Window to Seoul

Real life in the land of K-dramas


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Sangju Dried Persimmon Festival

This past Saturday I took a day trip to Sangju, a small but very old city in Gyeongsangbuk-do. It’s actually one of the cities that contributed to the name of the Gyeongsang provinces, along with Gyeongju. I was going there as part of a series of trips hosted by the Sangju city government to promote their city for tourism. Most of the participants were Koreans, but I and a few other foreigners got to tag along thanks to the organizer of the Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group (meetup.com), who scored some extra invites. Continue reading


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Seoul International Fireworks Festival (Oct 6)

Now that the SNU language program’s fall semester has ended, it’s time for me to play catch-up with this blog. On October 6th, I went to see the annual Seoul International Fireworks Festival with one of my language partners. The festival consisted of four 20-minute shows, by Italy, China, the US, and South Korea in turn, with the fireworks being set off over the Han River by Yeouido. They also play music along with the fireworks, and the best place to both see and hear the show is in front of the 63 Building.  Of course, about a bajillion people attend the festival, so if you want to get a good spot, you have to get there super early. We didn’t do that, so by the time we got to a couple of subway stops away, where we were supposed to transfer to Line 5, the station was so packed that we decided to bail out and just walk the rest of the way (about 45 minutes). Continue reading


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An Amazing Weekend: Part 2 (Sept 29, Anyang)

In the middle of September, I joined a website for people looking for language partners, called conversationexchange.com. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made here so far: I was contacted by over 30 Koreans within two days, and by now I’ve gotten messages from literally hundreds. I haven’t followed up with all of them, but I have chatted with a fair number on Skype or Kakaotalk, and I’ve met three in person so far. At least one of those has become a regular, weekly language partner for me – we have dinner and coffee on Wednesdays, and alternate English and Korean. In the case of another, we really hit it off and beyond just being language partners (it’s mostly one-sided in that we communicate 99% in Korean), we’ve already become good friends in general. He’s helped me with a ton of stuff, from buying a used iPhone to checking my homework (and commenting on it in much greater detail than either of my SNU teachers). Plus, he’s generally just an awesome person to hang out with, especially because we have a surprising amount in common. I’ll call him WG on here for now. This post will be about the day we first met, after a week of instant messaging on Skype. We spent the day in his hometown, Anyang, which is a satellite city just south of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do. Continue reading


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An Amazing Weekend: Part 1 (Sept 28)

I’ve been in Seoul for well over a month now… O.o Funny how time passes so quickly.

On Sept. 28, I received my alien registration card (exactly four weeks after applying), which is making my life here much easier since it finally allowed me to get a bank account and smartphone, view Korean-only Cyworld pages (necessary in order to check out the websites of most SNU extracurricular clubs), etc. After the immigration office, I met up with a couple of my classmates to work on a class project, for which we had to make a video about a few famous places in Seoul. Our group was supposed to introduce Daehakro (대학로, an area famous for its theaters and nightlife), Naksan Park (낙산공원), and Iwha Maeul (이화마을, a small neighborhood famous for its wall paintings). It had been raining all afternoon, but fortunately stopped shortly after we met up around 5 pm. In fact, the weather turned out to be incredibly beautiful for the rest of the day, with the perfect temperature, breeze, late afternoon golden light, and sunset…. Continue reading


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First impressions of the SNU language program

Somehow, I’m already into my third week of classes at the Language Education Institute of Seoul National University. While the first couple of weeks are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d give a rundown on what I think of the program so far, and how it compares to my experience at Ewha Womans University’s language institute last summer.

The SNU main gate.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently taking Level 5. There are 6 levels in the regular program, plus an additional “advanced academic class” (연구반) beyond Level 6. The placement test was on Wednesday the week before classes started. It mainly consisted of short 2-3 line dialogues, where we had to fill in logical-sounding responses with certain required grammar patterns. The test got more difficult the further we went, and on the latter pages there were also short answer and mini-essay questions, again with required grammar or vocabulary. We got 1.5 hrs to take the test. Continue reading


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A Small Introduction

So, I’ve been a little slower than I had intended in getting this blog started. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Seoul for two weeks already, but a lot has happened in that time. I’ll be dividing up the last couple of weeks into a series of posts that will hopefully be more digestible than the massive ramble that might result otherwise. This post will just be a (relatively) quick introduction to where I am and what I’ve been up to.

A spectacular sunset greeted us as the plane landed at Incheon Airport.

As a student at Seoul National University’s Language Education Institute, I was lucky enough to get a room in one of SNU’s off-campus dormitories, which are essentially university-managed apartment buildings. The rooms in the off-campus dormitories are all singles. I’m in the dormitory called Yewon, which is located very conveniently in Daehak-dong (~10 minutes from the SNU main campus). The streets around the dormitory building are packed with an incredible number of restaurants, bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, PC rooms, etc. – literally more than I can count. Every material thing you could possibly need is within a five minute walk, tops. Plus, most shops stay open very late. My first night here, fresh off the plane, the streets were still full of people at midnight, at which time I was able to buy everything from orange juice to a pillow from neighborhood stores. Continue reading

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