WELCOME TO KOREA! 한국에 오신 것을 환영합니다
hangug – e – osin – geos – eul – hwan – yeong – hab – nida
These were the first words that I heard when took my first steps on Korean soil. I arrived in Seoul in September, just when summer would end in Europe. I was told that Seoul, the capital of the country, would be gigantic and I instantly thought of cities like London or New York, however, I would soon learn that it was nothing like I had ever seen before. It is mind-numbingly big. It has a population of 10 million people, which I learned was to be half of the country’s population. Even though there are a lot of people in this city, it is also incredibly quiet always of the day which I think is one of the beauties of this place.
The last few months have been interesting, odd and hilarious. Our class is made up of a range of people from the Berlin, Stuttgart, and Hamburg Campus. They all have great and unique personalities that bring something to the table in and outside our classroom:
With our University, aSSIST, we have done many activities, some include going to a Start-up centre in the Pyonggak valley, which is basically the Silicon Valley of Seoul. The Photos above were taken in front of that valley. There we met the CEO of the Start-up consultancy called GCCEI (Gyeonggi Centre for Creative Economy & Innovation). He taught us that the competition in Seoul is incredibly high with over 8000 Start-ups. We met people here from France, Korea, China, Germany and many more countries.
Another activity that we did with our school participated in the annual Kimchi festival. This is a festival that brings in 4000 participants to make 120 tonnes of Kimchi for the homeless of Korea. Kimchi is the most popular Korean dish, it can be found everywhere in every restaurant or home. Essentially, it is fermented cabbage with spicy sauce. The interesting thing about this festival was that the participants were for the majority elderly people, the term used for elderly women is ‘Ajumma’, for elderly men it is ‘Ajeossi’. We felt like giants among dwarves, and we saw that as the festival was being televised in front of the City hall, so there was this big screen showing the size comparison.
Apart from these activities with the University I have done many other things. For example, I have travelled to the other side of Korea, to the harbour city of Busan. I was there for 3 days, and during my time there I went for a hike up Geumjungsanseong. It is a mountain that has this fortress on top of it and several Buddhist temples on top of it. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to walk the fortress, and thus I looked for a hidden Buddhist temple. I got lost and spent 4 hours longer on that mountain than planned, however, I was not disappointed. I found an amazing view and a huge Buddhist statue:
In Seoul, I have had a lot of fun as well. The food here is exceptional, there are a lot of dishes to choose from. One thing that you find in Seoul on every street at least twice is Korean Barbeque. These are restaurants where you grill your own meat and eat it with a variety of side dishes. My friend Nick Wagner, from the Berlin campus, and I, have had many dinners together with this delicious food and we have been to the river in Myeongdong which has a beautifully colourful river. A misty river of sorts:
Another cool aspect of Korean culture is that they are perfectionists to a certain extent, so the food tastes great when it touches your tongue, and they go even further when they serve you a dessert called Bingsoo, which is only served in Korea. It is a small hill of shaved ice and it is served with different flavours such as vanilla and strawberry It is a heavenly taste and is well worth trying when arriving in Seoul:
I think that a big comparison to home is that Korea is very much community-based. In other words, everything Koreans do involves doing it together, that includes eating and drinking. I have heard the phrase many times that they are the Ireland of Asia, they love cabbage and they are monster drinkers. Another thing that was notable, was the fact that Korean people have this very strict work ethic, so they work long hours, but when they are set for the weekend they party hard. Their nightclubs usually play strong electronic dance music and techno. They have this odd habit of throwing a large amount of tissue paper in their clubs, it is truly inexplicable, nevertheless, Koreans are great to party with:
Seoul is ‘The city that never sleeps’. This phrase cannot be truer, as they work hard and play hard, but it is most evident when you climb the mountains in Seoul, these include: ‘Ingwansan’, ‘Ansan’, ‘Namsan’, ‘Gwanaksan’, and the highest of them all ‘Bukhansan’. I wanted to know what the city really looks like from on top of the world, and until now I have hiked 3 of the 5 mountains, here are just some pictures from those hikes. It was freezing cold with -8 degrees Celsius, but in the end, it was well worth it and I was presented with some stunning views:
The past 3 months have been extraordinary, and we still have 3 weeks to go, so hopefully, we will still have the times of our lives until the very end!