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.
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.
I’ve been placed into Level 5 in SNU’s regular Korean language program, but the story of how I got there is not so straightforward. For now, suffice it to say that I was originally put in Level 4 on the basis of the normal placement test, but requested to move up and was able to do so after taking another mini-test. I’ll discuss this a bit more in a forthcoming post on my early impressions of the SNU language program, but at any rate, the teachers/administrators were very accommodating throughout the process and allowed me to move up even though it meant one Level 5 class would exceed the cap of 12 students per class.
In addition to taking a language course in the morning, on weekday afternoons I’ve also started volunteering in one of the labs in the SNU College of Pharmacy. I had read about some of the professor’s work last spring and found it highly interesting, so a few months ago I emailed him completely out of the blue asking for an opportunity to join his lab temporarily. He has been very generous in allowing me to do so, and the other lab members (primarily graduate students) have also been very welcoming. It’s already been a great way to get outside the language school bubble, although I’ll have to be extra conscientious about practicing Korean. In an environment that demands a lot of technical terminology, it’s just too easy to fall into the habit of sticking with English (and of course, the Korean graduate students want to practice English with me…).
That’s it for now, but hopefully over the next few days I’ll be able to catch up on the last two weeks. Stay tuned for further thoughts on the SNU language program, my dorm room and neighborhood, the SNU campus, visa adventures, and more. 🙂