Study Abroad Tour: My Busy Life In Korea

April 11, 2011 at 2:06 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment

If you’ve been reading my articles both before and during my exchange program at Keimyung University, I hope you feel that I’ve done a good job of covering how I’ve gotten here, as well as sharing stories and experiences I’ve had here so far.

The most difficult thing about writing these articles is that I don’t know where to start. In some ways, I feel like I was thrown into a “lion’s den” of cultural changes.

Riding in airplanes and taxis and learning the Korean language and meeting new people — it can be a lot to take in at once.

Rather than sum up my adventures over the past few weeks, I’ll take this opportunity to talk more about my daily routine, to better paint a picture of my experience for others who might want to study abroad as well.

Almost each weekday morning, I wake up around 7 a.m. and struggle to get into the shower, fighting the urges to hit the snooze button on my phone. I leave my dorm around 8:35 a.m. to make the long walk down from my dormitory to my classroom.

Keimyung University is quite large — and very mountainous. I heard that the Johnson City area and the Daegu area were similar, but I didn’t think it would be this much. The long walk down roads that seem to elevate and descend constantly takes about 15 minutes to my first class, which is Korean Language Practice.

The class lasts until 11 a.m., and I honestly can say I enjoy it very much. Being in Korea, one who only speaks English could no doubt survive on their English skills alone, but it would be quite difficult.

This is because, despite what you may hear, not everyone in Korea speaks English. Most younger generations can read it, but speaking it and really understanding it are something that some people lack in. Having a Korean language course is very important to me, and it’s legitimately fun for me.

After my first class, I usually do one of two things —go back to my dormitory and sleep for a few brief hours before my next class, or head to a building called Shin Bauer Hall (New Bauer Hall) and go to the “International Lounge.”

The International Lounge at Keimyung is a “second-language zone,” meaning students who enter the lounge can only use English. Although many Korean students speak Korean to their friends and many exchange students practice other language inside, it mostly is a place for international students to meet native Koreans and vice versa.

It’s a great place to kill time, and it’s a haven for most of the exchange students. Anytime you can’t find someone on campus, you simply check the International Lounge and you can almost guarantee that’s where they will be.

My next class, depending on the day, is one of two English literature courses. One is called Culture Through English Literature and the other is History of English Literature.

The classes are taught in English, but more than 90 percent of the class is Korean students. I’m fortunate enough to have the same teacher for both classes, and while she is originally from Germany, she speaks perfect English. Both classes are comparable to English courses at ETSU or any other American university, except the student body in this classroom doesn’t always have English as their first language.

I hate to admit it, but I have this small feeling of guilt because here I am, an American student taking an English course taught in English, while every student around me is from Korea, yet they have to hear lectures and read books all in English. I just can’t imagine how difficult that is for them.

After all of my classes are completed for the day, what time I have remaining is left up to chance, but it seems like something new arises with whatever free time I have.

Just this past weekend, the exchange students had the chance to go on a free field trip to two different cities in Korea,  Ulsan and Gyeongju.

Ulsan is best known for having one of the main Hyundai plants, where they not only make they Hyundai automobiles, but also some of the world’s largest ships.

Gyeongju is famous for many of its monasteries and tombs that are tourist sites. Seeing everything these cities had to offer was something I will never forget, especially the fun moments on the trip, like my first experience with karaoke.

We returned on Saturday evening, and on Sunday I took an extra trip with a group of friends to Busan, a city known for the beautiful beaches it has.

And while my wild weekend might not involve that much travel on an average weekday, I can honestly say that each day I spent here is one well spent.

I look forward to seeing my friends and family once again, but I can’t imagine going back so soon.

While there are things about America that I miss, I keep reminding myself that this opportunity is something I worked hard for and something I wanted for a very long time, so rather than concentrate on what I used to have, I simply want to engage in as much here as I can and have fun while doing so.

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