Here’s a little something from six weeks ago:
As I write this, I am sitting in an airplane. A year ago me and two of my friends began the process of applying for exchange studies, in hopes of seeing something new and broadening our cultural understanding. After all the bureaucracy we got accepted, and finally after all the waiting, here we are – on our way to Seoul, South Korea, a city with 25 million people living within it’s metropolitan area. Next four months we’ll spend living and studying there, while also trying to get the most out of the experience – exploring and diving into the different culture.
As this will be my first time outside of Europe, a culture shock is unavoidable. These days, when it’s so easy to acquire knowledge before even stepping on the soil of a new country, the shock will be a lot less critical. There’s no way going around it, however – the language and the culture will take some time to adapt.
As in everything I do or experience, I will try to take this as an opportunity to improve myself in some way. Moving to Denmark already opened my eyes in many ways and greatly shifted my mindset, and I think so will this trip. I’m going to meet many new people with different ways to think, and experience a whole new culture with some different values and perspectives. Time to take in all the new. This will either be the next chapter on my journey, or just an interlude.
Fast forward six amazing weeks, and here I am – feeling bad about having written a lot less than I would have wanted during the time. But not letting that bring be down, I would like to ramble a little and share some of my first impressions.
The culture shock was less critical than I expected! It didn’t take long to feel like home here. The food, the language and many other things are definitely different from what I’m used to, and yet the general atmosphere feels very familiar.
Since the start of the semester, we have mostly spent weeks at the university campus, and weekends exploring Seoul, which is about a 50 min ride away by metro. I am living in Suwon, which technically is another city that’s just a part of Seoul’s metropolitan area.
Seoul as a city is fascinating. Coming from a rather small town, and even having lived in Copenhagen for two years, the city is unbelievably huge. Boy, is there a lot to see. Even if we spent our four months here actively seeking ‘cool new things’, we still wouldn’t have seen everything this city has to offer. There are areas where the great wealth can’t be missed, and places that haven’t quite caught up with the progress yet – both equally interesting.
After these six weeks, the city’s hubbub is something I am still trying to get used to – I am the kind of person who gets restless spending extended periods of time in busy crowds and a loud atmosphere. Most likely it’s possible to get used to all of this, but I am not sure if I could live in a city of this scale for longer periods of time. There are just so many people! During the rush time city roars and the metros are literally packed with people. Again, something that I’ve never experienced before.
The nature here is magnificent, and for what I’ve seen so far, there is something very familiar to it too. The pine trees, despite their funky curvedness, make me feel like home. The weather has been brilliant also – coming from the Nordics, t-shirt weather in the beginning of October is unheard of. The air humidity is tangible, and gives the heat an extra kick. However, slowly, we are getting to what can be called the fall, with rain and chillier weather. Oh, I’m home again.
Lastly, I want to mention something I already came to understand after moving to Denmark – people really are “the same” no matter where you go. Culture may create a mask to differentiate us from each other, but we all have the same basic instincts and behaviour. Our surroundings do mould us into individuals, but if the basic human needs are met, we all laugh, talk, walk, have our pleasures and insecurities etc. – in spite of looking slightly different. Koreans and the exchange students from all over the world have shown this once again.
I am planning on writing about my experience in more detail, when I find the time for it. So far it’s been quite hectic! I will leave you with a couple of videos I’ve made so far, showing glimpses of my trip. (Weeks 1-2, Weeks 3-4) The third instalment will be released shortly! I hope you enjoy them!
UPDATE 9.10.2017: A playlist of all the videos in the Glimpses of Korea series can be found here!