An Ode to the Eccentric People You’ll Meet in Seoul

ISA Discovery Model: Intercultural

Theodore Stabile is a student at The College of Saint Rose, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. He studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.

From the moment you land in the Incheon Airport and set foot on South Korea’s metropolitan soil there’s a cornucopia of people you’ll meet.

Just to name a few:

At Korea University, you will make buddies with the “KUBA buddies”- bilingual/trilingual students at KU both local to Seoul and beyond, who will help you acclimate to the delightfully jarring pace of life in Seoul.

In Anam you will meet workers and cooks at your ever increasing list of places to eat who will start to know your name (in its Korean pronunciation, of course).

In Dongmyo, at the hall of street vendors you will meet bombastic market stand owners who at first just seem friendly to entice you to buy their wares, but in fact are earnest and instead want to entice you to stay so they can practice their English and give you a sample of their life story.

For the history buff, there is an assortment of veterans, tour guides, and older generation locals in the Dongnimmun district who are normally more than happy to educate foreigners on Korea’s extensive past. For the adventurous, in that same district lie two of Seoul’s greatest mountains- Ansan and Inwangson- and friendly mountain men and athletes are a delightful dime a dozen.

All throughout Seoul you’ll meet middle-aged and older locals, perhaps even monks, spiritually battered by the toils of life and all the wiser for it. Some still consider foreigners a rare sight, and a smile, a wave, or even a spur of the moment small gift goes a long way.

During the nightlife in Itaewon and Hongdae you may meet ephemeral friends whose dynamic with you ends the same night it starts. To compensate, the activities and world you’ll explore and the stories you’ll tell with one another will make your study abroad journey complete (and trust me, they’ll want stories from your home country, even tourist recommendations!).

Almost like fantasy fiction, in the hustle and bustle of Meyong-dong’s shopping districts and underground subway markets, you’ll meet wayward travelers and world roamers with tricks and trinkets galore. They’ll leave an impression on your memory, but feel free to record their performances for sentimental safekeeping, though it’s custom to ask permission and leave a small tip if you do!

Should the stars align, you may very well meet a star or a K-pop idol or brush shoulders with actors on the streets of Gangnam.

Outside of locals, I can’t overstate the breadth of diversity you’ll have in your fellow ISA student body. You’re bound to meet more students from across the planet and from all walks of life in a week then you would in five years back home. Cultural diffusion is the key!

To come full circle back to Korea University, you’ll meet hobby fanatics and impassioned actors, dancers, musicians and all else in between through the on-campus student organizations. With over 100 clubs, you’ve got magic, marital arts, and all else in-between, so don’t be shy! After all, clubs are the cure-all for bashfulness.

And of course, you’ll meet your ISA on-site staff, there to help and celebrate with you every step of the way while on your study abroad journey. Or at the very least, help prop up your survival Korean!

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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