Awesome Korean Adventures

Living and engineering like never before

Campus Life Chose Me

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Everyone probably knows that Asian, and Korean food especially, is very spicy. Well… knowing it isn’t going to help much, which I soon learned. The first place we went to eat was the cafeteria that, luckily enough, is very close to the dormitory. Good thing they have forks and spoons around here, although I’ve yet to see a knife, because I would starve to death in a day with only chopsticks. I’ve been trying to self-learn the technique using two wooden ones, but it’s completely different in practice and I just end up looking like idiot.

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On the cafeteria entrance is a glass showcase where you can see the different kinds of meals available on that day. Usually there at least two, a Korean meal and a western meal ranging from French to Hawaiian, but sometimes even four distinct ones. The international meals include meat, pasta etc. but they usually have rice and other Korean stuff in them as well. Korean food on the other hand is usually a bunch of unidentifiable and indiscernible stuff mixed together with rice and served in bowls instead of plates. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since it tastes good and the portions are very large. The food is always very spicy, however, so you better have cold water on deck.

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Life in the dormitory is pretty simple, at least when people aren’t yelling in the corridors. We have a hot & cold water dispenser in the kitchen next door. It is basically the best thing ever in this weather and alongside spicy food. Additionally, there’s a refrigerator and stoves for everyone to use, and by everyone I mean that the same 2-3 guys use them every time. Other than that, we have bathrooms with showers and laundry machines, a gym and an ATM to withdraw money as well. Speaking of money, almost everything here is cheaper than in Finland, especially food and drinks in restaurants. That’s why many people, including Koreans, like to eat out and party. School food is very cheap as well, considering the magnitude of it. I’m still not over the fact that I’m paying 3,500 for food; feels like I’m a big shot!

The world outside of the campus seems massive. It feels strange when the closest place you know your way around is thousands of kilometers away. Almost like exploring uncharted territory, I guess. Anyway, I’ve been trying to get to know the lay of the land by not only walking around the campus, which is quite big, but also in the streets of Suwon city. From what I’ve seen, it seems that foreigners, other than students, are few and far between in this area. That said there are tons of places around here for food and hanging out. We’ve been eating out a couple of times and also checked out an arcade with other Finnish exchange students. Luckily, one of the guys has been around for one semester already, so he knows all the good places. Although most Koreans have a hard time with English, they have been very niceu and helpfur so far.

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Russian Misadventures and The First Day In Korea

Spoilers: We made it to Suwon, South Korea where I’m writing this now. Getting here, however, was rough to say the least. It was a very long day. We had to get up quite early to make it on the flight but luckily I got enough sleep. Later on the airport, I met with Lauri and we went through the security and passport check stuff. Good thing the flight was on time because we really didn’t need any extra free time. We flew on Aeroflot, the Russian airlines, where pretty much everything was in Russian. The flight attendants thought we were Russian as well.

After a rocky landing we entered the Sheremetyevo International Airport. Some random Finnish guy instantly came to talk to us and offered to buy beers. Classic. Anyway, we sat around for five hours, pretty boring stuff. At one point we went to Burger King since they accepted Visa Electron as payment. Everything was, again, in Russian only. Nonetheless, I was able to order a Dabl Stejkhaus. That was the culmination of years of studying the Russian language.

Surprisingly, we were informed that our seats on the next plane had been changed. Turned out that they put us in business class instead! While we were busy being amazed at the features on our chairs and TV screens, the flight attendant handed us menus. On a quick glance, I figured it must all be way too expensive for me. I was wrong. Apparently it was all free and we could choose between a bunch of different food. Our plan was originally to try and get some sleep since the flight was 9 hours long. That plan was quickly thrown out the window, however, when the flight attendant brought a new dish after dish on the table. She also put a real rose on it for reasons unknown. Before I knew it, most of the flight was gone. There was so much to eat that I couldn’t finish the dessert. Damn shame.

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IMG_20160826_202604203Weary but also excited, we arrived in Seoul at the Incheon Airport.  Following a few more security checks and a fingerprint scan, we made it out in one piece with our baggage. We looked for the Ajou “buddy” people waiting for us. Luckily they were holding a huge sign so we eventually found them. That said, we had to cut introductions short because the bus was just leaving.

We were taken through Seoul to a bus station where more buddies were waiting. So far, most of the buddies have been very helpful and kind to us, and they can speak decent English as well. They helped us get a taxi which then drove us straight to the dorm entrance. Apparently the taxi drivers don’t understand any English but I think I can say that much in Korean if need be. After checking in to the dorm, we went to set up our things in the room assigned to us. Noticing that we are missing pillows, we asked about it at the lobby. However, the lady told us we have to buy them ourselves. Although I was very tired at that point, we walked to a super market with about 50 people to buy pillows. It must’ve looked very silly to outsiders. When we got back to the dorm, I slept for 13 hours and lived happily ever after.

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Korea Around The Corner

With less than a week before my flight to South Korea, I guess it’s time to start writing a blog, right? Well, almost everything has been taken care of by now so I’m just waiting around. My keyboard is still smoking as a result of filling a million documents. It seems, unfortunately, that Koreans enjoy their bureaucracy at least as much as we do. In any case I now have my visa as well as an insurance and vaccination. The vaccines ended up costing quite a bit, especially the one for Japanese encephalitis, but at least the effects should last indefinitely.

I booked my flight together with Lauri, a fellow ICT student from JAMK. The flight leaves on 26th for Moscow where we’ll have to hang around for a couple of hours. We figured that it’s worth the wait to save a few hundred euros. Furthermore, I haven’t been to Russia before so I guess it’s horosho. If everything goes to plan, and we don’t end up in the Siberian coal mines, we should land in Incheon on the next day.

Some time ago I was awarded a DUO-Korea scholarship of 4,000€. That’s pretty good. Could it be that studying working for decent grades actually paid off? Who would have thunk. That said, there’s still some bureaucratic stuff yet to be done so I’m still waiting until that number appears on my bank account. With JAMK’s grant money on top of that, I should do fine. In fact, I should turn out monetarily on top by quite a bit if it all works out.

Initially, my plan was to take at least 15 credits (30op) not to fall behind in my studies and also get the maximum amount of grant from JAMK. The course registration, however, didn’t go like in Strömsö. Apparently a lot of people were banging their F5 key on the registration site and consequently many courses were already full by the time I got to them. As a result, I ended up taking World of Music and Crimes in Modern Society from the general studies list instead. Having studied Korean for the last 4 months, I wasn’t sure what my current level is, so I just picked two courses of Korean language. At this point I need to improve my vocabulary and I could use some conversational practice as well.

Oddly enough, the only computer-related class I was able to pick was Distributed System Design. I figured they would have prepared more seats than there are students. Looks like I’ll be chilling and playing tennis for the time being. After all, It’s not so terrible when you think about what my Finnish class mates are studying, like physics or, god forbid, Swedish.

 

It’s a cat

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