Before coming to Korea, I thought I would never get tired of being in a new country and being able to explore my surroundings. However, I found myself missing home a lot more than I thought I would. So, during winter break (which I have to add is two and a half months long here in Korea) I decided it would be best to go back to the States. Although I knew I could have spent that time traveling or meeting new people, I felt that it would be good for me to have a break from the loneliness of living abroad.
The one thing I missed more than my family was my mom’s cooking. Growing up with a mother who cooked not only every day but also amazingly tasty food has definitely spoiled me. During break, I ate my weight’s worth of Vietnamese food, and it felt great!
I also decided to go back to work as I knew I would be bored without anything to do. If you know me, you know that I always complained about work. The long hours were rough, but dealing with hungry people is even worse. However, this time around, I found myself really enjoying work. A semester aboard made me miss not only my family but the people I work with. And so, I made an effort to engage with the other employees. We would joke around and laugh at even the smallest things. I found myself building stronger friendships in those two months than in the three years that I had been working there. I was a little sad when I had to say goodbye to them.
At the end of February, I packed up my things again for Korea. This time I brought less clothes and more food. I realized that I missed American food too, and so I packed myself a big jar of peanut butter and oatmeal, both of which are expensive and hard to find in Korea. (However as I’m writing this, my oatmeal stash has run low which means I must hunt for more soon.)
This semester, I am staying in the school dorms. It is a lot cheaper than the previous place I lived at but it is also more lonely. I have Korean roommates, but they are so busy with their lives and plans that I rarely see them. Also, I think the language difference makes them scared to talk to me, and so we only exchange greetings and then go about our lives. However, this semester I have made more international friends than I did last semester. I’ve met some very same-minded people who are in Korea to learn about the culture and experience the unique Korean lifestyle. I am excited to hang out with them and do some crazy things! Although last semester, I enjoyed my time in Korea, I hope this semester brings me some more new and unforgettable experiences!
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.
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.
- 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…
Today, I visited a traditional Korean market called Tongin Market. Located in Seoul near the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the market was full of tourists and natives trying to get a glimpse of what life was like before modernization.
Another reason that draws people to Tongin Market is the Dosirak Cafe. Here, you pay 5,000 Won (roughly $5) and you receive a plastic tray and 10 coins. Then, you walk around the market and trade your coins at different vendors for food! A serving of vegetables or smaller side dish will cost one coin and meat or other protein will cost two.
I had a hard time picking what I wanted to eat because there was so much to choose from and they all looked so delicious! In the end, I got a potato pancake, a skewer of pan fried fish, japchae (Korean sweet potato noodles with vegetables), greens, fried chicken, and Girim Ddeokbokki. Girim Ddeokbokki can only be found at the Tongin Market. It is rice cakes fried in oil and red pepper flakes.
It was all so delicious, and I definitely left feeling full and happy. Best of all, it was cheap and a very fun experience.
Bonus Round: Dessert
After stuffing my face with all of the food from the Dosirak Cafe, I walked around the area and found a little shop that sells egg tarts. The smells coming from the shop made me salivate even though I was full. I decided that I had room for one egg tart and treated myself to one. Now, I haven’t had many egg tarts before, but this one was definitely one of the best tarts I’ve ever had.
I would definitely recommend Tongin Market and the Dosirak Cafe to anyone who wants to try a variety of food and experience a Korean traditional market!
Also, get an egg tart because it is delicious.