A Beginners Guide to Life as an Exchange Student in South Korea

Entering my dorm for the first time felt so surreal – minus me sweating through my clothes from the gigantic hill and carrying my three suitcases up the stairs outside. I was so excited to be out of my quarantine hotel room. I was ready to get settled in.

After filling out some dorm contracts and showing the security guard my negative PCR test and TB test results, he happily gave me my room key and card and I headed up to my room. My room has the most amazing view ever. Every morning I wake up, open my curtains, and let the natural light hit my face as I look at this traditionally-built building across the street.

However, not everything was sunshine, kdramas, and K-pop idols. Here I’ll go through a few things that I had trouble adjusting to or didn’t expect during my first two weeks as an exchange student in Korea.



Yup. You heard me. They are HUGE. I was so unprepared the first few days. Every time I walked into my room’s main area – BAM – 2 mosquitos flew by me…. and then directly AT me. I was absolutely terrified and didn’t feel comfortable in my own room from these things. Korean mosquitos are on a whole other level. To make it worse, the morning of my first day of classes, there it was: a giant marble-sized bite on my pinky finger. I had had enough. It was time to gear up….

An accurate visual of how I look everyday in my room. It’s either that or the slipper.

So yes. Step one to surviving Korea in the summer: BUY MOSQUITO SPRAY!! The brand 에프킬라 works wonders and smells like air :’)

Korea = Mountain = Many hills = Many stairs = PAIN

Never in my entire life have I walked around this much. EVER. When I’m not going up stairs, I’m going down hills and whenever I’m not going up hills, I’m going down dozens of stairs. I can’t win. My feet were in so much pain from all the walking around Seoul after day 1 or 2. I would highly recommend getting comfortable walking/running shoes or those foot sole cushion pads for your feet. At least my leg/calf game will be up-to-par after a year. 아이고… Who needs the gym when you have to climb the hill to the dorms every day?

The stairs just never end…

Dorm Life:

I felt that I packed a lot of important things for my life in the dorms at KU prior to coming. My essentials list would be:

  • Deodorant (Make sure to pack at least 2-3 bottles of your favorite American brand because you will have a tough time finding it here.)
  • Bedsheets (Please. Buy them cheaply in America before coming. Bedding is very expensive here and it saved me having to go to a store the first day while all the other exchange students were running around trying to find a place that sold them.)
  • Hair Products (When in doubt, bring your own products and double that amount if you are staying for a full year.)
  • Command Strips/Hooks (For decorating purposes.)
  • Port adapters, but you can totally buy some at stores nearby
  • First Aid kit (include 1% Hydrocortisone for those nasty mosquito bites.)

However, this doesn’t mean that I brought everything that I needed. I still had to buy:

  • A trash can because the one in my room was broken 🙁
  • Tissues
  • An adapter extension cord with multiple ports (make sure it is dorm approved if you are living on-campus!)
  • Dehumidifiers (Seriously, the rooms here are so moist. Just get 3 of those box things called 습기제거제, blast the air conditioner 24/7, and let the water collect overtime. I definitely felt a difference. Plus, mosquitos don’t like moist environments! I’d also recommend stabbing a hole in the top of yours if you don’t see any water in it after the first few weeks.)
  • LOTION. Yup.
  • Plastic reusable plates and utensils
  • Plastic containers (for the refrigerators at my dorm, you can use them to hold your food.)
  • A T-money card (this is what you can use for transportation for the subway and buses; buy and charge money on it with cash at the nearest CU or convenience store when you first arrive.)
  • A Pillow. Yeah, I know, “Faith, you forgot to bring one with you, omg?!” Well, my suitcases were full of all my other things, so yeah, I had to buy myself a pillow the first day. At least I have one now!
  • Bath Slippers
  • Hand Towels/Rags
  • Batteries!
  • Hand Soap
  • MOSQUITO SPRAY + Fruit Fly Traps (Sadly, the fruit fly traps didn’t work so I now resort to using my fast reaction time and hand speed to kill them.)
  • Laundry Detergent (I literally forgot that I needed this until I had no more clean clothes. Very important. Thanks Mom for packing me some mini Tide detergent packs before I left~~ Those saved me that first laundry day.)
  • Shower Head with a filter (The water in Korea is a lot harsher than the water in America so I would recommend buying one for your shower!)

Tip: Daiso. DAISO.

Think of it like a cheap, affordable, and cute version of Walmart and Target if they had a baby. It saves lives. You can find just about everything there for an affordable price. I’m serious! 🙂 Everything I listed above, I bought from Daiso (minus the extension cord and pillow)~


I will fully admit. My stomach adjusted to the food that I was eating in quarantine, 3 meals a day. So, showing up to my dorm with no idea that I had to buy plastic containers and food for the first few days, I was HUNGRY. The only time I would eat was when I went out to meet people and we went to a restaurant or cafe. My stomach was not having it, but now I think that it has gotten a grip. Kind of.

Tip: I highly recommend brining a bottle of Tums with you or something with probiotics because your stomach might have a hard time adjusting to eating just straight Korean food everyday like me.

However, it was totally worth it because the food here is DELICIOUS!

Overall, you will get used to life here as an exchange student. You will feel homesick, out-of-place, and lonely, but know that you aren’t in it by yourself! Use this time to your advantage and have fun (safely and adhering to the COVID-19 government rules and regulations 😉 )!~ You are here now and every day is a new adventure.

See you in the next blog post!!

*The writing and photos here are meant for use on finsupabroad.com and are not to be copied or redistributed by other entities without permission from the author.

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