Kyungpook National University Spring 2017: Study Abroad

Wow I can’t believe it’s already nearing the end of May! It seems like just the other day I was planning my trip, scouring the Internet for tips and ideas for my semester at KNU. This post will be a semi-informational guide for students planning on coming to KNU and if anybody actually reads this and has questions, please feel free to comment below and I’d love to help answer your Qs.

Ok so following my typical approach; let’s start with…

COST

Food

It ain’t cheap. I’d definitely save up a good amount of cash if you want to eat decently (aka not rice everyday). Like most University of Oklahoma exchange students at KNU, I received the housing and food scholarship from the university. Unfortunately, the food at the new dorm (there is a difference between the food at the old dorms and new dorms, I’ll explain in another post) is quite frankly, Absolutely terrible. If you can eat spicy foods, it won’t be as bad but the quality of food is just rough.

Now that said, one can eat pretty cheaply and in large quantities for nearly 5000₩ and there are some fruits you can find at a market near the old dorms. But I just want it to be known that most international students (including myself) underestimated the amount of money they would spend on food, because they expected the cafeteria food to be eatable. If you are not receiving the food scholarship, DO NOT BUY THE MEAL PLAN. I know many of my European friends did this and essentially wasted hundreds of euros on food they couldn’t physically stomach. Additionally, the food at supermarkets is more expensive than the market foods and you can’t buy any food to prepare because neither of the dorms have kitchens. So when you’re preparing a budget, know that food will take up most of your budget. In the next post I’ll write about some of the best/cheapest places to eat near campus and Downtown.

Traveling

In South Korea

So leaving Daegu can be pretty cheap or pretty expensive. It all depends on where you go but going to Seoul can range from 17000₩ to 47000₩, one-way. The price to Seoul varies depending on how early you buy the ticket and whether you take the long train (3.5-4 hours), the fast KTX (1.5 hours), or the bus (3 hours). The bus is usually the cheapest and the ride isn’t uncomfortable at all (they even stop midway for 15 minutes so you can go to the bathroom and whatnot).

Going to Busan (from what I’ve heard) is very cheap and only an hour or so, around 7000₩ one-way, and other to other cities is pretty cheap. I really love going to Seoul but always have limited time to travel due to work on Friday so I spend a buttload of money on the KTX ticket ;/ You can buy train tickets online here:

http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfTicketSearch.do

Leaving South Korea

Leaving the country can be a bit costly, depending on where you go and how far ahead you plan. Going to Japan will be around $140 round trip from Busan/Daegu– again the price depending on how early you plan your trip. Don’t try and buy your ticket for May 5th (if you’re there in the spring) because everybody and their mother will be going there!!!!

Going to Vietnam and Thailand is also quite cheap, but check the season (monsoon/high or low travel season) and remember that for Vietnam most people need visas (super easy to do online, will write about it another post). Going to Jeju (still in Korea) can actually be quite cheap and flights should be booked through http://www.jejuair.net. Google Flights is my favourite site to find the cheapest tickets from Korea.

In Daegu

Traveling within Daegu can mostly be done be bus, subway, or taxi. Taxis are SO cheap here (in comparison to the US) and a taxi from the campus to downtown will cost around 5500₩ and they take cards. All the taxi drivers only speak Korean though so download Google Translator or a map of where you want to go before you get in. If you’re going out to party (not that I ever did that), just keep this in mind because the bus stops running around 12. The bus is pretty easy to figure out but can be confusing at first because not everything is entirely translated into English like in Seoul. Take the 410 or the 706 to go downtown from North Gate (it’s around 7 stops).

You don’t have to but it’s easiest to buy a T-money travel card for the buses, which can also be used in the subways in Daegu and Seoul. It’s annoying to whip out the 1400₩ for each bus ride when you’re in a crowded bus with the typical crazy Korean bus driver. You can buy these cards at a 711 or CU at North Gate. When it comes to the subway in Daegu, because there is no stop near the uni I rarely ever used it. It’s good to get around to different parts of the city if you just want to explore or go see the other universities in the area (Yeongnam).

Here is a picture of the KNU taxi card you get in your welcome packet but I thought some students may want it before they come just in case:

 

 

Clothes

Clothes here can range from very cheap to very expensive. Again, it’s all about what you’re looking for but if you’re not the typical Korean size (aka size Small, small arms, and slender) you may not have much luck. My French, Moroccan, and Polish friends found it very hard to find tops and jeans that fit but my Malaysian and Japanese friend did not find it that hard. For guys, I’m not sure how difficult it is to find stuff in “European” sizes but for all, just know there are UNIQLO and H&M in downtown if you really need to get some clothes. I’m 5’5” and an American small but my long arms and bum really restrict me from buying anything here. In Seoul, there is more variation but the range of sizes (or lack thereof) is still pretty restrictive. In Seoul, Hongdae and Myeongdong station are great places to buy clothes, accessories, and shoes.

Shoes

Shoes here are dope. Obviously Nike and Reebok will be more expensive than they are in the States, but there are so many sales that this isn’t always true. Here in Daegu, the fashion is a little more on the conservative side but there are still plenty of options. I would recommend buying fall/winter boots at home though, because the booted heels here are not that comfortable and a little on the expensive side (take this with a grain of salt though because I was here in February-June aka probably not the best time to be looking for boots).

Dorm

So, the dorms are what actually worried me the most before I came and I’d say with good reason. Firstly, the rules of the new dorm Chumsung-gwan were not told to me before I came:

  1. The dorm elevators are separated by gender.
  2. The dorm floors are separated by gender and boys can’t even go on girl’s floors.
  3. If you arrive after 1 am, you get “penalty points” so 2 points each time you use your card key between 1:00 am–4:59 am. Now, they don’t really count the exchange students’ points and I know that for a fact but the administration kind of scares you into coming before 1 am in the beginning.

***The old dorm buildings are separated by gender and I believe they may count the penalty points more***

Now the cost of the dorms wasn’t really a factor for me because I received the dorm scholarship, but I believe it’s not too expensive for a semester at such a good uni with pretty decent facilities. I believe it is around $1000 with the meal plan in the new dorms but I honestly am not entirely sure.

Things You’ll Need to Buy for Your Room:

  • Comforter: Prices can range from 30,000-70,000₩ and it depends where you buy it. My roommate bought hers from the Small Gate market but I got mine from Emart. Hers was more expensive and better quality, but for 4 months I would spend just the 30000₩.

  • Bottom Blanket Thingy: ok so here they don’t really use sheets so you won’t be able to really find them. What you will find is this kind of thick quilt-like thing that covers the mattress. I bought a mattress topper that had a cover on it and it was actually a lot better because the mattresses here are like rocks (it was 30,000₩ from Home Plus). If you really want sheets, you should bring a set of twin sheets.

  • Pillow(s): I bought a bigger pillow for 15000₩ and a small one for 10000₩ from Emart.

  • Light Blanket: I don’t know why I needed this but I just did. It cost around 10000₩ from Emart.

  • Trash Cans: You can actually find some leftover from the semester before but they’re usually disgusting. These cost 1000₩ from Daiso.

 

*~*~*~* QuiCK DAISO PlUg ~*~*~*~*

Ok so if you’re as broke as I am, you want to get everything as cheaply functional as possible, Daiso is the place to go. Daiso is like the hybrid between the Dollar Store and Target, and they have the coolest stuff and mostly everything is under 5000₩. I would recommend getting trashcans, hangers, umbrellas, water bottles, mirrors, hooks, nail polish remover, makeup remover wipes, snacks, mini rugs (if you have holes in your floor like I did), little souvenirs, mini Korean flags, desk organizing stuff, cleaning supplies, plates, utensils, school supplies, toilet paper, bathroom soap, shower curtain–

PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING YOU WANT CAN BE FOUND AT DAISO

*Other than clothes, bedding, electronics, and fresh food

 

 

So hit it up! There is a Daiso at Small Gate, North Gate, and Downtown. I’d recommend taking a big empty backpack to the one in Downtown because that Daiso is the biggest and you’ll most likely be taking the bus. I say this because the Small and North Gate Daisos will be ransacked the first few weeks lol.

I ended up spending around 300,000₩ total on my room, but you may spend less or more.


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.

pohang2

Yeongil
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!

odongdo1

odongdo2

cablecar

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.

streetrestaurant
Lots of people eating at the outside restaurants
yeosudinner
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.

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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Ment

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…

 

 

Empathy Guesthouse

As I had come to Korea well before the semester was set to begin (March 3rd), I had ample time and little idea what to do with it.  My Korean friend with whom I’d planned spending most of my time ended up being much busier than he had originally thought.  Now I had three weeks in Daegu and was unsure what to do.  Last summer, I had stayed in Empathy Guesthouse in downtown Daegu, and they’d just opened a new branch- Empathy Dongseongno Hostel. I decided to stay there.

When I stepped through the entrance to the hostel, the staff immediately recognized me, greeting me with warm smiles.  I felt like I was already at home even though I’d never been to this location before.  I was shown to my dormitory-style room, where I rested after a day of travel.  That night, I was feeling a little bored and a little lonely.  Then, I heard a knock on my door. The staff invited me to share their dinner.  A little effort on both sides to communicate in a mixture of English, Korean, and Spanish led to some fun conversations assisted by the ample use of body-language.

During my three weeks at Empathy Dongseongno, I was treated like a member of their family.  We ate, drank, played games, and even went on a day trip to Andong.  The Empathy staff showed true generosity to me when I was going through a rather difficult time and were patient with my shyness.  They pushed me to practice my Korean so that we could better communicate.  I visited a couple times during my semester and also attended a presentation by a former North Korean dancer who used to perform at parties there.

While talking with some of the guesthouse staff, I learned more about the fact that Empathy Guesthouse was founded by the Center for North Korean defectors and that twenty percent of its profits go toward supporting resettlement programs.  Empathy Guesthouse is a social enterprise, which refers to a company that sells or produces goods or services as a means to raise the local community’s quality of life by providing jobs or social services to vulnerable members of society.  On top of that, Empathy SEEDS works to increase tourism and international exchange in Daegu. After learning about these efforts, I began to appreciate this enterprise and my new family even more.

 If you find yourself in Daegu, be sure to stay at Empathy!  

Global Standards of Beauty

Modeling at Daegu Arts University and Part-time Princess

I’ve never considered myself particularly beautiful.  Of course, there are some features of my appearance that I like more than others, but, overall, I’d consider myself to be quite average … And I’m perfectly content with this.

When I came to Korea, I became aware that my appearance was ‘exotic’.  Strangers would tell me that I was beautiful and inquire as to where I came from.  … This led to some interesting opportunities which I could never have entertained back in the U.S.  At my internship company, I was asked during the interview if I would be okay to model for them.  Thinking it was a joke, I laughingly agreed to the suggestion. A couple of weeks later, I was called upon by my superior to receive free facial treatments which they would record and use for advertisement purposes.

Later, my friend offered to recommend me for a part-time job which she held—acting as a princess in an amusement park.  I just had to smile, hold a sign, and take pictures with guests while dressed as Alice (Alice in Wonderland).  The pay was good, there were free meals and snacks, and the job was actually pretty fun! I am not the type who fantasizes about working as a princess at Disney World or anything of the sort, but I enjoyed the part-time work nonetheless.

Most recently, I met some art students while drinking with friends in downtown Daegu.  They took my contact information and requested for me to be a model for their final projects. Along with two of my French friends, I made my way to the little arts school tucked away in the nearby mountains and modeled in some different outfits and themes.

Never before had I imagined these types of opportunities during my semester abroad in Korea. Modeling and the like  are certainly not an area in which I excel, and I don’t plan on pursuing anything related to that in the U.S. (not that it would even be an option :P) . Either way, these were certainly some memorable experiences.

OU Cousin Spring 2015

Sara Fisher and I are still OU Cousins with Sumin. Although it has been quite difficult to find common free time between our schedules, we managed to spend time together on special days, one of which was Sara’s birthday. We all went to a Korean restaurant called Dong A in Moore, OK for dinner. This was my first time eating Korean food so Sara and I decided to split a meal just in case. We ordered Tteokguk or Rice cake soup and Sumin ordered some Jajangmyeon, which is noodles in blackbean sauce. The dishes came with delicious side dishes and I really enjoyed my food–I’ll definitely go back to try other dishes!

I really enjoyed spending time with Sumin this past year. I learned quite a lot about the Korean culture and had the opportunity of hearing about South Korea from a native South Korean. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit Sumin when I study abroad in South Korea and enjoy lots of Korean food with her!