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Hi guys, my name is Laurence. I have always found something rather exciting about the prospect of studying in a foreign land. The idea of experiencing another culture, meeting new people, and living in an unfamiliar environment is really, very thrilling. When the opportunity to study here in Korea presented itself, I jumped right in without hesitation.
Being a 외국인 유학생 (waegukin yuhaksaeng—foreign student) has been like a roller coaster ride for me. There had been uncertainty and excitement at every turn. Although there might be various information available online about being a foreign student here in Korea, there simply are some experiences which you would have to go through in order to fully understand. Here is the first of our (mis)adventures.
Introduction to Meteorology
Before Korea, I never truly relied on weather forecasts. Back in our country, when the weatherman says that there will be clear skies in the coming weekend, we usually take it with a grain of salt, and prepare our rain gear just in case. In Korea though, weather forecasts prove to be a lot more accurate. Sometimes, almost frighteningly so, with hour-to-hour updates that are hardly ever wrong (unless you rely on Siri for your weather report, in which case feel free to doubt away). If Naver says it will rain, make sure to bring an umbrella.
Coming from a tropical country, I am no stranger to rain showers and unexpected changes in weather. I hardly ever bring an umbrella unless I know that there will be a downpour. While Koreans would whip out their umbrellas at the slightest drizzle, I prefer to just wear a cap or a hoodie whenever there are impending signs of light rain. With this new-found faith in the weather system, I was able to go about my days relatively unmarred by unexpected rain or snow. I thought I knew everything about Korean Meteorology until I experienced my first 장마 (jangma—rainy season).
The first few days were normal enough, we expected rain, and there indeed was rain. However, one night in class, all of our phones started beeping with emergency alerts saying that a typhoon is on its way. This was followed by an intercom announcement telling us to prepare. Our classroom stirred and everyone was in a low-key state of panic. This was the first time I received an emergency alert, as well, so I took it quite seriously. Shortly after the announcement, the group chat with my roommates exploded with messages, with everyone going back and forth about what to do. As I was stuck in class, my roommates decided to go ahead and informed me that they will start “typhoon-proofing” our dorm room.
I headed straight to the dorm after class, and came home to a flurry of activity. One of my roommates was looking for newspapers and magazines, while the other two were doing something to the windows. I immediately asked if I could help with anything, and the two near the windows beckoned me to join them. As I approached, I began to see that they were taping down newspapers onto the glass. They told me that staff members from the dorm office advised them to do this in order to prevent glass shards from entering the room in case the windows get shattered. My initial thought was “is this necessary?”, but then again, to err on the side of caution is never a bad thing. As the typhoon winds threw water and debris onto our window, we all sat peacefully inside our dorm room, shielded from whatever drama was happening outside.
Typhoons as we know it back home might be a lot more intense, but my first 장마 in Korea was definitely a memorable experience. The fanfare brought about by the emergency announcements and calls for preparation was something beyond anything I could have imagined, and has increased my expectations for disaster preparedness. The experience made me feel more at ease being a 외국인 유학생 here in my new host country. Little did I know that this newfound sense of safety, coupled with my general excitement at being in Korea, would distract me from seeing the tell-tale signs of danger lurking around the corner.
To be continued...
About the Author
Laurence is a serial wanderer, with an almost unhealthy obsession with crunchy peanut butter. Follow his adventures at @oyenzjuice on Instagram.
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