Studying abroad in South Korea is not as easy as it seems and one major difficulty that I ran into my first week out of quarantine was nagativating the subway station with no knowledge of any Korean. In fact, my subway experience in Seoul, South Korea was my first experience with public transportation. As I grew up in the south, I have never experienced taking a subway or understood how the whole system worked. So, when I first got on the subway here in South Korea, I was shocked and confused at the same time. I was shocked because I have never seen such fast transportation from one city to another and how organized the whole system is. I was confused because not only was I a foreigner in a foreing country who didn’t understand the language, but it was my first time experiencing public transportation.
For a lot of students here, discovering the cities by yourself is part of the process of self development; however, I wasn’t comfortable exploring the country by myself and had to follow friends around to get used to the whole system first. It took approximately 3-4 days of following in the shoes of someone else to really understand how the subway worked. When day 5 finally hit, I was comfortable enough to be the leader to someone new here. As some students arrived later and left the quarantine after me, I was able to share my newly learned knowledge with a girl named Priya. Just like me, we both knew little of the language and had to rely on the guidance of others to understand the subway. I would say one tip for any student who is in the same shoes as me, even if you don’t know what you’re doing, try to be confident because while I did get lost leading someone new, I learned a mistake that not only would help me but helped Priya on her next trip by herself.
~How complicated is the subway system in South Korea?
The subway system in South Korea is actually one of the most organized subway systems according to local student students at Korea University. Everything is color coded and the subway stops are translated in English for foreigners. The only complicated process of the subway is the transfers from different subway lanes to another. Of the times I have been out, I have only been lost once due to complicated transfers. However, once you experience the transfers, you will learn to get better at them and eventually you’ll be able to navigate the subway like the locals.
~Any tips for subway users?
I always rely on my mobile apps to find my way through the subway stations. The apps I use are KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, and Naver Map. KakaoMap is really good if you can read Korean because it super details to the point that it tells you which lane you are supposed to transfer along with the same color code system as the subways here. KakaoMetro is also another app I have been using a lot lately. I recommend KakaoMetro if you know which cities you are going to. While KakaoMetro doesn’t give you the direction of the location, it can be useful to see how many stops you have before your destined station. I personally love using Naver Map since everything is in english. The only drawback of Naver Map is the updates and the missing details of which lanes to get on. Overall, I use both Naver Map and KakaoMetro to get my way around Seoul.