Saying Goodbye

The last seven weeks in South Korea were honestly so amazing. Being able to go to a different country by myself and try to navigate and figure out things in a completely different country with a completely different language was a little nerve wracking but amazing. It’s something I’ll never forget.

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Settled In

I’ve been in South Korea for three weeks, but I already feel it’s like a second home. It’s almost like I’ve lived here for a longer time. I feel comfortable with the campus and the people.

The program I was so worried for, Global Village, ended on Friday and I already know it was the best part of my trip. Teaching my students was an incredible experience and I realized that it’s something I definitely want to do in the future. I never thought I would like teaching but getting closer to my students, seeing them open up and talk more than the first day is heartwarming. We’ve already started planning to meet during the rest of the time I’m here and I’m really happy. It’ll be sad when it’s truly time to say goodbye when I go back to the United States. I’m so thankful I got to experience Global Village. I only wish it had been longer 🙁

The academic program starts tomorrow and I’m a little excited to see what my classes will be like. I’ll be taking Contemporary Korean Culture & Society and a Korean Language course.

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Finally

It was a long 14 hour flight to get to South Korea (although the food was pretty good so I can’t complain about that) but I’m finally here. I only slept for maybe three hours on the plane and then I slept a little more on the taxi ride to Dankook.

I was so excited to be in South Korea but at the same time, I was too tired to really take everything in because I mainly just wanted to get to a bed. I only got something from the convenience store to eat and then went to sleep.

Today we had orientation for the Global Village portion of the program and I am really nervous for this part. Although I want to teach abroad after I graduate and realize this is an amazing experience I’m still afraid. I’m not sure how I’ll conduct lessons, keep the class going and so on. I hope after the first couple of days I’ll warm up to teaching.

Tomorrow is our last day of orientation before Global Village starts and it ends early so my friend and I are planning to go to Hwaseong Fortress (수원 화성).

Here are some pictures of Dankook University Jukjeon Campus

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Almost There!

There are just a couple more days until I arrive in South Korea. It’s a little surreal to think that I’ll be going there so soon. I’ve been wanting to visit for three years now and it’s finally happening! I’m not really nervous as I’ve traveled outside of the country before, but the one thing that’s different is that I’ll be traveling by myself for the first time. Just me without my mom. I guess that should get me a little scared especially since I’ll be fourteen hours away from home, but really it just makes me even more excited. I’m ready to go and discover new places by myself and really be on my own.

I’ve already written down all the places I want to visit while I’m there, looked over the map of the school and the surrounding town and I’ve exchanged some money that should last me for the first week or two before I need more.  I think I’m more than ready for this trip to start. Now it’s time to be patient.

The Experience of a Lifetime (on a backpack): 12 Day Countdown!

The fact that I will be going to Asia for the first time ever has been slowly sinking in, but it has not quite hit me yet. Perhaps it will all register once I board the plane to Japan and commence my overseas experience. Nevertheless, I can not wait to take off! To say that I am excited to study abroad would be an understatement; I am exhilarated. I have been dreaming of going to Asia since I was about 8 years old but never the resources or opportunity to go until now. This will be the first time I ever travel across the world (with the exception of a few trips I’ve taken to the Dominican Republic to visit family) and I plan to do it all on a backpack.

Wait.. did you say, “a backpack?!” 

That’s right. And here is the very backpack that will take me around Japan and South Korea for the next two months:

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(It’s much bigger than it seems, I promise!)

I want to travel and make the most out of this learning experience, so packing light is my best bet. I’ll be staying at a hostel in Osaka, Japan for 9 nights before going over to South Korea to begin my official study abroad program. Afterwards, I will head down to Jeju island, a densely populated tropical island just south of the South Korean mainland, where I will spend 5 nights exploring the island and learning it’s history. Did I mention that I will be taking a tour of the Demilitarized Zone and Joint Security Area in North Korea?! (Nope, not a typo, refresh the page if you don’t believe me). This opportunity is offered through my host institution as a cultural immersion experience and believe it or not, I am looking forward to it. Since I want to experience as much as I possibly can in South Korea, I ended up signing up for nearly all of the cultural activities. A few of the one’s that I’m most excited about are: Making Kimchi, Temple Stay, and South Korea’s annual Mud Festival event!

So, how do I feel about all of this? Scared? Nervous? Excited? Well, to reiterate, I am ABSOLUTELY EXHILARATED. It is invigorating, yet surreal to picture myself on the other side of the world with my life in a backpack. Nonetheless, I am prepared, both physically (maps, bus routes, travel equipment, etc.) and mentally.

I will be sure to keep you all posted on my travels/experiences. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave it as a comment below!

 

 

Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Korea

*The information provided is solely based on my personal experience in Korea.

To any female traveling to Korea…

  1. Because you are a foreigner it’s ok to dress as you would in America, but most Korean women do not show any skin on their upper body. Short skirts, shorts, and dresses are accepted, but showing any chest, shoulder, or back is not.
  1. There are many differences about shopping in Korean stores compared to shopping in the states. One tip is that sizes run about a size smaller than the U.S. This goes for Korean and American stores. I found this out the hard way and was very disappointed when I was in the dressing room L Also, trying clothes on is not allowed in almost every Korean store. The norm is to hold something up to your body, decide if you think it will fit or not, and then either buy it or put it back on the rack. Some stores make exceptions if the item has a zipper, but this isn’t always the case.
  1. Do you like going out and having a good time? Even though I believe this is a more traditional custom I noticed that a lot of my female students turn away from the group when taking a shot of alcohol. I’m not sure why this is, but I picked up on it about two weeks into the program.
  1. This goes for men and women, but when using restrooms in Korea do not flush your toilet paper! I know this is a little gross to talk about, but it’s something I wish someone told me prior to going. There will always be a small wastebasket inside the stall to dispose your toilet paper.

 

General tips and facts about Korea

  1. Transportation is extremely cheap! For example, a one hour bus ride to Seoul is about 2,000 won, a 10 minute taxi ride is about 5,000 won (splitting it makes it even cheaper), the subway is about 1,500 won, and a 4 hour bus ride from Dankook to Busan is 25000-30000 won.

2. The subways in Korea are spotless compared to the subways in the states. There are also doors        blocking all travels from the area the subway will arrive at. One of my students told me this was created  after a man fell in front of an oncoming subway and ended up dying. It definitely makes traveling a lot safer, especially for young children.

  1. If you are Caucasian expect people to stare at you, especially the older generation. Because I am Korean almost everyone assumed I grew up in Korea and would try to talk to me. It was very obvious that people were more interested in the Caucasian students than the Asian students studying abroad, however once they found out we (the Asian students) were American they were just as interested in getting to know us as my Caucasian co-teachers.
  1. People are extremely nice in Korea! The level of respect everyone has is so much greater than in America. Yes, if you’re walking on a crowded street people will bump into you without saying “excuse me” or “I’m sorry”, but other than that everyone is very accepting and welcoming. Also, there are many rules when it comes to respect. For example, when eating dinner the youngest person at the table is expected to serve the silverware and pour the drinks (I believe the order of serving is oldest to youngest). I also noticed that men usually do the cooking (at most restaurants you cook your food at your table). There are also certain names you call one another depending on age. For example, if a boy is younger than a girl he will call her “Noona” and if a girl is younger than a boy she will call him “Oppa”.

Why You Should Study Abroad

It has been one week and two days since I returned to the states. As soon as I got home I started working, which has been keeping me busy. I honestly miss Korea a lot. It might be too early to write this blog because I haven’t been home that long, but I can’t help missing my students and co-teachers. As for studying abroad I still feel the same way as I did in my last blog. I think everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetime for multiple reasons. Studying abroad is extremely beneficial for any student. It is a chance for students to learn from professors around the world, which can open up viewpoints or give different perspectives on things taught inside and outside the classroom. Studying abroad also shows the importance and relevance of diversity around the world. Not every university is like SUNY New Paltz, which I believe some people are not exposed to and therefore do not know how the world around them is different. A final reason I think everyone should study abroad is because it is the perfect opportunity to meet people from around the world. While in Korea I made numerous Korean friends along with people from the United Kingdom, California, and other states in America. Even though I was only studying abroad for 7 weeks the friendships I made will be friendships I have for a lifetime.

 

Even though it’s sad to think my time in Korea is over I am very blessed I had the opportunity to meet new people and study abroad. My experience in Korea reinsured my dream to teach ESL in another country. I will definitely be applying for jobs in Korea once my senior year of college begins.

Back to the States :(

My 7 weeks in Korea is over. Yesterday, I flew back and landed at JFK around 11:00am. Leaving my co-teachers and students was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my entire life. The past week has been a very emotional, but I am so blessed I met the people I did.

I don’t really know how I feel about being back in the states. I started to miss my family the last few days of the trip, but now that I’ve been home for a day I already want to go back. I loved everything about Korea and know I will someday return. If things are still as planned I will go back during winter break of my senior year to hopefully have a few job interviews for a teaching position the following fall after graduation. Normally I have a lot to write about, but this blog is different. I met some of the best people in the world and made so many amazing memories. I absolutely love all of my students and miss them immensely. All I can say is that studying abroad was the best decision I’ve ever made and I highly recommend everyone to do it.

Below is a picture of all of the teachers in the GV program along with the other students who joined us for the AP program (left top), a picture of my joined afternoon class with my co-teachers (right top), and then my joined morning class (left bottom)!

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Death Note the Musical

So my professor asked me if I have seen many musicals because I am from New York City, famous for Broadway. In response, I told him that I haven’t but I have seen 2 musicals while I was in Korea last year. Now that I think about it, I have seen a musical in my Freshman year of college through the SMP program. .. sorry professor I lied. When I told my professor that I haven’t seen any Broadway productions but have gone to musicals in Korea he was shocked. I guess there will be a day where I will get to see a Broadway production on NYC, but for now I’ll stick to Korea.
So recently, yesterday, I went to see another musical in Korea, Death Note. To be honest, I only really wanted to see it because of Xia JunSu (from the Korean boy band JYJ). I saw him last year in the musical Dracula and I just had to see him again while I had the chance. Sadly, I fell asleep on some bits of the musical this year and for Dracula last year. I should really invest in some binoculars because it was difficult for me to keep my attention since I couldn’t see people’s facial emotions. Nonetheless, their actions, singing, set, design, and costume, were good enough to satisfy the three stories amount of seating.
I really recommend attending some shows and musicals while in Korea because all three productions that I have been to have been well put together and up to my standards.
The only down side is that it will be in Korean, but if you know the story line it is easy to follow. If you don’t know the story line, the actors usually do a good job demonstrating it so that even if you don’t know Korean, you will be fine.

안녕~

Clubbing in Hongdae!

Last night a group of students and teachers went to Hongdae to go clubbing. Everyone knows Korean clubs are the best so we had to experience it at least once. We decided to go to NB1 and NB2 because they are hip-hop clubs and play the best dancing music (most clubs play techno, but we all preferred hip-hop). Before 10pm it costs $10 to get in and after that until midnight it’s $15, which is still very cheap compared to others (from what we researched most clubs cost around $30 to get in). The cover fee includes entrance to both NB1 and NB2 along with two free drinks. First, we went to NB2. There are three floors and each one was packed to the max. The scene was insane and there was never a dull moment. I absolutely loved it and plan on going back my last weekend here. Half way through the night we went to NB1 across the street. The same type of music is played here, but it’s much smaller and hardly crowded. Besides size, the difference between the two is that people at NB2 never stop dancing while at NB1 more people are drinking and talking. People still danced, but not as much as NB2. There were also more foreigners at NB1 compared to NB2. Plan on having all eyes on you anywhere you go though because everyone knows you’re a foreigner and will want to dance with you, especially at NB2. We arrived to the club at midnight and did not leave until 5am. Arriving earlier is fine, but the most popular time to go clubbing is 1am-5am. The night went by so fast and was over before we knew it. I definitely recommend experiencing a Korean club! Just be prepared for the big crowd and non-stop dancing!