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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.

Fire, Fire, Everywhere

Normally when there is a large fire of sorts, people aren’t whipping out their phones and taking pictures of it (unless you’re under 19, in which case you’ve probably already thought about what Instagram filter will complement the flames best; X-Pro II, anyone?)

If you find yourself at Leipzig’s “Lichtfest” (“Festival of Lights”) this year though, you likely have a very good reason to be snapping photos of the fire on display.

That’s because every year since 2009, the people of Leipzig have gathered in the city center with candles to commemorate the peaceful protests that occurred in the fall of 1989 against the East German government. And as history would have it, these protests were one of many contributing factors to the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year.

But this night is all about remembering, and a little bit of celebrating. People have gathered in the city center, just as they did 28 years before, this time to place their tea light candles in the shape of the number “89.”

The night is crisp with a little hint of fall in the air. If you look around, the streets are quiet with no running trams hustling by. The only lights on are those of surrounding businesses, the candles in people’s hands, and the number “89” illuminated by lights inside Leipzig’s Panorama Tower. 

Leipzig’s Panorama Tower in the distance

It’s a great night to be outside, and I don’t want to miss a second of it. I make my way near the stage so that I can catch a glimpse of everything. But wait! How can you participate in “Lichtfest” without even having a candle?

I remember seeing a large table of candles at one end of the event, but think surely there must be another table of them somewhere else. After all, the point of the night ~I thought~ was for everyone to have a candle in their hand.

So, I do some wandering, and I find the two large tables that are in the shape of the “8” and “9” near the stage. The table in the shape of the “8” doesn’t have a lot of candles on it, so I think to myself, “Oh, they’re going fast! Better grab one.”


I grab one, taking it with me for a ride back to my spot near the stage. The event begins to start with a four-piece band and some guest speakers. There are video montages and some live performers doing their thing; it’s going well, and I’m impressed by how organized and professional the whole event is.

But then the thought occurs to me as I look around, “Boy, not a lot of people have candles in their hands.” Maybe we aren’t suppose to be holding the candles from the table?

Performers onstage

The program continues, and in between acts, live video feed of the candle-lit “89” tables are being projected onto the screen behind the stage. Instead of the number of candles on the tables getting smaller, however, the numbers have increased – significantly. So much so that the tables are practically full.

And then it hit me: I had a grabbed someone else’s candle that had already been placed on the table! Without being too obvious, I walk back to the “8” table and nonchalantly put the candle back, as if it were my first time visiting.

To seal the deal, I take another picture of the now-glowing table so it looks like I have never seen the display before. I’m SURE I fooled everyone, especially the old woman who yelled “candle thief” at me in German (that didn’t happen).

A much fuller-looking table

What did happen was an evening I won’t forget. It’s weird to experience the celebration of historical events that you a) did not live through, and b) experienced in a country other than your own. But that’s exactly what happened here, and I have no regrets (other than taking that poor person’s candle).

Tschüss!


Vince Woods received his Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He is currently a sophomore at UMKC, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Education with the intention of teaching German. Vince is spending the semester abroad with the MAUI-Utrecht Exchange Program in Leipzig, Germany.

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.

How’s This for a Second-Day Experience?

“Germany, you’re full of surprises!” I thought to myself as the doctor began to sanitize my wounds.

There I was, lying face down on a medical bed with my right pant-leg hiked up; I was becoming a little too comfortable with the German health care system earlier than expected.

Let’s back up a few hours though.

There I was, lying face down… oh, right, because I was asleep. But after that, I was hungry and knew I needed to hunt for food. I had just survived a nine-hour plane ride, a three-hour train ride, another train ride and some walking. It was time to face my fears and go… grocery shopping.

Now, if you’re like me, I find grocery shopping somewhat enjoyable because it means I have nourishment for at least six more days. But grocery shopping in Germany is another thing: It can bite you. (Note to readers: The Aldi supermarket I went to did not bite me and give me the aforementioned wounds.)

It’s what lurked outside that did.

But wait! Don’t you want to hear about my experience inside? Of course you do!

The Germans are very smart when it comes to eco-friendliness and efficiency. Word of the wise: bring your own reusable shopping bag and some sort of coinage to the supermarket.

Bringing a reusable shopping bag eliminates the paper and/or plastic element (you knew that, right?), while the coin-accessible shopping carts, linked together in front of the store, keeps them from loitering out in the lot and rubbing shoulders with your car.

So, I’m walking through the motions, trying to play it cool like I’ve done this before. I grab what I think I need inside, put my items on the belt, and wait for the madness to ensue. Faster than you can say this sentence, all my items are checked out, and it’s time to pay while simultaneously filling up my reusable bag.

Then a yogurt container hit me and I needed stitches. (No!)

I proceeded to walk outside Aldi with my head held high, knowing what I just did took guts. But I wasn’t the only one feeling gutsy that day. Outside the store, I spot a large dog tied to a tree (you see where this is going?). I glance at the dog, the dog glances at me, and that’s all.

But not for the dog.

That dog must’ve thought my groceries looked pretty good, and possibly me. Before I knew it, the back of my leg became a nice piece of meat for a dog who must have been hungrier than I was.

Oh boy, was I surprised! Never in my life had I been bitten by a dog. And here I was, a newborn in a foreign country who already had their first boo-boo. (Note to readers: My injuries were not life or death, but were still worth seeking medical advice over.)

Unsure of what to do, I contact my Airbnb host. Very generously (and intelligently), she and a friend offer to take me to the “Notaufnahme” (German for “emergency room”). How can this be happening to me? I haven’t even gotten the chance to say “Guten Tag” yet.

Also word of the wise: know your bank account information (account number, wire transfer routing number, your bank’s SWIFT Code, and an address for the bank), whether it’s connected to your credit or debit card. This will come in handy because, as I understand it, the value of your stay/treatment at the hospital (depending on your treatment) won’t total up to be the amount you initially pay. That’s right, they’re giving you that money back, but only if you know that information.

Don’t be me, however, because I wasn’t the person who knew that information. Please be the person who knows that information.

I’m quickly released from the hospital, with a tear in my eye, a newly-sterilized thigh and a prescription that needs to be filled.

And this was only the second day.

If you get a chance, say a prayer for me. Actually, say a prayer for that dog, so that he might get something a little tastier than the back of my leg.

Tschüss!


Vince Woods received his Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He is currently a sophomore at UMKC, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Education with the intention of teaching German. Vince is spending the semester abroad with the MAUI-Utrecht Exchange Program in Leipzig, Germany.

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.