Week 2: Seoul
Ahhhhh, I'm already writing my second week blog post! Honestly it felt like yesterday that I submitted the last one, I can't believe how quickly time passes here in Seoul! I only have 5 days left here and time feels like it's slipping through my fingers, I wish we had so much more. Soon I will have to say goodbye to all the friends I have made here and I will never see them again. To be honest I miss them already.
I really love my new home here in Seoul, even though it is very different from my house in Cali. I am used to sharing a room with my siblings (we are very close) so being all alone is a fun experience. The hardest thing to get used to was the beds though, they are not at all what I'm used to. The beds in Korea are harder than the ones in the states and the pillow is literally made of cut up pieces of straws. I know that sounds awful but I actually really like it because my bed here has much more support than in the States, and it's actually quite comfortable. Korea has so many things that I wish the US did, I'll just make a short version though.
Things the US should copy Korea on:
- Public transportation
- Number of bubble tea shops
- Hotteok (my favorite street food, it's literally a flat crispy donut filled with melted brown sugar)
- Attractiveness of population
- Couple outfits (I will include a picture)
Before I tell you about all the things I did this week, let me tell you what an average day here in Seoul is like. In the morning I wake up at 7:15 (either to my alarm or Peeps getting the schedule mixed up and thinking I overslept) and I walk to breakfast with everyone. The walk is decently short but very hilly ( all of Yonsei campus is hilly). Korean breakfasts were hard to get used to for me (especially because I never eat breakfast back home) because they're just like any other korean meal; rice, soup, side dishes, and some kind of protein, not a vegetable to be seen. Eating “real” food first thing in the morning took some getting used to.
After breakfast, we trek down the hill to our classroom and have kpop class until lunch, which is right next to the classroom. Occasionally we have more classes after but most of the time we go out and explore Seoul, eat dinner out and come home around 10 (but it's not unusual to get back at 11, 11:30 either). The few times we have free time, I do laundry, watch kpop videos and hang out with my friends at the dorm. We also have a rather excessive number of projects (4 in 3 weeks) so I have to fit those into my schedule as well (I hope there are fewer projects next time they do this program).
Despite the projects and the constant fear of the end of the program getting closer, I have had so much fun during the many excursions this week. I will try to talk about all the best ones so you can get onto better things than sitting here reading my blog all day.
On Monday, we had a guest lecture from NegativeMotion studio, a dance company that works closely with many famous idols. After a fascinating talk about working in the kpop industry, they taught us the choreography to an iconic kpop song, fire by bts. If you have never seen it, I would suggest looking up the dance version. Because I'm not a dancer, I obviously sucked, but I had a lot of fun learning (also the instructors were cute). After that we watched a Korean movie called Werewolf Boy. It was an incredible movie but by the end 90% of us were crying (10/10 recommend).
The next day we traveled to Nami Island, located in the middle of the Han River. Nami Island is a small, magical island, it's kind of a fairytale theme park for grownups. With ambient music playing everywhere, winding paths through the luscious forests and over small wooden bridges that stretch over lakes and streams full of blooming lotus flowers, Nami Island feels very surreal and wonderful. They also serve really good pizza and delicious green hotteok. All in all, Nami Island was a magical experience.
After Nami Island, we toured N Seoul Tower, the highest point in Seoul, up on top of Namsan Mountain. From the top of the tower we could see all of Seoul in a 365° panoramic view.
On Wednesday, we hung out with our Korean high school friends again. We split into groups to make kimchi and rice cakes. Me, Peeps, GaYoung, and Lukas made rice cakes by steaming rice powder in molds. After we ate dumplings for dinner we went to a racoon cafe, which was amazing. Korea is famous for its animal cafes, normal cafes in every way except that they are full of friendly animals to cuddle as you sit. As you can probably imagine, the cafe I went to was full of raccoons, white raccoons actually. They would crawl into our laps and up onto our shoulders and we would make a human pathway for them to walk across our shoulder for as long as possible. They also tried to steal all my jewelry and eat the strap on my hat. We were there for feeding time so I got one to sit in my lap and eat from my hands. I love raccoons so visiting the cafe was A LOT of fun.
One of my favorite things that happened was a guest lecture. The main reason I liked it though was because the speaker spoke about kpop a LOT (especially the group I like the most). The speaker was Paul Thompson, the CEO of marz music. He produces most of the music for SM entertainment, the largest kpop company in Korea. He talked to us about how he got into the music industry in general and how he, a white man who spoke no Korean, managed to get a job at the biggest kpop company. His entire lecture was fascinating but my favorite part was when he took questions and he and I ended up having a conversation about NCT, my kpop bias group. He actually is close with them and considers a few members his friends so talking with him was a wonderful experience. I now have a second degree connection with my idol group!
Over the weekend we had a magical experience. We traveled to Hahoe village, a fully functional, restored farming village from 800 years ago during the Joseon Dynasty. There, we got to watch a traditional masked play that was very humorous (even though I didn't understand a word they were saying). After the play, the actors taught us about the history of masked dance and taught us the basic dances for the main masks (masked plays always have the same 9 characters). Once we left Hahoe village, we stayed in a traditional Korean house, split into small groups. Each group stayed in their own little compartmentalized rooms within the house. The house was very large and very beautiful, especially in the morning when the mountain fog came down into the valley we were staying in.
On Sunday, on our way back to Seoul, we visited an ancient pass through the mountains that used to connect Busan to Seoul in medieval times. The mountains were incredibly beautiful, they were COVERED in greenery and there was fog coming down the mountains and settling in the river we were walking by. From the pass, we hiked to the set of a historical korean drama. The set was a HUGE village modeled after ancient Korea. There was a huge palace in the center, ringed by a village for the noblemen (the roofs were made of tile) wich itself was ringed by a village for the peasants (The roofs were thatched). Honestly, I think that was the highlight of my trip so far, the set was so beautiful and erie (because it was so big and empty), we just walked around in silence for an hour. If you have seen Spirited Away by studio Ghibli (if you haven't, make sure you do, it's amazing) you could imagine what it looked like. I will defiantly include a picture, I hope it makes it to the ciee blog page. It was such a beautiful place, I wish we had had more time to tour, 3 hours would have been better than the 1 and a half we got.
There are only five days left here in Korea, time is really passing so quickly. I still have such a clear memory of stepping out of the airport on day one, and I already have the adrenaline of our next travel day. Over all this trip has been an amazing experience, I just wish it didn't have to end. See you all next Monday (I will be home by then T-T) for the next blog post! Thank you for reading!
'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!