After watching the Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw movie 5 times in a row (it was one of my favorite movies ever pre-quarantine, but now I can’t watch it anymore because I’ve seen it so many times), Little Women 4 times, Girls Planet 999 episode reruns, and 10-minute long Korean infomercials for containers, blenders, and food products, I guess you could say that I was bored out of my mind and ready to get out of quarantine. And it was only Day 10. But hey, at least I lasted that long!
Here are some things I did during this time that helped the process go by quicker:
- Watch American movies with Korean subtitles on the OCN, OCN Thrills, and OCN Movie channels. If you have access to a TV during this 2-week period, these channels will be your saving grace for when you just need a break from hearing Korean 24/7 and want to hear English spoken or want to see how American movies are translated into Korean. I think I watched over 5 movies per day…
- If you are bored, research cool places that you want to go to and visit after quarantine is over.
- SLEEP. It took my body 3 days to adjust to Korean Standard Time and have a decent sleep schedule.
- SLEEP. AGAIN.
- Try watching some Korean variety shows or music shows
- Netflix and Chill by yourself
- Click like crazy for course registration!
- Practice Korean (simple phrases and grammar)
- Facetime your family and friends. It helps with homesickness.
- Try to set up a daily schedule of some kind: disposing of food trash and responding to emails when I woke up, eating at certain times of the day to get my body to adjust to the time zone, getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep
- Wear Korean sheet masks. Do some self-care.
- Finish a few shows that you’ve been putting off finishing.
- Look forward to the small things like the airing of a certain advertised movie that night or eating a specific food item that you get
- Bring some American snacks in your suitcase for when you feel homesick (I brought the biggest bag of Cheetos ever and I don’t regret it). I will advise you to not pack any chocolates though because there is a 99.8% chance that they will melt and get all smushed 🙁
Tip: Buying a VPN before you go abroad will help keep your private information and data from being stolen or used and it gives you access to South Korean Netflix. However, I discovered that many of these streaming platforms are beginning to have stricter policies on blocking the use of VPN so good luck! If you have subscriptions to services like Youtube TV or Amazon Prime, you will not have access to them for the duration of your time abroad. Plan accordingly and try downloading a few movies to watch before leaving the country because you won’t have access to them once you arrive.
Now here comes the part that everyone has been asking me to talk about since I got to my quarantine room: THE FOOD. I would say – overall – it could have been worse (I heard way too many horror stories from other exchange students about their own food experiences). I rate the food provided to me a solid 7/10. I think that if you have very particular allergies/food restrictions to wheat, gluten, egg, or dairy, you might have a more difficult time in quarantine than I did. Most of the food that they gave us had these ingredients in them. I am not allergic to any foods in particular so I could eat most of what I was given everyday, but if you are quarantining using a service or program, let them know ahead of time and emphasize how severe your allergies or food restrictions are!!
I think my favorite meals were the dinner meals which usually had bibimbap (a mix of rice, vegetables, seaweed, and meat), kimbap (vegetables wrapped in rice and seaweed), and occasional pasta meals.
Tip: Bring a lot of cash (₩ Korean Won) with you! Before leaving I thought that, because of Covid, people would want to do more touch-less money transactions so I didn’t bring that much with me. However, in the dorms, you need cash to access the laundry machines and pay for possible sim cards (in-person)! I would recommend bringing anywhere from 200,000₩-500,000₩ in cash (roughly $200-$500 USD) before coming. If you use most of your cash up upon getting out of quarantine, there are a few global ATMs on campus or in places like Itaewon and Hongdae (famous for having more foreigners) where you can exchange your USD to Won easily with a small withdrawal fee of $3. Also make sure to inform your American bank that you will be traveling abroad so that your cards don’t get dinged if you try to buy something abroad!
Disposing of the food waste was a tedious but required part of the quarantine experience that I was very stressed out about. Korea is very big on recycling and separating its food waste from general waste so I had to cut up all remaining food waste and flush it down the toilet everyday. If I clogged the toilet, I would be fined 100,000₩ ($100 USD) so I tried doing my trash disposal in “shifts” throughout the day as to not clog anything. To entertain myself a little, I ended up making what I now call the “leaning quarantine tower of food trays” (see photo below). It got to be taller than me by the end of the 14 days and fell over a couple of times, but I liked making it because it showed me how many days I had been there for (2 trays = 1 day). Plus it was entertaining for my family to see, so I kept at it!
Tip: If you are moving into the dorms at Korea University, make sure to bring an extra physical copy of your current TB test results and the text message of your negative PCR results from your second test with you! You need this to check into the dorms and receive your room card and key.
Honestly, I can say that the quarantine process was overall pretty boring and non-eventful, minus the times I could go outside for an hour to get a nasal and mouth swab done for my 2 PCR tests and facetiming my family and friends. It was a blur for sure and the days started to fly by and squish together after Day 3. The last few days were the hardest because I was almost free, but not really. I lost my sense of time and awareness as to what day it was and I often just spent my days watching Marvel superhero movies or Korean movies the whole day while eating the meals provided to me by the hotel.
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