If there is any sign that these past weeks have been action-packed, the 2-month gap between my last blog post might be some indication (sorry!). Because a lifetime of adventures, culture shock and stories have occurred, here goes my best attempt to introduce you to my Korean life and some of the best few months I’ve ever had!
Dorm / Campus:
T0 start, this campus is extremely cute & quaint. With just over 7,000 students the vibe is definitely more relaxed then the over 20K people I am use to Kent State, and my blonde hair definitely stands out in a crowd (especially when there are just under 30 foreign students on the whole campus!). Classes are a lot easier, and my schedule is significantly freer than it has been in a few years – but we are equally busy with meeting new Korean friends and trying to become as immersed in the culture as we can in the short (and quick-flying!) 4 months. In addition to our new and fantastic friends, I have the greatest Korean roommates!
Not all those that wander are lost, but we were…
In the first weeks of this Korean adventure, a small group of us ventured north to Suwon (about 30 minutes south of Seoul). What started as a sightseeing extravaganza around the UNESCO-listed castle, turned into a night filled with navigating the city bus system and streets after accidentally getting lost and separated from our group. Lucy (a friend whose name might appear multiple times in this!) and I, thinking the rest of the group had also planned on following us, got on a bus to head back to the station. However, as the doors shut and the bus rolled away, we were two lone blonde girls in a sea of Koreans with no familiar faces in sight. We spent the next 90 minutes laughing until our sides hurt and exploring side streets in the hopes of finding an English speaking person to guide us back. Luckily, we made it back and had a great time in the process. Unfortunately, the worried group we left behind were not so pleased with our accidental explorations, but also relieved we made it back without using any modern form of technology. A great time to start the semester!
(Pictures: Lucy while we were lost, the Suwon castle, and traditional dancers we stumbled upon)
Gyeongju – Temples & Villages!
As part of our Korean Culture class, we are lucky enough to participate in 3 all-expense paid trips to some of the most culturally significant places within South Korea. Trip #2 consisted of a two-day trip to Gyeongju, where we visited burial grounds in mound-like structures (reminded me a lot of Marietta’s Native American mounds), the oldest (and extremely gorgeous) temple in Korea, a famous pond and traditional Korean villages.
(Pictures: Mound, Traditional House, Walls in Traditional Village, Friend skipping stones during travel break, temple, Korean kids gathering around one of the foreign students in our program and Korean kids)
Halloween – Costumes gone wrong!
To acknowledge the fact that Lucy & I are nearly the same person and because we spend the majority of every day together, we decided to dress up as Tweedle Dee & Dum for Halloween. Unfortunately, Alice in Wonderland is not well-known and/or our costumes were far from perfect, so they evolved into convicted pregnant twins… Here’s the evidence for your own entertainment:
DMZ & North Korea:
The final trip of our Korean culture class was to the border between the North & South at the Demilitarized Zone. We didn’t head to the most famous of locations along the border, but what we did see was really incredible. Heading through military-controlled areas really set the tone for the trip and made the experience more real. Our first stop was to tour the “Third Tunnel” that North Korea built to invade Seoul during the war, although never used. It was eery to have read about these constructions in the past and then to actually tour one of them. Secondly, we toured an observation point where we could see directly into North Korea. It was completely surreal to see the North Korean flag at the top of a pole and the lack of movement, or life it seemed across the border. Seeing a glimpse of the other side really motivated me to learn more about the debacle and to eventually visit Pyongyang in the the future.
(Pictures: DMZ, Observation Deck, North Korea)
In between these trips our weekends our filled with shopping trips to Seoul, ordering Pitang (a local specialty of fried pork, cheese and a spicy sauce) and planning our upcoming getaway to Thailand…stay tuned!