Host Institution: International Summer School, Yonsei University
Chop! Chop! Chop! Here I am in Busan and handed an octopus that was chopped alive. It was still moving when it was given to me. I look around at my peers. They all had faces with expressions of surprise, disgust and curiosity, while the local people all had faces of amusement. This was definitely something I did not expect when I signed up to study abroad in South Korea.
South Korea and its humidity, beauty and food … little did I know that there would be many new foods and experiences I would be up against. I came to Seoul mainly to explore and experience a new area and also to see what research is like in another country.
Day one: I was really excited as soon I arrived at LAX. Many people who were studying abroad for the first time would feel a bit worried, but I think my only concern was finding my way in Korea. My best friend Kimberly Thach was also coming, so I was not really worried about being lonely. All I knew was that as soon as I got off the airplane, I would be lost. Kimberly did most of the research for South Korea and knew which subway to take to arrive at our hostel. The subway was really efficient and cheaper than driving around. It was pretty fast and fun to ride. Outside of the subway, I could see so much greenness! The air had an interesting scent and the streets were very different than here in California.
The university I chose with my best friend was Yonsei University. Kimberly and I did not know much Korean, but this program had courses that were taught in English by UC professors. One of the courses I took at Yonsei was Introduction to Psychology, taught by Professor Zaidel from the University of California, Los Angeles. The course was much like a summer course at UCR. The only difference was that the testing system different — our scantron was in Korean and we had to fill out the bubbles in a felt tip marker.
Yonsei University was part of the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) and it included some field trips. One of them was to NANTA, a cooking show, and it was one of the best shows that I have seen. Chefs were making music with kitchen knives and also threw in a love story. Another trip was in Busan where we visited a Buddhist temple and had a chance to visit a large fish market. One of my daring experiences was trying a live octopus!
My best experience in South Korea was being able to visit the National Institute of Biological Resources. There I had a chance to go backstage in the museum and see the research lab. One of the researchers who I met was Dr. Taewoo Kim. His research was on crickets and grasshoppers.
One of the things that fascinated me was the many different types of cafes in South Korea. There was a dog cafe where you could buy a drink and play with dogs. There was also a cat cafe, a sheep cafe and dress-up cafe! Kimberly turned 21 on Aug. 2, so we celebrated her birthday at a dress-up cafe. In the dress-up cafe, we got to choose what outfits we wanted to wear, ranging from a traditional Korean dress to a princess-style dress and to a wedding dress. Each of the walls had a themed background for photos to be taken. The staff people were really nice and helped take pictures. All we had to pay for were the drinks and dress rental.
For my last weekend in Korea, I went to Lotte World. It was a neat amusement park. The rides were pretty fun and some of the rides were indoors. There was also a mall connected to the amusement park!
My overall impression for this program was very thrilling and excellent. It was my first time studying abroad and how this program was arranged made it very easy to adjust to a new area. The courses we picked were taught by UC professors, and we also had the option of taking courses in English. The transportation system was also very convenient and cheap. I would definitely recommend studying at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea for students that are studying abroad for the first time!