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Journals from South Korea, Yonsei University

2009-02-25 First Impressions of Korea

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Myong-dong Market - a small example of the crowds (and many shops!) found in Seoul.

Yay! I finally got my own internet connection, so now I'm able to being recording my experiences in Korea this semester. Its only been about four (five?) days since Ive been in here, but the experience has already been quite interesting and rewarding. My first couple of days in Korea was actually spent with my family " my aunt on my mothers side (my : ee-moe) helped me get everything set up, like my alien registration card and my subway pass. She also taught me how to use the subway, as Ive never been on it before. I absolutely love it "I can already tell that Im going to miss the subway system when I go back home. Its so efficient and easy to do, even when Im not fluent in the language! Everything is color-coded and has English on the side, just in case. On the third day"move-in day"I got to experience the wonders of Korean driving. My s friend drove me to Yonsei in the morning, which was really nice of him because most people take the bus or subway around because its cheaper and fasteralthough looking at the traffic on the highway, it seemed like everyone was out driving that morning! Many of the drivers were taxis too "Ive noticed that people seem to use modes of transportation other than cars that they own (maybe because not that many people have cars in comparison to the U.S?). Anyway, if anyone has been to California and watched the drivers thereintensify that about four times, and you have Korean drivers. Changing lanes doesnt seem to require much more forethought than just pushing your way in front of the other cars, horns seem to be honked for any (and every) reason, lanes dont always matter, and pedestrians most definitely do not have the right of way. It was soooo cool to watch, because even amidst what seemed like chaos to my untrained eyes, everyone was getting around each other beautifully. Also, when Im walking around the city, it requires me to pay extra attention to the traffic, as people on motorcycles and mopeds even will go onto the pedestrian sidewalks to cut ahead of other traffic, but it makes even walking out the front door an adventure. I like it, although it really is a completely different environment than the yield to pedestrians environment of home. My roommate is pretty cool, though, which was really nice to find out. I think I was more nervous about that than anything else (because we didnt find out who our roommates were till move-in day). Her name is Josephine and shes from Hong Kong. Shes really sweet and so far weve gotten along very well"I didnt get to see her much on the first move-in day because she had moved in much earlier than I had, so she was already out and walking around campus that day, but the next day (orientation) we got to hang out and talk a lot more. The more I talk with other international students, the more excited I get. There are sooo many different countries represented here, although the largest number of people seems to be from China and Europe. I love just sharing our different customs and habits, because there are so many differences in how we all are used to living and thinking about things! For the last two nights in the dorm, my roommate and I have stayed up late talking about topics ranging from popular TV shows in China and America to politics (like the recession and President Obama) to boys and relationships to the education system and required classes. I think especially as an anthropology major, Im very excited to talk to more students and learn about their experiences and opinions. On another note, Kirstin (the other Linfield student in Korea) lives next door to me! That turned out to be such a stroke of luck: I hadnt realized it, but having even one person from Linfield makes such a difference. We didnt see each other on move-in day, but yesterday (orientation day) I got to go wander and shop with her, and being able to have someone from home just makes me feel better about being in Koreaits much less lonely to have someone who knows what Dillin Hall is. Speaking of food: the food here is amazing and cheap. I think I might be biased, because I am Korean, but it really is amazing to go out and eat here, because there is something for everyone in Korean cuisine. Ill probably write a full entry on that later to give the food justice!! For the rest of this first week, students get to explore the city and get acquainted with Korea"then on Monday, classes begin. So far Ive been to Myong-dong Market, Sinchon, and Namdaemun Market. My new friends and I have done lots of shopping, as Korea has some amazing deals on clothes and other types of items. Its so surprising, though: even though were still in really cold winter weather, all the girls wear short skirts and dress with tights! Everyone looks very cute, but its soooo cold. Koreans definitely dress more formally/nicely than Americans, so a lot of the time I feel out of place in my jeans and sneakers. Good thing shopping here is so much fun (and cheap!). While I dont necessarily get funny looks for the way I dress, it makes it so much more obvious that Im new to Korea. Im very, very excited for classes, which start on the 3rd for me, but really nervous too: Im taking the language placement test on March 2nd, so wish me luck! Jenny Stewart

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