ArrivalI got warmly welcomed the very first day I arrived at Handong university by other students, whose task it is to take care of the new international arrivals. They were very kind and helpful, even carrying all my stuff to my room without any hesitation. I felt very welcomed and was surprised how ready-to-help the people here were.
During my stay in Handong I am living in a dormitory on campus called I-House. It is a dormitory for international people and Korean students who want to interact with internationals. Hence the language that has to be spoken here is only English. One can make new friends very quickly here because there is a lounge where you will find yourself engaging with a various different people. The dorm life can be a little bit difficult at the beginning though because we have strict rules to follow such as a curfew after eleven. If you want to stay outside longer you have to apply for a so called “overnight pass” every time you need it.
If one does not follow the rules, you will get penalty points and if you have ten penalty points you will be immediately kicked out of the dormitory -so better follow the rules. This sounds very strict and it was very strange for me at the beginning but you will get used to it soon. People who do not like to live on campus do not have to worry since the OIA staff can help you find a stay outside of campus.
The first week is called orientation week, which will help you to get to know other internationals and to provide you with helpful information about the campus life or the life in Korea in general. This week is pretty tough since they have a full program prepared from the early morning till the late evening, so be prepared for an exhausting but fun week. You will play many games and you have to fulfil some kind of tasks in the team you got assigned to. Some games are very entertaining and some can be very tiring.
The staff of the OIA office, the office which is taking care about all the matters of international students, are very kind and will help you in any kind of situation. They will even accompany you to the immigration office and further help you out, which is also needed since the workers there do not speak English at all. Other than that the OIA staff will help you with getting your student ID, which will function as your Korean bank card at the same time. Having a Korean bank account is actually very important because not every ATM machine in Korea works with the European bank cards. That is why you should consider bringing a lot of cash for the first few weeks in Korea because it will take some time until you get your student ID.
The campus of Handong university is very isolated , which means you need to take a bus to get to the city or anywhere in general. I was shocked the first time arriving here and seeing how isolated the campus actually is, but since the bus costs less than 0.80cents you can go off campus very easily any time you want. So it should not be a big of a problem. The campus itself is considered to be small but for Macromedia standards, since our university does not have a campus, it will be considered big in the perspective of a Macromedia student. But actually it really is not too huge since you can get along after a few weeks without worrying about getting lost. The life on campus is very interesting and definitely different than any where else. Handong university is known for being a Christian university and that will be also strongly represented here. Even though going to chapel after orientation week is not mandatory for us exchange students, you still have to be ready for a prayer during nearly every class. It has a very strong Christian environment but do not be put off by it since nobody will pressure you into something and people are understanding if you are not very religious or practice another religion, like me. Handong has another feature which it is very well known for besides being a Christian university and that is the strong community feeling they cherish. Once a week you will have the chance to meet with your team, which you got assigned to during orientation week and you will meet up with Korean students and a professor in charge for the team. In this meeting you will play games or discuss various different things. And if I say playing games I definitely do not mean any drinking games, but actual games that we know from playing during our childhood. I know that sounds weird but once you opened up about it you will actually have a fun time and get to know many new people. Alcohol is actually completely forbidden on campus so if you do not want to get into trouble you should leave the drinking part for outside of campus. In the next blog entry I will tell you more about places you can enjoy a drink or about activities you can enjoy in Poahng in general.