Exchange in Kimchiland

From Korea with Love

Tag Archives: People

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.

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!

Got my visa!

Yesterday was a happy day – my Korean visa finally arrived! It was supposed to take 4-5 working days for the Korean Embassy to process my visa application, but it ended up taking two weeks. I finally called them on Tuesday, and they said my visa was ready, they just needed to print it out. Don’t know how long it would have taken if I hadn’t called them. The lady on the phone was a Korean woman speaking very good Finnish. She was nice enough to tell me the tracking code for my registered letter so I could get it sooner from the post office (wouldn’t need to wait for the pick-up card that usually arrives one day later).

I started packing my stuff yesterday and bought some souvenirs that included chocolate, candy and Moomin gum. Why gum? In Korea, Finland is well-known for its xylitol gum, click here to see why.

Today I got an e-mail from Ajou University about our orientation day schedule. The orientation takes place next Friday. Here’s the schedule.

♦ 10:00 ~ 10:20 Registration
♦ 10:20 ~ 10:30 Introductory Video of Ajou University
♦ 10:30 ~ 10:35 Introduction of Staff Members
♦ 10:35 ~ 10:40 Welcoming address by Vice President for External Relations
♦ 10:40 ~ 11:00 Introduction to Ajou University
♦ 11:00 ~ 11:20 Information Session 1: Key Information for Int’l Students
♦ 11:20 ~ 11:40 Information Session 2: Campus Life & Living in Korea
♦ 11:40 ~ 11:50 Break
♦ 11:50 ~ 12:20 Information Session 3: Dormitory Life & Fire prevention
♦ 12:20 ~ 12:30 Introduction to CCAP program
♦ 12:30 ~ 12:40 Group Photo
♦ 12:40 ~ 14:00 Welcoming Luncheon @ Lobby of Yulgok Hall
♦14:00 ~ 14:15 Registration
♦14:15 ~ 14:30 Video of the former Exchange Student Program
♦14:30 ~ 16:00 Exchage students program presentation
– Program Schedule
– Event Schedule for 2011 spring semester
– Course Registration Notice & Confirmation
– Tips for better life at Ajou
– Introduction to A.G.A students
♦16:00 ~ 17:00 Campus Tour by A.G.A.
♦18:00 ~ Dinner with A.G.A.

Wow, a long day! Don’t know why there are two registrations marked in the schedule, but we’ll find out. The A.G.A. in the schedule stands for Ajou Global Ambassadors, which is like a tutor organization to help the international students at Ajou University. They’re even coming to pick us up at the Incheon airport next Wednesday and they’ll arrange some program for us during our stay in Korea – how nice! Can’t wait to meet all the local and international students at Ajou University! See you soon!

New Friend

There hasn’t been any progress with the exchange process yet (I should be getting some documents from Ajou by the 17th of December), but I thought I’d still write something here. Yesterday I went to Tampere to meet an exchange student from South Korea there. The tutor of this South Korean girl has been reading my Finnish blog, and he sent me a comment that he’s tutoring a girl from Suwon at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, so he suggested that I should meet her – of course I wanted to meet someone from the same city I’ll be leaving for exchange!

At restaurant Hanabi.

At restaurant Hanabi.

I took my Singaporean tutorees Jill, Janice, Angel and my boyfriend Joni with me to Tampere. We also met our friend Tuomas there. We made a lunch reservation at the Japanese noodle restaurant Hanabi and met Seona and Markus, the South Korean girl and her tutor, there. Seona is studying at a different university in Suwon (there are 14 universities and 2 colleges in Suwon), but she told me that she lives at a walking distance from the campus and dormitories where I’ll be staying. How nice!

At Kehräsaari.

At Kehräsaari.

Seona has been staying in Finland since January 2010 but she’ll be leaving back to South Korea in three weeks.  She seemed like a very nice girl and her English was really good! I’m so happy I have a friend whom to call to when I arrive to Suwon and feel lost in a new city and culture. Can’t wait to meet her again in South Korea!

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