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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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