Seoul Pre-Departure: Being Productive during the Dropout Simulation

Katherine Leehong is a student at University of South Carolina and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katherine studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.


Hey there kids: if you’re reading this then I imagine you’re interested in going to study things in Seoul, South Korea (or are just a fan of study abroad blogs? Family? Friends?) Well, here’s a fun fact about school in South Korea: while Americans are used to the first semester of the school year being the Fall semester sometime in August, the first semester in South Korea starts in March.

While it’s exciting that I’ll start attending classes at Konkuk with a lot of new Korean students, the wait to depart is a special kind of torture. You see, I wasn’t able to get a job (being in the country a brief two months does not make an employer eager to hire you.) Since my parents have paid for most of my study abroad program, I wanted to contribute and not be a largely immobile parasite but, well, here we are. The guilt I feel over how the costs are really stacking up against my family is only getting worse considering my wisdom teeth also have to come out (dolla dolla bills, y’all.) I am the worst kind of parasite: I am a dependent.

If you go to school far from home, you’ll also experience what I’ve come to call “The Dropout Simulation,” where all of your friends return to college, attend pre-semester parties, go to class, and posts things that are not relevant to your life on all facets of social media. It’s an uncomfortable period of isolation very much akin to what dropping out might feel like (or what graduation might feel like, if you are friends with mostly underclassmen.)

In order to deal with the sensation of shame coupled with the boredom you feel from being unable to preoccupy yourself in the vast space of free time and severely diminished friend pool you now have: get on a schedule and write down a list of goals. It’s harder to get lost in the ether when you have things to do.

On my quest toward accomplishing more, I have found a lot of resources that you may find helpful so I’ll link dump them here just for you, dear reader.

  1. I want to get a jumpstart on Hangul before I leave so I found a free Korean language course online:  (click the English button, that’ll make this link make sense.)
  2. To better visualize my daily goals and implant a sense of urgency, you can gamify your life with this handy dandy thing: (At this point my character has died a lot. No shame.)
  3. As a writer, this is a good resource to get you in the habit of writing every day (if it isn’t a compulsion already):
  4. Eat Your Kimchi’s youtube channel is a great place to learn about Korean culture: their TL;DR series on Simon and Martina’s bonus channel is especially useful because they answer a ton of questions about life and culture in South Korea (from their perspective of living there for about 5 – 7 years now) :
  5. Confused about voltages and outlet adapters? (you don’t have to buy from here but it’s a good resource to figure out what to search for and what might fry if you plug it in.)
  6. If you’re feeling freaked out about getting all of your materials together before that plane departs (Visa, paperwork, etcetera):

The best advice I can give from hours of initial procrastination and guilt ridden sleeping to where I am now is this:

  • enjoy your time off. Immerse yourself in what you want to do because, when you’re out of school for real this is almost what life is like (except you could actually find a job.) For me, I want to have a career making media so, now that I have a little more control over my attention span, I’ve been working on drawing and planning animation and videos (and catching up on “daily” self-portraits and comics…finals week and animation class set me back a month.) Because comedy is one of my passions, I’ve been participating in open mics around town, spending time with comedians I normally wouldn’t be able see at this point in the year, and improv-ing with the Charleston-based improv group I’m lucky to be a part of.
  • Spend time with your family, help around the house, and cherish the little things because you’re about to be gone for a while (which is something we’ll also get to cherishing later but, right now, it’s just waving at me, leering. Laughing at every moment I spend stuck on Candy Crush level 147 instead of finishing video editing.)
  • Learn a bit a bout Korean politics and history (also yours: you’ll be an ambassador, where ever it is you go.)
  • Oh, and stockpile deodorant in your luggage. I don’t know what the campus situation is but, from what I’ve heard, deodorant is surprisingly hard to find in Korea.

Welp, I’ll write less next post; sorry about this wall of text, there’s just a lot to feel about prepping. Now I must slink back into my productivity cave where, I assure you, I’m not playing level 147 of Candy Crush. I hope you find your cave during your pre-departure period too.

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