Another week has passed and I’ve officially settled into my dorms in Korea University. I am staying in Anam International dorms on an extremely steep hill. At the bottom of the hill there are various restaurants and convenience stores, while the top of the hill has bus stops that will take you to other locations if you decide against walking up and down the huge hill. As the days have passed and I start to get into the rhythm of living in the dormitory and navigating my way around Anam (and Seoul in general), I’ve come across some obstacles that I will expand on in this blogpost!
Since dorm move-in occurred a little over a week before the first day of classes, we have had a lot of time to explore and familiarize ourselves with the public transportation system and eating/shopping culture of South Korea. With all of the fun that we have had so far, there are some language and culture barriers that we’ve already encountered while exploring that are worthy to note and take into consideration as I continue my Spring semester here. Since I am from more of a smaller city in the United States, I am not used to a busy city life in general. I remember having a culture shock even when I visited New York and witnessed the hustle and bustle firsthand. Seoul’s business and fast-paced nature is ten times overwhelming compared to big cities in America. Adding on the language barrier and customs makes the experience even more impressionable.
So far, my friend group and I have walked countless miles getting from location to location, taken a multitude of bus routes, and rode endless subway lines all over the city. Of course the majority of signage and posters are in korean, so when traveling in a group it takes extra time to ensure that everyone understands where we’re going and that we are being respectful towards public transportation etiquette. With everything you do there is a “correct” way and place to stand, an appropriate place to stand or sit, a right side to wait on the escalators, etc. Thankfully, I am able to read Hangul and can recognize certain phrases that get me from point A to point B alongside my friend group.
However, as much as we try we have already experienced some slip-ups! For example, the bus system is hard to navigate if you’re not used to it. There are endless buses on their routes with stops on both sides of the streets. No matter how many navigation apps we have downloaded it takes a village to finalize what correct route we should take. In the beginning of our ventures we hopped on the wrong bus route and had to quickly hop off since we were going in the absolute wrong direction. However, as we go on and familiarize ourselves with the system it becomes slightly easier and we take any mistakes and treat them as learning experiences. These types of things are crucial to your study abroad experience and I know that as time progresses there will be even more of these instances.