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Adventures in Korea

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One more update – Studies

I was asked to summarize the courses I participated in Korea, here goes!

I chose my courses first time in spring 2010 when I applied for exchange.  I had to apply again in fall 2010 and reselect the courses. The usual problem of not having updated course listing made it pointless – had I known they only offer logistics courses in English during fall semester, I would have gone in fall, but then again it didn’t really matter to me what kind of studies I was to take – I wouldn’t have been able to credit any courses as my obligatory courses in Finland anyways.

So, the final selection of courses happened during Christmas holidays in Finland – in this web service that really, really needs some serious developing. Not that this really is a problem specifically to Ajou – the quality of all solutions related to course administration was poor in Canada, is ridiculous in Finland and makes no sense in Korea.

I decided to choose six courses:

  1. Korean language 1
  2. Ecodesign 1
  3. Ecodesign 2
  4. Introduction to Information Security
  5. Contemporary Issues in Korean Culture and Society and
  6. Biological Wastewater Management

During the course drop period I decided to drop the culture course (it was way too much work and not too much in my scope of interest either), Korean language 1 (Too slow, I learned more drinking with my choir mates) and Biological Wastewater Management (my math level was way below Koreans, I had no means to keep up. This course was basically calculations after calculations).

I ended up with three courses and one club. I think four courses is well enough for exchange students. At least for Finnish students – we are not used to so much homework. The courses are really time consuming in Korea. And your club also takes quite a deal of your time – they are your Korean contact and you need to socialize.

Ecodesign 1 and 2 – first one being theory course and the second a lab course. Professor Lee is a leading researcher in the field, speaks excellent English and demands that from his students (have an English- English dictionary with you in class if you want to impress him), and very demanding. He really appreciates thinking outside the box, so don’t stick to your old ideas. The topic of the course was green design – mostly re-designing and calculating the CO2 imprint. I found the course inspiring – although my Korean classmates were afraid of the professor, he is very demanding.

Introduction to Information Security  by professor Tufail was also an excellent choice. Professor Tufail is a young guy who really can emphasize with students and is understanding, if you have some exchange student stuff going on. Let him know your absences beforehand though, just to make it easier for you both. The course outline is very clear, the coursebook excellent and the exercises reasonable and easy. It’s very easy to get good marks on this course and it’s useful basic knowledge on IT security.

Glee choir – my freetime activity, was my savior. I signed up on during the week they were advertising and they really took me in well. They practice once a week, 3 hours a row plus the separate themes practice a couple of hours a week. There are a lot of guys and a little less girls. People hang out in the club room all the time – they spend their nights there too, if they miss their bus or are too drunk to go home. I really, really recommend them. I just met a couple of glee members a couple of weeks ago – they came to Finland ^^.

One more thing about courses – you need to keep an eye on the course dropping dates – they are really strict.

Rain… or is it 비

Now the mid term exams are finally over.I decided to drop one of the courses – Biological Wastewater Treatment turned out to be too hard for my mathematically incapable self. Other that that I only had one exam (Information Security) and I did fairly well (quiz: 31/40, exam: 56.5/65) – considering I only pseudo studied. The quiz took me 10 and the exam 20 minutes. I love the professor.

On the other hand my ecodesign courses make me sweat. The homework is hard and frustrating and we have a lot of presentations, but it’s exactly what I want to do when I start working. This is what I’m good at. So lately my days have been full of life cycle analysis and MET-matrixes.

Glee club, like the other clubs, was feeding their exhausted members during the exam week. That was our only club activity for that week.

Classes and clubs after midterms have been pretty empty – everybody is on the verge of death after staying up for two weeks in a row. Oh, I heard in Civil Engineering they have this one test that lasts for five days. It’s supposed to be a tradition but that just doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess it’s about construction legislation and strength of materials.

Olympic Park if worth visiting, especially in spring! (The second picture by Jehyung Ryu)

It’s pretty ironic that the weather was awesome during the test week, but a couple of days ago it started raining. I was hanging in the Olympic Park with my friends last Sunday and told them the strong wind we had that day is a sign of an upcoming thunder storm in Finland – and I guess here is no different. No wait, it is! This thunder storm is HUGE and has now been going on for two days. It’s pretty amazing. It stopped for a while yesterday just to give us an opportunity to celebrate Vappu (First of May, Labor Day) in advance, as well as Tha’s releasing from the hospital, Anouk’s graduation and Anouk’s and Cha’s birthday. Lotta even made donuts!

Oh, I almost forgot the cherry blossom pics! Here:

Tomorrow we are off to Taiwan for a week! (Flights and accommodation about 300 e) Yay! I hope it’s not gonna rain, but even if it does, I won’t mind! Yayyy! We won’t miss that many classes since I have Tuesdays off, my Wednesday classes are canceled because the guys in my class are going to military re-training (they call them in every year, different days for different majors) and Thursday is Children’s day – a national holiday.

Speaking of military, our friend Bom had to say goodbye to his childhood and freedom. He started his two years of military service this week. Here some goodbye pics:

But yeah, TAIWAN! ->

Feelin exhausted, creative, and very, very Finnish

Hi dudes!

Next week is the mid-term week and that means a lot here. Even though 벚꽃, cherry blossom, is awesome and everywhere, people are studying like crazy. It even affected my lazy ass and I’ve been studying too. It feels good, to use my little gray cells for something. I don’t take it as far as Koreans – they spend nights at the uni library and even have study group meetings all weekend – but I do use my spare time in the club room, studying, and often stay there until late night. Or… we might do this:

I was a bit concerned when I decided to study in Korea. I knew they are hard ass math freaks (which I surely am not). I thought I would have hard time trying to catch up. I was partly right – they have way better math skills than I do (which on the other hand is not that hard to achieve, I suck), but I also have skills they don’t. Creative thinking, that is.

My teacher (yeah, Mikko) once told me Finns are appreciated because of their ability to think creatively and outside the box. I didn’t really pay much thoughts on that, until now. I find myself being sometimes the only one in my class who can visualize past and future stages or possible variants. Or even draw flowcharts. Or suggest new things or improvements. And this is all thanks to Finnish education system – we do encourage students to think, not just swallow something that the teachers decide to pour in. But I wish teachers demanded more from us. Me – I only do what I have to do, I would never do more.

So sometimes in class I feel utterly stupid, but the next moment I might be the only one who has something to say. It’s partly because I’m years senior to my classmates and partly because I have been through more than they will in next ten years, but also because of the Finnish background. I do realize how little I know. I should study more. A lot. I’ve been lazing around too long. I’m kinda in the verge of finding my thing. Let’s hope I’ll figure it out soon.

Don’t worry, it’s not like I study all the time. I’ve gone to places. To do stuff. Here’s proof:

Picnic at Teletubby Hill. We made Finnish (universal) pancakes with Lotta. And ordered food – the delivery guys know where to take it if you ask them to bring it to Teletubby Hill.

Had some beers with the girls. These are the “side dishes” to go with the drinks (we already ate the mozzarella sticks). These and 3 l of beer cost us 27000w – 19 e.

Went to see cherry blossoms in Seoul, with a friend. This is from Yeouido Park and the general area around.

Of course my camera battery ran out right before we found the cherry trees. But I got a snap from the campus instead, right in front of the Dpt of Engineering

The weekend before our Current Issues course (from which I dropped out) made a field trip to Seoul. So I managed to see the palace I missed on my first week.

In Chinese horoscope I was born on the year of Pig, so I took a picture with this fellow:

In front of the Tourism Bureau Something we saw these dudes, replicating a traditional Korean wedding. Their hats are very fancy and mesmerizing

And we had a party and went clubbing with the professor… but that part of culture we knew fairly well already. The club, btw, was very crowded and full of guys. Dancing guys. Guys don’t dance in Finland.

YEP. Heippa!

PS. I got a package from a dear friend. Salmiakki <3 But now I miss her and Finland even more.

Julius and different kinds of pools

My Finnish friend who is studying in Japan came to Seoul for vacation and of course we needed to meet. He was very much the same as back in Finland – it was good to see him again. We went venturing Myong-dong and N Seoul Tower. Here’s evidence:

Lately I’ve been horribly busy with studies. I dropped two of my six courses coz I didn’t have enough time to do the homework. Even now I should be working on an ecodesign project. Basically I’ve been relaxing by playing pool with my friends. My skills suck and the old guys try to peek under my skirt, but it’s fun. There are tons of pool places around the campus, but only one has the normal pocket ball table – here they play four-ball.

Another kind of pool that has been very relaxing is in Jimjilbang – Korean public bath. A variety of tubs with fantasy colored water in different temperatures, very hot saunas where you sit on the floor (comfier than in Finland, IMHO), massage tables, a common area where you can take a nap, several different steam rooms and even an ice room. Apparently the fancy jimjilbangs in Busan even have strawberry milk baths… Well, we went to the nearest jimjilbang (6000w, 4,5 e) with Lotta today and boy it was smooth! So relaxing. It’s gonna be our Sunday tradition from now on.

What else? The magnolias are blooming. Soon it’s the cherry blossom season. The weather is awesome (17 degrees), except for the yellow dust.  And we got our university baseball jackets. Cool, eh?

Anyways, ask me questions and I’ll answer. Toodles.

The fresh air of Gyeong-ju

The Office of International Affairs (OIA) and Ajou Global Ambassadors (A.G.A) organized us a 1 night 2 days trip to Gyeong-ju. The little I know about Gyeong-ju is that it is the spot with most historic sites. They were pretty nice, but I guess I would have enjoyed it more by myself and later in spring – and if I had researched a bit beforehand. But it was great to get away from the Seoul dust – the fresh mountain air was awesome.

The bus ride from Suwon took about 5 hours, with two stops. The highway rest areas here are pretty well equipped, nothing like the shabby gas stations in Finland. There are similarities though – in Finland we have the ABCs, here they just have more chain stores. Fast, that’s the key word.

I spent most of my time in the bus taking pictures of weird things that interest me. Like construction sites and erosion prevention. And load securing on trucks. I wonder if they have any legislation to control it. They barely do it. I have to find out how it is…the girl next door is doing her masters in transportation engineering, I have to ask her.

We spent the night in Kolon Hotel (in the middle of nowhere). They had a sauna/onsen there so me and Lotta had to try it. We only had 40 minutes, but it was worth it. Refreshing. A.G.A held a talent show at the hotel and many groups had prepared something. I have to say I liked the Indonesian dances the most. Colorful, smiling, pretty and they are good dancers too. And they are friendly. I love friendly people.

It would have been fun to do something together with A.G.A people afterwards, but we had fun with our own little group too. I guess I’m getting the first symptoms of culture shock, since I’m starting to feel a bit irritated about stupid stuff. I need to get my ass out of the dorms soon, and do it alone, or I start nagging at people who don’t deserve it.

Here are some pictures of the sights and the people (and food):

Fast dentist is fast

In Finland I waited for six months to get an appointment with my dentist. It really sucks a big time, the queues there. Here my filling suddenly came off and after trying one private dental clinic down the street (they kicked me out, saying they don’t speak English) I went to the university hospital’s dental clinic.

After filling in some forms the dental hygienist walked me to the x-ray guy, click, “okay Leena, phinished!” and out to the dentist. She checked my teeth while waiting for the filling material and told me my filling came out because my wisdom teeth is putting too much pressure on it – and I need to have it removed. Is next month okay? Oh, and we need to finish your root channel treatment and put a new crown on your teeth, is next week okay? And do you want a golden or porcelain crown?” And all this took maybe 30 minutes.

I have no clue how much do I need to pay for all this, but it’s probably dirty cheap compared to private dentists in Finland. Which would be my only option, since it’s impossible to get in the public dental care. For this one round – emergency filling, one local x-ray and one panoramic x-ray and check-up I paid  83000 won –  58 euros. Let’s see how much does it cost for the rest. I don’t really care, I’m just happy to get my teeth fixed and I have my insurance.

I’ve been x-rayed quite a lot in these last two months – first full torso x-ray back in Finland when I had to stay in the hospital, then here my lungs and my teeth. I need no more radiation.

GLEE club started for real. It’s a mixed choir, rather big one. I was happily surprised of their talent and even the young conductor dongseng gets my approval. We started with this song (skip to 3:40) – medley of animation music. My choir back home should learn from Korean culture – no excessive chatting and stupid questions, just listening and doing until the practice was over. After that we had plenty of time to talk – it seems to be common to go to a bar after clubs. We apparently had fun – after two bars we came back to the club room to play some more drinking games – until 6 AM. Those games are totally awesome.

Then again, I caught a cold so today I’ve been staying at the dorms, trying to get better. My friend is coming to Seoul tomorrow so I want to be able to go and meet him there. Also, tomorrow we are meeting some other friends and I have a presentation to make and and and… Oh, some pictures:

First one is from my Ecodesign II class… we have to disassemble and analyze an existing product and design a better one.

The lower pictures are from our dorm room – our decorations. Poster of the play I went to see, Big Bang, Korean flag and a hentai poster we found on our way home.

Tech differences 1: Water automage

I decided I’m gonna post short entries about things we don’t have in Finland – tech and design wise.

First – machine that generates warm drinking water automagically!

Yes. We have drinking water automates in Finland too, but only in public places and only for cold water. Tap water quality in Finland is quite high and it doesn’t taste that much like chlorine – so we just  drink from the tap. For tea and cup noodles we use electric kettles or normal pot&stove combo.

As far as I know, the water treatment here involves quite a lot of chemicals (chlorine), so I haven’t seen people drinking tap water (I don’t know what they do in normal homes). Water automates are everywhere. Some connected to the water network, some using bottled water. On the right hand side there is the cold water tap and the magical hot water tap on the left.

Considering the amount of instant noodles and tea I’ve been consuming, it is the most convenient thing ever, but I wonder how much energy does one machine consume per day – there are cooling and heating elements that require electricity and they are on all the time.

Whoa! She’s a nuna!

I’ve been doing so much these days I don’t know where to start? EDIT: some random pictures here

Creative parking Suwon Suwon I insisted people here should call me unni (언니 ) or nuna (누나) (the former one is how girls address their older sister and the latter how boys address their older sister). It sounds cute, but now I regret revealing my age – I can’t call anyone oppa (오빠) – which is how girls call older guys.  It all sounds very, very whiny and cute, but the boys here said they like it. Apparently they feel very masculine when they can do something for the girls. I feel so very old here. And masculine too. Before I know, I’ll start answering when ever somebody calls “Oppaaaa~!” I’ve found lovely people here, really cute and awesome girls to hang out with. The guys are nice too, especially the tutor guys, who are soon gonna get tired of us if they keep that up. School started for real – I’ve already missed two of my classes (messed up my schedule, not on purpose). Two of my classes – Ecodesign I and Biological wastewater treatment – are taught by professor Lee Kun-Mo, who gave a really pleasant and professional first impression. He seems to be strict, he speaks fluent English and the courses don’t seem too hard by far. So I really recommend his classes – based on first impression. I’m considering taking Ecodesign II too, but I’m already taking six courses in total, that might be too hard for my lazy ass – especially if I stick to all those clubs I signed for today. So yeah, it’s all like in anime – they have stands where they lure in innocent minds for clubs and associations – varying from religion to astronomy and from rock band to study groups. I signed for choir and English conversation. At the choir stand I had to fill a form where I needed to tell my birth year – and the guys started whispering: “Oh, she’s a nuna!” I also signed in for band audition. There are two rock band clubs, but the other club wasn’t exactly welcoming  – they basically shunned me away. The other group seemed nice, so I’m gonna try my luck. The weather has been awfully cold. It was snowing on Tuesday morning when we left to Seoul. It was the March first movement day – the day they remember their fight for independence and those who died in wars. There were quite a many activities in Seoul and we also went to Kimchi museum in COEX mall.

Statue of Hammering Man in Seoul

The beauty of Koreans is starting to hurt my eyes. I think I might start feeling inferior pretty soon. Well… at least I managed to impress the locals in my class a couple of times. I’m not sure whether it was me answering professors’ questions correctly, me speaking English rather well and using long sentences, or me just being able to talk to the professor as an equal. Be as it might, I have to admit I kinda liked how the whole class went “whoooa”. (Note: Back in Finland I’m the crappiest student in my class.) I caught a cold, so I had to stay at the dorms tonight, although the girls went out to party. The hot food seems to help and it’s not that hard to find vegetarian food anymore. You just need to know what to ask. So long – diet! Today we found a really good and cheap toppokki place and yesterday we ate bibimbap… ah, the food is awesome, but it makes me crave for beer!

And yeah, we’re gonna get our own Ajou Uni baseball jackets… They look warm and comfy! Look, here Sub is wearing one, ain’t that cool?

Anna-Maria & Sub

I’ll post some pictures when I have time… now I really need to start preparing for tomorrow’s classes. 안녕~!

I accidentally tourist hell

A stream near Euljiro 3-ga

I only had one think on my shopping list when I came here – an acoustic bass. And I heard there is this place called Nakwon Arcade in Insadong. Insadong’s main street is Seoul’s souvenir hell, offering everything from traditional costumes to genuine crafts (most likely made in Thailand). When trying to locate the arcade I accidentally ended up in that whirlwind. It was kinda good though, I needed to buy chopsticks and they had plenty.

Nakwon Arcade was really hard to locate. Mostly because it wasn’t open – Sunday, who closes a mall on the best shopping day of the week? I’m going back there tomorrow, but first I need to check the store in our Subway station. One of the lodgers recommended it.

While walking around I had time to think quite a lot. Here’s what I thought:

  • It was almost +15 Celsius and they are still wearing  winter jackets.
  • The girls wear such high heels they need a boyfriend to keep them from tripping over all the time. That same boyfriend also carries their handbag – which IS NOT what men are supposed to do. Except if they share cosmetics, which might be the case here. Men here are beautiful.
  • There are maps everywhere, especially near subway stations. They don’t operate with street names, more with landmarks. Distances on maps look scary, but are in fact not that bad. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to walk to the next subway station than try to find the right platform for your transfer train. The stations are endless. Especially Euljiro 3 -ga, never transfer there if you don’t have to.
  • Korean city layout is not meant for Finnish mind set. I would go crazy if I needed to call for directions every time I wanted to visit a new store or company. That’s what Koreans seem to do. And they use landmarks. And the little alleys seem to either not end at all or they just end where you least expect.
  • At least those parts of the city I’ve visited can’t really brag with architecture. The blocks look almost organic – this house grew to fit this place and that house there grew a bit too much…
  • Koreans can park in amazingly narrow alleys.
  • The air in Seoul is really dry and the sun is bright. My nose is full of sand and I couldn’t take decent pictures with the light today.
  • I can’t stop admiring the amount of good fashion I’ve seen by far – both men and women dress really well (and they have an expensive taste). Of course there are other country pumpkins like me, who don’t care what they’re wearing.
  • Recycling here includes blue plastic bags on the streets and cars with loudspeakers.

Also, just to be mentioned. I had the most awful “dinner” tonight, in the form of revolting cheese flavored noodles. Here’s a picture and in the picture blog there are more. yuk
I’ll also update yesterdays entry with a picture from Sisha bar gr8, first thing tomorrow. Yeah, the jet lag kicked in. I’m a mess atm.