Being an International Student in Korea – Part 2
Leigh here! We covered on-campus dorms pretty thoroughly in the video, but we only touched upon the off campus ones, called goshiwon (고시원, sometimes sneakily called goshitel 고시텔 or living-tel 리빙텔). These puppies are generally tiny, with just enough room for a bed, a desk, and if you’re lucky, a television. Of course, you’ll have to be careful using that television, because goshiwon are notorious for their paper thin walls and general dinginess. If you find a good one though, they can be quite liveable.
In addition to dorm-style housing are home stays, called hasuk or hasukjip 하숙/하숙집. These are usually run by nice Korean ladies, who cook a homemade breakfast and dinner for you. There might be some house rules, like “stay outta my kitchen!” or “come home before 2am!” but all my classmates who did home stays had good experiences. Unlike other home stay programmes, a hasuk has lots of other students living in the same house, so it’s a great way to meet other people and practice your Korean. Plus, unlike dorm living, home stays have all the comforts of a home. Take advantage of that living room, son!
Regardless of whether you go with a home stay or a dorm, you’ll be asking the same questions. Good places have clean kitchen facilities, ones that include free rice, ramen, eggs, and kimchi. There should be cooking utensils and pots for you to use. There should be more than one washing machine available, at least one per floor. Most dorms have fixed times when you cannot use the washing machine, which, if there’s only one available, might mean waking up at 5am to get the jump on your neighbours. There should be a separate area to hang up your laundry afterwards. If it’s outside, make sure it’s covered, so your laundry won’t get soaked.
Don’t be afraid to haggle your room price down, either. Ask if your place has has ondol (온돌 floor heating) and central air conditioning. If it doesn’t, ask for a discount. If you get a room without a window, ask for a discount. If your room is next to the noisy office, the main door, or the bathroom, ask for a discount. If there isn’t a room with a private bathroom available, ask for a discount. If there isn’t wifi, ask for a discount. If there is deposit money and you can afford it, offer to pay a bigger deposit in exchange for (wait for it) a discount. If you plan on staying there long term, you guessed it, ask for a discount. Practice making those puppy eyes and whining “but I’m a student…” in your cutest voice.
And if that still isn’t giving you enough savings, you can be strategic about where you live to try and save some cash. Student housing is generally considered the cheapest of the cheap, but believe it or not, some areas of Seoul cost less than others. I’m going to break it down for you by subway line.
AVOID: Line 1, Line 5, Line 3
Subway lines 1 and 5 are huge subway commuter lines to other satellite cities, so big transfer stations like Sindorim and Kkachisan are a bit more upscale (read: expensive). Line 1 cuts through Yongsan-gu, which is up there with Gangnam as one of the most bougie areas of Seoul. And line 3 connects the old city centre Jong-ro with Gangnam, which means I’ll only ever be able to afford a place on line 3 in my daydreams. I could be wrong about this. Anyone out there find affordable housing in the above mentioned areas? Let us know! Spread the knowledge!
Line 2 is your lifeline. Places like Sinchon (near Yonsei, Ewha, and Sogang Universities) and Hongdae (near Honggik Uni) have lots of student housing options. But those are some of the most happening areas of Seoul, and all the places I looked at were a bit older, smaller, and more expensive as a result. The area around Seoul National Univeristy on the other hand, is only popular with SNU students, and thus offers tons of super cheap goshiwon and one rooms (studio apartments). I had several friends live near Sillim station too. I’m not 100% on this, but it seems in Sillim you’ll find more one rooms than dorms.
Line 7 is another big commuter line, and has lots of cheap housing. If you’re a ladyfolk, Sungsil Women’s University has some women-only goshiwon that are decent. I also recommend looking near Daerim station in Guro-gu. Daerim is kind of unpopular with Koreans. It isn’t a dangerous area or anything. There are just more offices than houses in Daerim, and there’s a huge Chinese population (score! authentic Chinese restaurants!), so for the same price of a place near, say, Hyewha station on line 4, you can get a much bigger room in Daerim. It’s not on line 7, but Wangsimi station on line 2 I hear is in the same boat.
Not on a subway!
As a rule of thumb, the closer your housing is to a subway station, the more expensive it will be. My best finds were near the back gates of universities rather than the front gates, and near bus stops rather than subway stations. It was a pain to wait for the bus in the winter cold, but I was rewarded with a comfortable room in a clean building. And I got along really well with all my neighbours. No complaints here!
The best way to find housing is to go to the area you want to live in and walk around the back alleyways. Use your eyeholes, and you’ll see signs on buildings that either say “하숙” (hasuk) or “임대” (imdae, which means “rentals”). These signs usually have a telephone number below them. Call this number. Even if you don’t speak Korean, just keep asking “방 있어요?” (bang ee-so-yo?) and they’ll figure out what you mean. I’m not a native speaker, but the following phrases definitely helped me out when I was in the market for a room:
빈 방 있나요? Do you have any free rooms?
월세 얼마예요? How much is it a month?
밥이 포함돼요? Is food included?
언제 입사하면 돼요? When can I move in?
보증금 없죠? There’s no deposit, right?
화장실을 보여 주시겠어요? Can you show me the bathroom?
인터넷은 어떻게 돼요? Is there internet?
에어컨은요? What about air conditioning?
난방은요? What about heating?
그걸 써 주세요. Please write that down for me.
빈 방이 생기면 연락해 주세요. Please contact me if a room opens up.
Anyhow, if you liked this vid, make sure you click on this pretty button below right here for more of our fancy pants TL;DRs, and to get free student housing, wherever you are in the world! Also, it’s Martina’s Birthday today! She’s still asleep as I click on the publish button. Now to make her birthday breakfast and then wake her up. Huzzah!