Living in a city has been a very new and exciting experience for me. I grew up in a small town and my home university is also in a small town, so I’ve only ever visited large cities for a few days at a time before. I’ve found that I really enjoy living in a city so far, even with the differences from the small-town life that I’m accustomed to. Everything I need is within walking distance or is just a subway ride away. Seoul is never boring, so I actually feel compelled to get up on the weekends instead of enjoying a lazy day in bed.
If you have time to kill but don’t have a specific plan in mind, I recommend simply wandering the streets, because you never know what you’ll find! Last week I was wandering around Sinchon with some friends, looking for a specific restaurant to get dessert, and there were just random groups of performers dancing and singing in the streets. Seoul is also a relatively safe city; there hasn’t been a moment so far where I’ve felt uncomfortable while traveling.
We never found the original cafe we were looking for that night, but we finally ended up at a little cafe called Mango Six. There we had bubble tea and shared a dessert called bingsu, which is essentially shaved ice with a lot of fruit and syrup on top. We had mango bingsu, but the original bingsu has red bean toppings on it. It sounds really good, so I’ll definitely have to try that soon!
I also recently experienced my first visit to COEX Mall in Gangnam, and I think I can safely say that it is the largest mall that I’ve ever stepped foot into. Along with the dozens and dozens of stores, it also has a movie theater and aquarium! We didn’t have time to stop and watch a movie, but we did spend a couple hours in the aquarium. The aquarium was really interesting and had historical and scientific facts about the areas and animals along the way. Not only did they have the usual sea-dwelling creatures, but there were several land animals throughout as well.
There’s also the SMTown store/studio/theater in COEX for all the K-Pop fans out there. They had a lot of merch and items that were picked out/inspired by the artists, but a lot of it is fairly pricey. You can also pay to have your own “studio experience” where you can tour the studio, learn a dance, and even have a professional photo shoot done.
After seeing cool modern parts of the city, last weekend I also had the opportunity to visit one of the historical sites in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace. Gyeongbokgung was originally built in the 14th century as part of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. Although much of the palace has been destroyed or remodeled from its original state, restoration efforts are continuing to preserve this amazing site. The palace is right next to a beautiful mountain and the Blue House where the current President resides (we only got to see those from a distance). The group arrived just in time to watch the changing of the palace guards. We were led around the palace grounds by our Korean HUG buddies (who are all fantastic), and everyone had a great time, even if it was pretty cold that day!
My classes are going really well so far, and I really enjoy all of my professors. When I’m further into the semester I’ll update everyone on what classes are like at Sogang. Next week some friends and I will be visiting Jeju Island over our Easter break, so be prepared for a lot of pictures!