In the summer of 2017, I plan to take two months to study Korean in the South Korean capital city of Seoul. After that, I will travel to Tokyo and stay for two weeks, being guided by two close Japanese friends that grew up there. I’ve already started planning this trip, even though it is about 14 months before I will leave. I’m just so excited! I’ve heard amazing things about Seoul and South Korea in general, and can’t wait to start a new chapter of my traveling life in Eastern Asia.
I visited Amsterdam in November and stayed with a close friend who is going to the university there. She introduced me to some YouTubers, EatYourKimchi, who had been living in Korea for seven years. I since have explored all of their channels and videos and became entranced in the Korean and, specifically, the Seoulite culture. I started to do my own research on this city.
I have lived in Europe for seven months, mostly France and Germany. However, after the attacks, I became increasingly more distrustful and nervous of the continent, at least in the current state of events. Honestly, I will not be ready to return for some time. I need to heal after being in Paris during the attacks of Friday the 13th. With this in mind and my traveler’s heart, I knew my next adventure would be somewhere in Asia. I looked into Japan for a while, and then Thailand. But, the more I learned about Korea, the more desperate I became to travel there. By late January of this year, I decided to make Seoul my next destination.
I have a lot of time to save my money, so as to make the most of my trip. I will arrive in Seoul in late May of 2017. I will spend two months studying at a specific language program and plan to leave at the very end of July. Following that, my friends and I will explore Tokyo for a few weeks, only to return home just in time for school to start again.
There are so many factors that I took into careful consideration as I decided on my next adventure. Below I will share the top 9 most exciting and impressive ones below.
1. The Wifi
Korea is home to the absolute fastest WiFi in the world. Nearly every building offers free internet and it’s not uncommon to find an unprotected hot spot on every street corner. Over 92% of the population are regular internet users, making it perfectly understandable to be the world’s leader in internet connectivity.
2. The Food and Food Culture
The Korean food here in San Diego is amazing, so I can only imagine what it’s like in Korea. Kimchi is the most popular Korean food and is eaten with almost every meal. I am especially looking forward to the Hoeddeok, sweet pancakes, and the Bibimbop, mixed rice. The street food is supposed to be amazing and there are entire neighborhoods that are dedicated to specific foods. With most meals in Korea, you are given multiple side dishes, like the mouth-watering galbi. There are even a lot of vegetarian options because of the strong Buddhist culture. Another extremely exciting thing about Korean restaurants is that servers only come to your table when you press a button. Servers will be by your side in moments, in order to bring you more water or take orders. This is a really effective way you get more privacy during your meals.
Check out this video by EatYourKimchi on How To Eat Ramen Like A Pro. It gives you some great insight into how diverse the ramen options are there.
3. The Bang Culture
‘Bang’ or “room” culture has become increasingly popular in Korea over the past few years. These are themed, private rooms that you can rent for yourself and your friends. They have noraebang, karaoke rooms, where you and your friends can enjoy a wine-filled evening of off-key singing and not have to worry about being judged by strangers. There are also PCBangs, massive, high-speed, mega computer rooms where crowds gather around to watch professional gamers or where you can play on your own. Snacks and drinks are a given there. PlayStation, DVD, and Boardgame Bangs are all pretty self-explanatory. The ones that I am most eager to try are the Multi-Bangs. There are so many forms of entertainment here, including computer games, movies, food, and alcohol, etc. It’s pretty much all of the other Bangs combined. What a dream!
4. The Country and Possible Excursions
Korea is a beautiful country, and there are so many places I would love to visit. Busan, the second largest city, is easily accessible from Seoul and has a huge variety of luscious beaches and impressive temples. On the other end of the spectrum, we have North Korea. A tour of the DMZ, De-militarized Zone, is easy to get into and includes tours of secret, underground tunnels, historic speeches, and even the chance to step foot into North Korea itself. o_o
5. The Language
I know very little phrases in Korean, such as ‘hello’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you.’ Obviously, I will study more on my own before I arrive but I will definitely learn very fast in the small classrooms of an intensive language program. One thing that is absolutely necessary before I arrive is to learn the script, Hangeul. Hangeul is a fascinating script, created by King Sejong the Great, and is very easy to learn. All of the characters are written in the way your mouth is positioned and shaped as you say the sound. I only speak English, French, a little bit of German and Spanish; not an Asiatic language, so I’m really excited to expand my expertise.
6. The Safety
Despite the ever-present threat of North Korea hanging over everybody’s heads, Seoul is very safe. It is a big city, so there is a possibility of crime, but so much less so than in other large cities like Paris or NYC. After living in Paris, this is incredibly appealing.
7. The Public Transport
The public transport system in Seoul is extremely cheap and very fast. The speed at which things work in Korea is mostly due to their belief of a quick and efficient culture. Taxis, subways, and buses all start off at shockingly low prices and can get you to nearly every single corner of the city in a short amount of time.
I’ve previously posted an article on K-Pop and how fantastic it is. Well, this is the very epicenter of K-POP. Exo, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, and Big Bang are some of my all-time favorites as well as being some of the most popular groups in the country. Apparently, it is not uncommon to hear K-POP songs blasting from internet stores or markets as you walk down the street at nine in the morning. That is something I am definitely looking forward to. Speaking of K-POP, take a look at EXO-K’s insane Overdose music video here.
Check out my K-POP article here.
9. My Next Step
One of the biggest reasons I want to study in Korea is to get a feel of the country. For about a year now, I have been thinking of teaching English in Korea after I graduate. I got this idea from my Eastern Religions professor and shortly after, I met a woman who was willing to hire me in a few years. She even gave me her private email 😀 I really love children and have taught English before, as well as learned a foreign language, so I think I could be really good at this. Not to mention these teachers make and save a lot of money during their time there. Visiting Seoul beforehand will help me: a) decide if I want to pursue the job and b) start to understand the culture and language.
All in all, Korea seems like an amazing place that has a lot to offer. It’s going to be tough waiting such a long time until I can be there, but I will definitely use the time I have to save up money and prepare for the journey of a lifetime. I look forward to the adventure of a lifetime.
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