enjoy living alone and am enjoying learning how to do everyday stuff by myself. It’s like discovering life all over again – like an infant learning how to walk. For instance, when I researched what all the settings my washing machine had – they were all in Korean – or when I go to the supermarket, it takes more time because I have to translate words to find out what they mean. As I went through my first month, there are three things I have learned to appreciate more – technology, people, and my own ability.

Technology, because without it, my transition and day-to-day would not be as smooth as it has been. (Can you imagine how people traveled before all this incredible technology??)

People, because although I enjoy living alone, you really appreciate all the help that you can get when you don’t expect any. There are still so many things that I don’t know how to do yet – or can’t do on my own due to the language barrier –  that requires me to lean on to others, and because I don’t have much friends yet, I cherish every little connection I make. I feel like I’m an adult and a child at the same time because there are things that I accomplish by myself, and yet sometimes I need my hand to be held (metaphorically).

And finally, my own abilities, because I really didn’t think I could pull this off. But here I am! I’m living! Goes to show that when you really want something, you really can make it happen!

I love you, Seoul :)