I took on the advice we received at the Prime Minister’s Scholars orientation day and journaled almost every single day since we arrived, so here is a little wrap-up of the first week in Seoul, presented through excerpts from my journal:
Tuesday 6 December
It’s 10:56 pm here at Frontier House on the Korea University campus. It’s been just about 24 hours since we arrived at the dormitory. This morning everyone had their placement test — mine went all right, but I made some very embarrassing mistakes — why did it take me until we arrived here to realise we are studying at Korea University, not Yonsei University?! I had lunch at the cafeteria with Waves — there was a lot of confusion and milling around before we figured out the system, but I’ve finally got it now — and the food was good! Not the healthiest, but delicious and nutritious enough.
We walked around the nearby neighbourhood (Anam-dong) for the rest of the day, and I bought a bunch of storage and organisational stuff — mainly from Daiso. Tried to get sims, failed, had a lemonade at Cafe Ann with Miki and Wendy, ordered my sim online, and then went to dinner at a budaechigae restaurant called Biwa with the whole group. Now I’m finally chilling back in the room — Waves and I had a nice long chat and got to know each other better — I’m so glad to have them as a roommate; we’ve really clicked!
Wednesday 7 December
Travelling alone is important. Today I travelled around with other people, but I sometimes felt alone. The people on the exchange with me are pretty much strangers — I have known them for a total of 4 days — so when I felt like saying something personal, emotional or negative, I felt lonely, realising I couldn’t fully be myself because I don’t know these people well enough to trust them or feel safe around them yet.
Today we walked around Myeongdong — a big shopping area famous for its night vendors. I thought about how much I’d grown since the last time I was there in 2019. The last time I was here, I came during the day, not realising the famous markets only opened once it got dark. I’d been so excited to be ‘independent’, yet I didn’t have the experience or maturity to really travel on my own.
I’m looking forward to taking solo trips while I’m here. I want to take myself to a sauna, cinema, restaurant and hike. Being in Korea without my boyfriend, family, and friends felt so daunting at first, but now I realise it’s the perfect opportunity to finally travel on my own.
Thursday 8 December
After ice skating at Lotte world, we explored Lotte world/mall a bit, then went back to my Korean friend Julia’s apartment. We met her auntie, and Julia gave me a blanket (godsend). She drove us to her uni campus and introduced Waves, Miki and me to what felt like about 300 people (but was more like 10 – they were all so nice and cool). Then we got dinner at this delicious vibey restaurant and tried vita500 soju for the first time (so good). Then, just as I thought the night was coming to an end, Julia drove us to a viewing point where you could see most of Seoul. We got home around 1:30 am – apparently, staying out till 1:30 am on a Thursday night is very normal in Korea?? Maybe we’re sissies in New Zealand.
Friday 9 December
I am feeling lonely this evening. I miss my boyfriend a lot, and my family and friends, of course. I prepared myself to feel lonely while I was here but feeling lonely always sucks. Loneliness digs up all doubt and fear that you try your best to ignore.
Today I decided to have a chill day. Every day since I arrived has been full-on, and today I just wanted to spend some time alone and recharge all the introverted energy I’d lost in the last couple of days. I woke up late, got lunch at the cafeteria, and then went for a long wander around the campus. Korea University is so beautiful; I felt moved by how old and majestic the buildings were, the deciduous trees and the big open courtyards. It was very main-character vibes. I called Mum for a while and caught up with her, my aunties, and my boyfriend.
For so long, I had dreamed of having a solo overseas experience like this, venturing out on my own, experiencing a new place with an open mind and being ready for new challenges — and now I’m doing it! I felt proud of myself and hopeful for the future.
(Also, 5th day in a row journaling… feels good)
Sunday 11 December
I missed a day yesterday. I felt anxious and lonely yesterday, so I think it was just a relief to go to sleep. I went to Hongdae for fried chicken; that was nice. Today I woke up late and basically just chilled at the dorms for the whole day. I don’t feel that guilty about it; I was so mentally and physically exhausted from the week. I just started White Lotus season 2, and it’s so good. I’m going to keep watching that now. Short entry today; I don’t really feel like unpacking any emotions.