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Journals from Yonsei University, Korea

2009-09-17 The Adventure Begins

Overall, the airline portion of the trip was rather uneventful. I met up with the three girls in San Francisco, and found four other people on our flight who were also heading to Yonsei. The 12.5 hour flight went surprisingly fast, but then again I guess that's what happens when you catch up on over a week's worth of sleep in one shot. I did attempt to learn the alphabet, but only got through about half of it in between all the eating and napping. I love traveling overseas and comparing the airline food from one destination to the next, especially if it's on a single airline (in this case United). Granted, airline food isn't all that appetizing, but it is interesting to see how they botch the different ethnic cuisines. When I flew to China last year they eased us in, with the first meal being of an American variety and not serving ramen and the like until after we hit the international dateline. Not this time--it was Asian food the whole way. The ramen definitely topped the "chicken curry", and I was extremely impressed with the chicken and noodle dish before landing. I must say, it is soo much more enjoyable to sip on a cup of brewed green tea instead of the Lipton's variety you get in intercontinental travel. On my way over I finally did have those moments of "wow, I'm really doing this...", but it truly wasn't until my crazy adventure of getting to campus that it really sunk in. I had signed up for a shuttle service through the international club, thinking that when they said it would be students escorting us on a shuttle bus from the airport it would be point a to point b. Not quite... It turns out that the "shuttle bus" we took was an airport limousine where they stow your luggage underneath the bus (my biggest worry about transporting myself to school was of schlepping the bags). Well there were 4 of us Americans, 3 Korean guys (only one of whom spoke that much English) and a lot of baggage. It took us 3 tries to get onto the bus, and the first one involved a VERY angry bus driver who kept yelling at us. Cultural lesson for everyone dealing with non-native speakers: Increasing your volume will in NO way make someone who doesn't speak your language understand you. All was well until we got in Sinchon (I think...) where we were to take taxis. Problem was that with all the bags it was not possible to fit 2 girls with one guy in the cab. This meant that someone would have to go by themselves. I volunteered, thinking that if the guy told the driver where to go it would be no big deal. Apparently the International House where we are staying is not a well-known destination. What ended up happening is that I got in a cab and was told to find the "boy in pink" who would be waiting for me somewhere near the entrance of Yonsei, where he would get in the cab and direct the driver the rest of the way. At this point I had lost a bit of faith in the plan, but there wasn't really another option. Somehow it worked, though, and I finally made it to the right place. Bear in mind that I paid $50 for this grueling experience, and was less than thrilled to find out that the other students we had met on the plane had made it just fine (before us) for only $10 on their own. What an experience though! After checking in (and having my bags carried upstairs by one of the pickup guys, worth the cost of the ordeal in and of itself...), I found my way to my "quaint" room for the next semester. Truthfully, I was surprised with the amount of closet space, and have moved in fine. The bedding set is kind of interesting-who knew I would be supplied with an official "Yonsei University" embroidered duvet set. I slept on top of that last night, partially because it is rather hot and humid here, but mostly because the mattress itself is basically a rock slab with a slight spring. The goal for today is definitely to find something to make the sleeping experience more enjoyable. A group of us did go out to eat last night. We found an all-you-can-eat meat grill type of place (I'll find the official term for this later...). It was around $7 for that, but kind of a waste since most of us were too tired to really eat. Good to know it's there, but I will definitely be waiting until I have more of an appetite to go back. The restaurant was about a 15-minute walk from campus, and the entire way there was when it started to hit me that I was indeed in Korea. Right now it is a bit intimidating, not being able to read anything or understand anyone really. Yes, there are people who speak English, but from what I have experienced so far it is really more of an Engrish that is challenging to understand. I know things will get better, though, and am looking forward to when I can walk down the same street and at least be able to read, if not understand, all of the signs. Ashley Price Yonsei University Fall '09

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