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[미국 우드로윌슨센터] 박규현 1개월차

  • 등록일 2016.03.31

Monthly Report I: February

Name: Kyuhyun Park (박규현)
Organization: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Position: Junior Scholar

Before departure

1. Issuance of visa. The Center will contact you about 2 months before the commencement of the program with all the forms that need to be filled out and returned. (If you haven’t received an email after the two month mark, make sure to email the Center first.) Once returned, in a matter of days, the Center will dispatch the DS-2019 form (document necessary to get the J1 visa) to your concurrent address where you’ll have to schedule an appointment with the U.S. Embassy by emailing your desired date and time at <SeoulCons-J-GovExVisas@state.gov>. Although next day appointment is possible I would leave a couple days as a safety just in case you forget to prepare some important documents. The documents you need bring are all listed on <http://www.ustraveldocs.com/kr/kr-niv-typej.asp>. For your information, you do not need to pay a SEVIT fee as the Wilson Center internship is a federally funded program, as denoted by the program serial number beginning with a G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-7 on your DS-2019 form. Once at the embassy, waiting to meet the visa officer will take 30-45 minutes and the actual interview itself, around 5 minutes—all the questions being very straightforward of nature. In my case, the interviewer told me that my visa had been approved on the spot, albeit this may not be the case with everyone. Lastly, retrieving the passport with the newly issued J1 visa took about three working days.

2. Plane ticket and health insurance. Once you’ve acquired your visa, the next step is the plane ticket and health insurance. Select the date and time of departure and return by looking at any flight site (expedia.com, kayak.com, skyscanner.com, koreanair.com, etc) and provide the information to the designated travel agent by KF and the person will prepare and email back the tickets for you. Once you have the departure and return dates sorted, email 김형찬 보험담당자님 the requested information (이름, 영문이름, 주민번호, 재단파견기간, 실제 확정출국날짜와 입국확정 또는 예정날짜) and he will provide you with the insurance documents via email in both Korean and English. Make sure you take the English version (along with your passport and DS-2019 form) with you to the first day of work at the Center as the administrative person will ask this of you.

3. Finding a flat. Finding a flat can be extremely difficult and exhausting in DC, especially if you have a picky preference. There’s a reason why the Center has decided to compile a list of all the places that past interns have resided in. My suggestion is to really choose one from the list and secure it as soon as possible before leaving Korea.

If you’re really keen on finding a studio/one-bedroom apartment/etc in a certain neighborhood, however, the following suggestions may come handy:

• Sub-renting is highly recommended as the procedure for signing a 6-month or 1-year lease in DC the usual way can be very arduous. Not only does it require you to pay first month’s rent and deposit, it also requires you to pay rental application fee and move-in fee, submission of employment verification, employment history, proof of stable income, etc. Some places may lease without the latter payment and submission forms, but again, this is extremely rare and usually comes unfurnished.
• Do not sign a 1-year lease with the plan of bequeathing the lease after your 6-month stay as this can be extremely risky if you don’t end up finding anyone who’d inherit your lease.
• Sharing an apartment is also recommended. This will surely save you a lot of money compared to living in a studio or a one-bedroom apartment.
• As much as this may be very difficult, look for an apartment that is already furnished as you’re only going to be there for no longer than six months.
• Addresses that have NW or SW are generally safe areas, whereas NE and SE can be dodgy.
• Apartments within DC are ideal but immediately across the river in Virginia, namely Rosslyn, Pentagon City, and Crystal City can also be nice. Note, just because it’s across the river doesn’t mean the rate is necessarily cheaper. In fact flats in Rosslyn can be as expensive as flats in DC.
• Find an apartment close to a metro station or a bus stop that can take you straight to the Center, depending on where you end up living you might have to walk a lot since US roads and streets are huge.
• Watch out for scammers, especially on Craigslist. The landlord asking you to pay rent and deposit without showing the apartment because the landlord is currently “out of town” working for some non-profit organization; asking you to transfer money to a Western Union account; giving You a check; etc are all probably signs of scam.
• You could also find or enquire for an apartment by joining a DC university Facebook sub-renting group—e.g. “Housing and Sublet AU”, “Georgetown University (GU) Housing, Sublets & Roommates”, etc).
• Another strategy is to negotiate for a long-term stay with an Airbnb host

Useful links
-Ultimate DC flat-hunting guide: <https://www.reddit.com/r/washingtondc/wiki/moving>
-Renting from Korean community: <http://rent.heykorean.com/hkboard/room/rent_main.asp?rarea=21>
-Resources for finding an apartment in DC:
<https://hotpads.com/> (I found mine here!)
<https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/> (Watch out for scams!)
-Student accommodation at a budget price: <http://ishdc.org/>
-How to detect scam: <https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/common-rental-and-real-estate-scams>
-DC crime map: <http://crimemap.dc.gov/CrimeMapSearch.aspx>

After arrival

4. From airport to DC residence. The most budget and comfortable way to get to your accommodation from the airport is by SuperShuttle (approx. $30 to DC). Once exiting the arrival hall, you will see a Starbucks. Descend left facing Starbucks and you’ll see two airport transportation services: one is SuperShuttle and the other I forget but make sure to compare the prices of both and choose the more affordable option—though prices won’t vary much. Other options to get to the city include [in order of affordability] taking an Uber, Korean taxi, or a normal taxi, where the latter two may come much more expensive.

5. Setting up a bank account. Based on what I’ve heard, opening up a Bank of America or a Citibank account tends to be the norm for KF interns. I personally set up a Core Checking (debit card) and Regular Savings account at Bank of America. In order to avoid paying a monthly maintenance fee ($12 for core checking and $5 for savings), you need to constantly have at least $1,500 a month stored in your account and at least one qualifying direct deposit (bank transfer) of $250 for the core checking account; this is easy if one pays their rent on a monthly basis through bank transfer. As for the savings account, you need to transfer $25 from your checking when you first open your savings account and maintain a base of $300 throughout the month. The reason I activated two separate accounts is because it would make it easier for me to calculate my spending considering the bulk of money I receive from KF.
Furthermore, if you plan on receiving money internationally (i.e. a wire transfer) the foreign payer will incur $45 whereas the domestic payee, $16 dollars. This is probably the case with all U.S. banks though.

6. Receiving stipend from KF. Once you’ve set up your bank account, provide the KF correspondent your bank name and address, ABA#, account name, account number, and swift code. You’ll then receive the first three months’ worth of stipend within a matter of days. Don’t forget you’ll be charged $16 for receiving a wire.

7. Setting up phone. I personally have a pay-monthly contract with Cricket (a US 알뜰폰) and pay $25 a month for 3GB of internet and unlimited calls and texting. I pay a lower rate because I share the bill with two other people but even Cricket’s normal pay-monthly deals tend to be more budget than deals offered by other major carriers (AT & T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc). The only downside of Cricket, however, is that you can’t use Lyft!

8. Setting up internet. RCN has one of the best deals in town with a monthly rate of around $38.

9. Transportation in DC. A SmarTrip card allows you to get on buses and metros, and the easiest way to purchase one would be through CVS (a ubiquitous convenience + pharmacy store in DC). There are several ways to top up your credit: CVS, vending machines in the metro station, and the SmarTrip website. If, by any chance, you try to top up a sum and fail but the machine charges your card, you should call the number at the back of the card and request for a refund; the metro agent won’t be of help.
When getting around DC by bus, the Circulator is the most affordable option with each fare costing only a dollar whereas the standard Metrobus costing around $1.75. The only downside is that the Circulator routes tend to be more limited than that of Metrobus.
If you have a Korean driver’s license and are interested in driving in the U.S. you can go to “District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles” and convert your ID to an American one. A lot of students in DC use Zipcar to go to faraway places like Koreatown in Annandale, Tysons Corner, IKEA, etc.

10. Useful apps to download. Use “Google Maps” for the best routing and duration estimate. Download the “Metro and Bus” app to see the live update for metro and bus hours on top of specific bus and metro routes, and an overall metro map. (You can basically think of Google Maps and Metro and Bus app as the DC equivalent to Naver Map in Korea.) Download the “Bank of America” app to transfer money easily using your phone. For the recipient to receive payment via the mobile app, though, their phone number or an email address has to be pre-registered. Download “Lyft” or “Uber” to use as a cheaper alternative to taxi, they have a lot of promotions too!

Wilson Center

11. Arriving at Center. On your first day of work make sure to bring your passport, DS-2019 form, and the English version of your health insurance with you. Take the elevator to the 3rd floor and ask where Ms. Arlyn Charles’s office is. If the incoming registrar has changed for some reason make sure to tell the receptionist that you are an incoming Junior Scholar and she’ll take care of everything for you. Once the paperwork is done, your supervisor from the History and Public Policy Program (HAPP) will give you a tour of the entire building (sounds huge but really isn’t), introduce you to to the HAPP staff, and show you to your personal carrel/desk in the library which will take about an hour. The desk will have all the information that you need in order to get settled, e.g. how to set up your computer and your voicemail, who to call for supplies, etc, not to mention one of your KF 선배s is probably going to be there to help you out upon your arrival. You will have about a week to get settled before you have an informal lunch with your supervisors from the HAPP department where they’ll ask you to introduce yourself and briefly tell them about your research topic. Throughout the month there will be two more relaxed orientation meetings: one is with the entire HAPP department which consists of about ten to fourteen people including the new interns, and the other is with the top members of the Center where they welcome new scholars.

12. About Wilson Center. Aside from the information that could be found on the web, Wilson Center tends to be more research-oriented and non-partisan compared to other think tanks. Naturally, the place is filled with scholars, journalists, ex & current politicians and diplomats, etc conducting their own research.

13. Research environment. The fantastic thing about the Center is that it is the ultimate place to do research due to a number of reasons. Firstly, not only does the Center have its own library with extremely helpful staff, it also has unique access to troves of exclusive online databases. Secondly, the fact that the Center hosts some of the top scholars around the world in such a hospitable atmosphere (some call it “a university for adults”) allows you to go up to any prominent scholar and seek their fresh knowledgeable perspective on your research. Thirdly, the greatest strength in conducting research at the Center is probably the fact that you can request books from the Library of Congress (the world’s largest library) and other libraries in the U.S. and have them brought to you directly to the Center. Last but not least, you’re also given access to other DC university libraries such as Georgetown, George Washington University, and American University.

14. Other assignments in Center. Occasionally, your supervisor will assign you some work. Personally, I’ve had two assignments so far. One was listening to an audio from a conference and editing a tran, and the other was coming up with a summary of major news at the time in South Korea.

15. Attending events in DC think tanks. DC think tanks host conferences, seminars, and events on a daily basis, all of which are very rewarding. As much as attending each and every event can be highly scintillating and enriching it is recommended that you do not exceed the once-or-twice-a-week limit as it can significantly stall your research progress.

16. Places to meet new people. Making friends at the Center aside, if you’re Christian, there are hundreds of Korean churches in Virginia and a couple in DC so feel free to check out some of them. Another way to meet people is by signing up to your undergraduate university’s alumni meeting in DC. If you are a sporty person, the Center has a softball meeting that starts in June too so make sure to be on the lookout.


17. Shopping for clothes in DC. Marshalls and T.J. Maxx (separately located but owned by same company) are off-price department stores where you can get good deals on last season clothes. Go to Macy’s if you’re looking for trendy clothes, they’re almost always on sale. You can find the greatest diversity of clothing brands at Tysons Corner (a shopping center with three joined malls) or Potomac Mills Outlet which are both located in Virginia. Lastly, the Georgetown area is a good place to go shopping if you’re into high street and street fashion brands through the form of retail shops. The town itself is a nice place to walk around and relax.

18. Shopping for household goods in DC. If you urgently need to buy household goods for any reason, I would recommend Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or if you can drive or have a friend who drives, then IKEA. Ordering through Amazon.com may be a good idea too.

19. Tipping and tax culture in DC. Tipping can be confusing during your first weeks in DC. Based on asking locals, though, the standard is 15% for restaurant and delivery. Besides tipping, don’t forget there will always be tax added to displayed prices of everything: food, clothes, etc.

20. Going to a hospital in DC. Going to a hospital is similar to Korea, as in people go to a clinic/primary care first and then to a hospital for bigger health issues. You can go to “Metro Immediate & Primary Care” in McPherson Square for most illnesses where a doctor’s appointment would cost $100. For petty illnesses, however, certain CVSs have what’s called a Minute Clinic where there is a nurse who can diagnose and prescribe you medication at a more affordable price than a primary care. Rates are all available online.

21. How KF health insurance works. According to the designated health insurance agent by KF, you need to email the reason you went to the hospital and the scanned copy/picture of the receipt, and the agent will accordingly transfer the compensation to your Korean (not US) bank account in Won based on the day’s exchange rate.

22. Tour sites: Check <http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/washington-dc-the-capital-region/sights> for all the main tour sites in DC.

Hope settling is a success and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Kyuhyun Park