Siu Pok, Nathan
Sogang University, South Korea
Wondering if I am at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games? My passion to visit Pyeongchang was ignited when I arrived at the Incheon International Airport on 22 Feb. I was so excited when I thought I would have the chance to watch the live Olympic games. But my friends suggest me not to go because it is too far from Seoul. Better than nothing then I found these two official mascots - Soohorang and Bandabi. The white tiger Soohorang, which is a symbol of trust, is an animal closely related to Korean mythology. And, the black bear symbolizes strong will and courage. So why not take a selfie with cute mascots to celebrate the occasion?!
We joined an exchange student dinner party weeks ago. Over the dinner, I talked about Hong Kong local foods like fish ball and “Shiu Mai”, while my friend Maria from Spain talked about a Spanish food called Croquettes, a small bread-crumbed fried food. Maria said most of the Spanish food is not spicy so I guessed it would take her quite some time to get used to Korean foods. The first time I met Eric from Malaysia was in the Prayer room. He walked close to us and spoke Cantonese, which really surprised me. He has been studying Korean for 2 years. So it was nice to have Eric who is like our “tour guide” as he speaks Korean language well!
Sogang University is ranked number 4 in Korea, and I am studying art and technology here for this semester!. The school is famous for art and humanities. The cardinal red color symbolizes love, martyrdom and victory. The silver chevron comes from the first Korean letter of Sogang, representing the intellectual spirit of Sogang and an ivory tower. Our school’s logo "IHS" comes from the first letters of the Greek name Ιησους (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) for Jesus and is also found on the seal of the Society of Jesus, the Catholic religious order that founded the University. I am proud to be one of the students here.
Introduction to Korean film was my first lesson and Ms. Pang Huikyong was my instructor. She focused on Korean film development such as cinema, rather than any specific movie, which was unexpected but interesting. She showed a video about ancient Korean drama in order to teach us about Korean fashion and culture. She also recommended a book called Korean Cinema, which has lots of information on Korean film history. I really enjoy her classes.
Sogang University has plenty of clubs for students to join. I signed up for the fine arts club, the badminton club, and the photography club. There are lots of clubs that CityU doesn't have, such as ski club, Buddhism club, and English speaking club. I also received a gift from the ski club because I played their mini game. If you have a chance to come to SogangU, make sure you sign up to ski club!
What is your favorite Korean food to try in Seoul? Fried chicken is one of my absolute favorites. Thanks to Ryan’s recommendation, we tried a local Korean fried chicken restaurant, via delivery. Ryan explained that the restaurant usually provides a box of radishes as an appetizer. Many local students here like to enjoy juicy fried chicken with their friends to celebrate the start of each semester.
When I was in Hong Kong, I would watch many Korean dramas and be amazed by their hairstyles. Therefore, when I came to Korea I really wanted to change my hairstyle. Special thanks to Thomas, who’s in the middle of the photo, for recommending the salon that he always goes to in Sinchon. Thomas is from Hong Kong and has been studying Korean for four years. I was able to communicate with the professional hairstylist, thanks to Thomas’ interpretation. He found that my hair could be arched, so he recommended cutting it very short. The trouble now is that people might think I’m Korean!
We went to Vivaldi Park Ski World this weekend, which was the last day of the ski season. This famous ski park – with large accommodation facilities – offers one-day skiing and attracts many ski lovers from around the world. I have not skied before so I was extremely excited to be there. It takes around two hours to travel from SogangU to Vivaldi Park. Coach Tyson was very nice and said that we were special as it was his last class of the season. I thought the I would learn how to ski smoothly in my first class. However, safety is extremely important, so he taught us how to fall safely first. Thanks to his patience and guidance, we were able to learn fast.
This was the first dinner with my roommate, Tony. We had pork-hotpot, budae-jjigae, and an omelette. During our meal, we discussed cultural differences between Hong Kong and Korea. The most confusing Korean cultural taboo I encountered is to not pick up your bowl when eating. He said that few Koreans care about this etiquette unless you are eating with family or the elderly. He also paid for dinner as it is Korean culture to do so – Koreans will pay if they care for that person. He is the friendliest and most polite roommate I have ever met.
We arrived at Cheonggyecheon this weekend, which is an 11km modern public recreation space, right next to Dongdaemun. There were several children dancing to K-Pop music and playing with a hula-hoop together. We were fascinated by their seamless fluidity of movement and could not help but applaud after their captivating performance. I was deeply affected by their passion and even brought to tears after receiving their gifts, which were some delicious coffee candies.
Gwangjang Market, which has over 100 years of history, was the first permanent market in Korea and continues to thrive as a popular tourist destination today. My friends said that the historical market has featured on many television shows. Countless national flags were displayed throughout the market and there were vast crowds in all directions. We tried the famous Kimbap and Sikhye, which is made by pouring malt water onto cooked rice. I recommend trying this delicious and healthy drink after eating lots of fried food.
Have you ever visited seen a Library in a shopping mall!? Starfield library is a combination of a shopping mall and library. The library consists of three 13m tall giant bookshelves packed with around 50,000 books and magazines. The library boasts Korea’s largest collection of magazines, including latest editions and international magazines. The up-to-date e-book system was especially popular among visitors. If you’re a hipster, you will absolutely love Starfield library.
When I went back to my dorm from Myeong-dong by train, someone asked me how to get to Guro. I helped him by using my mobile phone. He was thankful as many Koreans are very shy and don't speak English. I have been reflecting on this matter. We don't need a materialistic lifestyle – happiness is achieved by helping others.
Visiting other universities is a great way of enriching your exchange adventure. Ewha Womans University – the world’s largest female educational institute, is a private women's university and is walkable distance from SogangU. My friends mentioned that Ewha is a historical school as beautiful as SogangU. I was curious to see if this place was as picturesque as they mentioned, and indeed, it has many historical buildings and cherry blossom trees. The Ewha Womans University area is one of the most popular shopping districts. Clothing stores are affordable and stylish for young people. Many international dining chains also have branches here and the restaurants mainly cater to the tastes of youngsters. It is definitely worth visiting!
This was my first time to enjoy a Hanjeungmak (traditional Korean sauna), which operates 24 hours a day. At the entrance, there are doors labelled ‘men’ or ‘women’, just like an onsen (Japanese spa). Your belongings are stored in a locker. Then bathers walk into a gender-segregated bathhouse and take a shower. After your shower, you put on Jjimjilbang clothes. There are often several kilns with temperatures ranging from 30 to 90 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the kilns are displayed on a sign at the entrance. There are lots of facilities such as a restaurant, gym, games room, and mini theater for you to enjoy.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all five palaces in Korea. There is free entry if you wear a Hanbok – Korean traditional dress. Otherwise it is 3,000 won per person, or you can buy an integrated palace ticket for 10,000 won, which is valid for use three months after purchase. The Hanbok, a symbol of Korean culture, hasn’t changed for hundreds of years and is perfectly suited to the country’s climate. There are a lot of shops around the palace where you can rent a Hanbok for 2-4 hours or even the whole day if you want. It was a great experience being able to dress in historical clothes in this ancient palace.
Many thanks to Rooney who organized this trip to a baseball game at Jamsil Ballpark. We supported the Doosan Bears. The opponents were the Samgsung Lions, who have won the Korean Series eight times. Seeing a game first-hand compared to watching it on TV is totally different, the two are not comparable. The crowd all stand up, dance, and sing together to cheer their team on. What was really fun was when people were randomly picked from the crowd in a lucky draw. Those selected had to dance in front of the camera and everyone got to see how well they could dance.
It is not difficult to find a Chinese restaurant in Seoul, but it is hard to find one that offers both Korean and Hong Kong cuisine, such as dim sum, beef chow fun, and sweet and sour pork. Thanks again to Ryan for his recommendations. Among other things, we tried local Korean noodles with bean paste. The food remind us of the Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong. I also meet a new Singaporean friend called Adam. It was a great way to have a conversation about culture and politics.
The reason I went on exchange in Seoul was because I wanted to improve my Korean. The most interactive class is the Korean language course. The tuition fees for exchange students is US$300. There is a placement test before the class, however, if you have never learned Korean before, or if you are a complete beginner, you will not need to take it. The programme is famous for the small class size and interactive teaching, which focuses on speaking. The most memorable thing was that we needed to introduce ourselves to the next class’ students in order to get a sticker. We also had to pretend to be waiters and speak Korean when serving our classmates. This interactive session is a fun and easy way to learn a new language, without the added pressure.
I visited another palace called Deoksugung. Located at the corner of Seoul's busiest downtown intersection, Deoksugung Palace is famous for its elegant stone-walled road. It is also the only palace that sits alongside a series of western-style buildings, which adds to the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery. The Korean guards were impressive, and while I was standing in between them, they moved to stand next to me with their blades. For a moment I thought my life was in danger, but they were only performing the exchanging ceremony.
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is located in Deoksugung. It was interesting to see both a Western and traditional Korean building in the same location. There was an exhibition on modernity, called “The Arrival of New Women”. If you are below 24 years old, you can get in for free. The exhibition pays special attention to the “new women” who are regarded as “ambiguous and dangerous women, who are neither kisaengs nor students”. It was fascinating to see the evolution of new women in different countries.
There is a badminton court next to Hongdae. Eric recommended it because there is no entrance fee and because it is free, it is always full of people. Every group is allowed to play for 15 minutes before swapping and letting the next group on. This ensures everyone gets to enjoy the facility. We played with a couple of new friends, Tasha and David. I was surprised to learn that they graduated from Sogang University.
Seoul Forest is an eco-friendly zone, appreciated not only by the people of the city, but also those visiting Seoul. Seoul Forest is rapidly developing into the best city-park in South Korea. Consisting of five parks spread over 595,000 m2 of land. There are also many different types of flowers and water plants. The most popular attractions in the forest are the Sika deers and the insect house. I highly recommend bringing your camera so that you can take pictures of the cute animals and cherry blossoms.
Common Ground is the first pop-up store built using shipping containers. Approximately 5300 m2 in size, it consists of 200 large containers and is capable of being transforming into various different shapes and layouts. Being very near to Konkuk University, it is well-known as a place for students to hangout. There are lots of jewellery and T-shirt stores on the ground level, which cater to the younger generation. On the 3rd floor terrace, famous restaurants sprawl along the main thoroughfare.