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.
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!
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.