Hello everyone, it’s Gina 🙂
Two months have passed since I started my journey as an exchange student at SNU! Throughout the past month, I’ve enjoyed my adventure full of learning and growth, personally and academically, and had the unique opportunity to gain firsthand life experience in Korea.
Initially, I felt overwhelmed as I adjusted to a new environment; however, as time passed, I grew more comfortable and confident in my new surroundings. I’ve had the chance to meet new people, make new friends, and learn about different customs and traditions. Though living as an exchange student has been quite challenging at times, I’ve had the chance to broaden my horizons, develop new skills, and gain a greater appreciation for cultural diversity.
Today, I will show you around the SNU campus, tell you about some culture shock I encountered in Korea, and give you an insight into one of the memorable opportunities I got to experience with the SNU Buddy Team.
There are three campuses throughout the country, but the main campus I’m attending is in the Gwanak-gu district of Seoul, and this campus is on a large hill with many trees, gardens, and walking paths. The main entrance to the campus is greeted by the iconic ‘Sha’ shaped main gate, which serves as a university symbol. In addition to academic facilities, the campus also features various amenities, such as cafes, restaurants, convenience stores, and sports facilities, for students to enjoy.
In addition to the natural beauty of the surroundings, SNU’s architecture is notable for its modern and elegant design. Many of the buildings on campus feature sleek lines and contemporary design elements while maintaining a sense of harmony with the natural landscape. Some notable buildings on the campus include the Central Library and the Museum of Art.
These are a few culture shocks I am still getting used to. Though I am half-Korean and was already well aware of these “culture shocks”, I wanted to share them with those interested in Korean culture.
- Public transportation: Public transportation in Korea is generally clean, efficient, and punctual, but it may be crowded during peak hours. I was surprised at how people were queuing in an orderly manner whilst waiting for the bus and subway and how the noise level was kept to a minimum — I learnt that loud talking or phone calls could disturb other passengers, especially during rush hour.
- Age hierarchy: Age is highly respected in Korean culture, and older people are often given more deference and respect than younger people. This can be quite different from the Western emphasis on individualism and equality.
- Recycling: Recycling is taken very seriously in Korea, and there are often separate bins for different types of waste. I was stunned at how everyone followed the proper recycling procedures to avoid violating local laws.
Memorable Experience: Gwangjang Market
One of my most memorable activities is going to the Gwangjang Market with SNU Buddy — SNU’s student voluntary organisation helping foreign SNU exchange students adapt to Korea.
SNU Buddy has organised many events for the students to enjoy, but out of all, I enjoyed Gwangjang Market in particular as it offered a unique and authentic glimpse into Korean culture.
Gwangjang Market is a famous traditional market where visitors can experience a wide variety of things, including:
- Food: the market sells HEAPS of street food stalls that offer a wide range of traditional Korean dishes such as Bibimbap, Tteokbokki, and Bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes). I tried “Kiddie Kimbap” also known as Ggoma Kimbap (꼬마김밥), the Sodduk Sodduk (소떡소떡), rice cake and sausage skewers, and I also bought a traditional Korean deep-fried layered cookies called Yakgwa (약과).
- Culture: because the market has such a rich cultural history, we could learn about traditional Korean life and customs by exploring the market’s many historic buildings and alleyways.
- People-watching: I loved how the market was a popular gathering place for locals, and it was beautiful how we could observe everyday life in Seoul by watching the hustle and bustle of shoppers and vendors.
With an offering of high-quality life with a rich culture, safe environment, excellent education system, and exciting food and entertainment scene, Korea offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity that can satisfy the interests and needs of all types of people!