Kwangwoon University, South Korea: The first month in review (by Alexander)

Street in Hongdae

I have chosen Kwangwoon University in Seoul, South Korea as my destination for the semester abroad and in this blog entry, I will recapitulate my first month in the country and at the university.

After arriving at the Incheon International Airport after a 10 hour flight, my first impression of Korea was, that it was really hot and humid. I went outside the airport gates and it felt like stepping into a giant Sauna. After meeting up with another student from the Macromedia campus in Munich, we both tried to find the pickup service that was promised to us by the university. After just a few minutes of searching and confusion, we managed to find our driver and we started the three and a half hour ride from Incheon International Airport to Kwangwoon, which is located in the northeast of Seoul. Everyone was very tired after such a long flight, so after getting access to the dormitories everyone went upstairs to their rooms to unpack their stuff. A few hours later, there was an introduction Event held by the international office for foreign students, to show us around the near viscinity of the University and to take us to the nearest supermarket for blankets, quilts and other commodities. The first day was overall quite exhausting and everyone slept like a rock on this first night, even though it wasn’t a very deep sleep, for me at least not, we still tried our best.

Reflections on a car

The first week was quite uneventful, we settled in and started to explore the city a bit, ate something here and there and tried to get everything organized. For example paying the rent for our dormitories, with the help of the International Office and the Dormitory Office who kindly assisted us.

So, after my first week, here are my first impressions:
It is a very big campus compared to the Macromedia Cologne campus, but very small when compared to the bigger South Korean Universities like Yonsei University, which takes up an entire city block.
South Korea is very clean and very safe. You can walk outside basically everywhere during any time at night without feeling afraid or scared.
One excellent example of how safe it is: you can leave all your belongings in a cafe for several minutes and when you come back, it will still be there.

A subway station in Seoul

The second week dawned upon us and we needed to do some sorting out, like we learnt at an information event. We needed to get access to the library via an app, set up accounts for the various online services the university offers and futhermore sign up for extra courses like a language course and a mentorship program in which we were urged to participate in. After doing all of that, there was a lot of free time during the day to explore around the city. I took some photos with a guy I met at the university who was also interested in photography and I also made a video. Visited various parts of Seoul; Hongdae, the student area and Gangnam, the world famous meeting spot of the rich and famous. I stayed a lot in my dorm room trying to catch up on some sleep that I missed during the first week. After getting used to the timezone, the sleep quality was returning to normal. That was something I really had to get used to.

The guy I shot the photos with, pictured here using my gear

In the third week I went out on a night with the fellow who I previously took photos with. We went to Hongdae. At first we had no intention to go to a club, but when we passed one we couldn’t resist and so we entered.
Long story short: We had lots of fun and we stayed until 5 am.
I didn’t usually do this back in Germany, the main reason being that there was nothing to do in my area late at night. But in Seoul, the city that never sleeps, that was actually quiet normal. A lot of clubs are open until 8 or 10 am the next day, and there are a lot of people who stay there until the lights are turned on inside. Koreans know how to party.
University started that same week as well and we got our plan for the coming weeks. After being mistakenly assigned to a class that was only being taught in Korean on a Tuesday, we were reassigned to the English version of that same class. We only have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, so we have a lot of free time on our hands. I personally used the opportunity to get into contact with some DJs of clubs and I shot my first round of club videos in Korea in the same week. So things were falling in place.

A subway train in Seoul

The fourth week was the most eventful so far. I went to a club on a Sunday, because Sundays is a valid day to go clubbing in Korea, and I met a few people there who I’m now close to. It was a very fun experience, especially after seeing that Koreans like to dance as much as I do. Additionally I got booked for a few more shoots, so my filming for the first club really helped me get started. The university life is the same as in Germany, but a lot more lively. People study hard during the exams period, but nevertheless quiet relaxed. A lot of them meet up to drink a few times a week and they really know how to do that well. My tip: When you have the chance to drink with Koreans, do it. It’s an experience well worth having. Even the language barrier doesn’t matter that much, because a lot of Koreans can speak English surprisingly well when they are drunk.

I really hope you enjoyed this little summary of the things that happened in Korea so far. I’m still sorting out my visa, so stay tuned for the next entry.