Now that I’m back in Edinburgh I want to look back at my time in Korea and see how i did with my goals for the trip.
I absolutely loved the Introduction to Korean Culture class that I did. I came away with a big knowledge of Korea from who is on the money to who the streets are named after, who the statues are of to why certain things are the way they are today. Korea’s history and culture is so intertwined with Buddhism that my love of the class re-inspired me to go and do some of one of my original goals and try out some Korean Buddhism. Just a few hours before my flight home I went back to the temple that I was at last week (this time I arrived in time for the actual meditation part!). It was hard. Two times I felt aware that I wasn’t thinking anything and was just in the moment, and it felt really good, but then all the thoughts came flooding back in. People and places I’d not seen or thought of in years just came popping into my thoughts. It was like the harder I tried not to think the easier thoughts and conversations with myself came into my head. Maybe the fact that I was even aware earlier of not thinking anything was wrong because I was thinking about not thinking anything, I really don’t know how this works! This was made even more confusing by the riddles that the monk spoke in for the talk. Maybe an enlightened person would totally understand it, but I didn’t have a clue what he was on about. Despite the difficulty of it all I did really enjoy the meditation and it is definitely something I want to carry on now I’m back.
I also absolutely loved Korean food. The bibimbap (rice, beef, vegetables, hot sauce etc) on a sizzling hot plate from the restaurant on campus was awesome, and I think I kept that place in business ordering that almost everyday, it was just so good (cheap too!). The street food was great too, and I never got sick once in the whole month there. I also count drinks into the food goal, and thought I’d done well here until the last night when the American dude in the backpackers (I flew home on the Sunday so had to move out as Friday was our last night in the dorm) says “What you drinking that stuff for?” referring to my can of Hite Korean lager. “Come on now, man. Hite’s not that bad and it’s the best beer out here, stop giving it a hard time” was my response. Turns out he was right to rip me for it as I was introduced that night to Kloud beer. Definitely the best Korean beer! And I only discovered it on the last night! Cheaper than Hite too! We all drank a few and I felt I made up for it, at least. The ever-popular soju (ridiculously cheap at about £1 a bottle in the shops) was disgusting, but the makkoli was nice; it was to be drank from a bowl though, so you resembled a dog whenever you drank it. I never got round to trying live octopus though! Booooooo!
I felt both speaking exams for the Korean language class went really well, with the written exam going not so great. The most important part was how I used my (basic) Korean to interact with the locals whilst out and about which made me proud of what I’d achieved, and thought made a good impression on the locals who always seemed delighted that a foreigner had gone to the effort of learning some of the language. Considering I wasn’t even going to do the language class up until the last minute I’m very pleased how it went with all things considered. I think that learning some has definitely inspired me to learn another language now that I’m back so I think that I took a huge amount from those classes.
As far as the skills part went, I felt that my time management was really good, this was down to the Korean Culture class being so interesting as I’ve already mentioned. Hopefully I can learn and improve on this for my university work next year. I never once got lost in Seoul so I achieved that skill. Although perhaps I can’t take all the credit for that as English signs are widely available but an achievement all the same. There’s no such thing as getting lost though when you are in such a friendly place is another way of looking at it. And finally, I feel this blogging has been (somewhat of) a success. Really not been sure what to put, but I’ve enjoyed writing it so hopefully that has shown when people have read them. The blogging world shall no longer be a mystery in the future.
It was a great trip and I really would once again like to thank the International Office and everybody else involved for choosing me for a scholarship and for all their help, I could not have done this without that so I’m extremely grateful. Korea is a lovely country, and Seoul is a really cool city with a lot going on, but nice at the same time as there’s still a lot of traditional architecture around, and very scenic with all the mountains and hills in the city, you really feel like you’re in the country at times when you climb up one of them if it’s quiet. I would definitely recommend Konkuk University to any student thinking of going there for the summer program next summer. The courses were really good, and the team of student volunteers were some of the friendliest, nicest people I’ve ever met, and were really helpful in helping us all settle in.