Hello, It’s me again! It’s been awhile since I did my last blog post but now that I’m in Korea I haven’t had time to blog. Our schedule is so busy I have to fit blogging into bus rides, during meals, and before I go to sleep. Our program leaders really haven’t given us any time to be jetlagged or to miss our families, which is probably for the best but still it's tiring.
As I write this blog, I am simultaneously happy and sad. I say sad because me writing this blog means that week one of three is over. I don't want to even think about going home yet, I am having too much fun. I am so lucky and excited to actually BE in Seoul RIGHT now as I write this and I have loved every second of it (except maybe the early wake up times because I miss sleeping until 11 am). Honestly the weather surprised me the most, even though I have been (trying to) mentally prepare for it. It has been so hot and super humid, I’ve given up on my hopes of not getting disgustingly sweaty everyday (It's not that bad once you get used to it). It also rains very sporadically, in 5 minutes times it can go from humid and overcast (that’s the normal state of the weather) to torrential rains with sheets of water flowing down the streets. The one upside to the weather is that, unlike the Bay Area, Seoul is most definitely not in a drought so I can shower every night without having to worry about water.
One of my (many) favorite parts of the trip so far has been meeting everyone in our cleverly (and childishly) named group chat “Seoul Mates”. After having talked to them online for the better half of a year, getting to know them in person was even more than I could have hoped for. I like almost everyone in the group (which is pretty good for a group of 29). All my closest friends from Seoul Mates have been exactly like I imagined them and they are super fun to hang out with. There are actually only 29 of us when there was supposed to be 30 because someone cancelled their trip (I think?) leaving me as the only one without a roommate. I actually like it better that way though because I have the entire room to myself and we are too busy to actually spend any time other than sleeping in our rooms.
Most mornings we have classes, switching from survival Korean (very necessary) to our Kpop class. So far our Kpop class has been about the history of Korea starting from the first dynasty till after the Korean war. We have been learning about Korean culture primarily through the lens of music which has been rather dull for me as someone who doesn’t love history or old music. After this week though, we will start to learn about how Kpop started and how it has changed over the years. Our survival Korean course has been totally unlike my French language course at home. At home, we start with very basics and slowly build up a base of understanding so we can understand how and why we say things the way we do. Here though, we don’t have that kind of time to spend so we just have a crash course of the Hangul alphabet and basic phrases. I am very much enjoying the language classes even though I’m not very good because I absolutely LOVE the teacher, YuJeong. She is very smart and caring and genuinely enjoys her time with us (I hope). She also helps chaperone us because she actually knows her way around Seoul.
We have been so busy and done so much, I won’t be able to tell you everything that we have done so far but I will mention the funnest activities we have done so far.
On the first full day we were given a presentation by KSCPP, a Korean culture and spirit educational program. They gave a fascinating lecture on the history of korean astronomy, language, and the shifts of power throughout the six dynasties. They also brought in Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and we all got to try them on.
We also went on a walking “scavenger hunt” of Seoul and, despite getting lost for an hour, we got to see so many amazing things. We visited a BEAUTIFUL buddhist temple during prayer and honestly, I was blown away. I have never seen such a beautiful place of worship. We couldn’t take pictures of the body of the temple so my pictures don’t adequately portray how pretty it was.
That night we saw an amazing preformance called “Bibap” which was a comedy show in english about 2 chefs competing to please the audience. They would switch off “making” various dishes while each of the 4 sous chefs showed off their unique skills (mainly b-boying and signing). They would then call up members of the audience to decide the winner and proceed to mercilessly embarrass them to the delight of the audience.
One day we went on a street food tour where we stopped at 10-15 (I'm not sure) street food stalls and sampled traditional Korean street food. The most bizarre thing we tasted was Beondegi, or silkworm larvae. I was too scared to try them but my friend Lukas bravely tried them and absolutely hated them. I will include the hilarious video of him eating them. We also ate delicious food like chestnut cakes and my personal favorite, hotteok, flat donuts filled with cinnamon sugar. I have yet to try dragon’s beard unfortunately.
On the weekends we don't have actual classes, we just get to explore Seoul. This weekend we got to meet Korean high school students. The student that is in my group, her name is GaYoung. She speaks very good English and she is really fun to spend time with. She is very pretty and an amazing singer and is currently in the process of auditioning to become a kpop trainee. We also like the same kpop group so we get along well.
On Saturday we toured Kstar road, a road lined with large plastic bears, each designed for a different kpop group. After that we went to the coex mall, the largest underground shopping mall in the world. Inside coex, we went to the sm town building, a huge hub for the largest kpop company in Korea. In sm town, we met up with a very close friend of ours, Grace. Grace was an exchange student at our school for 2 years, but Peeps and I hadn't seen her in 1 ½ years so seeing her again was amazing!
Yesterday we visited Gyeongok palace and Namsangol Hanok village, again with the Korean students. Both are ancient korean sites from the Joseon Dynasty that have been restored and are open to the public. People get free admission for wearing hanbok so there were many beautiful traditional outfits. GaYoung and the other students gave us a fascinating tour of the grounds. The architecture was so beautiful, I've never seen anything like it in western style buildings. I wish my family could have been there with me, they would have loved it (especially my mom).
I am loving my time here in Seoul and I am dreading going back home. I cannot BELIEVE that we are already one third of the way done with our trip, I want to stay here with these people forever. I hope you all enjoyed this post and I will upload another next Monday! Thank you all 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