The neighborhood Insadong is known for its touristy attractions and long list of sights to see. With a main street containing shops with traditional items and gifts and restaurants with Korean style dishes, the artisan shops in the Ssamziegil complex, and the endless cafes in Hanok-styled buildings, I found myself having the best time while visiting! My first experience with Insadong was immaculate thanks to my Korea University Buddy Assistant (KUBA) who acts as a mentor for international students. My KUBA, Minji, showed our little group around Insadong, showcasing her favorite spots and explaining the significance of the neighborhood. The setting, architecture, and vibe of Insadong was extremely welcoming and different compared to the places I’ve visited in Seoul so far. It was so nice being able to buy from artisan-style shops; I love supporting small artists and businesses. In the Ssamziegil complex almost every shop was run by individuals who actually made the products that were being sold. I loved walking into a stationery shop and seeing the owner illustrating right on her tablet the same works that were on the shelves!
While exploring Insadong with my KUBA and the rest of my group, we were able to talk amongst ourselves to get to know each other better. Our group is made up of people from various backgrounds and different nationalities. It was very interesting being able to compare and contrast the countries in which we come from and commiserate with one another about our struggles. I was able to explain and share things like how America’s healthcare system works, differences between legislation of states, social experiences, etc. with them. They were very shocked at some of the trending matters in America when comparing them to their own countries. As well as, I was very surprised at some of the cultural norms of their homes. I’ve found that a lot of non-U.S. individuals have not so good conceptions about America and American people. But what I’ve realized is that some people usually have very specific characteristics and looks when thinking about “an American.” So these conceptions can be very generalized and obviously do not include the many different types of people who live in America.
Nevertheless, I really loved being able to share experiences with my KUBA and the rest of my group. I learned a lot about them and their own countries, including things about South Korea. It’s refreshing to know that even with our different backgrounds and nationalities, we’re able to join together for relaxing days in places like Insadong and are able to share the positivity of being in Seoul at the same time. I cannot wait to visit Insadong again to see more sights and, of course, try more amazing dishes.