The Startup Guide to Graduate School in South Korea
“The Startup Guide to doing Grad School in South Korea”
Graduate school is a big commitment. It will take a lot of patience, hard work, and sacrifice to finish a master’s, more so a doctorate degree. So, if you are finally taking the leap and starting your graduate school journey in South Korea soon, congratulations! Read on for some helpful tips that might come in handy for you as you take on this new challenge. If you are still planning/considering whether to go to South Korea for graduate school, this article, Where to start if you want to attend Graduate School in South Korea, might be useful for you, instead.
So, whichever school you are attending in Korea, whether it is in Seoul or outside Seoul, some preparations would be very similar. Moreover, the preparation starts before you even land into South Korean soil so be sure to have a head start in making sure you have covered all your bases when it comes to making sure your adjustment into the country goes as smoothly as possible.
Before coming to South Korea:
To avoid unnecessary expenses and stress when it comes to starting your new life, make sure you have brought a few of these items with you from your home country.
- Medicines and your prescription from your doctor
Medicines in Korea are generally affordable and pharmacies (약국) can be found in every corner but it would be handy to have a supply of your own. Over-the-counter medicines in your country might not be OTC here and you would not want to have to rush to a clinic just to get a prescription. For prescription medications, you can also visit a clinic/hospital and show your prescription to the doctor so he can write one for you. Neighborhood clinics are less expensive than big hospitals though not all doctors would be able to communicate in English. This is important if you take maintenance medicines or need allergy medicines.
- Bring basic toiletries
Some of the most popular items to bring here among foreigners are their own brand of toothpaste, deodorant/antiperspirant, tampons/pads, and soap. Depends where you are from, but deodorants are more expensive here. Also, not all toothpaste brands in Korea contain fluoride. Although you will have time to find your own Korean brands for your toiletries, it would save you time and money at the beginning to have a supply of your own.
- Snacks you will miss from home
Homesickness is real, especially if you have not lived outside of your country for a long period of time before. Treats from home will make your feel better so save space in your luggage for those snacks. Those snacks might not be available here or will be more expensive.
- Clothes that can be worn for all seasons.
Korea has winter, spring, summer, and fall. And though you can go shopping here when you arrive, you may save yourself a lot of money if you come prepared. Bring clothes that can be layered on. Since your luggage allowance may not allow for you to bring everything you would wear, just make smart choices. One trick is bring clothes that are more common for the weather in your country. If you live in a cold country, chances are winter clothes are cheaper there than in Korea. If you live in a warm country, you might want to bring your light clothes and then go shopping for winter clothes when you arrive.
- Pillow cases and Bedsheets
You do not need to bring comforters or blankets but as a student, it would save you some money if you bring fresh pillow cases and thin bedsheets from home. Good quality ones would be expensive to get in Korea and you can surely use that money for something else.
Upon the beginning of your semester:
So depending when you start, Spring Semester begins in March and Fall Semester begins in late August. Here are some things you can do to start your (school) year right.
- Get your Graduate School Manual.
Each university would have a graduate school manual in some form – printed booklet, PDF file, brochure, etc. This manual contains the required subjects, number of units, thesis requirements, and other pertinent information with regards to you earning your degree. It might not be available in English but regardless, have a copy and keep it. Some universities revise their requirements at some point and it would save you the headache to know what is required of you during your entrance year.
- Visit your Department.
Depending on how much information has been sent to you before arriving in Korea, you might still be clueless about how to go about enrolling to your classes. Visit the department for your major and ask for assistance from the TA or visit the graduate school office to ask about your enrollment, fees, making your class schedule, and deadlines for enrollment. The graduate school office should also inform you about applying for your Alien Registration Card to the immigration office.
- Meet your Professor.
If you have not met your supervisor yet, this is a good time to reach out to him/her and introduce yourself. This meeting will help you get acquainted to your mentor and he/she might have useful tips for you as you start graduate school.
- Know your scholarship privileges and opportunities
If you are studying in Korea under a scholarship, be sure you know the schedule when your allowance would be given to you. If you do not have a bank account yet, you should ask how it will be given to you. For scholarship opportunities, you may ask your department regarding TA positions. Some departments offer TA jobs to graduate students.
- Ask about your health insurance
Beginning July 2019, students are now required to pay into the National Health Insurance Scheme. If you have not been oriented about this, make sure to ask your graduate school office how you would be going about to paying for your health insurance. Healthcare in South Korea is very good and having an updated health insurance would be very helpful during your stay.
- Live within your budget.
Settling expense is unavoidable should be managed carefully. Remember, you are not here as a tourist and depending on how much money you have brought with you, you should still save some for emergency expenses. Know where the traditional market (시장) is within your neighborhood. It should be cheaper to buy groceries from there compared to big supermarkets.
- Meet other foreign students
If your department has other foreign students, they might be willing to assist you with your adjustment. They might also have tips for you on where to find cheap or second-hand stuff you might need. Depending on your housing setup, this information would be invaluable for you.
- Learn the Korean Language and Culture
Depending on your graduate school program, you might already be required to learn the Korean Language before you can take classes for your major. Even if you are not, it would make your life so much easier to learn the language and the culture since you would be staying in the country for at least 2 years. There are several free classes in Seoul (and other areas, too!) so watch out for those. You can also enroll in the government-sponsored classes called Korean Immigration and Integration Program (KIIP). Attending KIIP will also earn you points towards a resident visa should you consider staying in South Korea after your degree.
This list is in no way exhaustive but nonetheless is very helpful especially for new students in South Korea. The information listed here are things some students wish they knew before coming to Korea. Hopefully, incoming graduate students will find this list helpful and informative. Enjoy graduate school in Korea and good luck!