I arrived here in the heat of summer and not longer after the leaves started turning and falling. And now we are at the start of winter! It recently started snowing in Gwangju around a week ago. Most of the trees are already bald or dried up by now BUT there are still a few that still have a hint of red leaves on them.
Personally I have experienced spring and winter abroad during my travels, and of course summer 365 days all year in Malaysia. It was an amazing experience to experience autumn for the first time ever and being able to see the transition from green –> yellow –> red –> brown -> fallen leaves on the ground.
And since my parents were also here for a visit in late autumn, we managed to get around to many nearby towns to experience the autumn there too!
Warning: This is going to be a very photo heavy post!
At the very start of autumn everything was still really green~
So after the pretty green-ish early autumn, at some point the temperature dropped pretty drastically from being warm (like summer) to being chilly and windy.
THEN THE MAGIC STARTED!
And then as autumn progresses, the yellow leaves tend to shed first. Otherwise, they will turn red and shed later when the wind blows!
Here is how it looked like during late autumn~
I have travelled to quite a few places during different phases of autumn. Winter has barely hit us for now but I am so looking forward to the autumn next year! By then, we will be in Seoul!
Finally had some time in my hands to craft another update. It has been a busy November for all of us, especially with finals and my parents’ visit to Gwangju in November and birthday week starting right after they go back!
It is less than a week since my 25th birthday has passed and I am still pretty much in a festive/celebratory mood right now since we are gearing up to prepare for Christmas! But this blogpost will be for commemorating all the good and sweet things that happened for my BIG 25th!
Back then when I was still in Malaysia, I used to celebrate my birthdays by having a simple dinner with the fam and friends. If my birthday coincides with a working day then I will be spending most of the day in the office as per any usual work day.
Before I came to Korea, I was kinda worried that….what if I had to celebrate my birthday alone? Thinking back, it was a pretty realistic worry that I had because who knows right? I might not have friends or maybe people here will just be cold and not friendly 😥
But well, look at where life took me! I had like 3 birthday celebrations and even though most of us are living under a tight student budget, it still touches my heart that I got to know friends who would make an effort to make me happy and appreciated especially on a special day!
So birthday weekend started on Saturday (2/12)! Two days prior to my actual birthday, Vivi and Jin (our Korean mentor) took me out for the night! We went for bowling, which was pretty fun for a first timer like me teehee. I even managed to get ONE strike after like….10 times of rolling the ball into the drain hahahaahha.
Then, we head to a really GOOD burger place near our campus called Brick Burger. It’s those hipster kind of small restaurant but they serve really really good, western tasting (??) burger lol.
Right after the food was served, Jin told us that he needed to go to the washroom and he went downstairs (we were seated on the second floor). What puzzled me was actually there was a restroom right next to us. And I kept asking Vivi why is Jin taking so long in the washroom because it felt like he took forever to come back and the fries are turning cold XD. I recalled that I kept asking Vivi why is Jin taking so long and she even said she thinks maybe he is taking a dump HAHAHAHAHAHA and I BELIEVED HER! Omg when did I became so gullible?
BUT after a while, suddenly I saw a familiar guy coming up the stairs holding a cake and candles on it while singing the birthday song!!!!!!!! KYAAAA~~~
I was so stunned/surprised/happy/speechless at that moment. No vids/photos on how the surprise went because I was so shocked HAHAHAHA.
Nevertheless we had a really good meal and of course, what is birthday without a round of Noraebang (karaoke) right?
We had a really fun time and the next day, it was outing with my roomie!
We decided to grab something special for my birthday celebration so we went looking for Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken soup)! Normally we would eat our meals at our university back gate and some selected few restaurants near downtown. But none of our usual restaurants serve Samgyetang so we had to google our way to find this Chinese restaurant.
But it tastes so good and it is really near to downtown too!
After the really good meal, it was time for some shopping!
I literally went crazy that day in downtown because there are so many nice things especially Christmas edition stuff that are just too hard to resist!
On the next day, which is my actual birthday (!!), I woke up to this on my table!
My roomie has given me my birthday gift a day prior to my actual day because she knew what I needed and she also knew I would buy it during the shopping spree on Sunday hahaha. So I totally didn’t expect round 2 to come!
BUT IT DOES NOT END HERE…
So the news that Monday was my birthday was made known to my classmates (thanks Vivi for wishing me so loudly in class hahaha). I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen anyway because it’s just a normal class day. Not until….
So apparently, the 아버지 in our group (father aka the guy who cares a lot for us haha) secretly went up to our lecturer and told her it was my birthday! So our kind teacher played 2 birthday songs on the projector and everyone sang along~~
I even got a small gift from my Vietnamese classmate too! Everyone is just being too sweet it makes things even more touching because, here I am, far away from home, with these people that I only knew for 3 months. But everyone is just so sincere and caring it is almost unbelievable!
Oh and here is the full clip!
So that basically sums up how I celebrated my first ever birthday abroad!
For every birthday that has passed and for every new year that will soon come, I always tell myself that I want to have a better year ahead, one that would top the previous year. So far, life has worked out well. I am not an the top yet, but I am definitely on a journey to reach the peak. But where is the peak though? To be honest, I don’t know either. But that will not stop me from going on in this journey to the pinnacle! Life is good now, but the best is yet to come~
About a week after our arrival to South Korea, all KGSP students were called to attend an orientation!
The session was meant to be an informative one and indeed it is because the PIC went through some matters like ARC, bank account creation, insurance etc.
Here is me and my roomie during orientation!
Oh and they also gave us red bean bun and milk after the briefing was done haha! I like that our tummy is always well taken care of in almost ALL the events we attend.
Next, we were introduced to our Korean buddies! Everyone of us have 1 mentor/buddy that is pre-assigned by the international office. However, some mentors may have 2 mentees (like mine!). My mentor’s name is Kim and we are placed in the same team with two other Korean buddies and 3 other KGSP scholars! Basically mentors are supposed (I say supposed because not all mentors we know stick around like the ones from our team lol) to help you out on issues that you face in your student life abroad here. AND of course, to be our friend and show us more of Korean life/culture. You guys will be seeing a lot of my mentor’s face and also my friend’s mentor’s face moving forward because they are cool like this hehe.
Our mentors took us around the campus and they made a point to stop by the bank and important buildings so that we can get more “oriented” lol instead of wondering around like lost puppies haha.
Pro tip: Wear comfy shoes!!! I wore heels to look pretty on that day because I didn’t know beforehand that we will walk almost THE ENTIRE campus. Guess who ended up with sore legs that day -.-
Pro tip 2: Bring an umbrella if it is sunny and hot because you definitely don’t want to be roasted under the sun while walking around
So after walking around the mentors decided to give us a treat in a nearby cafe!
I ordered tea but forgotten to ask for ICED tea so I got served HOT PIPING TEA in the middle of a summer day. Thank God eventually I managed to get some ice. Pointer to note, by default tea is served hot here, summer or not, unless specified ICED TEA.
So that was basically what happens during orientation here!
And there are stories flying around saying that we have to re-take another round of medical examination upon reaching Korea. The stories are true because a few days after orientation, we had ours. It is just X-ray, urine, blood, eye sight, listening and physical examination (height, weight, waist (?!)). No feces test though…
We were allowed to eat something earlyyyyyy in the morning as it wasn’t necessary to fast beforehand. But many of us didn’t eat anything from the night before just in case. Just bring some biscuits and eat them after the check up!
Pro tip: Do not empty your bladder before going for the medical check up. Don’t be as dumb as me lol. I made sure to go to the toilet every time before I head out so I spent like an hour downing water and walking around helplessly before being able to produce enough fresh pee for the test -.- Take one urine test also so stress aduiii
Side story [read at your own risk]: If you are afraid of injection and needles, then there is nothing else I could say other than, GOOD LUCK. I’m not afraid of injections or blood to begin with but my arm did suffered some rough handling during the blood extraction process. -EWW ALERT- They poked the needle in my arm AND TWISTED IT AROUND TO FIND MY VEIN because they couldn’t draw any blood. But back then in Malaysia, my blood just came out gushing though so I am not sure if I was just got….dry here because of the summer heat LOL!
After the university orientation, it was time for us to get ready for the NIIED orientation in Seoul!
In continuation of my previous post, this blog post will cover some of the important matters that all the KGSP students would have to do upon their arrival in Korea.
Upon my arrival to the airport, I was given a few forms to fill up (ARC and bank account creation form) by the staff from the international office. They will help us to create a bank account from Woori Bank and I got my bank card and bank account book about 2-3 weeks later.
But upon receiving the bank card, most of us visited the bank to change the bank card to Mastercard/T-money card, which means we can now use the new card to make online purchases and pay for our transport fees (bus, subway). The original card won’t be able to do that.
ALIEN REGISTRATION CARD (ARC)
All of us will have to apply for an ARC and of course, the international office will help us out on that. There was nothing much we had to do, except to fill up the form in the airport and making a trip to the immigration office (the international office will arrange for the trip) to register our fingerprints. We just got our ARC last week, which is about a month and a half after arriving to Korea. Without the ARC, basically we cannot sign up for a phone package and do a lot of other stuff like signing up for membership at Innisfree (lol). If we leave the country without an ARC, I think we would have to re-apply for our visa when we need to come back. But with the ARC, we can leave and come back without having to do that!
For the ARC application, you would need to bring 2 pcs of latest passport sized photos. I forgot to bring mine but luckily there is a photography shop in campus so we can also snap our photos there to submit to the international office later!
SIM CARD/DATA PLAN
Since we all did not have an ARC at the start, the international office gave all of us a sim card with 20,000 won worth of credit in it. Basically it’s a call/data plan (2GB) by SKTelecom and it lasted me for about 3 weeks. However, it seems like some of our cellphones may not be compatible with the sim card provided because some of my fellow scholars were not be able to use the sim card. But for me, I am using a Huawei Honor 8 and it works well for my case.
WHAT TO BUY
The first week is basically spent on settling down and buying necessary items. Since we do not have our bank account or T-money card during the first few days, it is advisable to bring either your credit card or more cash with you when you shop. For me, I went out to a nearby E-mart with my roomie and 2 other friends. We took a cab and it costs us about 2000won per trip to E-mart from Global House dorm.
We can get almost everything we need in E-mart. They have a wide variety of food, clothing, make up products, toiletries, general electrical appliances and bedding products. You may refer to the list below on the necessary items we bought in E-mart:
Shampoo and Conditioner
Toilet scrubbing (?) brush
FOOD like ramen and biscuit. (Catch their 1+1 for cheaps!)
Toilet paper (the cheapest brand available is a brand called “No Brand” lol #punnotintended)
Clothes hanging rack (also by No Brand)
So after our E-mart visit, we head back to the dorm to put all our shopping lots before heading out to Daiso!
You can buy basically a wide range of items here, from stationary to toiletries to laundry related items etc etc. The only thing they didn’t have was bedding items like pillows, bed sheets and blankets. Other than that, we can find a whole lot of things here and the items sold here are similar to the Daiso we have in Malaysia.
BUT, may items here are significantly cheaper in comparison to the Malaysian Daiso. Before I left, the price per regular item was RM5.90/item. Over here, items can cost as low as 1000won (about RM3.80) to 5000won. There might be more expensive items lying around too but so far I have not seen them. Another difference is that the Korean Daiso sells a variety of biscuits and snacks too!
So the necessities that I bought in Daiso were:
Hangers (1000won for a set of 4!)
Cute Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma plasters (1000won per box!)
A mirror (duh!) for 2000 won
Plastic clips to seal unfinished snacks
Nose pack (1000won per box)
A soft toy dog to hug when I sleep haha (5000won for this!)
Subsequently as the days move on, I bought some other things there for cheaps too! For example:
Steel cutlery set (fork, spoon and chopsticks) – 2000won
Mini star shaped sponges to wash my cutlery
Phone stand – 2000won
So about 2 weeks later, we had our campus orientation! More on that in my next blogpost~