Sunday, March 23, 2014

Since Seoul- 32 Days Later


A lot has happened since I last blogged my adventure in South Korea (on the first night). It's been about 32 days since then, I've been journaling a lot of my experiences, 72 pages and counting. The first week or so was solo traveling through Seoul to all the big tourist spots.

Day 2 - Traveled to Ichon and spent almost the whole day in awe of the National Museum of Korea, it dwarfed the Bishop Museum in Hawaii by at least a hundred times.

Day 3 - I walked six kilometers from Seoul Station all the way to the summit of Namsan Mountain and made it to the top of N Seoul Tower to see the beautiful sunrise and the snow at the top. Well worth my Sunday.

Day 4 - I went to check out the Ewha Women's University campus before heading out to embrace Gangnam and all that is PSY.

Day 5 & 6 - A trip back to Namdaemun and Myeongdong Market for the haggle shopping wonder. So many awesome socks (for a 1,000 won), hats for (3,000 won), and shirts (3 for 10,000 won). Along with the endless rows of street food, savory smells abound.

Day 7 - On my way back on the Airport Express to Incheon International Airport for the school pick-up. Just my luck, the victorious South Korean National Olympic Team (including Kim Yoona) was returning from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Being a foreigner with a legit camera, I sneaked into the foreign journalists clique and watched the whole official press conference for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games during the wait.

From then on, I was in Soonchunhyang University-hundreds of kilometers and hours away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, in the countryside town of Sinchang-myeong. Life was significantly better here surrounded by new friends-Koreans and internationals. The campus is huge in comparison to HPU and has so many resources available conveniently, six cafeterias and an actual fitness center. Food options are great too, at most I spend 10,000 won or less on food expenditures since housing, utilities, and airfare is provided through the program plus a weekly stipend. My weekends either spent in Seoul touring the rest of the international students since I've had experience and familiarized myself with the city or on grocery / essentials excursions to nearby cities like Cheonan, Asan, Pyeongchaek, and Onyang-oncheon.

At the end of the long informational orientation week, there was a huge Matriculation (Opening) Ceremony for internationals and freshmen Korean students. Their gymnasium could fit 3,000 students, shoulder to shoulder, there were massive school banners overhead, and dramatic lighting everywhere. An ROTC Honor Guard, swords and all crossed over our heads as we walked on the red carpet. The shocker of the whole event was that during the video message greeting from all of SCH's alum was a greeting from EXO, a K-pop boy band. Towards the end of the formaltries, such fanfare as trumpets echoed and firework-like blasts of confetti, millions upon millions of pieces showered everyone.

It's been a chilling 30 degrees Fahrenheit almost daily and rare snow covered nights with the freezing Korean wind brushing against the surface of everyone's legs and arms despite the many layers clothing and the protection of fully clad jackets. I'm just here outside in the cold with them in shorts, a loose short sleeve casual shirt, and slippers, months in advance ready for summer. Still too warm.

Three weeks in and the official start of school has begun with Cultural Internship Discussion being a repeat of the cultural lessons learned during orientation; Korean Speaking and Writing I, a bit more fun despite the early 9am timeslot; Korean Politics and Diplomacy all about singing, waffles, and self-reading; International Relations of East Asia was just a lecture-based class and self-read but luckily later in the afternoon; and Beginning Korean Dance was so much more interesting than all the classes combined (especially Samulnori (Korean Traditional Percussion)), we learned how to walk like Koreans in the first class.

Last last weekend, I led a bigger group of international friends on a whole day excursion to Seoul. In which, I took them to the National Museum of Korea, explored the incredible War Memorial and Musuem in Yongsan Military Base, and ate out in a traditional Samgyeopsal (Korean hot pot & BBQ) restaurant in culturally diverse Itaewon. We ended our day at the Gyeongbokgung Palace and toured the other three palaces before heading to Gwangwhamun Square (Admiral Yi & King Sejong's Statues). We got caught up in some kind of political rally and witnessed hundreds of police officers crossing the street with riot gear (helmets, shields, batons, and all).

Last week, I've met all nine of my exchanges (Korean students we've been assigned to tutor and converse in English with, befriending them, hanging out and planning events with, an hour each week). They were all so interesting, each with their own stories, uniqueness, and kind personalities. I've met all ten of my Korean suitemates who also were just as friendly and hilarious, the people I'll probably be the closest of friends with for the next semester or two. Finally, I've met the Conversational Korean class I was assigned to TA for on Friday afternoons. At first with almost all the people I've met initially, they were all just as shy as me since they fear their English speaking skills are just as flawed as my Korean speaking skills. After some encouragement and talking about our similar interests, making friends is a piece of cake. I've truly decided that Soonchunhyang for another semester is highly a possibility, four months is way too short to experience everything I can possibly obtain in a country so amazing like South Korea. Till the Next post, 건배!
One of My first exchange of the week, So Min-Ji (Sunny) in Front of the FLEC Building at SCH. # shakapower

On my first excursion to Ichon, this was the beautiful Pagoda Lake in front of the National Museum of Korea.

On my Sunday morning six kilometer jog up Namsan Mountain to view the sunrise from N Seoul Tower.

While waiting for the school pick-up at Incheon International Airport, I was caught up in the foreign journalist group to spectate the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games Press Conference and the return of the SK Olympic Team.

The awesome Opening Ceremony concludes at the Soonchunhyang University Gymnasium, so much hype!

The Gyeongbokgung Gate to the Four Palaces of Seoul towards the end of the day, last last weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment