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So, I have been home for about 12 days now. I am still missing Korea like CRAZY. Now, I am counting down the days until I return back to school in Ithaca.

I’ve noticed so many things – big and small – that caught my eye in Korea. There are things so innovative, smart, just plain nice, and even so simple yet cool that are in Korea. Here is a list, not in any particular order.

1. McDelivery. Yes, that’s right. McDonald’s delivers in Korea. (And other countries as well.) AMERICA, GET WITH THE TIMES. It was nice at 2am at our dorms when we were craving a burger, we just called up McDelivery and they came on their scooters.

2. The sliding glass doors in the subway system. Hello, innovation and safety. I think this is highly intelligent in preventing accidental – or purposeful – deaths by subway. It even puts me at peace of mind knowing I won’t fall or be pushed somehow onto the tracks. No worries about the yellow line and standing back, like in the New York metro.

3. Cleanliness. I noticed Korea was significantly cleaner than where I’ve been in America. They lack public garbage cans, and yet people still don’t feel the need to litter and be trashy. Amazing, right? Of course, Seoul is a city and no city is perfect, but from what I have seen – and smelled – the city is very clean, as well as other places I’ve been to. Again, I know there may be places different around this country that I haven’t seen, but this still really stood out to me in the places I have been. The subways and stations were clean – unlike New York’s. I just thought it was a bit nicer than home.

4. Low crime. I know many people have talked to me about this before and explained to me. I know nowhere is perfect, so I’m sure crime exists somewhere, but what is highly noticeable and known is the low crime rate in the country. What put me at peace was how safe I felt walking around alone or at night, or even with a small group of friends. I have made the 3am walk back to my dorm alone in one piece. When I see people pass me, they just continue walking, going about their business. In New York or even in Endicott or Binghamton, I have to be worried about being kidnapped, raped, mugged, or something. Again, not saying it couldn’t happen in Korea, but I’m sure you know what I am trying to say. It’s nice to feel safer. I think the people in Korea are much kinder as well, which was just great.

5. Speaking of which – the kind people and culture. I’ve always respected that about the Korean people. Something that always has stood out to me is the politeness in speech and actions. For one, the language has levels of speech depending on politeness. But also, everyone was just so kind to me and it was a really nice feeling. Walking in a store, people are so welcoming. Meeting for the first time with high schoolers, they bowed to me and said “안녕하세요.” The people at the airport were so kind in helping me – compared to JFK where I was talked to rudely by a few workers who didn’t seem to care. I could go on and on – you get the point.

6. Door pass-codes. Do we have these in America? I mean, I don’t have it, so let’s run with that. You always see it on K-dramas with their apartments, right? I loved having a 4-digit pass-code on my door to my dorm room in Seoul. The families I stayed with had the same for their apartments. Not a huge deal, but certainly cool. (Oh, well it also makes cool noises at you.) I didn’t have to worry about a key or an ID card.

7. Water served at meals. It may sound like no big deal, but I noticed it right away. All of the restaurants I went to, they immediately set the table with those small metal cups, and place a container of cold water on the table. I felt like I was really healthy there in Korea, drinking only water with my meals, and it has changed how I eat meals here in America, too. The only difference is, I have to ask for water. I also liked how in the dining halls, cafeterias, and food courts, you can go get the small water cup and fill up your water at the water machine they have. Very nice.

8. No tax, no tipping. Now, I’m no expert on why we have those two things here in America. I will say it made my time in Korea much easier. It’s nice when a price you pay is the price you saw in the first place when shopping. Without tax, it also makes for simpler amounts, rather than America’s $13.82, or $19.99, and so on. Not tipping means not having to figure out how much to tip, not having to worry, and just paying the bill and going on your merry way. I notice the waiting staff works differently I assume in relation to not having tips.

9. The call-button-thing at restaurants and bars. I think it is so smart. The wait staff doesn’t bother you every five minutes with “How is everything?” And, when you need something, don’t struggle with waiting, or trying to call over a waiter. Just press the button and hear “네” or “예.”

10. Well, all I know is their kids are extremely smart and their schooling is rigorous. I don’t know details, but I’ve heard a little bit about it from my exchange students and friends. Their kids don’t slack like ours do. They would shame themselves and their families big time, to my understanding. They work so hard and study so incredibly hard. Their schooling is longer, I believe, too. I feel like I would have liked that. At first I thought I would hate that thinking it is too hard or crazy, but if I were attending Korean school all my life, it would be what I am used to and what I know. I worked hard in school, but it just seems so different. I find it so incredible.

11.  The innocence  and modesty – if that’s what I call it – I’ve noticed. Sure, this isn’t the case for everyone, but I notice that trashiness and sluttiness just really isn’t a thing. It isn’t. That’s all I’m going to say.

12. Umbrella bags! So simple, right? During the monsoon, I walk into the business building at school, and put my umbrella in a bag for the day. Simple. And, when I enter restaurants, they have buckets at the entrance to put your wet umbrellas in, and one time I didn’t they asked me to place it in there. Nice to not have your wet umbrella dripping water all over the place, and also nice that people don’t really steal your umbrella – unless accidental, I’m sure.

13. How cheap the food is, and how delicious it is. I ate some good meals for a low price each day. I budgeted about $5 a day for my trip, and it was quite accurate. My meals were from $2-6. I really enjoyed it. I also loved how cheap street food is. A couple-hundred won for some late night fried deliciousness. And, the water bottles weren’t overpriced – except in the subway station! I went to the GS25 and grabbed a bottle of water for 500원. It wasn’t overpriced like they are here which was lovely. Soju is also cheap, which is quite nice, too. 😉

 

I will end here for now. I know that I remembered a ton more things that I even ranted to my mom about. I can’t remember now, but here is a solid list, I think. Just some things that really stood out to me – very random and some small things!

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Back in America.

Hello my blog-followers. I am back in America. I had such an incredible time, and I also owe you many photos from my remaining week. I have just been so busy as you can imagine, and got behind on uploading and posting. I will post more Incheon photos as well as more Changwon and Busan photos soon!

I trekked in the sky, about 600mph and 39,000 feet above the world, for about 13 hours and about 8,000 miles, between Incheon and New York, in a KoreanAir Air Bus A380-800. I am crying. CRYING. I miss Korea too much already.

 

Now that I am back, I am so upset. I feel like a part of me is missing. I absolutely love Seoul and cherish the memories I have made there. I had the most incredible month of my entire life, and couldn’t have asked you more. I loved the Hanyang International Summer School, Hanyang University, Wangsimni, all of Seoul, and all of my friends I have made from all over the world. I will truly miss it and Seoul will never be the same for me as it was this past month. It’s just hard to believe that the last time I woke up and had breakfast, I was about 7,000 miles away in Korea. But I truly am missing Korea so much. Of course, I am thankful for the wonderful opportunity and experiences I had, but honestly, being home in America actually feels strange now. I can truly say that I love Korea and cannot wait to go back, hopefully in the near future!

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Thank you, Seoul, for a wonderful birthday!

On Tuesday July 23, I celebrated my birthday with a bang. I had the best birthday I’ve ever had in my life. I couldn’t have been happier to have so many friends help me celebrate, and to be in my favorite city in the world. I started off by having dinner with a few of my close friends. We went to have some Korean BBQ, specifically 불고기(Bulgogi – Beef). We just had a little bit of 소맥(Somaek – Beer with Soju). After, we had time to kill since we told people to meet us at Casstown, my favorite bar in Wangsimni, at 10pm. So, we went to 노래방(Noraebang – Singing Room). I had a blast! Finally around 10pm we headed to the bar where about ten of my friends were already there. We sat down and ordered our drinks and 안주(Anju). More people showed up! And then more! It was awesome. Perhaps we had about 40~50 people come? I had a lot of fun. We just enjoyed each other’s company. My friends Jeffrey and Mimah were so awesome that they “missed dinner because they were busy” in order to get me a cake! It was a cute cake from Baskin Robbins in town. They came down with the cake, lit it, and everyone sang. I was so happy. After the bar, we got on the subway from 왕십리역(Wangsimni Station) and headed to Hongdae. In Hongdae, we went to a club called Cocoon. I had so much fun!! I was with all of my friends dancing the night away until closing. No joke. I was there until they stopped playing music and turned on the lights. This was around 6am or so. I had the most fun ever. I headed home in a taxi with two of my friends from the Netherlands. I nestled in my bed and had nothing to do the next day which was great.

The following day I celebrated my birthday again with my close friend’s parents and their friends. They were so sweet! The father picked me up at my dorm and drove me to the restaurant we would go to. It was so nice. I drank a few beers with them and ate lots of delicious food! They were so sweet they brought me a cake from Paris Baguette, birthday candles and all. They lit it and they sang to me. I got beautiful gifts as well. Here are some pictures from my birthday in Seoul.

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Boryeong, clubbing, and a program party in the mountains!

Hi everyone!

Just got back from our day-long and overnight trip. I was without WiFi and connection the entire time. I must admit, that was actually kind of nice. We all enjoyed each other’s company that much more, I think.

Friday night, we spontaneously decided to go clubbing in Hongdae. I had heaps of fun. It was my first Korean clubbing experience so it was about time! We hopped on the subway and went. We went to a club called Papa Gorilla, which is pretty popular. It isn’t the best in people’s eyes, but for me it was great! It is aimed at foreigners I guess, and it’s considered an “international club.” We would’ve gotten in for free, but while checking IDs, they knew three of our friends were Korean citizens, so for some reason, we had to pay. Oh well. We went on in and immediately I was dancing like crazy. I had so much fun. We actually went to a local bar beforehand to uh…..get ready! 😉 I had so much fun just letting loose and hanging out with my friends all night. My friend and I even took the “stage” – just the more elevated platform inside the club. So much fun. We had so much fun we stayed until about 4am! Dancing non-stop. Sweating like crazy. Going deaf, practically. We knew we wanted to catch a subway since it is the cheaper and easier option. The subway was closed until the first one at 5:30 am, so we went to Burger King for some food and even took a short nap before heading to the station. Caught the subway at 5:30 am and the sun was up and bright. We ended up in the part of the subway car where the seats are only for the elderly, pregnant, or disabled. We sat and planned to get up once we saw someone who needed the seats enter. We kindly got up for a group of old Korean women, and they were so sweet, in Korean they insisted that some of us still sat. We talked with one of them, sitting next to me, with my Korean friend helping out. She kept saying I was smart and pretty. How sweet. I felt awkward at that moment, sweaty, and just post-club, but still keeping my cool. I’m sure she knew we are just young and having fun. She kept saying how sweet and nice I was, too! And was impressed with my Korean. That was a nice little moment to remember about Korea.

I got back to my dorm at 6-ish am. Well, I had my alarm set for 7am to get up and catch the bus to Boryeong at 8am. What did I do? Just a quick catnap. Showered, packed, and headed to campus to catch our bus.

I was dead. Half asleep walking up the bloody mountain that is the Hanyang campus.

We arrived about three hours later at the festival. It was a beautiful sunny day, Saturday! It is at a beautiful resort place, right on the beach. Mud-covered people everywhere. Mud on people’s faces, arms, hair, entire bodies. The mud is supposedly good for the skin, and is also just loads of fun to play around in. It’s not just normal mud from the ground, if I am not mistaken. I was wearing my bathing suit underneath athletic shorts and a t-shirt. Within minutes I was mud covered as my friends slathered it all over me, and then even pushed me around a bit in the mud pool, even after I slipped and fell down a few times. I did get pissed though cause someone accidentally kicked me in the foot right where I had a bad blister! Ouch.

We were muddy for an hour or two. Then we headed into the ocean, on the beach, to rinse off and enjoy the waves. There was music and dancing, and a large crowd.

We went to get lunch. I was getting impatient with the giant line for our free meal, as I was starving on the verge of possibly passing out, so I ran into the convenience store and grabbed a cup ramen and a beer. (Come on, it’s the mud festival. People walk around with a nice cold one in one hand.) I might add, by the way, Korea has no laws against public drinking. I can legally walk around the street with a beer – or anything really – and I won’t get in trouble of be judged, unlike in America where it is trashy and the people are well, more trashy. But, obviously this is a different case being a festival, as well. For 5000 KRW you can buy a soju cocktail in a little pouch with a straw from a little cart on the beach. Anywho, I had heaps of fun in the water, despite the water continuously burning my eyes to no end. Eventually my group ended up meeting up with the RAs, the Korean students, and we all hung out.

After several hours, we showered and headed to a hostel somewhere in the mountains in the “middle of nowhere,” literally. They were like giant dorms, except the rooms housed about 6-8 people. It is a bare floor with shelves and a bathroom. That’s it. They provide the bedding you lay on and the blanket, and small pillow. You sleep on the floor. (How traditional.) Did we sleep? HELL NO.

The “party” as we can call it continued. We had dinner first after arrival. Samgyeobsal meat was cooked for us, and we had beer kegs and water. I am getting over Cass beer though. It’s what most people have here, and now I don’t even think it tastes good anymore. Oh well, we were already tricked into thinking there’d be soju, and there wasn’t any, so take what we can get. It was really neat, this place. A large just….sand…..pit….thing. We had a huge bonfire there. We all sat around and drank, ate, and enjoyed company. No WiFi so we all had to be social beings of course. I had an incredible amount of fun here, though. I met even more friends, hung with different groups of friends, and enjoyed myself until maybe 2 am? We even danced cause they blasted music from….somewhere. The night eventually calmed down to us either sitting by the pool, or sitting in the sand by the fire with a cup of ramen and a beer. We met up with another program that was there, too. We wondered where some loud music came from. In one of the “dorms,” there were a bunch of people gathered around food and LOTS of soju, doing their own Noraebang (singing). One of the Korean students was nice enough to give us some soju, too.

We were about 3 hours away from Seoul. I believe were more south of Seoul, southwest of Korea. The bus ride was just boring, with everyone unwinding and sleeping. So glad to get back to my dorm to take a real shower, take a nap, and wash my damp and disgusting clothes and bathing suit.

Pictures to come later. Who knows when. I am so tired. Back in Seoul, in Wangsimni.

My photos are on my phone because I used my water proof phone cover and could not use it with a camera.

Those on facebook can see it. ^^

 

Cheers from Seoul ~

 

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First few days at Hanyang

I have been making some incredible friends here at the Hanyang International Summer School. I absolutely love it here! I have a tight-knit group that I love to do basically everything, while still being social enough to jump between “groups” and also make new friends each day. 

Lately I’ve also been getting to know the Korean Hanyang students. I’m in Korea, and practice my Korean phrases, so it’s cool. Plus they are a lot of fun and of course know more about Seoul than we do! They take us to some fun bars and places, and teach us some really fun drinking games. Wednesday night we had a fantastic time at a local bar about 5 minutes from my off-campus dorm. We arrived and there were already a ton of people there unexpectedly, from the program, then we joined in. After more joined! Our RAs and program coordinator were all there…..many friends…. it was a good time.

I’m also glad to have a friend I made from my college, in my dorm, and on my same flight here. We always walk to classes together and sometimes go get dinner together. In last night’s case, we also meet up and go to a bar late at night with some friends.

I really love it in Seoul. I love living here. I never want to leave.

Here are some photos from around campus with my friends after our orientation!

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A little late – Some photos from last Saturday in Gangnam

Alright, cue PSY.

However, I do not have photos of the beautiful wedding I attended. I took those photos on my phone. Perhaps it would be awkward to upload photos of someone’s wedding who I don’t know. For those wondering, I attended a wedding in Gangnam with my friend and her husband. We were going to have a normal lunch, but they remembered they had a wedding to go to, which they just so happened to have three tickets to. It was beautiful! It wasn’t totally traditional, but the ceremony is still a bit different than America. The bride was so sweet, she smiled and waved at me. Perhaps my friend told her ahead of time that a foreigner would come and see her wedding, to see a Korean wedding.

오빤강남스타일

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Wedding lunch buffet. It was really nice!

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I had some kimbab, japchae, and jook!Image

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View of Namsan Tower ^

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It was just a fun day spent in 강남. My friend works there. After she went back to work, her husband brought me around the “famous” Gangnam Street.

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New friends, Korean BBQ, and Noraebang!

So yesterday we got a group of new friends together after orientation. We all hit it off well immediately! We decided to take the subway from Hanyang Station and off to….well…..somewhere. We wandered around looking for food. The restaurant found us. We didn’t find it. A waiter kindly waved us over inviting us in, so we followed. It was so delicious! Here are some photos from dinner:

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Next stop: 노래방. “Noraebang” or “Singing Room.”

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What a fun night after meeting some new people at orientation!

Also, I still owe my blog followers pictures from Day 3 in Gangnam, but I’ll get to it eventually. Today was our first day of classes and it was pretty fun. I have two classes, 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm. Korean Cultural History and Korean Language. Should be a fun month of exploring Seoul, friends, and learning about the country.

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Hello everyone.

While I was on the plane, I typed up a draft of a blog post about my experience with the flight and the airport. Wouldn’t you know my Wifi isn’t working on my phone for some reason!

 

So perhaps I will write about that later. But here I am in Incheon, Korea, safe and sound. (I arrived yesterday, about 12 hours ago.)

 

I was scared and nervous at first, aside from the excitement. I had a bit of culture shock, though I thought I’d handle it okay. I think my biggest problems was that I got sick upon arrival. My family here was so nice to take me out to dinner and I had to leave, rush out of the building, because I felt like I would vomit in the restaurant. And, of course, we were on the top floor of the restaurant! It was a nice bulgogi restaurant. And, in Korea, you take of your shoes. So I had to shuffle to find my shoes, slip them on, and run down the stairs. I sat down outside and the owner was so sweet he brought me water and medicine for an upset stomach. My father here explained to him that I have sickness from a 14-hour flight. The nice parking man spoke little English and asked me where I had come from and asked me about my Korean level. I had to admit I only know a little bit. I can read and write Korean, and I know some words, but my conversational Korean is a bit….nonexistant. Almost embarrassing coming here and I can’t speak the language as well as I though, forcing my father here to speak English, while the grandmother and mother cannot. Hopefully the language barrier won’t be an issue at Hanyang where I’ll be with international students in classes speaking English. I think I got so nervous I panicked. I froze up. I barely said anything. I said short phrases in Korean that I knew. I even brought my dictionary to dinner which was so awkward. But, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to express something I may really want to say. My family here is so sweet. They were so worried. I continuously apologized that I had left dinner, but they did not think anything of it. They were worried and took good care of me. They even made me all kinds of food and brought it to me, which I sadly had to turn down because my stomach just wasn’t hungry. I think they said they’d make me ddeokbokki, however shortly thereafter I fell asleep. I do remember grandma coming in and pulling a blanket over me. How sweet! The grandma does not know English, but she is really sweet. She kept speaking Korean to me, rubbing my back, and taking care of me.

Hopefully today will be better. I rested up, and now I haven’t eaten in so long that I AM hungry. I also haven’t showered and feel disgusting, so that would be nice! I’m kind of hiding in my room right now. I also feel awkward cause it’s quarter of six in the morning and I am wide awake. My body may still think it is quarter of 5 PM. Oh, jet lag. But, hey, I woke up at midnight this morning fully awake and realized that I couldn’t do anything. So, I forced myself to go back to sleep until a reasonable hour so I don’t feel awkward or wake the family. Now I’m just sitting here….. what do I do?

I’m going to go to Hanyang today, but not sure when. I’m a bit worried, because all the students want to do is party and enjoy the night life. While I want to explore the night life, I want to focus on my studies and enjoy every aspect of Korea – and remember it. Not to mention, me starting off by being sick wasn’t a good sign. I want to be careful. So, I don’t care if everyone wants to go clubbing tomorrow – I may stay back. I also am making plans to have dinner with my friend’s mom here this weekend. That will be so nice! She also speaks little English.

I feel so bad. I come to this country and I still speak my native language. I speak very very very broken Korean. I feel like I should be speaking Korean. But, on the bright side, most students at this program don’t even read Korean. However, I have a different experience, as I’m staying with a family right now overnight instead of going to the university.

I will say I am happy to be here. I cried upon landing. I was staring out the window of my AirBus A380 and could not believe after 14 hours at an altitude above 40,000 feet, that I made it to Korea. I finally have left my country for the first time. I was in shock. At first, it was in a good way. The airport just kind of sucked having to wait in long lines for customs and immigration. Eventually, I got my luggage, went on my way, and met my family. They had such smiling faces, holding up signs they made me. Mom kept taking pictures of me. I formally greeted them and shook their hand, then the father just hugged me! It was so sweet!! I will never forget that.

I’m going to go. I will blog more later, and hopefully get my other blog post I had ready on here.

Goodbye, from Incheon!

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We are now into the single digits for the countdown!

My flight is in 8 days, and my arrival in 9 days. Definitely excited! It hasn’t hit me 100% yet though, perhaps because I have never left the country before or taken a big trip. It may not hit me truly until I step into JFK airport, fully packed, with my passport and ticket in hand. Until I physically board my KoreanAir Airbus A380. Until I look out of the window and see the ground beneath me, looking like a map, slowly zooming in. Until I reach Incheon Airport with my host dad’s smiling face waiting for me. Until I retrieve my luggage and get into his car. Until I arrive at Hanyang University in my dorm. Then, the fun and memorable experiences truly begin!