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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.

Run, Run, as Fast as You Can

Picture it: A 180-year-old church; the palace of Frederick the Great; the cutesy charm of local European markets. And it almost didn’t happen – well, at least for me.

Do you know which city I’m talking about? If you guessed Potsdam, Germany, you probably paid too much attention in history class. But hey, you’d also be correct!

Universität Leipzig has a group for international students called WILMA, which stands for “Willkommens Initiative für in Leipzig Mitstudierende AusländerInnen.” I know that’s a lot, so please don’t hit the escape button.

Every so often, WILMA will take weekend day-trips to the surrounding cities of Leipzig, giving students the opportunity to explore said cities for a couple hours. Students are given an unofficial tour of the city on foot, then are set free to scare the locals (may or may not happen each time).

This was my first trip with the group, and of course I was excited because I was finally getting the chance to see a little bit of Europe without it costing an arm and a leg. Plus, I knew it would be a great chance to meet/hang out with people I’ve come to know over the past couple months.

Okay. So. Wake up super early on a Saturday? Check (worst part). Arrive at the main train station to meet WILMA? Check. Board local train with WILMA to Potsdam? Check. Okay, everything seems to be going well.

The weather’s kinda bad. Wait. The weather is actually really bad – raining, cold, lots of wind. The only thing missing is..ope, no, I said it’s raining, we’re good.

Aside from the weather, everything is going..wait. The train has just stopped, and we’re waiting.

And waiting.

And…waiting.

And…you get the picture. But why have we stopped? Turns out, we were waiting for another train to use the track we were on, but of course didn’t know when that train was coming. So, we wait for over an hour.

Not a problem. Our plans are now altered a little, but that’s okay. Train is movi…okay, NOW what?? The train stops again, but this time, the conductor comes barreling out of his cabin and heads straight for the bathroom.

Look, I get it; when you gotta go. No, THIS time, someone was SMOKING in the bathroom, which is a big no-no. Now I’m thinking we’ll never get to Potsdam. Little did I know..

So, with all these unexpected interruptions, naturally some rearranging has to happen. We’ve already missed the other train we were supposed to catch to Potsdam, so the only thing to do is wait for another one to come.

We end up having a “layover” in the city of Magdeburg, and we’re told that we will have an hour before our next train comes. Great! This will be a good opportunity to eat/restroom/explore.

Magdeburg!

One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where you’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.

Just kidding, that’s a quote from “The Polar Express” film. But the thing about trains is, if you’re late, they don’t care. That statement almost became a reality for me. Almost.

So, I decide to go off with two people I had met earlier that day to see what we could get ourselves into. We pass some shops (*looks at phone for the time). We pass some historic-looking architecture (*okay, getting closer to having to leave). Oh, look the Elbe River! (*very-nervously thinking we need to get back to the station)

^Oh, look the Elbe River!

Our train leaves in seven minutes, and the bridge we are on taking pictures of the Elbe in the rain is definitely more than seven minutes away from the train station. Meanwhile, WILMA does not take a head count and will not politely ask the train conductor to wait.

The question now is not “if” we miss the train, but “when” we miss the train, WHAT WILL WE DO? We subconsciously agree that the only thing we CAN do is (insert my least-favorite three-letter-word here).

I kid you not, I am running so fast and so hard that I am having horrific flashbacks to middle school. It was like running the mile all over again, only this time, I had a backpack on and it was raining. Remember the awesome weather I mentioned above?

We are RUNNING through crowds of people, RUNNING through the busy train station, RUNNING up flights of stairs. My body has never felt more like jello than it does right now. At this point, I don’t even care if the train leaves, so long as I can catch my breath.

But by the grace of all that his holy, our train, for whatever reason, hasn’t left. We quickly get on board, and in all honesty, we don’t even know if it’s our train. All we know is that it’s better than nothing. (It was our train.)

We collect ourselves, catch our breath, and drink some water. The trip is still a go! And aside from that incident, the terrible weather, and the long delay, Potsdam proved to be enjoyable, not so much because of the sites (come back in the spring/summer when everything’s in bloom!), but because of the people I got to spend time with.

Check out some of the photos I took below when I wasn’t trying to cough up a lung!

 

Tschüss!

A look inside the 180-year-old rebuilt St. Nikolaikirche
Looking out from St. Nikolaikirche
Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great (also wishing it was summer in this picture)

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.

It’s Christmas Time in the City

Ring-a-ling! That’s right, it’s that time of year again when the streets are a little busier, the atmosphere becomes a little more joyous (depending on who you ask), and on every street corner you hear…

It’s Christmas! And the Germans do not disappoint when it comes to this holiday.

I’d like to the think the Germans go all out for Christmas because they haven’t had a holiday in a long time. (Think about it: Columbus didn’t discover Germany)

That means the Germans are waiting with bated breath to whip out the trees, the holly and, of course, the world-famous Christmas markets.

Let me tell you, I was getting a little tired of walking through town everyday in the grey and cold weather. But once I was exposed to the Leipzig Christmas market, it was as if someone handed me my missing pair of rose-colored glasses and slapped them on my face.

Most major cities in Germany have their own Christmas markets. Each market is relatively the same, with some minor attractions or booths that make each market individual.

Leipzig has a particularly large Christmas market, which makes the possibilities of food, Glühwein, and crafts nearly endless.

There are also many attractions for families and children, such as a giant ferris wheel and a Märchenland (lit. fairyland), which is an area that displays classic scenes from fairy tales.

These markets can become very crowded, but fortunately for you, the markets open in the afternoon and run through the evening.

So many smells, so many sights. A favorite food of mine that I always enjoyed at the market was this roll/bread-like-thing (great English) that was stuffed with cheese and bits of ham, garnisheed with a dollop of sour cream and diced yellow and red peppers.

^If anyone knows the actual name of this food, please shoot me a text (and help me find a better word for “bread-like-thing”)

Another favorite, and this goes without saying, were the waffles. I could eat waffles literally everyday, and the German waffles at the market certainly helped fulfill that need.

Waffle goodness

Each waffle is customizable, in that you can get it “stuffed’ with certain things. For example, I had my waffle filled with a type of cream, but you could also have it filled with Nutella, among other things.

If you ever do come to Germany during the holidays, I would suggest packing light; you’ll definitely want to fill that extra space with all the crafts, trinkets, and Glühwein mugs you bought!

Over the Christmas season, I had the chance to visit four different markets in four different cities. And I must say, each city was successfully able to bring out the Christmas spirit in me. Or…was it the Glühwein?

Check out these sights that I captured from Leipzig’s Christmas market!

Tschüss!

For more on “Feuerzangenbowle,” copy + paste: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feuerzangenbowle (Hope you aren’t afraid of fire, or the credibility of Wikipedia)

Happiness comes from here
Entrance to Leipzig’s Christmas market

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.

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 final flight home

After hopping on flight after flight, both domestic and international, I could have sworn that I had this airport thing down to a science.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that TSA agents and a bag search can distract even the experienced traveler. It was quick and painless, with only a second look at the dozens of euro coins in a little bag.

It was, however, enough to make me completely forget what I’d been doing and therefore cheerfully walk away from security — and my laptop.

If reading that makes you cringe, don’t worry. This story gets better. I patiently waited outside the gate for my flight, which I had arrived two hours early. I made friends with a young couple and their adorable child, and eventually was chatting with a whole line of people boarding the plane about the age at which children become unreasonably sassy.

Halfway through the walkway towards my plane, I had a sudden epiphany about why my backpack felt oddly lighter. I quickly bid farewell to my line buddies, and headed towards the desk attendant in hopes of a miracle.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was not, in fact, important enough to hold the plane for as I raced to security to get my laptop.

The bright side is that they immediately re-booked me for a later flight without charge.

The dark side is that I had to wait seven more hours for said flight.

Never again will I leave security without double-checking that I grabbed all of my belongings, no matter how intensely the TSA agents scrutinize my bag.


Bridget McSorley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Business Administration and Languages and Literature. Bridget spent the academic year abroad with the University of Lyon 2 exchange program in France.

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.

A whole new world

Something that strikes me every time I go abroad is how similar everything is to home. There are small differences everywhere, but it’s like if thirty people in a class were all painting a picture of the same forest: The small branches and tree limbs would be unique, but the overall painting would be pretty similar throughout.

That’s the feeling I’ve experienced in every country I’ve been to so far — little irregularities, but broadly the same picture.

Part of me is let down by that, because don’t we all go abroad to see something completely new and different? But a part of me also finds it very reassuring to see that we’re not so far apart, despite the miles between the States and Europe.

But I think what I find most intriguing is that so far, I’ve only been to Western European countries.

It’s completely possible that if I just go farther east, I’ll discover a whole new series of a different painting, and I find the idea really exciting.

I like the familiarity of European and Western culture, but part of exploring is broadening your horizons and finding new things to enjoy.

So while this past year has been mostly familiar, I’m looking forward to the near future when I can go just that little bit farther.


Bridget McSorley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Business Administration and Languages and Literature. Bridget spent the academic year abroad with the University of Lyon 2 exchange program in France.

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.