The Unofficial Preparation Guide to becoming an exchange student in Korea

The Unofficial Preparation Guide to becoming an exchange student in Korea


Are you one of those students who were selected by your university to be come an exchange student in Korea? I am sure, you are very excited because your dreams in visiting Kimchiland, the land where K-Pop originated, will soon become a reality.

But first things first. This guide will help you prepare before leaving the Philippines.


1. Flight itinerary

Some scholarships for exchange students require the students spend for their own round-trip flight ticket to Incheon International Airport and some scholarships include a one-way or even a round-trip flight ticket to Incheon. You should first check the conditions of the scholarship. If all else fails, you need to buy your own plane ticket.

TIP 1: Never buy a round-trip plane ticket that isn’t refundable. Since you will be in Korea for at least 4 months, you should never buy a round-trip plane ticket which isn’t partially refundable or not rebookable. You shouldn’t be relying entirely on your airline’s web site because some traveling agents, especially Korean travel agents, provide relatively cheaper prices than the ones sold by the full-service airlines, unless you are buying from a no-frills airlines. Make sure you read the fare rules carefully.

2. Relocation Allowance

Some scholarship packages provide relocation allowances and many don’t. Just make sure that you prepare, on average USD 200, as relocation allowance. You need to use this money to buy beddings, pillows, shampoo, soap, adapters, and other personal necessities. You will also be needing USD 50 for the alien registration card.

3. International debit card

Working on a student visa is not allowed on your first semester. If your parents are going to send you money, it will be better if you have an ATM savings bank account in the Philippines that features the following logos:

  • VISA
  • MasterCard
  • Maestro
  • Cirrus

ATMs here in Korea branded as “International ATMs” accept transactions from cards that have the above-mentioned logos. Cards issued from Philippine banks, such as Banco de Oro (BDO), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Metrobank, work here in Korea. For BPI, you have to contact them first to activate withdrawal feature. It’s best to call your bank first before leaving the Philippines.

From experience: I have a VISA debit card here in Korea and I use it sometimes for swipe transactions. The problem with the VISA debit card from BDO is that sometimes it fails and I get charged with the failed transaction. I have reported at least 10 failed transactions to BDO and got them all back after one and a half months.

You should also know your bank’s international toll-free number. From experience, BDO and BPI’s toll-free numbers can be called here in Korea.

4. Winter jacket and spring clothes

Winter jackets that can be bought from Divisoria and your favorite segunda mano stores are good enough. But if you prefer brand new, Uniqlo, H&M and Rustan’s in the Philippines are good to go. Down jackets on sale here in Korea cost from USD 40 to as high as USD 150. I got a brand new Guess down jacket here for only USD 50 which was on sale.

If you are slim, be sure to choose only slim-fit long-sleeved shirts for spring. You don’t want to become the next ajusshi or the next weirdo. Be sure to check out what people wear in Korean dramas before you buy clothes.

5. Small gifts

As a student, it is not expected of you to bring very expensive gifts, such as the Philippine edition of Starbucks’ coffee mugs. Your favorite Filipino snack, such as Boy Bawang, Nagaraya, and other Filipino snacks, may be enough. Most foreigners and locals wonder what kind of food and snacks Filipinos eat. So be sure to bring one.

6. Smartphone

Thinking of buying a new phone here in Korea? Don’t. It has been reported that home-grown phones are more expensive here in Korea. Make sure you bring an unlocked (open-line) phone to Korea. Phones that come from the networks in the Philippines are usually cannot be unlocked by the network themselves. Same for the Apple iPhone. If you also like taking pictures discretely, just bring an unlocked iPhone bought in the Philippines (or iPhones to be sold in Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries, except Japan). You might find it weird that your phone will start making shutter sounds once you put in a Korean SIM (but it’s not the case for the Apple iPhone).

People here use instant messaging instead of text messaging, so a smartphone is a must!

CREDITS: Featured image taken from

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