Who would have thought that my wonderful journey in South Korea began from a study procrastination during final exam week? HA! I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline when I saw a post about PRIMO first year learning program which had only been launched then….and what’s more to this amazing opportunity were 5 vice-chancellor grants offered to first years applying for the program. Woah, sounds like a great plan for the summer holiday!
I still cannot believe that it actually happened. Yes, I went to South Korea to study Korean Economy and Korean Language at Yonsei University. And yes, it was a whole new experience! I could not even speak any single Korean word, did not watch any K-drama and was also not familiar with any of the K-pop songs. Despite all of these, I survived my first time in South Korea and came back to Canberra with a newfound knowledge, perspective, experience and the treasured memories with friends that I’ve made there. Korean winter was a whole different story too! Being from a tropical country that is hot all year round, Canberra’s winter is already freezing…but that’s nothing compared to Korea…it is the coldest place during winter that I’ve been to date. However, the warm and friendly hospitality of the people there plus the scrumptious variety of Korean food made it easy for me to get through the cold days and nights there 😉
Here are some of the highlights of my experiences while I was in Korea, so where should I start?
Oh have I mentioned Korean food before?! Oops.., I love food, food is life. In Seoul, I got to taste lots and lots of Korean food like Korean Pancake, Korean BBQ, dosirak, different kinds of ramen, tempura, waffle, Gimbap, bibimbap, tteokbokki, waffle, and a lot more. Furthermore, I fell in love with Korean fried chicken and bingsu (Korean dessert). These two were my all-time favourite and I am not going to lie, I Miss it so bad. Not to mention, the food are friendly to your student pocket too! 🙂
For those who love shopping and trying out street food, you would be so in love with Seoul. Starting from the oh-so-famous Myongdong, which has all the things that you are looking for, from heaps of make-up, to fried chicken and street food. Another market is Insadong, which has a lot of art crafts, souvenirs, and also famous for the ‘poo’ waffle. Namdaemun, is another huge marketplace where everything is very affordable too. Dongdaemun with the sparkling looking malls also offers a wide variety of shopping choices.
It was so easy to commute anywhere, Seoul has an amazing subway lines that will take you everywhere. Additionally, they are all very frequent and available until midnight, and not to worry, they are very safe too. You will just need to prepare for a lot of walking and stairs.
One ‘must-visit’ Royal Palaces of Seoul would be Gyeongbokgung Palace. Located not too far from city hall – Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the 5 Grand Palaces. It was built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty. I was lucky as when I went there for the first time I got to see the Royal Guard Changing ceremony. The next time I also had the chance to try on a Hanbok and took photos around the palaces for free…just because it was a lunar New Year celebration J Bukchon village is another great place to visit. It is a home to hundreds of traditional houses that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. We managed to experience a one-night-stay in one of the traditional houses as well as the Korean traditional breakfast in the following morning…and it was all very lovely!
The best memories are made out of the class room when exploring a new place, right? So here are a few destinations that I explored during my escape after class, they are Lotte World, Nami Island, Odusan Unification Observatory, Korean War Memorial, Namsan Tower and Ehwa Womans University. Ehwa was actually really pretty, especially when it was snowing. Anyway, it would take forever to share all of my experiences because Korea WAS THAT AMAZING, so what are you waiting for? Get out of your comfort zone and experience it yourself! J