Classes have just started and I’m already flying in and out of the country. The past two weeks have been super busy with moving in, making new friends, and getting to know Korea.
I moved in to my dorm on August 24th after dragging my luggage quite a distance from the airport bus stop at Ewha Station. Since my moving in process was quite simple (passport, TB test results), I’ll talk about my room and SK Global’s set up.
Dorm selection started in June and payment was done via wire transfer sometime during July. The dorms are first come, first serve and not everyone participating in the program gets one so keep that in mind (there are many cheaper options around school though!). More information about the dorms can be found here.
I was given a single room on the sixth floor of SK Global and the room was just the right size and super clean. I have my own shower and toilet although there is no door separating them.
After meeting my neighbor and doing a “We’re both Cantonese” scream, we got our sheets from the lobby. A lot of people were getting sets with no comforter, but luckily someone on the elevator told us to pick a bag with dark colors and we had no problem getting everything. We visited Myeondong and Dongdaemun briefly and tried out the local food, stuffing ourselves like in Spirited Away. That was basically the end of moving in.
Moving in was followed by two orientations- one of UC and on with everyone else). Everyone kept on asking us UC kids where we got our goodies (we got A LOT) and we got to be all smug and say that only the UC students got it. The rest of the week was filled with shopping for our dorm rooms, exploring Myeondong and Hongdae, and eating our hearts out.
Monday of week 2, I headed out on a two-day trip with UCEAP to Jeongsan and Yeongsan. Let me just say this was the most amazing trip and bonding experience ever. It’s first come, first serve so not everyone with UC got to go, but we still had a lot of people- 128 in total.
Let me just say I am so glad to be part of the UC community because it’s great to have people from similar backgrounds as you. Not only in Korea with this program, but also back in Cambridge, it was always fun to have other UC students around. UCEAP also provides a lot of services that many other schools don’t and a lot of their extra programs and activities provide you with opportunities that other students may not have to really immerse you into the local culture.
Day one of the trip consisted of a traditional Korean lunch (the cast of Descendants of the Sun ate there apparently), river rafting, and a really nice dinner at our REALLY NICE hotel. After three hours on a bus with everyone’s stomach growling since we had started out from Yonsei at 6:00AM, we stopped by a small but clean restaurant in Yeongsan. The spread of food was heaven to our eyes. Most of us had experience with Korean food, coming from California, but never had we seen such a large variety of banchan…and it was unlimited refills.
After munching our way through the entire restaurant (we literally took up the whole place), we headed to the “East River” for river rafting. Everyone was separated into groups of nine and after some live translations from our Korean speaking peers (the perks of being bi/trilingual or even more -lingual), everyone put on life jackets and helmets before being put through a Victorian-era safety check where our life jackets were tightened up so much by the instructors, we had to learn a new way to breath. My team was the only all-girl team (our instructor was the only girl instructor too. GO BELLA UNNI!) but we didn’t lose to any of the groups- except maybe splashing each other with paddles but that’s because we were being nice. Bella made us do animal calls to coordinate our rowing which was hilarious because she though that the English (that word for mimic sounds) didn’t make any sense at all especially for the bird call (I think so too), and every time we passed the normal Korean tourists, they looked at us all weird because we were either howling or moo-ing. Halfway through our trip down the river -which was really easy to navigate because it had just rained- all the rafts landed on a little beach and the instructors stacked them all together to make a waterslide. We got to slide into the river and everyone was laughing and completely wet. After taking a lot of group pictures, and some selfies courtesy of my team leader, our rafts continued down the river. Our instructor had asked us if we were all friends and we said sort of but by the end everyone, even on different boats, were friends.
After river rafting, we headed to our hotel. The moment we got off our bus, everyone was gasping and wow-ing because we didn’t expect UCEAP to provide us with such a nice place to stay in. It was so nice that we didn’t know how to use the elevator. We were randomly paired up for the rooms and given the choice to switch but no one really minded. The rooms were super clean and large and the bathroom was a dream. Couldn’t we live here a few more days. The view was super pretty too. After a quick shower, we headed down to the conference rooms for a hot pot dinner. There was so much meat and vegetables in the pots that every table couldn’t finish them even with seven to a table. We felt super bad for leaving so much food but everyone had already stuffed themselves silly (and we were super hungry from rafting too). Thank you UCEAP for feeding us starving college students so much. After dinner, most of us went to some rooms to sort of turn up since we couldn’t in the Yonsei dorms but everyone ended up watching Moonlight instead of drinking.
Next morning everyone was talking about the knocking they heard at 3:00AM on everyone’s doors. It was super creepy and eventually we found out it was a little girl (still creepy) who had been playing by herself, but what was strange was that her parents were apparently on the 15th floor but she was on the 16th and unless you had the room card on a specific floor, you couldn’t get onto another floor (and what were her parents doing to have their kid be by herself at 3:00AM). One of our UCEAP kids had brought the girl down to the lobby but was sent away instantly so we don’t know what happened after that.
We set out for an old gold mine after a quick breakfast. It was closed down in the ___ and had been a place where the Japanese had exploited the Koreans during the colonial period. Staglmites were discovered there and it has since then become a tourist spot. We climbed many, many flights of stairs and got a look at stone formations and also learned about how the miners had to live. After that, we were driven back to the hotel for lunch. We ate at a super fancy restaurant in the perimeter of the hotel and were once more stunned by the service we were getting. It was a three course meal and everyone didn’t start eating their salad until they came to take it away because we didn’t know what we were doing HAHA. We were then served a bibimbap and meatloaf on a sizzling plate before ending with some kind of herbal tea. Since it was super cold and we were getting wet every few minutes because of the rain and also because of our water activities, everyone was drinking all the different kinds of herbal teas we were given during the trip. Who knows which one was which, but since mom said so.
After lunch, we headed to Gaemi Village for some hand fishing. The UCEAP coordinators set up a competition between the buses with whichever bus catching the most fish getting free snacks afterwards. However, all of us came from either cities or suburbs and had no experience with hand fishing, and in a word we…sucked. The competition was abandoned and everyone was just chasing the fish around, trying our hardest to drive them into some nets we got (which were cheats because the locals felt bad for us) while all the ahjummas and ahjussis watched from above, laughing at us. Eventually, one of the locals came down and started helping us catch the fish and even then we kept on dropping them back into the water because we didn’t know how to hold them. Him casually grabbing the fish vs. us screaming. After eating some kimchi pancakes and drying off, we headed to our last stop, rail biking. The dude told us not to go to hard and since everyone was already tired from two days of physical exercise, no one really did. The view was beautiful. The countryside houses were really pretty and some were painted in the most vibrant colors. The mountains were lush and the air clean. Too bad it was pouring rain and everyone was just trying their best to pedal their way back to the buses. I sat in the front row and my left leg was basically taking an hour long cold bath.
That’s everything that has happened so far with the Yonsei Fall program! It’s been super fun so far and I’ve made a lot of friends- at an alarming rate HAHA. Classes started Thursday and my professors seem super smart-they all definitely know their stuff and I’m excited to start learning. Sadly, I’m a bad student and skipped my Friday class to fly home because my cousin is getting married! Woo, and because of underestimation, I might not make it to Monday class. My professors will not have a good impression of me…