The pandemic may have resulted in a lot of students being unable to go on exchange, especially outside of the EU. However fourth year BSc2 student Sean Goedgeluk is one of the fortunate few who was able to go abroad and is currently having the time of his life in South Korea, a country which has been widely lauded for its exceptional handling of the Covid-19 crisis. What does an exchange during a pandemic look like? Below you can read about Sean's experience in South Korea.
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While sitting in a café in Hongdae, the young and vibrant fashion hub of the South Korean capital Seoul, I reflect on an amazing time in this beautiful country. I think back to the many different parts of this journey, from my 14-day quarantine and the anti-virus curbs to the clubbing scene and many trips, but one thing is for sure: over the past months, I have been lucky enough to escape a troubled world and experience a new normal.
My name is Sean Goedgeluk, a fourth year BSc2 student, and last semester I attended Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) as a visiting student. When I arrived in Seoul, I was thrown into a completely new way of thinking compared to the Netherlands; not only in a cultural setting, but also the way that they deal with COVID-19. As a result, a strict entry procedure and quarantine of fourteen days, with location tracking of my phone, were my first introduction to the country. That said, it was all very much worth it, because I came out of quarantine and arrived in a world where bars were open, and safe. With clubs opening a couple of weeks after that, it was definitely a great time to be in Seoul.
The vibrant streets of Seoul
Before I dive into all the great experiences, I briefly want to talk about SKKU. Founded way back in 1398, it has a long history of being among the best universities in South Korea. Because of their highly ranked, international character, they offer plenty of English-taught courses. For me, this offered the opportunity to indulge in courses I would otherwise never have access to. Two especially interesting courses were “Introduction to Deep Learning” and “Dynamic Economics”, and of course “Beginner Korean” could not stay out of my curriculum. One other great thing offered by the university, is their great buddy system. The willingness to help and the generosity of the Korean people, more on this later, shined through in my buddy from the first second we got in contact. She helped me a great deal during my quarantine and also many times after that.
A hiking trip I undertook with my new friends from SKKU
Although I would like to say that I studied very hard, the studying was mostly tucked away between the many trips, nights out and other great experiences. I definitely did not sit still, and it is safe to say that I fell in love with this country. Let me start with the Korean people. With some exceptions of course, they are some of the most welcoming, friendly and generous people that I have ever met. On a small trip to the Daeraengi village, we were gifted small memorabilia when the owner of a cafe, who did not speak English, found out that we were leaving for Europe soon. The importance of food also shines through in their generosity. Sit down at any Korean market stall, either at 6 in the morning after a night out in Busan or 8 at night in Seoul, and people will offer you their delicacies. Lastly, I should not forget to mention the Korean style drinking and dining, where shared food and lots of Soju are combined with really fun drinking games. Although the country is beautiful and Seoul’s nightlife is great, I will definitely not forget these little cultural experiences either.
Korean barbeque - a must-try
Seoul never ceases to amaze me and with hidden places everywhere, it is a city that you will never stop exploring. One particular experience was Halloween night in Itaewon, the international party district of the city. From around 11 at night, the streets fill up with people dressed in the most amazing costumes. As the clubs blast their music onto the street, it is truly one big party for everyone to enjoy and the perfect representation of partying in Seoul.
Halloween party in the streets of Seoul
Move away from the night and into the day and Seoul still has plenty to offer, from markets to plenty of beautiful hikes. One particularly memorable hike was on the old city wall of Seoul. Here, you get a beautiful view of the city and I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Seoul. Another magical hike was in Busan, where a night adventure up into the mountains offers a beautiful view of the lit-up city.
As an avid travel enthusiast, I was looking forward to travel around Asia when I signed up for SKKU, but this proved impossible with the ongoing pandemic. Yet, I was far from disappointed with what Korea has to offer. From beautiful tea fields and the sprawling sea city of Busan, which has a great night life by the way, to Jeju island, a small Korean paradise, and the Hahoe village, a traditional Korean village far away from sprawling Seoul, Korea has a big and diverse offering of sights that I can highly recommend. As a fact, I already know I am going to miss the Korean express busses. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions about where to travel and what to do!
The gorgeous South korean landscape
Are you not afraid to be thrown into a completely new culture, party until the sun comes up and discover plenty of new sights, then consider an exchange to Seoul, South Korea. It has so many incredible experiences to offer, far more than what I have mentioned.
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