Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad in Korea

Kiki Lin, ’25, is a Computer Science major studying at Hanyang University this Summer 2023

Korea has been so fun! I have been going to many places that I’ve seen online for many months and seeing it in real life has been and is still so surreal. What I wanted to touch on here are some things I wish I knew before coming to South Korea to study abroad. I want to inform and give insight to someone who is interested in coming to Seoul, South Korea, to study abroad on things to think about and keep note of when coming here.

The number of stairs and hills here you’ll have to trek up is insane, especially if you’re coming from Philadelphia where it’s mainly flat with perhaps slight hills. I heard from one of the Korean Hanyang University students that Hanyang University is one of the topmost hilly university campuses there is in Seoul. Every morning, my route to class consists of a set of stairs out of the transit system and 2 sets of steep stairs up our campus which leads to a steep hill to climb before getting to my building. Once inside the building, the elevators are usually very packed and crowded with people trying to get up the building, so I trek up 3 flights of stairs to my classroom. By the time I get to class, I am so out of breath and am chugging my water bottle. It is not just within Hanyang University campus though, all throughout Seoul has a lot of hills and their transit train system areas have a lot of stairs. The hills here can be quite steep too.

View walking down from the highest point of Hanyang University campus

With that being said, the amount of walking is also crazy. From the very first full day in Korea, I have done a range of 8,000-13,000 steps a day, roughly 10,000 steps on average weekly. Unless you decide to not go anywhere that day, there is a high chance you’ll be hitting 10k steps that day. To give another perspective, when I was in Philadelphia, I usually hit a solid 3,000 to maybe 5,000 steps weekly on average. I think this is because Seoul is a very walkable city. Within a neighborhood, there are lots of things to do. You can spend a whole day in Hongdae or Seongsu. You will rarely need to get a taxi as Korea’s transit system is very good. I would advise a good pair of shoes that you can walk for a long time and every day comfortably. Speaking of shoes, I would also advise bringing a pair of Crocs or slides. Korea gets a lot of rainfall in the Summer so lots of people wear crocs around in the rain.

Another thing I would recommend people to do, especially those who often go with the flow and not do any prep work when they go places, is to do the research and make a list of places you want to do and visit. Personally, I am not the type of person who makes detailed lists and itineraries when going places. I usually like to go to an area and walk around and walk into stores I find interesting. However, because Seoul is such a big city and there are so many things to do, you’ll take a long time to figure out what to do. I would recommend people make a list just so they don’t spend half an hour to an hour doing the research day of on where else to go within that area. It makes traveling and exploring a lot easier!

The last thing I would recommend people to do when coming to study abroad, honestly anywhere, is to lower your expectations. I think I came here with too high of an expectation which led to a slight disappointment, and this is not to say I didn’t have a good time here because I still am having so much fun! I think because of TV or through other people’s experiences on the internet, I’ve let myself raise the bar very high but being more realistic would allow me to enjoy and be in the present more. I learned that relatively early on, so I was able to switch my mindset and enjoy many things!

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