Today was the first day after I arrived in Seoul, South Korea. My ISA study abroad program hosted a Seoul tour for us that lasted throughout the day. First, we visited Dondaemun Market where there was a variety of shops and street food. I was blown away by the number of people it attracted and the entire atmosphere of Korean culture and economy. I got the chance to finally try some authentic Korean food that gave my taste buds a different type of experience. Then we visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace which was the royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. I saw female tourist dressed in traditional Korean dresses called hanbok to experience history and beauty of the Korean culture.
Last but not least, we visited the Namsan Seoul Tower that sits on the Namsan Mountain. We got to ride up to the top of this communication tower and take in the view of Seoul from above. I have been on towers before, but the fact that I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience made all the difference. The amazement of the view coupled with the fact that I was standing here looking down at the Seoul I have always seen through a screen.
At the bottom of the tower was filled with locks that lovers lock together to symbolize their love. Seeing all the colorful locks stacked on top of each other surrounding the whole place gave me a fluttering feeling inside. I remember seeing the love locks under the Namsam Seoul Tower in a Korean drama before and I told myself at that time that I would like to see it myself one day. Finally, I am now standing right here crossing off something off my bucket list.
Although many of the places we visited were mainly comprised of tourist, the scenary we saw as we traveled through the city by subway and up the mountain by bus refreshed my opinion of Korean culture. Witnessing the daily lives of the people in South Korea made me realize how different their lifestyle is from the American society I was used to. The way Koreans spoke and how they presented themselves in public gave me an idea of their societal values. For example, I assumed that subways where always busy and full of chattering; however, once inside the actual subway, Koreans normally do not talk or talk very quietly. As a foreigner, I am slowly starting to realize more and more of their cultural norms. I perceive the adjustment of my behavior in Korean society not because I desire to blend in, but because I appreciate and respect their culture. It has only been a few days into this journey and I have to admit that I anticipate more culture shocks that will reshape my knowledge of Korean culture before I arrived in South Korea.
Today is the day before my first day of classes at Korea University and I am very excited in getting to explore more and more of this prestigious college. In just one more day, I will be an international student studying at this top Korea University and become a ‘tiger’ just like them.