Managing Expectations at the Halfway Point

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Kate S.

This Friday marks eight weeks since I arrived in Seoul! I think this is a great time to reflect on the realities of my experience so far, so that you may feel more prepared for yours.  

After the first month or two in Korea, the “honeymoon phase” of study abroad will have worn off, and the realization that you are actually living here – not just traveling – will have set in. 

While studying abroad is fun and exciting, there are also many difficulties you will face that can lead to frustration. Below, I discuss three of the difficulties I have personally faced and how I have coped with them. 

Completing normal tasks may take two to three times as long as it would at home.

The first thing that comes to mind as I write this is laundry. Laundry has been extremely difficult to figure out here in Korea and may or may not have led to me crying on the floor of my dorm one Monday evening a couple weeks ago. 

If you live in the dorms, you will have to pay for laundry. As you read this, you may think coins, but no, you will have to download an app and figure out how to create an account and load money onto that account without having a Korean bank account, and you will most likely have to do this all in Korean. 

Learning how to navigate the app the first few weeks will add some time to your typical laundry routine, but trust that, eventually, you will adapt and using the app will become second nature. 

This is just one example of how normal tasks can turn into big chores that monopolize your entire day. It could be laundry, printing, grocery shopping, etc. 

Remember to allow yourself extra time for these tasks and to give yourself some grace in the beginning, as you are learning everything anew. Also, lean on your friends and the CIEE staff for support! Putting more heads together can help you figure things out.  

Sometimes, Korea is not foreigner-friendly. 

This is something I read and heard countless times as I was getting ready to leave for Korea. While I have found that Koreans themselves have been nothing but welcoming to me, sometimes Korean systems are not set up to accommodate foreigners.

Oftentimes, in order to do something, you must have a Korean phone number and/or a Korean bank account and credit card. 

For example, this past weekend I traveled to Jeonju with my mom. I tried to book bus tickets for us online in advance; however, after I had already selected the day, time, bus, and seats, I was not able to proceed with my selection because I needed a Korean credit card in order to pay. Luckily, we were able to purchase tickets in-person on the day of travel, but that was not ideal, as tickets sell out quickly.  

Keep this in mind as you come to Korea! You may be barred from doing certain things strictly because you do not have certain Korea-specific accounts and information. 

You may feel lonely, alienated, and/or homesick. 

Feeling homesick is completely natural. You will have to navigate living and learning in a foreign country and making new friends, which can be physically and emotionally tiring. 

I had never really felt homesick before, so I thought it was just something that did not apply to me. This has not been the case during my time in Korea, though. Every week, I find myself missing people from back home more and more. 

A few things I have been doing to cope with this feeling are video calling friends and family often, sending postcards, and coming up with fun ways to stay connected, like playing video games on joint servers. 

I hope this article helps you feel better equipped to manage any difficulties you may experience during your time here.