Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cristina A. - Seoul, South Korea - Fall 2010

안녕하세요 (Annyounghaseyo=Hello)
Greetings from Ewha Womans University! I’m enjoying the experience of studying in a foreign country. It’s different being a foreigner in a proudly homogenous society like Korea, but I think I’m learning about its culture the best way; total immersion. I arrived on the 27th of August in a downpour. It’s been humid and rainy off and on for the past few weeks. It’s only in the past few days started to get a little bit chilly. Koreans are taller than I expected and very into their appearance. At least in Seoul, girls come to class in outfits that I would wear to a club: high heels, dresses, make-up. I feel like a tomboy in my jeans and t-shirts. And the fact that I’m one of a few black people for miles adds to my “foreign-ness”. There is a lot of history in the capital city. Even at the school, Ewha Woman’s University, there are reminders of the past everywhere. The way things used to be, the dynasties of the past are all around. There are several palaces in the city that maintain their regalia of yesterday. I enjoy the food; Korean food is spicier than I assumed it would be. I like all the side dished they serve with food. If I order bibimbap, a common Korean rice dish, it comes with two or three sample foods on the side. It’s like ordering appetizers for free. There are a lot of markets here. Shopping, shopping, shopping. I’ve gotten bored with all that. I just want to buy my souvenirs and be done with it. My classes are rather… dull. No one talks, and I can’t really get into the material for some reason. The teachers are helpful and everything, but I still don’t really know what’s going on. As far as missing things in America, the only thing I miss is breakfast. Koreans don’t have a separate food group for breakfast like we do. They eat rice, soup, meats or leftovers. I’m craving French toast and one of my mom’s omelets. Mostly, I just miss things being familiar. It makes me lonesome and frustrated sometimes to not be around things I recognize. More than that, the language barrier is cumbersome. It would be easier for me to assimilate if I spoke Korean and could maneuver the city without hesitation. But not being able to communicate with people and then them staring at you in the subway makes for an awkward set of moments. I’m trying to keep a clear head on this new road I’m walking and learn as much as I can from my surroundings. I think I’ll get more into things as the weeks go on. In spite of the stumbling blocks, I’m glad I came here; Korea is quite a place.


Blogger wallflower1332 said...

Hey Cristina :)
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Korean culture is something with which I am not very familiar; I appreciate your perspective. The things you highlight with regard to homogeneous culture and race are things I wouldn't have thought to notice in a different country. How are you handling these differences?

Are your classes in English? Are you studying with other exchange students, or with Korean students who have studied English?

I like your comment about the food in Korea. I, too, anticipate missing breakfast. Are you able to find breakfast-y type things at the local markets? Maybe fruit?

I'd be curious to hear more about what you mean when you say that Korea is a quiet place. My guess is that you're comparing that to life in the United States?

While I've not spoken with him, I'm sure I can pass on greetings from Dr Beauchamp and the Niebuhr Center!

Ally Vertigan

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! It's fascinating to hear about living in a totally different culture than the United States.

I was just wondering-do you have any tips for selecting classes in a country who's primary language is very different from English?

Margaret Z.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Riley said...

Hi Cristina!

I hope your study abroad is going great! I was hoping you would be able to tell me a little about picking your classes abroad. What kind of classes did you decide to take? Will you get credit towards your major at Elmhurst? Is your class mainly international students?

Thanks and hope you are having a great time!

- Riley N.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Kaylyn said...

I read about a few of the differences you've noticed between the culture here and South Korea. Would you say that you went through a culture shock at all during the beginning of your experience?

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Cristina!

It sounds like you are having a really enriching experience. I know the Korean culture is very different from ours. How is that affecting you? Have you found it easy to adjust? What do you do to help ease the process of getting used to everything?

Catie C.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Christina A. said...

Oh my, how the tables have turned. I remember having to comment on someone's blog...

(Oh, and BTW it's cHristina. Not that I care, really. My mom might like it spelled the Spanish way...)

Ally- Do, say hi to the Reverend for me. I meant to say Korea is quite a place, not a quiet place. I don't know if I spelled that wrong. It's not like I'm not used to being the only black person somewhere, but here it seems more obvious. Fruit here is really expensive. I haven't had a vegetable in months.
My classes are in English, thank God. I am learning some Korean. I can read the alphabet now and I'm picking up a lot as I go along.

Margaret- Just make sure there is a way for you to communicate in English, even if it's not an English speaking country. It's frustrating to not be able to speak with people, but so long as there's someone who knows what you're saying, make friends. Quick. But, I'm glad I went to an unfamiliar. Not to knock on people who went to England or Australia or some European country, but I think it's an even more "enriching" life lesson when you go somewhere that is nothing like what you're used to. The Eiffel tower will be there, and so will Big Ben, but I wanted to go somewhere nobody I knew had gone. And I think I'm better for it already.

Riley- I'm one of a few international students in my class. Teachers always call on me because I'm the only American in all my classes. Four out of five of my classes will count. I chose my classes online and I had to get my professors' signatures to be enrolled, but I'm sure it varies from school to school. I'm graduating this May, so I had to make these four months count.

Catie- I'm finally getting used to being here. Chopsticks are easier, I'm used to people looking at me all the time, I'm used to the Subway maps and vendors, but it took time. Because I went to a place that is nothing like home it took longer than I thought to get my bearings, but I'm alright now. I can't say I'm not ready to leave, but I'm happy I'm here.

FYI- I linked my youtube channel ( ) where I've posted videos about my trip so far. (I have to for my scholarship). If yall want to check it out, it might give some more insight beyond what I'm babbling right now.


9:14 AM  

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