Exchange in Kimchiland

From Korea with Love

So much to do, so little time

I feel like I won’t have time to do or try everything I wanted here even though it’s not even the halfway of the semester yet. I feel like every weekend has already been fully booked for the next month or so and the plans are badly overlapping. Apparently four months isn’t enough for one country or even one city to fully experience it. I’m feeling like the time is running out. I even had a nightmare the other day that I suddenly had to return back to Finland without experiencing the things I wanted.

I’m still wondering where is the culture shock I should have experienced by now. From the day one I’ve been feeling very comfortable here in South Korea and the feeling hasn’t changed. I’m falling in love with this country and its people more and more every day.

When I first arrived to South Korea I felt very familiar after being to Japan before – the same brands, neon lights, concrete, night life, karaoke boxes… But soon I started to realize that it’s actually a lot different here than in Japan. The mentality of Korean and Japanese people is different – I’m not saying that the other nation is somehow better than the other, but they surely are different. I love both Korea and Japan and their people just the way they are.

I truly wish I had studied the Korean language more before I came here. Even though I’m studying Korean now, I feel like my progress is very slow because I’m using English a lot. I also feel like when I actually can make a conversation in Korean it’s time for me to leave this country. It really is a pity.

Here's a mix of Korean and Japanese culture - Japanese udon noodles with Korean spices.

Here's a mix of Korean and Japanese culture - Japanese udon noodles with Korean spices.

Neon lights of Seoul.

Neon lights of Seoul.

Traditional Korean houses in Seoul.

Traditional Korean houses in Seoul.


Gyeong-ju Field Trip

One week ago we did a field trip to the historical city of Gyeong-ju in South-Eastern Korea. Almost all of the exchange students joined the trip so we had three buses full of people. The whole trip cost only 50 000 won (about 35 euros) including transportation, entrance fees, dinner, lunch, after party with beer and soju and one night in a very nice hotel.

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With my roommates at the Kolon Hotel.

As you may see from the photo, my hair has changed a bit. I actually went to the hairdresser with some friends few weeks ago to ask for a Korean haircut. I like how it turned out. It was only 10 000 won (about 7 euros) in a hair salon near our campus.

When we arrived to Gyeong-ju, we visited few temples at the mountains.

Seokguram Grotto had a pretty nice view over Gyeong-ju.

Seokguram Grotto had a pretty nice view over Gyeong-ju.

I love the Korean temple decorations.

I love the Korean temple decorations.

Bulguksa temple.

Bulguksa temple.

After visiting Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa temple we drove down from the mountains and visited a place that was built for the king to have parties in. Actually Gyeong-ju was the capital of Korea (known then as Silla kingdom), so it has a lot of royal history.

The party halls for the king.

The party halls for the king.

When the sun was setting down, we knew it was time for dinner.

When the sun was setting down, we knew it was time for dinner.

Meat stew as a dinner. Delicious!

Meat stew as a dinner. Delicious!

After the dinner we drove to our hotel. I saw a sign outside that said “sauna” so I was really excited that they might actually have a sauna/hot bath section at the hotel. As soon as we got to our rooms I went to search the hotel with my friend if there actually was a bath section there. We really found one! I went to get Leena and we went directly there. It was about 5 000 won (3,5 euros) for the hotel guests to use the sauna/bath. It was totally worth it! They had a cold bath, warm bath and hot bath. They also had a pretty nice steam sauna. My favourite was the hot bath which was around 42 degrees celsius – just the way I liked it back in Japan. Naisu!

After we had relaxed ourselves in sauna we had an evening party prepared by the A.G.A. members. They had a talent show and a fashion show which were quite nice! I made a video of the evening party, which you can see here.

The next day we went to see the royal tombs in Gyeong-ju.

I loved the scenery at the tombs. I also love the yellow flowers that were blooming in Gyeong-ju - the same flowers are now starting to bloom here in Suwon!

I loved the scenery at the tombs. I also love the yellow flowers that were blooming in Gyeong-ju - the same flowers are now starting to bloom here in Suwon!

It was a very nice trip – I recommend the future exchange students to join the trip as well as they seem to arrange this trip every semester.

Oh yeah, we finally got our A.G.A. baseball jackets as well.

The baseball jackets are a big part of the campus life here in Korea - every faculty has their own.

The baseball jackets are a big part of the campus life here in Korea - every faculty has their own.

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Everland & Club Activities

One week ago we did a trip to the biggest amusement park in South Korea. The trip was organized by “Friends Club” which organizes activities for exchange students. The club is, as its name says, for making international and Korean friends. It took less than an hour from Ajou University to Everland by bus. We got a great deal and had to pay only 38 000 won (24€) each for a two-day amusement park ticket and one night in a cabin they had rented for us. Amazingly cheap!

Here’s a video I made of the Everland trip.

T-Express roller coaster had huge lines but it was all worth the waiting!

T-Express roller coaster had huge lines but it was all worth the wait!

This is the group we hanged out with in the amusement park. Amazing people!

This is the group we hanged out with in the amusement park. Amazing people!

The club activities also begun last week and I already decided to skip the Glee club (choir) since I don’t think I’ll have time to practice the songs that are all in Korean. The song we practiced last week was awesome though. Click here to hear it on YouTube (the song starts at 3:45, the link should take you directly there). The song is called “Animation Medley” and it consists of Korean animation opening songs. How cool!

I’m going to stick with the Japanese language and culture club which have meetings twice a week. On Tuesdays we’re discussing about the current issues in Japanese society and on Wednesdays we’re having a Japanese language study circle. Many members of the club can speak Japanese so I’m glad we have a mutual language to communicate – many of them are too shy to speak English.

Dinner with the Japan club members.

Dinner with the Japan club members.

This weekend we had a MT (Membership Training) with the Japan club in an island called Jebu-do. Jebu-do is located west of Suwon and it takes about one hour to drive there by bus from Suwon Station. You can get there by bus number 1004 for 1 700 won (roughly one euro). While waiting the bus (we had to wait more than an hour to get into the bus because it was the busiest season for doing MT in Jebu-do…), the Japan club members told me that the bus number 1004 reads “Choun-Sa” in Korean and it translates to as “Angel”. Cute detail!

The road to Jebu-do gets flooded during high tight so you'll need to check the bus timetables carefully. There's no way of getting there by bus during the high tight.

The road to Jebu-do gets flooded during high tide so you'll need to check the bus timetable carefully. There's no way of getting there by bus during the high tide.

I highly recommend every exchange student to join the club activities so you’ll get to know the Korean culture and learn the language through them and of course to make unforgettable memories and amazing friends!

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There is life beyond school too

The classes are beginning for real this week, so it will become busy soon. Still, there is some time to do sightseeing and other fun stuff too. Actually, one of our professors told us, that we must NOT study during the weekend – weekend is for getting to know Korean culture by travelling etc. He told us not to stay at our dorm during the weekend. The same professor will take us to Seoul for an overnight trip to experience Korean popular culture via art and clubbing. Sounds like fun!

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Last Saturday we went to Seoul with the exchange students and our tutors to visit some nice places. The above photos are from king’s palace. Seoul is such a huge city! It takes about an hour to get to Seoul by bus. There are direct buses for every 5 or 10 minutes from the main gate of Ajou University. The one-way ticket is 1 700 won which is a little over one euro. Super cheap!

We got to try the traditional Korean costume, hanbok.

We got to try the traditional Korean costume, hanbok.

The signs of the western shops in Insadong area in Seoul are written in Korean alphabet. This is Starbucks!

The signs of the western shops in Insadong area in Seoul are written in Korean alphabet. This is Starbucks!

I also filmed two video clips of the Seoul tour. The first one is from Gwangjang market and the second one from Gyeongbok palace. Just click the links to see the videos.


First week of school

The Spring semester begun on the 2nd of March, so I had my first classes yesterday. This first week is an introduction week so you can basicly just look around the courses and choose the ones that are interesting. Next week there will be a course change period so you can add and drop courses as you wish. Yesterday I attended Korean History and Tourism & Culture courses. Today I went to the Current Issues in Korean Society course and later today I’ll attend Korean Language course. I’m planning on dropping the History course because it seems like a lot of work and I’m really not that interested in ancient history anyway. The Current Issues in Korean Society seems to be a  really interesting course as well as the Tourism & Culture one, so I’ll definitely stick with those. Next week I’m planning on going to the Taekwondo class even though I haven’t registered. If everything goes well, I’ll just stick to my original plan and do four courses; Current Issues in Korean Society, Tourism & Culture, Korean Language and Taekwondo.

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For these past two days the Ajou students have been promoting their clubs (after school activities) on our campus. Today I went to visit their booths and joined to Glee (choir club), AJESS (English/Korean study club) and Japanese language and culture club. Why don’t they have club activities like this in Finland?

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