Saturday, December 28, 2019

Preparing for Soonchunhyang University

Soonchunhyang University

So you want to go to South Korea and of all the schools you choose to go to Soonchunhyang University, well there are a handful of things that you need to know before getting there to start your semester adventures.

Arriving in the Country

I didn't have to worry about getting from the airport to the school because I had my own form of transportation.... family.  I was also there several days before I needed to even be there.  I did though get information about the experience from the people I made friends with during the semester.  
Everyone was told to meet up at the A gate, but depending on when your flight arrives, it could be a very long wait.  Incheon has a baggage holder that you could use to store your luggage.  Incheon International Airport also has things to do such as a museum and even a movie theater.  Personally, I would have just gone and seem multiple movies.  When meting up with others, be ready to wait a while, but use this to your advantage.  Make friends with the people around you, they will be everywhere with you for the next 4 months.  


GV - Global Villiage
One of the study lounges in GV
When you arrive at Soonchunhyang University, they will immediately be taking you right up to Global Village.  This will be the dorms you are staying in for the next 4+ months.  They are not the greatest dorms in the world, but they are functional.  In all honesty that was enough for even me.  The suites are set with 6 rooms and 2 bathrooms.  There are going to be a total of 12 people in a suite and 2 people per room.  The rooms were small, but the living spaces was functional.  It sounds like a lot and most people did not like the idea at first.  Even I was very skeptical, but it turned out to be great and a lot of fun.  About half way though the semester I learned my room was not functional to like in anymore.  The heater was not working and I spend more time freezing than actually enjoying my quite space.  The head RA ended up moving me and my roommate to another room.
My second room of the semester
As a warning though, PLEASE CLEAN EVERYTHING BEFORE USING!!!  I was the first to arrive in my suite and it was disgusting.  The bathrooms were gross and I didn't feel comfortable until I cleaned everything.  Don't just wait for others to arrive.  Go do it already.
There are also things that you will need to buy before the semester starts.  Toilet paper and cleaning supplies is a must.  There are also smaller things that you may want.  Items like hangers, hairdryers, and even metal wall hooks.  There is a store right at the bottom of the hill is where you can get food and all the house hold supplies.
There is also a Daiso down the street where you can get everything very cheap.  This is the best place to get small makeup products, school supplies and anything else you might want.  In the first week of being at Soonchunhyang I am positive I was there everyday.  Love that store.  

Death Stairs #1
 Also, on the way to the dorms on the bus, you will notice driving up a pretty decent sized hill.  Four words, GET USE TO IT!  The campus is built on a mountain and there are a lot of hills and stairs.  I am not joking..... who needs a workout routine when you have to walk up and down the hills and stairs all the time.  The stairs are absolutely everywhere and they are huge!  I'm surprised I never fell down them.  Thank goodness it didn't snow or ice over while I was there or else I might have slipped.  

Now, based on what I just said about falling, do yourself a favor and just purchase the medical coverage from the school.  It is only $50 at the beginning of the semester.  I didn't do that and kept mine from home and it turned out to be a very bad situation for me.  Only when I wasn't prepared, I was getting hurt.  I had multiple injuries while I was here from falling off a skateboard to spraining my foot in taekwondo right before finals.  That was the worst one, I am still recovering from my sprain as I write this blog.  So do yourself a favor and just buy it.  It will save a lot of time later on if needed...... please trust me on this.

University Festival

Start of the night
End of the night
Every September and May is university festival season.  This is called 대동제 (Daedongjae).  It is a 3 day event that has a concert every night.  I think this was the most fun event that the whole school actually attended.  The crowds were amazing, I don't think I have ever seen that many students at an HPU event ever.  It was cool to see all the Korean students with all their different Major jackets.  I even have a major jacket now and it is my favorite thing that I got from Soonchunhyang University.  At the festival there are games and singing competitions.  They were fun to watch and I could have joined in, but let's be honest...... I'm a wuss.  I couldn't do that even if I wanted too.  I went to day one and we got to see BOL4 as the concert.  It was super exciting.  Day 2 I did not go to because I had homework.  Everyone wanted to go to day 3 because Zico was going to be there, but the whole event was cancelled due to rain.  Everyone was devastated.  The joke for the rest of the semester was "R.I.P. ZICO".

Coffee Hour

Coffee Hours are one of the mandatory events that you have to go to, but they are fun and entertaining.  Plus they give you free food.  Don't think of them as the end of the world.  It is a great excuse to go hang out with people and make friends.  There are 2 throughout the semester.  They are fun, trust me.

Global Day

I made the frame with the help of my group; Nelly and Nami(UH)
Global day was another event we had.  It is where we all choose to represent out country or state.  There were stands for Mongolia, China, Uzbekistan, California and Canada.  There were many more, but that would be a long list.  I ran the Hawaii booth with the help of my team members Nami (left, UH Manoa) and Nelly (center, University of Texas).  We played games and even made food that represented where we were from.  For Hawaii, we made musubi. We also had a photo booth where everyone could take photos and it was fun.  Making the frame was the hardest thing.  It took 12 hours to make.... probably should have made it more in advance, but who has time for that.  Personally, I think that Hawaii had the best booth.  

Friday, December 27, 2019

Netherlands- Markthal

The Markthal in Rotterdam is amazing! It's a huge building with a ton of food vendors inside. If you go down a floor, there are stores for shopping. What's even cooler: the outside are apartments! If you look at the third picture I've posted, you can see the balconies of the apartments. You could go to Markthal every week and never get tired of it. The food is absolutely amazing, and it's pretty easy to order there as there will always be at least one person who speaks English at the vendors. Many people I know didn't have problems finding English servers/menus in the Netherlands, but if you live in a smaller town like I did (Schiedam, in case you'd like to check it out), I ran into this problem a lot, so it was a relief to be able to go somewhere to eat and know there won't be trouble being understood. Another SUPER cool attraction in this same area is the cube houses. You can see them in the last picture I've posted. There is even someone who has rented one out specifically for the purpose of letting people tour the inside (how nice!), and I definitely recommend taking the time to peek through! The architecture is incredible.
If you're interested in checking out this area, you can get there by taking a train or metro to the Blaak station. Another helpful tip that I should've included in my first post, is that while you can get public transit directions on the regular Maps app on your phone, one option that is a bit more accurate on timing, and is especially helpful to figure out directions for longer trips, is to go online to I also think there is an app for it as well!

Netherlands- Madurodam

Madurodam!!! This was one of the things I was most excited about seeing. Madurodam is an amusement park in The Hague/Den Haag that is a miniature version of Holland! I love tiny things, so it was super duper cool to see the whole country in a tiny version! They even miniature trains, boats, cars, and planes moving around. I spent HOURS there and took hundreds of photos. The first two pictures are an overview of the whole park. The last two I included to show that they also have interactive pieces. Not only is everything fun to look at, they also have a few attractions that teach you some history about the Netherlands! I don't want to go too much into detail and spoil the fun of being there in person, so all I have left to say is 10/10 recommend!

Cierra Wall
Erasmus University Rotterdam

NL First Impressions

Before I start typing out details on my first impressions during my study abroad, I'd like this post to be educational/helpful to anyone going to a different country for the first time! I was a bit lost figuring everything out at first, and I feel like a little more research on my part definitely could've helped.
The first day was pretty hard, I'm not going to lie. Right off the bat, before I even left the airport, I was unable to read my address correctly so that I could call an uber to take me there. One helpful tip: the addresses in the Netherlands (probably also in the rest of Europe as well) are formatted a bit differently than they are in the United States. For example, the address of my apartment was:

Stationsplein 6
3112 HJ Schiedam

I had no clue how to decipher this. If you find yourself in the same predicament, Stationsplein 6 is the street address. 3112 HJ is their "zip code" and Schiedam is the name of the city/town.
P.S. This apartment building is one that mostly houses international students for a good price! It is also right next to Schiedam Centraal, which made it very easy to catch a ride somewhere. It is called "The Campus" in case you are interested in taking a look.

Another problem I ran into is that I had no clue that the outlets would be different. I hope that I don't come off as incredibly stupid for not knowing this, but different outlets are not particularly something I had on my mind when preparing for this trip. So, I had gotten to my apartment pretty late in the afternoon, and most stores in the Netherlands close very early (around 5pm). Now, of course, this depends on what city you live in, but I lived in a smaller town, so most businesses were not open late. I had to rush out so that I'd have a way of charging my phone and laptop.

**Here's one super important piece of advice: They do not have all-inclusive stores like Walmart/Target! You have to go to a separate grocery/electronics/hygiene store. Because I had no clue what stores I should be looking for, it took me about 2 weeks to find my hair products (although I do have curly hair, so I'm a bit pickier about my shampoo/conditioner brands).

Here are some stores you can look for if you decide to visit the Netherlands!

  • Kruidvat (hair/body wash/over-the-counter medicine)
  • Albert Heijn (groceries)
  • Dirk van den Broek (groceries)
  • MediaMarkt (electronics)
  • HEMA (decor/home/some options for hair/skin needs)
  • SPAR (grocery/convenient store-- usually stays open later than other stores)
  • ALDI (groceries-- They also have these in the U.S.!)
Now that we've gotten that rough start out of the way, here are a few things I liked about the Netherlands:
The public transportation system is so amazing!! If you've ever taken the bus in Hawaii, you know how frustrating it can be having to use public transportation, but I promise it is a completely different system in the Netherlands. My step dad worked there for a while, so he had already given me a visitor's transit card that I could fill up at any metro/train station. I have heard that it's a bit cheaper if you apply to have a personalized transit card, but I didn't think it was necessary with all the paper work. The public transportation that you can use with your card includes bus, metro, train, and tram. For school, I rode the metro because it was the fastest option. If you're traveling to other cities, you'll most likely be taking the train, which is nice because you will most likely have a view of the beautiful country. For future reference, if you plan on taking the train somewhere, you have to have at least 15 Euros on your transit card before it will let you through the gates. I can't tell you how many trains I almost missed because I was short a few cents. Also, with the public transportation, you will always have some way of getting home (usually bus or train in the later hours) without spending a ton of money on an Uber. It was so easy for me to figure out their public transportation system and travel around to different cities on my own! Another popular option, which I'm sure you know, is biking! (Fun fact: There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands!)

The social/night life is also really great! There is almost always some event going on, especially in Rotterdam. You'll never run out of clubs/bars to go to. I recommend joining Facebook groups/joining a group message with other international students to stay updated on all the fun things to do!

I hope this was helpful to anyone looking at the Netherlands!

Cierra Wall
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Travelers Paradise - South Korea


Let me be completely honest, we as students choose to go abroad to study, that is a given.  There are also experiences that we can have while abroad at a different location that are just not the same at our home university.  We also chose to study abroad just because we wanted to travel.  There is just something amazing and fun about going off and exploring a place we didn't know much about and gaining first hand experiences.  In my opinion South Korea has some of the best ways of transportation to get all over the country.  It is amazing and very well planned out. 

Modes of Transportation

Korea has many modes of transportation to get from one place to another.  It can be confusing and intimidating, but trust me.... it is a lot simpler than it seems.  There are Subway and bus apps that you can get on your phone that will be of the best use.  Two of the best I have seen are Kakao Bus and Kakao Metro.  These are the best apps because they also tell you what is around and what time the trains actually arrive.  This has been a huge help all semester.  Before coming to school in Korea, it would be best to download the apps and then check what stations you need to go to and from.  

The express buses are great way to travel on a budget.  The can connect you will cities all over the country.  They have places such as the big cities like Busan, Deagu, and even smaller places such as Gongju.  Pricing depends on where you are going.  
Obviously, the further away; the more expensive the ticket is.  Don't let that discourage you though.  A bus from Seoul to Busan takes around 5 hours but only costs around 23,000 won ($20).  That is super cheap.  They are definitely much cheaper and if you have a Korean student ID, then you could easily gain an 2,000 won discount on your ticket.  To buy these tickets you can either go to the machines or even to the desk.  In my experience, going to the desk is much simpler and less of a hassle.

Seoul KTX Station
The KTX train is one of many different kinds of express trains that go throughout the South Korean peninsula.  It is one of the fastest trains in the country.  The ticket costs can vary depending on what kinds of seat you get.  To stand it can from Sinchang to Seoul it is 7,000 won ($6).  Getting a sitting seat costs around 13,000 wont to 14,000 won ($12-$13).  These trains are extremely fast and very convenient for getting from one place to the next.  A trip from my school to Seoul only takes around 30 minutes by KTX.  These trains are also very punctual, very rarely are they late, maybe on a big holiday they could run a few minutes late.  
To buy the tickets, there are 3 ways.  You could buy the tickets online (ask a Korean student for help),  use the machines at the station to buy the tickets, or you can also go up to the counter and purchase the tickets.  When buying in person you can use English because most of the staff speak enough to understand what you want.  

T-card used to Pay for subways and city buses
The most basic mode of transportation is the subway system and inner city bus routes.  These trains are fast and can go a very far, but there is of course a limit as to where they can go.  Each of the major cities in South Korea.  Seoul has the largest and most intricate subway system in the country.  There are over 100 stations that can go from my University at Soonchunhyang (Sinchang Station) all the way to Soyosan Station which is 32 km from the DMZ.  Here at Sinchang I am 87.2 km from Seoul Station.  That is over 150 km distance wise. 
The subways are a very good way to travel especially if you are on a budget.  I can go from Sinchang to Seoul Station on less that $3.  The trip can easily take around 3 hours that.  It is a long ride, but it is worth it for saving money.  
All you would need is a card known as a T-Card.  Almost all convenient stores sell them and are very easy to get.  Prices can vary depending on the design.  Mine was around 5,000 won ($4).  Then all you have to do if charge the card with money.  There are machines in all of the subways to add money to your balance and they are very easy to use.  The machines can be translate in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.  These cards can be used on the subway, bus, and even taxis.  

Places to Go!

Gangnam Stule Statue by the Gangnam COEX
Easiest way to get here is by subway.

Gong-ju Fortress
Easiest way to get here is by the express bus or car

Gong-ju Hanok Villiage
Easiest way to get here is by express bus or car

Hanbok in Gong-ju

Another part of the Haonok Villiage

Gwanghwamun, Seoul Chirstmas lights
Easiest way to get here is by subway

Line Friends shop in Myeongdong, Seoul
Easiest way to get here is by subway

Namsan Tower, Seoul
Easiest way to get here by subway and bus

Namdaemun Gate, Seoul
Easiest to get here by subway

Onyang Lake, Asan
Easiest to get here by city bus.


Monday, December 16, 2019

The Dark Side of My Study Abroad Experience

Advisory Warning: If you do not want to read about death, emotional trauma, and depression, please don't continue reading my blog post.

My entire college career I have been wanting to study abroad.  Anyone could tell you that I wanted to go to South Korea for two reasons... I have lived there before and I have family I don't really know. In Korea, family is everything and I planned to spend as much time with them as possible.  To me the Korean culture was always something I was very interested in and influenced by.  When I finally got to South Korea I was so excited that I could barely contain myself.  The first few weeks of school flew by in a heartbeat and I barely had time to catch my breath.  I had made many new friends and was beginning to fit in at school, then it felt like my world stopped and came crashing down within seconds.

September 14

On this day it started out like any other, I woke up, ate breakfast and got ready to spend my time with my family.  It was the last day of the Chuseok holiday and I was going to be spending most of the day with my family and then a few hours with my friends in the evening.  I had been staying at one of my Aunt's house with her and her son, my cousin.  Around 12 pm other members of my family began to arrive, my uncle and his family, and a couple of my other cousins.  We all chose to go to Lotte World together.  This was exciting because Lotte World is a huge amusement park that is located right in Seoul.  It is one of the only amusement parks that is half inside and half outside.  
Here are some of my cousins and I.  

My family and I spent many hours waiting in lines, going on the rides, and eating/ drinking delicious amusement park food.  My uncle constantly was talking to me and was pretty much my best friend.  He learned some English for me so that I would feel welcomed and comfortable with him.  It worked.  I was the closest to him out of all of my family.  I don't get to spend a lot of time with them especially since I didn't know that they existed until I was 13 turning 14 years old.  I missed many years with them and things like this made me feel so welcomed by them as so much closer to them as well.  At around 8 pm we all left the amusement park and went out separate ways.  I had left with my aunt and a few of my cousins, while my uncle and his family went a different way.  I though it was a temporary goodbye, but I didn't realize how wrong I was.  

After spending time with my family I went to go meet my friends and classmates ant Banpo Bridge.  We were all so excited to spend part of the Chuseok holiday together in Seoul. I had seen this bridge before the the past, but during the day time.  Let me tell you something, it is way more impressive and jaw-dropping at night.  There is a light show that goes on every night and I find it very difficult to not get mesmerized my the moving fountains and glittering lights.  We ate street food off of food trucks and I am not going to lie, it was AMAZING.  Who knew street food chicken would be so good? I went home to my aunt's house super late, but went to bed super happy.

September 15

At around 3 am I was awoken by the sound of a phone ringing.  I woke up my aunt who answered her phone.  Almost immediately I jumped out of the safety of my blanket because I could here screaming on the other end of the line.  I knew is was one of my uncles daughters just by her voice.  I didn't understand much, but I could see the panic in my aunt's and cousin's face and chose not to ask questions and just get up and dressed as quickly as possible.  All I got over the conversation was that something bad had happened to my uncle.  What my cousin managed to explain to me was that he had a "heart attack."  Before heading to the hospital we stopped by another aunt's apartment building to pick her and her husband up.  The entire car ride to the hospital was tense.  There was crying and praying and a lot of fear.  I didn't have to know how to speak Korean for me to understand what was going though everyone's mind.  I sat in the back quietly crying and praying to myself that my uncle was fine and safe.  

Getting to the hospital, everything seemed to go in slow motion for me.  I was mentally begging for nothing to have happened and for everything to be alright.  We all walked into the ER and my aunts talked to the people at the front desk looking for my uncle.  They exchanged some words and instantly, both my aunts were one the ground howling, screaming, crying.  Have you ever watched a Korean drama where someone would be loudly shouting and screaming?  Well, if you have..... multiply that by 1,000.  If you haven't....... imagine the more horrifying, painful and gut wrenching sound you could ever think a person could make.  That is what I heard and experienced.  I will never be able to unhear it.  None of the information sunk in until we walked out of the ER and into the morgue/funeral home.  I remember seeing the name of the building in English and just dropping to my knees in the middle of the parking lot.  It was sinking in and it was hitting me like a bus.  My family went into the hall, but I didn't really go in.  I was afraid of the situation.  I couldn't wrap my brain around it.  I was frantic, in the middle of panicking and trying to keep my sanity and composure.  I kept trying to call my mom even though it was 4 am to tell her that her beloved brother had died. 

The whole rest of the day was a mess.  I remember going hiding outside the morgue for almost an hour trying to be a strong as possible.  Mom mom had told me when she did pic up was that I had to be the one that everyone can lean on.  I could not get super emotional.  My mother also would be arriving in Korea with my brother the next day.  I needed to be as strong as possible until she got there.  So that is what I did.  I went through the rest of the day with tears burning my eyes, but I tried super hard not to burst into tears.  What came next was just as horrifying.  I went to my aunts house again with some of my other cousins.  My 5th aunt came in with her three kids.  2 older female cousins and one younger male cousin.  This is where my uncle's kids came over.  They had no idea what had happened other than their dad went to the hospital.  I had to help explain to them that their father had passed away.  This was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.  I had to explain to a 15, 14, and 10 year old that their father was gone.  Yet again I had to hear the screaming that is permanently ingrained in the back of my mind.  All three children were in horror and tears, but the middle child had it the worst.  September 15th was her birthday.  In honesty, nobody was okay.  I wasn't okay.  After letting everyone cry, we went to meet my aunts and uncle's wife at the funeral home.  It was walking distance from the house and to be honest it was made me feel super uncomfortable.  As soon as we got there work had already started.  The wake for my uncle was under construction.  The flowers and photos came in as well as all of the decorations.  It was amazing how quickly the news of his passing went out because there were already so many flower bouquets and banners.  The black hanboks (traditional Korean clothes) also came in for everyone to wear.  Food was being prepared for the people that come to pay their respects as well.  All this was going on and it was only 9 am. 

The whole rest of the day consisted in my entire family coming in and paying their respects.  Most of us stayed there throughout the day and late into the night.  Friends, other relatives, and co-workers came in to see and pay respects to my uncle.  With every one of my aunts that came in to the wake and seeing them breaking down into crying and screaming broke my soul little by little.  Since I was also the only foreigner (I do not look Korean enough to just blend in) people would ask who I was and I constantly had to explain that I am the daughter of my uncles only younger sister.  Most people in my families circle have only heard about me and my direct family, but never met me.  This also meant I had to stay strong and attempt to have a conversation with someone I didn't know and explain who I was in relation to my uncle.  Let's just say that I did not sleep or eat throughout day 1.  Any time I tried to sleep I was get woken up by the sound of screaming and every time I tried to eat, it would come right back up.  Not a fun day.  It wasn't till around 2 am that I was told to go back to my aunt's house and sleep.  I was also told to take the younger kids back with me.  Usually during a Korean funeral, you stay at the home for the 3 day funeral process, but I wasn't going to fight them on it.  I realized why they told me this, I hadn't looked in a mirror all day and when I did I was mortified.  I looked like my face had just sunk in.  I had extremely red eyes, my eye circles were very dark, and I just looked really pale.  I almost looked as if I had died. 

September 16

This was a day I could never forget.  I was extremely unstable on this day.  On day two my cousins and I walked back to the funeral home from my aunts apartment around 7 am.  I didn't change, didn't have any other black clothes; didn't comb my hair..... nothing mattered to me.  I did not sleep more than 2 hours before I was up and doing anything to keep myself distracted.  I was anxious and wished that my mother could have been there sooner.  In Korean tradition, Day 2 is when the body of the passed is presented to the family and wrapped up in traditional clothes and cloth before being placed in a simple wooden coffin and tied in a traditional manner.  I was absolutely horrified when I heard this.  At fist I wanted nothing to do with this part of the funeral, I originally his in a back room to try and avoid it, but when the next round of screaming started; I broke.  I immediately went out to see my uncle and what was going on.  I was trying so hard to be the stable person for my aunts and cousins, but it was extremely difficult.  I completely broke when my uncles face was revealed.  He was lying there on a table and he looked as if he was sleeping.  At that point I could care less about trying to be strong.  I broke down.  I remember falling on the floor crying and I did in fact scream.  I didn't think that I would be able to make that sound ever in my life.  I just kept going for who knows how long.  I remember actually having to be pulled from the room and I was devastated.  It really sunk in that my uncle was gone in this moment.  After I regained my sanity, I became the rock everyone else needed.  To keep my nerves calmed I listens to music.  This was also another day I just could not eat.  My stomach would just automatically reject it.  It was fine..... I wasn't hungry anyway.  

I finally got a mental break from the funeral when I went to go pick up my mother and brother from the airport.  This was around 7:30 pm.  I made it to the airport around 9 pm.  My mom's flight was suppose to get it at 9:15 pm.  I was anxious, nervous and about ready to burst.  I was pacing back and forth in the airport looking like a nervous wreck.  I needed my mom to be there, I needed to hear her tell me that everything was alright because I could't believe it if I told myself.  As I was waiting there were a lot of people with these big cameras ready to snap a picture.  Knowing Korea, I wondered who was coming out of the international claim?  My answer soon showed up as NCT (VERY popular K-pop group domestically and internationally) walked out.  The cameras began to flash uncontrollably and as soon as the idols left, so did the cameras.  It was a very unique experience, but I really could't have cared less at the moment.  I soon saw my mom and everything stopped. I though I would run to her and hug her, but that didn't happen.  I had fallen to the ground and started crying.  I though my mom would be upset for causing a small scene, but she just kneeled down beside me and embraced me for a little while.  I was relieved, upset, angry, in pain, etc.  I must have looked like an absolute disaster.  My brother who is 13 even tried to console me, but he wasn't 100% sure about what was going on.  Even the whole train ride back to my aunts house was my mother trying to keep me calm.  I was not ready to continue on to day 3.  When family saw my mom and brother, everyone broke down again.  Now everyone was together.  I finally was able to sleep a whole 5 hours that night.  

September 17

Day 3 was the last day of the Korean Funeral procession.  This was also the shortest day there was.  On this day we were going to place my uncle in his final resting place.  I just wasn't ready.  This was the day we cleaned up the funeral home and wake so that we could transport my uncle.  The family went into a procession to the bus with my uncle's body.  During the bus ride we grove to where my uncle worked.  He ran his own business, so he also had his own building.  It was amazing to see, but very saddening.  My uncles wife and my aunts could not function at all.  They stayed in there for a very long time.  The next place we went to was a restaurant close to my uncle's final resting place.  Here is where I was very close to being sick and refused to eat again.  I felt bad because my family was extremely worried about me for not eating in 3 days, but I really couldn't help it even if I tried.  The next place the bus took us was to a cremation home.  This is somewhere I absolutely refused to go.  They were going to have us watch the cremation process of my uncle.  I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't even imagine doing that  I didn't want to see my uncle's coffin being placed into a furnace that was going to turn him into nothing but ash.  I may be 20 years old, but that was too much.  I was allowed to stay in the bus and my brother stayed with me.  It was simpler that way and I wasn't alone.  This gave me some real time away from my Korean family to calm down and figure out what comes next.  It wasn't long before my family returned back to the bus with my uncle's eldest daughter holding the urn.  It was like being heart-broken all over again.  Everyone was tired and exhausted, the entire bus ride to the final resting place was dead silent.  

The funeral home my uncle's urn was placed at was in the mountains, but it was beautiful.  There was a blue sky and the grass was green.  The inside was just a beautiful.  Red carpet with marble while floors and pillars.  It looked as if it was fit for a king.  By this point I was still extremely stressed, but seeing this place made me feel just a bit better.  The family performed a Jae-sa (formal ritual for respecting the dead in Korea) and we all got to say our final goodbye.  I began to cry all over again.  I was too afraid to go say goodbye with everyone watching.  I did not want to look weak to my family.  Once my uncle was placed into the wall everyone began to leave and head back to the bus.  I stayed behind in the room and sat right by where my uncle was.  I pretty much waited until everyone had left before I broke down.  I let out some of what I had been holding in for 3 days.  I was heart-broken.  I talked to my uncle as if he was listening to me, but all I could say was that I was so sorry and I missed him.  I did;t even know one of my older male cousin had walked in.  He was there to take me to the bus.  I took one final look and then walked out of the room.  The entire bus ride back to Seoul was silent.  It took 3 hours and I had fallen asleep.  Once returning back to Seoul, I had to return back to school in Asan.  I didn't want too, but I needed too.  I was able to say goodbye to my family and my mother.  The whole trip back to school was stressful and quiet.  I cried once I got back to the dorm.  


I wrote this blog post because this was how I began to heal and function after my uncle's passing.  It was also a way to give someone insight on some of the Korean cultures.  Slowly since September I have been writing this.  I just would have to stop every few sentences because I would get emotional and throw this off to the side.  Now I am finally finished on December 16th, 2019.  

This is the last photo I have with my uncle at Soonchunhyang Global Village.
August 26th, 2019

My uncle passed September 15th, 2019 and I will never be able to forget it.  He passed the last day of the Chuseok holiday and on his youngest daughters birthday.  A day that was meant to spent happy times with your family was turned into misery.  He passed less than 8 hours after I saw him at the amusement park.  After returning back from the funeral I had to go right back into my classes, but I could not function for around 2 weeks afterwards.  I shut everyone out.  I didn't talk to my friends and I barely took part in class.  I spent most of my time sleeping, crying or just staring out the window.  I didn't eat for about another 8 days after I returned back to school.  I was grieving and angry at the world.  The world took someone so important and precious to me when I was there to be a part of his life.  I was angry that I went to go be with friends when I thought I should have spent more time with my uncle.  I blamed myself for everything.... I still blame myself for a lot.  I should have done this, I shouldn't have done this...... It is a vicious cycle.  At one point I had wished I could have take my uncles place.  I was miserable and I still am, just slowly getting better.  In all honesty, this experience has scarred me and I am actually afraid to have any sort of contact with my Korean family.  I don't know what I would say to them.  I am going to work on that now that I can speak more Korean.

I am so happy my friends here have been here for me this whole semester.  There is no sort of counselor here, but they have tried to help me all they could trough out the semester whether I was crying in the corner or someone would mention Korean funerals (which was oddly a lot).......  They helped force me to eat again and begin to take care of myself.  What they did could have been as small as taking me out to go get food or just sitting there and talking to me.  They were there to help me put my life back on track and focus on school.  I am not sure what I would have done without them in my life.  My semester has been such an emotional roller coaster, but it was an experience.

These people were my rock.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Blog #1: Lessons in an unfortunate series of events.

To begin I would like to say that my trip to Paris, France was wonderful, amazing and one of the most meaningful experiences I will forever cherish, but let's say that it began with a rough start. I spent my first experience outside my comfort bubble thousands of miles away from my close family and friends; everything and I mean EVERYTHING that could go wrong on my first day did and I would like to discuss with my fellow HPU colleagues on how to overcome these challenges and maybe prevent them in the first place.
 Things began going south literally and figuratively as I landed in Frankfurt Germany from Vancouver, Canada. I landed in a very large airport to catch a connecting flight that was to depart within an hour of my arrival. Usually, I would use my time wisely, but a few things got out of hand and out of my control. For example, to list the following:

1) My previous flight was delayed!
2) I was exhausted after 15 hours of flying, 10 hours of layover with no sleep
3) I did not know how to prepare or what to expect when I landed
4)  I got lost + left the connecting flight region of the airport, which meant having to go through security AGAIN
5) I did not keep track of time closely...and soooo yup, I MISSED my last flight to Paris (this is where everything would go wrong). 

If you find yourself missing your flight, my first tip to you, fellow traveler, is to go to the service center of the PREVIOUS flight. It’s important that you catch the next available flight as fast as possible and the service lines can be very long (30-45 min), so don’t waste your time and make sure you’re in the right line. In my case, the airline that delayed my flight was responsible to communicate with the next airline to get me to Paris. Just so that you are aware, once you talk to the service center with all of your previous flight information, they will probably reserve you a seat on standby. This means when you check-in for your flight, it will say that there are no seats available. That is FINE! Just print your boarding pass and they will give you a seat right before they start boarding. I lost so much time trying to figure all of this out. I ran across the unreasonably huge airport several times (note: make sure your carry on has wheels if it is heavy) and waited in long lines. I ended up catching my makeup flight 3 hours after my original time. Another important note: When traveling internationally, your phone may not be able to use data at all so you can use the airport’s WiFi, but sometimes it doesn’t work during their busy hours!
 Once you arrive at your destination, there are some important questions that you should ask yourself. What time are you landing? Where will you be staying overnight? Can you use data or phone service? My original plan was great: I would land at 3 pm and I would have 3 hours to figure out my transportation and my data plan before the office that held the keys to my housing would close. Sadly, I arrived 3 hours late so I had no time to get my keys that day. Luckily, I emailed the office quickly and explained to them my situation. They responded and were very kind to agree that I can use my room without signing any of the legal documents so I could have a place to sleep. All I had to do was contact my roommate to let me into the apartment. It was another great plan, but things went horribly. First, most of the stores closed at the time I arrived so it took me much longer to get my data plan and almost as if the airport was mocking me and my struggles, it went completely on lockdown as I was leaving due to some luggage issues; I only brought a carry-on, so it shouldn’t have affected me. Next, the transportation system by the airport was very expensive and I tried to conserve money by taking a bus service to reach the city and walking the remaining 30 minutes. I am usually very good at using my GPS, but with no surprise, it took me to the wrong location. I learned to never trust my GPS in a scenario like this. I was lost for a very long time as I didn’t know how to use the local buses or metro to reach my apartment and my roommate was getting upset because it started getting late and he was jet-lagged by 7 hours (I was jet-lagged by 12!!). I learned that you should just take an uber or a taxi from the airport even though it will cost about 50 € but they will take you exactly where you have to go quickly.

By the time I arrived at my apartment complex, it was past 11 pm and my roommate fell asleep and the office had closed. As I was waiting in the lobby, one of the residents understood enough English to try to help me. The problem was that I did not know which room was mine or even which building in the complex since I did not officially check-in. One of the managers finally arrived and he did not know any English. He was not very patient for complete strangers that did not know which room they were supposed to stay in so he got VERY upset and I got kicked out. That is when I was pretty much started panicking. I tried calling some nearby hotels, but they were all full, so I knew that I was spending the night out. I called my family and girlfriend for advice and they 🤷‍♂️. They calmed me down a bit and I found a bus stop with a charging port to charge my phone. At this point, I had spent about 35 hours in 3 airports and 3 flights and I decided that I was going to pull another all-nighter so no one could rob my luggage. Around 3-4 am, I had to use the restroom so I started exploring the magnificent city of Paris and I actually really enjoyed myself. I went to the Eiffel Tower for the first time around sunrise and it was just beautiful. At 6 am, my roommate called me to apologize and he let me into our apartment. It was great because I got to sleep for about 45 minutes before I had to get up to go to the first day of orientation!