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: Time to Hit the Books

April 1, 2019

Yonsei offers its international students a wide variety of classes to take, taught in both English and Korean. Most of the classes that I am taking while abroad will most likely go towards my major and minor electives. I am currently taking four classes: “KLI One,” “Introduction to Medical Anthropology,” “Media Psychology,” and “Media, Art, and Society.” Each of these classes, excluding KLI which counts as six, count as three credits. I was originally taking a fifth course, “Media Communication in Korea,” but I decided to drop it because studying for my Korean Language Institute class was taking up the majority of my time.

Statue Guy

The founder of Yonsei University: Horace Grant Underwood

All of my classes, excluding KLI, are located in the main part of campus, which is a 10-15 minute walk from my dorming house, SK Global. Although the walk can sometimes be a challenge when you’re running late or the air pollution is bad, usually it’s very refreshing. Yonsei University was built on the side of a mountain so on my way to class I encounter some steep hills and dips, but that makes it more enjoyable and and allows me to feel less guilty about not making time for the gym.

The main/central part of campus is, in my opinion, by far the most scenic and aesthetically pleasing area of the entire campus. Although during the colder months the greenery that climbs onto the buildings and gathers in bunches around the area is dead and gloomy looking, during the spring and summer seasons everything comes to life. I have only seen this in pictures but I am looking forward to witnessing it in person soon!

Although Yonsei University is considered one of the top three universities in Seoul, I have found that classes for exchange students have a lighter work load than at Richmond. That is not to say that I am left with free time, but if I was back at UR I would probably be dying right about now. The expectations for students studying abroad at Yonsei are comfortable and allow me to learn the course material while still having enough energy to explore the city and hangout with friends.

My classes range in length between 50 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes which is great because in total I only have to be in that certain class for about 2 hours and 40 minutes each week. On Mondays I have “Introduction to Medical Anthropology” from 10:00am to 11:50am. After that I have a long break until KLI, which is from 4:00pm to 5:50pm every day. On Tuesdays I have “Media, Art, and Society” from 9:00am to 9:50am, and a couple hours later I have “Media Psychology” from 1:00pm to 2:50pm. On Wednesdays I don’t have class until 12:00pm when I go to “Intro to Medical Anthropology” until 12:50pm. On Thursdays I have “Media, Art, and Society from 10:00am to 11:50am and then “Media Psychology from 12:00pm to 12:50pm. Lastly, on Friday, oh how I love Fridays, I only have KLI from 4:00pm to 5:50pm. Fridays are my favorite because I have a lot of time to sleep in, catch up on homework, or go exploring in Sinchon.

Pathway to Sinchon

All roads lead to Sinchon

I am really enjoying all of the classes that I am taking and so far my professors have all presented themselves as very caring and professional. I hope to continue learning as much as I can and making connections with my fellow classmates. I’m really not looking forward to the final group presentations that I have pending for two of my classes, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Good luck to all of you in school, in work, or life in general. Talk to you all next time!


KrissinKorea: An Evening Spent with Hungry Raccoons

March 18, 2019

South Korea, as well as Japan, is known for having some pretty diversely themed cafes. Just 15 minutes away from where I am staying in Sinchon, there is a cat cafe on the third floor of a building. I have yet to go there, but just this past weekend my friends and I made plans to visit a raccoon cafe in Hongdae. This was something I was looking forward to the entire week and when Friday finally arrived, I was beyond excited.

It took us about 25 minutes to walk from the main gate of Yonsei, to the subway terminal in Sinchon, and finally into Hongdae where we walked from the subway stop to the cafe. The raccoon cafe was on the fourth floor of the building, but if you didn’t know it was there, you could have totally missed it. When you walk in, there are lockers and shoe racks to your left, a barista station to your right, and a seating area directly in front. If you look further into the room you are able to see that a portion of the space is blocked off by a glass wall, which allows people to watch the dogs and raccoons play while they sip their drinks.

Once you pay for your entry pass and a drink, if you want one, you have to go put your belongings into a locker and put on the sandals provided. Customers are also required to take off any jewelry they have on in case the raccoons grab onto them. This process took quite a while for me since I have a bunch of earrings and even a nose ring. Once we were ready to go in, we walked into the entrance of the play area and instantly felt excited. There were so many dogs laying around and others nudging visitors to be pet. The raccoons mostly watched people in between nap periods. They occasionally woke up to grab bits of food, but then went back to sleep. Everything was too cute to handle.

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Living the life

One of my friends was especially good at getting the raccoons’ attention and they often let her give them food. Unlike dogs, when you feed them, raccoons grab the food from you with their hands and put it into their mouths. They have the cutest little paws and they are so soft and warm. I was lucky enough to feed one myself and I have to tell you, it was one of the best experiences of my life! I’m not big on baby fever or kids, but I am definitely an animal lover and this was just such a great time!

Even though my friends and I mainly went for the raccoons, the dogs that live with the raccoons are just as adorable. There was a brown husky, a black and brown Shiba, an obese Corgi, and two large English Bulldogs. I’ve never been a huge fan of bulldogs, but there was one that seemed to take a liking to me, and he changed my mind completely. He took the liberty of plopping his entire body onto my lap and demanding to be pet. I spent a large portion of my time at the cafe hanging out with him and I can’t say I was disappointed.

Even though the cafe is slightly out of the way, I will definitely make sure to visit at least once more before my semester ends here in Korea. Until next time, friends, take care!


KrissInKorea: My Pre-semester Activities

March 15, 2019

I had approximately nine days after landing in South Korea before my semester started. Even though that sounds like a lot of time, it went by pretty fast. I spent the first couple of days trying to become more acquainted with the area I was living in. There’s actually quite a bit in the neighborhood where I am staying and in the dorm building itself. If you walk a little ways away from SK Global, you’ll be able to find a convenience store, a Paris Baguette, some coffee shops, and a bunch of different restaurants.

In the basement of the SK you can find a 24-hour convenience store, a cafe, a burger spot, an ice cream shop, and a bunch of other small places to eat. Even though only international students live in SK Global, during lunch and dinner hours, you can find this area packed with all different students from Yonsei. My favorite places so far have to be the restaurant that sells spicy beef pho and the cafe that makes super good iced mocha lattes!

A few days before the semester started all of us international students attended our orientation. It lasted about two hours and we were given a lot of information. We learned about class add and drop periods, visas, alien registration cards, public safety, and different clubs that are easily accessible to foreigners.

After the orientation we were able to sign up for some of the clubs mentioned, as well as sign up for one of the two day tours that were set up for international students. My friends and I decided to go on the “Day 2” tour which would take us to the Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁), the War Memorial of Korea, a Korean style buffet, and lastly, a cruise ship ride on the Han River.

The 경복궁 palace was absolutely stunning. It was about a twenty minute drive to the palace from Yonsei University. As we neared the palace, Seoul started to take on a different look than what I was used to. Seoul is usually filled with skyscrapers and large businesses, but the town that surrounded the palace looked more traditional and more like a modernized Korean village. The tour guide mentioned that there is legislation in Korea that prevents the construction of buildings over a certain height in the district surrounding the palace. The Korean government is trying to preserve a part of traditional Korea by taking care of the old-style houses that surround the area and by protecting the integrity of the palace. What impressed me the most was the existence of a massive palace in the middle of a bustling city. When you enter the palace walls, you enter a different time period. It is a place filled with a history and culture that is foreign to me. I very much enjoyed learning about the different practices held in the castle, as well as the power dynamics in place during this time.

One of the first things we learned was about the monkeys that protect the different parts of the palace. According to historians, the more monkeys that are atop a roof, the more protection they provide to that certain area. The palace builders strategically placed them where the king would be most often, as well as in places where he would meet with his court to make important decisions.

The queen and king did not live together, but their houses are diagonal to one another. Although the king is allowed to have numerous wives, the first wife is primary and gets to be closest to the king. When I first arrived in Korea, one of the first things I noticed in the dorm was that the floors were heated. This was very foreign to me, but after learning that the palace was heated via the floor, it all made a lot more sense. I learned that people in old-time Korea slept on the floor mainly because there were fires underneath the floor to heat the house from the ground up.

Once we left the palace we headed to the Korean War Memorial where we had the chance to learn about the many aspects of the Korean War. The museum had a bunch of interactive features and a lot of authentic war materials that were preserved. Our guide in the museum was the cutest old lady and you could tell she really loved the history she was talking about.

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Korean War Memorial

I learned a lot, and I was very happy to go because I now have a more informed outlook on Korean society and how the U.S. is connected to South Korea.

After we left the museum we went to an underground shopping center that had like 5 floors! It was so cool! We went to a Korean style buffet where they had tons of food. I ate until I almost died. Literally. My favorite dish was definitely the stir fried udon noodles and the Korean glazed chicken. I would 10 out of 10 visit again.

Next on our agenda was a cruise ship ride on the Han River. Although I had so much fun at both the palace and the museum, the boat ride was definitely the boat ride. The boat had a bunch of twinkly lights and the area onto the loading dock was pretty too.

While on the cruise ship we got to see Seoul’s breathtaking skyline while traveling at a comfortable pace on the boat. The night was pretty chilly, but the air was so crisp and fresh that it didn’t matter. We passed under more than four bridges and they each looked different. Since it was nighttime, the water looked black but you could see the lights of the boat reflecting in the water and it gave the whole experience a very dreamy effect.

The ride back to the dorm wasn’t too long but we were all so beat. We were out from 12pm to 10pm, which for many of us who were still trying to get over our jet lag, was killer. After a day of fun, learning, and sight seeing, though, it was great to finally get in bed and sleep!

 

 


Dom in Amman: Finding Family- Sisters From Another Mister

March 5, 2019

Hey everyone! I met my host family and they are wonderful!

While students back at the University of Richmond are gaining sorority sisters and fraternity brothers to complete their families, I have gained three new sisters and two new parents. My sisters are 6,7, and 17 years old. The night I was welcomed into their home, I did not know what to say or do. I started out by giving my host mom Rana the gifts I brought for her and her family. She was very excited and added the refrigerator magnet that I gave her to her collection. For students going abroad, you should always bring your host family a gift to thank them for their generosity and to share with them a part of your life. My host family is originally from Iraq and I recently discovered that my host mom is an amazing cook. In the morning, I start my day with pita, labneh, and cucumbers. For lunch, I consume some form of rice and meat. Usually, my lunch is leftovers from the night before and in the evening, I eat dinner with the girls if I am not out late studying.

Uno with Judi

Uno with Judi

My favorite thing I do is go to family dinner on Thursday evenings. In Jordan, Friday is like the American Sunday. It is set aside as a religious day and most families will gather together and share a lunch after Friday prayer. Instead of Friday lunch, my host family goes to dinner at my host father’s mother’s house. We call her Mama Shireen. These gatherings usually equate to 10-12 people over for dinner. We hang out, eat, drink coffee and catch up. The last time I was over my younger sisters pulled me into a room and challenged my roommate and I to a singing competition where we belted out Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber songs. This was followed by a pillow fight where I had to defend myself against three rambunctious seven-year old girls. Considering the odds were not in my favor, I lost.

In all honesty, something that I have noticed in Amman is family is very important to a different extent than in America. Here in Amman, there is no emphasis on the individual. You are always part of a unit or team for lack of a better word. For example, students in the U.S. will leave home at 18 to go off to college or begin their lives, but here most young adults remain at home until marriage and even the concept of marriage is partially a family matter. For example, you would not propose to a woman here without asking her father for permission. Additionally, family is not limited here to the people who live in your house. There are no boundaries between the extended family and the immediate. Sometimes when friends great each other they call the other “my sister” or “my brother”. This is a result of the nature of Jordanian people and the Arabic language.

Kadi the Fashionista

Kadi the Fashionista

Because of my family and roommate, I really feel at home here in Amman. There are days and moments that feel foreign and strange to me, but with the support of my host family, I am practicing Arabic, learning about Jordanian culture, and finding family.


KrissinKorea: Preparing For the Big Leap!

February 20, 2019
 

Hey guys! My name is Kristen and I am a sophomore journalism student at the University of Richmond. This spring semester I will be attending Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. I leave in a few days and I am totally freaking out. Recently I have gotten into the habit of making lists of the things I should buy before I leave and what I should bring in general. I am planning on packing only the essentials because I want to bring back a lot of stuff! Since I am a procrastinator down to the bones, I’m a little behind on getting everything ready. I am working both my jobs for these last 2 days that I will be here and I am navigating that while trying to prepare for my trip, but I am remaining positive! My family surprised me with a “going away breakfast” this Sunday and it made me realize how much I am going to miss them. I am extremely close with my family and I know they’re wishing the best for me, so I want to have an amazing experience for their sake as well. I experienced a big change in my life during the period of time that I was waiting to study abroad and it made me eager to start over. I want my experience in Korea to clear my mind and to allow me to reset and come back with a whole new outlook. I am looking forward to studying my hardest, making friends, experiencing new things, and growing as a person. I can’t wait to talk to you guys again and let you know how I’m settling in. Talk to you soon!


Dom in Amman:Before I Embark

February 2, 2019

2 February 2019

**Hi everyone! My name is Dominique Cressler and welcome to my blog!! Just so everyone knows I have already arrived in Amman, Jordan for my study abroad experience and everything has been great. I have been here for three weeks. One week of orientation and the other two taking classes at Amideast. Therefore, I will be back to back posting at first to catch everyone up on Dom in Amman. Enjoy my quick journey back in time!**

I have been dreaming of Jordan since I first decided to study Arabic and now it is finally happening! I cannot even conceal my excitement. This is probably the biggest step toward my educational goals and the first step toward my future career. In the future, I hope to become a professor of Arabic studies as well as continue to work with refugees.

I started studying Arabic because of the Syrian refugee crisis. At the time, I did not know what Syria was or where the Arabic language would take me. This was the consequence of a high school education that shelters its students from the rest of the world, but I was determined to learn and become involved. My journey began at the University of Richmond where I am a double major in Arabic Studies and Global Studies: Middle East. There, I started volunteering at a local refugee resettlement agency and began my studies. In a university setting, you study Modern Standard Arabic which is understood by most Arabs, is used in Middle Eastern and North African media, and for reading the Qur’an. At the university level many people do not get the experience of learning the dialectal Arabic. Each country communicates in its own dialect. This is called Ammiyah. Unlike the Moroccan dialect that is heavily influenced by French, the Jordanian Ammiyah is closest to that which most Arab refugees speak. This made Jordan the perfect country to study abroad in. I have known Jordan was the place for me since my freshman year and now I leave in three days for the airport.

I leave for Amman in three days and I am feeling slightly overwhelmed. I am about to venture to a country that feels completely different from my past travels and, despite studying the region and doing research, I still do not realistically know what to expect. I think the hardest thing about this experience will be the language immersion. During the first two weeks my favorite phrases will probably be “I don’t understand” and “Do you speak English?” Once I learn how to navigate Amman and better communicate with the people, I should be fine. Despite immersion, I am also nervous about getting to school and if I will like my host family.

I do not even know who my host family is yet. At this rate I can just imagine the introduction:

Me: Hey, I’m Dom. I don’t know anything about you or your names, but thanks for giving me a bed to sleep in for 4 months. Oh and I brought you Twizzlers and a book of Lancaster because that is where I am from and I like Twizzlers. Lastly, I am from Lancaster, but I am not Amish. Here is a small horse and buggie decoration.

New Family: ….. Hi and welcome to our home. I’m (insert names of new family here). Thanks… What are the Amish?

From there, I will have run out of Arabic to explain the Amish community and why Lancaster, PA is known for it. This explanation was not something I exactly prepared for in my Arabic classes. In reality, I think my host family will be great. I only wish I knew more about them, but I do not meet them until in-country orientation begins. Despite this, I am most excited to connect with people from Amman including my host mom. My goal for this trip is to foster strong connections, finally become comfortable speaking Arabic, and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

Well I must return to packing! For those who are curious about what Jordan is actually like or want to know more about Abroad in the Middle East or the Amideast program, stay tuned, post questions and I will be happy to answer. Additionally, below is a link to a video about Jordan for those who are interested in knowing more about the country.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC4t3fP1vhY


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