This is Namratha, and my first week in Seoul has come and gone just like that. I arrived in Seoul a few days before my program actually started, so I got acquainted well before school started. I stayed at a hotel in Gangnam, a district of Seoul, for a couple of days before moving to my dorm in Ewha. While I was there, I got accustomed to the time difference and the country in general fairly quickly.
The next day, I visited the COEX mall, which is the world’s largest underground mall. One of my favorite things about this mall was their beautiful Starfield library, which was filled with books, magazines, etc. There were many desks and tables for people to study and read at, and I saw many students and regular people come by to hang out, read, and study. As a massive book-lover, this library really had an impact on me because in America normally libraries are separate from locations that are centered on the more social aspects of life. It was refreshing to see a library in a mall because it really promoted the importance of education by placing it in a location that most people come to for entertainment and enjoyment.
Another one of my favorite things about the COEX mall is their aquarium. They had a wide variety of fish and other marine creatures, and portrayed them in a very creative and kid-friendly way, but also while educating the viewers about marine life. While many of the creatures I have also seen at American aquariums, there were also some fish that were only around the Korean region . One of the things I enjoyed about this aquarium was their way of keeping the aquarium global but also preserving tradition at the same time. For example, many of the structures were designed with Korean tradition in mind. Another thing I loved about this aquarium was their creative displays they had of the fish. For instance, one exhibit was filled to the brim with creative tanks centered around a house theme that many visitors stopped to take stare and take many pictures. For instance, one had a kitchen stove theme, with fish in the sink and the tea kettle. Another, was a stoplight concept, so fish were in the lights. One of the reasons I liked this aquarium is because, like the library, it helped promote preserving the environment and marine life, however in a location that is primarily for entertainment. By doing so, it demonstrates how important saving the environment and the animals that live in it is in fun, friendly way.
My classes, Understanding Organic Chemistry and Accounting, started on Tuesday and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I was nervous about the organic chemistry class because it is known to be a very difficult course, but the professor eased us students in the course so that we could understand it. He also provided many resources for us to use to study. My accounting class was also different from what I expected. I assumed the students for all the classes I would be in would be international students like myself, however the Accounting class I enrolled in was an actual course offered at Ewha, however with English as the language of teaching. Therefore, most of the students were Korean. I’m glad I took this class because it will definitely open my eyes to a teaching style of a different country.
During the weekend, I visited Myeongdong, a popular shopping district for Koreans and foreigners alike. Throughout the week I have gotten used to the Seoul metro, and I’m still surprised as to how clean and efficient is. With a subway app, planning an entire metro trip is easier than I thought possible. I visited many shops in Myeongdong, and have gotten lost more times than I thought possible as well. Visiting Myeongdong was refreshing, and I even bought a nice bag to put my stuff in so I wouldn’t lose them!
After Myeongdong, my friend and I visited my new friend’s jazz club’s small concert near the Sangsu station. Just sitting there while listening to their music was so peaceful. I’ve played flute for seven years, so classical music always has a small place in my heart. It really opened my eyes to go listen to music in a different country, since I did not really have an idea what it was like. The atmosphere is very similar to what we have in America, and it was energizing to see so many classical music and jazz lovers in the same spot as us.
The next day, my friend Katie and I visited Hongdae, a popular region of Seoul known for its urban art, music, and cafes. While its nightlife is also very popular, we decided to visit in the day so we could avoid the nightlife crowd. Just walking around you can really see that Hongdae was made for and by the younger generations. Street art was everywhere, music was being played live by a few small singers and bands (the term is busking) and young adults were spread out just laughing and hanging out with each other. Both of us were surprised that it was very rare to see a person over thirty in this area. There were also many unique cafes in this area, including but not limited to a puzzle cafe, and a cafe dedicated entirely to the anime/manga One Piece.
In addition to the music central lifestyle in Hongdae, Katie and I saw what is called a pop-up store/gallery of a famous girl group Blackpink, and we decided to walk in and see it since it was free. The gallery’s aesthetic was beautiful and minimalistic, and promoted Blackpink wonderfully, since they recently released a new song. I look forward to going to more pop-up store/galleries!
My first week in Seoul was definitely a mind-opening and fulfilling experience, and I look forward to what the next few weeks brings!