Hallelujah, I got here at last!
Where to begin? Of course, Seoul is an excellent city. It’s very well organized, the people are not hostile to foreigners, it’s easy to navigate, and it’s really big, with lots of things to see and do.
I got to spend time with my friend Wony, which was definitely my highlight. We met in the Model UN club at CSULB. She was an exchange student from Korea, and we spent a lot of time together. In fact, she even came to my house for a few days to do a San Francisco tour! It was really special for me, because after moving around and doing different things, I’ve made a lot of acquaintances that I’ve never seen or heard from again. So it’s nice to be able to meet someone again even after two and a half years of irregular contact. We went out to eat together, first eating steamed dumplings, traditional kimchee stew, coffee, and then bubble tea. (No, it wasn’t all at once. ;P)
But when I was wandering around looking at things on my own, Seoul struck me as almost too good. Too organized. Too efficient. Seoul seemed to lack its own distinguishing character. Except for the fact that 7-11 sold triangle rice balls wrapped in seaweed (which, by the way, were very bad) and all the signage was in Korean, I could just as easily been in any large city. Furthermore, the traditional Korean palace I visited was very Sinitic, with rather unimpressive decorations. I didn’t think that there were many differences between that and the ones I’ve seen in Taiwan and China. In fact, the ones in China are better because there are more animal sculptures.
All told, I wasn’t altogether sorry to leave. I’m sure I’ll be back, because Wony is there, and I’ll probably want to go there with the other exchange students, but I look forward to exploring other parts of Korea.
As for my academics…
And I am very pleased to say that two more of my wishes have come true! I met some other people who are interested in sustainable development, the developing world, and entrepreneurship, so I had lunch with one of them yesterday and I hope to continue these conversations through the semester. I also got invited to a church this Sunday. A bunch of students were passing out little goody bags with their information inside, and since they made a specific effort to recruit at campus, I think there will be many other college students. 🙂
I can’t begin to describe to you how happy I am to be a REAL EXCHANGE STUDENT this time, on the same page as all the other exchange students, included in the same social circle as all the other exchange students–I can’t overemphasize how amazing it is to be in a “regular” program this time, and be around people who truly, actually understand what it’s like to go through heaps of unending, paperwork to achieve their traveling goals.
And imagine…this is just the beginning….