Done with KIIP

1.5 years later, I’ve completed the program! For some reason, I kept thinking that I had started the program in 2015, but I actually started in April 2016, and have now completed it in December 2017. I guess it just felt so long; I was convinced that surely it must have been over 2 years now. It really is quite the ordeal, spending 8 hours in class on a Sunday or Saturday … and back in Level 2, on some weekends, I did 8 hours each on Saturday AND Sunday! I’m so happy to have my 2-day weekends back.

I have two certificates: KIIP (Korea Immigration and Integration Program), and KIPRAT (Korea Immigration Permanent Residency Ability??Acceptance??Aptitude??idk Test). They were both issued automatically through the website, after I passed my Level 5 (50 hours) exam. The dates on the certificates are different, because the dates will be whatever date I clicked on it print from the Socinet website.

Feels great!

It is a massive time commitment, but it is worth it. I did it because it was the only language class I could take in my area. Almost everything I know in Korean, is from being taught it directly in KIIP classes, or from picking it up through casual conversations with the teachers or classmates. I’m far from fluent, and I make plenty of mistakes … but I get by just fine.

Here’s how my schedule was, from Level 2 to Level 5:

Placement test: 2016.04.30

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Intermediate exam: 2017.08.19

Level 5

Final exam: 2017.12.16

Again: massive time commitment. Not everyone is up to it. But worth it.

Super motivated

January being January, I am so motivated to make this MY YEAR with learning Korean. Me and everyone else, right? Anyway.

If I could do it over – I’d be less lazy.

If I could do it over – I’d take paid 1-on-1 lessons, from the very beginning. It’s great for supplementing my KIIP classes.

KIIP Level 3, Day 1

Today was the first day of Level 3, aka Intermediate 1. The textbook is 7,000 won, just like before – but structured quite differently. The class is quite different too. Previously, my class was small enough that everyone could do dialogue practice, and speak their own attempts at making sentences. This class, not so much. The occasional volunteer (forced or not).

Getting to class was much easier. Previously, I had to take a hourlong bus ride to the middle of nowhere.  Now, I take the subway from the station next to my apartment, switch over at the big station to Seoul Line 1, and get out a few stations later.

I really, really prefer the subway. Also, some expats apparently nicknamed the Seoul Line 1 as ‘Slumpiercer’? I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry.

KIIP Level 3

Registration opened at midnight on the 16th, and the KIIP website immediately slowed to a crawl. I saw that people were registering slightly before midnight, but I thought I’d wait until after, just to be sure. Occasionally, you see notes on classroom listings that threaten to kick out people who register too early. You’d think they’d build it into the system.

But anyway. I’ve registered! I’m going once a week for 8 hours, every Sunday, from September 04 to December 04. Three months! But it’s only once a week, which should be a cakewalk compared to last semester’s Sat/Sun, 8 hours a day classes.

KIIP Level 2 pass


Look at that! I passed Level 2.

The exam was out of 100 points, with 70 points for the written test (20 questions x 3.5 points), and 30 for the speaking test. The entire class was a bit stunned after the written test, because it was much, much harder than any of the practice tests we had taken. I came out of the test worried that it could easily go either way by a margin of a few points. I had even gotten to the point of randomly choosing between two possible answers on several questions. I remember one of them: I knew options 3 and 4 were wrong, but I didn’t even know the meaning of options 1 and 2.

I bombed my initial question on the speaking test – I was asked to provide instructions on how to make 떡볶이. Wut? We had totally studied it but my brain completely short-circuited. I muddled my way through it, horribly.

One of the two speaking test examiners was my course instructor, and they looped back to me after the others in the test, and asked a different question: what’s your hobby? Maybe because my course instructor knew I could do better? I don’t know. Anyway, it all worked out and I now have a very satisfying 94/100 points.


The entire course was 100 hours, with 8 or so hours of class per day, from 9 am to 5 pm. It was 5 Saturdays and 8 Sundays over the span of 7 weeks. After a while, I got really annoyed at never having a single day off, and less than my usual amount of sleep. It wasn’t that bad, it’s just 7 days a week of sitting at desks … it’s not like it’s manual labor. Regardless. I’ll have to think long and hard before I ever sign up for 9-5 job and classes, every day of the week.

Was it worth it? Yes, completely. Will I do the fast-track course again? Probably not.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

KIIP Level 2 reflections

This class has further enforced foreigners-in-Korea stereotypes in my mind. Suffice to say that I wish they weren’t real.

That said, I am aware that I might be reinforcing the American stereotype for the others. I don’t think I am. But when you don’t think you are, that’s when you do.


KIIP 2단계, Day 5

Here’s the thing. I cannot believe how immature some of my fellow classmates are. One of the girls is constantly hissing under her breath (but loud enough for everyone), “Break. Break. Break.” As in, 10-minute study break. This, to me, is rude as fuck and I am certain that she thinks the teacher doesn’t understand her. I don’t even know why some of the people in class even bother coming, if they don’t want to learn. It’s a different story if they were placed in the wrong level and are madly distracted, but I know they’re not scoring as high on dictation and are constantly making mistakes in reading, making sentences, etc. I don’t “need” this class unlike most of my classmates (I’m not married to a Korean, no concrete ties to the country), and yes the class is free, but I am making all this effort to wake up early and spend all this time in class, so you better believe I’m going to fucking ace this class.

KIIP 2단계, Day 2

Day 2. So tired. Everyone is kinda perky from 9:00 – 12:00. Some begin to slow down after coming back from lunch at 12:40. At 4:00-5:30 (last 2 hours), it’s really hard to focus.

We moved from the middle of Lesson 2 (page 25) to halfway through Lesson 4 (page 40). Lots of handouts (for practicing vocabulary and grammar), and reading out loud. The composition part at the end of each chapter kind of stumps me. I try but it’s not easy yet.

I read online that you don’t have to study outside of class. Not for the accelerated class! I’m definitely going to need some time to prepare and review, and everyone else I spoke to seemed to have the same idea. We blazed through half of a previous lesson, a new lesson, and got halfway through another new lesson today. When June hits, we’re going to be doing this on Saturday AND Sunday.

There’s 14 on the roster but only 13 today. None of us recognized the 2 very hairy Pakistani men – this is their first day. At first, I thought that maybe they had been here last week, but hadn’t shaved since.

Took a writing quiz. 10 questions. I got 3 wrong – small mistakes like writing 았 instead of 었. So pissed – it was basic shit that I shouldn’t have been making mistakes at. Will fix. Russia was the only person to get 100%.

I’m a petty, competitive biatch, okay? I want 100%, too.

The factory workers speak better than us, but the teacher rewrote all their sentences and suggested that they rewrite them at home, for practice. The most well-balanced student, I think, is Syria. Syria speaks well, reads hesitantly, but only made 1 mistake on the quiz.

I still think I’m one of the better readers, BUT who gives a shit about reading – it’s conversational speaking that I need.

Russia, Ukraine and I went for juice at the super cheap juice bar that makes my stomach feel funny afterwards. Ukraine was peeved that she phoned her husband and he said he was coming. She did the air quotes thing with her finger and said, “Sure, ‘coming’. He probably just woke up.” We asked her to come with us for juice – if he did come by later, it wasn’t that far from the social welfare center anyway. The shop owner came by our table to give us 3 samples of kiwi juice, and he showed up – obviously a bit late. I gave him my kiwi juice sample because I had already tried it last week. He looked up and saw the menu “Americanos for 1000 won? What!” and promptly got up to buy one.

Ukraine and her husband are at the 2nd interview for My Neighbor Charles. So exciting, I hope they get on it. If it happens, they’ll be filmed for two weeks, and then the episode will air in early July. So exciting! I love the show, and now I’ll know people who have been on it!! If they get through. Which I hope they do.

Later, on the 81 bus ride back to 계양구, Land I realized that we had no idea what Ukraine’s husband’s name was. We giggled: lol how rude of us not to ask! But it’s not like he introduced himself, either.

KIIP 2단계, Day 1

I take back everything I said about wishing I was in 3단계. 2단계 is the right level for me. It’s just enough that I understand what’s going on, and has enough hard stuff to keep me very, very busy.

My class is the only accelerated class in the schedule. It goes from May 15 to July 03. Other classes started today or will start next week, and end in mid-August.

There are 12 people in my class. Nationalities are Vietnam, Mongolia, Ukraine, Russia, Bangladesh, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, China, and America.

The Ukrainian and Russian women are both married to Koreans. One of the students from Bangladesh was so amused at how my parents are of different Asian races, and that I’m classified as American on the class paperwork.

Everyone can speak better than I can, but I think (lol) I can read the best. Not that reading-out-loud skills matters, because I’m not going into academia or public speaking. I would rather have better conversational skills.

It rained when we got out of class, and we also had a problem unlocking the doors to get out of the place. Syria figured out how to unlock the back door (quite simple really… just reach up really high and flip the deadbolts, except everyone else was too short). Russia and I found out that we take the same bus back home, and we ran for it. We got drenched anyway.

I was shivering miserably in the cold at the longest street light ever, to cross the road over to my officetel. It’s 17 C right now which is really nothing, but it felt much colder with the wind and rain.

Hints: Bring 7,000 won in exact change for the book. Nearly everyone seemed to have 10,000 won bills, and the teacher wasn’t able to give change to three people. She will bring change next week. I brought mine in 7 x 1,000 won, and didn’t have to fuss with getting change. Use the change machines in the subway stations!

Naver Dictionary appears to be the best online dictionary available. There’s free unsecured wifi for each floor, so the signal’s pretty strong. Sometimes, several floors will share one wifi point, and of course there’s going to be dead spots … none of that problem here!

How I got here

The five words I knew, going into Korea, in terms of familiarity. I only knew them orally – had no idea how to read or write Korean.

Typical stuff that you, too, might know:

  • 안녕하세요 – Hello.
  • 김치 – Kimchi… duh.
  • 불고기 – Bulgogi. I always forgot this word.

And the other two, from my university days in SoCal:

  • 야해 – Erotic/racy/vulgar.
  • 기린 – Giraffe. A tall friend’s nickname.


First step was to actually learn how to read Hangul. On the plane to Korea, I referred to the famous “learn to read Korean in 15 minutes” comic.

The first in-the-wild thing I read on my own was a sign I kept seeing on lots of windows in town: 임대  (for rent). In retrospect, it’s kind of funny.

On my phone, this is the only app that ever really helped me with Hangul, and I tried loads of them:

  • PopPopping Korean (Android only. There used to be an iPhone version, but it’s nowhere to be seen now)

When I had my computer all set up, this pronunciation chart helped me actually pronounce instead of just think out the sounds:

  •’s Korean alphabet app (dead link)

Edit: That website seems to be dead now. It was an interactive chart where you could click on things like 아 or 어 or 오 or 우 and hear an audio recording of it.


As for books, I went to Kyobo Bookstore and spent about an hour or so browsing through their learn-Korean-through-English books, trying to find the best match for my self-studying style. I thought I’d start with Sogang University and Ewha University’s books, because their Korean classes are so well-known. I quickly came to the conclusion that their books were a supplement to the teacher – you NEEDED a teacher, and self-studying would be tricky. I also looked at Hello Korean (with an idol narrating!), and passed over it – it was written in a good way for self-studying, but only went up to Book 2. I would need to find something after that.

The only university textbook series that suited my ‘style’ (if you can call it that) was Seoul National University’s books. Each level has a textbook and also a student workbook, and the workbook is totally worth it for the practice. I used to be the student that would zone out in class and then learn everything from the book (probably still am), and this one was the series for me.