So Long, Seoul, But I’ll Be Back!

It’s been about a day and a half since I’ve returned from my seven week adventure in Seoul, South Korea. In the 28 hour journey it took to return to the states plus the time it’s been since coming back, I’ve had a some time to reflect on being in Seoul and my feelings overall from the entire experience.

As I think all of my previous posts conveyed, I truly enjoyed myself while in South Korea. Of course, there were a couple days amongst my time that were more challenging and disappointing, but all of the pros that came with this wonderful trip outweighed those.

The most important aspect of this study abroad for me was having the ability to speak in Korean everyday and to deepen my understanding. I am so lucky to have been able to accomplish this task. I’m certainly not fluent in Korean, but I understand so much more  in comparison to when I arrived and have gotten that much closer to being able to comfortably go out on my own without any communication problems with natives.

With that being said, I look back on my experience in Seoul, South Korea with highly positive feelings. As a 13 year old, this is something that I never would’ve thought I could accomplish, it always felt like something completely out of the realm of possibility for me, but here I am with fond memories that will never leave me of a city that I never wanted to leave. I’m very thankful to have been rewarded this experience as it only pushes me and my determination to return one day for good. 🙂

I’ll leave my final post with a couple of my favorite pictures from the trip. And while my experience abroad has ended for now, the feeling of happiness sure hasn’t! Signing off!

 

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*Taken atop the mountain of Ihwa Mural Village, overlooking central Seoul.

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*Taken at Banpo Han River Park. The words at the top of the frame translate to “We will always shine like this.”

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*Taken at Namsan Seoul Tower, a tower that looks directly over all of Seoul. It’s situated near the famous Gyeongbokgung Palace, and is known not only for its incredible view of the entire city, but also for being a romantic spot for dates and couples. It features a “lock bridge” where you can buy a lock at the gift store, decorate it, and attach it to the railing that goes around the tower. This tower is also the shooting location of a very popular K-Drama “You Who Came From The Stars” (I’ve seen it – worth the watch!).

Here’s an example of the view at night from the top of the tower!

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벌써 떠나는 시간인가?

Hey everyone! Have you been finding fun ways to beat the heat of the summer? It’s been quite a boiling season here for South Korea; we’ve hit triple digit heat several days in a row, and it doesn’t show evidence of cooling down any time soon.

Besides becoming a lobster underneath the Seoul sun many a time, I’ve done a lot since my last blog post. Mainly, I’ve been in the classroom studying for finals that are to take place this week. Wednesday ends them all, so let’s hope for good marks!

In addition to that, I’ve been on several exciting and also confusing adventures. One of which is when a friend and I decided to visit one of the gates of Seoul. Here’s a fun fact; there are eight gates in Seoul, four main ones and four lesser. They’re named according to the directions they’re located in. So the four main gates are 동대문 (East Big Gate), 남대문 (South Big Gate), 북대문 (North Big Gate), and 서대문 (West Big Gate). The neighborhoods that these gates are nestled within are also named after the gates, and the neighborhood that Yonsei University is in is actually Seodaemun-dong! Unfortunately, only the gates for the East and the North are still currently standing; the West Gate was torn down during the 1900’s and the South gate was damaged by a fire. Here’s a picture of what the East Big Gate looks like!

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Another really interesting thing I had the opportunity of doing here was going to the Trick Eye Museum! It’s an optical illusion museum that’s located in the neighborhood Hongdae, about 30 minutes southwest of Yonsei University by Metro. I had actually learned about this museum through a music video way back in 2011 and have wanted to go ever since. It was really interesting! One ticket got you entry into an ice playground as well as the actual optical allusion museum as well. Here are a few of the pictures I captured!

 

Looking back on everything, it does make me feel quite a bit sad to be leaving behind what I’ve basically come to recognize as a new life for me. There are some things I’ve missed from the United States and that I will feel a sense of relief returning to, but I know that I could definitely fare without them if need be. In a short seven days, I’ll be bringing my collection of memories, funny stories, new K-Pop albums, new clothes, and contacts of new lifelong friends with me back to the states, and while I’ll definitely be happy to be back to familiarity, it will still feel a bit bittersweet in the end. I know that I should be looking on the bright side of things, as I’ve always tried to do. In just this short time I’ve improved my Korean so much, I’ve opened up, I’ve become more comfortable with myself and being in unfamiliar situations, so these are all intangible things that I’m bringing back to be proud of. It only fuels my determination to come back in the future for sure. 🙂

That’ll be it for now! I’ll let you guys know once finals are over my final thought towards my entire trip and its culmination. Until then! Peace!

오랜만이네요!

Hey guys! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted something here, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Last week just ended midterms here at Yonsei, so I’ve got just a short three weeks left here in Seoul. Although there is still some time between me and my departure, I’m already feeling sad and definitely not looking forward to leave. I finally made it here and checked a box off my bucket list, but I’m certainly going to have to find a way back!

In the time I’ve spent between my last post and today, I’ve not only studied a lot, but I’ve also met a bunch of new friends and explored new places! One day I decided to go to a Gwanghwamun – the gate that acts as the entrance to the palace situated in the heart of Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace. By the time I made it to the palace, it was too late for me to go in and really take my time to look around, but even the outside of it left me awestruck. Photos simply couldn’t do it justice, but here’s a few just to give you an idea of the beauty.

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In front of Gwanghwamun was also a beauty plaza/greenway with a statue honoring the great King Sejong, who began his reign during the Joseon Dynasty in 1418. As one of the greatest rulers during the dynastic Korea, he is known for having personally created the modern day alphabet of Hangul that Korea uses to write as well as advocating for stronger advances in science, technology, and agriculture. And as a little fun fact, the area in front of the statute is where the K-Pop group EXO shot their variety show, EXO Showtime!

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This wasn’t the only place that I visited; I also had the great joy to watch a musical performed at the Seoul Arts Center Opera House! The musical, 웃는남자 or The Man Who Laughs, was based off the book of the same name by Victor Hugo. Theatrical, thrilling, and comedic at times, this musical was amazing! I only understood a good 25% of it, but the actors and actresses never ceased to amaze me with both their abilities to act and sing beautifully. This is what the set looked like before the show started!

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여러분, 카톡 아세요? Everyone, do you know what KakaoTalk is? KakaoTalk, very commonly abbreviated to KaTalk among the younger generations, is a messaging and calling service in the form of an app on your phone. Through this app you can message, group chat, voice call, and video call people from anywhere around the world as long as they also have a KakaoTalk account. It seems to be the leading messaging service in Korea; if you don’t have KaTalk here, then you’re a minority! With KaTalk comes the Kakao Friends – a set of characters that are built in stickers in the app as well as personalities that are seen throughout the application. They’re also not the only stickers you can send – if you’re feeling like spicing it up, you can download stickers from your favorite K-Pop groups as well!

Personally, I have a fondness for the character named Ryan. He’s a lion without a mane, although at first glance he looks like a bear. He’s known for being expressionless, but still has emotions and a warm heart. I’ve visited two Kakao Friends stores, and had a chance to meet Ryan in the flesh!

I could go on and on about all the fun and exciting adventures I’m going on, but I’d say that’s enough for now. To cap off this post, I’ll share a couple more interesting facts about South Korea before signing off!

A very common and well-known method of riding the public transportation here is by using T-Money or Cashbee cards. These are cards that are reloadable and shaped just like credit cards or debit cards. You simply “charge” them at either subway charging stations or convenience stores with money and then tap the indicated sensor at subways or in buses to ride. I’ve gotten on probably a total of 50 different buses and rode the metro at least 20 times and have yet to see someone who wasn’t using a T-Money or Cashbee card to pay for it. While you can use actual money to pay, it is much less efficient and quick and will leave others behind you annoyed!

Another thing I’ve noticed here is the weather. Although I’m on the other side of the world, the weather feels exactly as if I were home in Alabama! On average we have been having high temperatures of about 92-97 and the humidity is high enough to create that uncomfortable sauna-like atmosphere. I’ve received alerts on my phone issued by the government warning to not do heavy labor outside and to drink plenty of water. Seems as though South Korea is experiencing quite a heat wave, but thankfully I’ve been seasoned to this harsh climate already! 😉

Last fact – this one is about the Korean language! I recently learned this through my Korean language class, and it’s definitely something I’m glad I tackled through a formal class and not on my own. Indirect speech, or retelling a quote or recounting something, seems to be quite complicated here. In English, it’s simple to say “she said ____” or “they told us ____”,  but in Korean the way you express that depends on what kind of sentence was spoken in the first place. Whether it was declarative, suggestive, questioning, argumentative, future, past, present – these all change the grammar needed to reinterpret the original sentence said. It can be quite confusing and frustrating, but slowly I think I’m getting used to it. 🙂

Alright! That’s it for this blog post. I’ll catch you guys up later when I’ve found more interesting facts and seen many new places! 내일 봐용!

오늘부터 한국어 수업을 잘 받아요!

As you can tell by my title, I’m hyped and fully charged into the Korean mood! Here in Seoul it’s currently the night of the 4th, so happy July Fourth from one side of the world to the other!

I’ve had such an amazing time since my last post meeting new friends, exploring new alleyways and sights, and starting classes for this semester. So before I dive into my homework, I figured I’d update you all on how classes started off and give some cool facts about Seoul and things that I’ve noticed in my two weeks since arriving.

For my summer studies, I’m enrolled in three courses that meet Monday-Thursday from 11 AM until 6 PM each day; International Management, Marketing, and a Korean Language course. Among the language courses, there are many levels to take – three beginner’s levels, three intermediates, and two advanced. I had my sights set on Intermediate 1 – after reviewing the syllabus and noting what grammar was being covered, I felt as though I would learn the most in that class without sacrificing having to sit through principles and ideas that I already had taught myself. Therefore, if you have some experience with Korean, you had to take a placement test to see what class you should be taking. This happened on the first day of classes, and was something I was super stressed about as I really wanted to place as high as I possibly could.

The placement test itself took about an hour and a half to conduct. We were given tests with both multiple choice questions as well as short answer. As we took the written test, we got called out to do an “interview” for our oral and listening skills. While I was aware this was going to happen, I wasn’t banking on it happening during the written test, especially as I was called first. I became very nervous in the interview because of this, as I didn’t have near as much time to prepare mentally as I thought I was going to have. That being said, I left the placement test once I had finished discouraged and jostled, almost betting that I didn’t place where I wanted, but to my luck and fortune, the results came out the next day (today) and I got placed into Intermediate 1 just as I had hoped!

I was a little intimidated at first, but as I settled into the class, I do feel as though I was correct in estimating the level I sit at and will learn a lot in the next six weeks.

So that’s been my school experience so far! But what about my other experiences outside academics?

Here’s a fun fact: South Korea absolutely LOVES coffee. It’s estimated that there are about 19,000 coffee shops in the country, varying in the types of coffee offered as well as atmospheres. Many of these shops account for singular, unique shops littered throughout Seoul, but South Korea does have its chains. One of these chains I’ve noticed is Paris Baguette. Just within my two weeks since arriving, I’ve spotted at least ten of these shops – two of which are within walking distance of my dorm on the Yonsei campus! This is what they look like – courtesy of Google Maps as I haven’t taken a picture of them.

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I personally have only visited about five different coffee shops, but I have high ambitions to try out many more during my time here.

Another cool fact about Korea: their money! The Korean unit of money is known as the Korean Won and uses the ₩ symbol. There are four types of notes and six types of coins, although three of the coins don’t seem to be very active in exchange. I find Korean money to be really cool because they are so easy to tell apart. Each kind of note is a different color and has a different length depending on its value. So the ₩1,000 note (~90 cents) is the shortest, while the largest note in use, ₩50,000 (~$45) is the longest. As for the coins, the most popular coins seem to be ₩500 (~45 cents), ₩100 (~9 cents), with the ₩50, ₩10, and ₩1 much less popular. This is because many prices end in double zeros (i.e. ₩4,500 or ₩3,200 or ₩17,900), so unless you are out of ₩500 and ₩100 coins, there is really no need for the latter three coins.

Here’s an example of what some of the money looks like!

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So this whole time I’ve been expressing how much fun I’ve been having, how exhilarating it is to finally see Seoul and experience being completely out of my comfort zone and in a country that doesn’t speak English predominantly, but every experience to another country, no matter how long one has wanted to go there, has some downsides.

Something that I still have trouble adjusting to that I find a bit annoying here is that there are almost no trash cans anywhere – outside or inside. They’re very hard to come by for some reason, and many of the receptacles I do find are for strictly recyclables only, and a majority of the time it’s 일반 쓰레기 – normal trash – that I’m looking to discard, not something that can be recycled.

Another thing that I’ve found odd is that it isn’t customary to throw used toilet paper INTO the toilet. That’s right – when you use the bathroom, you don’t put the toilet paper into the toilet, but rather into the trashcan. Seems odd, right? There is a reason – allegedly the water pressure throughout South Korea is quite weak, so people are asked not to put anything within the toilet when flushing to prevent buildups and to assure easy flow of water, but I can’t help but feel simply disposing of the used tissue in a trashcan is a bit unsanitary.

However, if these are my biggest complaints, I would say that I’m getting along pretty well here! I’ve only been here a couple weeks and I’m already dreading the time when I’ll have to leave. I’m still amazed at the wonderful opportunity I have to be able to come abroad and pursue a dream I’ve had for nearly half my life now.

Unfortunately, it’s getting a bit late so I should go ahead and get a start on my homework. As I progress through my classes and try some more new experiences, I’ll keep you guys updated! 나중에 만납시다!

우와~ 신기하네

안녕하세요 여러분들! Wow, or should I say the Korean version, uwa I can’t believe it’s been about a day since I’ve arrived in Seoul! So much has happened, even with the jet lag setting in.

All three of my flights would total to a 25 hour journey. And while I was excited to be going, it was also stressful and jostling to arrive in Seoul somewhere around 10 pm with just a couple hours of sleep under my belt and never having used public transportation – especially in another language – in my life. It was quite an experience! I was finally able to arrive to the hostel I’m staying at the first few days somewhere around midnight. It’s called 서울숲게스트하우스, or Seoul Forest Guest House. It’s quite cute and comfortable. Here’s a few pictures of what it looks like.

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This is the outside of the hostel; it looks quite small, but there are actually three floors to it! I’m staying on the ground floor in the 6 person shared room within the reception area.IMG_1406

It’s customary for people to remove their shoes before entering a home in South Korea. Many times, they have dedicated slippers for the rest of the house, and this hostel seems to be no exception. We leave our shoes on the grassy area and use the black slides they have provided for us for roaming throughout the hostel.IMG_1407

There’s even a cute little common area off the side of the reception room. My favorite part of the room is this wall piece that’s a map of the world. 🙂

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So what have I done since arriving? My program at Yonsei University doesn’t begin until July 3rd, so I have quite a bit of time at my disposal. I started my first day yesterday by aimlessly walking around (and getting lost) just to check out my surroundings. I ended up finding a really beautiful park, Seoul Forest Park, that had sculptures and artwork nestled throughout!

It’s pretty warm here in Korea, averaging in the high 80’s, so at some point I stopped and got a mint chocolate crisp ice cream bar and some water to refuel before heading back to the hostel where the jet lag set in and I passed out for around seven hours.

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I started off my morning today by taking a stroll down to one of the numerous convenience stores littered around – this time I went to a GS25, one of the most popular franchises here in Korea. I got some coffee before trotting out to go back to the hostel, but I stopped when I happened upon a 약국 (yakgook), or pharmacy. They’re similar to CVS or Walgreens, but much smaller and many of the medicines are actually behind the counter where the pharmacist is sitting. I have had a cough since last week, and went through about half a bag of cough drops just on the planes to get here, so I figured I could use this opportunity to challenge my Korean skills AND get something that will help my cough go away.

I was rough, very rough, at communicating, especially given I don’t have a wide expanse of vocabulary in the medical area, but nevertheless I was able to get two medicines for coughing (known as 기침, pronounced gi-chim in Korean) totaling ₩7,000 (roughly $6.30), and the sweet and patient pharmacist even complimented my Korean! To add to this day, I’m going to the Lotte Family Festival later in the evening and meeting up with a few of the students I’ll be attending Yonsei with for a concert. I’m very excited – I’ll be seeing two groups that are huge in Korea right now; EXO and Twice!

As before, I have also posted a video to my YouTube vlog channel dedicated to this entire experience. This is vlog #2, and goes just a bit more into detail and includes more information about how my flights went and walking around in Seoul Forest Park. To view this video, please click here. 🙂

Until next time! 조금 있다 보자!

안녕하세요 – Hello!

안녕하세요 여러분들, 저는 티겐입니다! Hey everyone, my name is Tegan. I’m a rising junior double majoring in Finance and Spanish with International Trade. This is my second time going abroad, but my first time going to study and I couldn’t be more excited!

As I write this, I’m a mere five days away from taking off to Seoul, South Korea. I can hardly believe it – going to Seoul has been a dream of mine since I was 13 years old, so finally having this dream come to fruition eight years later seems surreal.

During my seven weeks in Seoul, I’ll be studying at Yonsei University – one of the top three universities in the entire country. My program will last from June 20th until August 13th (cutting it close with the Fall semester!), and although I wish I could stay for much longer, I know my time spent there will be filled to the brim with excitement, different atmospheres, and a wave of new friends.

While I don’t have anything to post about now besides an introduction, I do want to let everyone know that I will be running a vlog as well on YouTube to chronicle my adventures and experience! The channel is called A Wandering Seoul and is linked within this post. I plan to upload about every 3-4 days there.

I’m ecstatic to share how things go during my time in another country on the other side of the globe, as well as see how everyone else’s study abroads are unfolding. 나중에 만나자! Let’s meet after a while!