Hello and 안녕 from Seoul, South Korea!! I am now officially an exchange student at Seoul National University, and so far, I’ve had a blast of a time here. Not to mention, time FLIES, and it is insane to think I’ve already spent a week here and made so many new friends from all across the globe. Before I get into the content, I just wanted to give a massive shoutout to the 360 International Team for making this opportunity a reality. Now without further ado, let’s delve deeper into some of the highlights from my past week since arriving in Seoul!
D-5 (26/02/23): First day in SEOUL
My first day in Seoul! I arrived in Busan in mid-January, so I had already explored a slice of Korea. On the 26th, I flew on Jeju Air from Busan to Seoul, and the plane ride took only 50 minutes, so the journey wasn’t too big of a hassle. A close aunt of mine picked me up from the airport, and I arrived at the SNU Global Residence Dorms at half past twelve.
After completing some admin work, I checked into my dorm and familiarised myself with the new environment. It was weird to think that I’d be living here for the next four months, but it was also exciting to think that this would be my first time living independently — all by myself, without my family and close friends back home. That day, I also visited the World’s Largest Cafe called “Positive Space,” and I was fascinated by how enormous the building was. It was insane to be in a cafe the size of a museum. If you ever visit Gimpo, I’d highly recommend this cafe!
D-3 (28/02/23): Cafeteria food & Orientation Day
Officially three days until I start my exchange life. I woke up this morning to the sounds of birds chirping, and surprisingly, I slept very well despite the change in environment 🙂
For breakfast, I had a “Ham & Egg Sandwich” from the convenience store, which was 3500 won ($4 NZD)! A very affordable and yummy breakfast indeed. For lunch, I tried SNU’s cafeteria food for the first time. There were two options you could choose from, and I decided to go with Janchi Guksu — Korean noodle soup, as it reminded me of my Mum’s cooking. I also wanted something warm and hearty, so it was the perfect choice. The noodles came alongside a fruit salad, a side dish made of stringy stonecrop, and Bungeo-ppang. The whole meal was only 4,500 won ($6 NZD).
The main event of the day was attending the Welcoming Orientation Event. We were given a detailed introduction to SNU’s history, some information on getting through the semester, and we were also introduced to the SNU Buddy — a voluntary student organisation helping international students adapt to Korea. The event was brilliant because I was immediately able to make new friends who sat close to me, and after attending the event, I felt more at ease as I had a deeper understanding about the school, and the organisers had done a great job of explaining all the information to their deepest extent.
Day 1 (02/03/23): First day of classes
Day 1 started with my first trip to the school campus! It took me approximately 10 minutes to walk from my dorm, and I arrived at 2pm, just in time for my first class. Honestly, I was nervous at how huge the campus was and got entirely lost whilst finding my first class, so I asked one of the full-time students, and they kindly helped by telling me to search up “서울대학교 (building number)” onto KakaoMap. This was very helpful for me, so if you ever study at SNU, I’m sure this will be helpful for you too.
Okay, here’s the slight issue I had — as soon as I arrived in the lecture theatre, I heard the professor speaking in KOREAN. I had made sure to enrol in the English class, but the course I selected was Korean, so I was perplexed. I started getting overwhelmed about the academic Korean I was hearing. Thankfully, the swap and drop session started on the 3rd, so it wasn’t too big of deal *phew*
The class took only 30 minutes because it was an introductory session, so I decided to grab lunch afterwards. All the cafeterias were closed (because lunchtime was over), so I had Donkatsu Kimbap at 그대로김밥 for 5,500 won ($7 NZD). At 6pm, my friends and I attended the Welcoming Party for SNU Buddy. After the official event, our group took the bus to a pub nearby, and we had fried chicken and rosé tteokbokki. I got to meet and interact with so many talented people, and it was fantastic to get to know everyone who was also on exchange at SNU.
Day 2 (03/03/23): Campus tour
On the second day, our buddy showed us around the school campus and I finally got to visit the main gate! Taking a picture in front of the main gate has literally been on my top priority list, so it was great to fulfil that.
Our first stop was the SNU Museum of Art where there was traditional Korean art, photography of Korea back in the 60s, and aesthetically minimalist spaces that just made you feel at ease. After roaming around the art gallery, we spent some time at the Kwangjeong Library. The area was commodious and I loved how everyone just dwelled in their own thoughts. One thing that SHOCKED me about this library was that on level six, there was a huge lounge space where you could watch movies for free! It was absolutely gorgeous. Speaking of which, two of my classes require us to watch a movie before going to class, so I will be definitely come back for future uses! My friends and I ended off our day by getting our S-cards made (uni ID card), and we had dinner at “BBQ Chicken” which was located on campus.
Day 3 (04/03/23): Hongdae
Day 3 calls for exploring one of the tourist cities of Seoul – Hongdae! My friends and I took the subway from Nakseongdae to Hongdae, and this day was dedicated to eating GOOD FOOD. All I’ve done that day was eat… quite literally and physcially. As soon as we got off the subway, there was a stall that sold walnut cookies so we had to get them. For a light snack, we had Takoyaki; ball-shaped Japanese food with octopus stuffed inside, and for dinner, we had “Bunsik” (food made of flour) and we ordered sundae, cheese tteokbokki and odentang.
ps – quick shoutout to these three peeps (mentioned below) because we are basically besties at this point. We’ve only known each other for a week, but it feels as if we’ve been friends forever 🙂
Day 4 (05/03/23): Hongdae
Yes, Hongdae two days in a row. I really don’t know at this point… but obviously, I hadn’t explored enough! he main highlight of this day was visiting a unique cafe called “Soma Cafe” where you could create your own paintings while drinking coffee. I spent a really wholesome day with my friend Julia, so do refer to the photos for further details!
Day 5 (06/03/23): A long but productive day
Day 5. Another Monday, another start to a new week. This is one of the English classes I swapped my Korean class for, and it is most definitely an unregretted choice because the professor started it off with New Jeans’ “OMG” and it was a great kick-off to a gloomy Monday. After class, I had a full lunch meal worth 1000 won ($1 NZD) that consisted of Doenjang-jjigae, rice and kimchi. All of this for $1?! Yup, I literally thought my eyes were playing tricks with my brain, but I guess it was correct after all!
Eventually, lunchtime came to an end, so I decided to expose myself to campus life and discovered that there was an event going on; where students promoted their organisations, clubs and co-curricular activities. There were voluntary activities, media clubs, dance teams, music groups, and so much more. There was even a sub-event where you could play the piano and earn points, so I played my favourite piece on a beautiful Samick Grand.
The last schedule of the day was attending a play performance. One of our buddy leaders invited us to a play called “Cophenhagen” and it starred students of SNU playing the role of Bohr and Heisenberg, two famous chemists. I was ecstatic because personally, I’m a huge fan of creative entertainment! The whole play was in Korean, so I did understand parts of it, and probably the outline too, but the specific details that surrounded the whole play was a bit tricky to understand. In the end, our leader had to explain it for further clarification so I finally understood what was going on in some of the *complicated* scenes. Anywho, it was fascinating to see the actors completely absorbed in their performance as they were giving it their all throughout the whole play.
Day 6 (07/03/23): Class and school life
Nothing too special about day 6, but I attended my Tuesday classes, spent some alone time in the library, and had Donkatsu curry for dinner at the cafeteria.
Day 7 (08/03/23): SNU practice rooms
I survived my first week in Seoul!! The first meal from that day was at 12pm. I had a $7 Jjamppong and Jajangmyeon set and after lunch, I visited the practice rooms at the College of Music. I haven’t played on the piano ever since arriving in Korea, so it was wonderful to touch the keys of the piano again.
For dinner, I had spicy mushroom soup, alongside rice, potato fritters, and a few side dishes that totally suited my tasted buds. I felt awkwardly tired that day, and I think it was because I played on the piano for the first time in a few months. But other than that, my day was really productive!
And that’s a wrap! I’m enjoying every second of my life here. Throughout the past week, I have indulged myself into Korea’s vibrant legacy through experiencing various cultural activities, trying authentic Korean food, and through socialising with new friends I met throughout the past days. I’ve felt very welcomed as an exchange student at SNU, and so far, I’ve loved the atmosphere of the school campus, as well as the company of the people around me. I’m looking forward to updating you again in the few coming weeks — stay tuned for more!