The definition of a “seoulit” is a person living in Seoul, surrounded by its lifestyle. My family left to Toronto when I was nine years old, so I had little memories and knowledge about living in Seoul besides indirectly experiencing it through K-dramas and K-pop. However, with Study Abroad program from my university (UCSD), I did not miss the chance to experience Korea in first-person ignoring my parent’s advise to go to Paris instead.
Being an independent full-time student, I got my satisfactory share of financial aid. So I didn’t think twice about living in another country for couple months without my ever supporting parents (both financially and emotionally) near me. (Yes, I’m spoiled).
I came to Seoul in mid-August, after the major heat wave called “Mal-bok”. Known for its humid and sticky weather during summer, I was patting myself on the back for choosing the right time. After the arrival, I silently called myself a Seoulit, trying to look natural when I scanned that credit card in the bus and in the subway station. I had such a blast with my friend/roommate who came with me to Korea, enjoying the endless nightlife and taking the advantage of the fact that public drinking is legal.
Then came the beginning of school.
My exchange school is Yonsei University. It is one of the most prestigious university in both Korea and Asia, which I probably wouldn’t even had the chance to attend if I went to high school here in Korea. Students of Yonsei are top 0.5% students from their entire high school seniors in the country. Having said that, the difficulty of exams and lifestyle dramatically increased compared to my home university. Personally, taking total of 5 classes are not the problem. The way they generally give out exams in Korea is not an essay question. Most exams consist of FILL-IN-THE-BLANK section. That means I must memorize the entire context.
On top of that they have this system where they call it “sang-dae pyeong ga (상대평가)” which is giving a given number of percentage of A’s, B’s, C’s, and so on. I still have difficulty understanding this system, but basically if I get a 92 on my final and some other classmates got 96, then I wouldn’t receive an A.
Furthermore, I over-estimated my Korean language skills and signed up 3 out of my 5 classes with courses that are lectured entirely in Korean. (Way to go!)
Also, being involved in 3 club activities back in UCSD, 2 club activities in Yonsei and 2 computer academies, I reached my physical and mental capacity to digest the schedules.
Then came the housing problem. I’m staying at a home-stay apartment nearby school, and I pay 600 dollars of monthly rent. I already applied my Alien Registration Card in Korea with the home-stay address, which is a necessary step for all foreigners who wish to stay more than 90 days. But the property owner (not the home-stay manager) suddenly gave me 2 days to change the address to different address. And if I didn’t follow what the owner said, I am going to get kicked out in few days. My ARC is still in its process, and it is absolutely impossible to change the address in 2 days.
This housing problem is happening currently as I’m writing this article.
I just want to say that living here isn’t easy. Fellow seoulits are polite and they have been nice to me so far, but I learned my lesson to MAKE FREAKING PLANS before initiating everything at once. If you are going to another country and are not sure what to expect? DON’T BE BOLD!
For me at least, I must be the most timid plan maker to end up having things a little balanced in my life.
After all, I’m Korean but still a foreigner here.
Left: Snapchat bitmoji of me and my friend Jacy. Right: Yonsei University.