It’s been three weeks since I’ve come to Seoul and I have to admit that I’m getting used to it all. I figured out the shortest route to Sinchon (the area of the city where I live), I can communicate with shopkeepers by using the very limited Korean skills I have, and through hand motions, and I know what places I love going to eat at. Those are just some small things that make me feel more at home in Korea. I find it truly fascinating how quickly I can adapt to a new environment and embrace it as a place that I call home: going back to Yonsei University campus or to I-House is always referred to as going “back home.”
I really do feel comfortable in my dorm, going to classes, walking around Sinchon, using the subway, and simply living in Seoul. It feels that all the culture shock is wearing off as I have started accepting and appreciating all the differences around me. I am no longer shocked by a certain behavior, Korean über-politness, or crazy drivers. I am really starting to love this place!
But, what makes me it love it? It’s simple – the people, the place, the atmosphere, and the dynamics.
I live in a dorm called International House where most of the exchange and/or international students live. My roommate is American; she is from San Francisco and I really enjoy sharing a room with her (she is the first roommate I have had in last 1.5 years). There are a whole lot of other people on our corridor and we share a bathroom and a really nice lounge area. All the girls I’ve met here are amazing and we all come from very diverse backgrounds (some of the nationalities represented on my floor are: American, Malaysian, Dutch, Indonesian, Chinese, Swedish, Vietnamese, Bosnian (I am the only Bosnian at Yonsei)). It is really nice that we have the lounge area (there are couches, a TV, and a small kitchen) as we get to hang out there and meet new people. Everybody is really respectful of each other’s needs and people are so nice. International House is connected to SK Global House (another dorm where exchange and/or international students live) so it’s easy to just walk through the building and go visit your friends who live in the other dorm. It is interesting that the floors in both dorms are gender specific and guys are not allowed on girls’ floors and vice versa. There are a lot of rather strict rules regarding the interaction between genders (there are even women’s and men’s laundry rooms!), but in case you want to hang out with your friends there are study rooms and lounges usually located on the first floor or in the basement.
A lot of my friends are shocked by the strict gender rules and almost always ask me whether the classes are gender specific too, but they are not. Classes are really relaxed and nice. Professors are very easy to approach and they are super helpful. As I am taking Study Abroad courses all of the students in my courses are exchange students so the classes are very diverse and it is easy to get, for example, the German, Australian, Canadian or Indian perspective on a certain issue or topic. Classes are organized in a way that there is a short class (50 min) and a long class (2×50 min). Usually the long class is used for a very interactive lecture, while the short class is used for workshops and seminars. I really like this set up. In most of my classes I don’t have a real in-class midterm or a final, but I do have to write quite some papers, memos, and reports. The professors try to make the classes very interesting by incorporating group work. Last week, for example, in my U.S.-Korea Relations class we were divided in 8 groups where each group represents a certain country with a specific power. Then we had to form alliances with other countries and fight a war. This workshop helped us understand the importance of strategic thinking and what lies behind the alliances and friendships between the countries. Apart from that, it was such a fun activity and time flew by!
As we are having really nice weather and a plenty of sunshine, I spent some time walking around the campus and discovering new areas I like. Yonsei campus is really beautiful, especially the park located in the middle (kind of like the lake in the middle of the UR campus) and the huge outdoor stadium built in the Greek style (in essence it is like a much bigger Greek Theater with more concrete and less green areas). The campus is super big and so beautiful!
It really feels like this place is growing on me and I like that feeling. 🙂