30 Days in South Korea: Paloma’s Story So Far

Embarking on a working holiday in a foreign land is like opening a treasure chest of opportunities and experiences. Today, we dive into Paloma’s story, Stepabroad’s first ever South Korea Working Holiday participant, as she reflects on her first 30 days in South Korea.

In this lively Q&A, we’ll uncover Paloma’s motivations, visa acquisition, and cultural discoveries. She’ll also share how Stepabroad supported her journey and offer tips for newcomers adjusting to South Korea. Plus, you won’t want to miss her tales of making local friends and discovering unexpected culinary delights.

If you’re curious about working holidays, new cultures, and unforgettable experiences, join us on Paloma’s adventure. Whether you’re considering a working holiday in South Korea or just seeking inspiration, Paloma’s story is a must-read. Let’s dive in and get ready to be wowed.

What motivated you to join the working holiday programme in South Korea?

My motivation for this experience was my love and interest in Korean culture. I am lucky enough to have family in Korea and through my aunt, I was first introduced to some of the food and customs. Since then, I have taken an interest in this beautiful country and have devoted a few years to learning the language before applying to the program.

When learning a new language, it is very important to listen to native speakers and that is where the love for Korean TV dramas and K-pop came in. Consuming Korean content helped with my listening skills as well as getting to know more about the country. Learning about the program meant I could have a chance to put my speaking skills to the test and experience everything South Korea has to offer.

How was the process of acquiring your visa?

Acquiring my visa had its ups and downs. Some of the documents that I imagined taking the most time to process sometimes took the least amount of time and vice versa. I would say for future applicants to give yourself a realistic time frame for when everything can be completed. I know it is so exciting to have this opportunity, but things may take longer than expected and its important to be patient. Stepabroad and Yeosong were so helpful when answering any questions I had and assisted in anything I was having trouble with.

A snapshot of Paloma's time in South Korea so far, exploring the city as the sun sets over the famous city of Seoul, South Korea's capital.

Were there any cultural differences that stood out to you during your initial period in South Korea?

Absolutely. South Korea along with many other Asian countries are based in Confucianism and this puts a great emphasis on maintaining a social and family hierarchy.

There is a big expectation of giving respect to your elders as well as anyone who may be older than you or have a high social status. Of course, as a foreigner they are more lenient with these expectations but when coming to South Korea you should be ready to bow to others. This may be someone greeting you or saying goodbye in a restaurant, but it is an easy way to show respect if you don’t have any prior knowledge of the language.

How did Stepabroad help you on your journey?

My advisor Yeosong was there for me basically every step of the way. She was always there with a quick response when I had doubts or questions. She helped me out big time to find a clinic that would issue all of my needed medical documents as my family doctor was 6 hours away in my hometown. As well having Steparoad’s visa guide makes things much easier than doing it all myself. Having someone look over my documents prior to applying for the visa gave me such peace of mind. 

Their resource for housing is also a plus. If you are worried about Airbnb or finding somewhere to stay long-term prior to your trip, Stepabroad can help with finding shared housing with other travellers and or students. They will also help you if you need to find a space if sharing one is not in your comfort zone as they have resources for other types of housing available here.

Can you share any tips for newcomers about adjusting to South Korea?

Depending on which city you are planning on going to, there may be a big shock with the sheer amount of people around you. For me, coming from a small city to one of the largest cities in the world, there was quite the adjustment of basically being surrounded my people most of the time. The Seoul subway system is amazing to get around from A-B but expect to have others in your personal bubble. There are many other foreigners in this city here to visit like you, but don’t be alarmed when you have people staring at you. This is a very homogenous population, and you stand out. This is not a bad thing, as they may just be curious and its best to ignore it. 

Another big thing when packing is to look at all of your electronics’ plugs and be sure to have the required adaptor. I know the importance of staying connected to your loved ones is in this situation so having things like your laptop and smart phone is a must. In my case I went a few weeks without my laptop as my adaptor was not equipped to charge it. This made looking and applying to jobs slightly inconvenient as I had to do it from my phone. Not to mention the lack of Netflix on those first days of jetlag.

Did you make local friends within the first 30 days? How did you connect with people?

Making friends with local Koreans may be difficult due to the language barrier but you may also use that to your advantage. There are many language exchange groups on social media where you can make friends with locals wanting to learn English and here, they can help you to better your Korean or help you with the basics. For myself, I used a Facebook group for girls in Seoul that connected me with fellow travellers as well as locals.

My local friend Hanseul loves meeting friends there to bring them out sightseeing and teach them a little bit about her home country. She and I connected on similar interests like makeup, content creation and K-pop.

Paloma's trip to see the downtown Seoul Lights at Dongdaemun Design Plaza with some new friends after Stepping Abroad!

Have you discovered any unusual local snacks or foods that you unexpectedly fell in love with?

I wouldn’t say that anything I have eaten has been too unusual because I am a little bit of a picky eater and in a new country, I tend to stick to eating things that I know I will like. The strangest thing I think I have tried was perilla leaves with my Korean BBQ. It is basically a palm sized leaf that has a slight herbal minty/basil flavour that you use to wrap your meat, rice and other side dishes of your choice to create one big delicious bite. It is a staple to any good  Korean BBQ meal.

Want to Learn More?

Interested in finding out more about our South Korea working holiday program? Reach out to one of our travel advisors via this form and we can help plan your Korean adventure just like Paloma!

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