Despite spending months getting ready and years hoping to make this trip, it is safe to say I was not prepared to arrive in Korea.
I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why that was the case, but I think it was a combination of jadedness over having already studied abroad multiple times, not thinking ahead for things like Lan lines and Mac friendly adapters, and most of all not calculating the time it would take to get through customs, immigration, travel to the dorm, and all sorts of other random things.
But I got to Korea…and it was like….what? I’m here? It seems like a mixture of the US and Japan, and yet I have absolutely no idea what to do or where to go or how to conduct myself. It is a strange reality of being incredibly experienced and yet not experienced at all.
So anyway. My flight from Seattle to Seoul was delayed nearly three hours, so instead of arriving to the meeting point at the very early end of the spectrum and having the evening to unpack and explore, I arrived at the tail end and yet still had to wait at the airport for another 30 minutes before a 90 minute bus ride and another hour of waiting in line to get my room key and bedding.
By the time I had put my things away (and discovered the rooms don’t come with toilet paper) it was already 10:30pm.
Though despite the jet lag and mental exhaustion that comes with meeting 30 new people and moving into a new home, I went right out to find a convenient store with two other girls in order to buy some toilet paper. (Turns out there is a convenient store IN OUR DORM but I guess we needed the exercise and excess humidity…?)
After a whopping 5 hours of sleep, I woke at 6am. Jet Lag 1: Maddie 0.
My roommate, two other girls and I set out around 7:00am to find breakfast–though even though we stayed within our dorm building that too was an adventure. There are several places to eat, though most don’t open until 8:00am so we ended up at a coffee shop that is trying way too hard to be Western.
Again the store seemed half-American, half-Japanese what with the English speaking staff, English labels on everything, and things like “Breakfast Sets” and sweet potato salad filled white bread sandwiches.
I spoke Korean to the cashier….the cashier spoke English to me…. I successfully ended up with a tuna-and-sweet-potato sandwich and an iced latte, mission accomplished.
After breakfast we met the rest of the group and flocked to another building on campus for several hours of orientation. I’m not kidding, there are a million of us. It might even be more apt to say we stampeded. God help the Korean students who need to get anywhere when we are on the prowl.
^^Just imagine this line going back another block or two >_<
Because we were such a large herd and one on a mission at that, I took absolutely zero pictures of the campus today–which is now my goal for when I wake ridiculously early in the morning tomorrow!
As you can see, I may or may not have zoned out a wee bit while listening to some of the orientation topics and started to doodle on the front of my orientation notebook. Oops.
After a quick lunch we got on a bus (actually two busses because we are such a large group) and went to the National Museum–the largest museum in Asia.
Though by this point everyone was tired and pessimistic about the rest of the day being fun, we had the most delightful speaker present on Korean culture and history.
This Honbok-wearing woman spoke to us about how Korea used things like astrology and printing presses before the rest of the world, how the steel industry helped the country turn from a people in need of aid in the 1960s to a people capable of giving aid in the 2000s, and about Korean manners. The woman was so sweet that my roommate and I had to take a picture with her after the presentation (don’t mind the jet-lagged-sweating-everywhere appearance).
The non-profit group that organized the talk also brought in Hanbok for everyone to try on and handmade traditional Korean sweets for us to try. Obviously once these things were mentioned, our mature group of seated adults turned into a swarming ball of chaos.
Though we were all at the point of wanting to lay on the floor and/or sleep standing up, we were separated into two groups for a brief tour of the museum, featuring some of the things that had been talked about in the presentation. The museum is actually incredibly beautiful, and while I enjoyed it I wished I would have been in a less foggy state of mind in order to actually appreciate the history and magnitude of the things that surrounded me.
Upon returning to the dorm around 6:30, a micro group and I went out for dinner and then to Daiso in order to buy little things like trash cans and hand soap for our rooms. It was a fun adventure, again, despite the jet lag.
I’m not really in picture-taking-mode yet so this is the only shot I got of our little trip, but I promise it was more exciting than it looks!
For now, I am sitting in the stiflingly hot common room to use internet, though I’m going to wrap this post up because I am about at my wits end of sitting in my own sweat and I am going to go run away and take a shower. At least I pushed through the jet lag enough to stay up til 10pm!
Anyway. Day one was a success, if a little strange in unexpected ways. I expected Seoul to be drastically different from everything I knew, but even though I feel out of place it seems somehow familiar….which might just be the jet lag talking lol.
I have barely used any Korean–so a huge shout out to the Korean friends who have been messaging me in Korean on Facebook, you have no idea how much I appreciate the practice and confidence it gives me. 🙂
I will check in again within the next few days with more pictures of my beautiful university, the area of Seoul I am in, and my next adventures! Already this weekend we are going to the DMZ, so make sure to check back for more pictures and stories.
Thanks for reading ^_^