Seoul Searching: Episode One (제1화) - Preparing for International Exchange
Updated: May 3
Hi! My name is Clara, and I'm a 4th year psychology student at the University of British Columbia. Last May, I made an impromptu decision to apply for international exchange. And now, I'm just weeks away from jetting off to start my exchange semester at Sungkyunkwan University (성균관대학교) in Seoul!
Follow me on my journey as I try to navigate through a country where the language and culture is completely foreign to me. I hope this blog series will encourage you to search for experiences to live abroad, while showing you the ins and outs of what it's like to be an exchange student in South Korea.
While preparing for my semester abroad, I found it really difficult to find any information without clicking through multiple links and websites. With this blog post, I hope I can provide some guidance for anyone considering or currently planning for an exchange semester.
Things to Prepare for BEFORE Exchange
Visa Application In most countries, you'll need a student visa to remain there for the duration of your studies. If you go to South Korea, this would be the "D-2 Visa". Make sure to allocate roughly two to three weeks for the visa to be completed as you will have to hand your passport into the office. Click here for the required documents for visa issuance and here for the visa application form as well as the hours for the Vancouver consulate office.
Dormitory / Alternative Accommodations At SKKU, the dormitories that are available to exchange students all have roommates. Depending on what dorm you're assigned to, you could have anywhere from one to seven other roommates. They are also quite strict about curfews and penalty points, which you can read more about here. If roommates aren't your thing, a common alternative for accommodation is called a "goshiwon (고시원 )", which is what I opted for since I wasn't a fan of having so many roommates. A goshiwon is a simple room that has a single bed, desk and bathroom. I used this website to rent my goshiwon. Once I move in, I'll be sure to do a little room tour, so stay tuned for that!
Medical Tests / Vaccines Make sure to double check whether any vaccines should be done before you arrive in your host country! For those of you who do decide to live in dorms in South Korea, most will require you to have completed a tuberculosis test. I'm not too sure why they require it, but they will not let you into the dorm unless you present that to them when you check-in. Dorms also have set check-in and check-out dates, so be sure to look out for that when planning your flights to and from the country you're doing exchange in. For me, I asked my family doctor whether there were any vaccinations I should get prior to my semester abroad. Since I told him that I planned to travel Southeast Asia, he recommended medication that would help with contaminated food as well as a vaccination for hepatitis A.
Other Things to Keep in Mind Be sure to check for travel advisories for your exchange country and stay up to date on their local news. Click here for travel advisories listed by the Government of Canada. It may also be useful to give a heads up to your phone provider, credit card company and bank that you will be away for the next few months. They may lock your phone/money if they notice that it hasn't been in use or that it's being used in another country so notifying them will hopefully prevent that from happening.
Planning for exchange can definitely feel overwhelming, but once all those boring logistical things are finalized, you get to start planning the more exciting things like where you wanna go to find all the good eats!
If you have any questions about anything I mentioned or just exchange in South Korea in general, make sure to comment down below or find me on my Instagram 😄