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By desansky0826

안녕하세요 (hello)! Some of you have been wondering: What are my college counterparts like here in Korea? I shall start off by saying that a typical Korean student is all about doing well in school. They regularly study all day long and into the night. They are study machines who are no nonsense about being quiet in the library. I sat in the Science Library for 2 hours one day and the most noise was made by me, coughing. To me, what seems to be the key to their academic success is the amount of small naps they take during the course of the day and their competitive nature in the academic environment. Korea University students wear letterman jackets, except instead of the sports they play on the back of the jacket, it’s what school they belong to within Korea University. One difference that I am not pleased with is how much more advanced the Korean students are in their education because they have been learning at a higher level from the start of middle school. Some of the concepts that I am learning for the first time in my Digital Systems Class, the Koreans have been doing since high school. With that kind of rigor, I could have an easier time now. However, a lot of the Korean students are about work and no play. A Korean professor told Jesse and me that a lot of the students forget that they are meant to do other things then just study (and drink?).

With that said, most Korean students drink alcohol at least once a day on top of their studies. The only day I haven’t seen a group of Korean students drinking Soju in Hana Square or the main campus, was when the pollution level was 350 µg/m3(Air = poison level). Alissa told me that a Korean boy in her class went up for a presentation and apologized to the class because he was still a little drunk, and then carried on with his presentation. Even with drinking, they still manage to rock their classes. On another note, most of the Korean students here have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. The way they get together is by asking each other out and then getting to know each other, which is reversed in the US. The couples here match each other in their clothes and try to be really cute, holding hands and giggle like children. According to John, Korea can sometimes feel like it is a giant cartoon and, honestly, these couples really go to prove that statement.

Anyways, some week 8 highlights include: Mrs. Esposito, Cards Against Humanity, Syndrome, and Jimjilbang! Jacob went home on Monday morning and Mike’s mom is visiting for the week! As an avid blog reader, she was kind enough to bring me cheese because she read how much I missed cheese! Now I finally have real cheese! Additionally, she brought us some much needed goodie bags for Easter that reminded me of my own mom and how much I miss her. So this is a special thank you to Mrs. Esposito! The day after she landed, I went out with Michael, Mrs. Esposito, John, Alissa, Jesse, Sabrina, Jesper, and Elvira to Korean BBQ. This has become the go-to tactic for welcoming our friends and family to Korea. Mrs. Esposito took a couple Soju shots and experienced the glory of making a Korean BBQ lettuce wrap. The fact that we have been in Korea enough to actually welcome others here is mind-boggling to me. Anyways, we laughed over dinner about Mike’s childhood stories and it was great to have her there with us. She also brought Cards Against Humanity, which I enjoyed playing with our GWU crew and the international students we have grown to love.

School is getting slightly more intense because midterms are approaching in about a week and a half. Flights are booked for Thailand, Japan, and China so prepare for some cool blogging in May! Syndrome was the Thursday night club of choice, and this time there were silk rope dancers there. These were interesting experiences, but the best happened on Friday, another only in Korea experience. I went to a jimjilbang with Elvira and Sabrina. A jimjilbang is a Korean bathhouse where the Korean women get naked and bath their bodies in hot, cold, flavor-infused, spa pools and saunas. The one we went to was called Dragon Hill Spa and provided other spa services such as massages, nails, rooms to sleep, karaoke, and all these other great health treatments. Koreans go to these places with their families to relax and get clean. The entrance fee was 11000W and you get bath clothes and two towel upon entrance. Other services cost extra fees but the pools and saunas are free. The floors are divided by men and women. Elvira, Sabrina, and I got butt naked and joined about 30 other Korean women washing themselves in the pools. We took a shower first, then walked into a warm pool, then an extremely hot pool, then a freezing pool, then a sauna, then a hotter Himalayan salt sauna, then a ginseng pool, and then, after two hours, we got the body scrub treatment.

If anything in this entire experience screams “Korea,” it is the body scrub treatment. We went to a special area on the floor where there were 5 empty spa tables. As I laid down, a middle aged Korean woman in Lingerie poured hot water on and vigorously scrubbed my naked body. She scrubbed in such a way that I shed dead skin like a snake. She scrubbed everywhere. It was not a painful processes, and in fact, the amount of dead skin that I shed was quite satisfying. She finally finished with moisturizing my body and washing my hair. I came out of the process with baby fresh skin. Elvira, Sabrina, and I were amazed and definitely bonded over this fantastic, only in Korea experience. 안녕(goodbye)!

By jesse allan gurney

In my original post, I wrote that identified myself by the places in which I have grown: Vermont and in DC. Vermont has influenced my identity by endowing me with a strong moral compass and an appreciation for living life outside school and the office. DC on the other hand, has given my identity with a desire to work hard for a meaningful career. These dueling identities come into conflict, when I think about my future. After college, Vermont ideals hopes I will be able to identify as a person who lives life outside the office, while my DC side knows that I will find true life-satisfaction in a meaningful and challenging career.

During my time in Australia, I reflected on these identity-influencers and my post-graduation life, and it has both polarized and smoothed my internal debate. ...continue reading "Abroad Influencies on Identity"

By kennatim

The first time I heard the phrase “your man” was in a phone conversation with my Irish cousin. He was referring to my good friend Luke whom he had met at a Gaelic football game when we had first met as well. I was intrigued by the phrase, mostly because of the distinctly Irish pronunciation: “Yer maan Luke.”

Now most Americans writing about Irish slang would immediately be drawn to the word “craic.” Craic is a word that means fun that can be used in a variety of different contexts: “What’s the craic”= “What’s up,” “Any craic last night?”= “Did you have fun,” etc. Based upon the pronunciation bearing striking similarity to an illegal drug, it is a tough phrase for foreigners to get used to.

To me, “Yer man” embodies Irish culture in a way that “craic” does not. My cousin Joe has been kind enough to take me on a couple trips exploring Ireland. We went up to the North, exploring the still-divided city of Derry and stopping at small towns along the way. A week later we took the long drive south to the Dingle Peninsula and a portion of the Ring of Kerry. This beautiful area of spectacular scenery was only made better by a beautiful day and some of the freshest fish and chips consumed steps away from the boats that had caught it.

Spending time with Joe was when I heard the phrase used the most. But I have heard it plenty from my Irish roommates, in classes, and just about everywhere in everyday life. Why it so peculiarly reflects Irish culture is it’s use. Similar to the American phrase “your boy,” it describes good friends. But it is also used very frequently with a sarcastic tone. For example, I once heard someone mention “Yer man Graham Dwyer.” Graham Dwyer is a former architect that was recently convicted of a brutal and sadistic murder in a case that consumed Ireland. Once in the mall, I witnessed a man, most likely just very drunk, lying in the middle of the hall right as the police arrived. I went, did my shopping, and when I returned to get a new SIM card and leave, he was still there. When I asked the phone kiosk employee what had happened and why he had been laying there for over 30 minutes, he explained that he was not sure what “yer man” was up to.

Irish people are very laid back, somewhat sarcastic, and have a very tongue in cheek tone to their conversations. They approach serious topics with a level of humor to make them easier to swallow. It is a set of attitudes that I am very fond of. “Yer man” embodies of the many reasons I am so happy I chose Dublin to study abroad.

By practiceyogadistrict

Being a Christian in a region of Thailand where less than .5% of the population is Christian has been a challenging thing. Thailand is a predominantly buddhist country, therefore there are buddha images everywhere you look. It's strange seeing the people around me worship a god that is not the God that I believe in. However, one of the sweetest gifts I have experienced in my time here has been finding a Christian church. The church in English is called Covenant Church, however it has another name in Thai. Something I love about Thailand is how relationally focused Thai people are. And church certainly reflects that. Before the Sunday afternoon worship service, the whole church will gather for lunch, a time to catch up with one another about the week that just passed and how we have been. It has been a joy to build relationships with Thai's who have the same faith as me during this time. Though we come from completely different backgrounds, we have the core of who we are in common. After lunch we have a time of worship. Worshiping God in Thai is a completely new experience, but also incredibly familiar. Though I don't understand the words to the songs, I can understand the heart of the people worshipping around me. It just goes to show how far-reaching and global God is. He is not just God in the US, but all around the world. An American friend recently joined me for church on Easter Sunday and was marked by how similar this small church in Khon Kaen is to her church back home in Pennsylvania. After a sermon, which is in Thai (I will normally go off with a few other westerners and listen to a sermon in English online), everyone will gather again for time in community, chatting over the delicious tropical fruit that Thailand has to offer. I have learned much about  how expansive God is with my time at this church with these Christians. Though I deeply miss my community and my Church in DC, I know when I am back home I will long for pieces of Covenant Church.

By jdippel529

In honor of four wonderful months in Madrid, here are the four most important things I have learned during my time, here:

  1. Be Open

One of the most important things you can do while studying abroad is to embrace everything that comes your way. Being thrown into a different culture can seem like you just space-rocketed onto another planet. Here, in Spain, learning the language was mentally exhausting and getting used to the different etiquette was beyond frustrating. But, because I came to Madrid with an open heart and mind, the challenge was worth it and all the more rewarding. Be open to the culture you are coming into, and embrace it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

  1. Stop Planning

Yes, it’s true, some things you have to plan for. But for me, some of my very best memories have been the result of spur-of-the-moment, on-a-whim decisions. The days that weren’t so jam-packed with places to go and things to see were the days where I enjoyed myself the most. Whether you are in your host country, or traveling around the world, make sure you leave a little room for spontaneity. You’ll find that magic can happen when least expected.

  1. No Money is Wasted on Travel

My mom said this to me during a phone conversation after I was feeling guilty for having to buy so many plane tickets for Spring Break, and she couldn’t have been more right. The experiences, insight, perspective, and memories you gain while traveling the world is something you just can’t put a price on. Thirty years from now, I will remember all of the places I ventured to and the lessons I took from them—not how much it cost.

  1. “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Coming to Madrid and adjusting to a completely different language and culture has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding challenges of my life. It was hard, to say the least. But, it taught me a lot about my inner strength, as a person, and showed me what I can overcome in the face of adversity. When everything you know in life is taken away from you, you have nothing left to do but discover who YOU are. When you are out of your comfort zone is when you meet your true self.

Hana River Biking

안녕하세요 (Hello)! Week 7 in Seoul was great. This was Jacob’s second week and last week in Korea. A fun highlight included our friend group ending up in the same place of Seoul we randomly decided to go to on our first week. At this random place we decided to try a sit-on-the-floor place and ordered two random stews for our large party. One was google translated to “potato ride” and the other was made of pig spine. They were both delicious; however I was not impressed with the amount of two potatoes I managed to find in the potato ride. Another highlight included getting Bingsu, which is Korean snow ice cream, with my exchange buddy. She taught me how to say lunch and dinner in Korean and how to talk about the food that comes with the drinks in Korean. Dinner is pronounced like “Jeo nyuk” and lunch is pronounced like “chum sim,” while food with drink is “panju.” The Bingsu we ate was a strawberry and condensed milk decorated mountain of milk chips with a cheesecake stuck inside. Jake and I got to eat most of it because the exchange buddy stepped out to talk for a long time, and it was mostly melted when she returned. We loved this ice cream so much that we got it three times during the remainder of his stay. Two of my favorite activities happened this week: Han River bike riding the Noryangiin Fish Market.

Another great weekend started. Thursday night started with a KUBA dinner that Jake and I went to. We ate sushi that dinner and were served three massive sushi rolls that were split between 5 people and we were all beyond stuffed. Then we moved on to round 2, which is typically a Soju place. At this Soju place we tried raspberry, apple, and blueberry flavored Soju. My favorite out of these three flavors was apple. John was also there with his KUBA group and we were approached by a GWU exchange alum who we met at the Simon Lee dinner, Jiyoon Chung. It was very exciting to see someone we met at GWU at this bar in Korea and we shall have lunch with her after midterms. After dinner, the night was spent at Monkey Beach and Octagon. Monkey Beach was a new club we tried, where a Korean girl climbed a pole and rang a bell and thus was able to get a free tub of long island iced tea. Shout out to a KU alumni Tony Lyons for giving us great tips here in Korea! He constantly recommends cool hotspots to try (like Monkey Beach) and how to succeed in classes. After Monkey Beach, we went to Octagon. As I previously mentioned, it is the number 9 club in the world and a lot of fun stuff always happens there. We danced until we could not dance anymore and even Jake was impressed by it.

Friday morning was met with homework. That Friday afternoon however we went biking on the Han River. This area is popular among Koreans because it provides a beautiful view of the city as well as a place for activity. This is where Korean couples go to show off how cute they look together in their matching outfits and bike ride. Jesse, Jake, John, Mike, Jesper, and I decided to bike. The pollution was low that day so you could actually see the mountain peaks in the distance. I felt free and happy on the bike. The bike lanes were separated into two moving direction lanes. I kept riding as fast or as slow as I wanted along to the rhythm of my music, which was blasting from my bike basket. Jake rode on an unknown path so he was separated from the group for 20 minutes, but eventually he found us. The whole trip was only 3000W for an hour and everyone was left joyful from the experience. After this adventure we got Indian food and enjoyed it on the Crimson roof.

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Fish Market Stingray

The Noryangiin Fish Market is the largest seafood market in Korea where vendors sell everything from stingrays to squid to mystery fish. It is open year round and is the place where restaurant owners compete for the freshest catch in the mornings. John, Jesse, Michael, Jake, and I decided that we would wake up early on Saturday to explore this attraction. When we got off of the subway, the market was hidden in a large warehouse with a smelly fish odor emanating from it. As we descended down the stairs, you could hear the bustle of the merchants. It was around 9:30am when we arrived there. The warehouse was the size of a city block, with wet floors, and loud merchants trying to make a sale.

The first section was mainly shellfish such as crab and muscles, with a few squid and sea slugs. Jesse and I decided to try stingray sashimi and then the whole group split a sashimi platter. The sashimi platter was 20000W and the stingray was 15000W. We weren’t sure of where we should sit so we went outside the warehouse and sat on a raised curb where they plant flowers. We used that was the table and sat around it. The sashimi platter was fantastic and a Korean man in his car even stopped to make sure we were dipping the sashimi in the sauce. The stingray however did not sit right with any of us. When I ingested it, a funny sensation was felt down the entirety of my tongue. Being an enthusiastic food lover, even I felt as if I could not try even another piece. My friends were in agreement and we ended up throwing away the stingray sashimi. Afterwards, we decided to try some fish-cooking restaurant in the market. In order to do this Mike chose a king crab for his meal, Jake chose a red snapper, and I chose a simple random fish. We went into a random restaurant in the warehouse and they prepared it for us right there and then. It was delicious and definitely an experience that we won’t forget. Afterwards we went Han River biking round 2!

Saturday night Jake and I went to Hongdae to a rooftop party and got Korean BBQ at 2am. On Sunday, it was KUBA field day and Michael and Alissa’s group won a free meal! Studying abroad rocks! 안녕 (Goodbye)!!!

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Strawberry Bingsu


By mluevano17

My time abroad, rather than changed my identity, has strengthened my identity in many ways. I feel much more confident and rooted in who I am. Being abroad and constantly being out of my comfort zone has allowed me to see my limits as well as my capabilities. I think that the hardest part about leaving my international community will be this sense of adventure and new experiences. ...continue reading "Reflecting"

By Adaeze

Can you believe study abroad is almost over? I don't even want to think about it, especially since the weather has been so nice!

Looking back on my original post, I realize that I still identify myself the same way in terms of race and ethnicity. Now,  it's a little different. When I wrote that post, I also identified myself with who I was friends with, who I was dating, etc. There was always a label that I identified with. Being in Paris has had a way of stripping me of those labels.Paris ...continue reading "Looking Back"

Protesters blocking traffic

One of the most pressing issues in Ireland and one I do not fully understand is a proposal for water charges. From my understanding, the Irish government is proposing water charges for water use in homes across Ireland, a by-amount charge they do not currently receive, as it is viewed as a public resource. There has been a huge backlash from many citizens, either politically or fundamentally opposed to the idea, or who simply do not want to pay for water.

It seemed like an incredibly interesting debate at first. I have witnessed large protest marches and many people simply standing in the middle of busy downtown intersections, with honking cars for miles, with a sign saying “no water charges.” At some point recently though, these protests went from intriguing to comical to me.   After hearing the government’s justifications, it just makes sense. Citizens in just about every Western country pays for water, and the charges could also be seen as potentially eco-friendly. But if it is hurting someone’s wallet, you know there will be some backlash.

I was actually fortunate enough to experience this debate firsthand. My cousin set me up with a visit to the Irish Parliament in Dublin city centre, called the House of Oireachtas, which consists of the Dail, or House, and Seanad, or Senate. There I was met by a member of the staff of my cousin’s TD, Derek Keating. I was given a guided tour of their House and Senate, which was a lot smaller and more intimate. We had a cup of tea at one of two bars inside of the building. I even got to sit in on a committee hearing regarding coverage on the national television station, RTE.

The coolest part of the visit, however, was sitting in on the Dail for Leader’s Questions. This is a procedure where a representative from each opposition party is given the opportunity to publicly ask the Prime Minister two questions. I got to witness the two main Irish political figures I was familiar with duke it out with words: Enda Kenny, Prime Minister, and Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein with strong IRA ties and a reputation stemming from “The Troubles” of the late 20th Century. They were debating about, what else, Irish water. Adams did make some interesting points against the measure but he did not change my mind.

The visit to the Dail was interesting and gave me a better understanding of numerous issues in Ireland including the water argument. The day was topped off when I met the opposition leader, Michael Martin, on my way out of the building. My cousin told me that there is a good chance he will be the next Taoiseach, or Prime Minister. I will spend my final weeks here enjoying my water, but I would not be upset if I have to start paying for it!

By desansky0826

IMG_6959안녕하세요 (Hello)! Week 6 in Korea was full of surprises. First of all, my boyfriend, Jacob, decided to use the money he has been saving to come and visit me in Seoul! Secondly, Sabrina, Jesse, and I had our first exam at Korea University. Thirdly, membership training round 2!

Jacob came on Tuesday, March 24, and is visiting for two weeks! I am so happy because we are essentially reliving all the touristy fun of Seoul for the second time around! He is staying at Crimson House, where Mike and John live, and the price is about 25,000W a night. This turned out to be a better deal than the hostel in Anam, Anam Hostel, which was 24,000W a night. The room in the hostel was the size of a closet and the room in Crimson, also the size of a closet, but definitely more suitable for living. The first thing we did when he came to Korea was take him to have Korean BBQ. Watching Jacob use chopsticks without struggle reminded me of my initial struggle. The rule with chopsticks here in Korea is that you cannot cross them because then they just don’t pick up food efficiently. The second rule with chopsticks is that you do not stick them into the rice and leave them there. This second rule reminds Korean people of the incense sticks that people use at funerals. Instead you place the chopsticks neatly across your bowl when done. Another custom, on the topic of Korean customs, is that when referring to an older Korean boy from a younger girl standpoint you call them “Opa,” and from the standpoint of a younger boy to an older girl you say “Nuna.” Older boys like to be called “Opa” and older girls like to be called “Nuna.” My language exchange buddy told me this and thus, since I am 5 months older than Jacob, he must now call me “Nuna.”image2 (3)

On Jake’s second day in Korea, after my exam, we went to Insadong and tried squid on a pan with Mike and John. Afterwards, we got street food, Hotteok. Jake really took a liking to the food, and he and I have been going to various street markets from there on out trying weird, new foods. We went to Dwangjang market, Insadong, and Myeondong. Throughout our trek through Korean food markets, we tried dumplings, fried fish, dried fish, Soju, Makkoli, fruit juice mystery meat on a stick, squid on a stick, waffles, crepes, and honey ice cream. A Korean man next to us smiled and approved when he saw that we were enjoying Soju with our meal. Within that three day period with Jacob, I probably tried all of the street food in Korea and I am proud of it. If my sister Yanina was here with me I know that she would appreciate doing this as well. Those three days in Korea reminded me of my trips to New York to visit her, when we would just try new foods. Since I go to school Monday to Thursday, Jake does a lot of his own exploring and homework during the day.

Let me turn now to the topic of school. Sabrina, Jesse, and I had our first exam at Korea University. The exam was for Electronic Circuits and the class average was a 67.5%. My goal for school was to do better than at least half of the Korean students, and so far, I can say mission accomplished. My most boring class is Signals and Systems. The homework load here has been big for the biomedical engineers, but we finally have a week off. This is already too much about school, so I shall switch my topic to something more fun: Membership Training round 2!

image1 (3)I made up my mind and decided to take Jacob to experience membership training with Mike and Alissa’s KUBA group. John, Mike, Jesse, Alissa, Jake, Jesper our friend from Denmark, and I had planned to go to at least one membership training together. This membership training took place close to the university and was only a thirty-minute, bumpy bus ride away. The house was a one-story house, near a small creek. The floors were not heated like my Group 5 membership training. The night consisted of Korean BBQ, Soju and Karaoke. Alissa, Jesse, Jake, and I came later than Jesper, John, and Mike, yet we did not miss any of the festivities. We ate BBQ then went right into teaching the Koreans beer pong. At first it was easy to make a mistake, but eventually they became better players than I am. The night got even better from there. We played many games of Charades and Karaoked until we could not sing another word.

Other fun things, I did this week included making a mug with Alissa and Michael’s KUBA buddies, Jay and HwiiHwa. My name (Sasha) is spelled like this in Korean 사샤. Apparently, I spelled my name wrong on my mug and wrote what sounds like SaSa, but a week later, Michael, who has been taking Korean here in Korea, corrected me. Now I know. Anyways.. 안녕 (Goodbye)!!!