Classes at Ewha
December 2, 2013
Last week I took my first final and this week I’m preparing for a final group presentation. I still have a couple of weeks before I have to take finals but I have two group presentations between then and now. Working on the presentations I’ve noticed some similarities and differences in students and in my classes in Korea vs the US. This semester my classes totaled five; Korean Language, Strategic Management, Accounting, Intro to Psychology, and Human Resource Development. With the exception of Korean, all my classes are English lectures. I’ve noticed from attending Ewha Uni. and Konkuk Uni. last semester that the most common major of foreign students studying in Korea is business or international studies/relations. That could be one reason most of the English courses offered at both universities are in those two departments; there are a variety of other courses offered in English but the most popular among students are those in the business and international studies areas. My classes at Ewha have been surprisingly very similar to classes in the US. It may be because all my professors have either worked in the US or have a degree from a US university, but their fluency in English and the organization of the class make it seems like any other class at Stephens, with the notable differences being most students are Korean and class sizes average 70. Class syllabi are also similar; grades consist of tests, attendance and participation, and group project or individual assignments. A couple things that are different, are that there are no daily homework assignments and tests account for a greater percentage of the total grade (usually 25% so final and midterm together are worth half of the final grade). Another difference is that all classes use relative grading, which means professors are only allowed to give a certain percentage of each grade (for example in a class of 60 only 45% can get A’s another 45% would get B’s and 10% would get C’s) so it’s possible that one’s assignment is worth an A but if the quota for A’s is already met, the teacher would have to give a B. However, international exchange students are exempted from this rule and are graded using absolute grading.
This is Ewha Womans University, it is the view that would greet you from the front gate.
What you see is the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC). Inside there are classrooms, a theatre, conventional hall, restaurants, convenience store, computer lab, offices, and many other facilities. Many people, tourists, and students come to visit and spend some time here.
The Ewha campus is really beautiful, during the weekends especially many tourists come and take lots of pictures. There have also been film crews here to film.
Like on this recent day, a popular Korean tv show called Running Man came to film. Even though it was raining the students convened to get a glimpse of the celebrities that came by.
Cat café [고양이 카페]
November 25, 2013
One of the things I love about Seoul the most is the coffee culture. There are so many coffee shops here; you might see them more often than convenience stores. For someone who loves coffee (me!) Seoul is a great place to live or visit. There are also some special type of cafés called cat cafés and dog cafés. Now, what makes these cafés different from the rest? Besides drinking coffee, at a cat café you can play with cats, and at a dog café there are dogs. There is a cat café near our school, so I went with my PEACE buddy to see what it’s like.
When you walk in you must change into slippers, sanitize your hands, and there are lockers to store your belongings.
Then you proceed to the counter, where you pay a fee of 8,000 won (about $8; $7.55 using current exchange rate if you want to be exact). The fee includes a drink and 2 hours playtime with the kitties. After paying and ordering a drink, you are free to find a cat to play with.
There’s a board with all the cat’s pictures and info
While some cats were active climbing on counters…
others were shy to approach and tried to hide
others still were sleeping.
This one decided to cuddle up with my jacket
Instruction manual explaining cat behavior (in Korean)
Feline friends must be groomed periodically
Seoul Lantern Festival! [서울 등 축제!]
November 20, 2013
Remember what I said about festivals? Well, here’s another one, the Seoul Lantern Festival was held at Cheongyecheon Stream from Nov.1 to the 17th. It happened to be raining the night I went, but that did not deter me (or anyone else, there were a lot of people) from going to see the pretty lights. Since the title is pretty much self explanatory, I’ll just get straight to the pictures.
Pepero Day! [빼빼로 데이!]
November 11, 2013
Today, in the United States we celebrate Veterans day, however, here in South Korea Nov. 11 is Pepero Day. Pepero is the name of a snack.
So what is Pepero Day? Well, it’s similar to Valentine’s day; on Pepero Day you’re supposed to buy Pepero and give it to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Just like on Valentine’s Day, store will put up displays of chocolates and pepero.
Like this one
Buying many boxes of pepero may seem inconvenient, but there are gift sets of pepero boxes available as well to make it easier. They come in different shapes and sizes, some come with a bear, some with roses, or there are more simple ones too.
Pepero day is just another way for couples to celebrate being together and spend time with each other. In South Korea, couple culture is actually a major event. In addition to Valentine’s Day and Pepero Day, there are many important days for couples. Korean couples count their time together by days; they celebrate their 100th day, 200th day, 500th day and so on. There are even apps. for couples to keep track of all the important days. The 14th of every month are also special days for couples. February 14th is of course Valentine’s Day. In Korea it is customary for girls to give chocolates to the person they like on Valentine’s Day. The men then correspond the girls’ actions on White Day (March 14th) by giving them candies and flowers. So it’s like a second Valentine’s Day. Other days that couples celebrate include “Diary Day” (Jan. 14th), “Rose Day” (May 14th), “Kiss Day” (June 14th), “Silver Day” (July 14th), “Green Day” (Aug. 14th), “Photo Day” (Sept. 14th), “Wine Day” (Oct. 14th), “Movie Day” (Nov. 14th), and ” Hug Day” (Dec. 14th). With so many special days for couples, you might be wondering what about singles? Well, in Korea there is a special day for them too. April 14th is “Black Day,” the day for singles. On this day, single people will get together and eat black-bean noodles, to console each other for being single. Some people choose to dress in all black, hence the name “Black Day.”
With so many special days for couples to celebrate, it’s no wonder why there are always so many couples when I go to popular places or sightseeing.
Itaewon Global Festival [이태원 지구촌 축제]
November 3, 2013
Festivals seems to happen often in Seoul; Koreans really love to celebrate. At the Itaewon Global Festival, the reason to celebrate was, as the title says, global cultures. The main street near Itaewon station was closed for the weekend and stalls with food, activities, and merchandise from different countries were set up. There were booths representing China, India, Germany, Canada, America, Iran, Spain, Cuba, Paraguay, Peru, Italy, Mexico, Vietnam, and the list goes on. The booths emitted all different kinds of smells from the foods representative of each country which included kebabs, hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, paella, sausages, noodles, etc. you get the picture. Besides food booths there were stalls selling bags, jewelry, and many other trinkets that represented each country. For the kids there were many booths filled with activities such as beating drums, putting a world map together, face painting, and others. Scheduled through out the weekend were also performances featuring dances and other acts of different countries. Top all that with a parade and it made for a pretty awesome festival.
Here are some pictures
Gangdong Prehistory Festival [강동선문화축제]
October 26, 2013
One of the best things about living in a city as large as Seoul, is there’s never a shortage of things to do. Since there are so many events and festivals held throughout the city at various times, I thought I would attend a few of them. This weekend I went to Gangdong Prehistory Festival celebrating Korea’s prehistoric culture. The festival was targeted more at families and children, but I still had fun observing all of the activities.
There were many booths with various activities prepared (face painting, making jewelry, etc.) as well as selling various items (I even found a booth selling shampoo)
I found Sid!
Of course no festival is complete without the food booths!
There were many activities for the kids to try out. If only I was small enough to fit into one of those carts I totally would have tried it.
Displays of artwork done by kids
Traditional Korean wrestling competition
Performances were held as well
3 toilets for girls and 1 for boys, smart planning by the event coordinators
Yangpyeong Garumae Village [양평 가루매 마을]
October 12, 2013
With midterms just around the corner it has been a little hectic around here; even so the PEACE buddies arranged a day trip for all the international students to Yangpyeong Garumae Village. The village is located about 2 hours outside of Seoul and provides an experience people who are curious about the rural life in Korea. At the village we got to harvest sweet potatoes and make traditional Korean potato pancakes.
We left bright and early on a Saturday and arrived at the village around 11 a.m. Because there were so many of us, we were split into 4 groups which rotated doing certain activities. My group’s first activity was making rubber band guns. In the rural farms of Korea, before the invention of plastic toys, kids who were bored would make guns using tree branches. We were not given tree branches but our materials consisted of chopsticks, plastic ties, and rubber bands. There was also a half completed model of the gun to look at and the instructor explained the process step by step.
My finished product
Once all the students were done, we had a competition shooting rubber bands with out newly made guns at a stack of paper cups to see who could knock them down.
Since it was proving difficult for anyone to shoot the stack of cups, the instructor decided we should try shooting the paper cup on top of his head instead.
After lunch, as we waited for everyone to finish up some students grabbed a jump rope to pass the time.
Then, we got to ride a tractor that took us around the village, but as we waited for the tractor to make its rounds students entertained themselves by catching dragonflies and grasshoppers.
Next stop on our schedule was cooking and eating traditional Korean potato pancakes [파전] with rice wine [막걸리]. The name is misleading because it is not made from potatoes but is actually an egg and flour mixture with green onions. There’s different varieties (seafood, kimchi) but we just made the regular one. Traditionally, Koreans like to eat these pancakes and drink rice wine during rainy days.
The shape of it may not have been perfect, but it was delicious. Even more so with the rice wine and some tiny apples for dessert.
Afterward, we went outside to pick some sweet potatoes. We were even allowed to take a few home with us.
Before we ended our farm experience for the day, there was one last thing we had to try. One of Korea’s traditional foods is Tteok [떡]. This traditional Korean rice cake is specially prepared during holidays and other festive/special occasions, but can also be enjoyed as a snack on any occasion. Here at the village we got to see how it is made and even had the chance to pound the rice ourselves.
After pounding the rice, it is covered in soy powder and cut into small pieces.
It was a long day but tremendously fun, and I got to experience a new side of Korean culture.
Must-see: Hangang Park [여의도 한강공원]
September 24, 2013
Seoul, one of the world’s largest and most populated metropolises, also a popular tourist destination. There are many attractions to see so I thought should make a list of the places you can’t miss if your in Seoul for a visit. First up is Yeouido Hangang Park. The Han river is one of the major rivers in South Korea, and runs through the city of Seoul; it’s a popular spot and as a result there are various parks along the river. One such charming park that I recently visited was Yeouido Hangang Park. If you find yourself in Seoul, make sure you come visit this park and order some chicken delivery.
Once at the park, you can spread a blanket or put up a tent if you have one and just enjoy a picnic by the river. There are also trails where people can walk or ride bikes (and if you don’t have a bike, you can rent one).
Couple bikes are popular
If you get hungry, the streets stands have various beverages and snacks for purchase. Soda, chips, water, ice cream, beer, ddeokboki (Korean rice cake), dried squid, they have everything.
So remember, next time you’re in Seoul, grab your friends, family, boyfriend, or your dog and spend the day at Yeouido Hangang Park.
추석 Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving
September 23, 2013
So this past weekend Korea celebrated Chuseok [also called Hangawi (한가위)] which is the Korean Thanksgiving day so I thought I would explain what Chuseok is and the festivities that take place. One of the biggest and most important holidays celebrated in Korea is Chuseok, which falls on the 15th of the 8th month on the lunar calendar [even though Korea follows the Gregorian calendar, the major traditional holidays like Chuseok and Seollal (lunar new year) are based on the lunar calendar]. Because it is based on the lunar calendar the date changes every year according to the Gregorian calendar. This year (2013) Chuseok was on the 19th of September and next year it will fall on September 8th. Chuseok is actually celebrated for three days; the day before, the day of Chuseok, and the day after. For three days [this year Sept. 18-20] families will gather together to celebrate, so people don’t go to work and classes are canceled. What this means for Seoul is a mass exodus of people as they return to their hometowns in other parts of Korea to spend time with their families. I was surprised to wake up Wednesday morning to find the Ewha campus empty and really quiet.
Traditional customs of the Chuseok holiday include wearing Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), Charye (preparing traditional foods and memorial services for ancestors), Seongmyo and Beolcho (visiting ancestral graves and clearing the weeds around them). There are also traditional games that were played during this time such as Ssireum (Korean wrestling) and Ganggangsullae (Korean circle dance performed by women dressed in Hanbok), but nowadays most families just come together to spend some quality time together.
In Seoul there are many special events and performances held at the public parks, and palaces for Chuseok. The four major palaces, and folk villages will usually have holiday programs that include participating in traditional games and performances of traditional Korean dances and music. So, if you’re in Seoul during the holidays and don’t want to stay at home, then there are plenty of activities for visitors to experience the meaning of Chuseok.
People out and about at Gyeongbokgung Palace and Gwanghwamun plaza
These children were certainly enjoying their time
The trying on of traditional clothing was available
You could get your name written in Korean calligraphy as well
이대 Ewha Womans University part 2
September 16, 2013
One of the best things about going to the world’s largest woman’s university is that you don’t have to walk far to go shopping for some cute clothes. The area surrounding the university known as Eedae boasts numerous cafés , shops, and boutiques. Merchandise that can you can see a lot of walking through Eedae are clothing, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics. Then there are many cafés and small restaurants, many of which have free Wi-Fi access. Eedae is an ideal place to spend the day dining, chatting with friends or doing homework at café, and of course shopping. Eedae is really popular even among tourists because there’s a lot of clothing shops to choose from and some are really cheap too. Next to clothing, most stores lining the main street of Eedae are cosmetic stores. Korean cosmetics are extremely popular especially with Chinese and Japanese tourists because they’re good quality and have cheap prices. With the highest plastic surgery rates in the world, South Korea has this sort of obsession with beauty. It’s no surprise that there are cosmetic shops abound in Seoul and Eedae has its fair share of them. So, two things you will see a lot of when you come to Ewha Womans University; clothing and cosmetics.
Here are some pics of 이대
이대 Ewha Womans University
September 11, 2013
It’s been two weeks since I’ve arrived at Ewha W. Uni. or Eedae in shortened Korean. I’ve managed to get settled in the dormitory; the people from Ewha, or Ewhains as they are called here, have been very welcoming. There is a student organization Professional Ewhains At Cultural Exchange, or PEACE for short, that is dedicated to helping the international exchange students. Each international student is matched with a Korean student and they are called PEACE buddies. My buddy’s name is Sookyeong and she has a total of 3 buddies so our group consists of Sookyeong (Korean), Caroline (French), Ayaka (Japanese) and me (American). During the weekend we went for a little outing to the Han River, one of the Korea’s major rivers which passes through Seoul. There was a sort of water show, and we went to watch at night and even got chicken delivered to us to eat while we enjoyed the show. One of my favorite things about Korea is their delivery service, I mean I’ve never know a place in the states that delivered to a river. Any way, we spent a pleasant evening with our PEACE buddy and have more to look forward to in the future.
the main gate at Ewha
People waiting for the show to start at Han River
내가 돌아 왔습니다 I’m back!
September 1, 2013
Last semester I really enjoyed my time abroad therefore, I decided to make it last a bit longer and extended my study abroad period another semester. I will continue to study in Seoul this fall semester; however I have transferred to a different university. Last semester I studied at Konkuk University and this semester I am attending Ewha Womans University (and yes, I know I spelled “women’s” incorrectly but that’s the official name of the school in English). I entered the dorms a few days ago and have made myself at home. The campus is really large and beautiful, but I will tell you about that in detail later. For now, I’ve checked into the dorms, attended orientation and the campus tour, persisted through the Korean language placement test, and met my PEACE buddy (I’ll explain what the PEACE buddies are later too). Tomorrow is my first class, I’ve got Korean class at 8 a.m. I can’t say that I’m happy about the time but I’m eager to improve my Korean skills further and looking forward to the class. Right now it is late Sunday night in Seoul, so I need to get some rest to be ready for class tomorrow, but I’ll be back later with updates subjects like my classes, the campus, and life as an exchange student in Seoul.
마지막 날 Last Day
June 21, 2013
Well, the dreaded day has come. I finished my last final exam this morning, so all I have left to do is pack and say goodbye to people as I prepare for my return flight tomorrow. Studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea has been one of the greatest experiences in my life, filled with many unforgettable moments and memories. Korean people are really friendly (at least all the ones I met) and I enjoyed getting to know them, their culture, and explore the beautiful country of Korea. Attending school abroad was really different from back home, but nonetheless I am still a student so I could feel the similarities (namely stressful midterms and finals). I definitely have noticed differences in how I think and the changes that I’ve gone through living here in Seoul; the challenges I’ve faced and experiences I’ve had, have changed me into a more positive person. Now, it is time to say goodbye and I take with me all the positive thoughts and memories I’ve made during this time. I adjusted well and have come to be familiar with the city, I think I will have more trouble adjusting back home than I did coming to a foreign country. When the chance comes again, I know I will definitely return to Korea in the future. Studying abroad is an amazing experience, if the opportunity presents itself I most definitely recommend it to everyone. Whatever your dream is, if you work for it, you can only move forward. I’ll leave with a couple pictures from my campus in Seoul.
화성 Hwaseong Fortress
June 21, 2013
As the time for my departure from Seoul got closer, it was a bit difficult to go out on trips, since I was also busy preparing for finals and all. Even so, I found time to visit Suwon and Hwaseong Fortress. Hwaseong Fortress and the palace nearby was used as the Suwon government office when it was built in 1789 during 13th year of King Jeongjo’s reign. There is wall that goes all around the fortress and while it may not be as large as the Great Wall of China, it is still impressive.
제주도 3일 Jeju Island Day 3
June 21, 2013
The last day in Jeju Island started the same way as the previous, with breakfast and meeting ISA group in the morning. We checked out of the hotel that morning and again rode the shuttle bus to our destinations of the day. It was raining that morning, so it was a bit unfortunate, but it wasn’t going to deter us from our planned activities. Our fist stop was Glass Castle; a glass art theme park. It was divided into an indoor and outdoor section; since it was raining we stayed indoors at first, but eventually ventured outside to see the glass artwork outside.
By the time we were done looking throughout the park, it had stopped raining. We finished earlier than planned so we had some free time in which we headed to Jungmun Tourist Resort Complex. There are many places to visit in the complex; Yeomiji botanical garden, the Teddy Bear Museum, Believe-it-not museum and many more interesting places. We had lunch and with a few of the other students I opted to visit Chocolate Land. Chocolate Land is a museum that exhibits different items made of chocolate, there’s also a chocolate school where you can learn how to make your own chocolate and there are walls where you the chocolate is separated according to continent.
The third item on our itinerary was Jusangjeolli Cliff. The view from the cliff is breathtaking and there are cube and hexagon pillars that were made from the lava during a volcano eruption.
The last places we visited were Cheonjiyeon Falls and Jeongbang Falls. Cheonjiyeon is natural monument no. 163 and Jeongbang is the only water fall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. Neither of the waterfalls were extremely high or impressive but they were still pleasant to look at.
The falls marked the end of our trip to Jeju since we had to make it back to the airport for our flight at 7 pm. Jeju was a pleasant experience, I hope I can come back and see all the places Jeju has to explore.
제주도 2일 Jeju Island Day 2
June 14, 2013
Day 2 on Jeju Island started bright and early at 7 a.m. I had breakfast at the hotel and then our group met at 8 a.m in the hotel lobby. When all of the people in our group were present, we made our way to the bus that would take us to our fist destination on our agenda. It was an hour drive to reach the vicinity of the places we were going to visit today. Our fist stop was Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. The peak is the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred over 100,000 years ago. At the top their is a huge crater, the SE and north sides of the peak are cliffs, and on NW side there is a grassy hill where people come for walks and horse riding as well.
Pics from Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
We spent a couple hours at the peak and then we left and went to Seopjikoji. Seopjikoji has been used as a filming site for Korean dramas before and sometimes you can see older Korean women catching seafood in the sea. The view of the sea from this place is like a postcard and there’s a lighthouse to go see as well.
Women catching seafood
After a brief rest for lunch, we proceeded to Pyoseon Beach. This beach was really different from Haeundae in Busan. Pyoseon Beach is large but it wasn’t crowed with people. The weather was good that day though, and there were some families at the beach.
We left our traces on the sand
The last place on our itinerary was Seongeup Folk Village. The village is small but shows a great deal of the culture of the people of Jeju Island from the past. Similar to Bukchon in Seoul, Seongeup Folk Village is a tourist attraction but it is also a neighborhood where people live in the actual houses.
Nearby there was a place to ride horses and of course our group didn’t miss the chance to try it out.
Once we were done with horse riding it was time to call it a day. Jeju is a really pretty island and there are many more places to see that the ones we saw today.
제주도 1일 Jeju Island Day 1
June 12, 2013
As the end of my semester in Seoul draws near, ISA took us on our last excursion of the semester to Jeju Island. A province of South Korea, Jeju is a volcanic island as well as Korea’s largest island. It is a charming island known for having an abundance of wind, rocks, and women (there are more women than men living on the island). In 2002 it served as a host for the Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup and is a great tourist destination. It’s like the Hawaii of Korea. To this island, our ISA group came to stay for 3 days and 2 nights. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and after checking into our hotel, and eating dinner, we went to see some nearby places. The two places we were able to visit on the first day were Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock) and Yongyeon Pond. Yongduam is a rock that supposedly looks like a dragon and was shaped by wind and waves over thousands of years. There are also many stories of how it was formed. One is that a dragon was shot down by a mountain god with an arrow as the dragon attempted to escape with stolen jade from Mt. Halla. After leaving Dragon Head rock we visited Yongyeon Pond, where freshwater and saltwater meet. Yongyeon Pond has its own legend of being a place frequently visited by envoys of the Dragon King. Day 1 on Jeju was short, but the places we visited were scenic with great views of the sea.
Pics from Dragon head rock
At Yongyeon Pond
보산 2일 Busan Day 2
June 5, 2013
The next day started with breakfast. We had to meet our ISA adviser at 10 a.m. to checkout of our hotel, so in absence of time we ate at the closest location to our hotel, which happened to be a Starbucks.
The hotel we spent the night in
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed to the underground subway station. Compared to the schedule from the day before, today was relatively short; for today’s itinerary we were headed to Taejongdae Resort Park. It took close to an hour to get there from our hotel; the subway ride was only about 10 minutes then we transferred to a bus. [Side note, if you ever come to South Korea, I suggest you stick to the subway for transportation and don’t use the bus. Buses in Korea can be rough; for a foreigner with no experience on Korean buses, it can be tricky. And by tricky I mean you need most of your energy to keep your balance especially when the bus turns or changes lanes, seriously Korea has some crazy drivers.] Finally after a long and terrible bus experience we arrived at Taejongdae Resort Park. Taejongdae is a nice neighborhood, similar to other places I have visited; it is right by the water so the smell of the sea permeates the air.
After a 20 min. wait, Our group boarded a boat; it was a small boat sort of like a ferry. The boat ride took about 30 mins. and we were dropped off at an island with a lighthouse. We spent a bit of time at the lighthouse, and climbed to the top. [It seems everywhere I go, I'm always climbing stairs.] It was tiring to climb to the top, but the view was pretty, even if it was very foggy that day.
There were many people on the boat, mostly older Korean women and men
The view from the boat ride
There were some ladies selling fresh seafood
What better that to eat fresh seafood cooked just for you
Would you them in a tent, would you eat them on a rock
Views from the lighthouse
By the time we finished looking around the lighthouse it was around 1 p.m. It would take us another hour to get to the train station and our train left at 3:30 p.m. so the only thing for us to do was head back to the train station, get some lunch, and board the train back to Seoul. And like this my trip to Busan came to an end.
부산 1일 Busan Day 1
June 3, 2013
Busan is South Korea’s second largest city following Seoul, and I got a chance to visit as part of an ISA’s excursion. The city is located on the southeast tip of South Korea; Because it is next to the coast, Busan boasts numerous ports and beaches. My day started at 6:30 a.m. as I got up to shower, get dressed, and pack my items in my bag. Our group was transporting to Busan via the KTX (Korea Train eXpress) which is Korea’s high-speed rail system. To get to the KTX station in Seoul I had to take the subway from Konkuk University Station which took about 50 mins. so I finally arrived at the KTX station around 9 a.m. I had plenty of time to grab something to eat before our train departed at 9:45 a.m.
Many people at the train station
The train ready to depart from Seoul
The train left promptly at its scheduled time of 9:45 a.m. and we were able to arrive at Busan at 12 p.m. noon.
Busan train station and the charter bus used hired ISA
The plaza in front of Busan station
We ate lunch at China Town in front of Busan station
We were given an hour to have lunch and then proceeded to our first destination in our itinerary, Haeundae Beach. Haeundae Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the country. Many visitors come every year from Korea and other countries as well.
Next to the beach there was also an aquarium for people to visit. Walking along the beach one would be able to see people performing as well.
We lingered at the beach for a couple of hours but we could not stay long since we were only staying in Busan for 2 days and 1 night and we did not have a lot of time. Our next destination was Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Most temples in Korea are situated on the mountains but this one is unique because it is located next to the sea.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
No temple is complete without giant statues of Buddha
Tiny Buddha statues adorned the rocks outside the temple
Inside the main temple building
People can bathe the small Buddha and ask for something
This is Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Seawater Great Goddess Buddha), people come and pray
This is the Buddha of academic achievement. If you rub it you get good grades.
After we left the temple, we made our way to Jagalchi Market. Busan is known for its seafood and Jagalchi Market is Korea’s largest seafood market. Since it was close to 7 p.m. at night, our group first had dinner in the local shopping area and afterward we walked through Jagalchi Market. In the market you’ll find many older ladies selling a variety of fish, squid, octopus, crabs, eels, skate, a few things that I could not recognize but looked like pink inflated worms, and even whale meat! Yes, I said whale meat. There were stalls with chairs and tables throughout the market so you could pick your fish, or other sea creature, give it to the lady and she would cook it for you. Like this you can enjoy the taste of Busan seafood.
Before heading to the market we stopped for a snack, Hoddeok
Hoddeok is basically fry bread filled with sunflower seeds
By this time it was getting close to 10 p.m. and we were tired from the long day, so we headed to out hotel. It was time to recharge our energy with sleep so we could look forward to the next day.
한국 회사 방문 Visiting Korean Companies
June 2, 2013
As part of my Understanding Global Cultures class, I have gotten the opportunity to visit two Korean companies. The first, is quite well-known throughout the world, the second is also a global company but with less popularity than the first. The two companies I got to visit as part of a class field trip were Samsung and Arirang. During my trip to Samsung our class was given a tour of the building and the guide also talked about some of their new products, and the process of developing technologies. We also listened to a short presentation about the company which talked about their history and their current position in the global market.
Outside Samsung D’light center
Inside the building
The second company I visited was Arirang. Arirang is a broadcasting company based in Korea. They show TV programming in Korea in English and they also have channels all over the world. The Korean channels shows a variety of programming from News and Entertainment shows to cooking shows all in English. Arirang also has a radio channel in English. Global Arirang channels can be found in many countries especially in Spanish speaking countries and Arab countries.
the control room at Arirang HQ
One of the rooms they used for broadcasting
Recording of a radio broadcast
Radio broadcasting room
A live radio broadcast room
Visiting these two companies was a neat experience and I’m glad I got the opportunity. Maybe one day I will work for a global company like Samsung and Arirang.
건국대학교 축제 Konkuk University Festival
May 16, 2013
Yesterday, May 15, was our university’s foundation anniversary, and how does Konkuk celebrate 82 years of existance? If you guessed festival, you would be right. The Konkuk University Festival occurs every year on the day of it’s foundation anniversary. This is typical of Korean universities. Schools will celebrate their foundation day with a festival every year. Konkuk’s festival typically last 2-3 days. This year the official dates of the festival were Tue. May 14 to Thur. May 16. During this period there are generally no classes, the final decision still rests with the professor therefore, some students still have class during this time. I, unfortunately, had two classes in which the professors did not wish to cancel class during the festival, however, the classes finished early so I still had time to enjoy the festival afterward. The festival, which was student organized, included many booths serving food and drinks as well as various performances throughout the day. The food booths featured a variety of food from barbeque, chinese food, nachos, smoothies, fresh pineapple, and even lemonade stands for relatively cheap prices. From every direction, students would shout and attract attention to their booth in order to persuade passerby to stop and purchase the items they were selling.
Students cooking and selling food
I tried patbingsu(shaved ice) and some candied fruits
Throught the day there were also performances put on by students. The students would show their talents in dance, song, and even comedy performances.
A group of students dancing to Psy’s “Gentleman”
The Simpsons family made an appearance
A traditional event that happens during the anniversary festival at Konkuk boat rides. At Konkuk there’s a lake in the middle of campus, normally it is off limits to people due to safety reasons; there was a student before who went into the lake while being very drunk and drowned (true story). In the middle of the lake there is a small island; there’s a story about how a couple went to the island and fell in love so, during the festival there are boats that couples can take and visit the island. There are many couples that do this during the festival but it’s not limited to just couples and many students will take a boat with friends and go see the island.
There are many fun activities and events to do during the daytime at the festival, but it’s when the sun goes down that the party really gets started. There were many tents that were empty during the day, but during the night they were filled with students drinking and blaring music. Some food stands open during the day closed and mini bars were set up among the food stands with students serving as bartenders. While students are not allowed to have alcohol in the dormitories, during festivals the school will provide you with alcohol; cocktails, beer, soju, they had everything prepared. The festival at night time was dramatically different from the day, but still just as much fun. Because it was so dark, sadly, I couldn’t take good pictures of the night scene at the festival.
As soon as the sun sets students flock to these stands to drink
Each day of the festival ends with a K-pop concert. The concert features some not so well known people as well as famous Korean artists. This year’s famous acts were Exid, Beenzino, Girl’s Day, and Epic High; If you’re a K-pop fan you might have heard of these names. Many people came to enjoy the concert.
The stage during the day
and during the night
What I learned from this experience; Korean anniversaries in university are a big deal and Koreans love to drink. Festivals lasting 2 or 3 days are held every year to celebrate the foundation anniversary of a university and they’re replete with entertainment, food, music, and beer. It’s not only Konkuk University who celebrates in this manner, but the other large universities in Seoul do it as well. For the next few weeks, festivals like this one will be occurring throughout universities in Seoul; maybe I should go visit another university’s festival and compare. What do you think?
What better way to end a festival than with fireworks
경주 My trip to Gyeongju
May 13, 2013
Last weekend I went to Gyeonju as part of an ISA excursion. Gyeongju is located southeast of Seoul and takes about 4 hours to get there by bus. Our group departed Seoul at 7am on Saturday and we arrived at Gyeongju at 11am. The ride to Gyeongju was long but the scenery was filled with mountains so it was very picturesque. Because of the mountains there were also many tunnels that we passed through. Since it was a long ride, I brought a book to entertain me, but I mostly napped during the 4 hours it took to arrive at Gyeongju.
Mountains on the road to Gyeonju
We stopped at a rest stop after 2hrs
When we arrived at Gyeongju the first place we visited was Seokguram Grotto. We still had to travel another 50 minutes upon entering Gyeongju to arrive at Seokguram, so we did not get off the bus until approximately 12pm. Seokguram Grotto was built by Prime Minister Kim Dae-seong in 751 and is designated as National Treasure no. 24 in Korea and named a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1995. Inside the grotto there is a giant Buddha statue; it is carved out of granite and is surrounded by other figures. It was really magnificent to look at, but unfortunately pictures weren’t allowed, so I wasn’t able to capture it.
Entrance to Seokguram
The stone designating Seokguram as a World Heritage site
We made our way up to Seokguram Grotto
The grotto was colorfully decorated with many lanterns
Inside is the granite Buddha
Lanterns and a mineral water fountain at Seokguram
Our second stop was Bulguksa Temple. Like Seokguram, it was built in 751 by Kim Dae-seong and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The original temple was burned down during the Japanese invasion; it was then rebuilt in the years 1969-73.
Entrance to Bulguksa
These four warriors guard the entrance
Dabotap Pagoda at Bulguksa national treasure no. 20
After a brief pause for lunch, our third stop was Gyeongju National Museum. The main hall was unfortunately closed for renovation, but I was able to see the art hall other smaller exhibitions halls. The Divine Bell of King Seongdeok is also found here.
Largest bell in Asia the Divine Bell of King 성덕
Miniatures of the two pagodas in Bulguksa are at the museum
Inside the art hall
After we left the museum we headed to Anapji pond. This is where the royals held parties back in the day.
One of the pavilions at Anapji pond
The pond and some fishes we found in the pond
Our last last of in our tour of Gyeonju was Cheomseongdae Observatory. Cheomseongdae Observatory is National Treasure No. 31 and is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia believed to have been built somewhere between years 632-647 during the reign of Queen Seondeok in the Silla period.
The dunes in the background are actually tombs of past kings
Near the observatory was a large park. There were many trails that were great for bike riding. We couldn’t venture too far on foot, but we managed to come across some pretty flowers in the park.
After a long day, it was time to go home. However, we could not leave before first trying the famous Gyeongju bread. It is a bread filled with red beans inside. Does it sound weird? It was really delicioius and sweet, but not extremely sweet. With Gyeongju bread in our hands our group boarded the bus for the 4 hour long ride back to Konkuk campus. It was a long day but we got to see many cool places, so it was fun.
중도에서! Halfway Checkpoint!
April 28, 2013
Midterms are done, so now is time to rest; well for a short period anyway. Today, the last Sunday of April marks the 9th week since I left the US, which means I have 8 weeks left until the semester ends. The first half of the semester really flew by and the second half will likely be the same. With classes and the planned excursions it feels like I have no time at all. Oh, I forgot to mention my new volunteer teaching job that is sure to take up my time. Last week I started working at Konkuk Middle School, helping students with their English. If you had asked me two months ago if I would ever consider being a teacher, my answer would most probably have been no. But now, I’m teaching English to Korean middle schoolers. I have 6 students, and from now until the end of the semester, I will meet them once a week on Wednesdays for an hour and a half. I met them for the first time last Wed. so I can’t tell you much about them yet. For the first day they listened really well, but were a bit shy when speaking. If I’m lucky, they’ll continue to listen well and not cause trouble, but who knows how things will change in the next few weeks. It’s my first time attempting to teach in a classroom so it’s a learning experience, but I think it will make the rest of my stay here interesting. In the next two months I will be taking excursions to Gyeonju, Busan, and Jeju Island. I’m certainly looking forward to the excursions and the rest of this semester.
저는 학생이에요 [Jeonun haksaengieyo] Student life
April 21, 2013
Another week has gone by and next Monday will mark my eighth week in Seoul. Life at Konkuk University is not too different from my life at Stephens. I may be living in a different country right now but I’m still a student. This semester I’m taking five classes; Korean Language 1, Trend Study, Identity Design, Understanding Global Culture, and International Management. Excluding Korean class, two of my classes are taught completely in English, and two are mostly English but sometimes the professor will change to speaking in Korean. Even though, part of the class is in Korean, I still understand most of the material covered in the lecture so the language barrier isn’t that bad.
The lectures aren’t too different from back home, I sit in class and listen, and that’s it. One aspect that is different from attending school in the US is that professors here don’t really give out homework assignments. Aside from reading chapters out of the textbook for a class, there are no extra homework assignments. What makes up the grade for a class is midterm, final exam, participation, attendance; if there is a homework assignment calculated into the grade it is usually 10% or less. The midterm and final are the most important part of the grade usually worth between 20 to 40% of total final grade. Another aspect of Konkuk U. that is different from Stephens is the class length. At Stephens classes are divided into 1 hr. or 1 1/2hr blocks, and meet 2 or 3 times a week usually, but here at Konkuk my classes (with the exception of Korean class) meet only once a week for 3 or 4 hours at a time. At Stephens there may be certain courses that might last that long, but not all, however, at Konkuk, it seems to be the norm. While there may be some classes that meet 2 twice a week, the majority will only meet once a week for an average of 3 hrs. at a time. At first, I liked the idea of having class only one time a week, but as I sit through a 4 hr. lecture class, I’m thinking I prefer classes at Stephens.
In each of my classes there are a variety of students, in a couple there are a majority of Korean students with some international students, in others, the amount of Korean vs. international students is pretty even. The majority of exchange students at Konkuk are from China so in the classes where there are more international students, it is usually that there are many Chinese students in the class. At this time, students are preparing for midterms. I still can’t quite believe that half the semester has already gone by, but that’s the reality. Starting Monday is midterm week and I have 5 midterms to study for. Only one of those is a traditional test, two of my midterms are in-class essays, and the other two are presentations. So, while Stephens is preparing for graduations and the end of the school year, I’m preparing for midterms…. To leave on a brighter note, it is cherry blossom season in Korea!
등산! [Deungsan!] Mountain Climbing!
April 18, 2013
My seventh weekend in Seoul has passed. Are you wondering what I do on the weekends in Seoul? Well, places to visit and activities are plentiful in Seoul, and I certainly have enjoyed myself going out and exploring Seoul, but for this post I will talk about the trip I took this past weekend to Dobongsan [도봉산 ]. San [산] in Korean means mountain and Dobongsan is a granite mountain that is popular among hikers. The scenes from Dobongsan are indeed dramatic; it’s surrounded by valleys and temples set in the valleys. Dobongsan is welcoming to anyone, whether expert or novice hikers; there are 37 different routes to climb, so one can choose the most appropriate according to their experience level. The trip to Dobongsan that I was a part of was organized by ISA [the program provider with whom I came to Seoul with] and consisted of about 20 persons. Since most of us had little to no experience climbing mountains, we took one of the beginner trails which was filled with many people; mostly older Korean men and women with only some younger couples and kids. Climbing Dobongsan has to be one of the most physically challenging tasks I’ve undertaken in my life. It took nearly 3 hours to climb to the top and another 2 hours to make it back down. There were several times along the way where I felt out of breath and wondered why I had agreed to come on the trip, but in the end I thought that my efforts were worth it. There were a couple of points where the scenery became clear and I could see the city of Seoul which seemed so distant. It was really great to get a breath of fresh air, and not worry about the stresses of everyday life. Climbing Dobong Mt. was a truly memorable experience and the feeling I had when I reached the top is something I could not describe in words.
A temple in Dobongsan
Making our way up the mountain
Scenic mountain landscape
Seoul city, can you see it?
Here’s a close up
Everything looks so small from up here
Since we went up, we must come down
He’s either really tired or really likes the mountain
A traditional Korean meal after the hike
April 11, 2013
If you were wondering how things have changed in South Korea after all the threats the North has been making, well, the answer is nothing has really changed. People still go about their everyday business and news about North Korea aren’t even in the headlines of newspapers. So while North Korea is busy threatening the South and US. People in South Korea, myself included, are busy going to school, work, or going out with friends and family to restaurants, movie theaters or the park. I was even able to go to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and JSA (Joint Security Area) between the two Koreas as part of ISA’s first excursion. Going to the DMZ was an experience that is difficult to describe in words. It was really fascinating but it was also really serious; armed soldiers were with us at all times and we were only given a certain time to look and take pictures. Pictures were allowed only when and where they guide told us we could take them, otherwise we were not allowed to take pictures and breaking of this rule would result in cancellation of the tour.
The picture above I took when we were at the demarcation line in the JSA. The gray building seen here belongs to North Korea and the blue buildings belong to South Korea. When our group was outside there was only one North Korean soldier present and he was looking at us through binoculars. If you can see the gray slab of concrete midway between the two blue houses, that is the military demarcation line that divides North and South Korea.
This table is used for conferences and talks between the two countries. As you can see there are microphones on the middle of the table that are turned on 24/7 so the government can hear everything that is said in that building. The microphones also serve as the demarcation line inside the building so one side of the table is South Korea and the other side is the North. Where I was standing when I took this picture, I was in North Korea.
This is “the bridge of no return” named so because during the Korean war in the early 50s, when the two sides had agreed on the peace treaty they gave the people a choice. They could go live in either South Korea or North Korea, but wherever the people decided to go they could not come back to the other side. This was the bridge that people crossed over 50 years ago. My visit to the DMZ only lasted a couple of hours but the entire trip lasted most of the the day from 11:30 am when we departed from Seoul until we returned around 6 o’clock in the evening. Despite feeling fatigued by the end of it, the first excursion with ISA was enjoyable and I look forward to the other excursions during my semester in South Korea.
서울 경마공원에 가자 ! [Seoul Kyeongmakongwoneh Kaja!] Let’s Go To Seoul Racecourse Park!
March 18, 2013
16 degree weather ( in Celsius) and free time, well you know what that means, yup HORSE RACE WATCHING!! As everyone knows, or should know, Sunday was St. Patrick’s day and the weather in Seoul was really nice (around 60°F) therefore, venturing out of campus seemed almost like an obligation. Where to you ask? You may have already guessed, but in case you didn’t I will enlighten you; this Sunday I was to be found at Seoul Racecourse Park and Seoul Grand Park, and what did I do there? Watch horse races of course! The majority of spectators present were middle aged Korean men but that didn’t stop us (group of foreigners) from going. I had never been to a horse race before and I’m not really knowledgeable about the subject, however just being in a stadium looking at the race track I was filled with an indescribable excitement.
Statue at the entrance and racetrack
Since I had never experienced this before, I didn’t know what to expect, so I found everything new and exciting. About 20 minutes before a race started, there was a presentation where people could see the horses who were going to be in the race. This is a chance for those who are betting money to check out the horses’ condition and then choose their bets.
Afterward, we proceeded into the main area where the race was going to be held. There was a jumbo screen where you could see the presentation of the horses if you didn’t feel like moving from your seat. After the presentation there was a wait of approximately 10 minutes; plenty of time to go place those bets.
The horses trotting to their starting positions
Horses and their jockeys preparing before race start
It wasn’t long before the race started, there was so much anticipation and talking among the spectators that the first time I missed when the horses left the gates. I could only tell after looking at the jumbo screen. Once the race started and during the first part of the race the crowd was quiet, then as the horses were nearing the last 100 meters of the race and the finish line, the crowd became boisterous. Everyone was rooting for their chosen horse to win. And just as soon as it had started it was over. The race had lasted less than 5 minutes. The crowd then became excited as people began talking about the race, some cheering for winning their bets and others disappointed. After a few minutes the murmur in the crowd subsided and then it was time to wait for the next race which started 30 minutes later. Since we couldn’t remain at the race park all day, we watched 3 races and then left to Seoul Grand Park. My first time watching a horse race left me with a renewed interest in horse racing. Who knows, maybe when I return to the US I’ll venture out to watch a race. Anyone want to come? ㅋㅋㅋ
경복궁관람, 북촌한옥 마을, 그리고 인사동Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, and Insadong
March 9, 2013
Like I mentioned in my previous update, I went to many places during my first week in Seoul, so this post will feature pictures of those places. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, these pictures are from my visits to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong.
My admission ticket to Gyeongbokgung Palace
The entrance to the palace
Inside the palace
King’s and Queen’s sleeping quarters, the king’s is on the left and queen’s on the right
Hanok refers to a traditional Korean house, therefore Bukchon Hanok Village is a neighborhood of traditional Korean houses.
Insadong is a charming neighborhood containing many traditional goods. There is the main Insadong Street and multiple alleys that branch off of it. In Insadong one can find many traditional Korean restaurants, traditional tea houses, and cafes. Also found in Insadong, are many galleries featuring traditional Korean art.
내 발이 아파요!! [nae pari apayo!!] My Poor Feet!!
March 1, 2013
I made it!! I finally arrived in Seoul after more than 20 hours of travelling. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any jet lag and adjusting to the time difference was easier than I thought. I’ve been in Seoul for three days now and during that time I toured the Konkuk University campus and attended orientations for international students. I have also been exploring Seoul and visited a few well-known places. ISA (the program I used to study abroad) took the students to city tours around Seoul. Our main method of transportation was the Seoul subway system and walking. We walked EVERYWHERE!!! After being on my feet all day for three consecutive days my feet were hurting so much that each step felt like I was stepping barefoot on gravel. Despite this, I had so much fun visiting each place as I got my first taste of Seoul.
One of the first places I went to with the ISA group was the N Seoul Tower. Seoul Tower, also referred to as Namsan Tower, is located in Yongsan, in the center of Seoul. It is a communication and observation tower measuring 236.7 meters. Since its opening to the public in 1980, it has become an attraction to visitors from all over the world and a landmark of Seoul. Restaurants, snack bars, shops, and performances can be found at N Seoul Tower.
The first step in ascending to Seoul Tower
The top of Seoul Tower seen behind Namsan Mountain, but how does one get up there? By cable car of course! There is also an option of hiking all the way up if you so choose.
Beacon Lighthouse next to Seoul Tower
Pavilion next to the plaza
The views from the observation deck in N Seoul Tower.
Besides Namsan Tower, I also visited Myeongdong, Gyeongbokgung Palace, the National Folk Museum of Korea, Cheonggyecheon stream and went to the Seoul Immigration Office in Omokgyo to apply for my alien registration card (required of any foreigner remaining in South Korea for more than 90 days). And yes, visiting those place required a lot of walking, not to mention standing on the subway ride for 30 to 40 minutes in order to get there, so naturally my feet were killing me by the end of each day. Out of all the places, I think I liked Gyeongbokgung Palace the most. I’ll post pictures of the palace and the surrounding area next time so look forward to it.
준비,시 작! [junbi, she jak!] Ready, Set, Go!
February 24, 2013
Well, the much awaited day has finally arrived. Today I will spend my last hours in the States and travel to South Korea! I have a long day ahead of me today. It is currently the early hours of dawn, and I’m getting ready for the two hour drive to the airport in Kansas City. Once at the airport, I will board my flight to San Francisco which departs at 6:25 a.m. I have a four hour flight to San Francisco and then a two hour layover. At 11:00 a.m. pacific time I will board my second flight of the day which will take me to Seoul, South Korea! [At last!] I will be travelling all day [It's a 12 hour flight from San Fran to Seoul] and arrive in Seoul on Monday the 25th. I have my camera charged and ready to take pictures as soon as I get off the plane. I will probably look like the stereotypical tourist taking pictures of everything, but that’s ok, I’m determined to capture as many details of my experience on film and share them with you all. This is it for now, but I’ll be back with updates soon. 조금만 기다려세요[jogeumman kidaryoseyo] Wait just a little longer.
안녕하세요! [annyeonghaseyo!] Hello!
February 17, 2013
Hello everyone!! It is almost time for me to set off on my study abroad adventure. One week from today will be the day I depart to the beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea. Seoul, the capital of South Korea and the home of more than 10 million people will become my temporary residence for the next 4 months. As I prepare to leave the US, I’m overcome with anxiety, nervousness, and excitement. I’m extremely excited to go live in a city that will be completely different to what I’m accustomed to and experience new things, however, that same thought also makes me nervous. I’m going to be in a city that is larger and has a greater population density than the places I’ve lived in, not to mention a different language, culture, and pace of life that I will have to adjust to. I have done everything possible to prepare, including learning more about South Korean culture and customs and even mastering Hangul, the Korean alphabet. I can now proudly state that I can read Korean, however, being able to read it does not mean I can automatically understand it [sigh]. Even if I can’t understand much of Korean, I have accumulated my knowledge of survival phrases (greetings, asking for directions..etc), so if an emergency should arise, I’m fairly confident in my Korean skills to ask for someone’s help. That confidence though, does entirely balance out my anxiety for the trip. What if I forget to pack something I need? Will I be able to adjust without experiencing extreme culture shock? This last week will be busy for me as I finish packing, do some last minute shopping and take care of other final details. Despite my anxieties I’m excited to study abroad in South Korea and even more excited that I get to share my experiences with you all. I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.