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Journals from Yonsei University, Korea

2009-09-17 Day One

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Oregon Trail in Korea?

They say when you travel abroad you need to have a sense of humor, be adventurous, and be extremely flexible. Well, I will add to that an extreme sense of patience, the ability to take life as it comes, and not judging your experiences by how things would go at home. Believe me, if I had come to Korea with any real expectations of how things would go then I would spend more time comparing it to life in the US (and perhaps even bemoaning the fact that so much of it is completely different). The best example of this is our transition to life in Korea. There was supposed to be an orientation, but it was canceled because of Swine Flu. This has left us without any real direction or the chance to meet that many people (especially since you can be expelled from the dorms if you are caught in the opposite sexs wing). There has been soo much conflicting information: You need to get an Alien Registration Card to be able to get a bank account and a cellphone. Truth of the matter: You can open an account with just your passport and if you are only buying a pre-paid cell (which most of us are interested in) then a passport will do as well. Main issue: Being told the first part, my group went out first thing on Monday to get registered, where they take your passport for at least 10 days. Result: Im kinda screwed until I pick up my card. Oh well, luckily I brought a decent amount of Won with me. Further fun on the registration thing: To get to the office we had to take the subway for the first time. This involved finding a place to get a refillable T-Money card, which we only managed thanks to the kindness of some stranger who took us from the metro to a nearby cart that sold them. So we finally make it to the Immigration Office and it is basically like a Korean style DMV from hell. About 2.5 hours after taking a number I get up to the desk and find out that the 10,000W fee is to be paid by buying a stamp from downstairs (something we think might have been covered in orientation). Luckily the lady let me sprint downstairs and buy one instead of making me wait in line again. After resting for a bit we decided to go out for a late dinner and to try to stay out as late as possible to get over the time difference. The finding of restaurants is basically trial and error, and we spent a good half hour or so just looking for the main street where they are. Everything looks the same at first, and if you cant read the signs, most say the same things--so you can imagine how difficult it might be to navigate (thank god for the huge hospital I use as a landmark on my way home). So we finally choose a place where there are a lot of Koreans who seem to be enjoying their meal. They bring us a menu and we point at what we think would be a small bowl of things to grill. Not so much. Turns out it is bim bim bap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibimbap). There is a chili sauce to mix into a bowl of salad and hot rice. What trips me up is that on top is a raw egg over strips of raw meat. Not gonna lie, I have a cultural moment of fear wondering how my stomach will handle what seems to be impeding salmonella. Somehow I don't get sick. Ashley Price Yonsei University Fall '09

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