Unpackingโœ…

south korea

Two and a half weeks later and I am moved in!

It feels soooo nice to be settled into my apartment.

It’s cool cause the apartment that I’m staying in has been used by the previous teachers at my school so it already had some things that I would’ve had to buy here. More on that later.

I’m still trying to find places for stuff. I have about 90% of my belongings in their places. The pile of stuff in my bedroom will find homes at some point ๐Ÿ˜†

So I don’t have to keep repeating myself, I just want to mention that I’m not sure when I’ll even be back in the USA. I packed up my whole room and either brought it with me, donated it, or gave it to friends/family. Everything that I brought is in good condition so why throw it out?

It pains me to think back at the $500 that I spent for my huge suitcases. As I was unpacking, I realized that I did bring WAAAAY too much. So, was paying the $500 for my huge suitcases worth it? I’d have say no. However, I didn’t really know what to believe from the videos and blogs that I stumbled upon before arriving in Korea so it is what it is.

Things that I brought:

International Driving Permits: What Are They and Do I Need One? - Travel  World Heritage
AAA IDP. Not mine but mine looks exactly like this
My universal adapter. I got it on Amazon for $20 two years ago and still works great ๐Ÿ‘
  • Pictures. I have a bunch of pictures taped to my fridge. I printed them out at CVS and am SO happy that I did. My apartment in Thailand was not really that homey. If I had pictures I think it would’ve been.
  • Clothes. I brought lots of socks and bras/sports bras, dress shirts, jeans, tank tops, shorts, underwear, etc. I think I could’ve chilled with the amount of socks, bras, and tank tops that I brought. But most of them were new. I am excited to go shopping in Seoul to see what they have to offer. There are also some cute stores near me but it is cold and Covid is making its way back so I’ve decided to put my adventures on hold.
  • HDMI cord and Apple adapter. Other necessities: lightning cables, my universal adapter, portable chargers. I know I mentioned some of these in a previous post but, the HDMI cord and Apple adapter have been sooo useful. Of course, you can also get those here. But they were nice to have from my days in quarantine to now in my new apartment. It’s nice to be able to watch shows and such on a TV rather than my tiny iPad screen.
  • My IDP from AAA. I mean I haven’t used it yet but I’m really looking forward to renting a car and driving here. Again, since we’re in the middle of a pandemic it’s not recommended to take public transportation so starting on December 21, I can rent a car here and drive around. We’ll see if that actually happens. Itโ€™s cool cause you can post date it up to (I think) three months.
  • I also brought a duffle bag on the plane to bring because two suitcases just wasn’t enough ๐Ÿ˜’ I used my backpack and duffle bag as my two carry-ons. Iโ€™m thinking that the duffle bag will come in handy when Iโ€™m actually able to travel and I use my backpack to bring my laptop and small dinner to school.

Things that I brought that I definitely did NOT need to bring:

My water bottles ๐Ÿ˜ If I had more space, I would’ve had more with me.
  • My cervical pillow (I found some at Homeplus that were actually half the price I paid for back home). Of course, they also have regular pillows.
  • Water bottles. I have a sick obsession with water bottles and I don’t know how to stop. I brought 2 water bottles, 1 travel tea mug, and a CrazyCap water bottle. I brought that for when I go on trips so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles. They have plenty of different water bottles at Homeplus. Butttt, to be fair, the pandemic made me buy stuff that I clearly didn’t need. So I blame Covid.
  • Sneakers/any other shoes. Seoul has all different types of stores from Sephora to New Balance. I have yet to go there but I have looked up some stores for when I do go there post-pandemic.
  • Workout gear. I have my resistance bands and two ankle weights. I also brought my acupuncture and yoga mats. On one of my trips to Daiso, I saw that they had a good amount of workout gear so one of these days I’m taking my empty shopping bag and going crazy.

You can also buy items online through Gmarket. There’s also this cool website called Borderlinx where you can buy items, have it shipped to the US/UK and then they will ship it to you. There are other websites like Borderlinx but that’s the first one that came to mind. From what I’ve heard you do need a Korean bank account though so I guess I will have to wait. Luckily, I also have family in the US sooooo they can just ship stuff to me for a lower price (I think/hope) ๐Ÿ˜‚

I’ve also read that they don’t have deodorant here. They do. I think maybe it depends on your location? Either way, if they don’t have the kind you like, you can buy it online. You really don’t have to go too crazy (like me) and bring a bunch of stuff that you can easily buy here. The only thing is is that it might be more expensive here. The way that I look at it is you either pay lugging all of your things from the other side of the world or buy stuff here. It’s a lose-lose situation. I also think back to Thailand because I couldn’t find good shoes and other stuff that I needed so I thought “better be safe than sorry.” I just didn’t want to be stuck like that again.

iHerb also has a website in Korea, so that made my year. They’re international so that’s cool. Amazon also ships here but I haven’t tried it cause I’m thinking it will be expensive like it was in Thailand. I had ordered vitamins from iHerb back when I was in the US and loved them. I ran out right before I came to Korea but then found out that they are a thing in Korea so it was a great moment. I’m not sure how it works yet but once I get my ARC (alien registration card) I can play around with these online stores and write about them. What I do know is that iHerb has awesome products from supplements to makeup to tea. I’m actually scared for my bank account when I get my ARC.

Honestly, everything else that I brought I am okay with. Yeah, you can always go shopping here but walking everywhere with your hands full can be fun for only so long (cause I walk everywhere) It’s also difficult right now because of the whole pandemic thing.

What I wish I brought:

I honestly can’t think of anything that I wish I brought. I do miss my computer adapter, but I can easily just buy that online or at a store so I’m not too worried about it.

South Korea does use a different type of plug than the US. In the US we use type A and B. Korea uses C and F. Korea also has a voltage of 220 V and 60 Hz while the US has 120 V and 60 Hz. Like I said, I brought my little adapter. I kind of wish I brought something like this though cause it just would’ve made my life easier. But that is what online shopping is for.

You know when you’re packing and you’re like ahhhh I’m going to forget something?? Well, even after being here for more than a month, it’s still in the back of my brain. If I actually did forget anything, I will update this.

Make sure to check out my TikTok for some videos that I think are funny but they’re probably not ๐Ÿ˜€

The Whooooole Process

south korea

Although the process was long, it was 100% worth it.

Fortunately, I live about 15 minutes from downtown Boston, so these steps were pretty simple for me.

Boston, MA

To get the FBI background check, you need your fingerprints scanned. Now, I knew that I could go to my local police station to get them before I went to Identogo, but Identogo had faster results. For those who have never heard of Identogo, like me, it is a place where you can go to get identity checks. You can get a TSA Precheck, FBI background check, and so on. The first time I went to Identogo, I got the results the same day. Then, I sent it as a PDF to Monument Visa along with my degree and received both by mail within a week. Monument Visa is another cool website. You can get your documents authenticated or get an apostille.

Fun Fact: An Apostille is a type of authentication that is recognized by foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. To get a document authenticated, you need to go through a few steps that are different than the Apostille process. You have to get documents authenticated when they are not part of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

I got both of my documents by late July and I was ready…. Or, so I thought. It wasn’t until I was told by a different agency that I needed my full middle name on my FBI background check. Your name HAS to match your passport. I went back to Identogo and asked them to put my full middle name. They said yes. A few hours later, I open the email and it was just the initial again. So, if you want to save some money, just go to your local police station (make sure you call first), fill out the forms online from the FBI website, and send it out to the FBI. I think that’s option 2 on the FBI website. The policeman that scanned my fingerprints was so very genial and did not charge me the $25 that was mentioned. It only cost $4.20 to send my fingerprints and the forms to the FBI from the post office. I then got an email from the FBI within a week and I also got a hard copy sent to me that FINALLY had my full name. It was a relief.

Then, I sent my degree that already had an apostille and the FBI PDF to the recruiting agency based in California. I also had to get my degree verified through National Student Clearinghouse for $15. I’m not sure if that is a Korea requirement or just the agency’s. That was a PDF though so I didn’t have to send the physical copy to CA. The agency in CA were amiable and were able to get my FBI check apostilled much faster than I would’ve been able to on my own. To send all of my documents to CA, it was around $5. I obviously had to pay another $55 to get the FBI apostilled. **sigh.

During this time, around mid-September, it was taking people 10-11 weeks to get their background checks. It took mine about a week thanks to the agency. Once I decided to go with the original recruiter, the agency was able to send my documents to their office in Korea and then from their office in Korea, they sent it to the recruiter’s office that I was going to sign with.

In order to get your visa, you have to send a bunch of documents to South Korea first (you will be told what they are) and then the recruiter or whoever you are working with will give you a visa number. You will also need a bunch of passport photos for the whole process.

My recruiter was super disorganized with everything so they wanted me to send my physical documents to Korea. My friend’s recruiter had her send the documents as PDFs to speed up the process.**Be careful and do research if you decide to go through a recruiter. Some don’t care about you and just want the money, which confuses me cause if you don’t get to Korea then they don’t get paid so I’m not sure how it works in their favor. My recruiter always tried to rush things which made me anxious. I didn’t want to move slowly but I also wanted to make sure everything was done correctly. Thankfully, I was in contact with my head teacher as well so they were the ones that actually helped me more throughout the process. And also be cautious with the recruiters that you give your resume to. My resume ended up at a school twice which is a bad look so the school didn’t want me. I was talking to multiple recruiters so that’s what caused the whole resume problem. The recruiters hand out your resume like it’s their job. Because it is, haha. So they will send it to anyone and anywhere they can.

If you want a specific location and have all of the time in the world, don’t settle for the first job that you are offered. I got such a great feeling when I interviewed with my school, I knew it was the one, even though the location was not my first pick.

I also had to get a Covid test by an MD. Make sure you check you consulate’s website to see what their requirements are. My town does Covid tests daily because the numbers are so high and it was free, so it was trouble-free getting a negative Covid test.

USA Passport

I drove to the Boston consulate (it was actually in Newton, MA) that’s about twenty minutes from my house, handed them my papers, my passport and $45 and was told I could print out my visa 15 days from then. 14 days later I got a phone call saying that I was missing a form. The “Agreement to Facility Quarantine” form was needed. When I called before driving there, I was told that since it says “short-term visa holders” that I did not need it. Luckily, it was an easy fix. I printed it out, signed it, and then emailed it to them as a PDF. PDFs are a life saver. My visa was ready the day after. Finally, I printed it out (which is still weird to me. But hey, it worked) and it was official! ****Make sure to type your name exactly how it is on your passport: last name, first name, middle name.

Check the requirements for YOUR consulate. My friends went through the New York consulate and we had different forms.

If you’re from the US or Canada, AAA comes in handy at time like this. I was able to get 8 passport photos for $25, whereas at CVS I’ve paid $12 for 2 before. At AAA it’s $10 for the first set and then $5 per set after that. Pretty good deal if you ask me. AAA also offers an IDP (International Drivers Permit) for the low price of $20 (Obviously you need a valid drivers license in order to get your IDP. I got my IDP before canceling my AAA membership and I’m hoping I get to use it. It expires one year after the date that’s printed (you can postdate it up to 3 months, if I remember correctly).

Here’s the price breakdown:

  • $100 ($50 each) for fingerprints- Identogo (locations in the US)
  • $165 ($55 each) for apostille degree & FBI
  • $14.95 for degree verification- National Student Clearinghouse
  • $25 for 8 passport photos from AAA
  • $4.75 to send documents from MA to CA
  • $4.20 to send fingerprints to the FBI
  • $20 for IDP at AAA
  • $45 for visa fee

I haven’t added it all up yet because I really don’t want to know how much I spent LOL. I am just fortunate enough and ecstatic to be here! So everything took about 3 months total but it would’ve taken probably 1-1.5 months in total if I had gone to the police station from the start.

This all happened during Covid too so I am sure once Covid slows down, it will be an easier process??? Not sure though. I do feel like even for getting all of this done during Covid, it was pretty fast. Buttttt, that’s also because I went with an agency at first and I am assuming they pay to have priority over people that just send their documents into Monument Visa.