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The Journey Back Home

My last few days in Korea were somber, I was still having a great time with my friends but we all knew that our time together was quickly coming to an end. I began to reflect on my time studying abroad and how much of an impact that it had on my life. I did and saw some amazing things and I got to experience an international university that was both challenging and rewarding.

My last few days, I did not try to do new things to squeeze in an experience that I had yet to have. There were many things that I did not get to do while I was there and that was okay. Instead, I focused on doing the things that I was greatly going to miss; I went to my favorite cafes, hung out with my friends in our favorite bars, and ate my favorite foods. The smallest things that I did while there were the things I knew I was going to miss the most, because they had become a routine. I wasn’t going to miss going to the palaces, they were a tourist trip and I didn’t visit them every day. Instead, I was going to miss seeing the mountains when I walked to class, visiting my favorite beer and chicken place with my classmates, and going to the convenience store where I bought my cheap ramen that I had come to adore.

The idea of returning home was not easy. As I made my way onto the flight to come home I was distressed at how much I had come to love Korea. It was more than just a study abroad trip at this point; I had created a life for myself there and it was sad to let that go. No one tells you before you leave that coming back is just as hard, adjusting to life back in America is almost a reverse culture shock in itself, but it’s all part of the process and you just have to keep pushing through.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

 

DMZ-Standing on the Edge of War

One of the most important things about understanding Korean culture and society is the recognition that Korea is still a divided country and is still currently in a stalemate with North Korea while participating in an armistice. This relationship between the two countries is extremely important in everyday life. While normal citizens may not think about it on a day to day basis, the existence of the problem is still very prevalent. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is an infamous place to visit when going to South Korea, the DMZ is the official demarcation line that divides North and South Korea. Even though the tour to the DMZ is slightly tense and a little sad, it is one of the most fascinating and memorable experiences that I have ever encountered.

When you go on the DMZ/JSA tour the first thing that becomes obvious quickly is the absolute strict time schedule, there are a few stops on the tour including the 3rd infiltration tunnel, the Doran train station, and the Dora Observatory which only allows a very certain amount of time to look around. But the strictest of all of these is the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is the very controlled area where North and South Korean officials meet to discuss political issues. This part of the tour allows for less than 10 minutes to see the North Korean tourist center and the conference room that is officially crosses both countries. The most interesting thing about this point of the tour was the absolute quiet tension that exists in this area. There are many military officials posted and they are quite dangerous and trained to handle situations if skirmishes happen to break out.

This tour is by far the best thing that I did while I was in South Korea. Not only does it give some extensive history on the Korean War and why the country is divided, but it also informs on the current situation in Korea and some of the efforts that have been made to improve relations. The tour also has multiple stops on the agenda that better illustrate past and current situations between North and South Korea. Overall, this experience made me feel a multitude of different things including sadness for the history of both of the countries, discomfort while experiencing the actual tension of a war torn country, and excitement for seeing a piece of history that not many have had the pleasure of experiencing.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

 

The Occupation that Destroyed a Nation

South Korea is a very old country. Their history goes back thousands of years and they are very proud of their heritage. Seoul, while it is a completely modern and updated city, has existed as the capital of Korea for quite a long time as it was one of the first cities to be established and many royal families lived in the area spanning hundreds of years. This allowed for the construction of many palaces and temples throughout the Seoul vicinity.

South Korean architecture is quite beautiful and unique; they generally focused on multiple open air pagodas on palace grounds as well as smaller buildings for sleeping and leisure. Most of the palaces and temples are done in the traditional Korean colors which include red, blue, green, yellow, and white. They also include imagery such as symbolic animals, moons, suns, and mountains that are intertwined within the architecture.

I visited one of the largest palaces that exists in South Korea today, Gyeongbokgung Palace is centered in the heart of Seoul, aligned with the mountain range in the background. The grounds of the palace are sprawling with a moat, throne room, sleeping quarters, temples, a library, and a massive garden that wraps around the perimeter. In the summer, there are people that wear traditional dress called Hanbok and play traditional music on South Asian instruments. What makes it better is there are signs at every building to give an explanation of when it was built and what it was used for.

But the palaces and temples (as well as most historical sites and artifacts) come with a sad history; before the Korean War and Japanese Occupation, most of the original buildings stood exactly as they had been built, when the Japanese came in to annex Korea, they destroyed everything that had to do with Korean history in the hopes that they could make the country Japanese. After the Japanese lost control of Korea, all of the buildings had to be restored, this took place mostly from the 1970s-90s, because of this, almost all of the historical sites in South Korea are reconstructed representations of what they were previously. Even reconstructed, they are important to Korean history as a whole and are worth being visited as they are extremely beautiful.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Birds Eye View

In South Korea there is a very popular tourist attraction called N Seoul Tower, or Namsan Tower. It is at the top of Namsan Mountain and it is many things combined into one, the first being an actual tower that you can go up to the top of and see the entire layout of Seoul. The second being a major shopping/restaurant hub which includes 4 different floors of different tourist shops, restaurants, and museums, and the final being one part of an outpost of a defense wall that circles a central location in Seoul.

The historical part of Namsan Tower is quite interesting, it has 3 beacons that sit on a hill that was built centuries ago to light in case the city was being attacked. There is also a defense wall that runs along the mountain that protects from invaders as well. The fact that these artifacts are centuries old and still intact is quite unique for South Korea, as most historical artifacts were destroyed by the Japanese at the beginning of the 1900s.

Namsan Tower is one of the premier tourist attractions in Seoul, and rightfully so, if you go at night (which I extremely recommend) the entire city is lit up and you can see the entire layout of Seoul. My favorite part of the experience was looking at the side of the city that is connected by the Han river, the bridges that are built over it, light up the water and make the city look extra beautiful in that setting. Seeing as this was one of the first things that I did when I arrived in Seoul, it gave me a great impression of the city and I immediately fell in love. The other thing that was quite fun was taking the cable car up to the mountain from the bottom, it’s not too expensive and you get to see both the tower and the city as you are traveling up!


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Food Is Everything

One of the things that has had a huge impact on me while studying abroad is the how much of South Korean culture revolves around food. The dishes are completely unique and carefully made. South Koreans are generally healthier than Americans and they pride themselves on the fact that the majority of their dishes are heath conscious. They rely more on vegetables as the basis for most of their dishes rather than meat and they try not to fry ingredients.

While this experience has been great, South Koreans do have a lot of interesting dishes that can be quite confusing for someone who has never experienced it before. Traditional dishes like Sundae, which is a kind of sausage that contains clotted pig’s blood in rice, is extremely popular and often eaten at a street cart or a market. Another dish that I resisted trying for a long time is live octopus and raw beef mixed with egg. This dish is seen as a special treat because it is a little expensive and because of the raw materials, it is not too filling.

When I went to Kwangjang market in South Korea, which is an outside marketplace that has rows of street cart style places to eat and buy traditional Korean ingredients such as kimchi; my Korean friend took me here to eat Korean food in a more traditional atmosphere. I felt like I had found the heart of Korean culture when I entered the marketplace, it was so busy, but also felt so authentic because it was away from the normalized Korean society that actually feels more western than anything else. My friend ordered us a series of dishes that included a Korean pancake, tteok-bokki, and sundae. After we had finished with the appetizer dishes, she took me to finally try live octopus, the experience was unique to say the least and I honestly liked the dish a lot, but the octopus was definitely moving on the plate and it was a struggle to get over initially. Even though some of the dishes, I was hesitant to try at first, I am glad that I am adventurous to try new things because I didn’t dislike any of the things that I tried. 


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

K-Pop for the Win

One thing about South Korea that I will never get over is their absolute adoration for their idols. In case you don’t know, any musician or band member is called an “idol” it’s just their special term for a celebrity. Anyway, I completely understand the craze because I, myself, am a huge K-pop fan. I think the difference between love for celebrities in Korea versus the United States is the actual size of the countries, Korea is a lot smaller than the United States and in Korea, the celebrities are pretty much confined to one district for work and living so it’s pretty easy to find out where they are all the time which makes them a lot closer to normal people rather than in the United States which is a huge country and makes them seem like they don’t really exist outside of the screen. But, I did get to witness the love that Koreans have for their idols first hand when I went to a K-pop concert.

First, the K-pop concert that I went to was in Pyeongchang which is the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The concert I attended is called the Dream Concert which is a collaboration of many K-pop groups that perform at the site to celebrate the 100 days before the olympics begin. I actually got a really good deal on the tickets because I found a group that caters specifically to foreigners that provides transportation and gave us seats practically in the front row.

The concert was amazing, there was some smaller K-pop groups that performed first while some of the bigger groups headlined the concert at the very end. But, while the performers were extremely entertaining, it was hilarious to watch the crowd because the fans are so devoted and funny when showing their love for their favorite group. They bought blankets, pictures, light up wands, and whistles to wave in the air when their favorite group was performing. I even saw a group of girls rush the stage to get pictures of their favorite boy-band. Honestly, the relationship between the groups and their fans are so cute because rather than trying to run away, the groups will dance, wave, and shake hands with their fans which makes the experience that much better. I am glad I got to have this experience because it was something that was most definitely Korean in nature and could not be found back in America.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Struggle Is Real

Drive to Seoul

So when I first embarked on my adventure to study abroad, I had a perfect image in my mind: it would be magical, I would have zero amount of trouble, and life would fall into place. Well, this is not what initially happened. No one wants to tell you that when you first arrive it’s chaotic, I could not figure out anything, having no real idea of what to expect my first impressions were not good. As it is my first time in South Korea, I could not read anything, so trying to find where I was or wanted to go was almost impossible. Next, I had to try and find the University from the airport, well my University was about and hour away. So I’m riding in this bus just hoping that I am going to the right place and that I didn’t make a mistake somewhere along the way. I did manage to find the University with minimal problems, but then my next challenge was the dormitory. They had switched me rooms with another girl and had lost my paperwork and did not know which room I was supposed to be in. This accounted for a couple hours where I had to sit while the coordinator called multiple people and ran around trying to find out which room I was supposed to be in — did I mention that I hadn’t slept in 26 hours? The first night was intense and exhausting, the sleep deprivation and lack of knowledge about the language accounted for me crying for pretty much the entire next day.

I could not find my way around campus, I had no idea where to get food, and I was already kind of done with my trip by then. And the problems kept coming, even though I had registered for my classes weeks before I left, I still managed to completely change my schedule. My classes are supposed to be in English, but the students are pretty much at the mercy of the professors and if they don’t want the class to be in English, well then, it’s not in English. I got kicked out of two of my classes because the teachers wanted to teach in Korean instead. This put me in the position of racing to find any class that was actually taught in English to fill the gaps in my schedule. Needless to say, the first week was disappointing. But then I went to orientation, and I found all the buildings, and I went off campus to see the city. Suddenly everything seemed just a little bit brighter. I started learning the language and could at least read street signs and menus. I didn’t feel so alone anymore and I started to feel more relaxed. So while everything is good now, I was completely unprepared for the initial shock. It was not all rosy and amazing; knowing that you’re going to be living in a foreign country where you don’t know the language and really don’t know the culture is a huge event to wrap your head around, but actually pushing through the uncomfortable period is worth what is on the other side.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Oh, The Places You’ll See!

Traveling the West Coast

One of the best things about living in South Korea, is that you can see a lot of the country without having to travel very far or for very long. Size wise, the entire country of South Korea is about as big as Indiana. This makes it extremely easy to accommodate going to a popular place even if its only a day trip. One of the pleasures that I have experienced was taking a chance on a random Facebook group that organizes group travel for foreigners living in South Korea. Normally, I would never trust my life to people that I don’t know, however; Korea’s crime rate is extremely low and having already lived in the country for a few weeks, I felt it was okay to give it a shot. This particular group was ran by someone who gets paid by the government to show foreigners different aspects of Korean culture. The itinerary of the trip constituted of traveling to mostly smaller towns on the West Coast.

The first thing that struck me when traveling outside of Seoul, was the complete lack of foreigners. I mean literally, I was the only European with blue eyes for miles around, and the locals are not afraid to stare at you until it becomes infinitely uncomfortable. Some people were even taking my picture, they didn’t ask me of course, but it becomes pretty obvious when you have about 10 phones pointed in your direction. Honestly, I knew they were just curious so I didn’t let it bother me too much, but that was before they shuffled our group out to make kimchi in front of an audience. Yes, that is right, they made our group into a weird performing foreigners act, where we stood in front of a mostly older Korean audience and they dressed us up and made us make kimchi. Now, if you don’t know what kimchi is, its pretty simple; its a traditional side dish of cabbage fermented in different seasonings, you will find this at almost every single restaurant served on the side of your food for free. Making kimchi is a pretty important aspect of Korean culture and most older women take this task very seriously, so it only makes sense that they would find it hilarious to have foreigners trying to make a traditional dish while they watched.

After we had humorously fumbled through trying to make kimchi appropriately, the organizers rushed us on to a stage and turned on music where they then insisted that we dance. So now I’m dancing, after having just made kimchi. Normally, the entire experience would have been humiliating, but it was a lot of fun and the locals were so nice and excited to see us. The whole thing turned out to be okay because at the end of it, they gave us free food and took us down to see the ocean. By far, this was one of the weirdest experiences that I’ve had in my entire life, but it is now one of the fondest memories that I could not have gotten elsewhere.


Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.