First Impressions of Korea (by Kai)

Seoul at Sunset: Picture taken at Bukchon Hanok Village

Landing in Korea I was first struck by how massive everything is: Skyscrappers, the buildings seem to go up and up, I felt like I would get lost if I kept staring up at them too much, that familiar pang of vertigo though
I knew my feet were safely on the ground.
The second thing was how Hongdae, an area close to our school where many of us live, transforms from night to day.
At night fall, the area explodes with color, people, live music performances (sometimes even connected to a protest), and truly turns to a party district. During the day, Hongdae is a youthful area to go shopping in, with students milling about during breaks contributing to making it feel a bit like a college town.

Seoul at night: Picture taken nearby City hall

Just two stations away from Hongdae is Ewha Womans University, and some streets from that is aSSIST, our school for this semester.
The first two weeks here, has been quite intense for all of us. The workload is considerably more taxing than at Macromedia, giving us our first taste of how remarkably focused and dedicated the Korean students are at a university. Presentations, one page summaries, and frequent readings are all part of the norm, which you can imagine was quite a new experience compared to Macromedia, where I don’t really recall getting homework after each class. But there is also a very big focus on group work, in almost all of the classes you will be divided up into groups, to do in-class and homework assignments.

Traditional living: Picture taken in Bukchon Hanok Village

The safety here in Seoul is really not overstated, as I experienced.
I left my laptop, bag, and wallet in a cafe in Hongdae, took a quick walk home to hang up my laundry and walked back around 25 minutes later to find everything just as I left it. The people here are sometimes even a bit too polite, though it is very nice to be pampered, in comparison to some infamous German customer service.

So when you’ve landed and stopped marveling over every little details
(like the lack of trash bins and how effective the subway system is),
it’s time to start exploring the city. There is no end to the different activities to experience, depending on what you enjoy, so to save space I’ll just list some of my personal favorites.

Korean Bibimbap

Myeong-dong is great for street food, but it gets quite crowded with tourists and is best enjoyed at night. In Ewha there are a lot of takeaway places with decent prices, and also great cafes at almost every corner.
Hongdae is in my opinion better at night, with lots of eating and drinking going on, you’ll find lots of Beer + Chicken restaurants, or KBBQ joints that are a great start for the evening. „Noraebangs“ (Korean Karaoke rooms) are all over the place and are definitely worth a visit.

Picasso Road: Picture taken in Hongdae

If you’re more into sightseeing, Nami Island a place for lovers of nature and art. The Demilitarized Zone (I highly recommend the Joint Security Area, check it out) and for those of you who enjoy history and want to learn about the country, the „Korean War Memorial Museum“ is the right place. Nice pictures or for a general cool experience check out Yongma Land, an abandoned Theme park that’s been featured in music videos and many an Instagram picture. 

The Freedom Bridge: Picture taken at the DMZ

But Korea is not only Seoul, and within the first weeks of landing before the school started, a lot of us took the opportunity to explore other great attractions this country has to offer. The Island of Jeju is especially popular, but we also have people going to Busan and Tokyo. South Korea is actually very well situated for travelling around Asia, or even to the American West Coast. And with flights to Japan currently being badly cheap due to the
ongoing trade war, well why ignore a good deal?

Jeongbang Waterfall Seogwipo: Picture taken in Jeju