Exchange in Kimchiland

From Korea with Love

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Visa application, housing & Korean won

I finally did my visa application one week ago! So, how did I get my lost acceptance package? It had arrived to JAMK on the 20th of January, but the international coordinator of Leena (different person from my international coordinator) tought that all of the papers belonged to Leena so she sent them to Finnish Lapland for Leena to have. You can read from Leena’s blog why it took some time for her to get a good look at the papers. On Thursday the 27th I got a phone call from Leena stating that she has my papers. Leena kindly sent the papers to me the same day and they arrived to Jyväskylä the next day. Yay!

The most important thing that the acceptance package included was the Certificate of Admittance which you’ll need to apply for a student visa. Once I got the certificate, I filled in the visa application and sent them to the Korean Embassy of Finland together with my passport, 40 euros, Finnish Study Certificate and a return envelope. If I’m lucky, I should be getting the visa back next week.

We also received information about the dorm housing. They had assigned a two-person dorm room for me and Leena! Just what we were hoping for! Our small room is located on the second floor of the HwaHong Hall. I was actually hoping for the sixth floor with a nice view, but I think we’ll settle with this one. ;-)

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I got my study abroad grant from JAMK this week so I decided to change some Korean currency. They actually didn’t have that many Korean notes at the exchange office since it’s so rare that someone would like to have Korean won in this little town. I decided to take everything they had (which was around 500 euros and 700 000 won). I think that’s enough to start my life in Korea – I can always get more from ATM’s there. A hot tip: go and reserve your Korean won at least one week before your trip – it will take some time for them to order the currency for you.

In South Korea they have four different kind of notes; 1 000 won (0,70€), 5 000 won (3,5€), 10 000 won (7€) and 50 000 won (35€). The 50 000 won note was released as late as the year 2009, so before that the largest note was only worth 7 euros! That is so weird. You would need to carry around a huge pile of money if you wanted to purchase something a bit more expensive. I wonder if they’ll release a 100 000 won note soon as the economy is getting better and the prices higher.

A little over two weeks to go!

Six weeks left

I’ve got six weeks left in Finland before my flight to South Korea. I’m starting to get a bit nervous, because the required documets haven’t arrived from Ajou University yet. I tought they’d send them to me during December (thats what was written on their schedule) but they sent me an e-mail today stating that they’ll send the documents to my home university this week. Hopefully I’ll get the papers next week so I can apply the student visa and get it in time from the Korean Embassy.

They sent me a great package of information via e-mail as well. All of this information will arrive through snail mail as well, but it was a nice thing from them to send them by e-mail already so I would be less nervous waiting for the info package. The e-mail included spring semester schedules, information about health insurance and tuberculosis test (I need to get tested either in Finland or when arriving to South Korea), information about housing, a campus map, an arrival pick-up service form etc. If you’ll arrive to Incheon (Seoul) airport between 23rd and 24th of February, there will be a pick-up service available. Good thing I knew this already when I booked my flight tickets, so I’ll be arriving to Incheon airport on the 23rd.

Here’s the schedule for the Spring Semester 2011

♦ Dormitory Application, January 17-21
♦ Deadline for Additional Application Materials, January 31
♦ Notice of online course registration (tentative), January 31
♦ Dormitory Room Assignment Notice, January 28
♦ Dormitory Opening, February 23
♦ Orientation (Mandatory), February 25
♦ Classes Begin, March 2
♦ Course Change, March 9-11
♦ŸCourse Drop, March 24-25
♦ Mid-term Exam, April 20-26
♦ Final Exam, June 16-22
♦ Farewell Ceremony for Exchange Students (tentative), June 22
♦ End of the Spring Semester, June 23
♦ Dormitory Moving-out, June 23

There will also be four Korean national holidays during my stay there. The 1st of March is the Independence Declaration Day, also called as March 1st Movement Day. May 5th is the Children’s Day – they also have the same holiday in Japan. May 10th is the Buddha’s Birthday. On the 6th of June, South Korea is remembering the men and women who died during the Korean War. This day is called the Memorial Day.

I’ve finally completed all the necessary paperwork with JAMK and KELA (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland), so everything else besides the Korean visa and the dormitory application (must be done next week via Internet) should be in order. I hope I’m not forgetting something.

What I’ve done so far

♦Filled in the exchange application in February 2010 – got accepted to Korea by JAMK in March 2010
♦Bought the flight tickets (600€) in October 2010
♦Filled in the online application at the Ajou University website in November 2010 – got an acceptance e-mail in December
♦Sent a self-introduction essay with CV, a passport copy, official transcript of records and a recommendation letter from my international coordinator to Ajou University by e-mail in November 2010
♦Filled in the learning agreement and gave it to my international coordinator in December 2010 – the international coordinator sent it to JAMK international office from where it was sent to Ajou University
♦Filled in the application for the JAMK study grant abroad in December 2010 – got the decision of the grant in late December
♦Bought two additional months for my travel insurance (117€) in December 2010
♦Filled in KELA documents for studying abroad and for summer studies (since the Korean spring semester will continue during summer as well) in January 2011
♦Filled in the online form for the arrival pick-up service in January 2011

As you can see, there are a lot of things to remember!

The Ajou University campus area. Most of the exchange students will be living in HwaHong Hall (Dormitory 3).

The Ajou University campus area. Most of the exchange students will be living in HwaHong Hall (Dormitory 3) in the northern part of the area.

Bureaucracy doesn’t have a Christmas holiday

Even though JAMK is on Christmas holiday, Ajou University isn’t. I haven’t gotten the final acceptance package from Ajou yet, but they have sent it to JAMK already. Even though the package should be reaching Jyväskylä soon, I’m not going to get it untill January because of the holidays. There should still be a plenty of time for me to apply the Korean visa in January, so I’m not worried, at least not yet.

I got some good news from Ajou by e-mail though. They’re giving me a housing grant for the spring semester! This means that I don’t have to pay for my housing in Korea. How nice of them! I’ve been browsing the Ajou University Dormitory website, and it seems that I’ll be getting one to three roommates there. Hope they won’t snore. ;-)

I also filled in some papers for JAMK before Christmas. I did a grant application and filled in the learning agreement. The learning agreement was sent to Ajou by the international office and the grant application is waiting for the confirmation of JAMK. If there’s nothing wrong with the application, I should be getting 640 euros to my bank account before leaving to Korea and 160 euros after returning back to Finland (so total of 800 euros). JAMK will be giving grants of 200 euros/month for its students to cover the travelling/housing/living costs during the exchange period abroad.

Because of the housing grant and the yet to be accepted grant from JAMK, my living expenses in Korea aren’t going to be very high. I couldn’t be happier about this! Maybe I’ll manage to save some money to do travelling in Asia after my school ends in late June. I’m planning on travelling to Singapore or Hong Kong to visit some friends during my extra two weeks in late June and early July. Let’s hope my plans will come true!

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