The first few days here in Seoul have been very eventful. My first full day here, I had the task of figuring out where to make some purchases to make my room livable. Luckily, there’s a store close to campus called E-Mart that has almost anything you could ever need. Really, everything. Its multiple floors house a grocery department, household essentials, clothes, shoes, bathroom necessities, bedding, a food court, and probably more things that I didn’t have the time to see. The blanket and pillow that I got were very reasonably priced, but I’ve been told that E-Mart is not the best place to go for cheap school supplies, so I haven’t actually bought most of those yet.
The trip to E-Mart was my first experience with the city bus system. As someone who grew up in a small town and goes to school in a small town, public transportation is a new thing for me. Luckily, I’ve met some awesome people here to travel with. Even though they have as much knowledge of the streets of Seoul as I do, at least we can all get lost together! The buses can be a little confusing (and occasionally take you to the other side of the river before you’ve realized you’ve gotten on at the wrong stop), but many of the signs have English on them and they’re still perfectly navigable. You can pay for the buses with cash or with a T-Money card, which can be purchased at convenience stores. 7-11 is strangely popular here. T-Money cards can also be used to ride the subway. The subway system is actually easier to navigate than the buses, so I would recommend using the subway for traveling around the city unless you’re claustrophobic.
On Saturday, I traveled to Sinchon with some friends to try and get SIM cards for our phones. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to buy them that day, but we did get to see a really cool street performance! There were a bunch of teens dressed up in traditional Korean wear and dancing to music up and down the street. I have no clue what they were advertising, but I got a sticker! They looked like they were having a great time, and I had a great time watching them. We ended up ordering EG SIM cards online and were able to pick them up the next day. It was super simple and mine has been working great so far in my iPhone.
One of the major differences I’ve had to get used to with the food here has been the fact that there aren’t many “breakfast” foods. Although I wasn’t a huge breakfast person before, I started to miss my pancakes and eggs. Some of my friends were feeling the same way, so on Sunday we adventured to Gangnam–and no, we did not see Psy–to Butterfinger Pancakes, where we had to wait about half an hour to be seated because the line was pushing out the door. Normally I would hate to wait that long, but we took a tour of the surrounding block to kill time, and the French toast was definitely worth it. While we were eating, it started to snow, and none of us were prepared. My friend Bridget is from Australia, so I got to see her witness her first snow! She was so excited when she made her first snowball. It was adorable. That night Rachel and I visited our first bar with more of our friends. We just wandered across it, so we weren’t sure how it would turn out, but it had a very chill atmosphere and we had a good time
On Monday we finally had our exchange student orientation. Up until this point we had been given free reign to do what we pleased and had to figure out a lot on our own. After the orientation, which consisted of a lot of school rules, we broke off into groups to tour Sogang’s campus and eat dinner. It was very cold out so the tour was pretty short. The groups were led by H.U.G. buddies, which are members of the H.U.G. (Hands Up for Gathering) club on campus. This club connects international students to students from Sogang. Although I didn’t get to meet my buddy that day, the buddies who
led my group were great and very helpful. My group left campus to eat Korean barbecue after the tour, which was a cool experience because there was a grill on the table and we cooked our own meat. The H.U.G. crew also threw us a welcome party at a nearby bar called Barfly. Everybody had a really great time and we met a lot of cool people that night. Most of the Sogang students I’ve met so far are really nice and welcoming, and I’m really looking forward to meeting more of them and attending more H.U.G. events.
As you can see, I’m having a great time in Korea so far, and I can’t wait for more adventures!