I have been in Korea for a little over 2 months, and I’ve lived in three different types of housing: dormitory, hostel, and gosiwon. I wanted to explain a little bit about each style of housing.
I lived in the Kyungpook National University dorm during my first month in Korea. It is a standard dorm room with a bed, desk, chair, and closet. There is also a toilet/shower within the room which I shared with my roommate.
Pros: This is definitely the most convenient housing as I was on campus, which meant easy travel to classes. There was also a cafeteria, convenient store, and coffee shop located in the basement of the dorm tower.
Cons: Although I am not the best cook, I enjoy making my own meals once in a while. The dorms I was in did not have a kitchen, and the microwave ovens were only located in the convenient store. The air conditioning shut off every couple of hours, which meant it got very hot at night and I had to get several hours to turn it back on.
SIDE NOTE: Korean buildings do not have a central cooling/heating system that American buildings have. They use a machine that is attached to the wall, and it blows out cool air. This means that only places with that air conditioning machine are cooled, and it doesn’t circulate the air very well.
After my one month stay in Daegu, I made my way to Seoul. I had one month of break before my year at Seoul National started and so I chose to stay in a hostel (Backpackers Inside) for the first week.
Pros: LOTS OF FOREIGNERS. Since the hostel I was staying at spoke both Korean and English, there were many people from all over the world there. I met so many people, and although our stays were short, usually ranging from a few days to two weeks, I learned a lot about their culture and countries. Also, depending on the hostel and room, living in a hostel can be very cheap. One night at Backpackers Inside cost me about $13. This price includes breakfast (toast, eggs, coffee, tea) and the owners clean the building every day. The atmosphere of Backpackers Inside is so lively. They, the owners and guests, make you feel at home and as if you were a part of a huge family.
Cons: Since there were many people staying at the hostel, it can get quite loud. A hostel is not the best place for studying or trying to get quiet time. Also, air conditioning was not included in the cost of the room (if I wanted air condition I had to pay about 500 Won, about 50 cents, an hour through a coin machine).
3) Goshiwon (고시원)
Traditionally used by Koreans studying for national exams, goshiwons are meant as quiet places for study and to basically cut off all contact with the outside world. A goshiwon is a little room with a desk, chair, bed, closet. Other amenities include a shower/toilet room, mini fridge, TV, air conditioning, and a window for a higher price. I paid 470,000 Won for 1 month (around $450).
Pros: It is a quiet place for studying. Since I had the room all to myself, I had lots of privacy to do whatever I wanted (I mostly slept and watched endless Youtube videos). There is also a shared kitchen with all the amenities to make a nice meal. The gosiwon I stayed at offered free rice, ramen, and kimchi. There was also laundry machine for free use. (Koreans don’t really use dryers; they hang dry their clothes.)
Cons: It can get quite lonely in a goshiwon because there are not as many chances to interact with the other goshiwon residents. The gosiwon I stayed at was located in the main road which meant there were many cars and buses driving by, even at 2 in the morning. Also, there was poor ventilation in the gosiwon which made the air stale and hard to breathe. This is a video of the gosiwon I stayed at.
I stayed at Backpackers Inside for one week, moved to the gosiwon for 3 weeks, and now I am back at Backpackers Inside. I originally planned to stay at the gosiwon for the whole year, but I realized how lonely and bored I was. Although the gosiwon is closer to my school, I realized that it would be better for me to be at the hostel surrounded by people than to be lonely in a foreign country. At the hostel, I sleep on the bottom bunk of a 4 bed room. People come and go all the time and so I am always meeting new roommates. I really enjoy living in the hostel, even though it is a nontraditional place to stay while studying aboard. The owners make me feel like I’m part of their family, and I am able to learn about new cultures and countries from other guests!