Okay! So you’ve got your visa! Now you need to get your flights and housing.
- I recommend going through StudentUniverse
- Unless you already have frequent flyer miles accumulated, this is a site that gives discount flights to students, which, if you’re going to Sogang, you happen to be.
- StudentUniverse will require you to upload two documents to prove you are a student. I uploaded my Official Receipt and Certificate of Enrollment.
- Do not get a round-trip ticket.
- I doubt you can buy a round-trip ticket this far in advance, but you wouldn’t want to anyway. Buying plane tickets several months in advance is just shooting yourself in the foot. The flights will change many times before then. That will often require you to reconfirm things with the site you booked the tickets on which is a huge hassle. They could add extra stops on your flight (which happened to me). There could be changes to your layover time—making them longer which is just no fun or shorter which means you can miss your connections (which happened to me).
- All in all, it’s just better to be patient and wait until about a month out before buying your ticket—and make sure to only buy a one-way.
- The fewer layovers, the better.
- And, if possible, have the layovers in your own country or at least somewhere you can speak the language fluently.
- Have at least two hours for a layover.
- Anything shorter than that, you run the risk of missing your connecting flight.
- Keep in mind that if you live in the US, you might have to switch from a domestic flight to an international flight during a layover. (Flying from one state to a different state and then out of the country.)
- This might require transferring terminals as many airports are constructed so that their domestic flights and international flights are not in the same terminal.
- Depending on the airport, transferring terminals can take time. Make sure you give yourself a comfortable window of two hours no matter where the layover is—international or domestic.
- Make sure that your layovers are not overnight.
- That’s just a nightmare you do not want to deal with.
- Where you want to sit: by the aisle
- Yes, the window seat means you can see out, but most long flights require you to keep your windows closed so people can sleep. So you won’t be seeing anything anyway.
- And you will have to go to the restroom at least once. You want to be able to go whenever you want without having to worry about waking up the person next to you.
- Make sure the flight you choose doesn’t arrive in Korea between 9:00pm-4:00am.
- You won’t be stranded at Incheon, but your choices of public transportation will be limited to only by taxi as the airport busses, subway, and airport train will not be running by the time you make it through immigration.
- Not to mention you probably won’t be able to check into your hostel/wherever during those times either.
So unfortunately, if you’re just doing the KLEC, you aren’t able to be in the dorms on campus. So what do you do? Here is my advice on where to find affordable housing.
- In my class of 13:
- 9 lived within walking distance of Sogang in either the Sinchon or Ehwa Women’s University area
- of those who didn’t one lived near Hapjeong Station (two stops away); Guro Station (seven stops away); Gimpo (three stops away); and I lived the farthest (1hr bus ride or 9 subway stops away)
- most lived in goshiwons
- most were paying something like W400,000-450,000 a month
- 9 lived within walking distance of Sogang in either the Sinchon or Ehwa Women’s University area
Types of Housing
- Most of those who go to Sogang live in these. These are extremely tiny dorm-like rooms. There is typically a community kitchen that you share with everyone else. Many times you are not allowed to have guests over. Some do have private bathrooms but some don’t.
- This is essentially a goshiwon, but your landlord is an older Korean woman who cooks meals for you. So while hasukjibs can be a little more expensive, this includes meals.
- One room/원룸
- This is a small apartment that should have a personal bathroom and kitchen. This is probably your most expensive option.
Where to Look
It seems just about every person I asked had a different story as to how they ended up finding housing, but here are just a few methods.
- While you don’t want to go to Korea with no place to sleep, once you get to class, talk with your classmates. Many people find better places to live simply through word-of-mouth. So you’re not necessarily condemned to your original place you found forever.
Regardless of what site you go through, how to do you search?
If you’re looking for places close to Sogang, search “Sinchon” or “Ehwa Women’s University/Idae”
- Anything that is in these two areas will be within walking distance.
- Honestly, I recommend this. Though you may find cheaper accommodation somewhere else, it’s worth it to live close to the school.
- The advantage to living close are:
- you will save money on public transportation
- you will be close to your classmates (so if they want to hangout in the evening, you won’t have to worry about when the subways stop running)
- you don’t have to get up for school super early
- you’re near the university nightlife/close to stores
If you’re just looking for the cheapest:
- You must keep in mind that if you do go somewhere outside of the Sinchon area (where the Sogang is), you will have to be riding a bus or subway to and from school every weekday. Public transportation is not expensive, but it is obviously more expensive than walking. Keep this in mind when budgeting for a place to stay. It might end up being cheaper to pay more for rent and be closer to the school.
- If you want, you can download a subway app (which I will go into more detail here). The app will estimate how much time it will take to get from one subway station to another. The two closest subway stations to Sogang are Sinchon station (off line 2) and Sogang University station. So put in the subway station that is close to the hostel you’re looking at as your departing station and put in either Sinchon or Sogang University as the arrival station, and the app will estimate the time it will take to get there. Judge for yourself if it is worth it.
- To give you a ballpark estimate: I commute to school everyday and I end up paying something like 80,000W a month for transportation. For me, the difference with rent for the place I’m living now is significant enough that it still make sense for me to live where I am. But I doubt that this is typical.
Okay, so now that you’ve got a whole list of search results. What should you look for?
- Near the school or near a subway station.
- I already explained the benefits of living close to the school above.
- If you aren’t near the school, shoot for being near a subway station.
- Subway stations, other than being important transportation you need to have easy access to, are also frequently the site of food stands if you need something quick to eat. Underground shopping is very common in and around subway stations and is extremely handy.
- Air conditioning, heating, washer, a kitchen, and a “real” bed.
- I said this earlier, but it bears repeating. You probably won’t have the option of a private kitchen, but you need to make sure that you have access to one. Even if you hate cooking, a kitchen can mean a microwave, free rice, filtered water, and a fridge which will come in handy at some point, I guarantee.
- A “real” bed means you’re not sleeping on the floor. If you’re a foreigner and not use to sleeping on the floor or on a very thin cushion, you’re going to want a real bed. Make sure that it has one or your back will be sorry.
- Something to note: Korea doesn’t do dryers. Pretty much everyone hang-dries their clothes inside their house (or on the roof if they have one) on these metal drying racks. Don’t expect to have a dryer while you’re there. It’s just not going to happen.
- Wireless internet will most likely be included. (If you are planning on shelling you the money to rent a wifi egg, which I talk about in this blog post), wifi in the hostel/goshiwon might not be a necessity.)
- Good reviews.
- So most listings are not actually made by some family wanting to rent out an extra room in their house. These are often done by people who run hostels or people who rent out dozens of little flats called goshiwons.
- So it would be very unusual for someone to list only one property. So even if the particular property you are interested in doesn’t have a review, there will be reviews for the other properties owned by the same person.
- Check those out and make sure that the reviews are positive—that the guests are claiming that they got what was advertised and that the host was nice.
- Message the host:
- It is completely normal to message the host for any questions you might have about the property. (For Airbnb and Travelmob, hosts’ ratings go up and down depending on how fast they respond to inquiries, so expect an extremely quick response.)
- Some questions you might want to ask:
- How would they recommend getting to the property from the airport?
- Is washer access free?
- Are the dates you’re interested in staying available?
- How long is the walk to a subway station from the property by foot? Or do you need to take a bus?
- Are there any markets and/or traditional markets nearby? (In general, “mart” or “마트” means a grocery store, and “traditional market” or “시장” means traditional market as we would think it.)
- A heads-up. I’ll talk about this in a later post, but many hosts will ask you if you can message them on KakaoTalk instead of the site messaging system. KakaoTalk in short is the texting/calling app that literally everyone in Korea uses. I talk more about it in this blog post. Now, until you actually book the property, I would recommend only messaging through the site messaging system just to be safe. When you actually book the property, then it would be actually smart to add your host on KakaoTalk.
After you’ve found a great place in a good location, book it!
- Make sure you know when the check-in times are for the property so you don’t end up spending a short eternity in the Incheon airport.
- Make sure you have the address saved on your phone or written down somewhere so you can write it down when you’re filling out your landing cards for going through immigration after you land.
The next post will be about what to buy in preparation for your Korea trip.
How to Sogang: Packing and Predeparture
How to Sogang: The Airport
How to Sogang: Getting to Campus and the Placement Test
How to Sogang: New Student Orientation and the First Day of Class
How to Sogang: How to Get Your Alien Registration Card (ARC)
How to Sogang: Getting a SIM/Wifi Egg
How to Sogang: The Seoul Subway System
How to Sogang: The Seoul Bus System
How to Sogang: How to Get the Most Out of Sogang
How to Sogang: Level 1 Summary
How to Sogang: Level 2 Summary
How to Sogang: Level 3 Summary
How to Sogang: Graduation
How to Sogang: Retests
Sogang University Korea Language Program