Finally! Here it is! My first post on my new study abroad blog!
I’ve already been in Korea for over two weeks, so this post will cover more than I would like it to, but I will be saving some of the last two weeks’ experiences for discussion later. I wanted to start this blog earlier, but I have been so nervous about actually writing in it that I put it off until now. Procrastination probably isn’t the best start to a new school year, but oh well. A journey of a million miles starts with a single step!
Today I’ll focus on my classes so far and the Chuseok holiday.
I’m studying one thing while I’m here: the Korean language. Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) has a language institute, the Sungkyun Language Institute (SLI), that is both part of and separate from the university. I am enrolled in their Regular Korean Program (RKP) meaning I have class five hours (9am-12:15pm plus an afternoon session at varying times) five days a week and will cover two of the six levels in my semester here.
More information: http://www.skku.edu/eng_home/global/edu/korean_1.jsp
In my class, there are many Taiwanese students, but also many Chinese, a few Japanese, a few Europeans, and one other American. I’ve been making friends. Everybody knows English, but it’s a second language for all except the two of us Americans. On the other hand, it hardly matters. My teachers will only communicate with the class in Korean, unless there is some important piece of information that we can’t understand, but they are very nice and I like them a lot. I do feel like I’m in a Korean pre-school class though… And that’s OKAY! 괜찮아요! (Most heard phrase in class.) So far it’s been pretty easy because I already knew hangeul (한글), the Korean alphabet/writing system, and some basic grammar quite well, but a lot of the vocabulary is new to me.
Also, this is not related to class specifically, but SKKU’s campus is on a mountain. My dorm, I-House (International House), is partway up the slope, but off-campus. This results in me having to walk down until I get to an entrance into the university, and then back up, past the I-House, and up the rest of hill to the academic buildings. Finally, I go up the stairs several floors to get to class (since the few elevators are always so packed, you often have to wait for at least one load of people to get on before you). It gets quite tiring, especially on these hot summer days, to make this trek. I must count it as my exercise until I can join the gym (which is also on top of the hill/mountain) or find somewhere I can jog.
I’m still trying to locate a good place to take a picture of the view. There are always buildings, vegetation, or dirty window screens blocking my shots. One of these days I will show you.
Chuseok is one of the major holidays in Korea. It’s often referred to as Korean Thanksgiving and is a time for honoring ancestors and is a harvest celebration. This year, Chuseok fell on this past Monday, September 8. During the days of the holiday, most businesses are closed and students like me have a 5 day weekend. Most people, roughly 75% of the population this year, move around and go to their hometowns, on trips, or generally visit with their family. The typically crowded streets around SKKU seemed deserted during Chuseok and most of the next day. The subway I took that day was relatively empty too with a handful of empty seats and no one standing. (There were people in Hanbok though!) I know that the roadways leaving Seoul were very congested to balance it out.
Now, how did I spend my Chuseok? Well, not everyone travels during Chuseok, so I spent the day with a close friend of mine who was also staying home in Seoul for the holiday. For me, it was a 1.5 hour trip between the walking, subway, and bus time to arrive at his home. It was quite worth the trip too. It was a great day full of hanging out, playing with the adorable puppy Hyo-soon (효순), Korean movies, and, of course, Korean food! I got new experiences for both take-out for lunch (bulgogi burgers (불고기버거?) from one of the few places open) and delicious homemade doenjang jjigae (된장찌개) and side dishes for dinner! I was very happy.
The day after Chuseok, I went with my roommate (a Spanish exchange student) and some other exchange student friends to try on Hanbok and go to Namsangol Hanok (남산골한옥) Villiage to see some traditional Korean buildings and performances.
Here are some photos from that day:
I didn’t elaborate on anything involving my flight or initial experiences in Korea here, but this post is getting too long. I will get to some later, but otherwise, just ask!
I will post again soon! 🙂 Thanks for reading!