In August 2021 I moved to South Korea to work as a native English teacher in the city of Daegu. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, all new arrivals into South Korea have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a government approved hotel. If you are a Korean national or already have a Korean address, you are allowed to quarantine there. Since we are yet to moved into our new homes, EPIK quarantined at two hotels. Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong and Hotel Skypark Hotel Kingstown Dongdaemun. I was placed in the Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong.
On arrival into South Korea, we went through a series of well organised checkpoints. These included a temp check and a checkpoint where we showed our negative PCR results, a checkpoint where we downloaded a quarantine app on our phone and another checkpoint where this was set up by officials. They checked that we could be contacted either with a working Korean phone number or had a representative who could be called on behalf of us. We also were shown how to use the app. Not only does it track your phone’s location to ensure you do not leave the room but also warns you if your phone has not been moved during the day. This is to try and stop people from leaving their phone behind and trying to escape! We have to record a self-diagnosis twice a day where we record any symptoms we are having as well as our temperature.
After these checkpoints we headed through immigration which was as normal. These hoops to jump through do add extra time but I thought it was efficient After this we were given a sticker to identify which hotel we were going to. I met two others at baggage claim who were heading to the Myeongdong hotel so we all shared the taxi to the hotel to split the cost.
Once at the hotel, we paid the fee for quarantine upfront (1.56m ₩) and were helped up to our rooms. The whole hotel here is being used as a quarantine facility so it is luck of the draw with what type of room you are placed in. I was pretty lucky and got a room which I assume is normally used as a twin or triple room. It had a view out the back of the hotel onto office buildings and is spacious with lots of room to move around. It also comes complete with a huge bed, a must for quarantine!
As I say, it really is the luck of the draw, other colleagues have been placed in larger rooms with balconies, others have a view of the Seoul skyline. There are also those who have a view of a courtyard and a much smaller room so I feel very lucky with what I ended up with!
On the first night, as we had missed dinner, we were given a bag of snacks to tide us over. These included a cereal box, blueberry muffin, donut and mango pieces. The next day, as I had informed the hotel I was a vegetarian prior to arrival, I was given the vegetarian option for each meal.
This consisted of a salad with two pieces of fruit, trail mix and some form of protein (usually quail eggs or imitation crab). It also came with a chocopie, crisps and an orange juice. My stomach did not have much appetite on the first day and being presented with a salad for each meal was not my idea of fun whist jetlagged! After the first day and seeing what the meat eaters were offered, I decided to have the normal meal option for breakfast and dinner and a salad for lunch. This suited me much better.
Breakfast alternated between a savoury rice porridge and a sandwich. I will say that I am yet to be converted to savoury porridge which kimchi before 7am but I did enjoy the sandwich meal! These always came with a juice, cereal box and other snacks. For dinner we got a meat main, rice and a selection of 반찬 (banchan) which usually consisted of some type of kimchi, protein and sometimes pasta! We also always got a broth of some kind. This wasn’t particularly veggie friendly but I often had the broth, rice and kimchi together.
I made sure to bring a number of snacks with me and am so grateful I did. I brought cous cous to go with the salad and packets of instant noodles to eat if I was a bit more peckish.
Overall, the hotel is having to feed hundred of people, all of varying cultures, diets and appetites. I think with this in mind, the food was pretty good but I am so looking forward to getting out of here to try some different food!
I found that establishing a routine early on was so important in making my time in quarantine not only productive but also more enjoyable. Everyday I ran 1k up and down my room (so sorry whomever was below me!) and did a workout using a YouTube routine. I brought resistance bands with me which are a great light weight tool to bring with you to get a little extra out of your workouts. Making sure to move my body each day as been really important for me to feel good about myself even though I’m stuck in the same room.
I pushed myself to do something constructive with my afternoons, either completing the pre-orientation videos we were given to go over in quarantine, writing blog posts or studying Korean. Having a task to achieve for the day gave me something to work towards.
Of course, when else are you going to get so much time to do so little? I made sure to chill out too by reading, watching Netflix, catching up on Love Island and other TV shows.
The prospect of food three times a day also added some structure as did washing up the dishes and doing laundry. All of this I did in the bathroom sink making it very multipurpose! Make sure to bring handwash detergent with you as well as a little bottle of dish soap. I ended up using the provided toothbrushes as a makeshift scrubbing brush to wash down the dishes.
Keeping in Touch
Whilst in isolation, it is so important to keep in touch with other people. As I am quarantining here with hundreds of other colleagues, we have been able to keep in touch with group chats and provide advice and banter to our situation. I also made sure to call my parents each day and best friends to catch up and break up the day.
My quarantine experience hasn’t been too bad. It is isolating and can get dull but having a routine has really helped me maintain a sense of normalcy. It is normal to have a bump at some point and question why you put yourself in this position but at the end of the day I know it will be worth it!
Today is freedom day and we'll move onto the next step of our adventure which is orientation! We'll be staying on a university campus for five days of training. After this we'll head down to Daegu to finally meeting our co-teachers, schools and apartments.
I most likely won't post for a fortnight as I settle in but will be back soon with a run-by of orientation and a apartment tour!