Tag Archives: South Korea

Pohang and Yeosu

In Korea, the beginning of May holds two important holidays, Buddha’s birthday and Children’s day. Both of these days means everyone gets a break from work and from school.

I decided to use this break to go to Daegu and visit Sara as well as travel to Yeosu with her. At first we had planned to go to Suncheon and Yeosu, both famous for their scenic views and yummy foods. However, we did not expect that there might be tons of other people who wanted to do what we were planning to do and so bus tickets and accommodations for Suncheon were all booked. We had to make the executive decision to just go to Yeosu and spent our extra day in Pohang, a city off the southeastern coast of Korea.

The Pohang trip was kind of a disappointment as we weren’t able to do what we had wanted which was BoGyeongSa, a temple with waterfalls. We arrived in Pohang to find that the buses did not run very often and so we waited an hour for a bus that never showed up. We had to abandon our plans and headed towards the beaches instead. The first beach we went to was Songdo haesuyukjang. It was very unimpressive to be quite honest. There wasn’t very many people and not a very nice view.

However, the second beach we went to was much better. Yeongildae Beach is one of the more well known beaches in Pohang, and we immediately saw why. The atmosphere of this beach was more lively as there were families playing in the sand.

We took off our shoes and walked along the coast. It was a refreshing feeling being able to dig our toes in the sand and let the water wash it away. It was also very nice watching children jump around and enjoying themselves in the water. Although the Pohang trip started out disappointingly, it ended with a nice and relaxing walk along the beach.

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Yeongildae Beach’s Pagoda

The next day Sara and I boarded another bus bound for Yeosu. which is located on the southern coast. The trip took about three hours but we slept through most of it. Once we got there, we took a taxi to a little restaurant we had read about online. It is called 꽃담 (ggot dam) which I believe translates to flower murals. The restaurant served a healthy rice dish with lots of vegetables. Not only was the meal delicious, it was very visually appealing.

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After eating, we decided to go to Odongdo, which is a small island connected to Yeosu by a bridge. The island was so beautiful. We walked around the rocky coast taking many pictures. There was so much to see and do. We spent about 3 hours walking around and then decided to head back to the mainland to ride the cable car. After waiting in line for about an hour, we got into a cable car and it ascended across Yeosu. The view from above was just as magnificent as it was on land. It was definitely worth the wait!

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We finally ended the day with dinner at an outdoor restaurant. We had stir-fried eel and a seafood pancake. Both items were delicious and was a great end to the fun day.

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Lots of people eating at the outside restaurants
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Stir-fried eel and seafood pancake

I would recommend Yeosu to anyone who is going to Korea, either for study aboard or just a vacation. It is a beautiful place surrounded by nature and wonderful sights. There is a lot of delicious food in Yeosu and many activities to enjoy. Odongdo especially is a place I would recommend for scenic nature views.

Cherry Blossom Season

봄봄봄이 왔네요~ (Spring, spring, spring is here~)

봄봄봄 (Spring, spring, spring) by Roy Kim is one of two very popular songs in Korea during this time of year. It is a fun and light hearted song that describes the beginning of spring and remember meeting someone for the first time.

This song is very fitting for the spring season because it invokes a happiness and excitement that was masked by the cold winter. In the music video, there are scenes of cherry blossoms, which are everywhere in Korea, There are designated places, such as the Han River and Jamsil Lake, where couples, families, and just about everyone goes to take pictures. Because the cherry blossoms only last for about two weeks or so, these areas are always busy and packed with people. It is nice seeing everyone dressed up getting ready to take pictures and enjoying the nice change in temperature and scenery.

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Even from SNU, there are plenty of cherry blossom trees planted and they give the campus a beautiful lively feel. It definitely makes walking to class more bearable. The spring has made me fall in love with Korea even more and it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye.

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Midterms and Plans

It is now the beginning of May. Back home, OU students are getting ready to take their finals and preparing for their summer vacations. But here in South Korea, I have just finished taking my midterms and doing projects. Although I am jealous of the OU students, I also remembered when winter break came around and I had two and a half months to sit around and do nothing.

With about 7 weeks left of school, it feels unreal that I will soon be leaving Korea permanently. I always knew that time flew, but everything seems to go by faster here. And so, I have decided to use my time wisely. I have plans to go not only to unexplored parts of Seoul, but all over the country. I will start my journey with a trip to Daegu to see Sara, and then together, she and I are heading to Yeosu, a city off the southern coast. We are both excited about going because we’ve heard great things about Yeosu. I’m excited to see the beach and have a break from the busy life of Seoul.

I’m looking forward to see Sara as well as see more parts of South Korea. After this trip, I wonder where I will go.

DREAMS DO COME TRUE

Saturday, 25 March 2017

If you know me or have read my other blog posts, you know that I am a big KPOP fan. In fact, it’s what made me start learning Korean and was one of the factors that led me to study aboard in South Korea. Being a long time KPOP dan, I have seen many groups debut and have fallen in and out of love with many of them. I’ve had my phases, just like everyone else. However, there is one group that I have followed from the beginning of their career. B.A.P, which stands for Best Absolute Perfect (cheesy name, I know), debuted in January of 2012 with “Warrior” as their title track. I was instantly attracted to their music which was hip hop but rougher and more exciting. From then, I followed them through their growth. I watched them experiment with new concepts and listened to them mature in their music style. I made it my dream to go see a B.A.P concert, whether it was in Korea or elsewhere.

And tonight, my dream came true! I bought tickets to see the start of their world tour, Party Baby. I was excited every day leading up to the concert as I knew I would have fun. And I did, indeed. Since it was my first concert ever, I was unsure what to do and where to go, but once it started I knew exactly when to sing along and when to scream at the top of my lungs. The concert lasted 2 hours, and I was standing the whole time. At times my legs and feet hurt, but that was quickly replaced with excitement from the music and performances.

I wish I remembered how many songs they performed and what they were, but I was just too overwhelmed by the fun atmosphere to take notice. We were not allowed to take pictures, but the rebel side of my broke the rules and secretly took some pictures, although they are very low quality. Better something than nothing right?

This was definitely a new and fun experience. I’m glad that I was able to see B.A.P perform at least once in my life. I’m glad that my first concert was of my favorite, and I’m glad that such a great group as B.A.P exists (wow hardcore fangirl much?? lol). I definitely will look for more opportunities to see them again!

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Daehyun, lead vocalist and my favorite member
Daehyun, lead vocalist and my favorite member
I bought a bag
I bought a bag

Music Bank

As a KPOP, I got to go see the live recording of a music show on Friday. The show is called Music Bank, and it is broadcasted through KBS, one of the main TV channels in Korea.
I arrived an hour earlier to fill out my registration and waited in excitement to enter the KBS recording studio. While waiting, I met a girl from Michigan who was studying at another university in Seoul. We talked about our favorite groups and how cold the weather was. Finally, we were let inside, and some groups were still doing rehearsals.
I was very overwhelmed by all the noise and lights but quickly adjusted to it. I was also very stuck by the hard work of all the groups. They danced and sang their heart out for just a few minutes on television. I’ve heard that being a KPOP singer can be very stressful, as they are expected to be perfect. They train many hours a day on not only singing and dancing but also public speaking, acting, etiquette, etc. Of course with all these hours of training, they are left with little time for fun. They are admirable as they are sacrificing much of their time to be able to perform and entertain others. After leaving the Music Bank recording, I can definitely say I gained a new insight on KPOP and feel more love with it.

OU vs SNU

In the few months that I’ve been in Korea, and more specifically at Seoul National University, I’ve definitely noticed differences between SNU and OU.

  1. Built right next to a mountain, SNU is extremely hilly and secluded from the main attractions of Seoul. Walking around SNU these past few months have definitely made my calves toner haha.

2. Everyone dresses well. At OU, it is socially acceptable to show up to class with sweats or shorts and t-shirt, but if you were to do that at SNU, you would stand out like a sore thumb. Students put much effort into their looks, often doing a full face of makeup, beautiful hairstyles, and, of course, dressing in nice clothing.

3.  Letterman jackets EVERYWHERE. Most, if not all, students have a letterman jacket that says SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY and their major and/or affiliated clubs on it. I didn’t notice them as much until the weather dropped. They wear it as a sign of pride as SNU is one of the hardest schools to get into.

4. Protest. Koreans are not afraid to speak their mind when it comes to issues they are passionate about. I was told that during the summer a group of students started protesting the building of a new campus. As my Korean is not that best, I didn’t know their reasons. But, I’ve seen their posters everywhere on campus. They even set up a tent outside the administrative building and sit, sleep, and eat in there to protest.

5. Perhaps the most shocking difference, to me at least, is the fact that students are allowed to smoke and drink on campus. I think I took advantage of OU’s dry campus policy as it is burdensome to walk around campus and breathe in cigarette smoke.

These are the five things that I find the most different between OU and SNU.  I’m so bad at ending my blog posts…

 

 

Never Again

This week I finished my midterms and I felt free and relaxed. I was a couch potato right after my last exam was done. Then, my friend suggested that we go hiking. Since I felt that I should get up and move, I agreed and on Saturday, we set out to Bukhansan.

Bukhansan is one of the many mountains in Seoul, and with that being said, it is also one of the most difficult mountains to hike. I’ve been hiking a few times in Colorado, and so I thought I would be fine. I was not. This hike has been, by far, the hardest hike I’ve ever done in my life.

There were TONS of people, mostly older Koreans, but there were a few foreigners. I was embarrassed at my lack of stamina as compared to the older Koreans. They were practically like flying squirrels! They hiked (and even ran) up the trail with ease that made me shocked and scared about their safety.

Back to my situation. I think one of the reasons why the hike was so hard was because of the weather. It was a little cold and dry, which irritated my nose every time I breathed. Also, I forgot how much my ankles hurt the last time I hiked, and so this also made the hike worse. However, the view was worth the death I felt like I was going through.

I would definitely recommend Bukhansan to those hiking fanatics. But as for me, I don’t think I’ll be returning to Bukhansan anytime soon. (I’m still sore and exhausted as I type this.)

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Although it was a little foggy, the tall buildings of Seoul can be seen.
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bukhansan3 People waiting in line to hike to the peak!

 

Namdaemun Market 남대문시장

If anyone has ever been interested in Korea and has searched what to do in Korea, one of the many things recommended by travel blogs and books is Namdaemun Market. Located only a few stops from where I live, I decided that I should check out the buzz.

I arrived at the market at around 3pm, and it was PACKED! There, of course, were many Koreans, but at the same time, the market was full of tourists. I recognized English, Chinese, and French among the many other languages in the market. It was quite surprising but at the same time, I should have expected it, as it has become a big tourist destination. The vendors themselves tried to speak foreign languages in order to attract the tourists. It was interesting and fun to observe them.

The market was a big sensory overload. There were many different sights and smells and sounds. I thought I was used to Korea’s loud and crowded areas, but I guess I was wrong. Walking around, I was enticed by the smells of the delicious looking foods. I decided to get 3 steamed buns filled with red bean paste. Red beans? What? Those who are unfamiliar with this concept will think this is gross, but I grew up eating this stuff and so I knew that the red beans would be sweetened. And they were. They were warm and soft and sweet. And delicious! I would have eaten more but they were quite filling.

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The white ones are regular rice flour and the purple one is made with black rice!

I also had an iced tea (which I failed to take a picture of, but just imagine a cup of iced tea). Back in Oklahoma, I would never order an iced tea because of how sickeningly sweet it is. However, Korean iced tea has a tartness to it that makes it easier to drink. It balanced out the sweetness of the buns perfectly. Overall, I had a great day and an even better break from studying. I will definitely come back to Namdaemun Market to try other foods, as well as eat more steamed buns!

Start of Semester

September 1st marked the beginning of the fall semester at Seoul National University. I have to admit that I was quite excited to start school as I wanted to meet new friends and learn more about Korean history and culture. I have a very nice schedule in that I have Wednesdays and Fridays off, which means more free time for fun…and study I guess.

The first day of school is always the most hectic. I left my place at around 8am and headed toward the subway station. I didn’t realize how packed the subways would be and had to let 3 trains pass before finally squeezing into one. Luckily for me, many people got off at the next few stations, and I was able to get a seat. After arriving at the subway station near school, I headed toward the free shuttle to school and the queue was INSANE. There were about 100 students waiting patiently for the bus to come. I made it into SNU with about 30 minutes until class started and that was enough time for me to get lost. I didn’t know where my class was as the school was unfamiliar (and big) to me. However, a nice security guard saw my confusion and kindly guided me to the building I needed to go to.

After a stressful morning, the rest of my day went smoothly. I attended three classes, and they all seemed interesting and fun. However, they do involve a lot of reading, so my Wednesdays and Fridays will be busy getting the readings done.

In my Music of the World class, I met a friendly Malaysian international student. She had been at SNU for about 2 years, and so she knew the ways around school and knew a lot about Korea. She was kind enough to accompany me to get my student ID card and invited me to dinner with her friends. I was so grateful for her talking to me and showing me around and she said that she understood the struggle of being a foreigner. She too had been in my position, alone in a new country, and just wanted to help me out as much as she could. I’m happy to say that I made a good friend and hope to make more friends like her as the year progresses.

Tips for KNU Summer School

Now that my summer at Kyungpook National University, I find myself missing Daegu. The people were very hospitable, and the city was beautiful. One month felt like forever, but at the same time, it went by very quickly. I have learned many things from my month in Daegu and would like to share some tips I have with those of you who are interested in KNU!

1) Know how to say 경북대학교북문 (Kyungpook Daehakgyo Pookmoon)
경북대학교북문 means Kyungpook National University North Gate. This is the main meeting point for many KNU students. It is also the most convenient place to be dropped off by taxi if you are coming from the airport or the train station. Most, if not all, taxi drivers know where North Gate is and will take you directly there.

2) Bring travel-sized toiletries and a towel

After a long flight, it feels nice to take a hot (or cold depending on the weather) shower. But, if you don’t pack some shampoo/conditioner/body wash, then that shower won’t feel as refreshing as you had expected. I recommend packing only travel-sized toiletries as you can always buy bigger ones in Daegu, and they won’t weigh down your suitcase. Along with travel-sized toiletries, it is smart to bring a towel, preferably one that you doing mind throwing away at the end of your trip. Many of my classmates went the first few days without towels because they forgot to or decided not to bring towels to save space in their suitcase. While it is possible to find towels in Daegu, most of them are small, and you have to go off-campus to find them.

3) Shop at Daiso first

If you find yourself short on certain goods, the first place to check is Daiso. This is the Korean equivalent of a dollar store, except the quality for certain goods is better. At Daiso, you can find anything. Toiletries, plates, bowls, cups, and even snacks. KNU does provide summer school students with blankets and a pillow, but toilet paper and shower shoes are up to the student to get. I recommend Daiso because it is cheap, and they seem to have everything one would need. If Daiso doesn’t carry what you need, then you can check out later supermarkets like Homeplus or Lotte Mart, which are like Walmart or Target.

4) DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER

It is pretty common in America to flush your toilet paper when you’re done with your business, however, you should not do this in Korea. Many shops and stores will have a sign in the restrooms that says “Do not flush toilet paper as it will clog.” The same is true for the dorms. Although my dorm did not come with a trashcan, I hung a plastic bag on the door handle that acted as a trashcan. As gross as that sounds, it is better than having a clogged toilet that is not usable.

5) Bring medicine and bug spray

I got pretty sick during the last week of the program due to the constant change in temperature; outside was sweltering and inside was freezing due to the air conditioning. Luckily, I had packed a box of cold medicine before I left for Korea. I used up most of the box and now wish I had packed more. There are independently owned pharmacies all over Korea, which makes getting medicine easy. However, it is hard because all the medication is in Korean, and most often you have to explain your symptoms to the pharmacist, which can be difficult if you don’t speak Korean. If you do find yourself in need of medication, it would be best to find a Korean friend to help you or to make use of your KNU buddy.

Mosquitoes here are ridiculous. I have been bitten so many times. They find their way indoors as well, and so to avoid the pain and annoyance of itchy bites, it is best to bring and use bug spray as well as itch cream if a sneaky mosquito happens to get you.

This concludes my tips for KNU (and living in Korea in general). I narrowed down these tips from a longer list I had, and so I will probably make a second tips post. Thank you for reading, and I hope this helps out those who are interested in KNU and Korea!