Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Saying goodbye is never easy. However, I never knew it was going to be this hard to say goodbye to people I only knew for 5 weeks. It felt like we knew each other for such a long time yet we felt as if we just landed yesterday at Incheon International Airport. For the last two weeks of the University of Seoul's International Summer School 2010 program, students went on trips to Beijing, Japan or southern cities in South Korea. I chose to go to the southern cities in South Korea and although I had a fun time, I regret not going on the Japan trip. My buddy and all my close friends were in Japan while I was in Gyeongju and Andong for four days. Nonetheless, it was a fun trip aside from the hot temperature and the massive amounts of temples, Confucian schools and traditional houses that we went to. We went rafting and the hotel we stayed in was beautiful with a gorgeous view (pictures will come soon, I promise!).
During the last week, no one wanted to acknowledge that the program was coming to an end. We didn't want our time together to end. It seemed like we just got to begin these relationships. How could they end so soon? At the airport, many of us cried. We promised each other that we'd see each other on the other side of the world, in New York and we'll do the same for them as they did to us - be amazing tour guides to our own city and just to spend time with them. Finals Day came and went - classes were very interesting and even I picked up a bit of Korean language. I can read Korean but I don't know what it means since there are words and an alphabet system.
Coming back home feels strange. I feel a little empty inside. We're trying to keep in touch with everyone on Skype and through Facebook but it doesn't seem like it's enough. For any of you who are reading this and wondering to yourself, should I study abroad? My answer is yes. You might question yourself and ask, "Will I fit in?", "What if I don't know the language?", "Will I regret it?", "Would it be too much money?" and other worries. My answers are, depending on the country, no, you won't fit in. In South Korea, I fit in cause I was Asian and many people took me for a native Korean. However, Chris and Jesse, who are Caucasian, did not fit in. However, that should not stop you from taking this opportunity to go study abroad wherever you want. Yes, it may be uncomfortable and yes, people may look at you but in a few days, you'll get used to it. If you don't know the language, that's fine. In South Korea, I knew NO Korean but that didn't stop me from having a good time and making a lot of wonderful friends. Will you regret it? Absolutely not. I was afraid that I would be wasting 5 weeks in Seoul studying abroad and boy, was I wrong. It was the most amazing summer I've ever had. If you're worried about financial issues, University of Seoul's International Summer School is very, very, very wallet friendly. I spent less than $3,000 and that includes my $1,900 roundtrip plane ticket. Dorming was absolutely free and food is INSANELY cheap - I'm talking you don't pay more than 10 USD for 3 meals a day cheap! I hope that through this blog, many of you decide to take the chance to study abroad or at least heavily consider it.
Since this post is sort of long and I have way too many pictures I need to post, I will do so in the next post tomorrow. Until then, enjoy and let's hope I get some sleep tonight. Good morning!

Friday, July 30, 2010


I always hate that word - farewell. Sorry for not updating for the past two weeks. It's been hectic with finals, trying to get to as many places as we can go and going to Gyeongju and Andong for four days without any Internet access. Since it's 4:40am here, I will update about these last few weeks in the next post, which will probably be tomorrow. My feet hurt from dancing all night. Someone give me a foot massage please.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Where did Jesse go??? I hope he's not in North Korea..."

As you can probably suspect from the title of this blog, we went to the DMZ yesterday. For those of you who don't know what the DMZ stands for, it is demilitarized zone. It's a border that separates North Korea and South Korea with 2km on each side. Because it was pouring yesterday (like it has been for the past two weeks that we've been here), we couldn't really see North Korea too well except on the bus and on the observation deck. I was going to take pictures but it was too hazy/foggy to make out anything.

There's a lot of history that comes along with the DMZ. Many people believe that the Korean war is over...but in reality, it really isn't. There is still tension going on between South and North Korea and although many hope for reunification of the peninsula, that may never happen. The tour guide that we had yesterday said she has a brother but she doesn't know where he is. She knows that he's in Korea but whether North or South, she doesn't know. We went to the Freedom Bridge, Imjingak, the 3rd tunnel and an observatory deck that looked out to North Korea. The 3rd tunnel was actually pretty awesome. It's one of the four tunnels (that South Korea knows of) that North Koreans dug to Seoul in hopes of capturing South Korea from its capital.

We had North Korean style bulgogi at the site. I honestly couldn't taste the difference but I was told that there is a difference. Anyway, some pictures would help this post a lot...here goes!

North Korean style bulgogi

Na Young trying to be cute with the bulgogi

Chris and I in front of a memorial

In front of a bell at Imjingak

Freedom Bridge plaque

Other international students and me at UoS on the Freedom Bridge

Ribbons and pictures on the Freedom Bridge hoping for reunification

One of the statues in front of the Freedom Bridge

Having fun in front of the 3rd Tunnel

South Korea built a train station at Dorasan (there are no trains yet) in hopes that one day reunification with North Korea is possible and that a train could go through North Korea from Seoul and eventually go to China, Russia and end in several European countries.

It's called the Trans Eurasian Railway Network. It would make exporting goods a lot faster.

Waiting for our train to Pyeongyang...North Korea...one day!

Hope you all enjoyed this post. I would take the liberty to research about the tension between North and South Korea if I were you - it's quite interesting and some of the stories are just heart-wrenching. Till next time!

Friday, July 9, 2010


Friday has come around the corner...finally. Last week, we went to see the show, NANTA, here in Seoul. It was really funny and felt a bit like Broadway, but there was definitely way more interaction between the audience and the cast. Before that, we went to McDonalds for a quick meal and they have bulgogi burgers here! For those who don't know what bulgogi is, it's Korean marinated barbecued beef. Realllly good stuff! I spent my birthday here in Seoul and we went to a bar and karaoke where Jesse belted out Eminem non-stop through the night, haha.

As Korean language class is progressing, I'm learning more and more words by the day and attempting to read street signs while I'm out. We've learned how to order in a restaurant and numbers. We've also learned countries. In my Korean culture and society class, we've been discussing education in Korea, gender inequality and religion.

Sometimes I feel homesick. I guess it's the independence that I miss and obviously friends and family back home. I've talked to my mom once since I've been here and I haven't spoke to my father since we saw each other last at JFK. Writing this almost makes me want to tear up. I know the time I have left here in Seoul isn't too much because 3 weeks is going to go by in a blink of an eye so I'm trying my best to just take in everything that I can and leave with many stories to tell when I get back home.

We've gone to Insadong, Itaewon, Myeongdong and Cheongyecheon in the past two weeks. Insadong is a tourist-y area where one can get many souvenirs for friends and family. In Insadong, there's Changdeok Palace. While there, we learned the proper manners for serving tea and we also tried on Hanbok, which is traditional Korean dress. Itaewon is the part of Seoul where there is a US Army base stationed there. While we were there, we heard them firing guns - super loud. We also tried to find an Italian restaurant there but that ended up failing because the streets were just too confusing to navigate and our buddies didn't know the area too well. While in Itaewon, we saw many foreigners, like us. However, we didn't feel at home at all since most of the signs were still in Korean and none of us knew where we were going. Cheongyecheon is absolutely beautiful at night with all its lights and the river just flowing by you. It's a man-made river and at night, there are lights all around and when we were there, there was a light show going on. It's known as being a couples place and indeed, we saw many, many couples there. By far, Myeongdong is my favorite place to go here. I could spend hours upon hours just window shopping. While there, I got rainboots (since it rains so much here), a pair of sandals, a jumpsuit and a green sweater. We haven't gone to Dongdaemun yet but I have high hopes since it's going to be like Myeongdong but bigger. Anyway, I should post some pictures for you guys from these two weeks. Enjoy!

Bulgogi burger in McDonald's here

Dinner at one of the restaurants located in the back gate of UoS
(I got a beef rib stew and I don't remember what everyone else had but judging from the redness of their plates, it was spicy!)

Jesse and I on my birthday at a bar near UoS


Traditional Korean painting

Trying on the Hanbok
(Each piece of Hanbok is worn for a different occasion. The blue is for the nobles and it's what they wear to work in the palace. The gold one is used for wearing at home. In the third picture, the brown one on the left side is the King's Hanbok.)

In front of Changdeok Palace


Need to end this post since I have to catch a bus to watch a BBOY performance. Till next time!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Achy feet

Sorry for not updating for a week. It's been so hectic. Classes started this week on Tuesday. We had orientation on Monday with all the other international students. There's close to a 100 of us from I think it was 29 different countries. It's evident in my Korean culture and society class - 8 students and 2 are from Portugal, 3 from the United States, 1 from China, 1 from Slovenia and one from Finland. Class is very interesting because we get to compare each other's cultures and we find out more and more about our own society by comparing it with others. In the afternoon, I take a Korean language class which has been kicking my butt. There's a Hangul alphabet that I learned but I can't seem to remember the characters and what letters they're associated with. When I learned Chinese, there was no alphabet to learn. When I learned Italian, the alphabet was like English so the fact that the Hangul alphabet is completely different is throwing me off so much.

Anyway, Seoul has been wonderful...aside from the generous amounts of humidity and rain that Mother Nature is giving us. I probably shower two or three times a day in order not to feel gross. The campus is nice. There's a lot of stairs and hills which I'm not used to in New York City, especially the hills. We're not too far from train stations and the bus stations so getting around is really easy. It's just that we don't know where to get anywhere and we can't really read most of the signs yet so we usually have our buddies come along with us. Our buddies have been SO SO SO nice. Honestly, I don't think I could thank them enough for helping us through this experience. Sometimes, we feel helpless because we can't go without them to get breakfast/lunch/dinner and they have to bring us to places that I know they've already been to 500 times already. Jesse, Christopher, Richard and I really want our buddies to come to New York sometime because we want to show them around like they've shown us around so far.

The food here is great. It's cheap, good and for the most part, pretty healthy. We've been getting breakfast from the student cafeteria before class and it's 1,500 won for rice, eggs, soup, kimchi, sometimes squid or mushrooms. 1,500 won is $1.22. A cup of coffee from 7/11 in the US is about $1.09. Lunch is anywhere from 2 bucks to 3 depending on what you get. Guess it's time to show you this past week in photos. They do say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Our first actual meal in Seoul: Shabu shabu

My buddy, Ji Hyun and I on the way to Homeplus (similar to Costco or BJ's)

Korea was playing in the World Cup against Uruguay last weekend. We went to a pub to cheer them on in our red gear, representing the Red Devils.
Left to right: Me, Jesse, Chun Gon (a buddy for one of Stony Brook's students)

Chris (another SBU student) rocking the red and horns!

@MyeongDong - a shopping district and eating dukboki (spicy rice cakes)

Us with some students from China and our buddies @Ice Berry

We went to the North Seoul Tower that day. We had to take a cable car to get there. Here's the view from the car of Seoul.

Other photos from North Seoul Tower:

People write messages on locks and clip it on the fences at the North Seoul Tower. They then throw away the key and try to find it many years later.

Next day, we had orientation with the other international students and our buddies. Here's Stony Brook students!
Left from right: Huo, Jesse, Chris, Richard, me and my buddy, Ji Hyun.

The food they served at orientation:
Yes, that is beer. They also told us to fill up our cups. They INSISTED.

Stony Brook University students and our buddies @Orientation.

Stony Brook University with Chinese international students

All students participating in the University of Seoul International Summer School
Groups 1, 2 and 3

Groups 4 and 5

Afterwards, we went to a club event at BarFLY for a past international student's birthday. Here are some pictures of that night. They're low quality cause they're from my cell phone. Sorry.
With the birthday boy, Tomas (from France) below

That's it for now. I'm worried that I'm bombarding you guys with so many photos so till next time!