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.
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!
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!