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Week 4: Seoul

Hello, it's me again!

I've been back in the states for 2 weeks now but I wish I was still in Seoul. My friend who was doing a 4 week program got back recently and I'm SO jealous that she got a whole week more than I did, 3 weeks felt so short. It's definitely nice to be home but I miss so many things from the trip: the food, the people, the culture, pretty much everything (especially the lack of political drama). I've been going through all my pictures lately to try and keep the trip vivid in my mind (not that I'll ever forget it) and there are a few pictures that I both love and hate for all the nostalgia they bring . I'll include my 3 favorites here so you can enjoy them too.


This is a picture of one of the side streets in sinchon, the neighborhood of Yonsei University. I think this specific photo was taken on the way to a spicy chicken restaurant. This picture really reminds me of the vividness of the trip. Seoul was VERY different from the small town (one square mile, I kid you not) I live in but it was also different from SF, which is also a huge city. Because of this difference the trip felt very real to me, because I always knew I wasn't anywhere near home. We did so much walking around Seoul, and saw many different areas, but the street in this photo looks just like so many of the small streets we walked down. I saw streets like this every day, and because they are so unlike streets where I'm from in the states, they became a symbol to remind me that I really was in korea. Seeing this picture reminds of what it was like to be there: seeing all the well dressed, umbrella-toting people; hearing kpop songs and Shape of You fighting to be the loudest song playing from the stores I was passing (for whatever reason, Koreans seem to LOVE Shape of You, I didn't go a day without hearing it), the oppressive warmth and wetness of the weather, and the constant noise of the multitude of conversations, the ones in english that I could understand and the ones in korean that I couldn't.


This is another picture that brings back vivid memories for me. This is a photo of the palace of the drama filming set we visited on our excursion. For the last blog post I picked the drama set as my favorite experience of the whole trip so it makes sense that this photo would make it into my top three. Looking at this picture I remember the walk up to the set: smelling the wet earth and seeing the fog roll down the mountains to settle in the river, and the eerie, muted silence of a deserted village, and the otherworldly emptiness of the insides of the building what we had found with an ajar door. This filming set, to me, was symbolic of all the history and culture we had been learning about in class and as we explored Seoul. Walking around in a historically accurate village really made the things we had learned about real. The segregation of the sexes’ sleeping areas, the heating system and it's variances based on class, the specifics of who was allowed to paint their house which color, all of it became real and visual in that village.


This is a picture of me and my American friends with with some of the Korean high school students on the night of our food bye picnic at the Han River. Of the whole trip one of my favorite things was making friends with GaYoung and the other students. It was a really interesting experience to meet kids my age that had been raised in a totally different culture. GaYoung told us about how Korean students have academy after school (making the school day 13 hours long) and laughed at us when we admitted we were scared by North Korea (not 1 Korean is scared by North Korea, the government can't even get them to practice drills). We learned so much from each other and despite our differences, spending time with GaYoung is the thing I miss the most out of the entire trip. We have been trying to stay in touch but the time difference makes it really hard and kind of sad because none of our conversations are real time. This picture reminds me of all the connections I made in Korea. Not only did I befriend some AMAZING korean students but I also became closer with Peeps AND made some wonderful friends I am hoping to meet up with again. I made many connections around the world on that trip and I hope I can keep making more as I keep exploring.

If had to use one word to describe my trip it would be novel. Not like a book but like a new and unusual experience. I wasn't expecting Korea to be very different from America (I thought how different can two big cities be?) but Korea surprised me with its differences. There wasn't one specific thing that really stood out as different to me but the combination of small oddities of Seoul and the lack of things I am used to in America added up to make Seoul a very unique experience. I learned, ate, heard, and did things in Seoul that I had never in the States. Being halfway around the world in a big city that doesn't speak your language is a very new and very visceral experience that I am very grateful for and one I hope to have again. After my trip with CIEE I have definitely grown in ways I never could if I had stayed in the US. I have a better understanding and acceptance of cultures being different than my own, and how to experience them. Korea has a very different culture than the US and there were definitely parts I didn't agree with but now I understand that it's not my place to have opinions on other people's culture. My job is to experience and try to understand the culture I am visiting and to spread tolerance of other cultures once I get back home. My time in korea changed me and exposed me to many new things and I loved every second of it. I am very grateful to CIEE for giving me this experience and I would love nothing more than to do it again, if the opportunity arises. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I will see you all again for the final post in a month or so!

Thank you for reading!

-Isabelle B.

'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!