Orientation Overnight Trip: Jeonju

The trip to Jeonju started at the ungodly hour of 7:45 am. Or rather, that was when we were supposed to meet in the lobby with ourselves and our overnight bags so that we could board the buses and head out. The ride itself took about 3 hours, and we had a pit stop at a resting place with delicious food stands. We also got to see what I called fields of marshmallows before arriving in Jeonju. Once there, we had a stone bibimbap lunch before splitting into groups and learning about mask dancing and traditional Korean drumming.

How you hold the left handed stick of the jang-gu. *Image from  http://koreanculture.org.au/culture-classes/traditional-pansori-janggu

How you hold the left handed stick of the jang-gu. *Image from  http://koreanculture.org.au/culture-classes/traditional-pansori-janggu

Our group started with the traditional drumming. The drum that we learned how to play is called the 장구 (jang-gu), it is an hourglass shaped drum and we learned how to tighten the strings (pull the leather across the drum) and how to hold and play the instrument using the two different types of sticks. The method of holding the sticks is different than how you would hold your typical drum stick. Instead you hold it with then end by your thumb, and you grip bwtween your ring and pinkie finger (see image). It was a lot of fun learning different rhythms and how the musicians would tell how to hit the drum based of certain sounds made. For example, if they said “tong” you hit both sides at the same time.

After learning different rhythms on the drums, we got to learn about mask dancing. Mask dancing tells a story through the dancing, so we got to learn some of the moves that are commonly performed. It was a lot of fun learning how to do the dances and it actually requires quite a bit of energy. The teacher we had made it more fun and entertaining so that was also super helpful, though I couldn’t seem to stop laughing. We also learned a bit of the traditional lion dance and practiced a little a both to the music of the 장구.

After that, we visited a Confucian temple and and got a small tour of parts of Jeonju. There was a famous Catholic church and palace in the area that we could go visit on our own time. Then it was to the hotel. This hotel was special because it was traditional style. This meant that we slept on futons on heated floors and had to put out our own bedding and everything. It was definitely a novel experience and breakfast the next morning was on the small table with everyone kneeling around it.

That night was free time, and with a small stipend for dinner, we headed out. My friends and I found a little place with a nice ahjumma (officially meaning aunt, it often refers to an older lady who you might not know). All we knew was that we wanted bulgogi (marinated beef, usually grilled) so we were trying to find some place that had that. She ushered us into the restaurant and sat us down at the table. Then everyone got their bulgogi, but this was bulgogi lettuce wraps (I forgot the Korean name) and so she thought we didn’t know how to eat it. She squatted near the end of our table and made one for Paige, before trying to feed it to her. After Paige ate it, the ahjumma laughed and slapped her butt before smiling at the rest of us, gesturing for us to eat and leaving. Dinner was super awesome, service is something that we don’t see often in the U.S. but is common here. We received 3 drinks and extra bowls of rice on the house. Afterwards, we stopped by next door for some churros. Or at least, everyone else did.

Since I’m taking Engineering Seminar back at Mudd, I have two options for completing the course: I could either a) watch the videos from home and write the 2 paper required for each missed seminar and email it back with 2 weeks of the video being posted, or I could b) find 4 seminars in Korea that are related to engineering and are in English, then also write a 2 page paper summary and opinion with the flyer attached. While the second option had fewer seminars, I felt like the difficulty of finding the seminars to attend would be too frustrating so I opted for the first.

However, with this last video, I didn’t watch the video in time and realized that the first day of the Jeonju trip was the 2 week deadline for one of the seminar videos I had yet to watch. I ended up spending roughly 2 hours in Jeonju watching the video and writing the paper. So I am a little disappointed in myself and how I managed my time prior to Jeonju. I think for me, it was just a learning experience. I could have watched it 2 days earlier while I was in Seoul so then we could explore Jeonju more, since I can get to places around Seoul easier than places in Jeonju. While unforetunate, I still had a lot of fun while I was there!

The traditional style hotel was super awesome and the heated floors felt awesome when everyone got in at night, however, we think the setting was too high because in the middle of the night it was extremely hot and the next morning when everyone was putting away their bedding we were all complaining of the floor being too hot to stand on. Breakfast was a small affair and then we headed off for paper making. The first was making paper crafts, we got to decorate a small box using rice glue and colored paper before heading over to a museum to see the old ways of making paper and to try our own hand at it.

Next was lunch and seeing another temple, this one much bigger. It was super awesome and we got to see a national treasure of Korea among others. It was super cool and when we went there were actually monks inside the main building. We think they were performing some kind of ceremony, but since we couldn’t go in, we don’t know for sure. I also had a sip of the mountain spring water here and it was super refreshing too. Maybe we’ll go back during Buddha’s birthday (a national holiday in May) beccause they said that it’s a big celebration and there are a lot of lanterns around the grounds which makes it extremely pretty.

Then it was a trip back to Yonsei with a rest stop and more food before we all went vack and crashed onto our beds. As Anne said about the beds, “Ah! I’ve missed you. And you’re not burning my face off.”

 

Traditional Drums

 

Maks Dancing

 

Lion Dancing

 

Paper Making

 

Pictures!

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Orientation Days 1 through 3

Where do I even start?

Both my roommate and were awake at 6 am, probably because of jetlag. We decided to unpack which took us each about an hour and we’ve discovered that the ridiculously small closets actually do fit all our clothes, for the most part. Maybe we just don’t have a lot. She had one big suitcase, and I had one big and one carryon. Though I also had gifts for family friends and such in mine. I remember seeing some people with two large suitecases and a carryon. Where they are going to put everything… I have no idea.

Anyway, orientation started at  9 am and it was pretty straightforward. There was an introduction by the CIEE staff and got to eat a choco pie. We got to talk about the first couple days of orientation and learn about the cultural reimbursement program (which I’m totally going to take advantage of) and so much more. Then we got to eat lunch with everybody and headed over to a different hall for a larger international student orientation. That one was pretty fun and we got to see some performances. Namely a dance group named Fever danced to a bunch of K-pop songs.

After orientation we got to sign up for some events that Yonsei puts on for international students in a program called Yonsei Global so Paige, Anne and I signed up for the Seoul Night Tour! It cost ₩10,000 (roughly $10 USD). It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I feel like small costs like this are going to rack up so we are going to get it reimbursed through our program. 🙂

We were technically done for the day but I signed up for a Yonsei mentor buddy program thinking that it was part of the CIEE Seoulmates program (they are similar buddy programs, but one is through the school itself and one is through my study abroad program). That night’s event was actually super fun. We had a cheering orientation and then got to go out to dinner and head to a club.

Cheering orientation is definitely not what it seems like. There is a lot of Yonsei pride on campus and a festival called Akaraka in May where there’s a lot of competition between Yonsei University and Korea University (GO YONSEI). Its a fight between blue (Yonsei U) and red (Korea U). Since there’s so much competition, cheering gets taken to the next level too so there are specific movements to specific songs and theres even a cheer squad that leads all the movements. It was super fun learning (there are so many) and even more entertaining watching both the actual squad and also the Yonei mentors who already knew all of them by heart and were dancing along at the bottom of the stage.

After cheering orientation, we travelled to restaurants in groups, and the one we went to, we had booked the entire restaurant so that was super entertaining. Since the legal drinking age is 19 in Korea  there was beer and soju on every table and it was fun listening to everyone shout “Gang!” as they clicked glasses. Then it was a night at the club. Drinking isn’t really my thing, but watching friends was super entertaining. I did drink a little (for the frst time I took more than a sip!) since I need to learn how since the drinking culture is a) so prominent here in Korea), and b) if I am ever offered by someone older than me, it is considered rude to turn down. So I figured learning how to take one shot would be good enough. I still firmly believe that alcohol tastes disgusting though.

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Day 2 of orientation was just as fun, at least in the evening. In the morning we stopped by Severence Hospital (which is on campus) and had a medical briefing before grabbing lunch in Sinchon (the district of Seoul across the street) and going to a Spirit and Culture workshop. We got to hear more about Korean history and eat some Korean snacks before waring some tradition hanboks for a group picture! I still think it’s super amazing that Korea went from an aid receiver to an aid donor and just how much the citizens of Korea are united. I mean, in the hardest of times, Koreans took gold from their homes – necklaces, wedding rings, soldier badges, etc – to help pay of Korea’s debt because they didn’t feel like it was right for them to be wealthy if the country was poor. We got to hear more about astrology and philosophy, and it’s part in Korean history as well as about King Sejong and the creation of hangul (the Korean alphabet).

That night was the Seoul Night Tour we signed up for the day before and that was absolutely incredible. We grabbed a traditional bibimbap dinner at the base of Namsam mountain before heading up. The Yonsei mentor guides realized that it would be an hour wait if we wanted to take the cable car up, so we all walked up the mountain instead. It was a pretty intense climb and I still can’t believe it when they told us that most Koreans choose to walk up instead of ride the cable car. It doesn’t really matter because it was totally worth it. The sights along the way up were totally breathless and when we hit the top there ws the Locks of Love and a beautiful resting pagoda.

Inside N Seoul Tower (commonly referred to as Namsam Tower) there were 2 trick art museums and that was super fun, getting to be part of the artwork and everything. Honestly, I have no words. I’m just super glad that I got to go, and everyting was so beautiful and fun. We did end up riding the cable car down though, and for that I was rather grateful…

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Day 3… was phones, banking and chest x-rays.

Even though I had a global plan, having a local number in Korea is super useful because it means that you can connect to the wifi a lot more. Most of the wifi that exists in Korea needs a local SIM card so that was nice. It is way faster too and drains battery less. There’s a phone office in SK Global dorm and CIEE had deal with them or something, but we could pick between plans. I ended up getting a  ₩90,000 (about $90 USD) plan. It seems like a lot but it’s a one time payment for the entire semester. They charge your card, and then every month, you go in and ask them to charge 1 GB of data for you. International calling is 62 won/min or $0.06/min which is super nice. Since everyone here uses Kakao, texting and talking locally through the phone isn’t done too much, so I think it’s more expensive than those international calls. How that works, I have no idea.

Getting a bank account is free and you can create one without any money it is, so I said why not. I’d rather carry around a card than large amounts of cash. Woori bank is also on campus and absolutely everywhere so that made things convenient.

So at the SK Global House, residents either need to have a negative TB test result within 2 months of their entrance to the dorm (according to their booklet) or need to get a chest x-ray at a nearby clinic. So CIEE had arranged a time for the staff to take the students out for a chest x-ray. Lucky for me, I had read a blog on just this issue back in December and so I got a TB test done in January. There’s one trip I didn’t need to make. 🙂

After the chest x-rays, we had a scavenger hunt around Seoul. Everyone received a T-money card (or a transportation card) that can be charged with money for going on the extensive subway and bus system  Traveling around Seoul was super fun, we got to see parts of Insadong, the Admiral, Gwanghwamun, etc.

 

SCROLL DOWN FOR PICTURES! There are also videos!

 

Day 1 Photos!

 

Day 2!

 

Day 3!

Flight and Dorm Arrival

I’m finally in Korea!!

The flight was pretty long (13hrs and 20 mins) but it wasn’t terrible and I got to watch some movies that I’ve been eyeing for a while. I flew Asiana Airlines, and it was actually pretty cool. Each chair had it’s own little entertainment screen and remote that is made out game console style if you decide to play any of the games that exist on it (Tetris for the win!). We got three meals: 2 larger meals and one fancier snack. The first was 2 ish hours after takeoff and we were given the option of steak or bibimbap. Of course, I got bibimbap. The second was some time during the middle of the flight and they gave us toasty sandwiches with ham and cheese. The third was 2 ish hours before landing and we were given the option of penne pasta with marinara sauce or chicken with rice. I don’t know if it was just that my expectations of plane food is that low, or maybe I’m just so used to the dry chicken we get around campus, but that chicken was super juicy. They also gave little tubes of gochuchang (hot pepper paste) with the bibimbap and also if you got the chicken and rice since Koreans really love their spice and gochuchang. I didn’t use mine for the rice so now I have a little tube of hot pepper paste if I ever want to use it in the future. 😀

Sleep was not something I did a lot of, but I did get a little bit here and there. I played quite a bit of tetris and watched Big Hero 6, the Boxtrolls and a couple of episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Having seen Big Hero 6, I decided to watch it in Korean with English subtitles, so that was rather refreshing. The Boxtrolls is super cute. The art took a little getting used to but the storyline is really awesome.

Random Side Note: the bathrooms had one time use toothbrushes and mouth gargle, that was pretty interesting.

Getting off the plane and through immigrations wasn’t too bad. The line was kind of long, but even still it was only a 30 ish minute wait, and if you can find the fast line you can cut short that time too. They scan your fingerprints and get a photo, then it’s a stamp on your visa and you’re through. Nothing to declare and so once I picked up my bags I was out of there.

Met up with a couple individuals assigned with taking a group of us on the same program to campus and then it was an hour drive from there.

Interesting tidbit: Ask for a subway map at the airport, I’ve been told they are the ones with the best and most extensive english translation (not that I took a super close look when I grabbed mine).

Arriving at the dorm, we had a check in and received a card and a bundle of linen. The way the system works is that you have to use your card at a gate that lets you in and out of the actual section that has the rooms, and the card lets you into your actual dorm room too. Once you go to your floor and scan, one of the cards needs to go in the card slot so that you can use the lights, in that regard it’s almost like a hotel. We all get a double, but I’ll explain more later when I’m not as tired.

I had to put all the bedding together. My pillow is stuffed with straws, but once you put the cover on it’s actually not too bad. Mine just seems a little overstuffed and I’ve never been one for super high pillows. The bedding was a bit of an adventure. I had to differentiate the mattress pad with the stuffing of the duvet, but once that was figured out placing the mattress cover wasn’t terrible. Stuffing the duvet only took time, because I ended up getting the corners wrong and that was no fun. After a long flight I was just tired and wanted to crawl into bed. Speaking of, I’m going to sleep. 🙂