Kind regards from South-Korea

Sharing my thoughts and experiences about my exchange period in South-Korea

Summary of exchange program

Wow, I don’t know even where to start ! It has been amazing opportunity to travel and study abroad. Few weeks before leaving to Korea I was really scared and stressed out about whole travelling. I never travelled alone before and I don’t have much travel experience anyways. I was also scared of the new university.  Ajou University is Top 15 (highest rank was 2nd place) best universities in South-Korea. I was really scared that I cannot pass courses there. On top of that, I was already missing home before even leaving home ! Idea of cancelling whole exchange crossed my mind many many many times. I had many sleepless nights because of this exchange student program.

Meeting new people – Well time passed and I was already on the way to Ajou. I met cool people in the bus and few of them became my friends who I talked to almost daily. Meeting new people was really exciting but I also felt bit nervous. I was so insecure about my english skills. But when I got used to it, now it almost feels weird to talk finnish again. And not everyone talks perfect english plus some people have really strong accent from their home countries. Their accents kinda shows how their home language works and how they are used to pronounce their language.

In other hand, meeting new peolpe from different countries gave me new ideas and ways of thinking about how I see the world and how I see where I come from, Finland and also what similarities we have, even though we live miles away from each other. Korean people are not talktive, but are honest like finnish people. Asian people tent to touch same sex persons as sign of friendship and caring, but in Finland it is not that common, we actually might feel really uncomfortable. When I visited my Korean girlfriend’s family, I wanted to buy a flower, but I heard it wasn’t a good idea. It is sign of love, only given to the significant other. So I asked few suggestions and the most funny one was watermelon, so I brought that and they were really happy about it !

Also, meeting new people around the globe, means you have international friends. Now when I travel somewhere, I can pick the country that I already have a native friend there, who can help me with stuff ! And I would do the same, if one of my international friends pay me a visit in Finland.

Studying – this is the reason we go exchange right? Well no comments. Studying in Ajou University is actually pretty straight foward. Go to every class, it will affect your grades if you are absence. Most classes taught by Korean Professors are basics lectures, go there, sit and listen and homework, but foreign Professors tent to be more laid back and have conversation based classes, much more enjoyable for us from Finland and probably other europeans as well. Korean students don’t talk much during the class, because they are not used it or they have been lazy and haven’t read the study material. Some foreign students talk all the time even though they don’t know anything and try to out smart the professor. Of course there are goods students, koreans and foreigners who keeps up the decent conversation, but I didn’t experienced any.

Exchange students are graded usually bit more soft than Koreans, they are graded by the “curve”. In the end, it doesn’t make much difference in easy-normal classes. In hard classes, the “curve” system” is beneficial if you study hard and rest of the students are not good, because there are limited amount of As, Bs, Cs etc…

Dormitory – (New Int. Dorm) Living with random person for semester is quite tough, especially if you guys have different schedules. You will bother each other a lot and if you have sleeping problems like I do, you don’t sleep much. Koreans like to stay up late doing…something.. I don’t know. They supposed to study, but they text and play mobile games or computer games really late. And while they study, they need a lot of lights. I had pretty decent roommate, he even spoke english, unlike 90% of other’s roommates. But his schedule and study habbits were really clashing with mine. I am early sleeper and early riser. He was late sleeper and early riser. Yeah he didn’t sleep much during the weekdays, max 4-5hours. But he helped me with a lot of things and he was really nice. You can read about him when I went to Busan.

Or you can live with your friend/exchange student in Hwahong dormitory. This dormitory is..  okay. You will get used to it. It is now great, everything is really old and dirty and this specific asian people are really loud. You will know when you get there. Otherwise they don’t differ that much, new int. dorm vs hwahong, but definitely I would live with random person in new dorm rather than with friend in that old dorm.

Growing up – Before I went to Korea, I though I was mature and had all though out, but I was wrong. I grew up a lot mentally while going through a lot of struggle alone. I used to be scared of being alone, but after coming from exchange program, it is not that bad. My mind is more open about different things and cultures. I am more curious about other countries and I want to travel more. Before Korea, I used to live in Finland-bubble, I was happy and satisfied living here and had no reasons to travel abroad. I wasn’t interested of going anywhere else. Finnish people really needs to break that bubble, all this time I was spending my money to local bars, clothes to show off and cars to brag about. I could have save that money and travelled, being rich by experience. Not tangible stuff. In the end, life goes by really quickly, you cannot buy happiness, unless is the flight tickets to somewhere unknown to you ! This whole exchange program proved my that, things I had means nothing, the experience of going abroad really had huge impact, that shape me the way I am today. Now I can proudly say, I grew up a bit, I am a bit more mature. I am there mentally, where I want to be.

Go exchange ! – Do it, I guarantee it is the best time during the University you can have. It doesn’t matter do you go far or near, the experience is so meaningful that it is worth of challenging yourself. And your government is giving you bit of money to support this opportunity, there’s no reason to stay at hometown and drink or do whatever you think it’s cool. It will change you, as a person to better one. I experience stuff that I never could have even thought about. I learned so many things about myself, from others and of course from what I studied in Ajou. Skills can be learned if you missed out some courses in your home university, but changing your attitude and how you see the world is bit harder than just learning, something you need to experience to learn. Many employers appreciate international experience. It shows you are brave and ready to challenge yourself. You are capable of dealing with different people. You can represent your country/company/yourself internationally. Skills can be learned, but attitudes not.

About Ajou University – if you don’t want to be in big city, but still want to have close connection to Seoul and other places, Ajou University in Suwon is perfect. I love Suwon, if I ever move to Korea, Suwon would be the place to be, at least for me. In front of Ajou, there’s a lot of decent restaurants, a lot of cafes and PC rooms. And you can easily take the bus to suwon station for bigger shopping malls or travelling other cities/provinces. I recommend Spring over Fall. I let my blog be the reasons for going in spring to Korea.

Thank you JAMK of this opportunity, I will always remember this. It was the best year of my life.

Kind regards,

Tam

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briefly Jeju part 2

Finally arrived to our guesthouse in Seogwipo. It was Chinese owned guesthouse. We got the big VIP room, it was kinda like apartment, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, which is nice. Because I went travel with 2 females as a only male in the group, this was the most convenient and most appropriate to all of us.

Bathrooms were clean, beds and blankets/pillows were good. They have TV and computer in the bigger bed room. Many small towels, because in Korea that’s how you do. One towel for face, one for upper body and one for lower, or something like that. I don’t really know. Tooth paste and toothbrush was also included and 4 bottles of water. Breakfast was included also, but it is really weird, chinese mixed korean with jam and bread.

We didn’t know how to operate the AC, so it was crazy humid in the room. And the weather was really humid also, because it was raining most of the time. And I heard it is really common that it rains in Jeju.

Area where we stayed was calm and nice, next to harbor and there was small bus terminal or something like that. Around the bus terminal was restaurants and coffee shops. Around the harbor, there was mostly sea food restaurants, as expected. We didn’t find much to eat in that area, so we went to CVS and we ate some microwave food.

We didn’t spend much time in that area, since there was just sea food restaurants, one waterfall or something. Even the mainstreet was really lame, so I was really disapointed at that place. Even the bus connection from there to other places was horrible. We mostly travelled by taxi. Distances from the guesthouse to places we wanted to visit was quite far, so everytime we took a taxi it cost around 20 000won. Still of course cheaper than europe standards unless you use UBER.

First place we visit was O’Sulloc tea museum. It is quite good quality tea from Jeju. Or at least their tea prices are really high that we can assume that it’s not definitely poorest quality. We tasted the green tea ice cream and it was good. Really strong taste of green tea, bit bitter and sweet at the same time. If I remember correctly, it cost around 4000won.

The building in Tea museum and their garden was really cool and beautiful. They had also cosmetic shop there, Innisfree. Also from Jeju.

Next destination was waterfalls. Air was crazy humid and hot. There’s a lot of walking if you want to go see these things. Few of them are artificial so I wasn’t impressed at all.

After going around seeing waterfalls, we went to this clift place.

Really famous mountain, sunrise peak.

View from top of the sunrise peak.

U-do island. Don’t spend here more than 6 hours. Cool looking beaches and some grass field are bit like Skotland or something.

Contact me if you want more information about this trip. I didn’t have much time write this blog because of many reasons. I changed University and I was really busy during the summer and semester and other personal reasons.

Kind regards,

Tam

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Jeju-do ! A.k.a. Jeju island part. 1

This is the place where everyone wants to go, even Korean people ! It is known for it’s beautiful nature. Many Korean wedding couples go to Jeju for honeymoon and photoshooting, but also Korean dramas shows different side of Jeju. In these dramas for example really rich guy who is cheating on his wife, takes his secret lover here.

Flight tickets to Jeju island is really cheap in my opinion, it was only 80 000 – 100 000won and it takes around one hour to get there. When if you are going to Jeju, make sure to reserve things few weeks earlier. It is hard to get good guesthouses and cheap flight tickets if you decide to go there spontaniously.

The flight left from Gimpo airport. It is smaller airport near Seoul. From Ajou it is quite easy to get to airport, since there’s airport bus terminal in end of Ajou street. Bus tickets are around 10 000won all around. My friends and I were scared of the traffic jam, so we decided to go bit earlier, but it only took us 1,5h hours to get there. When we got there, we went to wrong terminal and almost missed our fligh, so pay attention where does the flight leaves, Gimpo airport has international terminal and domestic.

In Jeju, they speak Korean language according to many sources, but I heard even for Korean native who lives on mainland has troubles to understand Jeju dialect. It is kinda like their own language, because some words means different things there.

Our plans was to go from North to west and there to south and to the east, Counter clockwise. But because we didn’t find anything interesting for us in west, we just decided just to watch the view from the bus while it drove near coastline to the south.

But before we set off from airport, we went for Korean barbeque and eat black pork. Many Koreans says that it is somehow more delicious than normal pork. I didn’t see anything different about their meats, it was just overly expensive. Normally Korean barbeque for one cost around 10 000won, but this black pork cost 30 000won ! Well atleast we got our bellies full.

After heavy lunch it was perfect to take long bus ride to the south. The weather was perfect when we arrived to Jeju. Little bit too hot, but still nice. Sun was shining, it was like going for a holiday to some exotic place.

Bus ride to south was nice. Calm driver what is more rare than seeing unicorn. There was other tourists or exchange students in the bus. On our way to south, to be exact Seogwipo the view was amazing. So many mountains and a lot of trees. Sometimes you could see also palm trees also.

On our way to guesthouse where we are staying for two days, there was a lot of museums and nice hotels. For example there was african museum, Ripley’s believe it or not museum or some kind of sex museum. My friend went to the sex museum and told us it was not worth it. As he said “European sex toy shop is a lot more better”.

Let’s continue about Jeju to next post !

Kind regards,

Tam

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K-POP FESTIVAL !!!

Finally better connection, now I can continue writing my blog !

Just a small update, the blog is really left behind from the real events of happenings, but anyways I got extension for my exchange, so I will be in Korea 10 months in total ! wohoo, okay back to the subject.

The Korean pop music festival in Ajou’s campus area ! The most amazing thing I ever saw. Parking lots were closet for student’s clubs to host their own “pub” tents. Different tents have their own stuff going on there. For example my friend belonged to Soul music club, so in their tent they played Soul music and the club members were serving beer, soju and snacks.

Campus area was filled with all the other tents/stalls, ice cream, cotton candy, shoe shop, sun glasses etc. Ajou really does know how to throw a party ! This festival lasted for three days, from wednesday to Friday. Sadly I had other travel plans on thrusday and Friday so I couldn’t enjoy the other days.

But I can tell you guys about the wednesday !

First there was students performing singing and dancing showcases and after that *apply drom roll*

Twice – One of the hottest K-pop girl groups open the show, performing cute songs and dances.

And then *bigger drum roll*

PSY, yes PSY !!! This guy is undoubtedly the most charismatic performer I ever seen ! He tried to speak English also, because he knew that exchange students were there also enjoying the festival. He was interacting with audience a lot and that’s what I loved about him. While he was singing in the stage, he dance with the background dancers and on the big screen was the subtitle for his songs so we could sing along ! But of course mainly in Korean, so better learn reading Korean before that.

The show was breathetaking ! I was so hyped, I jumped and danced like it was last day of my life. The atmosphere was unique. I thought I would never see this guy, but there he was, performing to us.

I will try to upload some videos, but my phone’s audio quality is really bad so I need proper tools to edit these videos and it might take awhile. In mean time, enjoy pictures !

Kind regards,

Tam

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Break from blogging

I had to go back to Finland for short period and I don’t have stable internet connection to upload anything so I have to have a small break from blogging, unless something else comes up.

Kind regards,

Tam

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Video !

Okay, here’s just some random clips I put together. Hope you enjoy it !

All of these are from Busan or while going to Busan. I visited Busan with my roommate and his friend. I have a two posts about that trip. Remember to check them out also. I will link the same video there.

1st post: Busan part 1

2nd post: Busan part 2

And the video itself below.

That’s all for now.

Kind regards,

Tam

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N-Tower

One of the most romantic places in Seoul, Namsan Tower. We took a bus and bail out around Myeongdong and took a taxi from there to the tower. Taxi driver didn’t want to drive us to the walking path that lead to the tower. He wanted to take us to the cable carts so that was our only way up there.

We took a taxi around this building (pic above). Really cool design in my opinion. Anyways I should have recorded video from cable cart, but was too dark. My camera dies when it’s too dark. We took the cable cart, because we didn’t have other options. 3 minutes and you are there !

Color of the tower changes, but I like blue color so of course all of my pictures from this tower was when it was blue. There was also these metal “trees” and fences where people put their love locks. You can buy these locks from there, but of course with unreasonable overprice so if you want to do this, bring your own.

We got up there and it was crowded. A lot of tourists around the world come to see this view.

The view is amazing, unlike my camera as I said before. The city lights continued to the horizon. Felt like there’s no ending. Up in the tower there are souvenir shop, photograph stuff and restaurant if I remember correctly. Taxi to there was probably 7000won, cable cart 10000won and ticket to tower 10000won. These are just estimates. I recommend coming here when it’s dark because of the view.

It was getting late, so we head back to campus. On our way back I took this picture.

Cute lights on office building.

Anyways, that’s all for now.

Kind regards,

Tam

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Food update

I have been eating a lot of different food. In Korea western food is really popular, even though most of them are really overpriced.

First one is raw salmon bibimbap. Veggies, rices, red spicy gojuchang sauce and salmon. Quite simple and healthy.

Bingsu ! Shaved ice, mangos, Ice cream, cheese and coconut milk. This the Korean king of desserts, especially in summer or hot date with girl.

Pizza. Everybody knows it. But in Korea American style pizzas are more popular. Thick crust and crazy amount of cheese. Most of them are tasteless and quite greasy. This was bit different. Ordered from Italian restaurant. Just the way I like it. Think crust, really salty cheese and nice fresh tomatoes. To sum up, most of Korean pizzas that are american styles are total disgrace. Most italian style are good. But I used to be a chef so I’m bit picky.

Japanese miso noodle soup. Japanese food in Korea are amazing. Especially if they look like this. Veggies, rich, full of flavors and greasy stock, noodles, perfectly cooked egg (raw yolk) and piece of fatty pork.

My Finnish friend and plate of chicken. Just basic deep fried chicken with sweet and hot sauce around it and tons of spring onions. This is really easy to approach, but you will get sick and tired of it really quickly. Perfect for sharing.

To be honest, I don’t even know what is this. Soup with beef, mushrooms and glass noodles serve with side dishes and rice. Soup was really mild, side dishes are mostly pickled stuff so vinegar and sugar or salt are the most common flavors and of course small kick of chili.

I recommend all of these, these are not even the best things I have eaten here, but these are the only ones I remember to take a picture.

But yeah, that’s all for now.

Kind regards,

Tam

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Jeonju 2nd day

It has been really long time since I posted anything. I have been so busy with meeting new people and bit of travelling. Also I got sick so that took a lot of my energy to do anything.

Anyways let’s continue my adventures. This is from our guest house. Really cozy garden, where we enjoyed our breakfast. Quite basic breakfast, jam with bread and boiled eggs.

After done eating we packed our stuff and head to “painting” village. Nothing like Busan’s painting village, but still decent. These are getting more and more popular in Korea. They started to do it Jeju also, but we will come to Jeju bit later.

View from almost top of the “painting” village. This is the land of mountains.

As pictures might show, many tourists are here to see these things. It is kinda unique, because I think in Finland I never seen anything like this. People actually live in these buildings, so no littering, keep your voice down and everything will be okay.

After the village we head to center of the town and took a bus from there to Maisan. It is 1-2hours from the central area. The It is the weird looking mountain. For me they look like ancient volcanos. Before crazy climbing we ate lunch and left our luggages and extra stuff to local restaurant.

While walking there we saw this cool lake. There was paddle boats or whatever they are called. I wanted to do them, but our budget was really tight on this trip so nope.

Weather was actually quite decent for hiking these mountains. Korean people like hiking a lot. They wear full hiking gear and backpack full of food/drinks to survive whole day there. From kids to elder old people hike here. Elder people are really strong here, they hike up to the mountains and start drinking alcohol there. They usually drink makgeolli. It kinda like rice wine, but I wouldn’t call it wine though.

After walking a while we ran into this gate to that mountain area. The walls of the mountains looked like some magma stuff from volcanos. Nobody could actually confirm this info for us.

After passing this gate, there is a lot of these “cairns”. Korean people love stacking these stones to make this tower. It is something related to hope. These towers were claimed to be older than 800 years. There was also kinda like a temple where people could pray.

Hiking almost to the top is “easy”. There are decent stairs, but it is still quite tough. Crazy leg day. And rest of the route to the top is not appropriate of you don’t have good shoes, because the stairs ends like 100-200m before the top. I stopped when the stairs end, but old people just kept pushing them self to the top !

This is the highest I got, maybe around 500m.

This was our last destination. After this we head back to central area again and waited for our train to departure.

That’s all for now.

Kind regards,

Tam

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From Busan to Jeonju

After spending two days in Busan/Changwon I took a bus to Jeonju. Trip to Jeonju was sponsored my Korean goverment, they gave us 500 000won to group of 5 people. Trip have to applied through Ajou Global center or something like that. In return we had to experience Korean culture and write a report. Trip from Changwon to Jeonju took around 3 hours. My roommate’s father took me to first Masan and from there I head to Jeonju, tickets were around 14 000won.

In the bus I sat next to old Korean lady, she was happy and wasn’t anxious about me, usually people get akward around me. Anyways she gave me candies and smiled often when I tried to take pictures from moving bus. Before I step on the bus, I ask the bus drive did this bus to go Jeonju and other people heard that I spoke only English so before arriving to Jeonju, middle aged man poke me and probably tried to say in Korean that “this is your stop”. So helpful people. There was these funny mountains on my way to Jeonju.

I arrived to the Jeonju bus terminal and had to take a taxi to the train station, they are quite far from each other. I had to go to the train station because we agreed that we are going to meet there.

Jeonju is known for Moju, “real” bibimbap and old historical buildings. First we head to the village that we were going to stay for one night. It was really crowded when we arrived. There was some kind of festival going on.

Anyways we were getting hungry so we went to the bibimbap restaurant and I ordered tartar a.k.a. raw beef bibimbap. It wasn’t that traditional, but really tasty.

After eating we wanted to explore the area a bit. There was a museum so we visited there. Nothing much to see to be honest. Some old Korean instruments, building techniques, how to set Korean dining table etc.

While we were in the museum, we heard loud music coming outside. There was fashion show so we went there and enjoy it. Really interesting stuff I got to admit. There was outfits from movies, traditional styles and from anime/manga cartoons.

After fashion show we went old village and rented hambok Korean traditional clothes. We walked around with the clothes and took pictures. My phone was full of pictures and videos from Busan/Changwon so I don’t have a lot of pictures from Jeonju.

For dinner we ate some noodle soup. Everything in Korea that contains broth or soup are crazy hot ! It takes forever to cool down to decent temperature that human mouth can bear with. Same problem with hot beverages.

When we were done eating, we head back to guest house for small break and then went to some Media festival. Projectors light up whole old gate with different videos and stuff. After that we tried to look for midnight snack, but no luck with that. So we just head back to guest house and slept.

That’s all for now.

Kind regards,

Tam

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