The last two weeks in Seoul were kind of spent in a frenzy of trying to do everything I wanted to do before I left for home and studying for finals. I also wanted to go back and re-experience some of my favorite memories and places. If it wasn’t obvious, I was feeling very sentimental at the time and didn’t want or feel ready to leave Seoul yet. This blog will be more of a reflection on my time in South Korea and on my last two weeks there.
There are plenty of reasons why I love Seoul.
I actually didn’t know that I could grow to love a city as much as I grew to love Seoul, especially as everyone back home always knows me to be more of an open-space suburban person. I do feel like Seoul has found a good in between, however, with plenty of green space to go around. Unlike Philadelphia, Seoul doesn’t feel like a city at times with large recreational areas, an abundance of walking trails, and a number of hikeable mountains even. It didn’t give me the constant concrete feeling that Philly always gave me and I think the greenness of Seoul made an impression on me early on.
Additionally, the subway and bus system makes travelling incredibly easy and accessible. Not only does the public transit system reach major areas outside of the city and Incheon Airport for only up to a maximum of 4 USD per ride, regular subway/bus rides within the city are only 1 USD. I have never used such a clean, fast, efficient, elaborate, and organized transit system before! I could honestly go on and on, but I have previously written a blog post on the subway system here in Seoul. I am completely ok with being seemingly obsessed with a subway system because I am.
I’ll also miss the café culture that is rampant throughout the whole city. I feel like Seoul is the city of trends; you’ll always see people dressed their best in the streets but definitely in the latest trends. The same goes for their cafés in that they’re youthful and trendily themed. I always thought that the cafés were really immersive; they’re so thoroughly planned out and decorated that you’re often engulfed by their aesthetic. The sheer of abundance of cafés is really impressive as well. I think I’ve mentioned before that it sometimes feels like there are more cafés in Seoul than there are restaurants.
I fear that I won’t be able to find such good eats for such an affordable price like those in Seoul for maybe the rest of my college days and that make me a bit sad. I do think that Seoul is generally a more affordable city, but the food is such a highlight. I feel as if cheap food back home can at times be associated with food that is unhealthy for you, but this doesn’t have to be the case in Seoul. You can find such good deals on daily Korean food that you don’t feel bad about eating; I’ll really miss this.
For my last major point, I’d like to emphasize just how safe Seoul is. I can’t remember the number of times I took walks in the AM in neighborhoods that were not my own. I never felt scared to be a woman walking at night and because of this safety I felt like I didn’t have to just limit my adventures to the day time.
I realized that I would miss all these things the most as I was going through my last outings in Seoul. I felt quite sad dwelling on it, but figured I’d be back one day if I continued to yearn for the city this much.
There was a lot to be done in order to properly leave behind Seoul and everything it came with. I said goodbye to many people, ate at my favorite restaurants one last time, and did things that I really wanted to do but had put off. All of this between studying for finals is what made the time hectic. I also failed to mention earlier that I also squeezed in co-op interviews late at night so the timing would coincide with early working hours in Philadelphia.
Among fellow study abroad students going back home, there was some worry about making it back due to Covid guidelines and testing. Personally, I wasn’t very anxious about the situation and scheduled a 10 AM antigen test at the airport through phone call. Thankfully, the U.S. accepts several types of tests so I didn’t have to pay for a PCR test which tends to be priced much higher than the 70 USD I paid to get tested. The relief my fellow Drexel friend and I felt when we received our results was great; we were basically ready for our flights back home. My only worry from then on was packing up 4.5 months of my life into 3 suitcases and maintaining the weight limit.
On a more personal note, my filled up schedule in the last 2 weeks and my panicked outings had helped reinstate why I enjoyed my time in Seoul so much and why I would miss not only the city, but that period of studying abroad particularly. I had met so many new people and gained so many new perspectives. I had experienced so much and genuinely had lots of fun. I gained great friends along the way and also fulfilled longtime goals and dreams. I felt like I had grown as a person because everything I experienced and gained was so valuable; although I wouldn’t be able to explain to you the big ideas I’ve learned as the knowledge is mostly soft. I do feel wiser now and, in a way, fearless.
So, it was with a heavy heart that I slowly said goodbye to Seoul and South Korea. I’m so thankful that I got to live through this experience despite the pandemic and hope that my blogs provided insight to my unique experience!
A collage of some of my last days in a nut shell (please see the last picture depicting the sheer amount of luggage owned by two students)
A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:
The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.