Baseball, Gwanaksan, and Midterms!

It turns out that I have a really hard time keeping myself motivated to keep up with this blog. If I don’t feel at my best, I don’t want to write, and if I feel great, I want to go out and do things. I’m approaching two months since I’ve been here and this is still only my second post. A lot has happened, and that’s part of why I don’t write a lot.

The leaves are slowly beginning to turn color here as the autumn season has really started rolling in. It was hot all the time for quite a while, but now, suddenly, we have a few warm hours in the afternoon and it is getting quite cold for the mornings and nights.

Here’s some information on some of the things I’ve done!

Baseball game at Jamsil Stadium (9.13)

The baseball game that I went to was at Jamsil Baseball Stadium (잠실 야구장) and was the Samsung Lions versus the LG Twins.

This was a pretty funny experience. We, my friend who brought me and I, got tickets that we thought were supposed to be for LG, but it turned out we were in the Samsung fans’ section. We felt very out of place with our red colored fan gear in a sea of blue, but in the end LG won 1-0, so we then felt proud of our red noise makers.

Jamsil is roughly 40 minutes away from my local station, Hyehwa (혜화), at the Sports Complex station (종합운동장). It’s a very nice looking stadium and the place was packed. We got there just in time for the game which meant that there were actually no seats left. We ended up sitting on the steps until we scoped out some seats that someone had abandoned. We ate fried chicken with sweet chili sauce, enjoyed the beautiful clear sky, and watched the game and cheered. Some of the cheers I believe were uniquely Korean, but others were Korean versions of the same cheers I know from the states.

I really wanted to buy a baseball jersey there, but I didn’t. It was great anyhow, especially when followed by the many LG fans hanging around eating and drinking together, buying from the vendors set up outside. You could buy various types of foods like ddeokbokki (떡볶이-essentially soft rice cakes covered in red pepper paste), soondae (순대-“sausage” — actually stuffed intestines), and soups, and drinks. We had soondae, soup, and soju (소주).

It was a wonderful night and very interesting to see something thought of as so American done with a Korean twist.

Here’s a pretty panoramic I took during the game:

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Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Seoul

Hiking Gwanaksan (9.14)

The next day I went for a short hike on Gwanaksan (관악산; aka Mt. Gwanak). The hike was nice though and I realized how out of shape I have gotten. I don’t even want to know how out of shape I am now since I haven’t been able to go running at all here. Anyway, it was a good hike with a pretty path, pretty view, and a nice little temple and resting spot at the end of the hike. We also brought the little dog Hyosoon (효순), along with us and she makes everything fun.

Along the hike there was a spot where you could take a break from the hike and instead stop and workout. There are various machines that you would normally find in a gym as well as a few bars that you can use to do push-ups, pull-ups, etc. on. I didn’t actually try any of these myself (yeah, lazy, shush), but my friend did and there were a couple of other people that were using some machines. You also find places like this at random places around the city or in parks.

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The bell rung to bring in the new year every year.

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효순 climbing behind us

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At the end point of our hike

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The view when we reached our destination

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We were heading back down the mountain and stopped for photos 🙂

When we got back home, we replaced the calories we burned with those found in this delicious shrimp gold, Korean style pizza! It was both sweet and savory at the same time! And, like all Western food in Korea, is served with sweet pickles.

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Shrimp gold pizza!

Korean Class Midterms (9.26 and 9.29)

The midterm exams for the Korean class were three parts: listening, grammar/reading/writing, and speaking. The speaking was on a Monday while the other two were on the preceding Friday. The listening was immediately followed by the grammar/reading/writing, so no one left, but I was among the first to leave the latter test. We draw from a pile of folded papers to determine the order of the speaking tests. I ended up being the last one and was also feeling unlucky to be one of 3 or 4 of the entire Level 1 to have to test with a teacher other than my normal conversation teacher. I thought it went really badly, but my scores were decent.

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Midterm exam scores for my Korean class.

The scores are listed as follows.

Grammar, Speaking (which is averaged with my listening score, 95), Vocabulary, Reading&Writing, Intensive Listening, and Average.

The text underneath says (roughly in my lazy and slightly assisted translation), “Works hard and Korean skills are good. Knows a lot of words and grammar. Mistakes are few, too. Moving forward, please continue to study hard.”

Final exams are this coming week. I’m very nervous for the listening. It was my worst before and the class has gotten much more difficult since.

After the first set of exams, so on Friday, the language program actually sent us all to see a Nanta (난타) performance. Nanta is Korea’s longest running show ever and we went as part of our cultural experience for the Korean language program. It was really great. The wiki page linked above gives good basic information, but I will back up the claims about the quality of the entertainment. It was funny, creative, and impressive. The music, mostly (or entirely) of the percussion variety and done with both drums and random kitchenware, was very satisfying and the cast was very skilled. They must possess several very well trained and perfected talents all at once in order to perform.

Now, these things are only a fraction of what I’ve done so far here. I have a list of what to write about and will be posting about them soon.

-Carrie

First post! Classes and Chuseok!

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.

Classes: 

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.

Korean pre-school, I tell ya!

Korean pre-school, I tell ya!

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.

Now…

Chuseok (추석):

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.

You can find some other basic information on Chuseok here and on Hanbok here.

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:

Other international friends and myself wearing Hanbok, traditional Korean clothes.

Fellow North American! Me and a Canadian exchange student I met.

Me and my roommate.

All of us again.

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남산골한옥 Straw activities.

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!

-Carrie