WOW… I think that’s the word I’ve used must since coming to Seoul, Korea! It is and alltogether mindblowing experience….
It’s been about a week and a half since I landed in Incheon airport and got picked up by the amazing KUBA team. KUBA is the Korea University BuddyAssistance and they are a thrill to be around. Just today my group, Group 5 (since there are so many exchange students they’ve had to divide us into 8 groups) went out to lunch and coffee and some of them helped me get my books and my buddy Sandra (Seola in Korea) took me out to dinner. She even invited me home to her parents next week 🙂 There are so many events and good times and they are all extremely fun, welcoming and interested in getting to know us all and our cultures.
Although people have been really great, it’s still been quite a change and there has been ups and downs. Coming here is extremely overwhelming since the language, writing and culture is completely different and there is a big language barrier since most Koreans don’t speak English! It is difficult finding out what food is what and how to get around etc. There is a lot of respect surrounding age and all Koreans will ask your age as well as your name when you meet them, so they can call you by the right name – sister or brother if you’re older. Drinking is huge and soju and beer is the preferred beverage. Soju is a rice wine (19% so not quite as strong as other spirits) and drinking games are often involved when drinking soju shots. You never pour for yourself and you should receive your glass (or anything really) with both hands out of respect – especially from people older than you. There is a big culture concerning couples and having a girlfriend/boyfriend is very popular. You will see them holding hands and being very couplely, but you will never see them kiss!! Even hugging your guy friends is considered too sexual. It is confusing coming from Denmark (Sweden) where people will be hugging everyone first time they meet almost and couples will be kissing on every corner.
It is difficult getting it all right, however once you get a hang of it and have some people to lean on, it helps and gets to be more of an adventure than a challenge. Also the KUBA members are more flexible with our slip ups as foreigners and don’t take the traditions all too serious, so that helps.
Korea University is a beautiful place! The campus is amazing to walk around and you get the real college experience for sure. There is so much pride and spirit surrounding the university and everyone will be wearing jackets, sweaters or t-shirts with the school logo on it – a tiger. Yesterday we went to an event for the freshmen students at KU to learn how to cheer properly. It was one of the craziest experiences in my life! There were maybe 5000 students at the stadium – the Tiger Dome – all dancing, screaming, singing along, cheering. It was absolutely amazing! You couldn’t help but get captured by the spirit and it wasn’t long till we all sang along as best we could not having the slightest idea what was being said.
Since coming here I have been quite homesick, but mainly since it takes time to meet people and the evenings can be somewhat lonely. Also when classes start it feels like starting all over because the exchange students and KUBA buddies I’ve met are in different classes and majors. That can be tough – I’m not gonna lie! But that’s when I know I have my family and boyfriend to lean on and it’s amazing feeling like you can get the best of both worlds that way! They have been so supporting and for me that’s been the most important thing and gives me the energy to get out there again and be social and outgoing for the 100th time that day 🙂 It is draining but so worth it!
I think the best lesson I’ve learned so far is to remember that all the other exchange students are in the same boat as you! Do not be afraid to ask them or the buddies for advice because someone will know what to do and if not you can at least figure it out together!
Generally feeling uptimistic and excited to learn more about this amazing city, country and people!
Until next time…