Getting a Driver’s License in Korea

This is not converting a driver’s license from your home country to an international license.  This is rather actually obtaining a driver’s license in Korea – I do not have my license back at home in America.

Story is my main school offered to help me get my driver’s license since they have a car that I may utilize for transportation to all 4 of my schools within this area – thank goodness I may add; one school is 1.5 hours or more out by an express bus, with a transfer!

The process is similar to how it is in America, but slightly different – it’s essentially a 3-step procedure.

  1. Written Exam
  2. Functional Test
  3. Road Test

The school sent me to an academy to prepare for all sections to get my license.  I sat for close to 5 hours reading poorly written English practice Q&As, and then went to the local DMV to take the written exam; not that the American written exam is difficult but I recall one or two questions that weren’t 100% clear – it was much worse here, but that comes with the territory.

The next step is where things deviate quite a bit.  Here you are tested on things such as turning on your lights, high beam included, wipers, signals, emergency brake, and suddenly stopping for hazards.  It’s a pretty straight-forward section but this time it was not in English.  I was panicking on the inside because it was too much Korean to memorize in such a short amount of time.  This time I had only 2 hours of practice before taking the test, but I got used to the procedure and managed to pull it off without a hitch.  We don’t have this section, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt but it sort of is unnecessary – I guess they assume our parents teach us those small details.

The road test is very similar but the school has 4 routes that you practice on and you are actually tested on 1/4 routes of which is chosen at random.  You follow a computer-operated program telling you when to turn and such, but after 6 hours of practice you should already have memorized all 4 routes anyways.  I’m in a small town in the countryside and I turned out to be the only one out of five taking the road test for a car and not a truck so I went last.  Man, I was tired of waiting and anxious to getting it over with.  Luckily I didn’t rush through the test and all.

A couple of days later, I have the license in my hand! 🙂 This definitely opens up new doors for future travels!  Looking forward to converting this to an international driving license someday soon!  Here’s to a city-kid growing up!

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Episode 3 – Japanese Language Student (1)

Want to know what it’s been like thus far being a Japanese language student?  There’s not too much to it yet as I haven’t even started my classes!  But here are some info and my experiences thus far:

Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language

A school for the simple purpose to teach others the language and culture of Kyoto and Japan; sister school with Kyoto Institute of Design, and Kyoto University of Art and Design.  All students share facilities so it’s very beneficial for KICL students.  There are dormitories available if you’d like to relive your college experiences, or simply get rid of the small nuances of living alone; or if you don’t want to feel lonely coming all alone from your home country to a foreign one.  Students come from all around the world to Japan to learn the language and culture; Sweden, Italy, France, U.S.A, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia, India, and England, just to name several that I’ve encountered recently!

Entrance Exam

Let me start with, “I WAS NERVOUS”, very, very nervous!  I haven’t had an exam since I graduated college in May 2012, and I didn’t really study much Japanese since being here; at least not enough to feel comfortable going in for the entrance exam.  But, that’s ok!  It’s just an entrance exam!  I told myself that over and over, and yet it was a futile effort.  I was nervous because I did not want to get placed in the beginner class and go over what I already know, maybe some just as a refresher since it’s good to ensure everyone has the core basics down before moving forward.  The exam itself is the same for everyone as it simply tests your current ability, and you’re only supposed to answer the questions you can so you don’t get points deducted and thus diluting the purpose of the entrance exam.  The first page on the answer sheet was all related to Kanji while the second was all multiple choice gauging your reading, grammar, and conjugation abilities through multiple choice questions.  I answered 38/150 which if I got everyone correct meant that I would get a 25% on the exam, which kind of put me down just because I can’t remember scoring that low on any exam ever; but that’s ok, since it’s only an entrance exam!

Interview

Yeah, it’s not only just a written/reading exam but also verbal!  Unfortunately many students were held back even after the test duration, guess there were too many of us and too little of them.  The interview was pretty basic for me, probably because I’m at a basic level.  The interviewer asked me questions like:

Why do you want to learn Japanese?
“I like Japanese”.  The interviewer couldn’t understand that so he asked again later in the interview and I just repeated my answer, he showed that he kind of understood with a nod so hopefully he understood that I simply just like the language.

What did you do yesterday?
“I watched anime”.  I probably should have lied just to not give a bad impression of why I want to learn Japanese, but he followed up asking which animes and I told him Detective Conan and Hajime no Ippo; he said that he liked Detective Conan too, hopefully some points there!

What is your home country?
“America”.

What part of Japanese would you like to learn?
“Everything; reading, writing, and speaking”.

That was basically it for the interview!  Very basic indeed right?

Orientation

Who doesn’t love a good orientation?  It’s there to give you plenty of useful info and provide icebreakers so students can start to feel comfortable, if not already!  And let’s face it, if you already finished college and been off into the real world for once in your life, you’d probably want to go back to college; well at least some aspects of it!  Anyways, the orientation schedule was quite simple really: useful info in the morning, and a mini tour of the campus; address and health insurance registration with the local prefecture ward in the afternoon; and a meet-and-greet with former students in the evening.  At least they had the mingling event at the end of the day since there were no other formal icebreakers!  It’s good to mention that the orientations were split by languages so everyone could get through orientation with ease.  From what I know there was English, Swedish, and Chinese.  Although there are many people whose primary fluent language is not one of the above, they can choose one that they feel most comfortable with and bear through it; usually it’s English.

D-Day

Although the exam was on Monday and orientation on Tuesday, the results were provided on Thursday!  I must say that I was very anxious to know!  A new friend that I saw last night, along with many other friends by the river for another round of drinks, said that he forgot all about it; no idea how!  Anyways, it turns out that I was placed in the Upper Elementary class; which is exactly what I wanted!  I did not want to be in a class learning Hiragana and Katakana, and the very basic particle usages; nor did I want to be in an intermediate class where I would die because I don’t know enough!  This was perfect, the entrance exam works!

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Just a little background info on the structure of the classes and levels.  When you take one class, you can move up the ladder to the next class in that order; but if you feel uncomfortable you can move horizontally to basically the next sub-level.  So in my case, I’m starting in upper elementary and will move into intermediate in the next semester; the semesters are 6 months each and I plan to stay for at least a year.

So what do you guys think of my nerve-wrecking week?  Comment below!

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