School has started, and suddenly the hills of Anam are filled with students, conversation, laughter, and food- a stark contrast to the quieter days of late February. The start of school after three months of quiet living, traveling, and relaxation is strange and slightly surreal, especially as I occupy said strange place as a passing Korean yet exchange student.
Classes are hectic with add-and-drop, and there's a strange situation of English taught classes- where lectures are supposed to be in English but filled with Korean students, leading to the reality of lectures and questions in a mix of English and Korean. I luckily understand most of the Korean, yet my peers who don't speak the language are often confused and it can be difficult and tiring to translate everything going on, despite my best efforts. Classes are also quite different, as teaching style here is less interactive and more lecture-based, unlike many of the courses I take back home at GW.
I had the golden opportunity to travel to Busan this past weekend, as part of a sponsored trip for international students by one of Korean's largest conglomerates, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction. As my first time in Busan, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the area- Busan is one of Korea's major ports and I was shocked to see the ocean is so blue, skies so clear, and weather so mild with the ocean breeze. I fell in love at first sight, and wished my stay could be longer than 2 days 1 night. Since the trip was sponsored by Doosan, we had the opportunity to meet several managers and tour some of their facilities, my favorite being the RO plant, a reverse osmosis plant that purifies sea water into drinking water. The process is something that is usually known to be expensive and not very efficient, yet they had engineered a plant that purifies water at a similar cost to river water purification, technology that the Middle East particularly has a large need for (Saudi Arabia's government is a particularly large customer of Doosan).
...continue reading "Cultural Differences"
Shanghai is an interesting city because if contains a beautiful amount of contrast. Shanghai is one of the most modern cities in the world, with tall skyscrapers, a dashing subway system, and sprawling miles of metropolitan area. However, Shanghai also retains extraordinary elements of traditional Chinese life, with ancient buildings and unique Chinese culture. Living in Shanghai for almost 2 weeks now, I have been able to get a surface glimpse of this amazing contradiction, and have even been able to start exploring deeper into it. It's pretty fascinating. Fudan University is located a couple miles from the city center, in the rather quiet Yangpu district (however, quiet is a matter of opinion. Although many Chinese may deem Yangpu as "quiet", it is still crowded and bustling in my mind). One road, Daxue Lu (University Road), located in the Fudan University area, perfectly displays Shanghai's culture contrast. One side of the road contains a more typically Chinese atmosphere, with crowded outdoor vendor stalls selling steamed and fried traditional foods, classical restaurants with yelling customers and staff, begging vendors selling cheap, tourist merchandise on the side of the road, and cramped indoor restaurants that would not pass an American health inspection. The other side of the road looks like it has been taking right out of DC. It looks like a typical Western-style college street with cute, hipster cafes, flower-filled boutique-like brunch places, and modern restaurants and bars.
...continue reading "Shanghai’s Contrast of Culture"
While in Saigon, our professor has let us in on a ton of opportunities within the city. His research in Ho Chi Minh is directed at studying youth culture and, as such, he knows about all of the events going on that we would never have heard about otherwise. It has been a very fascinating way to learn about what the "hip youth" are doing when they aren't on Facebook looking at memes.
One evening, the class went to a Saigon Heat basketball game. Saigon Heat is the premier basketball team in the VBA—or, Vietnamese Basketball Association. The game was a cultural experience to say the least. The gym was smaller than the Smith Center and the game was so loud at all times. They have an announcer that screams into the microphone and runs onto the court during every timeout with a roving basketball hoop and he throws a ball into the audience and they have to try and make it in this target. The highlight was getting to meet their star player, Stefan. I know follow him on Instagram.
...continue reading "Making The Most Of The Night"
Because it's midterm week and I just finished climbing two mountains, I will make this blog quick and to the point.
As I was climbing a mountain in Cercedilla, Madrid today a question came to me. Something that I didn’t have an answer for and could use some help with. (Please send your answers to me in the below comments, in person, through Facebook, etc. I will aggregate them and reveal them in the next post).
Why study abroad?
- To travel: Is it to see the world? Should you be traveling to any and every country in your area so that you can experience many different cultures? Should you spend your last dollar (Euro) to experience everything while you can? How much are those pictures of the Sagrada Familia worth to you? How about that gondola ride in Venice? Can you even remember it all?
- To experience one culture / immersion: Should you stay in your host country and try to immerse yourself as best you can? Should the goal be to experience one culture in full, rather than 18 cultures in passing? Should you just stay, save some money, and explore your own host city, hang out with the host family, and immerse yourself in the culture as best you can?
- To learn differently: Is studying abroad useful because you can learn from foreign professors, learn with foreign students, and see a different style of schooling?
- Resume builder: I know you want to put “World Traveler” on your resume.
- Meet new people: Is it to meet people who come from vastly different worlds and cultures? To exchange ideas and worldviews with them, opening up your mind to things you had never thought about.
- Instagram photos: Photos of ice cream in front of European castles really do bring in the likes
- Economic: Cheap Drinks!
- Political: Lead the resistance against Trump from Abroad!
- Anything else?
...continue reading "A Question from 1500m Above Madrid"
I had the amazing opportunity to take a short trip to Madrid, Spain the past weekend. The voyage to Madrid was rather harrowing - I've never been very good at functioning on minimal sleep, but I had no choice but to stay awake the whole night, as my plane departed at 6am. At 3am, I boarded the bus from Cambridge to the airport, and after checking in and passing through security, I dozed off on the hard, uncomfortable bench by the gate like all of the other travellers around me who were waiting for their flights. Unfortunately, my flight was also delayed, and I remember feeling as if I was moving back and forth from a state of consciousness to a dreamy delusion - too nervous to fall completely asleep for fear of missing my flight, but also simply too tired to actually stay wide awake.
Despite the rather troubling start to my journey, once I landed in Madrid, I absolutely loved the city and knew that the lack of sleep and the restless night/morning at the airport were totally worth being able to bask in the warm Spanish sun and experience a new and exciting culture. As much as I love England, Spain was a really refreshing and exhilarating break. Madrid was such a vibrant and lively city, with people out and about at all hours of the day, and especially at night. This was different from Cambridge, or even London, where shops close much too early (especially on Sundays) and people are back at home by at least 6pm. Even the libraries at Cambridge (and there are many more libraries in this city than I have ever encountered elsewhere) close maybe at midnight latest, with most of them closing around 6 or 7pm, and not even open on the weekends. This certainly came as a shock when I first arrived because the sole library on GW's campus doesn't ever close, and past attempts to retract the 24/7 library hours have met vocal opposition from students. Now, don't get me wrong - I do appreciate the strict separation of work and personal life at Cambridge. But I really appreciated the energy and constant activity of Madrid, and the overall relaxed and laid back attitude people exhibited.
In Madrid, thanks to the afternoon rest culture of siesta, restaurants didn't even start opening for dinner until 8pm - so I was eating my meals at 10pm, which clearly broke from my habituated dinner time of 5pm in England. Perhaps one of my favorite places that I visited after a very satisfying dining experience of delicious tapas was Chocolatería San Ginés, a famous churro and hot chocolate cafe. To my surprise, I discovered that the cafe was open 24/7, and even at late hours of the night, people were standing outside in a long line that curved around the corner of the shop. Thank goodness for this cafe because it served possibly the richest and most delicious cup of hot chocolate I have ever had, which paired extremely well with warm, freshly made, deep fried churros. ...continue reading "Trip to Madrid!"
I don't think the refugee crisis was a deciding factor in my decision to study abroad in Greece, but it definitely played a part. Once I settled on Greece, I knew I wanted to work with refugees in some capacity. In my ignorance I thought that meant traveling to an island close to Turkey, like Lesvos or Chios, and walking among a crowded polluted plastic tent town. Now, there are places like that and I plan on visiting for a weekend later in the semester. But, I also discovered that there are many places right in the heart of Athens that house refugees.
These places are, generally, in better condition than their plastic tent counterpart. Most are abandoned buildings that are equipped with kitchens and makeshift bedrooms. But these places still struggle with clean and hot water, clothing, and most predominately- space.
Experiencing this is quite a paradox. On one hand, the refugee crisis is utterly heartbreaking. To think about the hundreds of families separated, children drowned, and parents unable to work causes an overwhelming feeling of despair. But on the other hand, witnessing the incredible camaraderie from volunteers and other refugees was heartwarming.
...continue reading "What it’s like to volunteer with refugees"