KrissinKorea: 안녕Cherry Blossoms

April 20, 2019

It is with heavy hearts that Koreans and visiting foreigners alike wish the blooming Cherry Blossoms farewell. Cherry Blossom season lasts about 10 days in South Korea and it’s a pretty big deal. Stores like Art Box and Starbucks start selling merchandise and drinks inspired by Cherry Blossoms at least 2 weeks prior to their blooming. People from all over the world plan their visits to Korea and Japan in anticipation of witnessing this beautiful time of the Spring season. I was lucky enough to be able to walk just down the road to the main part of my campus to see some whenever I wanted to. Unfortunately the blooming period is over and all the petals are being blown away by the wind, which in itself is very beautiful to see. What was once a pinkish-white is now bright green—signaling that summer is on its way. Even though the time has passed, let me tell you guys about one of the most magical Cherry Blossom festivals I went to.

The 2019 Seokchonhosu Lake Cherry Blossom Festival in Jamsil was held from April 5th to April 12th. There was no entrance fee and anyone was welcome to enjoy the Cherry Blossom lined paths around the two, large, connected lakes. The two lakes are split by Lotte World, which is one of South Korea’s amusement parks. At the festival, visitors can bask in the awesomeness of the many cultural and musical performances taking place. Face painting, caricature booths, and experience exhibitions are also available for those who wish to participate. One of my favorite parts of the festival must have been the huge balls of cotton candy my roommate and I bought. They were way too much to finish, but we rose to the challenge.

When my roommate and I first arrived at the festival, one of the most impressive things we noticed was the amount of people in the area. Even though everything was so nice to look at, walking around without bumping into someone every two seconds was a real challenge. We tried our best to move with the flow of pedestrian traffic but many times people would stop abruptly in the middle of the path to take pictures or look around, which would cause a domino effect of people tripping over one another. Not fun. However, as the afternoon went by, more and more people grew tired of the crowd and started leaving, which was great news for the lot of us that stayed. This was the first time that my roommate and I were truly able to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms and got to take pictures of them.

Each Cherry Blossom tree is beautiful, but when you put them all together in clusters, they form huge bouquets that rise way above your head and extend for miles. The effect is amazing. Everything was great, but there was one moment that I remember the most and, as I am writing this, I still remember the feeling it gave me.

The air froze around us briefly before it came peacefully rushing past us as people kept walking by. The breeze hit first, making our hair and skirts billow along with it, but then came the gentle, snow-like falling of the petals. I stood in awe of the event before me and I managed to catch some of the petals in my outstretched hands. This only lasted about 15 seconds before it was over and the magic was gone.

Cherry blossom festival sign

In your heart, there is a Cherry Blossom blooming

I don’t know the next time that I will be able to witness Cherry Blossom season again in Korea, but I hope that it is not too far away. I have truly fallen in love with the many things this country has to offer and getting to experience the coming and going of the Cherry Blossoms was one of the highlights of my experience so far. I look forward to seeing them again soon.

KrissinKorea: 14 Hours Later

March 1, 2019

Take Off

My flight was set to take off at 12 p.m. on Thursday, February 21st and land at Incheon airport at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday, February 22nd. My dad drove me to the airport and helped me get my bags checked in. Everything was happening so fast–– or so it felt. He followed me until we got to security and then we said our goodbyes. I already miss him. I felt pretty sad waiting for my flight but I kept reminding myself that this experience will be good for me and I know deep down I’m excited, but change is hard for me sometimes.

When I got on the plane, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the seat next to me was empty. I had so much leg room! The seat itself was pretty stiff, but it reclined a decent amount. When I booked my ticket, I made sure to have a window seat because I love to look out the window during airplane rides. The in-flight entertainment was pretty cool. They had a bunch of music to listen to and different arcade games. I played Pac Man like 20 times! Also, I know people are always bashing on airplane food, but Korean Air knows what’s up. The first meal I had was traditional Bibimbap, which came with a side of rice, seaweed soup, pineapples, and pickles with chili sauce. They also provided sesame oil and chili paste to make the Bibimbap extra yummy. I feasted to say the least, but they ran out of ginger ale when I asked so I opted for a beer. They’re basically the same thing, right?

airplane food


We flew over areas that I have never been to or seen in my entire life. Since I’m used to flying South to Ecuador, I’ve never had the opportunity to cross over the North Pole, but it was amazing. I couldn’t stop looking outside at the beautiful colors in the sky and at the ice below.


My view of the North Pole

I also really loved the view of New York when we were leaving. Everything looked so small and crowded!


My view of the Concrete Jungle

At one point we flew over land that looked like it didn’t belong to Earth and was out of a science fiction film. The terrain was rugged, grey, cracked, and had many river-looking pathways that intertwined through the ridges of the hills. It was crazy. If you’ve ever watched Interstellar, Mann’s Planet looks exactly like what I’m talking about!

mann planet

Interstellar reference photo

After about five hours I realized that I would have no butt when I landed in Korea. I was sitting for 14 hours guys! I was losing it! On top of that, I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know what was wrong with me because if I know anything about myself, it’s that I can fall asleep anywhere at any time. I am a high functioning sloth, for real. So for most of the flight, I played Pac Man, listened to music, read my book, and pouted about not being able to sleep.

When we landed at Incheon Airport, I wanted to kiss the floor beneath me. I was so grateful to finally be off the plane. During the luggage claim I ran into a few other people that were heading to Yonsei and we buddied up to try to figure out our way to the dorm buildings. We took a bus and got off at the Ewha Woman’s University back gate stop, which put us at about an 8 minute walk to SK Global where many of us were staying.

Now comes the tricky part.

I brought two big suitcases, a carry-on, and a book bag with me (not the best decision I’ve made in my life). That’s a total of 4 items that need to somehow get from the bus stop to the dorm rooms. I don’t know if you guys know this, but Korea is extremely hilly and Yonsei itself was built on the side of a mountain. Do you know what that means? It means I have to drag everything up one giant hill! Four pieces of luggage and two arms–– that’s what I am up against. Anyway, after numerous stretching breaks, a lot of panting, and a few internal, moral-boosting conversations, I managed to get my luggage into SK Global. I almost cried when I made it, let me tell you.



Once I checked in, I handed in my tuberculosis test results and grabbed a bag containing my bedding for the semester and headed upstairs. I was lucky enough to get a room on the top floor because the view is great!


The view from my dorm

After finally unpacking everything, I walked down to the convenience store to buy some food. I decided on a kimchi rice with tuna triangle kimbap–– my first meal in Korea! So far I’ve been having a great time. I’ll tell you guys about a few of my outings in my next blog post. Take care everyone!

Back Home: End to a Great Adventure and a Million Memories (posted by Indira in South Korea)

July 8, 2013

I honestly can’t believe I’m back home. When the plane touched down in Frankfurt and I was finally in Europe, I felt weird. It is then that it hit me that my South Korean adventure was over. Last four months have been absolutely amazing and I’ve enjoyed every single bit of it: Trips, friendships, food, classes, culture, history, tradition, but also sleepless nights I spent with the people that have made my last semester as great as it possibly gets.

The morning I left Korea I said goodbye to the people I shared so much with over the past four months; people I got to know so well in such a short period; people I hope to stay in touch despite the fact I won’t be seeing them on a daily basis any longer. Choosing South Korea as my study abroad location for the spring semester was a great decision, no doubt about that. In fall 2012 I studied abroad in Sweden and I already had what I thought to be the best semester yet. When I decided to go to Korea in spring instead of staying in Sweden for a year many were surprised especially since they knew how much I came to love Sweden and my experience there.  To be honest, I was very anxious to see how my semester in Asia would turn out to be. I choose a country I knew almost nothing about and didn’t speak the language, but also a country that was so different compared to my previous experiences. The beginning was rough: Getting used to the new culture where modernity and tradition meet, making new friends, getting used to the new system of classes and teaching style – it was all a challenge. I was, however, more than happy to embrace that challenge and make the best out of it.

It was the embracing the unknown and enjoying the adventure that made my semester in Korea so amazing. Oftentimes I’m asked whether I liked Sweden more than Korea. To be honest, I like them both equally! The two semesters I had were so much different in so many ways and yet they were both so amazing. Each was the best in its own way. I find it amazing how much I’ve grown over the past year I spent abroad and how this year came to shape my personality in a slightly different way than before. I am more self aware of the world, more patient, more flexible and easy to adapt, but I’m also richer for so many new experiences and amazing memories.

My semester in Korea will always be one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I got to live in a big city of 10.6 million people, try all these different dishes, experience Korean and Asian culture firsthand, and travel. I also find it fascinating how little I knew about Korea before going there and how much I know now: All my classes were focused on Korea and I learned a lot about this country socially, historically, demographically, economically, as well as about the relations between Korea and other countries. The best thing was learning about the country and then seeing it all unfold in front of  my eyes: I would learn something about Korean history and a short subway ride would take me to a museum that would add colors to the pictures in my head. I really enjoyed that kind of learning.

Discovering Korea was also amazing: I got to travel all around Seoul, Incheon, Muuido Island, Busan, Jeju Island. All of these places gave me a different perception of Korea that together formed a perfect image about the country I had such a hard time leaving.

A week-long trip to Cambodia was undoubtedly one of the most amazing things I ever have – and possibly ever will – experience. This country in the southeastern Asia with high temperatures and humid air was something I’ve never seen before: Riding elephants, admiring centuries old temples, riding tuk-tuks, and exploring the part of the world I never even thought of visiting. Visit to Cambodia is definitely one of the highlights of my year abroad. Actually, this entire year has been one big highlight and I am so happy I took the chance to spend it abroad.

Possibly the most important part of the semester in Korea are the people I met: My core group of friends, my classmates, my roommate, my Korean friends, my mentor, my language exchange partner, all of them are a reason behind everything great that happened in Korea. Now I know I have friends all over the world, friends I can rely on even if I’ve known them for merely four months. That is the beauty of the study abroad – people bond and create friendships really fast. But that is also the saddest part of it all: Leaving is so much harder when you know that you might never again see some of the amazing people you met. It is all, nonetheless, an important aspect of study abroad.

I can only wholeheartedly recommend Yonsei University and South Korea to any student interested in study abroad. Regardless of your major (Yonsei is a big university and it offers classes in English in a wide range of subjects), weather preference (it can be both hot and cold in Seoul), or size of the city (Seoul is a big city, but you can always find that little street or the part of the city that will just about fit your preferences) Korea won’t disappoint. I promise. I was very skeptical in the beginning and now I can’t wait to visit Korea again. So many great things await students and visitors in this city: Technology is everywhere, cafes too, the food is amazing, it is easy to travel around (just make sure you get a T-Money card and the subway is all yours to explore and use), people are so warm and hospitable, culture and tradition is breathtaking.

I will miss you Korea. Actually, I already do.


Farewell Seoul – Thanks for a great semester!

끝: Last Week of Classes, Exams, Birthdays, and Goodbyes (posted by Indira in South Korea)

June 27, 2013

So here it is, the end. It seems like it was just yesterday when I arrived to Seoul, a place I knew nothing about and kept getting lost in. It seems like I just stopped wearing my winter coat that I had to wear all through the cold months of February and March. It seems like I just moved in to my room on the fifth floor of the International House, met my roommate, and formed strong friendships with people from all over the world just today. But it also seems like the fear of the new and the unknown never existed because I definitely feel Seoul is my home away from home and I feel happy here.

Coming back from Cambodia was definitely a wake up call that showed me that I had less than 2 weeks left in the beautiful place I am by no means ready to leave. The last week of classes was very busy for me as I had so many final projects, presentations, and papers due. I had to work a lot to be ready in time and luckily everything went well and I met all the deadlines. That was, however, not the end of school work – I had exams waiting for me just around the corner. Three out of four classes I was taking this semester had an in-class final exam so I had a lot of studying to do. Two of them were cumulative and quite extensive (my Free Trade Agreements class final exam lasted 4 hours and I actually needed every single minute to finish it). I have to admit that it felt really good to be done with the exams and know I have a couple of days free before I had to leave Korea.

It was great knowing I’ll get to see all of the people I got really close with at a joint birthday party that three of my friends organized. I really enjoyed celebrating with all the people who made the last semester one of the best ever, but I was also sad since I knew that in just a couple of days all that will be left are so many great memories, millions of pictures, friendships that will last, and future Facebook messages, trip planning, and Skype conversations as means of staying in touch and seeing each other. No longer will we be able to gather for a quick dinner at the “Strawberry Place,” one of our favorite places to eat at. Going Seoul exploring will be impossible as none of us will be there. A quick midnight snack run to GS25 (convenience store chain in Korea) won’t happen again.

The last two days in Korea were all about being around the people who became my Yonsei family and who changed me: they made this semester so much better and I definitely wanted to be around them as long as possible. Thursday night we had our very last night together as my flight back home was on Friday so we went to some of our favorite places in Sinchon (area of the city where Yonsei is located). It was really hard to balance the feelings: I was happy to be around my friends, but I was very sad knowing that I will leave the next day.

Out with friends in Sinchon

Out with friends in Sinchon

Packing was very hard in itself: Having to pack 4 months of my life and just go was one of the worst things I had to do. The good (or bad) thing is that I’m already used to it, but every time I leave a place it feels different. It’s the same sadness, but projected in a different way. I have, however, learned that every ending is also a beginning: When I left Sweden last semester I was incredibly sad, but that ending was a beginning to a new adventure – a semester in Korea. This time I was going home. To be honest, I’ve missed home, my family, my pets, and food. That is a great thing to look forward to!

On Friday morning I finished up packing and then met up with three of my friends who were going to the airport at the same time like me in the SK Global House lobby to say our final goodbye to our friends. It was really hard just leaving the most amazing group of people I ever met behind… Goodbyes at the airport were hard too. Michael, Can, and Loreana are three people I got really close with and boarding the plane knowing they won’t be there felt weird and sad. The good thing is that this goodbye, just like some others, is actually not a goodbye. It is more along the see-you-later lines. Some of the people I met in Korea (including Michael, Can, and Loreana) go to school relatively close to Richmond so I’ll be able to see them again. A lot of people live in Europe so I’ll be able to see then when I’m back home in Europe. That made the goodbyes and the end of the semester easier.

Leaving is hard, but I have something to look forward to: Home and seeing all the friends I made in Korea again! So even though this is the end; it’s just the end of the semester, nothing more. 🙂

Many of the friends I made in Seoul

Many of the friends I made in Seoul

제주도: Jeju Island is a Heaven on Earth (posted by Indira in South Korea)

May 31, 2013

As the time I have left in Korea is slipping out of my hands like the grains of sand, I definitely try my best to balance traveling and school. Korea is such an amazing country and I don’t think that a lifetime of traveling and exploring would be enough to see everything the place I now call home has to offer. Knowing that I have about 3 weeks left and so much to see, do, and experience, and also to make sure I finish all my assignments on time is somewhat putting me under pressure. But the motto should be “work hard, explore hard” and it is all possible.

Last weekend a group of 15 of my friends and I decided to go and see Jeju-do, an island that contains the natural World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tube. The entire Island is dominated by the Halla Mountain (Halla-San) and there are many beautiful waterfalls, caves, cliffs, and beaches to see and spend time exploring. The island itself is located to the south of the Korean peninsula and it undoubtedly offers a scenery that is truly unforgettable.

Out trip started by taking a plane (fairly inexpensive one hour fight) Seoul to Jeju City from where we took a two hour bus ride (5000 won = less than 5 dollars) to Segowipo, a city in the south of the island. It is interesting that the Jeju Island consists of two cities only: The entire north part of the city is Jeju-City and the south half is Segowipo. We stayed in Segowipo as most of the tourist attractions are located there. First day we went to one of the waterfalls that is very close to the harbor. The area is really beautiful and there are quite some tourists. Afterwards we went for a lunch at one of the numerous Korean restaurants serving famous Jeju black pork, which was by all means delicious.


Jeju black pork

Afternoon was reserved for a lazy day at the Jungmun beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in Jeju. Since everything on the island is located somewhat far from each other taking a cab or a bus is highly necessary. Beach was about an hour or so from the city. Even though the swimming season was not open and the water was cold some people were brave enough to swim. I didn’t dare to do so. Laying in the sun was also nice  and relaxing! Since Jeju is in the south, it is much warmer and sunnier there so it was perfect weather for sunbathing and frisbee on the beach.


Playing frisbee on the beach

The second day at Jeju was by far the most intense day of my life. Hallu-San is 2000m high mountain and smaller group of us decided to hike up to the top to see the crater. After about 5 hours of hiking steep mountain in extremely high temperatures, I made it to the top! This was one of the biggest challenges of my life and I was actually able to prove myself wrong (I am not much of a person who does sport or exercise, but I definitely did manage to hike up to the top of one of the tallest mountains in Korea). Since it is a drought season we were not able to see beautiful lake in the crater (Google “Hallu-San” and you’ll know what I’m talking about) and the view was blocked by the clouds of smog. It was very disappointing not to be able to get any reward after enduring so much pain to hike up the mountain. The hike down was, however, really nice and the trail was very beautiful, which somewhat made up for the bad summit. The aftermath came right after I made it down to the starting point 8.5 hours after the hike started – my whole body was aching. Despite my muscles being sore and my ankles swollen, this was definitely one of the most interesting experiences that will shape my semester in Korea and the idea of pushing personal borders. It is good knowing that I can challenge myself and actually win the challenge.


Trail down the Hallu-San

Our last day in Jeju we spent visiting yet another waterfall, which was very hidden. We heard from the locals that it is a great spot to visit and not so many tourists know about it. The small waterfall hidden from the world was definitely one of the most beautiful wonders of nature I’ve ever seen. We spent quite some time there climbing the rocks and swimming in the crystal clear water. The rest of the trip we spent in Jeju City exploring the cuisine of the region.


Hidden waterfall

Overall, Jeju is definitely worth a visit and I am so happy I managed to visit this island before leaving Korea. Coming back to Seoul was a bit hard since we were welcomed by rain and loads of schoolwork. Now I am trying to finish everything before I leave for an adventure to Cambodia on Friday. I can’t even put into words how excited I am about this upcoming trip! 🙂

부산: Buddha’s Birthday and a Weekend Trip to Busan (posted by Indira in South Korea)

May 27, 2013

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.

Dragon at Buddha birthday

Dragon breathing fire at Buddha’s birthday


The decorated temple

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.

Beach in Busan

Dadaepo Beach in Busan

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! 🙂

푸른: Akaraka Festival at Yonsei University (posted by Indira in South Korea)

May 27, 2013

In some of my previous posts I have already written about the unbelievable school spirit that is so well present on the Yonsei campus, but over the past week I actually experienced it first-hand. There are two big events at Yonsei every year that attract many students and that are given a lot of attention: Sports games against Korea University in the Fall and Akaraka Festival in the Spring. I am very lucky to be in Seoul during the Spring since that gave a possibility to take part in the Akaraka Festival.

So what is this Akaraka thing? Just the best thing ever! No, seriously. I have never before experienced anything like it: It is a festival, a huge party, something like a carnival, big concert, and so much more. I think one could somewhat compare it to Pig Roast, but it is so much more. This year May 14-16 Yonsei turned blue. Literally. Everywhere you would look there were people in blue, which is Yonsei’s color. It was so hard to locate anyone as all the students were wearing blue shirts as a way of showing the school pride and belonging to the best University in Korea (yea, I might be a bit biased but I do think Yonsei is amazing).

Students at Akaraka

Yonsei students proudly wearing the school color (blue) at Akaraka

The first two days of the festival there were so many street vendors selling delicious Korean street food (such as Korean pancakes, fish cakes etc.), concerts all across the campus, games, and open air parties. There was even a huge trampoline-bungee jumping that many students took their turn on. The first night of the Festival Mentors Club (similar to the Ambassador Club at the UR) organized an amazing “Gentlementors” (reference to Psy’s “Gentleman” song) party in front of the main auditorium. There were so many students dancing and having fun. Definitely one of the best nights I had in Korea so far. Before the party we also had a Zombie Run. This was the event organized by the student council and both Korean and foreign students participated. The basic ideas was to walk/run down the path while escaping zombies. There were five zones along the path each with their own topics and rules. Thriller zone, for instance, was probably one of the most interesting. Runners were only able to move when the Korean song “Thriller” was played, if they moved when song is not played zombies would take their life (each participant had 3 lives). Zombies were amazing! Yonsei hired professional make up artist who made a lot of people including some of my friends look like real zombies. A huge number of students participated in this event and the reward for the last man standing was 300.000 won (about 300 dollars). The Zombie Run was truly very fun and I enjoyed it a lot!

Zombie Run

Preparing for the Zombie Run

Second day of the festival was all about the concerts and food! I really enjoyed walking down the main road and trying different Korean street foods (it is very delicious and extremely inexpensive, definitely a must try while in Korea!). It was fun seeing the Korean bands and performers in concert too: So many Korean students were super excited while I knew none of the performers and understood none of the lyrics. It was very entertaining nonetheless.

After a two day warm up, Thursday finally came. Most of the students had their classes cancelled (all 3 of my Thursday classes were cancelled!) and starting from about 2pm celebrations started. Many students went to the outdoor amphitheater around 1pm already in order to see K-Pop starts who performed before the real Akaraka started. We were advised by the Korean students to come to the amphitheater some time between and 5pm. Akaraka was mind-blowing! So much energy, dancing, cheering, many performances and artists! I’ve never seen anything like it. We were on our feet dancing from 4 until 10pm. And it was amazing! Many famous Korean bands performed such as Girls’ Generation. The entire amphitheater was going crazy. Everywhere you would look you would see a sea of blue. It really shows how important the school spirit is for the Yonsei students. Being part of Akaraka and one of the thousands of students who were present there made me feel like a part of the Yonsei community. I realized how much I love this place and how Seoul feels like a home. I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words what happened on Akaraka Thursday; it is simply something one has to experience in order to understand it.

Girls' Generation

Girls’ Generation performs at Akaraka

I have to admit that the three days of the Akaraka Festival were the highlight of my stay at Yonsei so far. I loved every bit of it and I sure would love to relive it. Yonsei is such a special place that grows on its student and becomes a true home. Too bad I will have to leave this places I learned to love so dearly in only 4 weeks… But I’ll think about leaving later. Now I have to enjoy the time I have left!

5월: Birthdays and Planning Trips (posted by Indira in South Korea)

May 15, 2013

It happens often that I take a look at my calendar, and I’m surprised to see what date it is. I can’t believe it’s already May. I feel like it was February just yesterday when I arrived to Seoul, moved into my room on the fifth floor of the International House without knowing anyone, and got lost so many times trying to get to the Sinchon subway station. Now, I can walk all around Sinchon blind folded without getting lost, navigate Seoul public transportation system as if I lived here my entire life, order food even if everything is in Korean and I speak almost no Korean (I can say hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, and no, which almost doesn’t really count.), and I have made so many friendships that I already know will last. I don’t think study abroad can get any better.


Last week I had my midterms. It was really weird to talk to my friends at Richmond who were preparing for their final exams while I was “only” dealing with midterms and had two more months of classes to go. But, now I’m done with first part of the semester at Yonsei. I had quite a lot of projects and papers to write, and an in-class exam. It was a lot of work, but it was all worth it. There is not all that much difference between the examination here at Yonsei and at UR. Depending on the class you can get a project to complete (That was the case with my Free Trade Agreements (FTA) class where I had a project on EU-Japan FTA to finish.), paper to write (I had papers for my Modern Korean History and for my International Conflicts and Cooperation class.), or an in-class exam (My only in-class exam was a 75 minute long exam for my US-Korea Relations class consisting of multiple choice, True/False, and short essay questions.). All in all, I would expect something as similar at Richmond, too. It is funny to think I was slightly freaking out about my midterms just 10 days ago as I didn’t know how they’ll go, but now that they are over I am more than ready to enjoy beautiful Seoul.


Even though the midterms are over I still have  some projects and presentations due in the next couple of weeks. The work never stops. I, however, still get more than enough time to enjoy Seoul and the beautiful weather we have right now. Campus also looks amazing. Everything is blooming and blossoming, and the plenty of sunshine we get can only make everyone that much happier.

And people having birthdays lately only add to the good time we are all having here. Some of my friends had their Birthdays recently, so there were some group dinners and celebrations going on. For one of my friends we prepared a surprise Birthday party which we all enjoyed.


The only thing that can top all the things that happened up until now is creating the opportunity for more adventures to happen. Currently I am planning some trips around Asia. Right now I have  plans for Jeju (beautiful island located in the very south of South Korea). After all, I have to make the best out of the time I have left in this part of the world.

봄: I Smell Cherry Blossom and Midterms (posted by Indira in South Korea)

April 29, 2013

The weather in Seoul has been quite weird lately. It happened on two different occasions that we experienced all four seasons in a single day: the morning would be very sunny with clear skies, then suddenly it would rain a bit and before you know it you’d see some snowflakes here and there before the sun appeared for a little bit again and then set. In the last few days, however, we had real spring weather which was so great. Springtime in Seoul is definitely amazing: everything is blooming and Seoul looks very beautiful. Even a short walk through the campus or down the street will show you trees covered in blossoms. Temperatures in the high 60’s and plenty of sunshine definitely scream “spring is here!” If only we didn’t have midterms…

Since spring is such a nice and eventful time of the year, Yeouido Park in Seoul has a week long flower festival that takes place in mid April. One can go to the park and walk around enjoying the blossom of about 2700 trees.

Cherry Blossom in Sinchon, a park in Seoul

Cherry Blossom in Sinchon

Beautiful Yeouido Park, where we went to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms

Beautiful Yeouido Park

The best part is that there is more to it than just beautiful blossoms: since it’s an actual festival, there are street vendors everywhere and it’s easy to get a refreshing ice cream or extremely delicious street food, there are also performers and shows, as well as the light show during the night, and there are bike, scooter, and rollerblade rentals. The park itself is super beautiful and it’s relaxing to walk around. Two of my friends and I spent an amazing afternoon simply walking through the park and sitting close to the river relaxing and soaking in the sun. Yeouido Park is also a great place to simply learn more about Korean culture, especially couple culture. It is really fascinating how many couples there are in Korea. Everyone is obsessed with being in a relationship, and that is very obvious in Yeouido Park as there are so many couples enjoying the walk down the alley full of  blossomed trees, riding the tandem bikes, sitting at the Han River bank, or simply enjoying the sun and nice weather. Since the National Assembly is quite close by, it’s easy to walk over and enjoy the sight of it, too.

National Assembly, which we could see from Yeouido Park

National Assembly

It is really sad how less and less time I have for enjoying the springtime now that midterms are just around the corner. Next week is the midterm class and I have to write two big papers for my International Conflicts and Cooperation and Free Trade Agreements classes. Apart from that I will have an in-class exam for my US-Korean Relations class. To be honest, I am quite anxious to see how it will all go. I understand that the standards and educational system here are very much different from everything I have experienced up to this date (Bosnia, IB, Richmond, and Sweden) so I am not quite so sure what to expect. Every time I ask a Koreans, or other exchange students, who have been at Yonsei for a while about the examinations here they all tell me that a lot of it is based on memorization. That is very much on the opposite side of the educational spectrum since at UR and at Uppsala University one is more pushed to use the information one gets from the class and integrate it into real world issues thereby using a bit of memorization in a combination with logic, reasoning, and problem solving. I can’t say that I have experienced the issue of mere memorization here yet, as the assignments and papers I have had so far have very much been on the level of the assignments I have had at Richmond. The in-class midterm will therefore be the most challenging, I would guess, but I will have to wait and see how it goes.

Also, it is very hard to think that I am not even done with half of my semester yet while my friends at Richmond are almost finished with a year! This way, at least, I will get to see Seoul in summer 🙂

지평선: N Seoul Tower, Richmond Reunion, and Our Husky Friend (posted by Indira in South Korea)

April 24, 2013

Seoul is a big city and it is always interesting to go and explore different areas as each part of the city is very unique: Sinchon (where Yonsei University is located) is very busy and there are many young people, Ewha is full of cute little stores and shops as this is where Ewha Women’s University is located, Insa-dong is a touristy place, while Itaewon is very Western-like as most of the Westerners who work in Seoul live here, and Gangnam is very modern with skyscrapers everywhere. This city has so much soul and spirit that it is rather hard to comprehend it all. There is, however, one place where you can take a good look at the entire city of nine million people and enjoy the view of a place where modernism and tradition coexist – N Seoul Tower.

Last week a group of my friends and I decided to go to N Seoul Tower and see Seoul in its full beauty. It was really good that we had nice weather as the sunset was beautiful and the skyline was breathtaking. Getting to N Seoul Tower gave us a view of different parts of the city  as we had to go to the subway stop in Sinchon, walk through Myeondong, take a cable cart and finally hike up to the Tower. The best part of it all was seeing how different Seoul is and then getting a good view of the entire city, which makes you wonder how is it possible that so many diverse areas are so united and make this city what it is. The view is rather breathtaking – you can walk around in the 360° observatory platform and see the city from all the sides. We managed to see the sunset from the outside before we took an interesting elevator ride (they show you a short video clip that basically takes you from the Tower to outer space when going up, and when going down it takes you from the outer space to the Tower in Seoul in a mere 30 seconds) to the top of the Tower. This is definitely one of the top touristy activities I’d recommend to anyone (even though it took me over a month to do it). I’ll definitely go back to N Seoul Tower in late spring!

Sunset over Seoul from the N Seoul Tower

Sunset over Seoul

View on the City of Seoul from the N Seoul Tower one of the biggest tourist destinations in Seoul

View on the City of Seoul from the N Seoul Tower

Being so far away from Richmond doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find Richmond affiliated people in this part of the world. Since Ms. Leslie Stevenson from the CDC was on a conference in Seoul, she invited all the Richmond graduates and students currently in Seoul, as well as Yonsei students who either were, or are going, on an exchange to UR for a dinner in Gangnam (unfortunately no one thought of getting a group picture as we were all too excited for the reunion). It was really great having dinner in a Richmond spirit, as well as getting to know so many new people. I also enjoyed talking to three Yonsei girls who will be studying abroad at Richmond in Fall 2013. I tried to give them some advice and they seemed super excited to start their semester at UofR. Seeing Ms. Stevenson was also great! She accompanied my Leadership and the Common Good SSIR group trip to Spain in January last year and seeing her in Korea this year was just wonderful. It truly shows how global Spiders are!

Seoul is a diverse, modern, and global city full of surprises – you never know who you might meet/see. One of my favorite things in Sinchon is seeing a Husky dog that is usually chilling outside one of the numerous Korean restaurants in the area (supposedly since his owner works there or something of a kind). This big fluffy ball of fur is just about the most amazing dog ever. He is so friendly and playful and it is always great running into him when walking around Sinchon.

Husky dog we always see when walking around Sinchon.  He is the dog of a local restaurant owner

Husky dog we always see when walking around Sinchon

I have also noticed that as midterms are approaching (last week of April) I have more school work to do. The beautiful spring weather, blossom, and temperature of about 67 degrees is unfortunately hard to ignore. However, it is very much possible to stay on top of the schoolwork and also enjoy the life in Seoul. All it requires is a bit of sacrifice and hard work, but it is completely worth it.

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