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Seoul searching: Stuffy, sick in Seoul

9 March 2014 By Ellen Back, Columnist No Comments
Columnist battles ‘cruel Korean cold’

Week two in Korea has been a little rough. I think I might have been a little too optimistic too soon. I only say this because I recently got a taste of the cruel Korean cold. Before I even got a chance to make a good first impression, I was blowing my nose with a cough drop in my mouth on my way to my first class at Yonsei. I was a little hesitant to introduce myself to my classmates due to my inability to form proper sentences (my voice was literally gone). In my state of mental and physical dismay, I gained some useful insight about the Korean culture while roaming around campus.

First, in Korea, pedestrians do not have the “right of way” with oncoming traffic. Thankfully, I didn’t have to learn this the hard way. In the early hours of the morning, students were dodging cars left and right as they attempted to cross the street trying to get to class. Second, Koreans live a very fast-paced lifestyle. While struggling to count my change in line at the café library, I got pinned with the stink eye by the cashier who was impatient to take the next customer’s order. I really need to start hustling and bustling around here.

Third, I found that Koreans are very shy and reserved individuals. Therefore, making friends was a little difficult (and the sickness aspect didn’t help). Luckily, I have one class that mainly consists of international and exchange students who sway in the same struggling boat. I feel in my element there. Sadly, it’s my “Korean Grammar” course, so we’re all expected to speak the language. I’ll have to start dedicating time to brush up on my Korean in order to communicate properly with the natives here. My perspective this week may be a little clouded due to my poor health, but I can definitely say I got a taste of the sour side of Seoul.

Although I had a pretty crummy week, I still managed to find some excitement while exploring Dongdaemun Market, a nearby commercial district located in downtown Seoul. My friends and I did some window-shopping, listened to live music and had dinner at a fried chicken restaurant. We also got dessert and shared tiramisu at a nearby coffee shop. At least the food here never disappoints! I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be better by next week. Hopefully I can prove to my classmates that I don’t always sound like a squeaking squirrel.


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