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What To Expect The First Week Studying Abroad

What To Expect The First Week Studying Abroad

Studying Abroad Tips

After I arrived in South Korea I know that I needed to go to my nearest Daiso store it seemed like every day.  Imagine you’re moving into a new apartment what are the products you will need to purchase; close hangers, a broom, shower slippers the list could go on.

However, that’s not what I’m going to write about in this post.  I want to write about the first week of studying abroad.  So, what should you expect besides jet lag and culture shock?  Here are five things you should expect your first week studying abroad.

Getting Lost

I mentioned before in my previous post that you will receive a welcome packet as part of the dormitory check-in process.  I’m not sure about every Universities amenities, but part of my dorm room a small refrigerator was included. The only caveat is the fridge was empty.  Your next inclination is to go to the nearest store and purchase groceries.

Finding the nearest grocery store or Diaso is where getting lost comes into play.  Part of the adventure of studying abroad is getting lost and discovering a nearby park, shopping mall or a laundromat.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting that you don’t use Navar, Google or ask a local friend, always be prepared.  What I’m suggesting is that street names, buses, and walking directions will all be unfamiliar and with that comes the possibility of getting lost.

Money-Saving Tip: A great way to save money is to purchase your water, yogurt, and snacks as bulk products.  Be aware, however, that everything that you purchase you should be able to carry home unless you plan on calling for a taxi.  Which in my opinion defeats the purpose of buying in bulk.

Campus Navigation

Getting Lost Pt.2

When was the last time you walked around a University campus?  Although your four-hour class most likely will take place in one classroom you still need to locate the building where your class will be held.  In addition, to your classroom, you will need to find the bookstore, cafeteria, library, and foreign language office.

Navigation Tips:

  • If you’re not able to attend the school orientation plan your own personal tour of the campus.  Locate your classroom, nearest bathroom, etc. before the first day of school.
  • As you walk to a new location, take pictures of street signs, and storefronts.  This will give you visual images of the path you’ve taken.
  • Write down your University’s address, phone number and contact representative in both your native language and the Korean language.
  • Directions – Save detailed directions on your cell phone as well as write down on a piece of paper.  Repeat the same steps to return to your dormitory or living arrangements.


This may seem like a weird item to add to the list.  Yet, I am adding this because in addition to wanting to learn a new language you will want to go to explore.  Something I wish I had done in addition to creating a monthly spending budget is to also create a study plan.

Homework usually includes speech pronunciation, vocabulary worksheets and several pages in your class workbook.  Plan on spending at least two hours every night completing the assigned homework. Trust me it’s never a great feeling falling behind in class because you don’t remember the vocabulary.

Classroom Study Tips:

  • Cell phone usage: It was a policy of the teacher to take away all cell phones at the beginning of every class.  Although it may seem extreme at first, at least it did to me, in the long run, this is the best policy. It removes the temptation to text, and translate words with your online dictionary.
  • Create flashcards: These are great study guides when you’re learning a new language.  In addition, they are great to use when you’re riding the subway or bus.

Food Ordering Experience

It’s great when a restaurant menu has pictures and then you’re able to order food without any problems.  However, there are some instances when that option is not available. Depending on your level of reading the Korean language additional time may be needed to figure out your food menu options.

Helpful Tips:

  • Find out if your University has cafeteria menu options available in other languages.  I know that at H.U.F.S a student created a mobile application that translated the cafeteria menu into other languages to assist foreign students.
  • Download helpful mobile applications (Google, and Waygo) to translate restaurant menus.

Meetup Invitations

Returning students form group chats and message boards to assist new students.  Part of their gatherings besides the standard pizza party is to meet up at nearby subway locations and go on field trips.

When I was attending Hankuk University throughout the semester returning students planned trips to climb a nearby mountain, visit a folk village and a trip to the Myeondong shopping district.

In addition, to these one-day trips, there are Korean language meetup groups that meet at local restaurants.  This is yet another way to practice the language you’re learning and meet new people.  Both of these activities are great ways to meet new friends and learn about your surrounding neighborhood.  If you want more information about meetup groups in Seoul, check out their website here.

I hope this list helps with some of the things to expect during your first week studying abroad.

If you like this story check out related blog posts on:

  1.  7 Things To Do After Applying To A Korean Language Program
  2. 10 Websites And Apps For Visitors To South Korea
  3. Non-Teaching Jobs: South Korea
  4. Free Korean Language Classes Online
  5. Insadong Street Shopping & Gyejeol Bapsang Korean Buffet

Do you have your own tips on what to expect the first week studying abroad?  Would love to read your stories in the comments down below.

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How I Saved Money To Travel

How I Saved Money To Travel

Preparing For Travel to Seoul, South Korea

I am not from a family that has ever taken yearly vacations.  It’s something that I have only read about in magazines and books.  In fact, the first time I ever got on a plane, flying longer than two hours, was a year after my mother passed away.  My sisters and I decided to go to Jamaica for a week instead of staying home surrounded by memories.

We looked at it, as a way to get away from our normal day-to-day routine.  However, that was decided on a whim, after my sisters and I took a family portrait.  We were feeling the loss of our mother, the emotions that come and go, as time passes after you’ve lost someone you really loved.  We saw a travel agency poster that displayed a beach with crystal clear water and a beach chair.  That was all we needed, it was just what we needed at that moment.

So, when I decided I wanted to travel to South Korea I started doing a lot of research.  I knew that I didn’t want to teach English as a lot of other expats.  I will discuss more on the reasons for that in another post, but what could I do?  I asked family and friends for any advice.  Everyone I knew traveled for vacations, military assignments or taught English.  I needed new friends who wanted to live a nomadic lifestyle.  I would join a new Facebook group later, but for now, I needed another plan.

The only other option I could come up with was what I wanted to do while I attended University.  I wanted to study abroad for a semester.  While attending school full-time, I, like a lot of other students had to work part-time to pay my bills so I never got the chance to study abroad.

However, I had already graduated and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree.  The thought of obtaining my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing sounded appealing, but the application process didn’t.  I discovered through the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, a lot of Universities in South Korea offer a foreign language program with housing.

Here are 5 strategies I used to save money to travel abroad.

Splitting Bills

I reduced the monthly cost of paying the cable, water, gas, etc., by living with family.  Additionally, I incorporated the same method when I went out with friends.  Although I didn’t go out often, when I did go out, I went out with the understanding of splitting all costs.  If there are good friends they will understand your goals, if they don’t well…

Pay Off Credit Card Bills

I paid more than the minimum amount required.  This allowed me to pay off my credit card debt faster.  An added bonuses while I lived abroad I had one less bill to pay every month.

Limit Shopping

I am not saying that I didn’t shop, I believe in retail therapy.  Only, that I didn’t have the latest purse or brand name shoes and that retail therapy can turn into window shopping.

Monthly Food Budget

While I attended school in South Korea I rarely went to restaurants during the weekday.  Mostly, I would eat at the school’s cafeteria which had really affordable options if you like Korean food.  Since I really like Korean food I could save money every day and I had more money to spend on the weekends.  Additionally, because I ate at the cafeteria I didn’t have to buy many of the kitchen appliances necessary to cook.

Lastly, even though I lived alone, I invested in an electric kettle and I bought a large box of instant coffee and a family size Yoplait yogurt.  *Tip – Costco cards that are purchased in the United States also work in South Korea.*  

Dorm Room

There are several different options you can choose when looking for housing.  Whether it’s a hostel, goshiwon, officetel or apartment, all of these have their pros and cons.  It’s really your preference on what you choose.

I choose to stay in a dorm room for three reasons.  The first reasons were because of the proximity to the school.  I was able to save money on transportation costs because I could walk to class.  Secondly, I initially didn’t know my way around South Korea without the use of several different mobile apps.  Because it’s was a University campus there were a lot of fast-food restaurants, a grocery store and plenty of retail shops within walking distance.  Lastly, I didn’t have to worry about furniture, a private bathroom or a washing machine because it was all included in my dorm room fees.

These are some of the ways I saved money to travel to Seoul, South Korea and while I lived abroad.

What are some money-saving tips or apps you have used to travel? I would love to read your comments down below.

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