How to Sogang: Packing and Predeparture

Okay. So you’ve got your visa. Your flight is booked. You’ve got a place to stay upon arrival. Now it’s time to get down to pack and prepare.

Packing

Before I get into this, just know that Korea is a rapidly changing place. Make sure you are reading up-to-date blogs when researching for things to pack. Sources that are even 2 years old may have outdated information.

You’ve got probably two checked bags and your carry-on. How should you prioritize?

  • Deodorant.
    • I can only speak from an American perspective on this one, but this seems to be a common thing. Many parts of the world do not do deodorant the way you are use to. Buy lots of deodorant. You won’t find any in Korea.
  • Shoes and clothes.
    • Keep in mind where you are going. You are going to an extremely homogenous society of people, and the clothes are made to suit the people who live there—not foreigners.
    • If you are bigger than the average Korean in height and/or weight, you’ll need to invest most of your packing in clothes and shoes. (This includes undergarments.)
    • Also, Korea is a bit more modest when it comes to clothes, so ladies, be aware that wearing v-necks and clothes that show your shoulders/collarbones are considered risqué and are also not in style.
      • Although some really short shorts that would be considered scandalous in the US are fine here.
      • Rather than v-necks and collarbones, the sexy fashion is showing midriff with loose, sleeved crop tops and high-waisted short-shorts.
    • Weather:
      • Spring term (March-May)
        • You will need winter clothes (long pants, winter coat, etc)
        • Most people stopped wearing winter coats the last week of April or so
        • It’s an agonizingly slow crescendo into summer so be prepared with a good number of spring clothes
      • Summer term (June-Aug)
        • You will need light summer clothes so shorts, t-shirts, etc.
        • You also need to prepare for monsoon/rainy season which takes up a good deal of July so it’s a good idea to bring a raincoat. You can buy umbrellas in abundance in Korea.
        • The summer is also amazingly humid so bring deodorant
      • Fall term (Sept-Nov)
        • This is probably the term that you will need to bring the biggest assortment of clothes
        • Until about October, it is still very hot, so you’ll still need shorts and t-shirts
        • It starts to get to be cold around the beginning of November
        • You will probably need a winter coat by the end of the term
      • Winter term (Dec-Feb)
        • Korea is really, really cold so you need to seriously bundle up.
        • Bring your serious winter coat, scarves, hat, gloves, sweaters, thick socks, ear-warmers, fleece-lined tights/thick leggings, and anything else you can think of to keep yourself from freezing.
        • You can buy this stuff in Korea, but winter stuff just like anywhere else is expensive so if you already have it, bring it.
        • It’s a good idea to go to one of the bigger Emarts or Homepluses and buy an electric mattress pad there. Korea doesn’t place a huge emphasis on building insulation, so be prepared for the insides of buildings to be cold too—including the place you live.
  • Hair products.
    • Just like the clothes, the hair products will be aimed toward Koreans too. Korean hair in general is straight and silky. If you hair is not, you need to bring your own hair products.
      • There are straighteners and curling irons in Korea
  • Toothpaste.
    • In general, flavor is one of the things that is very different from country to country. If you’re super sensitive to this sort of thing, you’ll need to bring a tube of toothpaste.
    • Other Westerners I’ve met say that they think the Korean toothpaste isn’t strong enough in their opinion or that they think the flavor is disgusting.
    • Korea also doesn’t put fluoride in their tap water, so make sure you bring a toothpaste that has fluoride or you might want to even bring fluoride mouthwash.
  • Tampons.
    • Ladies, pads are in abundance in Korea, but if you prefer tampons, you will want to pack them.
  • Over-the-counter allergy medicine.
    • While healthcare is generally cheaper in Korea, you are required to get prescriptions for a lot of things that you might be used to buying over-the-counter. Allergy medicine in one of those things.
    • It’s also a good idea to bring over-the-counters with you so that the directions are in a language you are familiar with and you are sure of how your body will react to the medicine.
  • Make-up.
    • If you have a skin tone that is outside a typical Korean’s, then you should bring your own make-up—especially things like foundation that are to match your skin tone.
    • Be aware that in general, Korea considers pale skin beautiful, so many Korean cosmetics contain whiteners. If that is something that you wish to avoid, you should bring your own make-up and face washing products.
      • They have just about every sort of make-up–related item here you could ever want, so really the color of the make-up should really be the only issue you might run into.
  • Western (big) towels.
    • If you prefer those towels that you can wrap around your whole body, you’ll have to bring one.
  • Adapter
    • Unless you are from Europe (excluding Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain), you are probably going to need an adapter because your plugs are not gonna fit physically into any Korean outlet. These adapters are super easy to find online, in electronics stores, in airports, or in Korea.
  • Converter
    • Along the same lines as the adapter, your country’s electronics are designed to function with a certain voltage and frequency of electricity that your country’s outlets provide. If your country’s voltage and frequency is different than the voltage (220 – 240 V) and frequency (60 Hz) in South Korea, you’ll need a converter. And even if it is the same, I would still recommend getting a converter just in case.
    • Some electronics like Apple products have voltage/frequency converters built into their chargers. (That’s what that box thing attached to Apple laptop chargers is for.) The Apple USB chargers are converters too.
    • If the electronic says ‘INPUT: 100-240V, 50-60Hz,’ this means it will automatically convert to any outlet in the world, and you will only need the adapter to make the plug be able to fit physically in a Korean outlet. source
img_5202

Korean outlets are round and two-pronged set diagonally.

    • Sometimes you can find ones that are both adapters and converters.
    • WARNING: Do not bring any hair dryers, hair straighteners, any electronic that’s purpose is to heat up. This is just a generally bad idea and so it would be to your best interest to leave those at home and shell out the won to buy them in Korea made for Korean plugs and Korean voltage.
    • Here’s a good site for checking converter and adapter compatibility.
    • Converters are harder to find in Korea so I would recommend buying/ordering one in advance and bringing it to Korea.

Gifts

  • You probably already know that Korea is a gift-giving culture. Be prepared with small trinkets for friends and acquaintances as well as hosts.
    • Gifts to teachers: There is a new law that is being strictly enforced about students giving gifts to teachers. Because bribery is common in Korea, teachers are now required to refuse gifts and sometimes even report students who give teachers gifts as it could be seen as a bribe. I’m not sure how strictly this rule is enforced at Sogang, but I wouldn’t risk it.
  • Chocolate and candies are always good gender-neutral gifts that people of any age enjoy.
  • Lotions, key chains, and small pieces of jewelry are some ideas to give women.
  • Alcohol is a popular gift to give men, but it’s a pain to travel with, so bottle-openers with a relevant flag is an easier alternative.
  • Anything (magnets, coasters, pens, coins, etc.) that has your country, state, province, whatever on it is probably a good idea. This will be easier if you are from a more touristy part of your country. Make sure to buy lots of little gifts so you don’t run out of gifts before you leave Korea.

Predeparture buying: What should you buy in preparation?

Because it started to make this post crazy long, I moved the section about how to rent a SIM/phone/wifi egg to another post here.

Portable charger/power bank:

This is something that hasn’t quite reached mainstream US yet, but it’s very popular in Korea. Having a portable charger is a something I recommend especially if you are renting a wifi egg.

  • You can get these on Amazon or in Korea
  • If you want to get one, there is the decision of how powerful you want it to be. The higher the mAh, the faster your item will charge but the faster it will drain.
  • I recommend going for something around 10,000 mAh.

Apps

Okay, so there are a few extremely useful apps that I would recommend you get before you embark upon your journey to South Korea.

  1. KakaoTalk
  • This free app is almost necessary. I’m not kidding when I say that literally everyone in Korea uses this app, and the fact it is so wide-spread will make your life so much easier.
  • You can text other people who have this app through wifi and you can also make wifi calls with it. This is how I talked with my family while I was in Korea the first time.
  • If you only get one app, get this one.

2. Kakao Metro

  • This free app is one of two subway apps that I recommend you get. This app will let you type in the name of your departing subway station and arrival subway station and then the app will tell you several different routes to get from A to B organized by quickest or simplest.
  • It will tell you which direction on the line to head, when to transfer lines, about how long it will take you to get there, the cost of the journey, which way the doors on the subway open, and even which cars are close to what exits.
  • Because it is made by the same company as Kakao Bus, you can also check which busses are closest to the subway station exits.
  • It will give you the names of stations and lines in both Korean and romanized Korean.
  • This is another that I debate is necessary for your survival in Seoul.

3. Subway Korea

  • This is the second free subway app I recommend. While the Kakao Bus app is much easier and better to use for navigating A to B, this app gives you a much better wholistic look at the subway system in Korea.

4. Kakao Bus

  • This is a free bus app that is very useful in trying to figure out how the bus system works in Seoul.
  • Many people will recommend Naver Maps to you, but that app is in 100% Korean with no English option. Kakao Bus has an English option. The only thing is that all the bus stops are in Korean with no romanization/the English names, but if you can read hangul, you should be fine. The rest of the app is in English.

5. Naver Maps

  • This is the general navigation map that all the Koreans use. It’s more accurate and up-to-date than Google Maps.
  • It will tell you how to get from point A to point B using a combination of busses and subways and walking, which the other apps can only do separately.
  • The thing is that it’s only in Korean, but it doesn’t require a very high Korean ability to use for it’s basic functions.

Talk to your bank:

  • If you travel abroad, it is important to tell your bank that you are doing so. If not and they’re any halfway decent bank, they’ll probably freeze your card once they notice that all of these transactions are coming from South Korea all of a sudden.
  • Either call your bank or go the the bank yourself and tell them that you are going to be traveling. Make sure you tell them about how long you intend to be gone including the days when you’ll be flying just in case you need to make some airport purchases during layovers.
  • They’ll put a travel alert on all the cards you plan to use. This is free.
  • Also, it’s important to know
    • how much your bank is going to charge you for international purchases (mine was 3% of each purchase)
    • how much it will charge for international ATM withdraws (mine would reimburse the international ATM withdraw fees for my first two withdraws a month)
    • how much you can withdraw from an international ATM at a time (I could withdraw the equivalent of $500 at a time)
    • Make sure you ask about all your debit and credit cards as there is a possibility of those questions having different answers depending on the type of card

Now that you’ve gotten all packed, it’s time for you to get on that flight. Next, I’ll talk about what to do upon arrival in the airport!

How to Sogang: The Application Process
How to Sogang: Visa
How to Sogang: Flights and Housing

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

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