Hi everyone! Seeing as this is my first blog post here in Korea, I figure I should start off with an introduction. My name is Cat and I’m a third year biology student at Drexel University. I decided to study at Hanyang University in Korea right after my fall-winter co-op and I have been here for 3 weeks already! I think my first month here includes a lot of important experiences so the next few blogs will likely be recaps.
Really quickly, I wanted to show off what a beautiful day it was today. There’s a lot of pollution in this area so usually the sky is a bit hazy (it’s not the cloud kind of fog) and the foreigners unused to the air are dying in coughing fits. But today, the AQI was in the low 30s! Somedays, it’s in the 100’s which can be a bit bad, or the 150-200’s during which I recommend you to wear a face mask. (Download an app to keep you notified, I used Airvisual). But today, the weather was absolutely great and you could see the mountains clearly behind the city of Seoul from the top of Hanyang’s campus (which I should mention is really hilly and I have to walk about 6-7 flights of stairs just to get to class in the morning but the exercise and view makes it worth it).
But anyway, to being with, Drexel’s program with Hanyang is a simple exchange and I am studying here as a real student. Most universities in Korea require college students to take classes in English and those are the classes exchange students are allowed to sign up for. Thankfully, I was able to find quite a few biology classes that double as major credits at Drexel so I’m hitting two birds with one stone! Most of my peers are Korean, which surprised me to see as they’re basically learning high level content in a whole different language. In a class of 40, there are about 2-3 foreigners including me. While it is exciting to be in a different environment, I would recommend not having high expectations with making friends in class. Most students have friend groups already, which is normal everywhere, but makes it hard for foreigners to find others for group projects. A lot of the exchange students here are business majors so if you’re that major, you’ll likely have class with many other foreigners, who all make great friends as well.
If you’ve been wanting to befriend Korean students, there are other means outside of class. There are organizations here specifically to bring Korean and foreigners students together. To name a few: Hanyang Global Lions, HOW, Glitters, SCC, and more! There is a lot to talk about with these groups because I have already attended events with them so I will be writing about it over the next few posts!
Hanyang Global Lions is a group of Korean students with whom you can be assigned a buddy with. This is a process you can opt to do while signing up to be an exchange student. Think of it as a kind of group project. Each Korean student will usually have 2-3 foreigner partners and they’re all friendly and invite you out to eat and hang out on an individual basis. Each pair/trio will be put into a larger group of around 12 people (4 Korean students and their 2 buddies). You’ll be going out at least once a month together to explore the country of Korea and by the end of May, your Korean buddies will be creating a video of your time together (there will be a competition between groups)!
My buddy, Hyunwoo Ko, in particular is amazing. He loves answering all of my questions because it helps improves his English so it’s a win-win. His family works in hospitality management targeted towards foreigners so he’s always looking to tell us the history of Korea or explain to me the way Koreans live life. Just as a quick promotion for him, he’s an architectural engineer with a talent for music so go check him out on his youtube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW-FbvYhs8_aH71lXq1yJow, where he uploaded his first album, “어진비”. Also keep a lookout for his next album coming soon!
For a quick sneak peak of what you might do with your buddies, here are some pictures of my parters and my larger group on our first trip.
We were wearing the traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) at the popular Gyeongbok palace located in the center of Seoul. What surprised me the most was the amount of attention we received in such a tourist-y location. Walking around school, those who stick out might receive a few looks or two but nothing more, as Koreans have been getting used to seeing foreigners around. At the palace, however, there were some people who came up to us to ask for pictures. It might have been the group of foreigners wearing hanboks that caught their attention, but according to my other exchange friends who went the palace another day, no one approached them. I suppose I just went on a day where people were coincidentally looking for pictures. As fun as it was being a source of interest, I’m not exactly sure where our pictures are going to end up so if you see us, tell me! We were even spotted on the news! But basically, if you are a non-asian, expect to stick out a little, although not like a celebrity or anything.
My next blog will be on the group HOW and our fun weekend trip to the country-side as well as my impression of being in a university club, SCC, so stay tuned.