I have been living in South Korea for two weeks now. It seems almost like a lifetime ago when I boarded the plane, both excited and nervous for everything that was to come. I was dreading the plane ride the most. Being someone who doesn’t like planes, I was quite anxious about being trapped in a plane for 14 hours. However, it was not as bad as I had thought it would be. I watched 4 movies, read a book, slept, and got a small taste of what life in Korea would be like. You see, I have been studying Korean for a while now, but I was still shocked to have everyone around me speaking Korean. There were very few non-Korean passengers, and it was the first time I realized just how much I stick out.
My journey from the airport to my housing was quite simple, as I was greeted by some of my Korean “buddies” at the airport and took a bus provided by Korea University. I am staying off-campus at an accommodation known as a “goshiwon”, These are really popular in South Korea for university students, and they consist of a very, very small room with a bed, bathroom, and a desk. I expected it to be smaller than it actually is. It is by no means big, but it’s not claustrophobically small. I settled in on my first night, I was sleepy, hungry, and already missing home. I thought homesickness would be something that would come later on, yet my first couple of days were the most homesick I have felt. I attribute part of that to the horrible jet-lag I was experiencing. I would wake up at 1:00am ready for the day and be incredibly sleepy at 2pm. It took around 5 days for me to be able to correct my sleeping cycle. It was then that I truly started appreciating Korea. I felt somewhat out of place on my first days here, sometimes I still do, but the more I went out and explored the area around where I live the more comfortable I felt. I met so many people from all over the world on the first few days, and later met the friends that I consider my “group” now. Sure, there are things I miss from home, especially the food… don’t get me wrong, I like Korean food, but being someone who comes from a Cuban household I really need my arroz con frijoles. It doesn’t help that almost everything is spicy here, but I am slowly finding things that I absolutely love, like jjajangmyeon and the famous Korean fried chicken. Honestly, Korean fried chicken is on another level.
Classes started last week and so far my classes are very interesting. My favorite class is by far my Intermediate Korean language class. I feel like I am already learning so much and have the opportunity to put what I learned into practice right away. I have been enjoying my time in Korea so much that it almost feels like I’m not in school, because everything is so new I still feel like I am on vacation. There are so many places to go after class, so many things to see. My friends and I have made it a tradition to go to a Noraebang (karaoke room) every Friday, singing English, Korean, and Spanish songs until our throats are sore. Korea University’s buddy group, KUBA, also makes the experience more enjoyable. My Korean buddies have been so nice and are really fun to hang out with. We meet three times a week, one for lunch, one for dinner, and Saturdays we travel to a different place each time.
I am looking forward to so many things during my time in Korea. I am super excited for fall weather, and the leaves have already begun to turn yellow, orange, and brown. I have already done so many things I would have never done back home! Like two days ago I climbed Inwangsan, and the view from the top made the hike so worth it. I can’t wait to see what else Korea has in store for me but, so far, I am loving every single part of this experience.