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Dragon Float

안녕하세요 (hello)! Week 12 in Korea and I am starting to realize that I have 5 weeks left in my study abroad journey. The highlights of this week included KUBA dinner, Hongdae, a traditional Korean music concert, and the lantern festival.  Before I talk about my week, let me divulge into some facts about Korean beauty culture.

The Korean people are obsessed with keeping up their cosmetic appearances. There is not a single block around or inside Korea University that does not have some variation of skin or makeup stores. The sinks in the bathrooms are often crowded at all school hours by girls brushing their teeth, often causing a blockade of the sinks. There are contest to see who can talk in a higher pitched voice because it is considered cute. Plastic surgery is a very big part of the culture here as well. Double eyelids are seen as the beauty standard and people often get their eyelids done as a gift for high-school graduation. In Gangam-gu I counted about 27 different plastic surgery clinics within a ten minute walk. There is one beauty standard for women to have similar hair, noses,  big eyes, small chins, and general cosmetics as everyone else. It is actually quiet shocking to see people striving to all be the same. I personally have accepted it but not too many people realize how intense it actually is.

Anyways, back to talking about what I have accomplished this week. This week was very busy due to school and an exam. However, my first fun point was the KUBA dinner. KUBA buddy dinners are always fantastic because it gives international students the opportunity to try something that they may never have realized was on the menu. This Thursday we went slightly beyond the traditional Korean food and tried Chinese food. We had fried chicken and green peppers, while sitting cross-legged on the floor and enjoying each other’s company. Afterwards we got to go to a soju food place and then the always lively Hondae, near the Honjik Women’s University. Hongdae is a party  scene were many ex-pats go and we ended up at a place called Zen Bar. The following day I went to a traditional Korean music concert that my KUBA buddy directed. The instruments used were different than the ones I was used to seeing. If I were to describe them they looked like floor harps, single-stringed violins, wooden flutes, and a trumpet-esque horn that sounded like a bagpipe. My KUBA buddy played the Ajaeng, which is what looked like a floor harp to me. The music sounded like traditional Chinese music and like what would be played on an old-time Korean march to war. The performers were dressed in traditional Korean attire up to the last song, when they changed into modern clothing to reflect the style of the piece they were playing. Overall, it was an interesting experience and afterwards we went out for Dak Galbi (spicy chicken).

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Lanterns at a Temple

Today was the Lantern festival in Korea. The Lantern Festival is an important ritual in Buddhism that pays respect to Buddha for Buddha’s birthday. After seeing the Buddha’s of Thailand and Hong Kong, it was interesting to see how the Korean depictions compared. So around 4pm my friends and I decided to go to Insadong and see what it was all about. I have never seen such a wide variety of lantern design or that many tourists at one time in Seoul. We went through a Buddhist temple and the entire ceiling was adorned with lanterns. After we explored the temple we saw the parade, which was my favorite part. The floats were really cool and colorful. Especially this one fire breathing dragon. The end of the festival for us was gathering near the Gyeoungbokgung Palace to listen to a Buddhist monk speak.

Overall, this week was very work oriented. However I did enjoy the concert and Lantern festival the best. This upcoming week I am preparing to go to Tokyo, Japan for 5 days so stick around for some more awesome adventures! 안녕(goodbye)!

Hong Kong Skyline

안녕하세요 (hello)! Weeks 10 and 11 on this study abroad journey were fantastic. It was the time of the Buddha holiday, so some classes were cancelled and my friends and I decided to go on a trip to Thailand and then Hong Kong! It was so amazing to be able to adventure around Asia like that. The trip took a total of 6 days in Thailand and 5 days in Hong Kong.

I arrived in Thailand on Thursday night and our hostel was located in a place called Nana. The first sight of Thailand that my friend John and I caught was of Lady Boys lining the street of our hotel and offering tickets to raunchy attractions. It was very confusing because these hot women would be walking around and you were never really sure if they were actual women. The culture in Thailand was honestly so progressive that at the end it was not that big of a deal. It was hot, humid, and everything was in your face, so that night Jesse, Sabrina, Mike, John, and I went to eat Arabic food at 3am. The next day we went out to explore the city. We stopped by a street vendor for 90Baht worth of Thai food(less than 3$). I got basil chicken and rice. Then we explored the metro and city markets and raced Tuk-Tuks (rickshaws) back to our hotel to meet our friends Gabby and Danny, who are abroad now in Tokyo. Later that night we went to the Red Light District of Thailand and there club promoters would yell at you to come see their Ping-Pong shows. Everything at the Red Light District was obviously very explicit and vulgar. We went in to see what a Ping-Pong show was and honestly it was not something I would want to see again.

Baby tiger at tiger temple

The next day we explored various temples. The architecture surrounding them was gorgeous and we also explored Khao San Road, a typical tourist shopping district, and bought elephant pants there. That night we ended up at Skybar from the Hangover 2. Everything was expensive but the view was to die for. Sabrina’s birthday was that night at 12am so we went to an ice bar to celebrate. I have never seen an ice bar but essentially you go in and the workers give you bear costumes and you go into a room made entirely of ice. That was a great experience because I had no idea what it was and it was so silly. The next day we went to more temples and then the Weekend Market. At the temples I saw the famous reclining Buddha. Then we took a river boat cruise around Thailand. I drank coconut juice on the boat and I felt like I was in a movie. The weekend market was just your typical tourist market. We took Tuk-Tuks everywhere. The humidity was crazy as well because there was no way you would be able to go through the day with dry clothes. The next day we booked a tour for the Floating market and Tiger Temple. At the Floating Market we essentially sat inside of a long boat and went down a canal where other vendors sold stuff to you off of their boats. Then we got Pad Thai at a local restaurant and took the bus to the Tiger Temple. The Tiger Temple was my favorite experience because we got to see and interact with adult and baby tigers. We got to feed the baby tigers and play with them. I felt overjoyed.

Fun facts about Thailand is that fruits of all sorts are sold for 50cents on the streets all ready for you to eat, it’s very hot, Tuk-Tuks are the mode of transportation, and Pad Thai is still just okay. On Tuesday I left my friends in Thailand to join my friend Alissa in Hong Kong.

Let me tell you that Hong Kong was not what I expected. I imagined stereotypical China and having a hard time getting around. What I saw was western people and familiar stores. However, it was an amazing experience all the same. Alissa and I woke up on Wednesday and went to try local foods. We tried Congee, which is a mystery ingredient in rice and a banana leaf. It was odd but apparently a local favorite. Then we met up with Alissa’s cousin Betty, who works for CNN in Hong Kong, and she showed us around. We went to Hong Kong Disneyland and met Minney Mouse and enjoyed the rides. The castle was under construction and therefore the top tier was made of a box. The rides were 1minute long maximum and cute babies from all over the world flocked the Disney streets. Overall, the  experience was very exciting and it was interesting to see how the parks differed from the United States. That night we got typical Chinese food in the city. We ate dumplings, pork buns, string beans, etc. It was amazing. There was not a night in Hong Kong when we weren’t extremely full. All thanks to Betty for showing us around.

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Reclining Buddha

The next day we got Dim Sum in the morning at a local Dim Sum place around our hotel. We were seated at a table with random Cantonese speaking people and they showed us how it worked. We ate massive pork buns and dumplings and it was amazing. Tea was served with everything. Then we went to see the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery and the village around it. It was really high in the mountains and it was a foggy day, so the Buddha looked ominous. Alissa and I walked around the village surrounding the Buddha and got souvenirs. That night we took the ferry around in Causeway Bay and saw the skyline. It was the prettiest city skyline I have ever seen, including New York City. Afterwards we got Peking duck and Maccha, green tea ice cream, for dessert. The next day was Alissa’s birthday so we celebrated at Stanley Island and market, where we ate three old-school western desserts, and then at a Chinese hot pot place. Then we went out on the town with Betty and her friend to Lan Kwai Fung, LKF.

The last full day was my favorite because we go to go on a Junk boat to an island 1 hour off of the coast of Hong Kong. The junk boat was meant for a going away party of one of Betty’s coworkers. From the boat we got to see amazing mountains and water and eventually jumped into Millionaires Bay next to Sai Kung Island. Hong Kong is such an interesting place in that it’s a city with a high-rise skyline against huge mountains and yet has island with clear, light blue water. I got a chance to meet engineers that work in Hong Kong and with them we swam to the little island. The weather was perfect and not as humid as Thailand. That night we had Szechuan food and then we went back home to Seoul.

Wow I can’t believe that I have the opportunity to do all of this and I would recommend an abroad experience in Seoul to anyone. With that said, I am so happy to be here at my home in Seoul. 안녕(goodbye)!

Peace Gates of Seoul Olympic Park

안녕하세요 (hello)! Week 9 was the hardest week here so far because of midterms. But before the midterm week started, that Friday before massive hours of studying, I decided to take a personal fun day and explore parts of Seoul I really wanted to. Seoul Olympic Park was the first place on my list.

That Friday morning, I woke up at 8 am to go on a run at the Olympic Park. I arrived there rather early and it was a beautiful day. The entrance to the park was called the Peace Gate and had the Olympic rings on it. I stopped a group of Korean women to take my photo and then happily started my run inside. The statues were foreign and the views were green and gorgeous. My favorite statue was of these Greek half-faces that were angled towards each other. I saw a wedding, elderly Korean hikers, and a giant skin care festival. However, the coolest part was the fact that I was running through an actual Olympic Park where the worlds best athletes once competed. I am just so used to watching the Olympics on TV that  never in a million years would I have imagined going on a long run through the park in Seoul, South Korea. I took a total of three hours to peacefully run and explore the park as a whole. I even stopped at the museum to read about some of the events that took place at this specific park.

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Half-Face Olympic Park statues

After the park I decided to try a random stop on the metro called Garak Market. Garak market is a giant market where farmers go to sell fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and other organic good. It was outside near two giant warehouses and was made of many long rows in which old Korean farmers sold their veggies. I don’t think many foreigners go to that market because people were staring at me more so than usual. I had a great cucumber and tried dried persimmons. After this, I went to Seoul Grand Park with Mike, John, Jesper, and our new friend Georgia. We went to a Korean Zoo. At the zoo we got to see animals that were from North Korea and my favorite animals were the red pandas. After the zoo we went back to Anam and got Korean BBQ with the rest of our friends.

Midterms here in Seoul were a challenge and took place outside of the normal class times. I had a midterm from 7-9pm on a Friday, putting a damper on my class-less Friday. My sister’s birthday was on Monday of midterm week and we caught up on life over Kakao talk. Kakao Talk is the Korean What’s App and that is how most of the Koreans communicate with each other.  After the 4 midterms I took, we did the typical things and went out in Anam for Soju and food. I tried a new flavor of Makgeolli, it was chestnut. That Saturday we spent all day in Korean Malls. Lotte is a huge company here in Korea. The name is on Lotte Hotel World, Lotte World Adventure, Lotte supermarket, and we were at Lotte Mall. We got to see a Korean fashion show and take photos with models. We got the impression that we were allowed in the show because we were foreigners and photographers took photos of us. Later, we accidentally ended up at a mall that sold the clothes of the designers of the fashion show and I ended up buying a big tan trench coat, which are really popular here.

Yesterday, Alissa and I went to Noryangjin Fish Market again and we both tried live squid. This was the point we realized that we have become one with the Koreans. Essentially, as stated in a previous blog, we went down into the fish market and chose a red snapper that was cooked on a grill, sashimi, and 4 live octopi. These octopi were sashimied for us at a restaurant and were still moving, even though they were in pieces, when we ate them. You would pick up the Octopi with your chopsticks and the tentaces would suction on to the chopsticks and squirm as you dipped them into the oil and salt mixture. Alissa and I both actually liked the taste of it even though it looked gross. We also had the pleasure of sitting next to a middle-aged Korean couple that taught us how to eat the food at our table and shared their Makgeolli with us. After our lovely meal, we got a tandem bike and went Han River biking. It was a perfect day. Stay tuned next week as I start my travels into Thailand and Hong Kong! 안녕(goodbye)!

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Live octopi we ate


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)!

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 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)!!!

Clam noodle soup
Clam noodle soup

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)! Seoul, South Korea week 4! My mood is fantastic. The study abroad chart shown at orientation does not seem to apply to me. I am constantly happy and my program just keeps getting better! Shout out to my sister Yanina, so far the only Kim I know is Kimchi. I shall start off with a random story of week 4 study abroad.

About two weeks ago, my friends Jesse, Ernest, John and I decided that it would be fun to travel to a random metro stop and just explore what was around the area. We managed to get off at a stop called Seokgye, about three blocks away from our regular Anam stop. As it was around 9pm and we were all hungry, we agreed on a late dinner. We managed to walk one block up from the metro station, when John stopped to look inside of a restaurant shop. As soon as he took longer than 5 seconds, a spry Korean woman pulled him inside and, thus, we were compelled to dine there. Once inside we were seated in the corner near a party of rowdy Korean working class men who had no problem taking shots of Soju on a Monday night. We suddenly realized that there was no English menu.

The consensus was to ask the Korean woman who let us in to order for us. The challenge was telling the woman that we were hungry and wanted food not alcohol. It took us 5 minutes to explain to her that we only came in for dinner. It quickly became the best decision ever. Once she understood she picked out two dishes from the menu based on her own tastes. She choose this giant honey mustard omelet and boiling hot noodle clam stew. Both were way too delicious and so random, that all of us were happy she ordered for us.Another interesting learning experience so far has been teaching one of my KUBA buddies English through a language exchange program offered here. I signed up for the program on the first day of orientation in the hopes of also being able to pick up some Korean. My exchange buddy and I sat next to each other during a group 5 lunch. We talked about everything from K-pop to our favorite color. Although, I only learned how to say "you're welcome," we ended up becoming good friends. I hope to be able to hold a simple Korean conversation after these next couple of weeks.

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to party in the number 9 club in the world, Octagon. It was not shaped like an octagon, nor was it the best club I have ever been to. However, I had a good time. My roommate Alissa and I kept being pulled to tables by Koreans to party with them and were even invited to the VIP room. As fun as it was to come home early in the morning, that was not the highlight of that weekend. The very next day I joined my KUBA group on a typical KUBA event called membership training. Membership training is where many school clubs, companies, and friend and family groups go to stay in a house for a night to drink and bond with those around them. The house my group stayed at was 5 hours away and was located in the middle of the mountains outside of Seoul. My friend Sabrina and I came at 6pm and were immediately served Korean BBQ. People had arrived earlier and already started drinking. When we got into the house, I noticed that there was no furniture and the floor was heated. The experience that followed can only be described as an organized Korean version of a house party. Throughout the night, I had a chance to experience Korean games and bond with my KUBA buddies as well as the other international students. Definitely an experience I will not forget. For now until next time! Annyeoungkyeseyo (Goodbye)!



KUBA buddy learning how to make dressing

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)! Week 3 and I am already starting to feel like a local. Sure my Korean speaking skills are still nonexistent and I blatantly stand out of the crowd, but I have made some excellent friends here. The lady at the convenience store I frequently visit has now started to say hello to me.

The workload has increased for my major specific courses so I now find myself going to school and then hanging out for three hours after and then doing homework into the night. My friends and I have been going out to many dinner places around Anam. One of my favorite places is this authentic Korean restaurant where there is no English menu. It is right next to the Hana Square campus and their Kimchee is delicious and comes in big servings. Thus far, my favorite foods here have been octopus on a stick, pickled kimchee radishes, and family style Korean BBQ. Every meal you eat here is essentially family style. The dishes are big and you can get two dishes for a table of 6 people. The price for these dishes is cheap too and comes out to 10,000 won ($9) a person and at minimum 3,000 won ($2.50) a person.

Painting in the Korean Church

This past weekend I joined my roommate Alissa at Korean church. Never having gone to a church this would have been an interesting experience for me even if I wasn’t in Korea. The church is located in the shopping district of Myeongdong and holds mass in English. The priest there was from Ireland. When we walked in there were maybe 50 rows of pews and beautiful stain glass windows going down the sides. We sat near the front left, next to Korean women who attended mass in lacey white head covers. The service went on fully in English and it was very interesting to see the native Korean speakers get into the English versions of the Bible. The only noticeably Korean part of the church, other than the people, was one painting on the wall of Korean religious scholars. It was very interesting to see this type of depiction.

Lotus flower at Buddhism Expo

On the topic of religion, this past Saturday I went to the Seoul Buddhism Expo with my KUBA group. The metro ride took 40 minutes and we had to stand the whole way but when we arrived it was worth it. The first area my KUBA buddy and I went to was the traditional Buddhist food section. There we were taught how to make traditional dressing and then how to grind up soy beans for tofu. There were also many Buddhist monks there. Men and women had their heads shaved and wore long gray robes. Everyone was friendly and it was interesting to see them. After this, we went on to make lotus flowers out of long straws and crinkly paper. It was quiet the ordeal and a Korean woman who ran the craft stand would constantly watch over us international students. After the Buddhism Expo the KUBA group went out to Korean BBQ. It was delicious as always, cooking right in front of you. The KUBA buddies at our table decided that this outing calls for Soju shots and so we started up at dinner. I am still baffled at the “work hard, play hard” attitude of the Koreans, but I must say, that I have really gotten into it.

To sum up my Korean experience so far: I am having the time of my life and I cannot wait to experience the weeks ahead! Annyeoungkyeseyo (Goodbye)!

By desansky0826

IMG_6714Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)! So far it is the end of two weeks here in Korea and my love for the country has grown. The first week of school went well. All of my professors speak excellent English and can demonstrate a wide array of knowledge in both English and Korean. The engineering courses here require a chapter reading a class, which is challenging due to the content, but is overall manageable. Being a girl in an engineering class in Korea leaves me in the minority. Most of my classes are 95% boys, but luckily I have my friend Sabrina from GWU here with me to attend them all. I have had no trouble making Korean friends in classes. I have mainly noticed that they won’t talk to you unless you talk to them first, but when you do talk to them they are very enthusiastic and friendly. The grades here work on an A-F system like the US. I have heard from previous students who went on this exchange program that there is no homework given in classes just midterms and finals. This turned out to be incorrect for my classes and I have to do chapter summaries, practice problems, and then midterms and finals.

Monday through Thursday I have school from 10:30am to 5pm. I usually try to go to the international student gym in CJ House at 8:45am because it is only open until 10am and then again at 6pm. It is quiet the struggle forcing myself out of bed to walk uphill to do some basic workouts, but the security guard from CJ House and I have now become friends because of this. Classes are usually an hour and fifteen minutes long, unless they are a lab course. At the end of last week we had a KUBA cheering orientation. At this orientation, the KUBA buddies took their time teaching us the cheers KU students chant at sports games. These cheers are usually aimed at the KU rival Yonsei University. They are hilarious including translations like “Yonsei gets drunk on beer” and “your mascot is a bird.” There were only 20 cheers that we learned out of the possible 100 cheers. Cheering was great but something I was not prepared for was the dancing. At least half of the cheers we were taught included fast-paced head banging and group jumping. The next day I was so sore that turning my head became an issue. At the end of this 2 hour event my new KUBA t-shirt was soaked in sweat, but it was a good time.image1 (1)

Additionally, this past weekend my GWU friends and I won three day club passes to go to Gangam. Yes, that is Gangam from the PSY song and it is considered the super-city part of Seoul. If I were to compare this to New York, Gangam is Manhattan and Anam, the area we live in, is Queens. We went all three days, met some fun people, and danced all night. We went to a club bar on Thursday, Club Syndrome on Friday, and then Club Eluis on Saturday. Korean clubs play typical house music in one section and then American rap music in another, such as Beyoncé or Rihanna. Dancing at these clubs was great and being able to recognize other international students there made everything even better. The clubs were about 5% international students and 95% were Korean; however this made no difference because everyone was really into having a good time. After a club we would typically go get food afterwards, and my friend John had an argument with our new French friend John Paul about America culture. The general perception of Americans from John Paul is that they are crazy, fried chicken-loving, gun owning, idiots. When I asked my KUBA buddy what Korean people thought of Americans she said that they think they are crazy, yet very friendly people. The consensus amongst others was also that Americans are crazy. This perception is not too bad and actually fits in well with the work hard play hard attitude of the Korean people. At least three times now I have seen Korean students sitting in circles in Hana Square, the science and engineering campus, taking shots of Soju after class at 5pm, which seems crazy to me.

image2 (1)This week the US ambassador to South Korea was razored by a political extremist against US-Korean joint military efforts. This seemed to be a big deal to CNN but to the Korean college students I asked, it seemed minor. They agreed that it was just an extremist protesting and not public thought. Currently, it is a Wednesday and I am sitting in a coffee Café called DaVinci and I had a garlic cheese sandwich. I tend to eat American food for lunch and Korean food for dinner here. The whole room is packed with Korean students getting lunch in between classes. They usually order food here family style so that everyone can share. A simple ham, egg, and cheese and coffee here in Korea is 3,500W like 3 US dollars, while in Carvings at GWU it is at least $5.50. The students are loud and happy. Shout out to my sister Yanina, I have not yet met a single Kim, but hopefully these stories satisfy what you call the DailyKim. Anyways, more adventures are still to come next week! Annyeoungkyeseyo (Goodbye)!

view from lotte market
View from Lotte market

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)! My first week in South Korea has drawn to a close and I love Seoul. Seoul is efficient, clean, English-friendly, and modern. As I stepped off of the tiring 14 and a half hour plane ride from DC, I was greeted by my three friends from GWU, Mike, John, and Alissa, who flew in from New York. We walked through immigration and were instantly greeted by KUBA buddies. Since we attend Korea University, KUBA is a student run organization that stands for Korea University Buddy Assistant. They took us to a waiting area where we got our first whiff of Korean air. The bus ride to campus took about an hour, and after not sleeping for a day, my roommate Alissa and I fell asleep as soon as we got to Anam Global House, our dorm.

The next morning we woke up at 3:40 in the morning and could do nothing but wait for a socially acceptable time to actually be awake. We had no Wi-Fi here for about 5 days. That day we met up with Ernest, another GWU friend, and Mike and John at their faraway dorm called Crimson House and went to this amazing place called Gwangjang market. There we wandered through small stands of various Korean cuisine and had giant fish cakes for only 2$. We continued our wandering through a Korean Museum and mall. The malls here have no hallways. You literally walk from one store to the other in a matter of a step. The metro is clean, always on time, and made in a way as to ensure the safety of its users in every way possible. On the metro, I noticed my first cultural difference. There is no notion in Korean of “excuse me” so people essentially just push past you if you block their way. I guess the only real danger on the metro train is the occasional small Korean grandma elbowing you in the stomach as she decides to walk by.

me in front of ku
In front of Korea University (KU)

On day two we had an international student orientation with our KUBA buddies. I was placed in group 5 with another GWU friend, Sabrina. My KUBA buddy’s name is Sinhye. What I found to be difficult in Korea was remembering the names of all of the Korean people I was meeting. They had no issue remembering my name but I had an issue with theirs. My buddy’s name was pronounced as “She-Ney.” She is rather tall for a Korean girl around 5’7 and is a philosophy major. Today, I actually found out that she was in my philosophy class and she sat next to me. I also met some Australians, Swedes, Chinese, Canadians, and other Americans. Later that night we truly explored Seoul and the area’s bar scene. Drinking is legal here from the age of 19 and my GWU friends and I tasted some of the alcohol we wouldn’t be able to try in the states.

Day three consisted of orientation round two and setting up our student card. Essentially all of us sat in a room for an hour and signed our name 17 times to random things. Nobody really knew what we were signing since we don’t know Korean, but I have faith in the KUBA buddies. Something that shocked me was how prominent the drinking culture here is. On the orientation pamphlet it said “Introduction to Soju” after “Fried Chicken and Beer.” Soju is the hard liquor of Korea. It is 17% alcohol and cheaper than some bottled water. The area KU is located is called Anam and the street that runs through Anam is packed with bars, restaurants, gaming rooms, karaoke bars, and shopping. Literally everything one needs can be found there. So for orientation that night we went out with our KUBA buddies around Anam and learned a multitude of drinking games. Korean drinking games use numbers and rhythm so it is very easy to mess up. I ended up coming back to the room after 5 hours around 11pm but the KUBA buddies just kept going. Day four was a rest day after a night out. My friends and I went to explore Seoul Forrest. Seoul Forrest is so interesting in that it sounds so large and prominent but it had high rise building popping out of it.

The King's Palace
The King's Palace

Day five was the last day of orientation and we went out to the King’s Palace. It was a cold day but the scenery was terrific. We also saw the president’s house. Park Geun-hye is the first woman president of South Korea and has been in power since 2013. When I asked one KUBA buddy what he thought of her he said that he disagrees with her welfare policy. My bus group got to see a Korean cooking show and the we went to a market place where we sat on the floor and ate many little plates of food. The food in Korea is very meat and vegetable based. Kimchi, fermented cabbage, is served with literally everything. The meat here is delicious. Bolgogi lives up to its grandeur. The red sauce is on almost all foods. The food is spicy but not everything is spicy. We tried this snow dessert that was good, but too healthy for us American brownie lovers. To be honest Korean food is tough to get used to for me. That was another aspect of the culture shock of how much different the food here actually was. Sometimes, I crave salad and chicken. I definitely miss cheese and having a fridge in my room to be able to keep milk in it.

On day six, I was invited to an international student’s 21st birthday gathering. We went and ate at a restaurant and then went to a karaoke bar. My friend John and I lost our voices to Wrecking Ball. On day seven, I went to walk around Seoul with Mike John, and Alissa and we got delicious Korean BBQ. Later that night we went to the party district called Hongdae and there we went to an American club. The next day my GW friend Jesse and I went to Homeplus. In simpler terms, Homeplus is like Korean Walmart,  except they have everything from groceries and electronics to Prairie dogs for sale. Later that day we went to a large section of Seoul, Myeong-Dong, in which Koreans do their clothes shopping. There were many skin care stores as well as clothing stores. The street food was so great. My dad told me to try Korean strawberries and they were fantastic, you can really tell that the US uses preservative chemicals. I also probably had my favorite food in Korea there, which was squid on a stick. It was cooked on a grill and given in a mayonaisy and soy-ish style sauce. It was excellent. Then we went to a cat café. That was an experience that I loved. Being a cat lover and having left two cats at home, it was a great feeling to have kitties all around you while we drank tea.

Today was my first day of classes. I have met so many international students that I even recognized some faces in class. The English of the professors’ is excellent. However, in Philosophy today one professor spoke entirely in Korean and only at the end did Jesse and I learn that it was so that the Koreans in that class could become more comfortable. Overall, I am looking forward to becoming a local here, even if it is not permanent. Annyeoungkyeseyo (Goodbye)!