student life
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Updated 4 months ago

Seoul is one of the most remote destinations for international students, both geographically and culturally, and the standard of living can also scare off young expatriate candidates. Nevertheless, the capital of South Korea offers an amazing experience for those bold enough to travel this far!

Student accommodation in Seoul

Several solutions are available to expatriate students in Seoul, and all have their advantages and disadvantages.

University dormitory

Your institution may offer housing on campus, so this can be the easiest option to go for. Economically, a university dormitory will be cheaper when compared to a studio and will be managed by the school - who will also help with the administrative side of things. The various procedures vary according to the university you choose, and you will need to contact the relevant department to gain the exact details. If you are eligible, you will probably have access to a room that you will share with another student for a budget of less than 200,000 won per month, on average.

The downside to the preferential rates given to students is a strict curfew, a ban on having guests, and the absence of cooking facilities in the rooms of some dormitories - in addition of course to sharing the room in the first place!

Goshiwon

Goshiwons are single rooms in a larger complex that includes common areas such as kitchens, a launderette, and shared bathrooms (for the less expensive ones). This type of housing is often favoured by Korean students who cannot afford to deal with the Seoul rental system. The surfaces are small, between 5 and 15m² but rice, kimchi, ramen, coffee and tea are free and are frequently made available in the common areas.

The rents are very attractive and include electricity and heating, while a deposit is not always required for the signing of the lease. Another perk is that the lease can be agreed without a deposit of more than one month.

As everywhere, rent varies according to factors such as location, the surface area and the services included in the Goshiwon, but can be as low as 200,000 won per month. Do bear in mind that the cheapest Goshiwons can have unpleasant surprises both in terms of their residents and their overall cleanliness.

Apartments

Studios and apartments in Seoul offer you greater autonomy and privacy but are financially difficult to access (offers that include less than 5,000 won deposit are rare, and rents start from 400,000 won, charges not included).

Few websites or applications offer apartments for rent, and you should be wary of posted photos that can be misleading. To avoid scams, you can consult the various real-estate agencies in your area, preferably with a Korean speaking person to guide you. It is advisable to systematically visit the flats in which you are interested and have all contracts checked before signing.

Roommates

Between the apartment and the Goshiwon, having (or being!) a roommate will allow you some privacy and autonomy and larger living spaces while reducing the overall cost of the rent and deposit. That being said, rules will, of course, be stricter than would be the case in your own place, such as a no-guest policy, etc.

If this option tempts you, there are several ways to find your roommate. On the one hand, websites like Craiglist or specialised websites can be useful, on the other, you can also post an ad on social media, at your school or on expatriate forums to try and find a spare room.

Internet and telephone in Seoul

In this particular area, the average cost is higher than in many European countries for a phone and internet connection, with prices being around one hundred euros. To subscribe to a monthly phone plan, you will need to visit one of the operators' stores, remembering to take your passport, visa and details of your Korean bank account. Contracts are generally for one or two years and are subject to commitment.

As prices are high, it might be preferable to subscribe to the least expensive option with a minimum data plan, then take advantage of the wifi spots available throughout the city for users of particular operators. With luck, between your home and these wifi spots, you may not need more than 2 Gigs of data every month.

What's more, should you subscribe to a telephone and internet package for your accommodation, you should have access to some interesting discounts.

A second, less commitment-heavy option, is a pre-paid sim card, or a package available at the airport, however, this option requires you to take the time every month to top up the credit on your phone.

The average price for a sim card available in an operator store is 10,000 won, and you will have to add a data plan and pay for any additional consumption. Rates are particularly advantageous compared to monthly plans.

In terms of Internet connection for your home, the operators are the same and rates will depend on the service you want and the speed of the network, however, expect to pay around 35 000 won for a broadband connection.

Transportation in Seoul

There is no real transport package to travel on all lines in Seoul and its suburbs. However, the price of a basic journey costs only 0.95 cents and some hundreds of won for a long-distance journey. To facilitate your transport in Seoul and instead of buying a metro or bus ticket for each trip, buy a T Money or Cashbee card in a supermarket (less than 5,000 won) that you can charge up on the dedicated machines that you will find in all metro stations.

Food budget in Seoul

It is difficult to make an accurate budget for food expenses in South Korea. A restaurant Kimbap only costs about 3,000 won, but there are also much more expensive restaurants available. In a mini-market, you will find many foods and dishes ready-made at low prices - a choice very popular with Korean students.

Nevertheless, if you have a kitchen and want to prepare your own meals, you will need a budget more equivalent to European costs of living - this will be higher still if you want to eat Western cuisine. Indeed, imported fruits and vegetables are often more expensive than in many European countries.

Everyday life in Seoul

Student activities

Most schools organise activities for students of each class or level, whether on the initiative of the student councils or the school itself, offering the perfect opportunity to expand your social circle and discover Korean culture. You will have the opportunity to register for various clubs based on your hobbies, or you might want to join the club for international students to help start building your social network.

In some universities, as an international student, you may have access to a mentor or buddy, a student responsible for assisting you in your settling-in and helping with any administrative procedures.

Leisure

Korean society is dynamic and offers many activities for all budgets, making student life in Seoul fun and active. After dark on weekdays or at weekends, the university districts are full of students going out for drinks, having dinner, enjoying street food or attending open-air concerts. There is no shortage of entertainment between karaoke, themed cafés, concerts and sightseeing tours. On top of this, universities organise annual festivals and events for their students.

Student discounts in Seoul

Your student status may grant you preferential rates in some museums or temples, and even some cafes, especially in the university area, however, these reductions are far from universal and proof of student status may be required.

 Useful links:

Goshi Pages
Ace Rent
Craigslist Seoul
Seoul Homes
Jjigbang application
KT
T World
SK Roaming
Roaming

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