Taking A Trip to the North

Helloooooooo

I have missed you guys! Unfortunately for me, I have all of the education getting in the way of me being able to write.

Today I wanted to talk briefly about the relationship between North and South Korea, truly the most controversial subject that you can get into! I think that foreigners (specifically Americans) have a very one sided opinion about North Korea because of the way that we receive news, history — maybe you had family in the war, maybe you just love democracy so much that the very idea of communism shakes ya to your bones — I don’t know. All this to say, EVERYONE  I talked to before coming here had some questions about North and South Korea, and mainly how I was going to stay safe, and why would I go since they’re such a huge threat.

While I totally understand these concerns, and yes it’s something that I spent brain power on (I also highly support being aware of safety), South Koreans, I have found, don’t consider the North a threat at all. The only time I talk about North Korea is when I’m in class, and outside of class it never crosses my mind that I’m an hour and a half from the border.

All this to say, I went to the DMZ! This was also the day that North Korea fired missiles in South Korea’s direction, so I thought the tour was going to be cancelled, but everyone was really happy and excited to tell me all the facts about the North without any concern that we might be in danger. I have also found that the opinion of the North is skewed because despite the fact that there’s democracy in the South, post Korean War had several painful dictatorships that turned many people’s attention toward the progress of their own country and not the threats from the North.

Younger people don’t really care since they’re living in a time where the economy is thriving, and for the most part everyone else is empathetic with the North Koreans and the way they live now. I think this is because people are taught about the history of the country as a whole and there’s quite a bit of nationalism here in Korea that contributes to their viewpoint of the North. Also it’s taught in class that the Korean War was a proxy war between the US and Soviet Union (this is a fairly consistent teaching but as I believe I mentioned, what you learn in classes here is heavily dependent on your professors personal feelings towards the subject) .

Fun fact! Conservatives here in the South care more about fighting for North Korean rights than South Korean rights!

Okay. So the DMZ.

I thought I was going to be scared but I wasn’t. It was a really sunny day, the tour guide was extremely kind, and (this is going to sound weird) but the North is so beautiful. Our second to last stop was the outlook where if you look through binoculars you can see people walking around in the North. It was a really weird experience to be people watching another country.

We also went to one of four infiltration tunnels that North Korea dug during the war to attack the South. It’s about 300 meters down, and the stone and earth has yellow and black on it — the North, when confronted about building the tunnels denied that they built them at first, blamed South Korea for building them, and then the second time they said that they were looking for charcoal (which is a weird/dumb excuse in my opinion). The story is kind of ridiculous, but the explosives made the earth yellow, and they painted the walls black to prove to the South that they weren’t intending to attack.

I don’t recommend that you go down if you are claustrophobic. I went down and was VERY stressed out that the walls were going to cave in. At the end of the tunnel though you can look through and see directly to the North. You’re 80 meters from the border at that point.

Remember when I said the North fired missiles? So the place I was most excited to visit was Happy Village, the nickname for Panmunjom, the village where the North and South come together for their summits. When you visit you can go to a room that’s half North and half South Korea and take a picture with a very rigid North Korean Guard. I was really looking forward to doing that, but when North Korea fired the missiles that was the one area that was taken off the tour so South Korean and American soldiers can prepare themselves for a potential attack.

After we went to the newest train station built off of the donations of North and South Korean citizens that donated on the promise that they will be united with their lost family members from the war (there were over 444,000 refugees from North Korea during the war and many of those families were unable to stay together). Due to the intensity of the two countries political relationships, the building hasn’t been put into use yet on the North Korean side, but you can take the train from Paju (where it’s located) to the heart of Seoul.

Isis

 

Birthdays and Trips

Hey hey hey!

About a week ago, I went to a celebration for Buddha’s birthday!

It was a massive later festival and it lasted for roughly a week. Here is Korean Buddhism is a large part of Korean society. Although it is the second largest religion (behind Christianity), quite a few families still operate under Confucian and Buddhist teachings. Needless to say, the festival was amazing. It was massive, several thousand people coming to the temple, to bow and show respect.

Throughout the day, there were several performances, from children, to grandparents, professional choirs, and people just wanting to have a good time. There were some performances that made you want to cry, and others that had fire shooting off the stage as a 10 year old girl sings a rock song. It was mildly overwhelming.

so pretty!
Lanterns after they were lit up at sunset. This was only half of the area

The “ceiling” was made out of thousands of lanterns strategically put together to make a different patters and pictures. Every single one had a different prayer from someone on it, and at sunset, the lanterns lit up and bathed the entire space in this beautiful golden light. All of the lanterns had different designs, some being simple, and some extremely elaborate, massive lanterns.

mucho cool huh
These three Buddha statues are massive, quite intimidating, and you can feel the energy in the room when you walk in

When you go into the temple to bow, you have to take off your shoes, go into a specific space (usually it’s an open space but they divided it because so many people were there) and bow if you’d like to. I bowed next to a very old Korean woman and she looked extremely happy that I was making an effort, so if you visit don’t wear anything potentially revealing, bow three times (if you’re not sure just follow the people around you), and lose yourself to the energy in the room. It can knock you off your feet a little bit — the three giant Buddha statues make you feel like they’re looking at you, and although it’s usually looked down upon, if you asked, people would let you take one picture of the room.


*FLASH FORWARD*

I went to Jeju! Okay I have a few things to say about my trip. Yes I had a great time. Yes I would go back again. Yes I never want to get on a bus again.

Allow me to clarify:

Jeju is an extremely beautiful place. It’s much more temperate than Seoul is, so the weather stays within a 60-80 degree range. The flight to Jeju was extremely easy, it takes about 50 minutes to get there, and they have something called the Jeju tour bus that will take you to all of the cool places in the North.

it was very cool
This massive bridge covers a canyon where three giant waterfalls are able to be seen. Fun Fact! Don’t go on it if you’re afraid of heights.

The main issue is that Jeju doesn’t have the best transportation system, they have busses, but you end up sitting on there for about two hours in one direction and that can be extremely exhausting. I know it’s not recommended that people drive while abroad, and I agree because I would die here, it’s so different than the US,  if you’re going to Jeju, having someone over 21 with an international drivers license will make your entire trip easier. I stayed in the South (I really recommend it) and my hostel was sooooooooo cool. Everyone was extremely nice, it was right by the ocean, the staff was friendly, they gave you breakfast, and they had an incredibly rooftop where you can hang out in hammocks, beanbag chairs, and couches. I picked a weekend that was supposed to be sunny, but it ended up raining for three of the four days I was there. The rainstorm was intense but also really fun — I enjoyed the fact that it was like a warm shower and was dancing in the rain like a crazy person.

why pickles though?
This is my favorite piece of art in the Museum. It’s just several different pickles and it’s to demonstrate how everyone in the world is the same, but we all have our own individual differences.

While in Jeju, I went to an Art Museum, the Chocolate Museum (it’s the second largest in the world), a Teddy Bear Museum (they tell history through different bears), briefly visited an interactive Kpop Museum (I didn’t think it was worth it, just listen to the songs and feel good), went to a beach to swim and surf, and visited these waterfalls that were in the middle of a forest, that is known historically to be the place where the gods went to bathe.

So. Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and it has been concerning for the Government that the population has gone down, and Jeju is also famous for the Loveland Museum, which students at Hongkik University (it’s pretty close in Hongdae) made, with permission from the Government, to encourage Korean couples to want to procreate if you catch my drift.

The entire park is hilarious, and shocking, and kind of freaked me out. I was torn between “wow what a beautiful piece of sculpted art!” to “WHY would anyone think of making that?” Everything was related to sex, and I was very confused because the country is so conservative and then you come to Loveland and there’s nothing that can prepare you for how explicit some of the statues are.

Wow! Rated R!
Speaking of explicit… just so you guys have an idea of what was happening there

 

Also the people that went threw me off because it would be like a bus full of very old Korean people going there for entertainment and acting like little kids, and then younger couples casually strolling around, to parents and their children, and then foreigners looking around with humor and shock. I think it was fun? I still haven’t figured out how I feel about it yet. I think if you find yourself in Jeju you should check it out.

come to LoveLand!
This is the only sculpture in the park that isn’t overly sexual haha. It’s also very sweet

On a more PG note, Jeju is famous for its black pork dishes, and tangerines. I don’t eat pork so I didn’t try any, but I heard it was life changing, and the tangerines I can safely say were one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had in my entire life. Very much recommend both! There’s also a really cool pasta place in the South that I went to two nights in a row because it was so good. The man was very nice, he did everything himself, from cooking, to bussing, checking people out — I really wanted to support him because he was so kind and so busy, and the food was absolutely delicious.

Thanks for coming on this wild ride of my brain put on paper!

Isis

Weekend Adventures

 

This was written a MONTH AND A HALF AGO so sorry I’ve been stupid busy


Hi everyone!

Hope you had a fantastic weekend. If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to the coming weekend already (and it’s Monday for me haha).

This weekend I went to an island very close to the North Korean border called Ganghwa. It’s about an hour, to an hour and a half bus ride north of Seoul. We left early Saturday morning and made it back around seven pm so it was a much longer day than usual.

Ganghwa is a much older area, you can tell the moment you step off the bus. The people are older, the pace of the city is much slower, clothes, style of buildings, everything. It’s kind of like taking a step back into 2009. It was really interesting to see such an immediate contrast to Sinchon, where Yonsei is located, a place filled with people all the time, where no one is really looking out for anyone else because you don’t have enough time, to this smaller, quaint town where the restaurant owners come out to comment on how cool you are, provide details on the food, and which ones they consider most delicious.

I can’t really tell which one I like more. I love Seoul much more than I thought I would, everything is exactly where I need it and there’s never a moment of pausing to ask “what else can I do” because there’s always something new you could be trying. Conversely, Ganghwa is a place where you have to have a plan when heading there. There isn’t anything that you could do other than sightsee and even then it doesn’t take long. The appealing part of it is that everyone seems much more interested in getting to know you (that might just be because we’re foreigners but whatever). It felt nice to be noticed by Koreans when usually you’re looked past or looked at with disdain). Majority of towns outside of Seoul are like this because so much money is pushed into the big cities, there is less support and infrastructure in smaller towns.

They candies were delicious! I don't know what they called but I keep looking for them
These very smiley old men took our picture and then gave us candy because they were impressed that we could say some things in Korean

We went to Ganghwa because of the rich history. In Ganghwa there used to be several palaces — most of which were burnt down by the Japanese — but some still stand, or they have reconstructed where the palaces would have been if they were once standing.

Ganghwa Island is the fifth largest island in Korea, and is considered the first line of defense for the nation, as every foreign power that has came to Korea — Russia, the US, Japan, and China — have all had to get past Ganghwa, considering it originally stood as a fortress to defend Joseon (that’s the name of the longest dynasty in Korea). The historical museums and the palaces aren’t as large as the original buildings of course, but it was very cool to see just how much history is in this country that I have yet to learn about.

you can also see all of Ganghwa from here!
This is where the largest palace stood until the Japanese had it destroyed in the early 1900s

There’s also a lookout where you can see North Korea but it was too long of a bus ride to get there and back in order to get home in time so we didn’t go (I think we’re going to the DMZ which is cooler anyway).

Also I would go when it’s hot because it was VERY WINDY AND VERY COLD AND WE ALL WERE DYING.

Thanks for tagging along,

Isis

Wanna know what’s up?

THE SKY! HAHA GET IT? LIKE WHAT’S UP? THE SKY! HEHE… NO? NOT FUNNY? OKAY..

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the long break between writing, I have been SO busy. Midterms are coming up so everyone is just living with their heads shoved in their books haha.

A few really fun things have happened.

First we had the Korean Cultural Fair — it was amazing! There were performers that came to Yonsei to showcase traditional music and dancing. After the event there were areas where you could try on hangboks — Korean traditional dress, and play games for prizes (I beat this kid Ryan in arm wrestling — go me!)

He also loved to dance! He had everyone dancing during the performances
Ian and I with one of the performers. He performed songs about homesickness and missing your family. Everyone was sad, but it was beautiful

Then after school and then school and then school and then school….It was sunny! On a weekend! When I had free time! Wow!

it also happens that the weather aligned perfectly with the Cherry Blossom Festival that’s famous in Korea and Japan 🙂

It was 22 degrees Celsius, everyone was at the Han River celebrating, and I decided I would put off the festival until Tuesday when I wasn’t bombarded with people — so my friend Jake and I went to Inwangsan — a place where you can hike up a mountain to see the wall that once surrounded Seoul to protect the palace.

It was so much fun!
Check out Jake and I seeing all of Seoul

It was amazing! The steps were old and you had to climb up weird ways sometimes, but it was amazing to stand on top of Seoul and just acknowledge how small you are compared to everyone else. I recommend it to everyone that comes to Korea — it’s been my favorite part of my trip so far.

While on top of Seoul, we met this married couple and their three year old. They’re in the Air Force and are stationed in Ilsan, and they invited us to come stay with them so I might do that one weekend haha.

My friend, Nouria. isn't she pretty?
This is Nouria! There were so many people but it was totally worth it

When I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival, I went to my friend Nouria. She’s Indian and Ethiopian (wow! cool! I’m Ethiopian btw), she lives in France, and she’s here in Korea attending Ehwa Women’s University (across the street from Yonsei) for her Master’s degree. I have the biggest friend crush on her — she knows where I can get Ethiopian food, she took me too a really cheap sashimi place, and she did my hair (woot! woot!). After we went to the festival, we went and got bubble tea then went dancing — it was truly an amazing day.

한국의 삶

안녕하세요 !

테스트가 끝났습니다!

Hi friends,

there are a thousand of these photos
My roommate and I on the first sunny day

Testing is over! Wow do I love not having midterms anymore. I feel like I can finally breathe again.

To celebrate, I went to HipHopPlaya, a Korean hiphop festival that’s thrown in Seoul every year. It was crazy! I was really close to the front, and I got to dance with one of my favorite rappers. I was there all day Saturday, totally got Sunburnt (I didn’t expect it to be hot) and had a blast. I could also rest in hammocks and just listen if I didn’t want to be close to the stage.

I’m gonna link a video, but I’m not sure if it’ll work.

I almost joined but they ran out of room
This is Alan! He came to Yonsei to compete on their fencing team

Lately the weather has been getting much better. I don’t think enough people talk about how many bugs are here, but it’s something I didn’t realize was going to be a big thing.

Heavier Topics

Hello~~

I wanted to talk about something that has recently been in the news and is becoming a more prominent subject in the world, but also Korea — sexual assault and harassment.

Before I came to Korea I understood its conservative status as being entirely opposed to religious differences, homosexuality, and differing political views. There was a period where I thought that I wasn’t going to enjoy my time here because I was so concerned about what might be, rather than figuring it out first. Now that I’ve been here I think it’s important to state that my views have changed a bit. Honestly my concerns were either very dramatic or misplaced.

Korea is still a conservative country. From what I’ve experienced though, the younger community is much more accepting to majority of beliefs, whether that be tattoos, foreigners in general, homosexuality, etc.

What is important to think about, something that I would say I was aware of but didn’t think about it too much, is the issues regarding sexual assault and harassment.

A few things to keep in mind, is that Korea is in a stage where there is a social battle to combat victim blaming, the stereotypical relationship is based on gendered roles, with this assumption that men are dangerous to women if they’re left alone together, and women are conditioned into feeling ashamed for “putting themselves” in a dangerous situation. I would also like to say that this is prominent in most of the world — I don’t want to single out Korea as if they’re the only country working through this.

For women specifically, there have been situations where women’s public toilets, changing stalls, and occasionally hotel rooms have hidden cameras in them. I wouldn’t say that it’s something that keeps me from using the bathroom all the time, but it is something that sits in the back of my head. Hidden cameras here have also become more subtle, some look like water bottles, battery charging packs, and flash drives. I don’t want to scare people at all, but I would say it would be a good idea to look around a stall occasionally.  Restaurants are safe and the police will do walk-throughs to make sure there are no cameras in the stalls.

According to a trauma center, everyday 20-30 videos are uploaded per day on various sites (I don’t know what they are but apparently they are popular).

Communication  between men and women here is indirect, it’s something that Yonsei will make sure you know at orientation since it could be considered a cultural difference for most people. That in mind, there’s this perception that foreigners are very open to people touching them, so I would just like to remind everyone that “no” is an amazing word that everyone should feel comfortable saying, and it’s okay if someone calls you something rude because they’re not expecting direct language. Never feel bad about prioritizing your own safety and comfort.

Thanks for making it this far (if you did), I know it’s an extremely uncomfortable subject, but there are too many people that are willing to gloss over this. I also don’t want to take away from the positives of this experience — I truly am having a great time here — just want to keep people in the loop.

— Isis

sorry this wasn't fun!
Enjoy me having lunch outside! It was supposed to be really sunny, but it ended up being really cold and cloudy so it was definitely one of the fastest lunches I’ve ever had 🙂

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

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.

Thanks,

Isis

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