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Being an International Student in Korea – Part 2

May 1, 2014

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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

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

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!

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Being an International Student in Korea – Part 2

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  1. Some really good info right here, thx Leigh, Simon and Martina :D

    Not sure if anyone is going to reply to such an old video, but still:

    I’m planning to apply for a Korean university in a field related to game art or animation. Hongik would be my best bet, but I wonder how hard it is to get a scholarship there, so I’ll try every possibility :P.

    I’m not an native English speaker, so I can’t teach it there (legally), so I was wondering, do you guys know (or have an idea, or know about someone) how’s the life of an undergraduate student who’d have to work part time on something not related to teaching (unless someone wants to learn Portuguese. Anyone?) and study a lot in order to still get a decent scholarship?

    Another question I have is about age. I’m already 24 (international age), finishing a major, but don’t want to do masters or doctorate, so my plan would be to do another undergraduation (not happy at all with the one I’m finishing). Would Koreans have a problem with socializing with a 형 or 오빠 about 6 years older than them? I know how age is really important in Korea, so I’m afraid my chances of getting closer to younger people would be lower.

    Do you guys have an idea about how hard it is to get scholarships or discounts at universities there?

    Thx >:D

    4 years ago
  2. Any Canadians, English, or American people attending Hongik “Hongdae” University?
    Is anyone in the Animation or Game graphics major? I’m in high school as of now and I would really like to major in these things. When I graduate high school in a year, i’ll also be graduating with an associates degree. I don’t exactly know how the foreigner transfer thing works. I’d really appreciate if someone gave me insight about the process, your own experiences, information about classes and the language barrier. I’m very passionate about drawing and even though i’m not very good at it, I want to grow and draw for the rest of my life. Please help me. Even if you’re not majoring in these things, I’d still like some insight about the classes and enrollment process. Please help me English speaking foreigners in Korea.

    5 years ago
  3. Hey! I studied at Yonsei for a year and stayed at both the SK Global and I-House. There is no curfew and you can stay overnight without any forms. The rules were pretty relaxed when I was there, only thing was the floors are strictly gender separated. Visitors can go in the dorm lobbies but for the SK Global they have to have a swipe card to get passed into the actual dorm area. I-House is older and didn’t have the same type of swipe entrance though it may have changed. I really loved my time at Yonsei and the Sinchon area. I hope you enjoy!

    6 years ago
    • I’m so glad to hear this. I’m leaving in exactly four months from today and I am so nervous/excited. If I’m not mistaken, I will be housed in SK Global and I have a few questions. Did you stay in a single room or double room? If a double room, was it spacious enough for you and your roommate? Did you use the kitchen facility? Was storing food and cooking a problem?…I have more questions but I don’t want to overload you.

      5 years ago
  4. hi leigh ! and GUYSS ~!!
    im now already accepted at SNU LEI for this fall term
    im now desperately searching for a oneroom near snu with good price …
    is anyone here know any place to check or any info to share ? i would really appreciate that !! >w<
    anyway !have a great day !
    thanyou before^^

    6 years ago
  5. To be a language student (at least where I go to) you only need to prove you have completed your education.
    It’s very easy to get in so don’t worry about it! Just apply and I’m sure there won’t be a problem!
    If you need to know more about anything just ask and I’d be glad to help!

    6 years ago
  6. Hey Leigh!

    I’m hoping maybe you would know a little about the area around Sookmyung Culinary Academy in Seoul??? I’m looking to transfer as an exchange student there within the next year or two and I’m wondering if I would be able to find not only affordable housing off campus (Because I would like to be able to bring my GF with me while I am finishing school) but also maybe find part time work for myself. And also maybe get some pointers on what I would need to do for her to be allowed to work while I am in school. If you don’t know these things yourself if you’re maybe able to direct me to someone who could possibly answer my questions it would be really awesome :D

    6 years ago
  7. Some errors must be modified. Places near Daerim station is known for bad public order. I remember hearing from one of the vice station master of subway line7 that a station agent in Daerim station(line7) got rewarded for his achievement of capturing 3,000 illegal riders a year. I can’t recommend Daerim as a good place to live in; there are so many other options you can choose.

    6 years ago
  8. Hi everyone! I’m going to be graduating next year from high school and I really want to go to Korea for university. My parents are ok with it, they just want me to do all of my research first. I’m wanting to go to Seoul National University and I am wondering about the process of applying and everything like that. If anyone is going there please let me know! I want to make some friends in advance so I won’t be lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely and have people show me around! So if anyone has any info about this or just wants to be my friend please reply, and don’t forget to stay nasty xD

    6 years ago
    • Lee

      Hi, I know I’m really late but I was wondering if you are actually going to Korea for school. I’m graduating this year as well and will be attending Konkuk University for a study abroad program.

      5 years ago
    • I know this was 2 months ago, but I’m thinking about doing the same thing. I’ll be a senior in high school this coming school year and have been thinking about applying to a korean university as an undergrad since my sophomore year. I’ve been looking into Korea University and KyungHee University (am a big fan of lion and tiger mascots; buckeyes just don’t cut it xD). Maybe we can figure this process out together :)

      6 years ago
    • I’ve actually changed my mind in the past few days and am thinking about Yonsei University more. Also I am thinking about doing the summer program there next summer (2015) and was wondering if anyone has done it before and has any advice/tips.

      6 years ago
  9. I have a rather involved question for all you nasties ;)
    It is my life’s mission to somehow, someday live in South Korea for however long is reasonably possible. However, I have a couple obstacles that stand in my way. The big one is my health. I’ve been chronically ill with quite a few diseases for my whole life and have had three liver transplants (necessary because of a very rare, incurable liver disease) at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, my last one happening just under three years ago. I am 26 years-old. I have never been able to get a real job or go to school for more than to get my GED and do a year-long yoga teacher training. I am in better health than I’ve been through a lot of my life and can take care of myself and live independently. I live on SSI, food stamps and what my dad can contribute.
    I have been teaching myself Hangul along with the help of a private teacher. Previously, I had taught myself some Japanese and have been studying Asian culture myself for many years. Last fall I got to go to Japan and if I thought I was pining for Asia before then it’s nothing compared to now.
    That brings up my two main problems: health and money. The money one could probably be overcome and I would still be able to receive my SSI monthly money in S. Korea. Food stamps and other things, are, of course, out of the picture, but all things considered, I might just be able to to swing it with other resources available to me.
    The big problem: My health. I need to be have access to my medications, have a doctor I can see if needed and access to medical facilities that would be able to do at least some simple tests that Mayo might require. A relationship with a specific hospital and/or clinic would be ideal.
    Besides that, I know that I would have a lot of trouble keeping my attendance up to the expectations of some schools while also completing all my homework. I don’t know if there are good language schools that offer part-time schooling?
    If possible, I would like to continue on to a technical college to study beauty (nails, skin care, cosmetics).
    I feel very confident in my learning abilities, ease with Asian culture and city life, social skills and my ability to, given the right resources, thrive independently.
    I know that this seems like a big endeavor but I would so greatly appreciate anything you can share. You might ask why I don’t try to go to school or get a job where I live. While this is, of course, within the realm of possibility, I don’t know how much health or time I have and I want to use it as efficiently as I can. I don’t want to end up terminally ill again without having at least reached for my dream. Long story short: I don’t know how, but I need to be over there. I need to at least try.
    Thank you thank you! <3
    Becca

    6 years ago
    • Hey Becca!
      I really hope that you have found a solution by now, but since nobody seems to have answered you, I thought I might try to help (even though I don’t think there’s much I can do for you, I’m really sorry). I actually wanted to go to South Korea myself, but now I don’t think it will work out.
      This Evening Program at the Korean Language Institute would be too expensive for me, but maybe you can afford it? http://www.yskli.com/_en/proc/p2.asp

      Don’t give up!

      6 years ago
  10. guise I have a question for you. I’m going to Canada this fall term as an exchange student, specifically to WLU at Waterloo, ON, what do you recommend I should be looking out for mainly and any other things you could recommend please? x3

    6 years ago
  11. I have a question about the fees. How expensive is being an international student in Korea? Are y’all on scholarships? I’ve been thinking about applying for the government scholarship next year, because I will be graduating and after 6 years I can’t live on my parents’ money anymore. It’s just not fair. But I still to be a student and I really want to live in Korea.
    Leigh and everyone, how do you pay for university?

    6 years ago
  12. Do you know if they ever caught the couple who were having sex in one of the lounge? It was in the news during last summer… yes it was at Seoul City University.

    6 years ago
  13. In terms of amount of space you get for the money, goshiwons usually represent bad value. You are better off going to love motel and ask for weekly rate.

    6 years ago
  14. WHAT?! You mean you can’t do the Flogsta scream in Korea?! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

    …I should probably explain what the Flogsta scream is, huh?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuv3y3r7UXA <— That's the scream. It's done every night at 10pm, when the silence curfew kicks in. I don't go there but my cousin does. Drives him nuts when people do this. He says it's fun on the first week of school since they have competitions on the rooftops, but after that it goes from annoying to downright terrifying. He's always afraid that someone might be screaming for real and need help.

    By the way, the tradition started in honor of a student who committed suicide back in the 70s. Lovely, huh? = n =

    Anyway, the off-campus housing in Korea seems like a much better option. I have a friend who I met online who live off campus like that, in fact! He said it's much more nice because he can actually drink and eat and not fear getting kicked out. But the walls are very thin, like Leigh said. Still, seems like the more logical option if you're willing to pull out some extra money.

    6 years ago
  15. The country where I quite want to be
    Your mountains so lofty
    Your treetops so tall…

    Happy birthday Martina! <3

    6 years ago
  16. i think its totes okay , if u only want to learn the language without wanting to actually go to uni in korea afterward ,i think alot of ppl do it too ~
    if later you do so then well meet at snu this fall lololol

    6 years ago
  17. Awesome thank you so much Liegh i would probably think about a more independent place to live for me

    6 years ago
  18. ed

    I lived in a one-room and really loved it. It was cheaper than the university dorm and I had a really big room, my own bathroom, kitchen and washing machine. You have to be lucky to find a one-room as a foreigner, as some land lords don’t want foreigners (the risk of too much sexy time or everything getting dirty or too much partying is too high). But you can be lucky and then it is a great alternative. The main disadvantage is that you will probably have no internet and you have to do everything yourself (it’s fun understanding the korean rubbish system, buying your own cleaning equipment etc). But it’s cheap and if your lucky you’ll have some nice ajummas living close to you who’ll tell you everything you need (and really don’t need) to know

    6 years ago
  19. Thank you so much for this Leigh. I’m going to Korea next year to study and this is one of the things I’m worried about.

    and btw HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTINA! :)

    6 years ago
  20. Happy (belated) Birthday Martina!!

    6 years ago
  21. it does sound like a prison, I thought dorms here in Toronto sucked…I take that back.

    6 years ago
  22. Thank you so much Leigh for this video! I find it very helpful! :)
    I’m gonna do the “Korea as a Foreign Language Program” at Hankuk University. As far as I’ve seen the dorm regulations, it seems as bad as you’ve described: curfew, points, no cooking facilities, … Has anyone of you follow Nasties stayed there? I’d really love to know more about the university and the dorms!

    6 years ago
  23. Okay I have a TLDR-ish question for Martina: how do you get your hair so silky smooth and not frizzy and sticking up all over the place? I have tried a lot of things but no matter what I do my hair always looks dry or oily and is frizzy all over the place. Do you have any tips?

    6 years ago
    • I did watch it! I am subscribed to all three channels! XD Thanks, do you know if its possible to get those online or is there a brand online you recommend?

      6 years ago
  24. happy burttthdai martina !!! peww pewww #confetti~
    LEIGHHH~!!!! where are you living right now and how much it cost ?
    im applying for SNU KLI for this fall session … does anyone in there ? any recomendation of good place to stay ?
    SNU PEOPLEE ~~
    i was searching room at the internet but yea , never can be really sure if not seeing the room by my own eye
    how long did u guys think i need to come before the uni started? i planned about a week or so , is that enough for searching stuff and prep? thankkyou very muchhh <3 <3

    6 years ago