Preparing for a Year in Chile: The Bittersweet Final Moments

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As the days are getting shorter and colder, my trip to Chile is quickly approaching. I’m studying abroad in Valparaíso, Chile for almost a year – from February to December. Some days it feels a little overwhelming and scary, but I know I’m going to love it. I’ve always dreamed of studying abroad somewhere in Latin America. It seems so foreign and almost magical. The colors, the music, the people – it has everything that my rural Pennsylvania hometown didn’t.

Valparaíso is described by some as the cultural capital of Chile. It’s known for its urban art and super vibrant music scene. In a way, it has some of the same characteristics that drew me to Temple and, by extension, Philadelphia when I was just a confused junior in high school. Even though I’m leaving this beautiful city and university for an entire year, I’m a proud Temple student. I’m in the College of Liberal Arts, and I’m double-majoring in Spanish and Political Science. Last semester, I was enrolled in the Latin American Studies Semester at Temple, and we took a three-week trip to Costa Rica mid-semester; it was that very trip that made me realize that I had all these opportunities right at my fingertips, and I wasn’t even taking advantage of them.

With Temple’s almost endless selection of study-abroad programs, the only difficulty I encountered last spring was trying to choose which country I wanted to go to! Of course, I ended choosing Valparaíso, but it was a difficult decision to make. Now, all of that seems so far away.

Studying abroad seems a little scary with all the paperwork and forms you have to do, but I think that often people neglect to talk about the emotional and mental prep work. It’s like an emotional roller coaster in the months preceding your departure. It’s full of second-guessing yourself and playing out the worst-case scenarios in your head. It’s wondering if your friends will forget about you when you’re gone. It’s desperately Googling to see if there’s any sushi or pizza places in the town you’ll be living.

But this isn’t to say that it’s all bad. This emotional roller coaster has had a lot of ups, too! I’m so incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity to live in a foreign country for a year. I’m excited for the friends and relationships I will form in Chile. I’m eager to meet my host family and, even more importantly, their dog!

I leave this Monday – just three short days from today – and this much-anticipated adventure is becoming even more tangible. Even though I’m going to miss my Temple family, I know it’s just the start of a new and different chapter of my life, and I can’t wait!

Peace out, Philly – I’ll miss you more than you can ever imagine.

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Pudding Lane Is in My Ears–and in My Eyes: The “Fine City” at a Glance

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“Penny Lane” by the Beatles was the band’s way of paying homage to the port town of Liverpool, as well as the surrounding suburbs where all four of them grew up and eventually met to form what is now known as the biggest band of all time. It paints a charming scene of a small but busy suburban street; unique characters characters such as the barber showing “every head he’s had the pleasure to have known,” a fireman “rushing in from the pouring rain”, and so on, are sung about with great affection for the humble beginnings of the four.

The Beatles certainly weren’t singing about Norwich; Liverpool is about a 5 hour trip across England by bus from Norwich. Still, as I take the bus from UEA’s campus into the city centre (center city), it’s the song that plays over and over in my head. I believe it perfectly encapsulates the brightness and charm of Norwich as a city. Pudding Lane is a small pedestrian street just above the famous marketplace found in the city centre. It is just one of the many quirky street names one can find in Norwich (and across England for that matter!). Outside the marketplace there is always someone with an instrument making music for the afternoon’s shoppers. In every direction there is a charming building or street with a long and interesting history behind it.

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“And all the people that come and go… stop and say ‘JELL-O’”

Norwich is a city, but not in the sense that I’ve always thought of a city. It has a very quaint and cozy feeling about it. The city centre is bustling on the weekends and on the weekdays, with locals and visitors alike taking advantage of the shops and shopping centers. However, by about 8p.m., the streets are all but dead it seems. Physically, they are very narrow; there are many smaller streets and alleyways reminiscent (practically identical even) to Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. The city centre is not large at all when you compare it to Philadelphia’s center city.

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Where do I buy my wand? Just one of the many alleyways packed with shops and other independently-owned businesses!

Admittedly, I often find myself falling victim to comparing Norwich to Philadelphia. In reality, Norwich is fundamentally different from Philadelphia in many ways. The most obvious difference is that Norwich is significantly smaller in size than Philadelphia. Second, though both cities have a rich history behind their streets, Norwich is around a whopping 800 years older than Philadelphia. I often joke with friends about how if I were to point at any random building with my eyes closed, I would have a very good chance at pointing towards a structure that out-dates the United States itself.

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The average 1100s local’s view of the castle. Not somewhere I imagine they’d like to visit, as being in there usually meant being in trouble with the law.

I’ve heard of students coming to UEA and never leaving Norwich because of the sheer amount of things there are to do in this city. At first I found that unbelievable, and something I couldn’t imagine myself doing. How could one city, smaller than my city city for that matter, hold so much? Even though I’ve traveled so far and will to continue to travel across England, I can now understand how one can spend their entire semester just in Norwich, and this is after having lived here for only about a month now. I’ve learned not to be fooled by the size of a city; sure it’s not as big and bustling as Philadelphia or London, but in the small amount of space it does have, there lie streets with amazing stories behind them, plenty to see, and plenty to do. A fine city indeed.

 

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“There beneath the blue suburban skies” — Unthank Road is just as picturesque as Penny Lane. (via thegoldentriangle.co.uk)

The Grace Period: Week 1 in Berlin

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“Ich bin ein Berliner. Ich bin ein Berliner. Ich bin ein Berliner.”

If JFK could proclaim those powerful words through his Massachusetts accent, why can’t I?

My first week in Berlin was one of the most fun, most informative, densest weeks I have ever experienced in travel. Our study abroad program set up a week of orientation for us, mixing your basic presentations on German etiquette, subway navigation, and “how not to get pick-pocketed” with tours of some of the most beautiful and famous sights in Berlin. Naturally, the time spent outside of the program-sanctioned events was spent socializing with my new friends from all across the country. While the tours and presentations have been incredible beneficial learning experiences, putting 40+ college juniors who don’t know each other in a room has been a remarkable sociological experiment. Just five days in, I feel as close with these people who are brand new to my life as I do with my friends that I’ve had for years. That, I believe is the magic of studying abroad. Regardless of schools, backgrounds, or home states, we are all here for the same reason: to learn, to travel, and to transform our college experiences. In doing so, I have learned that people can gain meaningful friendships in a matter of days.

Despite the incredible people surrounding me, it seems like becoming a Berliner may end up being harder than I thought it would be. My first week was really spent as a tourist, not a resident. Although being a tourist is important for orientation, the week went by like a blur, and when the first Monday rolled around and classes began, it hit me. I am no longer a tourist, but a resident. I am not flying home in a few days, but a few months. I am a Bostonian, but for now, ich bin ein Berliner.

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Courses, Campus, & Life at UEA: The Balance between Work & Play

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…is very important.

At home, it isn’t as hard to find that balance and imitate it. However, being in a new and exciting land at a university that naturally does things differently from most American universities has made finding the balance more difficult than with just any other change of daily routine.

As opposed to the full-time course load of five classes I’m accustomed to at Temple, UEA employs a “module” system, with three courses being the typical full load of coursework. Three modules translate to 15 Temple credits (at least in my case), and each module may only meet once or twice a week. You must be reading this and imagining how amazing it would be for you to have such an open yet full-time class schedule–I was certainly excited at the thought of all the free time I could have.

…Yeah, not so much the case for me. Even though my classes only meet once or twice a week, and there are only three of them, I personally feel the workload is enough that it’s very much like having a full-time Temple schedule. That being said, time management is your best friend here at UEA! I promise that you will have time to both enjoy this beautiful country, and enjoy a beautiful UEA transcript at the end of the semester. In my experience, I expect to work on at least one of my courses every day of the week. You will get a more accurate gauge of the amount of time each module requires when you meet your instructors, but practicing your time management skills before your journey will make adjusting to the new system much, much easier. Of course, everyone’s perspectives and experiences vary.  

It’s difficult at first to sit down and do schoolwork because Norwich is such a beautiful town begging to be shot by my camera, but I must pace myself and remind myself that my academic performance in England could lead to many great opportunities in the future.

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Shetland Ponies! Housed by DEV Farms just on the edge of UEA’s campus. In the summer, there will be cattle grazing the campus grounds to help maintain the beautiful habitats on campus.

Then again… how can I be expected to stay inside and work when there are dozens of these little guys hanging out on campus? All joking aside, hanging out with them for just a few hours a day serves as a way to help clear my mind; exploring the campus trail grounds also helps me to get in a day’s worth of exercise, as well as enjoy the solitude of nature. This is a combination that has proven to be both an enjoyable way to pass time, as well as a powerful motivation tool to do the reading and writing necessary for my classes. So, while I am not able to visit the city centre every day, I have so much beauty at my disposal just on campus!

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Whether it be school-related work or the problems of everyday life: I believe anyone can find the inspiration they need in whatever they’re doing by finding time to enjoy the outdoors.

 

I didn’t get any of my first choices for modules, and from overhearing other students talk this seems to be a common occurrence (one student claimed to only have gotten their first choice module one time since being here). The options available to me were all so interesting though that I knew it would be impossible to be assigned a module I didn’t really enjoy. I am enrolled in “Writing Life,” a writing class centered around biography writing. We meet once a week for a three hour seminar discussion based around the assigned book for that given week. Second is “Shakespeare,” a lecture and seminar-based course; and finally, “History of Norwich”, another lecture/seminar-based course detailing the history of this “Fine City” from the Norman Conquest to present day.

All of these modules are fun, interesting, and I believe they’ll only further enrich my experience here in Norwich (Hopefully, a few posts from now, I’ll be able to share with you all some interesting historical facts about this city!). I would absolutely recommend saving some spaces for elective courses to any prospective Temple students planning to attend UEA so that they can model their roster around subjects and themes that interest them and will motivate them to fully enjoy England!

“Uni”: Life as a Student in England So Far

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Two weeks into my semester here at UEA and my flatmates and I are starting to feel like family. This, I believe, is just a natural occurrence, as we all live under the same roof and see many aspects of each other’s lives we would otherwise not see if we were simply classmates. When I first arrived, however, I was unsure of whether or not I would get along with them. I am a rather awkward person in social situations and I find most times that it takes a while for me to feel comfortable with new people. I’ve discovered while here, however, that living with people who are all just as interested in being a good flatmate as I am makes overcoming my awkwardness much easier. We actually tend to spend a lot of time together in and out of the flat; in just our first week together, went to the pub on campus in our pajamas! (The LCR, which is where many of the school’s main events and parties happen, hosts a different-themed party every Tuesday night. “Queue up,” or get in line early though, as it is a very popular event!) We’ve also had our first makeshift movie night together (Dunkirk: a beautiful film that highlights the strong spirit of England in the face of defeat), and plan on many more to come!

The most important part to having fun and feeling comfortable with my peers has been letting go of expectations and insecurities. It sounds much easier than it actually is, but you will probably find that being away from home, especially for a period of time as long as an entire semester, will force you to realize this and actively practice it. Always, however, make sure that you’re comfortable in whatever you’re doing. It’s perfectly fine if you want to stay in while the rest of your friends want to go out. Always strive to be mindful of your budget; spending too much money on events and drinks every week may hinder the possibility of trips outside of your campus and city. Especially if you decide to study in England, which I hope you do, remember that everything the country has to offer is just a train or bus ride away. Make sure you’ve got the funds necessary to take in as much of this beautiful country as you can throughout your stay!

 

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My walk back from seminar. A great way to take a break from your reading and writing is to take a walk along the trails on campus!

Yes, being in an English speaking country, I don’t feel too alienated. The fact remains though that England is very different in many ways from America. First of all, this country is old. Really old. Walking in town together, one of my flatmates noted that the structure you see below is probably older than my country.

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He said this jokingly, of course. We aren’t sure of exactly how old it is– perhaps I’ll ask one of my professors and report back!

Second, there’s an indescribable feeling that you get when you’re in a certain place–home feels like home, school feels like school, and so on. Certain places tend to make us feel a very specific kind of way. The feeling I associated with England before actually being here was based on how other places made me feel. The truth is that England has its own unique feeling from any other place I’ve been, and all the photographs and videos in the world couldn’t replicate the feeling of actually being here and experiencing it firsthand. With this unique and new though feeling also comes the slight fear of the unknown; I guess this is me finally feeling homesick, as I’m currently bombarded by reminders of home on Facebook as the Eagles prepare to go to the Super Bowl. The kindness of my peers, the warm beauty of Norwich, and a chance meeting in an Aldi’s, remind me that I’m exactly where I want–and need–to be.

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Thanks, Aldi! It’s not “Philadelphia” cream cheese, but it certainly does the job!

One Week Later: Some Travel Tips and Initial Reflections On My Journey ‘Cross the Pond

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On the day of my journey to Norwich, England, I arrived to the airport about three hours before my flight’s anticipated departure time. As my parents were getting ready to take me to the airport though, I felt a sense of shock and excitement: shocked that this was actually happening, that I’d actually be embarking on my dream journey to study abroad in England and that the moment had arrived so soon–and excited because I was eager to begin the journey and, particularly, to have the air travel over with. I take a couple medications daily that are crucial to my wellbeing, and so my worst nightmare was my medication being denied entry into the country or onto the plane because of insufficient evidence for the necessity of it. I never was questioned about my medications though, not even upon arrival to the UK, so for this I’m grateful. Others may not be so lucky, however, so it really does pay to be over-prepared in the event that you are stopped. If you are someone who takes medications, get in contact with both your doctor and your insurance company as soon as you know you’ll be embarking on a trip. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, have your doctor’s number and your home insurance company’s number on you at all times.

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Somewhere over England– shortly after flying over Ireland and the Irish Sea!

Organization and preparation skills are essential in general when preparing for long travels; things will go extremely well for you if you stay organized. Because of my focus on preparation and organization before departure, the security process at TSA was very quick and easy (besides the fact that I forgot to take my laptop out of my carry-on suitcase). Have your electronics ready to be placed in separate bins from your clothes, shoes, and suitcases. Wear the simplest, most comfortable clothes you have for the journey as it will reduce the likelihood of setting off any detectors. Perhaps my most important piece of advice to any future travelers would be to keep all of your personal and sensitive belongings close to you and secure. Coats and jackets with zippered pockets are the perfect option for traveling in heavy crowds where you will constantly be on the move.

A plane ride and two buses later, I am finally in Norwich and on UEA’s campus! Some very kind students from the Study Abroad office welcomed me and helped me to my rooms after registration. This is my first time living on a college campus, and my first time living with roommates in general, so there were certainly a few things I set out to understand. The first of them was roommate/flatmate etiquette (a “flatmate” is a fellow student you share the floor with, but not necessarily your room!). I’m happy to say that I have lovely flatmates and a lovely roommate, all of whom have been very patient with me in my adjustment period. A large portion of us are international students and away at “uni” for the first time ever, so we are all in the process of learning and acclimating to our new setup. Already, we are all comfortable sharing the same living space. The fact remains, though, that I am notoriously messy in any space I occupy for more than an hour, so these next six months will be the perfect opportunity for me to exercise some organization skills, as I want to make things easier for my fellow flatmates and especially my roommate.

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The past few days since arriving have been all about taking in the beauty of the campus and the city of Norwich. UEA is both architecturally and naturally a beautiful campus to be on, and the duality of the two is stunning when you take it all in. On the one hand, you have the brutalist, modern designs of the campus buildings. By contrast, when looking out from the walkways of these impressive man made structures, you can enjoy the largely untamed beauty of the land that surrounds the lakes on campus.DSC_0558.JPG

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It only takes about 3-5 minutes to get from this amazing building to that beautiful lake you see above!

It’s true indeed that you don’t see the sun as much here, but as I write this post I’m experiencing only the first rainy day since I’ve my arrival here, and it’s much unlike the rainy days I’m accustomed to in Philly. If it rains in Philly, it usually pours–and for most of the day. Here in Norwich, so far the rain has been a very gentle drizzle–almost a mist. It’s great to see the sun, but I have to say that I don’t mind the gloomy days at all. There is an eerie beauty to the cold and grey. And, besides, it’s quintessentially British.

Do I miss my family and friends back at home? Absolutely. Am I terribly homesick though? Not quite. Not at the moment, at least. I miss my family in the sense that I wish I could bring them all over here to enjoy this beautiful country with me, but I have no desire to go back to Philly ASAP.  So far England has shown me all the beauty I’ve dreamed it would have of and more. I look forward to getting to know the rest of the university, as well as exploring more of this beautiful and quaint little town I get to call home for the next several months.

 

 

UEA: Thoughts and Reflections Pre-Departure

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UEA: Thoughts and Reflections Pre-Departure

When I first discovered that Temple offered an Exchange Program to England, I obsessively searched for as much information as I could on the University of East Anglia, the town of Norwich, and more generally what life was like to live in England. This was all before I even knew whether or not I was accepted to Temple (I am a dual admissions student from Community College of Philadelphia– woot woot!), so you can imagine the anticipation leading up to the official submission of my application for the program. Happy to have myself officially considered upon submission of my application, I waited eagerly for a response.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that, only a week later, I received my acceptance email from the Study Abroad office. I was excited, of course; the moment I had hoped for for months had finally come. I immediately accepted the offer, and so my dreams were on their way to becoming a reality.

The Ziggurats at the University of East Anglia. (via Eastern Daily Press)

Despite my excitement, however, there remains still the undeniable bittersweet feeling of getting ready to embark on a trip an ocean away from my family and friends. Less than a week away from departure and I still become emotional with every step I take towards preparing to leave the only life I’ve known behind for this extended period of time. This will be my first trip away from home for an extended period of time, as well as my first trip outside of the country.

Coping with these emotions becomes easier as departure draws near. Much of this has to do with the fact that I have amazingly supportive family and friends backing my decision. At the same time, it’s my changing attitude towards the idea of traveling alone. This term abroad is literally a dream come true. To travel to England, Land of the Brontë’s, Home of the Beatles… this journey is a personal sacred pilgrimage and only existed in my imagination up until the acceptance of this opportunity. Nothing in life though, not even the experiences our dreams are made of, are without obstacles. I’ve accepted that getting over the obstacles that will come with this monumental journey of mine are the reality of fulfilling my dream, and this makes me as excited as I was when I first discovered the program.

There is a lot of excitement that surrounds the term “study abroad.” I see the sparkle in my older friends’ eyes when I tell them what I’m doing this semester. It’s almost always followed with the expression of regret that they never did it themselves. In this respect I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity.

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA. Marvel fans may find this building familiar…

Do I expect to have my life completely changed though? Certainly not. This is an attitude towards studying abroad that I haven’t latched onto. Not all students get the chance to leave their home country to study, and that doesn’t make their college experiences any less potentially life changing. One could go abroad and sit in their dorm the entire time, not experiencing the new world they’re in. What I do expect for myself is that I’ll take advantage of this rare opportunity to experience, hands-on, a country whose art and landscape I have admired for as long as I can remember. This semester will be the ultimate challenge to myself to push my boundaries, come outside of my comfort zone, and experience the world independently.

At Home Reflections and Onward….

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More than three weeks have passed since I left my flat in Dunedin, New Zealand, and started the long voyage back to Philadelphia. After sobbing on the flight to Auckland during the Air New Zealand safety video, falling asleep on the floor of LAX, and finally arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, I am slowly readjusting to life in the United States. Although I am seriously enjoying some aspects my American reintroduction (especially Reading Terminal Market, black coffee, and the busy city atmosphere), I find myself occasionally drifting into sadness when I recall specific day-to-day memories from my Dunedin life. When I walk by the Schuykill River, I can’t help but think about the Leith River winding through Otago’s campus and feel a little blue. I miss my Monday afternoon lox and toast from Good Earth, and living with my sweet flatmates.

It’s really hard. Really REALLY hard, like the kind of hard that makes your head hurt. All of a sudden, the people and places that have surrounded me for the past five months are gone, and it’s likely that I’ll never see many of them again. Small things make me feel like crying because they are reminiscent of Dunedin- an ad for a popular candy, a receipt in my wallet from a restaurant, my University of Otago student I.D. I have become so comfortable with my identity in New Zealand that I forgot what unsureness in the United States felt like. Will I be able to continue approaching life with the same degree of ease, or will I settle back into familiar traps? Most of all, I worry that I’ll become depressed or that my anxiety will rear its ugly head.

But then again, even if I’m not in New Zealand, I retain the new ways with which I approach the world. I am appreciating Philadelphia’s capacious avenues in a way that I never thought to as a child or teenager. I try to imagine the Philly skyline as a person who has never witnessed it before. An unusual feeling of joy comes to me; for the first time, I feel genuinely privileged and happy to live in a place that has seen so many stages of my life.

What is a “home?” A home is a sacred space, a space filled with love and support. It is security and safely; it is concrete and also intangible; it is whole. It is a collection of people as much as it is four stable walls. The Philadelphia area is my home; it is my birthplace, the place where I splashed in fountains with my sister as a child and sat in the park with my mom and said my first words. It is the place that led me to New Zealand to begin with. New Zealand is my home. It is where I felt like a true adult for the first time and lived away from my American life and experienced total isolation. It is where I met true friends and established my own away-from-home family. I cannot wait to meet my next home. Wherever it may be, may we meet with open hearts. I look forward to the families that you will create for me.

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Home is…. warm socks, mountains, beat-up cars, and a good shoulder to lean on.

 

Drawing Comparisons between South Korean Cities

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Busan, which is South Korea’s second largest city. This is a common travel destination for people visiting Korea, as it is offers beautiful beaches and regional specialties of seafood. Before my journey I had anticipated that Busan would offer a few unique sights but as a whole be fairly similar in nature to Seoul. However, I was delighted to discover that the city was not simply another Seoul on a smaller scale, but instead presented itself in a very distinct matter. In this post I aim to discuss some of my favorite activities that I undertook during my stay in Busan and illustrate some of the similarities and differences one can find between the coastal city and the capital city of Seoul.

In order to get to Busan I took a four and a half hour ride after my Friday classes from the Seoul express bus terminal, planning to meet some friends who had arrived earlier in the morning. We would be staying at a guesthouse for a very reasonable price (around $15 per night) which was located directly next to a metro station. This proved to be a perfect location as we utilized the subway in order to get to many of the attractions that Busan had to offer. One of my favorite destinations on the journey was the Gamcheon Culture Village. The village consisted of countless pastel colored houses built in a staircase fashion on the base of a coastal mountain. It was a beautiful sight to behold, especially as my friends and I watched the sun set over the pacific ocean from the rooftop of a local cafe.

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Sunset over the Gamcheon Cultural Village

Wandering around the city after witnessing the sunset allowed us the opportunity to talk to some of the local populace, including an English speaking tour guide. Overall I found myself thinking of inhabitants of Busan as more laid-back and relaxed than those who lived in the hustle and bustle of Seoul. While it seems to me that people in Korea are typically more courteous than those in the U.S., in Busan this was even more apparent. The climate was also a bit more mild on the coast and along with it came offerings of specialty local seafood (which I could sadly not indulge in due to an allergy to fish!) A few similarities between the two cities were the very diverse offerings of cultural and entertainment value. Both Seoul and Busan offered a variety of entertainment venues, such as karaoke, bars, and clubs to enjoy during the night. Additionally, the cities both had a large number of cultural sites, including traditional markets which provide visitors with a glimpse into regional goods and specialities.

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View of Busan from Busan Tower

Another highlight of my trip was a visit to the Haedong Yonggungsa Buddhist Temple. The temple was built right next to the shoreline and allowed for a stunning view of the ocean. This is a rarity, as most Korean temples are built in the mountains. Whenever I have visited temples in Seoul, there have been only a handful of visitors, but at this temple it was completely packed! The seaside view provided a contrast (and advantage) compared with temples I have experienced in Seoul. On the other hand, my excursion to Busan Tower revealed a similarity between the two cities. Busan Tower is located in a central area of the city that provided an 360 degree overview of the entire area. Overall, it essentially mirrored the same design and purpose of the Seoul Namsan Tower; both towers even utilized similar videos of their respective cities that played while ascending to the top via the elevator. In conclusion, I highly enjoyed my trip to Busan and would definitely recommend visiting it for anyone travelling in Korea. It was very interesting to compare the similarities and differences between the relaxed coastal feel of Busan and the metropolitan sprawl of Seoul. Thanks for reading and see you in the next post!

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Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Eating Well and Minding your Manners in Korea

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One of my favorite aspects of living in Seoul is definitely the food. I’ve treated myself to a number of delicious meals both native to Korea in addition to their unique takes on Western cuisine. I came to the country knowing only a few particular dishes, ones that my grandmother would make for me back in Pennsylvania. During my culinary expeditions I have had the opportunity to explore many new tastes and gained insight into what Koreans enjoy in a day to day diet. Going hand in hand with eating culture, are the cultural norms for etiquette and manners. In this blog post I will highlight some of my favorite dishes as well as some of the expected ways of conducting oneself when in South Korea.

Going out for food is often a very communal and bonding experience in Korea. I have had instances of friends, clubs, and even classes meeting after an event in order to grab some delicious food and drinks together. Food is often times served in the “family style” wherein a large quantity of certain dishes are ordered for the entire table to share. One of the most quintessential examples of Korean cuisine is Korean barbecue. The typical way this is conducted is that each table has a central gas/charcoal grill on which patrons cook the meat themselves. The meat varies greatly with some of the most popular kinds being: pork belly (samgyeopsal), thinly sliced marinated steak (bulgogi) and beef short-ribs (galbi). Customers then help themselves to lettuce leaves, garlic, chili paste (gochujang) and soy beans. Then you wrap the meat up in the lettuce adding whatever sides you please and eating it with your hands. The act of cooking the meat yourself in a group adds a fun social dynamic to eating and it is typical to drink soju (the classic Korean liquor) together.

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Korean Barbecue with Banchan and Soju!

South Korea also has a distinct take on fried chicken, this is probably my favorite specialty here. In particular there is a dish where a restaurant will bring out a pan filled with fried chicken, cheese and corn. They then place this on a gas burner which melts the cheese and customers mix the marinated chicken, corn and cheese together for a delicious treat. Fried chicken is commonly paired with beer and it is a common food to get on weekends. Nearly all dinners are served with side dishes called banchan. They are more than just appetizers and are an essential part of the meal; common examples of banchan include: kimchi (fermented cabbage), tofu, seasoned soybeans, and spicy cucumber salad. There are many more distinct Korean dishes but I want to continue my post into a discussion on some of the formalities that one should observe while dining in Korea.

Some Cheesy Chicken Goodness!

Firstly, when a table is brought a drink it is deemed to polite to pour another person’s cup for them. Once doing so, the person should then fill up your cup for you. It is necessary to do this with both hands, both when you are receiving a drink or pouring for another person. I really like this aspect as it demonstrates respect. Additionally, if you are ever to participate in a family meal, it is necessary that everyone wait for the oldest member of the family to begin eating first. Lastly, it is considered very impolite to waste food, even more so than western culture. In fact, in some buffet style restaurants you are charged extra for not finishing all the food you are provided. This is also something I noticed during my stay at a Buddhist temple, where the monks directed us to always wipe our plates with a piece of kimchi to pick up any remaining grains of rice and show respect by completely finishing our meal. I have greatly enjoyed the dining culture in Korea and have also found it relatively easy to adopt its standards for etiquette. Thanks for reading and in my next post I will detail my trip to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea!