‘North Korea warns foreigners to leave South amid new threats of war’
- You’re not going to die. Really.
The moment I got accepted to the Korea University Summer programme, news broke out about North Korea threatening to start a nuclear war. The threats had become more frequent ever since the joint Korean-American military drills started. This obviously had an impact on my choice to go to South Korea because I was worried for my safety but no warnings were issued by the UK government (website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-korea) and the threats began to die down soon after the drills were finished, hence I decided to buy the plane ticket after all. If this happens to you as you apply for the programme, remember to check the government website and keep track of the latest news. Although it is unlikely that anything will ever happen, it is good to know that someone went before you did and survived. Plane tickets can wait because they do not soar until early July, so give yourself plenty of time to consider going.
A quick search in Skyscanner revealed that Lufthansa were offering ridiculously cheap prices for Korea, I managed to snap up a return ticket for £541. I highly recommend Skyscanner for finding cheap flights to anywhere really, they really are lifesavers for students on a budget. Another handy tip is to not select a specific day to fly, try clicking July as a month and Skyscanner will usually show you a graph with prices for each day as some days are more expensive than the rest. Other airlines that fly to Seoul from the UK include British Airways, Qatar, Cathay Pacific and other major airlines.
- Visa (the complicated part)
All UK citizens do not need a visa prior to landing in Korea as you will be given one upon arrival. However, you are required a visa for the Korea ISC programme because you’re studying in Korea for a certain length of time. It’s not a straight up student visa, but a C-3 type Visa which covers short term studying programmes in Korea. The cost is around £70 and the application process is complicated because the visa office in the Korean embassy in London only opens between 10- 12 for processing applications. You’ll also need to collect a series of documents, including agreements from KU and learning agreements from Royal Holloway. You’ll also need to contact student enquiries a few days before to request a student confirmation letter, this can be done online through: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/ecampus/academicsupport/studentstatusletterrequest.aspx In any case, contact the Korean Embassy to ask them the documents you need before heading off to London early in the morning. The visa takes 5 working days to process so make sure you allow plenty of time to collect the visa.
- Phones, Sim Cards and all that jazz
The cheapest way is to unlock your phone in the UK and apply for a SIM card in Korea. You can pick one up straight from the airport, whether you’re renting a sim card or a phone, it’s amazingly convenient. There is wifi EVERYWHERE, in the subway (you can make calls from underground, it’s crazy), restaurants, the university so there is no need to get an internet plan. I used the EG Sim card company to get my sim card. Every year, they provide free sim cards for foreigners, it’s brilliant. You can pick them up at the airport before the end of June. Their facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/egsimcard?fref=ts
Unfortunately, the summer is the monsoon season in Korea so the weather is very hot and humid or downright pouring rain. I was given an umbrella as soon as I reached the dorms and wondered why. Don’t make that mistake and pack a good pair of wellies. There has been floods in Seoul before, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. When I say rain, I don’t mean the annoying kind of rain we get in the UK where it’s sunny one minute and pouring the other. When it rains, it rains cats and dogs over here so I’ll insist again, PACK YOUR WELLIES.