Break Time in South Korea

I’m so sorry it took me this long to write my blog, but it’s finally done.  I, unfortunately, became very busy the past few weeks, and so I was unable to write.  Since my last blog my fall semester at Nanzan University has ended, I had my four week winter break, and have started my spring semester.  Thankfully, my finals weren’t very challenging and I was able to achieve A’s without having to break down from the stress mentally.  For my winter break I actually left Japan and spend three weeks of it in Seoul, South Korea!  Let me tell you a little about that wonderful country.

If you did not know this about me, I started studying Korean last year, and due to my intense obsession with Korean dramas and K-pop, I have been dying to travel to South Korea.  Luckily, my friend and future roommate, Christina, decided to study abroad in Korea for the year.  Another fortunate coincidence is that she happens to be half Korean, so her family lives in Korea, therefore giving me a free place to stay.  However, her family lives on the outskirts of Seoul, so anytime we wanted to go anywhere it was at least a two hour train ride.  On the bright side, South Korea is a lot cheaper than Japan in every way, especially their train system, and the currency was in our favor, so I didn’t spend too much on travel.  What I did spend all of my money on was the amazing food, cute clothing, and I even bought Korean textbooks because I am unable to study Korean here at Nanzan, making me behind.

Anyways, let’s talk about Korea’s fantastic shopping points.  Of course, South Korea has become quite famous lately due to Psy’s Gangnam Style, which is titled after a place in Seoul that is infamous for it’s high fashion.  I, unfortunately, did not go there once, and if I had, I would not have been able to buy anything.  Despite Gangnam being such a high fashion/expensive area, the rest of inner Seoul happens to be quite cheap.  Bartering is very common there, and if you are foreign, they will raise the price because “you don’t know any better”.  Thanks to my friend, who is fluent in Korean, I was able to buy an assortment of awesome clothing, especially ridiculously cool animal sweatshirts, that if one were to get it in the states it would be twice as much.  But, just like Japan, Koreans have very small feet, so if you’re a girl and have a size nine or higher, don’t expect to find shoes.

Another great thing to experience about South Korea is its food.  Now, due to the large amount of American army bases in Seoul and the foreigners who study abroad there, there are a lot of American, or American-ish, restaurants there.  I have actually come to like their KFC more than America’s.  They have amazing chicken sandwiches, and some are deliciously spicy.  That’s another thing you have to watch out for though, Korea loves spicy food.  If they say it’s not spicy it most likely is, and if they say it is spicy it will probably disintegrate your tongue with the slightest contact.  Not all of the food is spicy of course, but a good majority of it is.  They also have these amazing all-you-can-eat-cook-your-own meat places, and they are delicious.  If I remember correctly it cost me eight dollars to eat as much meat, rice, and other snacks they had there for as long as I liked.  If you so happen to go to South Korea, I completely recommend one of these places to you.  Soju, however, I do not.  It tastes like how nail polish remover smells.

Some more tips about Korea, you might not want to buy make-up there.  Just like Japan, they are very into make-up that “whitens” you.  They want to look more western, which means being as pale as a white sheet of paper it seems.  You will also see ads for plastic surgery everywhere because it is as common as people getting braces in the states.  They even perform surgeries that aren’t done in the states because they are too dangerous.  So, if you want to make your eyes bigger, shave your jaw, and make your nose higher, South Korea is the place to get it done.  Another common point they have with Japan, they really really stare at foreigners, especially if you’re blond.  Oddly enough, I’m blond, and was stared at relentlessly no matter where I was.  I guess that will never change.  They do have these awesome cat and dog cafes where you can pet the animals there.  You do have to pay to be there and you have to get a drink, but it’s worth it.  If you’re wondering about the temperature, it was the same as my home state Wisconsin, so bitterly cold.  It was probably an average of -7 degrees the entire time I was there, so one can guess that my toes froze off everyday.  If you’re going to South Korea, I suggest a warmer period to go.

After returning from my $300 two hour flight from Korea–yes that is cheaper than you could ever get in America–I moved out of my host family’s house due to a sick family member, and moved into a dorm.  I shall therefore, compare the two.  First of all, the dorm is only a two minute walk away from campus versus the hour train ride.  I’m saving money on my train pass (which is not cheap), and I’m saving time.  I can now happily sleep an hour later, and now can shower whenever I feel like.  Not that I couldn’t shower whenever before, it was just more convenient to shower when the rest of the family decided to bathe.  My rent is cheaper because I’m not paying for the two meals a day my host family provided me, so I’m saving a lot of money.  I definitely was not eating as much as I was paying.  I’m also closer to everywhere else that I want to go, so it’s cheaper to go those places.  I also, am about to get a job that’s only two stops away from campus, where as before it would have been a lot farther away.  I can eat dinner whenever I want, and can make my own.  Again, you can make your own food at a homestay, but you’ve already paid them to make your food, so it would be a waste to make your own.  There are also other study abroad students living here, and there are Japanese students as well, so I’m not missing out on speaking Japanese.  After saying all of those points, it’s clear that I do prefer the dorm to my homestay, but the homestay does have a lot of valuable things to experience.  So, if you are going to study abroad for a year ever, I suggest, if you can, to stay with a host family for one semester, and at a dorm for the other.  I am very grateful for everything my host family has done for me, and I will never forget my time there.  I especially appreciate them making meals for me, I’m very lazy right now.

Well that’s all I have to report on for now.  Once again, sorry for the wait.  I had tests the first couple weeks, and I did just move, so I had to become accustomed to that.  Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed it.  This is only from my perspective, and I’m only experiencing this one part of Japan, so one can’t assume everything I say is true for all of Japan.  I do make videos as well, so if you are interested, just type my name into youtube!

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