Friday the 24th of July officially marked five months living in Korea. It also marked the end of my first semester doing my Korean Intensive Language program. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Korea on my own for five months. Today, I’ve decided to give you a short recap of some of the experiences and challenges I had to face during my time here.
First of all, I completed my first semester of Korean Language school. It’s amazing to see how far my classmates and I have progressed in the last few months. Enrolling into the program I joined the A class which is the complete beginner class. Here, we started by learning the Korean alphabet, how to read Korean and all the basics you need to get around. We managed to finish three Reading comprehension and listening textbooks as well as two Grammar books. We went from complete beginners to intermediate level in three months. We completed 4 years’ worth of past exam papers, learnt over a thousand new words and sat many vocabulary and mock exams. At the beginning of the semester when my roommate told me that the teachers don’t expect us to have a social life I thought she was joking. I soon realized the reality when we were given daily homework tasks and lengthy vocabulary lists to memorize overnight. However, because of the intense pressure and motivation from our teachers, we managed to reach an intermediate level in only a few months. I can’t forget to mention that all these classes were done online and we only managed to meet our teacher in the last week of the semester. Apart from learning a new language in a new atmosphere, a lot of us had to also get used to the new style of learning through online zoom sessions. This was all very new to me as I was used to small classrooms with 15-20 students where each student was able to get some sort of attention from the teacher which is not always possible online.
Secondly, in the last two months, I managed to visit the dentist six times. For someone who is not a fan of anything medical related, having to find a dentist in a new country was not a particularly enjoyable experience. One weekend I noticed my jaw was quite sore, a week later my root canal tooth -which hadn’t given me any trouble in the last 5 years- was quite sensitive and painful. I knew that something was wrong because after root canal treatment this tooth doesn’t have any nerves left so I shouldn’t be able to feel anything. It was quite stressful, but early on I decided that I was going to look for an English speaking dentist so that I knew for sure what was happening and could communicate easily with my dentist. Yes, this was probably going to be more expensive but I felt much more at ease knowing what was wrong with my mouth and what treatment I was going to be receiving. Anyway, after my first visit, he said that the situation was not great and that he needed to clear up the infection and re-do the root canal treatment and then insert a crown. I wasn’t very happy to hear this because it sounded painful and expensive also, you’re only supposed to get root canal treatment every 30-40 years and here I was getting it only five years after my first treatment. Anyway, I agreed to start the treatment and six visits later there was no more inflammation and I had a crown. After the whole process, I was really glad that I had decided to find an English speaking dentist, and I was grateful that although the nurses weren’t very good at English they always tried to find a way to communicate with me and make me feel comfortable before any procedure such as injections. I’m still not out of the clear and need to visit them again in the next few months for a checkup but rather than dreading the experience I look forward to it.
Lastly, while being in Korea for five months I’ve had to adjust to living alone, away from friends and family. I think because I’ve always been quite independent this wasn’t that difficult but there were still many things that I had to get used to. Food was a big one, in Fiji, I was responsible for my breakfast and lunch most days. In Korea, I was in charge of all three meals, the preparation and the buying of ingredients. It can get quite overwhelming especially when ingredients that you are used to aren’t available and you don’t have a fully functioning kitchen. It can also be a challenge to keep track of all the nutrients you are consuming, making sure I’ve had enough veggies, fruits and protein can be hard especially when instant food is so convenient. After three months I started to get the hang of it, I found a market near my dorm where I would buy a week’s supply of broccoli and tuna. I also ordered six kilos of oatmeal which I can eat when I’m not in the mood to cook and it’ll probably last me until December. Apart from food, I’ve had to get used to cleaning my dorm room and bathroom, my roommate and I have a sort of routine that works for us, but at the beginning, it was all very new to me. She had to teach me how to clean the bathroom and the floors as I had never done anything like that before. I also had to learn about doing the laundry. I miss having a cleaner around but I’m glad to have picked up a few new skills. Moving onto the subject of roommates, being an only child who spent most of my time in a bedroom double the size of my dorm room made adjusting to dorm life with a stranger very challenging at first. Eventually, I got used to it, one thing I appreciate and I hope my future roommates are similar in the way that we can live happily in silence and doing our own thing. Apart from roommates I also had to make many new friends which I thought would be challenging as I’m not very outgoing and I spent most of my high school years following around my two best friends Mira and Toma and letting them lead the way. So having to make decisions without them around and go out places without the comfort of knowing I could always talk to them was difficult at first. But I’m happy to say that I managed to make a great group of friends with similar interests and personalities.
Overall, my first five months in Korea have been amazing; although in the middle of a world-wide pandemic, I’ve learnt to adjust to all the new situations and experience from learning a new language to living independently. This whole experience is so different to what I expected it to be like mainly because of COVID-19 but I also can’t imagine it any other way and am excited to see what the next semester will bring. For now, I have a whole month of summer holidays a have a few things planned but I am also looking forward to just take a long-needed break as I haven’t had a chance to properly relax since classes started. Stay tuned to hear about my summer adventures