Last week was sure a week without much sleep and a lot of going on. Friday right after Akaraka it was Buddha’s Birthday so there were no classes and the weekend after a group of my friends and I decided to go exploring Korea so we visited country’s second biggest city – Busan (or Pusan, depending on the spelling).
Even though it was Buddha’s Birthday last week there was a huge festival in the honor of this holiday on the streets of Seoul about a week earlier. It was really something else. It was one of those experiences that make me extremely happy that I decided to study abroad at Yonsei and in a country I knew nothing about and that is so much different from anything I’ve ever experienced. So many citizens took part in the festival processions wearing traditional costumes, playing different instruments, controlling big sculptures that were lit up etc. It was really great to see how much pride Koreans take in this holiday. One of my favorite parts of the procession was the dragon who was breathing fire! It was amazing. And the unity of the people was also something that I enjoyed very much. After the procession we went to the temple that was really nicely decorated and enjoyed the events happening there. Choosing Korea as my Spring semester study abroad location was definitely the right decision and everyday I am happier and happier I decided to come on exchange here.
Even though Seoul is very metropolitan and traditional at the same time and it offers a wide range of events, it is always nice to also explore other parts of this country. Busan is the second biggest city in Korea located about a three hour train ride in the Southeast. One of my friends was participating in a Frisbee tournament in Busan past weekend so some of us decided to join and explore the city as well. Traveling on a train in Korea is very convenient (for foreigners I definitely recommend getting a Korail Pass that will allow you to travel on any train for the amount of days you chose). Busan was an interesting city. We visited a temple, UN cemetery, a bridge, and we walked around and explored the city. It was actually nice to see another Korean city besides Seoul and I have to admit that I like Seoul better. This may be due to the fact that Seoul became my home and I spent past three months in this city. One thing I really liked about Busan was how much more tamed the taxi drivers were: No one drove through red light or was driving extremely fast like they do it in Seoul. In general, Busan has a completely different atmosphere than Seoul: It is less metropolitan and yet it still is a big city with everything a city should have. Busan is worth a visit, for sure!
Apart from sightseeing and walking around Busan, we also spent some time on the Dadaepo beach where my friend played frisbee. Being a European, frisbee is not that known in Europe and I never thought it was a real sport. The way I saw it was more as a hobby or recreation, not a real competitive sport. Last weekend I was proved wrong. People played with so much passion and dedication, but there was no tension at all. People on the opposite teams were friends and they enjoyed each others’ company. It was definitely a much different experience from what I would have ever expected. The best thing is that my friend’s team actually won the tournament, which made watching my first frisbee games that much more special. I also got a chance to meet a lot of people, many Americans and Canadians (since frisbee is mainly popular in this part of the world), who either study or work in Korea (many of them teach English here). Overall, it was a really good weekend and I learned/experienced some new things.
Since the end of the semester is approaching I also have quite some work to do: I have final presentations and papers due almost every week so it is really hard to balance traveling and school. Even though it is hard to do it, it is by no means impossible. Doing more work over the weekdays gives me weekends off and I can travel. This weekend I am heading to Jeju Island, a beautiful island in the south. I am very excited for it as I’ve heard from so many people that it is one of the most beautiful places they have ever seen. Let’s see how it ends up being! 🙂