It’s been about two weeks since we left quarantine. I wanted to write about this sooner but I have instead taken time to adjust to our new apartment on the UNIST campus and orienting myself. UNIST stands for the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology. And as far as universities go it is relatively new and opened in 2009.
I went into quarantine not feeling great about it. We had found out we had to quarantine in a facility about two weeks from flying out of Sydney. I was frustrated and it felt unfair because we had initially been told we could quarantine at our apartment. Instead, we had to quarantine in hotel rooms in Seoul- separately under orders from the Korean government.
We flew into Seoul, made our way through immigration and were taken by taxi to get a COVID test before going to our hotel rooms. I was anxious as soon as we started to land, knowing that our first two weeks in a new country would find us both alone. After a few hiccups we were both taken to our separate rooms which were about 100 metres away from each other. We were in buildings separated by a courtyard.
The quarantine was run by roomkor and included our food as well as WIFI. We had asked for upgrades to include a bigger room and TV but much to our disappointment we arrived to smaller rooms with no TV. I will say the rooms were neat and new, if not small. I spent the first night crying and unpacking, playing with the gadget-y light switches and appliances and letting everyone know we had arrived safely. Not my finest moment.
The room included a king single bed, washing machine, induction cook top, fridge, kettle and full bathroom. I also had a small desk to sit at and a window that opened all the way (which became a lifesaver once cabin fever sunk in). Luckily I had my laptop so I could watch TV and it was an excuse to reignite my love of reading.
An average day involved a delivery of food between 7 am and 11 am. They would leave breakfast and lunch by our door and then we had staple ingredients to tide us over for breakfast and snacks. The meals were gigantic and usually involved meat, rice, kimchi and some sides (like egg rolls- they were 10/10). By day three the food was starting to become repetitive and a little less appealing. I would call myself a pretty un-picky eater. I eat pretty much anything. But i had a few dishes where i couldn’t stomach it. I think it is mostly the not knowing the exact ingredients or textures maybe? We also had to log our temperature and any symptoms via an app twice per day. Hilariously, the only thermometers we could find before flying out were Winnie the Pooh themed. The information got logged and was sent to our local health centre.
Looking back i feel like the first 7 days went very quickly and the last 7 dragged. There were definitely some key things that made quarantine easier:
- Roomkor being available for instant message chat: they responded super quickly to any issues we had and were very available, even helping with our taxi when we left.
- Having some kind of routine: I didn’t keep my days really strict but I definitely had goals to keep me on track. Aiming for two hours of uni work a day, using the Tide app, doing some form of yoga, meditating, practicing Duolingo. I had these activities written in my diary to check off as i got them done.
- Facetime dates: Ben and I found an awesome online board game website; Board Game Arena to pass the time and it was super fun! The website has a bunch of free, fun games we could play with friends and there was an option to upgrade to premium for more selection. Other times we would zoom and watch Netflix together or FaceTime friends. It was nice to have human contact.
- I tried to eat my meals around the same time each day to add some consistency– It turns out friends really love videos of the quarantine food deliveries- which also became a highlight of my day and an excuse to attempt some very lame Tiktok videos.
- Go Wonderfully: Go Wonderfully is a personal assistant service in Korea. When Ben arrived to his room he had way less snack/staple food than me and by day three we both wanted extra snacks and coffee. We used Go Wonderfully to hire a personal assistant to help with ordering food deliveries from online super markets. We would have struggled ourselves as you need a Korean phone number and the service was super easy and affordable- I would recommend.
At the end of quarantine I was so excited to see Ben and start our ACTUAL adventure in Korea. I remember dreading two weeks alone in a room and thought it would be unbearable. But, for anyone having similar concerns about quarantine: it will be ok! If anything it was an experience in being content with yourself and your surroundings.