White Day! and stuff!

Hi everyone!

We are officially done with the first two weeks of the school year!

For me, I have had an extremely manageable schedule — unfortunately I have classes on Fridays — but Tuesdays and Thursdays  I only have one class so guess who’s going to be doing some adventuring :)))

When picking your classes I would advise you to be as clear as you can when selecting classes taught in English. Classes are too large for teachers to be able to accommodate for the individual, so make sure you clarify that before, so you don’t end up taking classes in Korean. Also make sure you sign up for more credits than you actually need so you can drop a class if it’s too much, or if you’re looking to add another one and don’t get in you’ll still have enough credits to not stress.

She also uses her kids and husband as an example all the time -- she also rants!
Human Ecology! I love my teacher because she takes breaks from teaching the facts to rant a bit. Very entertaining, and I think it helps us process the information faster 🙂

If you come here I highly recommend the Human Ecology class. It’s a great class to just learn to be introspective, but I have been able to learn much more about Korean culture and how social norms contribute to their everyday life — really it just helps me explain some things I’m confused about, like why women wear heals when walking on hills and uneven streets??? It seems so illogical and painful.

My Professor also taught in Chicago for eight years so she is really good at understanding the depth and complexity of American Culture and articulates Korean society very clearly — everyone needs to take this class!



The teacher is really cool, and I'm really learning a lot!
This is my Korean-US Relations class, it’s very interesting because I don’t think America teaches the Korean peninsula thoroughly, so it’s very cool to learn about it from their perspective. I also wanted to show what some classes look like.



In regards to Korean Language classes, I recommend the intensive course if you have enough time to dedicate to it. The regular Korean 1 class is really great for people who have never learned the language before but it’s really popular so you have to be really smart when bidding for classes. The intensive class, I can only compare to taking Japanese at Linfield. I tested into the Level 1.5 class, meaning we move really fast and they expect us to be able to read and write well. The teachers are there  for you, but you have to do more stuff outside the classroom than other classes (in my opinion), and there’s definitely some stress if you take a day off (much like Japanese, I would say — 先生、 こんにちわ!元気ですか?)

I'm writing this post here!
I just wanted to add this because he looks silly. This is the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, everything is delicious, beautiful, and I spend all my free time here studying.

Korea also has a large drinking culture. I’m underage so I don’t drink (let’s just clear that up) — but I think it’s important to be safe while you’re here. There have been several foreigners that have put themselves in unsafe situations with alcohol because in Korea you don’t refuse a drink from someone older than you (it’s considered rude). Even if you don’t drink, study the drinking culture before you come here so you know what’s going on because it’s a much bigger part of their culture than you, I, could’ve imagined. There are lots of foreigners that don’t understand their limits and need help, so just be safe, okay?

With that in mind, you have to actively seek out certain Korean friends that have interests outside of partying, because the most common thing people want to do is go to a bar or club — when I really wanna go to a palace ya’know?

She spells her name 리사 !
This is my friend Lisa! She showed me the Vietnamese restaurant.

Watch out for cars, I don’t remember if I’ve said this before, but they have no interest in stopping for you so you will die! they! do! not! care!!!

Get the honey pizza! It's delicious :)
This is the pizza place! Isn’t it pretty?

Fun activity wise, I basically just eat — haha! There are still so many places I want to try, but I found a really great Indian restaurant if you want something other than Korean or Japanese food, and there are a few places about 20 minutes from campus that are apparently famous for being delicious and inexpensive and I haven’t been yet — definitely an issue on my part.

There’s a Japanese curry place that I went to that has free refills — so you bet I’ll be back there, a pizza place which is also awesome, has a great view, and is reasonably priced (pizza is so expensive here), and a Vietnamese place I went to for lunch that was very cheap, delicious, and was very much a hole in the wall.

And it was spicy!
This is the food I got. For 8 dollars I got basically the whole ocean in a bowl.

Also today is White Day! (not while you’re reading this), but it’s weird seeing just how many couples there are here. It’s weirdly assumed that there can’t be friendships between men and women, so if a girl and guy are together the first thought is that they’re probably dating — which is only more intense on a day like today where it’s literally for couples. I will also point out that you can also give gifts to your teachers as well — I found that out when my KLI teacher was like “it’s white day! Where are my gifts?” and when no one had anything, we drifted off into silence (THAT WAS EXTREMELY AWKWARD). To explain more, White Day is a day on the 14th of March where the men give the women candy! Valentine’s Day is when women give men chocolates (which is backwards compared to the West), and then there’s Black Day (dun-dun- DUNNNNN) which is for single people on April 14th to “mourn” the fact that they did not receive any gifts from anyone. On that day, single people eat jajangmyeon, a noodle dish with black sauce (apparently it’s from China). Sometimes people who eat that are matched with another person so they won’t truly be alone. A little funny, a little weird, and definitely a topic for deeper discussion of the Korean social standard for love and relationships, yeah?

Hope you found this interesting or helpful!

나중에 봐요! (see you later)

— 아이시스 (Isis)

P.S. — did you know my name is a water bottle brand here? I only drink me haha

Spotting Cultural Differences and Similarities Between France and the US

Some of the biggest things you’ll notice when you study abroad are the differences in culture between your home and host countries. Those are often the motivating factors behind taking the leap to study abroad.

One of the most obvious (and fun) is the number of carnivals. While I have been in France, I have experienced lots of historically rooted festivals and parades in celebration of holidays that still go on today. These celebrations highlight the history and uniqueness of certain cities and towns.

While the French may not like to change their traditional celebrations, they do like to have change. (I apologize for how bad that pun was, but I wanted a smooth transition here.) The French people like change – always have coins and small bills on you. I’ve heard that some merchants won’t even take a large bill if they can’t break it or if it would drain their coin purse. Coins are more popular here than they are in the US. This is especially true in the markets.

Markets are a major thing here, and are beneficial to broke study abroad students. They occur several times a week from mid morning to early afternoon. Here you can buy your fresh fruits and vegetables of the week for a reasonable price. Charcuterie and fresh fromage are abundant, and you can get a baguette for around two euros. This is a great place to grab you picnic lunch for the day or prep for a hike. Many host families do most of their shopping for the week’s meals at the market, as opposed to the supermarkets which dominate American culture.

In general I have found that people here keep different hours.  Many small shops close for an hour or so for lunch. Smaller boutiques also tend to close on Mondays. It feels like almost everywhere is closed on Sundays. This should be remembered before you make your lunch plans. In addition to this, my French friends stay out much later than I am accustomed to. For example, salsa night at the local cafe does not begin to get popular until the wee hours of the morning. As someone who prefers to go to bed at 9 pm, I have had to adjust to this lifestyle.

If you’re planning on studying abroad in the future, I’d recommend bringing along a really good pair of walking shoes. Aix has more of a walking culture with everything being so near in the city center. I have seen that there is reliable public transportation especially in between different, nearby cities because of commuting. Trains are more popular and run frequently. While you are traveling between places, you might notice how dirty the streets seem and how prevalent smoking is. It is not common practice to pick up after Rover. The increase in smokers was surprisingly hard to adjust to because I felt like I was always inhaling smoke while on my morning runs.

Cultural changes in the typical morning routine are evident as well. My host mother is emphatic about opening the windows every morning to air out the entire house no matter the weather. When I drink my tea with breakfast it is done so out of a bowl. This surprised me at first but I learned that it is typical for the French to drink hot drinks out of a bowl so they can dunk things (like pastries) in the beverage.

Being green, like at home, is emphasized. Families are more conscience of conserving energy and water because utilities tend to be more expensive in France. Turning off lights, unplugging electronics and taking shorter showers are strictly enforced. Going further with that, things are typically smaller here. Apartments, streets, cars, even dogs. People just tend to have less stuff.

I’ve heard that it is more common to talk politics here, but so far I’ve found it pretty comparable to back home. I think it really just depends on your interests. At French universities there is more of a divide or distance between students and professors. IAU in Aix is an American university so I have not necessarily found that to be true. College is less expensive and so are textbooks. For example, at IAU I did not have to buy a single textbook. All the required chapters and readings were given to us by our professors or scanned and online.

While differences in cultures are important to highlight so that we as people can learn more about each other,  students shouldn’t focus entirely on them. That can be alienating and isolating (it’s a part of the culture shock timeline). We should remember that there are similarities between cultures and we are alike in both our practices and values. That is what matters as it is what unites us.

-Elin Johnson, Aix en Provence

Chinese New Year and Spring Festival–過年與春節

My Host Grandmother at the Dinner Table, Jizhou, China

After my journey to Japan concluded and second semester kicked off, Chinese New Year was just around the corner. Seeing as I’m staying with a host family, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. About a week or two before the holiday, my host Mom informed me we’d be going to their house in the suburbs of Tianjin for the festival, to celebrate with relatives. A few days before we took off, my host Mom’s older sister and husband came, and soon enough Grandma, my host Mom, and my host Aunt and Uncle all took off to the suburbs as Beijing quickly became a ghost town, with most of its residents heading back to their hometowns to be with family. The drive was short and was mostly fine aside from Grandma getting a tad car sick. At one point, we even had to stop by a nearby elementary school to let her use the restroom, the poor dear. However sick she may have felt, she kept a calm demeanor to her, insisting we need not help her, modest as she is.

Host Mom Rolling Dumplings, New Years Eve, Jizhou, Tianjin, China
Host Mom Rolling Dumplings, New Years Eve, Jizhou, Tianjin, China

The house was very nice and the neighborhood seemed very new as well, although people were scarce, likely because the homes all seemed to be used as getaway spots for people working big-time jobs in either Beijing or Tianjin. There was enough space for me to have my own room, so I settled in nicely. During the first few days, I was able to spend a lot of quality time with both my host Grandma and host Mom, and well as my host Aunt (who’d come all the way from Jiangxi Province in the South to spend the holiday with us all). My host Mom is a lawyer, so she’s incredibly busy, working most weekends and going away for work almost weekly for days at a time. It was the first time we really got to do stuff together. She had a nice coffee machine there, so I took the liberty to make everyone coffee, which turned into a daily ritual as I put a twist on it, adding a small chunk of chocolate to each cup I gave out. We also baked some bread together, and on New Years Eve–as is tradition–we rolled dumplings and at them as the clock hit midnight as the New Years Extravaganza rolled on the TV, the nation’s biggest TV event of the year.

Family at the New Years Eve Dinner Table, Jizhou, Tianjin, China
Family at the New Years Eve Dinner Table, Jizhou, Tianjin, China

Each day during the afternoon, my host Mom, Aunt, Uncle and I would all go to the nearby gym and play badminton together, something I hadn’t done in a while but still really enjoyed. We also would go to the nearby markets to buy food and snacks, often blabbing back and forth about what to buy and how much. Each night, Grandma only wanted to do one thing–play Majiang. Being the first time to play Majiang, I was a very intimidated. While I could read the bricks with Chinese characters, many of them have separate symbols, which are different suits, much like cards. It took me a few days of watching and reading online before I had the courage to sit down and play, but it was really fun when I did. The game is fast-paced and always moving; you really have to be on your feet the whole time.

Despite her age, Grandma schooled us all most of the time. The whole experience was awfully immersive, and it was just so fascinating to see how the holiday works; the traditions, customs, food, games etc. all play a big role in the liveliest time of the Chinese year.



Bouts of Unfamiliarity and Experiencing Homesickness in the 3rd Person

YO, YO, YOOOO How are ya doin??

I found out people actually read these which is wild, but thank you for finding my life interesting 🙂

Today I want to talk about homesickness.

I would like to start by saying that I am not homesick. I have yet to experience it, and I love being here so much. If the air quality was better I would want to stay here forever — haha 🙂

But there are moments of unfamiliarity. For example, I have been sick for the past three days, and the first day I was really, really, confused. I don’t think enough people acknowledge that homesickness can be more than just missing people. When I was sick I missed the comfort and ease of knowing what to do when I need medicine, where to buy it, how much to take. You don’t have that comfort in another country. There’s lots of googling and calling your parents, and asking your RAs — I asked one of them what to do and his actual answer was “I don’t know, I don’t get sick” (hehe).

The other day I bought Korean medicine from the convenience store, and had a legit “F-it” moment because I didn’t know what it said and I was just so tired of feeling bad (not the best move I’m know, but google wasn’t working out). Bless my spontaneity because that random stuff I bought works wonders. It costs two dollars, and it tastes gross, but I feel way better than I did before. You can also get this drink in the hotboxes of all the convenience stores that’s kind of syrupy and helps if you have a sore throat. It costs a dollar at all stores but if you go to the smaller store in the student lounge you can get it for 45 cents. (I’m hitting you up with all the fun facts)

I am also experiencing homesickness from my roommates perspective. Sometimes I feel bad for how happy I am here when she is struggling to adapt to this new environment. She’s this fiery ball of chaos and I love her, and watching her home culture (as a Mexican-American) clash with Korean culture is…interesting. It’s not my place to comment, but I wouldn’t go into study abroad while in a relationship. The miscommunication that can occur across thousands of kilometers and different time zones is too much for some people to handle. My roommate is currently going through this and I know it’s contributing to her homesickness because she misses home, misses stability, and there’s this lack of it because her partner isn’t communicating on the same level, and therefore in turn, she wishes she was at home where everything could be easily explained.

Again, not the happiest post, but I’ll end on something happier.

First, if you come to Yonsei, go to the cafe on B2 in SK Global House — sounds weird but you’ll get it when you come here — the ajumma (older woman) that works there is the sweetest person you’ll meet and always makes sure to smile and wave whenever you come in. She definitely makes everyone feel at home which matters a lot for several hundred kids that are as far from home as they possibly could.

Secondly, my friends and I went to see a movie here and I HIGHLY recommend going. Tickets for the premium theaters are cheaper than tickets at home for regular theaters so it’s great deal.

Finally, I LOVE my life here. Sometimes I think about how this is going to change me in the future and I get really happy because this is such an amazing thing that’s happening and every time I experience something new, I am just overwhelmed with the desire to hold onto these positive moments.

So yeah! There’s today’s posts, I promise to talk about happier things next time :))

— Isis


After the Honeymoon Stage . . .

Hello friends!

School has just started. Although I was nervous about not being successful in my classes, with an extra touch of concern regarding my teachers and classroom size, so far everything is great.

I think the most challenging part about my classes will be that they are larger than the ones at Linfield, and that classes are in two hour blocks. Since I get distracted easily, I think I’m going to have to find alternative ways to stay focused. It’s also really cool because all my Professors are so high in their field that it’s kind of intimidating — but I know I will learn a lot.

I would have to say that my favorite thing so far is the food. Food here is super cheap and delicious so it’s really hard to be disappointed. There’s something called Korean shaved ice that I recommend to everyone. It’s super light and sugary but it doesn’t actually leave you full. I think if I didn’t have to walk everywhere I would be gaining so much weight!

There are a few things that I’d like to talk about. Once you leave the honeymoon stage there are a few things that you need to be aware of.

Just so you know the subways are the easiest and cheapest way to travel!
My friend Ian took this picture 🙂 if the seats are red don’t sit there because it’s for older people and the pink seats are for pregnant women. Also if someone older (50s and up) doesn’t have a seat — just stand. It’s rude to keep your seat if someone older could take it.

One thing that no one really talks about is the air quality. The air here is super bad, and everyday it has gotten worse. The face masks help, but everyday I get an emergency alert telling me that it’s unhealthy to be outside for long periods of time. I’m not super concerned, but no one talks about it which I think is weird because it is something that matters. I didn’t know South Korea had the 2nd worst air quality in the world until the other day. I think it’s kind of funny because they use lots of coal for production of goods, but the government said it was street vendors and people barbecuing that was the main problem —  that and desert winds from Mongolia and China bringing yellow sand to us (that’s actually true). People are protesting for more sustainable ways of production for their kids sake but the government doesn’t seem interested in making any changes.

Anyway, I figured people should know what they’re getting into before coming here. It’s great, just don’t forget your mask!

My friends and I at a Museum in Itaewon
Eduardo, Ian, and I at Leeum Museum of Contemporary Art. It was really cool and you could see both traditional Korean exhibits (like metalwork, pottery, and sculptures) or their modern art exhibit which contrasts Korean artists and Western ones.

Also something I want to talk about is the reaction of Koreans towards foreigners. If you pay attention, you’ll definitely realize that there’s a spectrum of how okay Korean’s are with foreigners. People have a tendency to stare and point and whisper, which you have to get over, but then you meet some people that really don’t want you there — this one lady in a museum was very rude to me and made me feel very uncomfortable — whereas younger college kids either don’t care about you at all, or really want to get to know you. Then there are the ones that stand out because they actually date foreigners which is seen as a really wild thing. 

It’s important to note that it’s hard for me to feel accepted all the time because people think I’m this crazy exotic thing (it gets worse the farther you get from foreigner-popular areas) but I think it’s worse for people that are Korean-American. I have a friend, Jake, who was adopted from Korea when he was a baby and raised in a white and Jewish family. He speaks openly about how he was bullied growing up for being different, but it’s hard watching him be here because where I know people already count me as different and approach me with that in mind, they approach Jake like he’s one of them, and when he can’t respond in Korean or has no knowledge of the culture, they push him away and laugh sometimes. 

It’s hard being bullied already, but I would say it’s harder when you are pushed away by people that you should have a connection to.

I know this post isn’t the happiest but I think it’s important for me to tell the truth. Not a lot of people want you here. It’ll be okay, I have an amazing group of friends that I wouldn’t change for the world — it’s strange how close we’ve gotten within the week I’ve known them — and that makes up for any animosity I receive from other Korean people. The best you can do is stay respectful, control how you act because you can’t do the same for others, and make sure you present yourself well. People don’t like foreigners because in the past foreigners were disrespectful. All we can do now is try to reshape their perspective.



Capitalizing on Craic: Travel and Activities

With midterms and a plethora of activities underway, it can be difficult to balance travel too. Luckily, us Linfield students have managed to do a bit of everything. As promised, many of us have gotten involved with clubs and societies here at NUIG. I was cast in a student written one act, Catraz Park by Sinead Ryan, and we just had our performance this past weekend! Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas have taken their soccer skills abroad and joined the women’s soccer team.  Lexi has gotten involved with the Mountaineer Club as well for some outdoor adventuring.

Spot Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas with the NUIG women's soccer team!
Spot Lexi Kerr and Carole Thomas in the NUIG women’s soccer team!

Getting involved on campus has been a great way to meet Irish students as well as students from all over the world. I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such talented individuals during the one act performances. Nothing makes new friends like show lights and a murder plot.

From the left, Eoin Mullins, Jordan Keller, Alisha Finnerty, Megan O'Neill, Pauline Smith, and Noel Minogue ready to perform Catraz Park!
From the left, Eoin Mullins, Jordan Keller, Alisha Finnerty, Megan O’Neill, Pauline Smith, and Noel Minogue ready to perform Catraz Park!

I was also able to support some of my fellow cast members by attending the Musical Society’s production of Pippin along with Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson. (Sorry, trying to be inconspicuous is not conducive to photo quality).

NUIG Musical Society's production of Pippin
NUIG Musical Society’s production of Pippin

Kristen, Paige, and I put aside the extra-curriculars for a weekend, however, to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland. We took an incredible Black Taxi tour where we got a taste of the city’s vast collection of street art and learned a bit about the political and cultural history that has shaped Belfast into what it is today.

One of the numerous peace walls within the city of Belfast, remnants of 'The Troubles'
One of the numerous peace walls within the city of Belfast, a remnant of ‘The Troubles’

After the tour, we wandered through the city, enjoying the beautiful architecture including numerous cathedrals, landmarks, and art installations.

Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland
Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland
'The Spirit of Belfast' art installation in Arthur Square, Belfast
‘The Spirit of Belfast’ art installation in Arthur Square, Belfast
Crescent Church, Belfast
Crescent Church, Belfast

Taking the recommendation of a kind pair of women on the train, we took a break from the bustle of the city to watch the Ireland v. Scotland rugby match. Having never watched rugby, I missed some of the finer points, but the local restaurants and pubs were packed with people invested in the excitement.

Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson strolling through a Belfast alley
Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson on the hunt for a place to watch the anticipated rugby match

After the game, we took some time to explore Queen’s University. The campus was absolutely stunning, and the brick buildings reminded me a bit of our own campus at Linfield. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover its Tropical Ravine, a garden paradise within the Botanical Gardens.

Queen’s University, Belfast
Queen’s University, Belfast

Most importantly, throughout all of these activities and travel adventures, wherever we are, we haven’t forgotten to have a bit of fun, or as they say here, a bit of craic!

Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson making room for silliness in Belfast
Kristen Burke and Paige Phillipson making room for silliness in Belfast

Jordan Keller

Friends Abroad

It has been wonderful getting to know the members our Linfield program, other international students, and Irish students while at NUIG. However, sometimes, it is also nice to see a familiar face, and I was lucky enough to connect with several friends who are studying abroad in other countries in the last few weeks.

My first trip out of Ireland took me to Alicante, Spain, where my close friend and sorority sister, Kristen Huth, is studying.

Sigma sisters Kristen Huth (left) and Jordan Keller (right) reunite!
Sigma sisters Kristen Huth (left) and Jordan Keller (right) reunite!

It was so much fun getting to hear about Kristen’s experiences and see first hand where she has been spending her semester.  Between catching up and her acting as my translator, we enjoyed the sights of the beautiful city, and I got to meet several of her new friends.

Strolling through town, Alicante, Spain
Strolling through town, Alicante, Spain

Not to mention, after several weeks of rain (think Oregon in the fall) the sunny Spanish beach was a welcome break. Although it was a little too chilly to swim, it was nice enough to spend the day on the sand, watching the sailboats and playing guitar.

An afternoon at the beach in Alicante, Spain
An afternoon at the beach in Alicante, Spain

During the trip, we also explored The Castle of Santa Bárbara, perched over the city. The castle has a long history and boasts a museum, restaurant, and most importantly, stellar views. Photos can’t do justice to the watching the sun set over the city.

Overlooking Alicante from the top of The Castle of Santa Bárbara
Overlooking Alicante from the top of The Castle of Santa Bárbara

Sadly, we had to part all too soon, but I’m looking forward to showing her around Ireland in April! One of the great things about studying abroad at the same time as my friends is that making travel arrangements with them is both simpler and has the added benefit of great company. Just ask Phoebe Whittington and Micaela Levesque, high school friends of mine studying abroad in England, who came to visit me in Ireland the following weekend.

From the top, Phoebe Whittington, Micaela Levesque, and Jordan Keller posing for a bit of silliness
From the top, Phoebe Whittington, Micaela Levesque, and Jordan Keller posing for a bit of silliness

Day to day life in Galway is great on its own. It’s a new city, my classes are great, and there is always something going on. But having visitors encourages me to try out the journeys I might not always think to take on my own. For example, Phoebe, Micaela, and I decided to venture out to the Aran Islands for the day.

We selected Inis Mór for our destination and decided to take a bike tour around the island. Now, I won’t say how long it’s been since I’ve ridden a bike, but let’s just say I was a little intimidated. I quickly got the hang of it though, and I’m so glad I decided to try it out! This trip provided the perfect blend of scenic views and outdoor exercise. I don’t hesitate to say it was my favorite adventure yet, a testament to what can happen when you try something new!

Micaela Levesque biking around Inishmore
Micaela Levesque biking around Inis Mór

Our target landmark for the day was Dún Aonghasa, the oldest stone fort in Western Europe. Dún Aonghasa sits at the top of a cliff and is a comfortable bike ride away from the docks. On the way, we enjoyed the beautiful coastal views, paused for some dramatic photos, and left a small mark on the island.

Our stone tower, one of many along this section of the Inis Mór coast
Our stone tower, one of many along this section of the Inis Mór coast

When we finally arrived at Dún Aonghasa, it was incredible. It was a clear day, so we could see the cliffs extend for miles around the island. The wind whipped at our clothes and whistled over the water, and in the distance we could just make out a bit of Galway.

The cliffs from Dún Aonghasa
The cliffs from Dún Aonghasa

The sun hid beneath and broke through the clouds in cycles, gracing the sea with light. It was truly a spectacular experience, and well worth the trip.

Phoebe Whittington at the edge of the Dún Aonghasa cliffs, or the cover of my next YA novel?
Phoebe Whittington at the edge of the Dún Aonghasa cliffs or the cover of my future YA novel?

Once again, the weekend came to a close, and I had to say goodbye to my friends. But even last year, I never would have thought I would get the chance to travel around Europe with them or share these experiences together. The memories we have created are what I came here for:  fun, educational, lasting.

Jordan Keller

My First Few Days

Hi everyone!

My name is Isis and I’m studying abroad in South Korea. I’ve been here for three days but honestly it feels like forever. The plane flight was extremely long but I didn’t, and still don’t, think that I’m in a foreign country. I thought there was going to be a massive amount of culture shock, but everyone here just keeps to themselves, and are super friendly and helpful if you need anything. On the student under an umbrella in the rainfirst day I moved in and met my roommate. I was most concerned with not knowing anything about my roommate, but I got really lucky and my roommate is one of the coolest people I know — and we have the same birthday! 

Since classes haven’t started my days are filled with just exploring the country as best as I can before I have to focus on school, and I have a really great group  of friends that are from all over the world to help navigate where we are.

Group of international students in a restaurant

There’s a really cool place about ten minutes from campus where you can get shaved ice and shop. I’m not a big shopper — and this place is definitely a giant shopping mall — but my roommate is (that’s her in the picture above) and it’s fun just exploring with her.

These are my friends! They are from Mexico, the USA, Spain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland! It’s really cool because I’ve known them for two days but they are already life-long friends 🙂

Inside the Myeong-dong store with Jake, a Korean-American student, doing face masks.
This is Jake. He’s Korean American and helped me convince everyone else to do face masks with us 🙂
Inside a Myeong-dong store.
This is us at one of the stores in Myeong-dong. We were there for 10 minutes before we realized that it’s a store for all the BTS members (they’re a really popular Kpop band)

Yesterday we went to Myeong-dong to shop to get food and figure out the subway system which, as an American, was really complicated, but luckily we have a lot of friends from Europe and they showed me how to navigate it. One thing to know about Korea is that they have shopping malls inside the Metro so you could walk for hours and not even go near the subway unless you know specifically which floor you’re going to.

Thanks for reading this far! I’ll make sure to keep updating everyone, and I just want to say that I think this semester is going to be hard class-wise, but I know I have a really supportive group of people here to make sure I’m successful.

~ Isis


Chilean culture through cuisine

fruit market

https://vimeo.com/319071861 — Some of what I’ve eaten in the last six months condensed into one mouth-watering minute ]

Simple, rich and natural are three words I’d use to describe Chilean culture, but even more specifically, the food they eat.

When people ask me about Chilean culture, one of the things I think of first is the cuisine. And it’s because, perhaps unlike the capitalistic and fast-paced mindset that most North Americans are born with, Chileans express their love through food and drink. Some of the most raw and pure things I’ve learned about Chileans and their culture I’ve learned when when I was sitting around a table at an asado (barbecue), eating the famous longaniza sausage from the central valley and sipping smooth Chilean red wine.

Since I started college almost three years ago, my relationship with food has become a little estranged. That, in part, has been the drastic change in diet from the home-cooked meals I grew up on to the mass-manufactured food I’ve had to eat my first two years at school. Putting on weight, becoming self-conscious, then working out regularly and eating flavorless salad for dinner was my cycle for the past two years. Until now.

At first I was shocked by the differences in culinary practices between the United States and Chile: here we eat a modest breakfast of yogurt or cheese and bread before school or work, gather for a grand and home-cooked lunch between one and three in the afternoon, eat a snack or small dish called “once” in the late afternoon, and then eat a combination of leftovers for dinner between seven and even 10 at night.

Eating later was the first thing that took awhile to get used to, and the whole city putting itself on pause for lunch time was another. Parents, kids, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles– virtually everybody– leave school or work to come home and share a hearty lunch. This was another thing that started out foreign to me, because at school or at home I rarely even eat lunch at all, but here it represents Chileans’ commitment to gather with their loved ones around something homemade almost every day. In the end, it demonstrates their commitment to conserving their culture.   

Another thing that caught me off guard at first is that Chilean food, by American standards, would be considered under-seasoned. Think about your favorite dishes in the US. Some of mine include sweet barbeque ribs, pasta carbonara and chicken enchiladas. All of these plates contain thick sauces and a lot of ingredients but in Chile, and although I’ve indulged in some elaborate dishes since being here, some of my favorite foods are made with only a few components.

Choripan: longaniza sausage in a toasted ciabatta bun


Empanadas vegetarianas: cheese, tomato and basil baked in a bread pocket


Tortilla: carrots, green beans or tuna sauteed and then pan seared with eggs to turn it into a frittata

Carrot tortilla (from the internet)
Carrot tortilla (from the internet)

Sandia con harina tostada: Watermelon under a toasted flour sprinkle

Watermelon with toasted flour
Watermelon with toasted flour

Humitas: Fresh corn mixed with onion and basil, wrapped in a corn husk and cooked in boiled water

Chilean humita, similar to a Mexican tamale
Chilean humita, similar to a Mexican tamale

Chileans eat simply, and they eat well, and part of that is because they buy the majority of their food at traditional open-air markets. When I think of Farmers’ Markets in the U.S., I think of them as a rarity or a mirage that we see once or twice a week before we consume our GMO-laced food from a corporate grocery store. But here, people sell their all-natural home-grown fruits and vegetables on the street, and they are simply delicious. The phenomenon of the South American mercado complex is yet another reflection of Chilean culture in the sense that most don’t worry about trivial formalities like permits to sell products, obsessive sterilization or digital record-keeping. They grow (or butcher) their products and sell them after a few minutes of haggling with customers, and that’s it. There’s only really one step in between the countryside and the consumer, and that is something so unique and unfamiliar from most people’s experiences in North America.

I’m going to miss the food at Chilean asados: the array of fresh and fermented cheese appetizers and the cuts of steak so rich with flavor that they only need a pinch of salt before touching the grill, the fluffy eggs cooked in hollowed out peppers and the sliced tomatoes seasoned only with salt and olive oil. But more than all my favorite Chilean foods, I’m going to miss watching my host parents prepare it mindlessly, my host brothers making fun of the way I cut vegetables, and all the laughs we’ve shared around the table.


The Importance of an Opinion

Hello again,

Sunset in Nice
Sunset in Nice
Carnival de Nice
Carnival de Nice
Carnival de Nice
Carnival de Nice
Carnival de Nice
Carnival de Nice

Linfield’s study abroad opportunity to Aix is unique because they pay for pre-orientation (called early start), which means you arrive a week prior to the first day of class. Over that week you can take a cooking class, go wine tasting, visit nearby monuments, get a tour of town, and get extra French practice. I highly enjoyed my time at early start and met most of my friends here during that time. I especially appreciated the information we received regarding French and American cultural differences.

During pre-orientation, IAU Dean Leigh Smith said his advice for us was to get a perspective on American politics and to form that opinion now. Everyone from your French friends and host families to your professors want to know exactly what is going on in the United States. One professor, and head of the school of Business and International Relations, then reminded us of the prevalence of American politics and the power of our elections on other nations. He is an Arab Muslim and a journalist. He described how recent policies and statements from the United States government had impacted his and his family’s life. He reiterated the statement made by the dean: have an educated opinion. Understand how interconnected we all are.

During the study abroad orientation put on by IPO last year, we role played what it would be like to be asked about American politics so we had a semi-prepared response. I was reminded of this at early start. People are going to expect you to be an expert on American politics even if you aren’t.

Last weekend I was in Nice for the Carnival de Nice. The carnival is a 160 year old tradition that celebrates the city. It involves a massive parade with floats and entertainers. This year the theme was cinema. The culmination of the parade, the curtain closer, was a massive float of Donald Trump styled after Pennywise the clown from “It.” In his hand he held a figurine of French president Emmanuel Macron. Running underneath the float were entertainers wearing costumes of paper boats. The boats were made out of executive orders and international agreements Trump has either made or bowed out of. Marching alongside the Trump clown, were various dictators also dressed as Pennywise but not as large. Directly preceding this was a float of Russian president Vladimir Putin carrying what appeared to be Trump (dressed in drag) in his arms over the Kremlin.

It’s humbling to watch the president of your country act as the punchline of a joke while crowds of French people around you laugh. And he will be.  American students studying abroad should anticipate this and know how they to appropriately react.  

– Elin Johnson