Tag Archives: EWHA Womans University

My first week in Seoul

South Korea and Seoul itself are full of new experiences, differences in culture, language script, food and even the everyday life. It’s a country full of opposites. The new-age Korea with all of its high modern technic versus the old traditional Korea with all of its Palaces and Hanbok .. This post is about my first week as an exchange student in Seoul.

 

 

Facts about South Korea and Seoul

The official name of South Korea is Republic of Korea. The official language is Korean and the official script is Hangul. In 1910 Korea was ruled by the Imperial Japan and after World War II it was divided into North and South Korea. Since then, North Korea is the only borderline to South Korea. The capital of the Republic of Korea is Seoul. It is also the largest city of the country and the 16th largest city in the world. Circa 50% of the population from South Korea live in the metropolitan area of Seoul.

 

dscn7990

 

 

My first week in Seoul

Finally, my semester in Seoul started. I arrived after 18 hours with a little stop in Abu Dhabi in Seoul with seven hours time difference to my home country. Lucky me, I hadn’t to fight with a jet lag since I am in Seoul and the weather is also very nice. Something between late summer and early autumn.

 

 

I am studying at the EWHA Womans university which is really beautiful and even a little tourist attraction in Seoul.  dscn7825Rents and especially deposits are really high in South Korea, which is why I am happy to stay in a dormitory (if you want to read more .. click here to read my post Curfew. Woman’s University. Visa. And lots of preparation.) The running costs for a living are really high in Korea what makes the country so expensive in the relation to Germany (and many other countries in the world). Also, the food prices in supermarkets and Convenience Stores are high, especially, fruits and vegetables (for example, 5 apples cost approximately 6,000 ₩, these would be 5.45$). In my opinion, some restaurants are not so expensive in Korea and I love that you always get free water and can refill it as often you like. The cheapest way to eat is properly the street food (you pay something between 1.80-4.54$). Also really in common is to order food. Even McDonalds has his own delivery service. At public places as Han River it is easily possible to get 40 flyers for different delivery services. But I will write an own post about food in Korea.

 

 

Learning a new language script

Hangul (한글) is the official script in Korea. Although it looks really complicated, it’s not so difficult to learn. My university book for Korean classes said it’s the 12th widely used language in the world and ahead of Italian and French (sounds unbelievable, I know).

dscn8164
King Sejong who invented Hangul

Hangul was invented in 1443 by King Sejong, the fourth monarch during the Joseon Dynasty. The new language script should help ordinary people easier to write and read. Because before Hangul, Korean was written in Chinese characters. One says a wise man could learn Hangul in one day, a stupid man could learn it in ten days. I have Korean classes twice a week, so I learned Hangul in seven days ;). The modern Hangul has 24 letters and 27 digraphs. But also if you don’t speak the Korean language, especially Seoul has many English speaking people who will try to help you and the metro signs and the station announcements are also in English.

 

 

The view from my university to the city
On EWHA Campus
 
 
 
 
 
At the Han River (Hangang)
We got 41 flyers for ordering food at the Han River.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The City Tour Bus of Seoul
 
Soju is the most popular alcohol in Korea, one bottle of it is even cheaper than a can of beer.
 
 
The pavilion at the Namsan Tower
 
 
An underground museum explains the story of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sunshin. This statue shows the Admiral.
In the underground museum
 
Cultural Day in Korea

Since 2014 Korea has the cultural day every last Wednesday in the month.dscn7426 Then is the best time to visit museums and cinemas, because the cultural day offers discounts, sometimes even free entries and extended opening hours. Since I arrived in End of August, we have been using this day already to visit the Seoul Museum of History. The museum shows the history and culture of Seoul from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to the present day. It represents the living of the people in Korea, also during Korea under Japanese Control until the late 90s.

 

Seoul Museum of Histroy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Samul nori – Traditional Korean Dance and Music

Samul nori is a genre of traditional Korean music and dances. Me and my roommate were lucky to see such a dance performed by Korean students at our university. Samul nori uses four different percussion instruments. They have a small gong (Kkwaenggwari), a larger gong (Jing), an hourglass-shaped drum (Janggu) and a barrel drum (Buk drum). The students were dressed in beautiful Korean dresses, called Hanbok. They had two students, which were dressed differently from the others. They had the small gongs and provided the rhythm.dscn7540 Some students from the audience ran to the dancers and clipped some banknotes under their hats. There was also a little ceremony in the beginning. We didn’t understand what they were saying (because it was in Korean), but one girl had a mask of a pig. Pigs count here as lucky charms. Some girls stand in a row, got something to drink, then they kneeled down and after standing up they gave some little papers to the pig mask. Perhaps they wrote down their wishes or something similar.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Namsan Tower
dscn8006
Namsan Tower

The official name of the Namsan Tower is N Seoul Tower and it is one of the most famous attractions in Seoul. It’s a TV tower and has its name from the hill Namsan. When you go to Namsan Tower you can choose between using a cable car or many, many stairs. I would recommend the stairs because of the view. The tower is circa 237 meters high and gives a nice few over the city. For people which try to save money, I think it’s not absolutely necessary to get up the tower because the view is already really good from the bottom of the Tower. There is also one viewing platform which is adorned with many love locks.Actually, there is a little shop for love locks in the Tower.

dscn8026
The view from Namsan Tower.

The entrance for adults is 10,000  (circa 9$), but the viewing platform is just inside and around the windows are many bright shining stalls which make it really complicated to make a good picture. I liked that the windows have flags from different countries which show how far away the capital of the particular country is. Nonetheless, it was a really nice view from the Namsan Tower and I didn’t repent to spend the money.

 

Deposit and free trips for foreigners

Why is it good to be a foreigner? South Korea is really interested in introducing their country to foreigners. They want to make K-Pop more famous in the world. So as a foreigner, you can visit some concerts which are especially (and actually only) for foreigners and (that is the best) for free.dscn7810
I was lucky to join a free trip to Jeollanam-do Provine deep in the South sponsored by the Korean government. It was a free trip also just for foreigners, two busses full of exchange students. We went to the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival and the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings (also a section with erotic paintings). But the best was the trip to the little island 가우도 (Ga-u-do). It is really near to the mainland and connected by a bridge. We saw fisher boats and at the beach were beautiful shells and tiny crabs.
Sometimes foreigners also get deposit for free time activities. So that is the reason why it is good to be a foreigner in South Korea.

 

Free trip for foreigners to Jeollanam-do Province in the South.
At the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival
Many stalls with food and spices.
Beondegi (번데기) is a typical dish for Korean cuisine. Beondegi are steamed and  boiled silkworm pupae.
The bridge with thousands of flags of the Battleship Festival.
 
 
 
 
Traditional Korean music
 
In the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings.
The tiger is one of the favourite motives of the Minhwa paintings.
A modern Minhwa painting.
 
 
At the islands of 가우도 (Ga-u-do). One bridge link the island with the mainland.
 
 
Fishing in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
 
Tiny crabs between the stones at the beach.
 
And an important message in the end.

 

 

Curfew. Woman’s University. Visa. And lots of preparation.

In preparation for my exchange semester in Seoul …

 

DSCN7376

 

Why South Korea?

“Of all things, why South Korea?” This was a question I had to answer really often when I told someone I will make an exchange semester in Seoul. I never was in Asia before (once I crossed the Asian border of Istanbul – however, I’m not sure if this will count). But I was always really interested in the culture and people of Asia. I believe one of the main reasons are the cultural differences in the opposite of Western Europe. My first contact with Korea was through a friend a few years ago. She is a big fan of Japan and once she told me she had watched a really great TV series from South Korea and – for sure – I would love it. So I followed her advice and watched my first K-Drama (this is the abbreviation for series in the Korean language). The title of the series was “Playful Kiss” (or also “Mischievous Kiss”/ “Naughty Kiss”/ “장난스런 키스“) – a clumsy girl falls in love with a handsome and clever but also sometimes really rude boy. K-Dramas are really different from American, British or German series – I normally watch productions of these three countries.

The Korean culture is different, they have a variety of Dos and Dont’s which were really strange for me (… and they censor cigarettes on TV – because nobody will understand what a person holds in their hand when smoke is coming out of their mouth). Honor is an important value of the Korean culture and of course, the tribute and respect for older people and traditions. Korea has a high hierarchically system, which is especially striking in their language – Korean has five different polite forms. I also was really surprised that living together seems a really big no go for lovers in South Korea. However, I was really fascinated by all that – for me – crazy (but in a good way) new world in Asia. Later, I watched three, four other K-Dramas and heard some Korean Songs (it is called K-Pop).

The official YouTube channel of the TV series “Playful Kiss” – The producers created seven mini episodes for YouTube after the large success of the series.

 

Hangul and Coffee shops which sound as copy shops

However, when I decided to make my Master Studies in Berlin another aim was to make an exchange semester abroad because this was something I missed during my Bachelor Studies. You have three choices for the stay of an exchange, I thought I had to pick three countries (for real you have to choose three universities) – so I prepared myself for a counselling interview. I chose Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea. The consultant was happy I named Korea and totally ignored the other two countries. She encouraged me to go to South Korea and told me that every student, who was in Korea, was highly satisfied with their choice. That was the decisive reason why I picked South Korea and applied for three universities in Seoul. In 2010 – when I was highly addicted to Korea and watched the K-Dramas for the first time  – I would have given everything to get the opportunity to go to Seoul. So six years later I wanted to take this chance. Actually, the only reason I didn’t choose South Korea at the first side was because of Hangul (this is the Korean alphabet). I was afraid I wouldn’t understand a word and couldn’t even buy Ramen (Ramen is a noodle soup and a famous Asian dish) in a supermarket because of the missing vocabularies. To be honest, I still don’t speak Korean. I can only say some useful words as “saranghae” (I love you) or “keopi syob” (coffee shop but sounds as copy shop).

 

Much preparation stuff

After I wrote motivation letters, collected thousands of important papers and provided all kinds of evidence, I finally got my accommodation letter. I decided to go to the EWHA Womans University in Seoul because it has the largest and the best offering for my field of study – Media Studies. At this point started my preparation time: I needed a visa, a place to stay, a flight, inoculations, health insurance, apply for a scholarship and other financial facilitation, I had to freeze my contract of my cell phone, needed a backpack… thousands of stuff.

The visa is relatively easy to get for Germans because the countries have a good relationship to each other (and it’s free). The inoculations are really expensive and there are a lot of recommendations about immunisation protection. If you don’t want to pay more money for inoculations than for the flight, it is impossible to get inject against everything. The flight is one other problem. My plans are to travel a few months after my exchange semester that’s why I don’t know yet when I will come back to Germany. However, it is cheaper booking of a return flight. That’s why I would recommend to search for a flight with nice rebooking options. One other problem will be the luggage. I have to left some stuff in Korea while I’m travelling around. I also have just 23 kilogrammes of free luggage from Germany to South Korea. A friend gave me a really nice advice. She loves backpacking journeys so she is kind of an expert. She always takes some old or washed out clothes to her travels or just outfits she doesn’t like anymore, so she can throw them away and has more space for clothes, souvenirs or just food. I believe it is a really useful advice.

 

Immaturity in Seoul

Flats and rooms have – at least compared to Germany – really high rents. Some cheaper flats have a higher deposit up to 5000 Euros respectively Dollars. This is one reason I really wanted to rent a room in a dormitory (and there you still can pay over 500 Euros/ Dollars). Unfortunately, curfews are a common thing in the dormitories of Seoul. I knew that South Korea is more strict with the separation of sexes. However, the curfew shocked me a little bit. I read that not all universities have stringent conditions. However, one article (here) from October 2003 from the English newspaper of the EWHA Womans university – the university where I will study – discourage me a little. But perhaps something changed meanwhile because the article is 13 years old by now. The curfew is just in some of the dormitories in the EHWA, however, in my opinion, the rules are very strict. The curfew is from midnight until five o’clock  in the morning (12pm-5am). The article talks about black marks: Three for being tardy, five for staying out without permission – the students who collect ten marks have to leave the dormitory. If ones want to stay out, they need to sign up hours earlier. The process is even more complicated at the weekend. Then students need the permission of their parents.

I read that some reasons for the curfew are the responsibility to take care of the students. The curfew would help the students to go to bed early and stay healthy. And also to maintain their regular daily life.  Actually, to me, this sounds really unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, however, in my opinion, of an age of 20 or older you should be able to organise your daily routine by your own. But perhaps some don’t want this and it is one of the differences between the cultures. I also read that some people like the rules and feel more organised and save with them. So it perhaps depends on the person which dormitory is the best for themselves.

By the way, the International House of EWHA hasn’t a curfew and I’m so glad I got a place there. Because in my opinion, dormitories are in general a perfect decision to live for an exchange semester. The dormitories are near the university on the campus, you meet really fast other students, you already got the most important furniture, the period and costs are complementary. Therefore, we will see how it will work for me. I am very pleased to get the chance to study in Seoul. For sure I will tell more about South Korea from time to time because the adventure has just begun.