This is my first blog about my experience so far as an Intern at Kookmin University, Seoul! I decided to wait a bit before posting this because I wanted to settle in and not only have an overview of this experience but real opinions that can hopefully help people decided and get a foreign perspective on a trip here.
First of all, if you ever get the chance to apply for such an experience through Centennial college, if you get this opportunity to avail it for sure!
I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit but it is usually vacation and never as long as 4 months. So coming to a completely different part of the world has been an eye-opener and an unforgettable experience.
Working here has given me a great sense of who Koreans are in a professional environment and the differences I can expect from both professional and social circles.
So getting to the main point of this blog is not to be overwhelmed by the great difference you may feel at first and instead learn from it and embrace it. you have to certainly prepare yourself for the language difference and just the social and cultural difference entirely. Have an open mind, obviously research before coming because that helps a lot.
A friend of mine was not as prepared mentally I guess as I was at the beginning about the fact that not many people here (outside of work) can communicate in English, he had a hard time settling in and would get frustrated because he could not speak Korean. This didn’t help him very much and I think he did not enjoy his first few weeks as much as he could have.
So when preparing to try to memorize a few words that can help you while you are out and about, hello, thank you, how much is this, where is this, if you have a special diet then learn how to say that; so I, for instance, eat Halal meat, which is not as common here as it is in Toronto so I practically became a vegetarian or ate seafood, which again I was prepared for and it didn’t bother me much. So I went on to learn how to say “no meat” and little phrases like that.
Also if all else fails to know that sign language is the best way to go, gestures are the universal way of communication and don’t be afraid to look funny at times for that reason because most of the people here are genuinely kind enough to help, some even go out of their way in trying to understand and help you, somehow.
The second point of this entry is for you to learn about the transportation system! If you are lucky enough to come to Seoul, Koomin University, know that it is actually really easy and convenient to travel here. Find someone who can introduce you to the transportation, look at the map and please don’t panic, if you are coming from Toronto where there are only 5 subway lines you might hyperventilate when you first see the subway map for Seoul. It looks insane and impossible to understand but you seriously do get used to it after only a week.
All stops are said in Korean and English, even on the bus sometimes just ask the bus driver if it’s going to a certain station, after your question they almost always put on the English version if it’s not already on.
Download the subway app on your phone, you will have wifi at most cafes so even if you don’t have a local number you can still function. Then just enjoy your time exploring yourself and the city!