A Bit of Science Background as Cyclones Approach Asia

This evening (11:59 UTC Sunday) two tropical cyclones are of concern in the East Asia region. Typhoon Usagi is very close to making a pretty direct landfall on Hong Kong while Japan is keeping an eye on Pabuk. Since I am studying Meteorology  I have a quick attempt to look at the situation from that prospective make a prediction for next two days.

Typhoon Usagi

According to the World Meteorological Organization members tracking the storm, at 9UTC Usagi is moving towards Southern China, West North West at 10 knots. It is a well organized storm with a low pressure reading of 935 HPA. Although wind speeds have slowed down considerably after the storm hit Taiwan, they are averaging 85 kt at the center with gusts of up to 120 kt.

After looking at the atmospheric sounding data for  Hong Kong it difficult to tell how long this storm will remain powerful after making its landfall. The is not much wind shear about 45 degrees or less between the surface and 500mb which is favorable for cyclone development. However the air does not cool much with increase in height nor is humidity that high. Given this with caution I believe the storm should weaken faster than most after making landfall, however this will be a powerful storm for those on the coast.


Once Usagi is over, attention will turn to Pabuk. It is still over the open Ocean right now moving North. Since waters will be cooler and wind shear in Japan is more significant I am not expecting this to become a major disaster however factors indicate that careful monitoring is in order. Temperatures her do decrease more rapidly with height and the open water can provide moisture. It is also tracked to pass nearby to Japan including Tokyo.

I will provide more weather updates if it seems fit.





Happy Chuseok!


This week marks Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) when many return to be with there families. Since there will be no classes Wednesday through the end of the week, many exchange students took the opportunity to travel to enjoy beaches in Busan or on Jeju island while others went to Japan. After spending money in China, I am hoping to save up for either Hong Kong or Daejeon.


Provisional Status Joining Abroad Team Not Easy

After completing a formal application and interview, I was officially accepted into Yonsei’s Debate Team, not exactly.  Considering the retaliative ease one can join debate at HWS, there is a recruitment drive at the start of each semester, but any time any student can simply begin attending meetings, I was surprised at how tough the union was being here. Last semester when I was formatting my experience grant I began contacting the team and I was told to apply after arrival.

It turns out that they are concerned with mostly finding long term students for debate and normal require the ability to commit for two semester. Over the winter holidays they are planning to host a tournament for middle and high school students, and are looking for members whom can help out with that effort. I was able to say that I could help by giving advice based on the tournaments that my school has hosted with blogging and promoting the event. This along with the experience I am gaining as a adjudicator was helpful since they asked me to train as judge, but it was made clear eventually that normally exchange students are not welcome. I do believe that debate can be informative about culture, in part by showing values within political dialogue. It is also an opportunity to travel (the team is going to the Asia BP Championships in Beijing and the North East Asia Open this semester) and meet many international students. Hopefully exchange will be able to find more opportunities to join debate.

Want to know if your university is active in debate? Here’s a list of the teams at last years World Universities Debate Championships: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Ah-WvuMQdoQZdFZXTktjbHJBSDh6WkFRZHg2dldMWWc&gid=9

Sports, Dancing, Cooking: What are some activities that you enjoy at your home university that participating in during study abroad would help you to become more connected culturally? Feel free to comment:


The awards ceremony following the HWS Round Robin this past April, a tournament that I have assisted in hosting.

The awards ceremony following the HWS Round Robin this past April, a tournament that I have assisted in hosting.

Difficulty with Course Registration plus Other Things to Consider Before Studying Abroad

The quality of the education while studying abroad is not as good…This is the strongest argument I have heard against studying abroad and after a few weeks at Yonsei, I know that it is somewhat valid. At my school in America almost 60% of students choose to study abroad, 30 times the national average and I believe it is a great opportunity, however there are few things to consider that I don’t think shouldn’t just be pushed aside as silly concerns:

Education Value for Price: Most study abroad programs still charge tuition as if you are studying at your “home institution” which if you attend an American private school, is an outrageous rip off to study anywhere else in world.  I am still paying HWS (through scholarships, grants, and loans) US$22,590 however a semester at Yonsei Underwood (the most expensive undergraduate program in Korea) cost 7,918,000 KRW or about US$7,250. To access the cheaper tuition it would seem that one would need transfer out of there home institution and then transfer back in. Of course that would be too risky and the support provided by our study abroad is really valuable. If financial aid is not a concern and spending a longer time abroad of interest, simply attending university abroad might be a good idea, although it requires understanding more about the nation you are going to.

Before running with pitchforks to demand the lower tuition rates for all American schools, its needed to remember that we do get what we pay for. This became apparent during course registration. Schedules were not released until well into the summer holiday, and once it was I was forced to re-scramble my plans since some of the courses I was planning to take were not available during the Fall Semester. On registration day itself, I was only able to get two of the classes I needed, and contacting the profossers for help was difficult. We were told to try again during the second add period and to just show up the first day and ask. At my school back home, simply explaining that a course is needed for my major would be enough to receive a seat without the worry. Also class sizes are bigger, about twice as large as at my college in the United States. Professors generally do not engage the students as much, choosing mostly to lecture however some discussion does take place. But its really hard to have everyone interact with the material. They do also offer office hours, however its not as encouraged as much as at university in America. Overall the quality of American liberal arts colleges is better than their study abroad programs. However being abroad and taking courses with international students is also a great learning experience as well, especially if you are wishing to study a certain region or any international issue.

Other Educational Related Costs: Those tuition dollars (and the fees) back home also buys us larger educational experience. HWS tuition would normally buy a cost free Orientation Weekend including meals, however here it only was worth a half day program with additional fees for the group dinner and tours that took places on some of the following days. With nothing else to do for a week and wanting to get to know everyone else, you pretty much feel forced to spend the money.

Participating in student clubs also comes with its added costs. Yonsei (and many non US schools) do not pay for there students to attend debate tournaments and many other clubs charge membership fees to cover costs. This makes participating in activities costly. The tournament in Hong Kong cost almost US$200 per person to attend and flights are looking to cost almost US$400 more with the tournament an hour by fast train south of Seoul in Daejeon about 330,000 KRW not including train tickets. Attending the world championship easily costs thousands of US dollars. In the US the university takes care of these costs making it easier for students to attend, especially those of lower incomes, but of course its reflected in tuition prices. It is a bit cheaper for HWS to travel to tournaments since Toronto and New York City are within driving distance while Korea is isolated and only hosting one tournament this semester. For the purposes of study abroad, remember to budget in (and look for an experience grant) participation in a club since they all have operating costs, however are also great places to meet others and engage culturally.

Weakening of Relationships at Home: The majority of us whom study abroad are likely to live the rest of our lives in the United States, so our relationships at home are still important, even if this point seems silly. It is highly likely that connections you make while studying abroad will help you, since for vacation or maybe work, going outside the U.S. could be fun and the global experience will help in job hunting. I do believe that there is some risk to relationships with the people you are leaving behind. They are likely to feel disconnected to you and could end up feeling attached to other people or lonely. Many people do report having to find new friends or partners after coming back from abroad, feeling that they can no longer relate to there old friends. And the inability to quickly visit if an emergency happens could leave family members or partners feeling that you are unable to take care of them when needed, even while they attempt to logically understand it could be hard for them regain trust in feeling protected. If your relationships are real, or solid, I’ve been told, they can survive four months of being apart. The problem is that I and most college students are just building there friendships, relationships and connections, they are not solid and very well could collapse, relationships that if time is put into them, are likely to be more useful than the ones built while abroad. People are also less likely to date an exchange student (if that worries you) because of the difficulties of meeting after the semester is over and people at home in the months leading up to your departure could fear the fact that your going abroad soon, so you could actually lose a lot of time in finding a good match. Of course you want to find a find friends and relationships that are healthy enough for each party to be supportive of the other party’s goals and in which one party does not give up too much more than the other, but it might be true that people in longer relationships (older people) are likely to make additional sacrifices for each other.   In the most extreme emergencies (usually only involving family members) you can usually get a leave of absence and quickly return home, some insurance policies help with this and you ask your university about there policy if this concerns you. I think its up to each person to decide and discuss how being away could impact there relationships at home.

Location Determines Price (Somewhat): I will leave Korea with more money in my bank account than I would have had if I stayed home, despite the fact that I will not be working while I am here. This however is not true for my friends studying in Western Europe and Japan since the cost of living in those places is higher. It comes down to the cost of living since the dormitories here are 1,414,000 KRW for the semester a little more of 1/3 the price of dorms at HWS. While the grocery store here in Korea is expensive, restaurants, and most other activities are cheaper than in the states. If finances are a concern during study abroad, choosing with location in mind can actually be helpful. Also remember since people ask more questions about finances during study abroad than being a home, most cost estimates published are total cost (including spending money and books for example), whereas normally the focus is on just tuition, room and board. Also some scholarship programs for study abroad focus on helping students to study in less traditional locations or places the government considers high need, But if academic plans are better suited in Europe for example, than a strong scholarship essay is possible.


Overall I think this opportunity is great for me, however it has shown me that some of the arguments against study abroad are valid and should be considered.



Eygpt, Chicken and Beer First Meeting with Yonsei Debaters


Last week I was able to meet the debate team here at Yonsei University, Underwood Union. Having been in and out of contact with them for a while I was able to find out about a demonstration debate that they were having. Everyone seemed to be pretty nice and most of the team members are from Korea, which is nice change from our exchange student filled program. The first fifteen minutes was the typical introduction to BP style debates, before the front half debate (only the first two of four teams) began.

Overall I was impressed with there handling with a complicated international relations motion, which did not surprise me, given there performance at the world championships and Asian tournaments:

This House Regrets civilian support for the military regime in Egypt.

Most of the debate centered around if a preferable form of government could have existed in the situation. The opposition also said that the military was the only actor able to serve as a check/balance against leaders, however those supporting the motion pointed towards military violence. They said militarizes are designed to promote stability and therefore oppose movements about change.

Afterwords, we had a team social, which was a great option for dinner. Going to one of Sinchon’s many Chicken and Beer places. We actually spent quite a bit of time there, eating, drinking, and getting to know each other. One student is from Finland, another the Philippians and others from the states, whom don’t go to Yonsei but will be around sometimes to help out. 

Orientation A Lot of Free Time

(ending of August)

Orientation Day

Orientation Day

The day after arriving in the dormitory was orientation, a one day introduction to Yonsei. The program itself was a bit dry, basically some lectures about things that we need to know (in case you didn’t read the website) with a lunch break. Afterwords there was time to sign up for the optional city tours taking place over the next several days. Unlike orientation in United States many somewhat optional add ons and meals cost additional money. Of course this probobly makes tuition at Yonsei cheaper, however the small cost that add up are quite annoying considering that my exchange program charges the tuition I would be paying at home, without seemingly providing the same level of treatment. One I exchanged my money I was able to sign up for Gyeongbokgung Palace and for a city tour. After a short campus tour, we had Global Buddies meeting, which was much more lively as we spend an hour learning the school cheers since the games against Korean University are coming up in a few weeks. Afterwords it was time for dinner, we were split into mentoring groups about 50 people each my group went for Chinese food. Later a local club, Barfly, had an event for us.

Getting to the dorms is not difficult. Airport Limo’s (buses) go to almost any part of Seoul from the airport usually charging 10,000won, a bit more than 9USD, worth the price if you have lugguage I think as it avoids taxi fare and the stairs involved with subways. 6011 drops off at a stop called Ewha Women’s College Back Gate, the Yonsei Main Gate stop is 10 minutes downhill from the dorm, the people whom made the mistake of getting off there did not have a fun time.

part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Most of the next week and a half was free time for us. At first I did not like this since orientation at HWS is very organized and gives us not time to just be on our own, promoting campus unity, and keeping us as far as it can from alcohol. However this proved to be of great value. On a facebook page everyone came together (once I learned about it through talking to someone) with people posting meet up times to go tourist location, clubbing, or dinner. After visiting Gyeongbokgung palace I went with a couple of students to Seoul Land, an amusement park. A few day later, with a different set, I went to Namsan tower area, a mountain in the middle of city, providing for great views. Overall a good week if you attempt to connect with others and know about the page. Its really great for an exchange program in a major city, since the tourism aspect has appeal, however I don’t think the model would work well in the United States since there is some risk of students feeling left out during this time, which could lead to more transfers. If your not in a major city that most have not been to before it would quickly become boring. Also the liability issues with alcohol are a great concern since the school year hasn’t even began yet.


The view below Namsang Tower


Also about the Alien Registration Card. The nice consulates and short wait times for Korean student Visas will trick you, however after arriving in Korea you must apply for the Alien Registration Card. This entails going to the Immigration office, and waiting, those who went early (arrived around 8am reported waits under 2 hours), my group arrived at 9am and left bit before 1pm, and those arriving at 10 reported spending 5 hours at the office. I would go with a group to have people to rant with about immigration policy and non Americans to apologize for the ridiculousness endured simply in transiting a U.S. airport.   Once you arrive there is simple form asking for your address and telephone number. Also needed are an id sized photograph, I had one left at home so I had to buy new ones, the certificate of enrollment, and copies of your passport, both the photo page and visa entry. Photos and copies can be made in the office, but get your number as soon as you arrive to save time and then take care of everything else, including payment…be sure to choose the option including delivery its only an extra 3,000won about 2 US dollars and 70 cents, which is only a few cents more than transit fare back to the office and saves hours of your time.

Renminbi is King and other Tips After Visiting China

  • Renmibi, or cash is only form of payment in acceptable in at a shockingly wide number of places within China, including the big cities that I visited. Renmibi, yuan, cny, all pretty much mean the same thing, a bit more than 6 of them are worth about one U.S. dollar. For example the office for buying inner-city train tickets, where I spent 553yuan each way, the tailor where I left an 800yuan deposit, and McDonalds 26yuan would not accept my credit card. Usually places frequented by tourist are more credit card friendly including hotels. Since the government is trying to expand the domestic and international use of its currency, most places are not allowed to take other international currencies but exchanging money is not too difficult at a bank, hotel, or in the underworld.

Given this I would advise those taking shorter trips to China (under 1 month) to bring enough cash for the travel excluding hotel fees. Check with your hotel’s website to make sure they accept credit card and have a money exchange service, and try to find a credit card without international transactions fees, Discover’s College Credit Card was my choice, however my credit limit not quite high enough for traveling. When changing your money legally you will need your passport and address and afterwords will be given a receipt, keep this in case you want to change your money back before leaving China, however Renminbi is in demand internationally as well. If you are wishing or needing to use an ATM in the cities they are widely available. I opened an account with Citibank, which does charge a foreign transaction fee, however using one of there ATM, of which there are plenty in China, avoids all other fees, however you might not get the receipt needed to convert the money before leaving China.

  • Carry your Passport: you will need it to a large number of things and the police are allowed to ask to see it at any time. See above about changing money. In order to check into hotels you will have to have this document scanned, it is checked when buying train tickets and sometimes during boarding. I used a money belt, a smaller pouch to keep this and my money secure when I wasn’t planning to use it that day.
  • The Fast Trains are really nice and an effective way to get around. You can buy tickets at offices around the city where lines are much shorter than at the station. Check schedules and ticket availability online, however if your traveling during a non peak time save money a buy the tickets in person, I was able to do this on the same as my travel. The standard seat is second class and seat number is assigned on the ticket.
  • Bring maps or other visual ways to ask for directions if you get lost. Its hard to find somebody who is able to speak English, however many signs and menus are printed in both Chinese and English.
  • Things are a bit cheaper than America, however don’t think unrealistically. Shopping in tourist areas does not provide much of a bargain, cell phones are about the same price as US non contract phones, however some smaller restaurants and college canteen food are much cheaper than in the US. I spend about 700 USD while I was in China for 2 weeks, 200 USD on train tickets, 300 USD on the suits plus shipping them before the tax. Most of meals were paid for however I got snack afterwords quite often I probobly outright bought about a third of my meals. The program paid for our stay at The Vision Hotel however the rate they were given 500yuan per night is much better than more well known hotels of similar quality, so I recommend it for middle and high end travelers.
  • Buy a few suits while you are there, I got a tailor made suit for 700yuan and tuxedo for 800yuan. Get measured early in your trip for this, since it takes about a week to prepare, she my next point. You will be asked to leave a deposit, a bit more than half, and pay the rest at pick up.
  • Shipping new items home may lead to taxes. My suit wasn’t ready until after I left China, so my friend had to ship it to me. Feeling that the Chinese Post is unreliable we spend 456yuan for express DHL shipping. The Korean government than required I pay a tax but they did not have my phone number until we called DHL using the tracking number, so the package ended up taking almost a week to get to me, and I had to pay about 44,000won, or 40 USD extra to get my suits. I was told I could avoid this tax if I could prove the items were used, so if you have such proof keep it I guess. I was able to bring souvenirs from China with my suitcase through the airport in Korea without being questioned or taxed.