I landed in South Korea!
Hello everyone! I made it to South Korea safe and sound! After a very long and exhausting day of travel with some minor bumps in the road, I have made it to my quarantine facility in South Korea. I'll start from the very beginning. I flew out of MSP to ATL to ICN and my first flight was at 5:30am 01/09/2021. Since this was an international flight, I arrived at the MSP airport at 2:30am only to find out that the check-in desk didn't open until 4:00am. I was told by the airline that I needed to be at the airport three hours early as they had to verify all my documents since I held a long-term visa and South Korea has very strict Covid-19 regulations. Besides that little hiccup, checking-in and going through security was a breeze. The flight was on time and I arrived at ATL around 9:00am. My next flight was directly from ATL to ICN which was at 12:00pm and the flight was about 16 hours long. I met quite a bit of my Fulbright cohort in Atlanta so that was nice and we all just talked while waiting for the flight. The flight was through Korean Air and this was probably the most comfortable long flight I have ever been on. I figured there wouldn't be many people traveling to South Korea and there weren’t. Basically, everyone was able to get an entire row to themselves which was so nice. I was able to stretch out, sleep comfortably and had plenty of space to myself. We got two meals during the flight and they were both delicious.
The first meal (first picture) was of bibimbap which is basically like a Korean rice bowl with meat and different veggies. It came with seaweed soup, spicy pickles and fruit.
The second meal (second picture) was like a teriyaki chicken and rice dish that came with carrots, broccoli, smoked salmon salad, tiramisu and bread.
Once I landed in South Korea, that's where I was having my somewhat major bump in the road (this is a long story, sorry about that). So, with any international traveler who is going to South Korea, you are required to get a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the flight departure, and you must get the results back too, which I did, so I felt confident that I didn't have Covid-19. You are also required to get a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of landing in South Korea. South Korea also requires all international travelers to do a mandatory 14-day quarantine and typically this is done at a government sanctioned facility. However, since I am with Fulbright, we were given special permission to do our 14 day quarantine at the university where our orientation would be held. When you go through immigration, you give all of these quarantine, visa and immigration paperwork, they also check your temperature before you can go through baggage claim. This is where I hit my snag…when they took my temperature it was 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) which was the cutoff for a high temperature. I honestly think my temp was elevated because I was wearing a sweatshirt, winter jacket, heavy backpack and had my carry-on, along with the fact that I just landed after a 16 hour flight. Because of this, I was pulled aside and had to get questioned in detail and then it was decided I needed to get the Covid-19 testing right away. I was then brought to a government facility and couldn't leave this government facility until my Covid-19 test came back negative, so I ended up staying the night at the government facility. It was a nice room and if I wasn't so freaked out about my situation, I think I would have enjoyed it more. Normally, I wouldn't have an issue with this, but with how strict South Korea is with Covid-19, I was paranoid and worried my test would come back positive in which case, they automatically take you to a different government facility and you must do your 14 day quarantine where they can monitor your symptoms and all of that (they also burn all of the clothes you wear once you leave). I also lost all contact with most of the Fulbright people because they didn't get pulled aside and were able to go straight to the Fulbright site. The last thing was that I didn't have any internet connection at the government facility and therefore could not contact my Fulbright director, all in all, I was very stressed, anxious and had a long day.
But in the end, I had a negative covid test, and was released from the government facility in the morning and brought back to the airport where my Fulbright people picked me up and brought me to the Fulbright site. The drive to the university campus was very pretty and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground, not as much snow as Minnesota but more so than I thought there would be. I am now at my Fulbright orientation site (Korea University Sejong Campus) in a one bedroom/bathroom college dorm room, which will be my new home for the next 14 days. I am not allowed to leave my room at all, and all food is brought up to my door 3x daily. I must take my temperature twice daily and submit it to this government phone app. Thankfully, during my 14 day quarantine, I will start online orientation and my first day is tomorrow which includes Korean language classes. I'm excited about this, because I know absolutely no Korean, so it'll be nice to have a course for six weeks. I guess, that is all for now. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy back home in the States!