Reflecting back on my experience, I can say my time at Sookmyung International Summer School (SISS) was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I experienced alongside exchange students from America, the Netherlands, Taiwan and China.
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to travel to Korea during semester break with 3 other Macquarie students. At Sookmyung University, I decided to take up traditional subjects such as ‘Korean Language for foreigners’ and Taekwondo. I definitely underestimated the intensiveness of these classes, with 6 hours of class each day. However within such a short period of time I was able to read the Korean alphabet, greet people, order at restaurants and even improved my fitness levels. I tried to maximise every opportunity in Korea and explored the city straight after class everyday, making sure to pack my itinerary to see Namsan Tower, the National Museum, The War Memorial and endless shopping districts. The National Museum certainly had a sense of tranquility and peacefulness which I much appreciated amidst the busy Seoul city.
There was quite a few things that I did for the first time in Seoul; visiting a dog café and trying Patbingsu (Shaved ice dessert). The humid weather only gave me more reasons to treat myself, which I certainly abused.
My personal highlights from the trip would definitely having to be hiking at Bukhansan, the highest mountain in Seoul; traveling to the coastal city of Busan, visiting the DMZ, and, of course, enjoying the amazing food that Korea has to offer. Visiting the DMZ on my birthday was a truly memorable experience; with the harsh reality that reunification may never occur. It amazing to note how resilient South Koreans are with the ability to bounce back after such tragedy and loss, only a mere 60 years ago. South Korea has really come a long way with their technology and efficiency, from the tall modern buildings to their flawless subway system.
I was lucky enough to take a weekend trip with friends to Busan only bringing a backpack with me. We definitely faced challenges along the way with us arriving in Busan, to no accommodation at 1am in the morning. Despite this set back we managed to find a place after much sign language and promised to make the most out of this trip. The vast amount of activities we had planned included visiting the famous fish market, a seaside temple, a culture village, which was my personal favourite, and visiting the largest shopping centre in the world!
I want to thank my buddy and the people at Sookmyung for their hospitality and kindness. This trip has certainly taught me to enjoy life and take things as it comes. As typical as it sounds, this trip has really widened my perspective of international travel and I hope to visit Korea sometime in the near future with the possibility of me one day working there. For anyone who has never thought of South Korea as an interesting place to visit, I can assure you, this experience will change your perception completely. I cannot express how grateful I am to the GLP for sending me on this trip and I truly recommend everyone take part in this remarkable opportunity. There are simply no words to describe the amazing memories I have made and the new friendships I have forged and I hope to be back soon.
*All photos courtesy of Amy Zhang