During my first week in Seoul, I stayed in Insa-Dong(인사동) one of the oldest districts in the city. Everywhere I looked there were antiques, handmade fans, and jewelry. Little family owned shops and street food vendors populated the streets of the peaceful neighborhood. It was the perfect place to buy trinkets and souvenirs for friends and family back home. The first week was mainly an orientation for me and the other CIEE participants and during our breaks we would often venture out and explore, trying new foods and visiting popular sites. One of the most unforgettable moments I had experienced during orientation week was attending the Lotte Family Concert, which is an annual music festival in Seoul. It was incredibly surreal to be able to see some of my favorite artists like BTS, Sunmi and BlackPink performing live right in front me. Before coming to South Korea, I was only able to enjoy their music through YouTube videos, which is nothing compared to watching them live.
Another thing that was memorable about orientation week was getting to know the other participants in my program CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange). For one of our assignments, we had to split up into groups and go on a scavenger hunt, searching for tourist sites and monuments throughout Seoul. We went to temples, shops, museums and learned a lot about the history, food and culture of the city. We even went to Myeong-dong (명동), a popular shopping district, to try a dessert called Bingsu. Similar to shaved ice, Bingsu comes in many flavors and are often topped with condensed milk. My group and I shared a mango flavored one that I enjoyed very much. I was surprised that one serving was enough for six people to share.
Later on that week, we visited a traditional village called Namsangol Hanok Village. When we arrived, there was a Taekwondo performance happening in the courtyard. Young men and women were doing flips and kicking wooden boards in time with live music, which was being played on a set of drums. I was really impressed by their strength and energy, given how hot it was outside. Yet, what was even more exciting was being invited to try some moves of their moves on stage. Me and couple of friends volunteered, and they showed us how to punch a wooden board. I was so ecstatic when I was able to do it successfully. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, and everyone was really supportive. After enjoying some Taekwondo we traveled around the village and played some traditional games. It was definitely a wonderful experience.