KIIP Korean Immigrant Immersion Program Pre-Test

I decided to step up my Korean studies by applying for the Korean Immigrant Immersion Program (KIIP) Korean class. It’s a free program provided by the government for foreigners. Before taking the class, you have to register with the website and take a placement test. I used a lot of this guy’s information on registering for the site and the test. His posts are a few years old, but they are still valid.

The day of the test, I had to go to Busan Foreign Language University. Staff and signs were plentiful, pointing you in the direction you needed to go. There was a printout hanging on the wall that listed your name and room assignment. In the room, you are seated alphabetically with a name sticker on your desk so you know exactly where to go.

My room was set up to seat 70 people but only about 40 people showed up. The demographic was a mix of about half men, half women. There was a handful of westerners with the majority demographic being Vietnamese.

Before the test started, we had to put our phones and bags at the front of the room. We were allowed to keep water, our ID, and test registration ticket at our desk. There was a short PowerPoint presentation showing you how to fill out your scantron answer card. They explain everything in Korean. There were 3 staff members in the room circulating to make sure no one had questions and filled everything out right.

The tests were handed out at 1:00 on the dot. There were a couple people who arrived just as the tests were being handed out and were allowed to sit for the test. However, they wasted a lot of precious test time filling out the mundane information for the card before they could even start the test.

The Written Test
The written test consisted of 40+ multiple choice questions. The questions started easy with vocabulary then increased in difficulty with grammar. The last few questions were culture related. One questions asked, “Which ingredient is not used in samgyetang?” (The answer was “duck.”) The last 2 questions were short answer write-ins. It gave you a short dialog and asked you to write in the missing words. If you want to practice for this test, these TOPIK mock tests are a good way to start.

One annoyance other than the fact that my room smelled like a huffing addict’s wet dream, was when the test administrators checked my ID in the middle of the test. They went around the room and took your ID card and your scantron answer paper and checked it thoroughly. I lost a good 60 seconds waiting for him to return my card. You also cannot mark on the question paper. This is a problem for me. I’m a very tactile and visual test-taker so I like to be able to cross off answers I’m unsure of and make notes.

When the test is over, they swoop in and collect your papers. You always get the few who pretend like they don’t understand what’s going on and try to write in a few extra answers. It’s a pre-test. If you don’t know the answer, randomly picking answers isn’t going to help you. Don’t be that person.

Then we were all herded into an auditorium. A lady stood at the front with a projected spreadsheet that listed everyone by when they registered for the test. And there she called us number by number, and we shuffled into rows of 5. I truly pity the people who registered close to test day. Listening to “80번? 80번? 80번? 없어요? 81번? 81번? 81번?” for an hour without a phone or music must be a mild form of torture. I registered 3 months early and was still in the 40s.

The Speaking Test
Our group of 5 was seated in a line according to our number. We each had a piece of paper with the same Korean passage. It was a beginner-level paragraph about Korean traditional markets. (Beginner level as in completed Level 2 in Talk to Me in Korean curriculum.) The first person read the passage out loud and was asked a few comprehension questions about the passage. Then they asked a few miscellaneous questions about vacations, how your country’s vacations are different from Korea’s, what you like better, etc. The questions were all based on your level of comprehension and how well you answered the previous questions, but overall, we were all asked the same questions.


Sending Money Home

One thing I worried about was how to send money back home. I had been banking with PNC for years and wanted to continue banking with them. When I found out they were going to charge me $50 every time I deposited money from a foreign account, I quickly looked for alternatives.

Option #1: CitiBank
CitiBank has banks all over the world which makes it one of the most convenient ways to transfer money. Since they are from the same bank, there are no fees to receive money. The problem with a CitiBank account is that they are only located in the larger cities in Korea. Before arriving in Korea, I had no idea what city I would be placed in and if it would have a CitiBank or not. I couldn’t risk opening a bank only to be hit with fees for not being able to maintain it.

Option #2: Ally Bank
Ally Bank is ultimately the option I chose. It’s an online bank that has no physical banking locations. It has free checking, free checks, and no maintenance fees. It also has free bank transfers for money deposited into  your Ally Bank account. I thought it would be a pain when I was in the States. How will I deposit money? (use Ally Bank app) How will I get out cash? (Use an ATM like a normal person. Ally reimburses up to $10/mo. for ATM fees) What if I need to talk to a banker? (Call the 24-7 customer service line) I’ve been using Ally for a year in Korea. It’s a fantastic little bank, and I love that it has 24-hour customer service and the longest wait time I’ve seen is 2 minutes. The only pain is setting up the bank path from your Korean bank to Ally. So you don’t have to go through the stress that I did; here’s all you need to know:

Ordering Customer: You
Sender’s Correspondent: CHASUS33 – JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Address: 1 Chase Manhattan Plz.
New York, NY 10005
Intermediary Institution: CHASUS33 – JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Account with Institution: ALLYUS31 – Ally Bank
Beneficiary Customer: You – Your Bank Account Number
ABA/Routing Number: 021000021 (Please double check with Ally to make sure this is your routing number)

While we’re on the topic of banks, look into a NongHyup One bank account when you get to Korea. A NongHyup One account is like a middleman account. Any money you put into this account will be automatically remitted to the bank of your choosing. The perks of this being that you pay less in fees from your Korean bank. You don’t have to have a NongHyup (NH) account to apply for NongHyup One.

There are several ways to send money home.

1. Go to the Bank
I used to leave work a little early so I could go to the bank and transfer money home. I made sure to bring my previous receipt of transfer to show the teller in case I got someone new. It’s also easier for them to transfer cash to your overseas account than directly from your account. I’m not sure why. This method is time-consuming and annoying.

2. Online Banking
When you apply for a bank account, be sure to take your cell phone and request online banking. The teller will have to set up the app for you. The NH bank app makes it super easy to transfer funds and everything is in English. This is the most convenient method.

3. ATM
Using your NongHyup One account requires you to use the ATM to transfer funds. ATMs are rather plentiful in the downtown areas so it’s only a slight inconvenience. This is the cheapest method.

Things I’ve Learned in Korea So Far

  1. How to eat grapes
    – Don’t eat the skins.
  2. When a Korean child uses that yells-everything-at-an-unreasonable-volume voice, my listening comprehension goes from >10% to 0%
  3. How to get water

Step 1: Get metal cup
Step 2: Dispense water
Step 3: Drink water
Step 4: Put metal cup in hole under cup cupboard thingy

Seriously. Everything seems so easy and yet so unfamiliar. Do you have to pay for the water? Why are there two dispensers? (One is hot water the other is cold.) I had to sit and stare at people drinking water for 15 minutes in order to figure out literally how to pour myself a glass of water.

4.  How to order food at the Lotte Department Store’s food court.

5. If there are no open tables, it’s perfectly fine to sit across from a stranger.

6. When you’re food is ready, you can leave your cellphone, purse, and wallet in front of said stranger as you go get your food.

7.  There are phone charging stations at most cafes that you can use for free.

8.  You must buy 쓰레기 봉지 (trash bags) at the grocery store check out counter for your non-recyclable waste.

9.  How to use the Naver maps app.
– Seriously a life saver.

10.  How to order something for take-out. (포장해주세요.)

11.  My Korean name is probably the English equivalent of “Bertha.” It’s unattractive and old-fashioned. When I tell Koreans my birth name, they respond by laughing or telling me I can change it. My favorite response was Shepard’s, “Ohhh. That is… unexpected.” ^^

Miryang Rompings

September 12, 2015
I’ve mentioned before how awesome my co-workers are. They make an effort to talk to me and make sure I’m comfortable. The first few days in Miryang were a little hard on me because I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t know how to navigate around the city. I would take walks around my neighborhood but never found more than a few restaurants, convenience stores, and a car wash. I was sure I landed in the Mansfield of Korea.

My co-teacher, Sunny, told me that one of the teachers lived in the city and could show me around. Jeong Hee is the same age as I am, single, and male. I can’t know for sure, but I’m fairly certain that many of the teachers tease him about me and another female teacher that started the same time as I did. Jeong Hee agreed to show me around the city and took me to some of the touristy spots. Our last stop was a coffee shop. Just outside the coffee shop, we ran into three of our students who immediately burst into squeals and screams upon seeing us. I couldn’t help but laugh under my breath but Jeong Hee kept a straight face. Jeong Hee said something to them before going into the shop. As he ordered, I could see the girls outside the window taking pictures of us on their cell phones. We took our food upstairs to the dining area and saw two more of our students. They didn’t make as big a fuss as the other girls when they saw us, but Jeong Hee was staring them down. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I stared them down too. The girls sunk down into their seats asking, “What? What? Why are you doing that?”

Work should be fun on Monday!

Mountain Hiking in Changwon

August 30, 2015
Hey Andrea. Let’s hike up a mountain!
Okay. Have you ever hiked up a mountain before?
No. But I like hiking back home so how bad can it be?

Heh. “How bad can it be?” My host Se Na gave me directions to the mountain trail entrance. She used a temple as a landmark. Piece of cake.

Temple 1

Success! But where was the trail? There was a sign that blocked the road. A few translations came up with “grounds, worship, silence, spectator, forbidden.” Well that can’t be the right road. I asked help from a couple doing yard work at their home. The man looked at the map sketch Se Na gave me and explained I was not at the right temple. He walked me across the street and motioned where I should go, all the while talking in Korea. He watched as I went on my way until I couldn’t see him anymore.

Well crap

Well crap. Did I go the wrong way? This is where Sena said the entrance was. Where does this trail lead?

Where does this leadlead

Success again! This time I got the right temple.

Success again20150831_095243

The actual hike was a lot of fun aside from the 100% humidity and the fact I was wearing jeans, Chuck Taylors, and carrying a purse. A few side trips led me to some really cool sights. And seriously? What’s the deal with the exercise equipment ON THE MOUNTAIN? And there were multiple outdoor mini gyms. I passed at least three.

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While I was huffing away, I passed by two older Korean men. They later passed me when I took a rest. As they passed, one of the men handed me two pieces of candy and told me, “It’s hard to reach the top.” Eventually we all reached a plateau where we sat and picked up a conversation. The other man gave me a bag of what looked like some brownish green liquid. Turns out it’s some kind of onion juice. “It’d be good if you drank it all,” he told me. Uhhh- ok. Down the hatch! It actually didn’t taste bad. I’d drink it again.

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It was my second long conversation in Korean since I got here. They told me I should marry a nice Korean man, asked about my adoption and family back home, and talked about wild pigs that lived on the mountain. They also advised me that this was a good place to turn around and head back down.




I originally took this picture to try to capture the baller Korean hiking gear that everyone donned. Little did I know that these two men would turn a fun little hiking adventure into a lasting memory.

Korea Day 3: Meeting Shepard

Today was a hallmark for me. I finally got to meet one of my language partners in person! His English name is Shepard, and he’s one of the most dedicated people I know. He was kind enough to take a bus from Busan to Changwon to meet me. Shepard taught me how to order food at the Lotte Department Store’s food court, how to order food for take out, and the most valuable tool of all – the Naver navigation app. More than that, over the past few months of knowing him, Shepard has taught me about how to live everyday working towards your goals. Shep’s goal is to become a UN ambassador. And, to put it in Konglish, everyday he lives life hard. Instead of applying for an easy military duty, he aims for the most difficult and dangerous. He only sleeps for 3 hours at night. He sacrifices time with his friends and yet cherishes his close relationships. Every morning he asks God to give him more adversity if it will make him a better, kinder man.

Shepard is more than just a language partner. He is a brother, a role model, and a friend. I couldn’t be more grateful to know him.

Korea Day 2: Changwon House and Drinking with a Korean

I’m slowly getting used to Korea. It’s been an adjustment to be sure. But even the sounds are different. There are these giant bugs in the trees that slowly rise into an ear-splitting crescendo together. (I know they’re cicadas but I’ve never heard them so loud!) There is a man who chants, “Ohhhhhhhhh— hhhoooooooooo—” every morning at 6 am. There is a weird sound that I can’t place. It could be a bull frog or it could be a machine. Even the dogs howl and whimper slightly different in Korea.

In other news, I went to Changwon House (창원의집) today. I took about a million pictures but none really do it justice. When I got back to the apartment, Se Na (세나) was home alone and  we went out and ate 팟빙수 (patbingsu: a shaved ice and sweet red bean dessert). Se Na explained to me that her husband, Hee Jun (희준) is considered a Gyeongsangnam-do man. He doesn’t express his feelings well and doesn’t talk a lot. She said that he wanted to talk to me but wasn’t confident in his English skills. …ironic foreshadowing… Continue reading