Straight out of the airport and diving headfirst into your semester abroad experiences? Not in times of corona. I at least had to go into self-quarantine for 14 days after my arrival in South Korea. So, how do you survive these seemingly endless days when a vibrant, new city is waiting for you?
Some pieces of information first off: Overseas vaccinations of foreigners had not been recognized by South Korea yet. Furthermore, I did not spend the self-quarantine in a facility chosen by the government, but luckily the student housing where I would live during the semester also offered self-quarantine service. There, they catered for me with 3 meals a day and further necessities, handled waste disposal and made all necessary arrangements for me to almost effortlessly undergo the self-quarantine.
Day 0: arrival day does not count for the self-quarantine period
I conveniently got picked up at the airport by a taxi driver who brought me to my accommodation. Normally you would have to take a PCR test straight away after entry. However, it was Sunday afternoon when I arrived and the health centres were already closed. So for now, I could check into my room and soon it was time for my second report on the ‘Self-quarantine Safety Protection App’. You must submit two reports daily (one in the morning, one in the evening) stating your temperature and whether you have any symptoms.
Day 1: First visit to the health center
A special corona-taxi brought me and two other exchange students to the health centre. There, you will have to fill out a questionnaire with your contact details. Note that the address needs to be typed in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. So definitely make sure to install the Hangul keyboard on your phone or have an online keyboard ready for copy and paste.
Day 2 & 3: Curing jet lag
The two girls and I had exchanged our Kakao-IDs while we waited at the health centre. (Yes, nowadays health centres are hotspots for meeting new people.) So, we formed a group chat with a bunch of other people and it was a really nice distraction. Plus, after receiving my negative test result via SMS I could focus on curing my jetlag.
Day 4: Suitcases and chopsticks battle
I finally unpacked my suitcases and started to get comfy in the apartment that I would call home for the rest of the year. Also, I grew to get used to the Korean food we got delivered. It’s still a bit spicy for me though but sooo delicious. And I swore myself to be fluent with chopsticks once the self-quarantine is over.
Day 5 & 6: Counteracting too much screen-time
As expected, during quarantine one would be prone to spend more unnecessary time than usual in front of screens and devices. Therefore, I had prepared a serious program that would keep me busy during this period: working out, studying basic Korean, writing for this blog, etc. Just as I was about to get lost in it, a knock on my door signalled that dinner was ready.
Day 7 & 8: Dealing with loneliness
Halfway through quarantine first signs of loneliness started to kick in. That’s why I had Zoom running hot and I requested everyone I knew by turns to spend time with me.
Day 9 & 10: Household chores
During quarantine, the only highlights are waste pick-up days and laundry time. Twice a week you may leave your two waste bags (one food waste, one general waste) in front of your door to have them discarded. Furthermore, since there is no private washing machine in your room, you obviously need to wash your pieces of clothing by hand during quarantine. If that isn’t a chance to boost your household skills...
Day 11: Sweet tooth struggles
Worst case: I was craving chocolate… And I didn’t bring any with me!
Day 12: Second visit to the health centre
This time the test procedure was less stressful since we were already familiar with the processes at the health centre. I am still impressed by how sophisticatedly the staff could process 80 people within like 45 minutes.
Day 13: Preparing release from quarantine
Now things were getting serious for post-quarantine time. Selecting cute cafés, spotting interesting places, determining routes for our strolls. The countdown has started and surprise: my second PCR test was also negative.
Day 14, noon: Quarantine-clock has run out
We did it! Heading straight out at 12pm sharp with my health centre squad to FINALLY explore the city!
Julia Zitzelsberger is a Business Economics student who joined DIT in October 2020. Having a constant growth-mindset she likes to try out new things, like participating in the DIT blog. Currently, she is spending a semester abroad in Seoul, South Korea.