Episode 1: Yonsei University and Incheon
Date: August 28, 2012
For the first time in my life, I’m living away from home. I’d like to believe I’m courageous by nature, but the truth is, I force myself to step outside of my comfort zone. Either way, my decision to come to South Korea is definitely not something I regret. That’s not to say I’m entirely enjoying myself; I do miss my true north strong and free and the adjustment is a slow and long process. But as the days go by, I fall more and more in love with “The Land of the Morning Calm”.
I am a fourth year International Business Major of the University of Ottawa. I decided to do my last semester in Seoul, South Korea studying at one of the biggest universities I’ve ever come across, Yonsei University. Coming from the small capital of Canada, I received a major culture shock within the first few days. I decided to start this blog to help others deal with the shock and confusion I had to deal with, and will continue to deal with while living in South Korea.
First off… holy craps I’m in South Korea!!! I am so excited to be here as I absolutely love everything Korean! The food, the music, the sights, the people… everything is so exciting to witness! But wow has South Korea shocked me! I feel quite intimidated when I walk the streets of Seoul. It’s indeed a very busy city and although there are many foreigners living here, you hardly see them around. And Koreans just love to look at your beautiful, foreign face so expect a lot of staring 😉 I can also add that I’m experiencing a huge culture shock! Even coming from a country as diversified as Canada, living here is really experiencing a completely different reality.
Where does the culture shock come from? Well for me, a lot of things widened my eyes or made me want to whip out my camera. I travel a lot but I really have never seen a country like South Korea. One thing that will amaze you is the beautiful coexistence of traditional and contemporary Korea. Now I use the word contemporary because you never know what tomorrow brings in this country. Modern and sophisticated apartments stand high everywhere, ingenious gadgets and automobiles, and the latest fashion is what’s happening. Nonetheless, you can always turn the corner and find a traditional style restaurant or boutique nearby. It’s something beautiful to experience as you feel you’re never too far from the two different faces of South Korea.
I am currently living with my friend Eunseon and her family in Incheon, a friend I met in Canada while she was doing an exchange at my university. And now, here I am, in her beautiful country and she has received me with more than just open arms. Living with a Korean family is quite the experience. I recommend it to you all. Korean people are very friendly and very welcoming. Even if they speak little English, they will always try to include you in their conversations and activities. Korean hospitality ensures you always feel like you’re at home!
Incheon is the booming little city next to the Seoul, about a 45 minute bus ride to and from the capital. That’s if you aren’t stuck in traffic which can be like going from Ottawa to Montreal (that’s an hour and a half by the way). Traffic is a huge problem in this country, and results in 3 hour commutes for me everyday! Waste of my life D:
In all honesty though, there is nothing to do in Incheon other than shop. If you have time to waste you could pay it a visit but there’s nothing tourist worthy here.
Everyone here lives in apartments and Incheon is currently experiencing mass development. Apartments stand tall by the numbers and they are huge (as spacious as town homes!). As my friend described upon seeing a picture, a copy and paste city.
Transportation here is amazing and highly sophisticated. The transportation card, or T-card, is useful for all those traveling by bus, subway, train, and taxi. You simply buy it for 2500₩ and you load it with cash. You then scan it when you get on the bus and once again when you get off. Don’t forget to scan it! If you do, you’ll be charged the full distance (ouch). Fare is based on distanced traveled and it’s generally very cheap (traveling twice a day to and from Seoul costs me around 4$ a day). Get the T-card, it’s useful. Also, word of advice, don’t load it with a lot of cash. I say this because I’m very clumsy and forgetful and if you’re like me, it’s a good precaution. There is ALWAYS an area where you can load it so to prevent losing it and ruining your day cause you’re a lazy mofo and had to jam pack it with money, just put a minimum of say, 30000₩? You won’t be sad if you lose that, right?
Food here is ridiculously cheap, eating out will generally cost you less than 10$. Furthermore, you can have anything delivered to you, anything. Even McDonald’s. Due to a lack of fruitful farming results in South Korea, buying food in grocery stores can be costly. And if you’re lazy like me, eat out! It’s cheap and healthy. Korean food is very tasty and good for you! Unlike Western food, Korean food is generally boiled, baked or barbecued. Eat as much of it while you’re here, the authentic stuff is homg good! *drools* :O
I will be attending Yonsei University, one of the top three Universities in Korea alongside Seoul University and Korea University (which by the way are the uni’s rivals!). Yonsei University is ridiculously vast and packed with foreigners. I highly enjoy being on campus as I don’t feel as secluded as I do walking on the streets of Seoul (I am literally the only brown person there!). There are foreigners everywhere studying at the University and you can go up to anyone and chat to make friends. People are very nice and just as eager to meet new people like you. I highly recommend the campus housing International House and SK Global House. Not only are they right beside the huge ass Yonsei University, but they are also cheap, yay! Around 500$ per month for a single room and 450$ for a double.
The University’s orientation was good, but a bit messy. Granted, Yonsei is quite new at International exchanges and I forgive them for a downright confusing and long orientation session. My general feeling after leaving the orientation session was to basically not screw up, in any way. The orientation covered everything from having safe sex to sexual harassment to alcohol and drug abuse. The University highly prides itself on its reputation and we, the students, create that reputation. So be a good little student 😉 The University has great activities planned for you and many clubs you can join at the SK Global House. The tours planned by the school this year were a Seoul City tour and the Gyeongbok Palace tour. I highly recommend both as they are inexpensive and you get to go with a bunch of other students.
I, of course, have tons more to share but who the hell wants to read this much? I will continue with my next blog which I intend to post over this upcoming weekend where I will discuss Gyeongbok Palace, underground secret passages (ok, it’s just the biggest freaking underground mall ever, calm down) and aliens! And by that I mean foreigners and your alien registration card which BTW is not a joke…
And as I finish my blog entry in the midst of Typhoon Bolaven smashing against my window and whistling throughout Incheon, I leave you all with my last major thought for the day… this country is unbearably hot!