Annyeong haseyo! It has officially been one week since my plane made the 14 hour journey and touched down in the massive city of Seoul, South Korea. Korea is known to have the fastest Wi-Fi in the world, but since I chose not to update my phone plan to accommodate my traveling, I somehow have ended up in the middle of Seoul with no communication outside of the Wi-Fi in my dorm room. I’m pretty much your typical college student, and at my home university, I wouldn’t be caught dead without my cell phone to uselessly check! But the new-found freedom has allowed me to do and experience some crazy amazing things. What a blessing in disguise it’s been to unplug myself from all my devices! Here’s the top 8 things I’ve done instead of checking my phone in Seoul, South Korea.
- Sang in a “noraebang”
A noraebang (literally “norae” = sing, “bang” = room) must be the greatest thing anyone could ever dream up. It’s basically individual rooms of disco balls, tambourines and karaoke. Our very first day in Korea, some of the group and I wandered into one of these gems and sang for two and a half hours straight. We sang everything from Eminem to Kpop to Disney to Pitbull. And of course, we just had to belt out PSY’s “Gangnam Style” like the excited foreigners we all are. But overall, my favorite part of the experience was hearing the middle aged Korean men belting their hearts out to Korean ballads in the room next door. They hands down raised the karaoke bar, and I’m okay with it.
- Eaten my weight in street food
I have been hearing about the delicious Korean food for months, but they really aren’t exaggerating when they say that it is amazing and cheap. I have already eaten so much street food. And it’s been one week. What I love about the street food is that you can walk down the busy street at night and see the steam rising from the warm vendor stalls while smelling the deep-fried goodness. My favorite foods include dukbokki, a spicy rice cake, and hotteok. Sorry mom, I think I’m investing my money into all this good stuff.
- Joined a flashmob
Just as it sounds, my friend and I casually (and unbeknownst to us) wandered into a flashmob to PSY’s “Korea” on Korean Independence Day. A kind Korean girl translated for us, but we learned the entire dance ourselves and performed it with over 300 college-aged Koreans. Apparently it’s going to be on Youtube soon. Who would’ve thought?
- Attempted (and conquered) the Subway system
I come from small-town, rural Minnesota. We do not have subway systems. I rode the bus for only one year in Middle School, and that was the school bus. But round of applause for me because I am pretty sure that I have now conquered the complex Seoul subway system! Our ISA leader, Sungjo, has helped us newbies figure out which stops are busy and how to get place to place. I would say that there were no casualties, but some of us did get lost in the subway for a good three hours… All in the experience, am I right?
- Ditched the forks for chopsticks
I went through fork withdrawal on the very first day of the trip. Every meal that I have eaten in South Korea has been with chopsticks, which actually haven’t turned out to be too bad of an experience because I’ve quickly found that the chopsticks slow you down and let you enjoy your food. Now if only the steam from the food would stop making the metal chopsticks so darn slippery!
- Formed relationships with other Americans
I am so glad that I have an instant circle of friends from my ISA group! We make the majority of the American population at Konkuk University, and I have enjoyed exploring Korea with these adventurous people. How nice is it to have people around you that are going through the same culture shock as you are! I know I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see other people in my group struggling to grip their food as well.
- Formed international relationships
The university that I am studying at, Konkuk University, has an extensive foreign exchange population. One of my favorite things to do is meet new people, and I have met some amazing people from China, Finland, Taiwan, and Germany among so many other places! If anything, meeting all of these people reminds me of how truly grand our world is! I love coming together and comparing experiences. So grateful for the common language of English (and the very helpful gestures and facial expressions…)!
- Wandered off the beaten path
The truth of the matter is, I stick out in Korea. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, which makes it almost impossible to not be noticed on the subway or the homogeneous streets of Seoul. With this being said, I have LOVED being a tourist in this city. We have had a full week of sightseeing before classes started, and I definitely took advantage by exploring many of the major districts and Korean palaces, along with lesser known places known for being “hidden gems” in Korea.
I am more than excited to get into some sort of regular routine with classes starting soon, but I am not going to let this stop me from exploring and stepping outside of my comfort zone. If I could give any advice with my one week of study abroad experience, it would be to take risks. Don’t let your dorm room contain you, and go out and join things that you wouldn’t have the chance of joining at home. If things don’t work out or are uncomfortable, treat it as another life experience and pat yourself on the back for trying it out. My first week in Seoul can be summed up in one sentence: it didn’t go as planned, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The world awaits…discover it.