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25 posts categorized "Seoul Global"

One month after Korea

Hello everyone!

It's been a month since I started school now and I'm back for my last blog post! Although school has been hard so far and I know it will continue to be, I am grateful that I am doing it here in America instead of Korea. As much as I loved and miss Korea, I would not do well in their school system. In Korea, students have school from 9 am to 5 pm, and then most students go to academy from 5 pm to 10 pm, THEN they go home and do their homework. Whenever I'm feeling stressed or mad at the American school system I remember what all my Korean friends are dealing with and that helps me put my problems in perspective.

Now that it's been so long since I got back, I don't actively miss Korea and my friends but whenever I think of my trip, my nostalgia has turned into a sharp sadness. I loved Korea so much and all my friends that thinking about them makes me very sad. And to think that I won't see them or go back for years, if ever makes it even worse. 3 weeks was not enough time; it was enough for us to fall in love with the location and form strong bonds with our friends but not long enough to grow tired of either, making leaving painful and memories bittersweet.

Since my trip, I just want to travel more. I definitely want to go back to Korea but I also want to travel all over the world. Top on my list right now is Thailand but I want to see as much of the world as I can before it changes, then I want to revisit everything all over again. I have also picked up little quirks from my trip to Korea. The 2 most noticeable are that I still give and receive everything with 2 hands and that I still bow hello, goodbye, and thank you (although it's a very small bow; in Korea it would be considered rude to bow to someone the way I do). Most people don't really notice when I do these things but my family teases mercilessly whenever they notice me doing it. My beauty/fashion taste has also changed to align more closely with what was popular while I was in Korea, which was weird for me at first but now America is starting to adopt some of those same trends. Nobody really knows this but America actually follows behind Korea when it comes to beauty/fashion by about 6 months.

Overall, my experience traveling abroad was an amazing one that I would love to repeat and would HIGHLY recommend to anyone and everyone. After my trip, I feel more mature and self reliant and more prepared to face challenges on my own. Being abroad in a foreign country is an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world we live in. I have become a more well rounded and compassionate person, and more confident in my own abilities and sense of self. I am very grateful to CIEE for giving the opportunity to travel abroad and also got letting me blog with them, it has made my travel abroad experience richer and more meaningful. Also thank you all for reading my blog posts, I hope I have inspired you to travel abroad!

-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!


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!


Hello everyone! The trip is over now, and it's time for me to write the final in-country blog (T^T). As I write this, I am in the air flying home, but by the time you all read it I will be in my house (probably sleeping). This trip has been an amazing experience, and I have grown so much. I LOVED all the excursions we went on. Before I pick a favorite excursion from the trip, let me tell you about the things we did during our last week in Korea.

On Monday, we went to the MBC building, the home base of MBC, a broadcasting and music company in Korea. While there, we got to tour all the attractions, including a holographic kpop concert and a virtual reality tour of the grounds. We got to see the room where the news anchors broadcast live, but they weren't broadcasting anything at the time. We also got to see the room where idols come and do interviews, but unfortunately, there were no idols.

On Tuesday (the hottest day we were there), we went on hike along the Seoul City Wall, an ancient wall that ringed the border of Seoul in the Joseon Dynasty. Now Seoul is much larger, so the wall is located in the heart, marking where the city was before it expanded. As we walked (in full sun) we were supposed to pick up trash to “preserve the beauty of the wall” but in Korea, someone comes and picks up trash every morning so the hike was kind of pointless. It was very beautiful though, and there were lots of street cats in Daeharko (The neighborhood we walked through) so it wasn't all bad.  

The whole outing was definitely worth it though because, completely not on purpose, we walked straight through an area where a drama was being filmed. We actually got to see the actors during a scene which was really cool. It was even more special because the female lead that we got to see is actually a kpop star! She was a member T-ara which is an old-ish kpop group. That makes 3 idols we have seen!

The next day, we went to a traditional Korean art museum. There, we were given wooden blocks with the outline of classic images from Korean art, and were taught how to paint them by traditional painters. The block I painted was of a coy fish leaping out of the water, symbolizing success in life. The jumping coy represents this because of the myth that if a coy jumps over a waterfall, it will become a dragon. It symbolizes working hard and achieving your dreams. Kinda cheesy, but I like it.

After that, we went to Insadong, a long street made for tourists. We were there at night and it was a magical experience. There were glowing lights in the trees, and shops selling beautiful fans and souvenirs. There was really good food (including a stall selling cake on a stick in the shape of the poop emoji). We just walked around for a few hours, shopping and enjoying the scene. It was very beautiful, but the mood was slightly dampened by the knowledge that we were leaving soon.

On Thursday, we met up with the Korean high school students for the last tim,e and after a (not very good) musical we all went to the Han River for a goodbye picnic. The Han River is very beautiful at night and we had really good fried chicken for dinner. There was a little stage right on the edge of the river so me and GaYoung wanted to go take pictures on it to remember the moment. She decided to run there but the path was COVERED in mud so as soon as she stepped out, she fell (quite gracefully actually) and her whole right side was caked in mud. After we had gotten GaYoung cleaned up and taken our pictures we had to say goodbye for the last time. I was sad (but not crying) until we got on the bus after saying goodbye, but when I saw GaYoung waving at we through the window I lost it. Now, I'm not an emotional person, I cry very, very rarely but I cried the entire bus ride back to the dorms. I haven't cried like that in years (I'm serious about that) so it actually felt really good.

On the last day, we watched everyone's video projects from throughout the trip (which was really embarrassing) and had a little party with our language teacher, YuJeong. After classes, we hung out in Shinchon (the neighborhood closest to Yonsei) and got boba tea for the last time. Afterward we went to Korean pork barbeque for the farewell dinner. The restaurant that we went to was actually owned by YGE, one of the Big 3 kpop companies in Korea. After that we all said our goodbyes to each other and our amazing coordinators and teachers. Back at the dorms, me and my friends hung out for the last time until about 1 am and then we said goodbye (T-T) and I went back to my dorm and (started) packing.

If I had to choose just one excursion as my favorite I would probably pick our trip to Andong, especially the KBS historical drama set. It was a beautiful day out and we were the only ones in the set so it was very unreal. It was made for drama filming so it is very beautiful and clean and everything is in perfect condition but it is also historically accurate (I think) so it really feels like you at in a different time. Peeps, Lukas, and I spent the entire time walking around together and going into the buildings. I'm not sure we were allowed to go into them but if you pull hard enough, some doors will open. There wasn't really anything special inside the buildings, but it was really quiet and dark; it really felt like a Miyazaki movie (if you’ve never seen a Miyazaki movie I can't stress enough how good they are, you should definitely check them out). In one building, there was a kind of tea ceremony going on where you could go in and people would serve you tea.

I definitely wanted more time there, I could have spent the entire day exploring the village. I only really got to see a small portion, so I definitely want to go back. The drama filming set wasn’t like anything I have seen in the states because it has so much history. It itself might not have been very old, but it represents Korea’s ancient history. Nothing in America has much history except for the Native Americans; but we pretty much destroyed all of their culture. Korea has such an old history, culture, and traditions, that is one of favorite things about Korea. Sometimes I wish we had an older culture here but I also know that being young is in part what makes America different. I love both America and Korea, I guess I'll just have to visit them both!

Thank you all for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. There will be more posts though, just not about Korea. If you're still interested, stayed tuned!

-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!

Arts and Crafts

On Thursday the students got the chance to paint tiles to hang in their houses that featured many of the themes we see in historical pieces like silk panels or murals. 

Korea has traditional characters that appear in their art such as the tiger which is typically seen by the front door because he protects from evil and brings luck.

Some students copied the sample pieces exactly and others were more creative while making their panels. 


Necol Harness, Program Leader

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Last Day With New Friends

Yesterday was unexpectedly emotional. After class, we headed out into the city to watch an exciting musical performance, Wanna be Superstar, performed by an all female cast. 


After the musical, we went to a picnic by the Han River, the river that runs through Seoul. This was one of our last nights in Seoul and emotional by nature, but it was also the last nights that the students would be seeing their Korean high school student friends. At the end of the night, we all gathered for a group hug. There wasn't a dry eye on the bus back to the dorms!




Stay tuned for updates on our last day in Korea.

Kym M., Program Leader 

Hanyangdoseong, the Seoul City Wall

On July 25th we spent two hours doing some community service and learning about a beautiful piece of Seoul history. The Hanyangdoseong or the Seoul City Wall was built more than 600 years ago and consists of 8 gates (4 main gates and 4 small gates) with a total of 11 miles of wall. 

We started our day by learning about how the wall was built and surrounds the city.


Then we moved outside. Here are students walking the trail towards the Heunginjimun Gate.


Our community service was to clean up litter that had been left along the trail. This is our guide talking about murals that had been painted in the area to help bring people to the area to help promote interest in the wall.


As we walked through the area looking at the murals we experiences some really steap steps.


But now you can see the beautiful wall that has been maintained all these years.


Evidence of 2 dynasties working on the wall. Evidence is in the masonry. Stone work shows the differences in tool advancement and skills.



Necol Harness, Program Leader

Super Last Sunday in Korea!

Still outside of Seoul, our last Sunday in Korea was filled with nothing short of beauty. After waking up in our traditional Korean homestay for the night, we were treated to a delicious breakfast in the Sky Lounge of a lovely hotel. We then said our goodbyes to Andong and headed to the historic city of Mungyeong - considered by many as "the center of Korea" and one of the main routes for traders, merchants, royalty, and people traveling to the capital from the southern coast of the country. In the midst of this beautiful town, one of Korea's main broadcasting companies (KBS) built a set where they film many historical tv shows. This large outdoor studio is set against a backdrop of majestic mountains, and we all enjoyed time to wander and take in our surroundings.


Roommates in the grandfather suite at our traditional homestay




Sights from the KBS studio

Munkeong 1
Munkeong 1



Lunch was a delicious Korean staple - bulgogi (marinated beef), and we were back on the bus to Seoul for a very special concert. Before the concert, we were able to do some shopping at a very famous shopping district in Gangnam called Garosu-gil (tree lined street) as well as eat some local delicacies.  

The concert was one of our guest lecturers in the program, MYK (also known as Saltnpaper) who sang a lot of his original songs, and covers. It was definitely a memorable and enjoyable music experience for all. 

One of our students helping MYK with lyrics! 



Till next time!

-Kym, Program Leader

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:

  • Everything
  • 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!

-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!

Bringing History to Life

Saturday we left bright and early to take a journey back in time to visit Andong Hahoe Village which dates back 3000 years. The village names means "Village Enveloped By Water" and it is shaped like a lotus flower.  The village consists entirely of ancient houses but the students were quick to confirm that they had electricity and the all important internet. 

Andong 5

Typical home 

Andong 3



Our students wrote a wrote a positive note or prayer and left it at this sacred site.

We also watched and then learned how to performed the mask dance.  The masks are considered to be national treasures. 

Andong Mask 1

Heading to the the presentation. 

Mask dance 2

Cassie dancing as the village idiot.

Mask dance 4

Students wearing the historical masks.

After all of our adventures we settled into our accommodations which was a traditional cheongpunheon pavilion. The students played tag and ate snacks in the yard. 

Traditional house

Rural house


Necol Harness, Program Leaxer

Hongdae Shopping

Friday was a fairly easy day since we were preparing for a weekend outside of Seoul. Students were in class for the morning and then had a Survival Korean class after lunch. 

In the evening we had an excursion to Hongdae for a couple of hours of shopping for the latest fashion trends. Students ate street food and tried to barter for their purchases if they chose to. They also got to practice all of the language skills that they have been learning.

Necol Harness, Program Leader


Shopping 2