The GoGlobal Blog

First Impressions of Seoul

First Impressions of Seoul


I arrived in Seoul last Monday and as classes still don’t start for another two days, I have had a decent amount of time to get acquainted with the city that I will call home for the next four months. Before coming to Seoul, I conducted literally no research about Korean culture/society/language/food, simply because I am lazy. However, this wasn’t always the case. I began the summer with high hopes, going as far as to buy a Korean language workbook to learn some basic phrases but I soon came to terms with the fact that 5 summer classes, work, and Netflix would take top priority. Therefore, upon arriving in Seoul I did not know what to expect. I had eaten Korean food perhaps once or twice before but it didn’t stand out in my memory than any other Asian cuisine. I had watched only one South Korean film- Old Boy- but only remembered it for the scene where the man ate an entire live octopus, which was equally fascinating and horrifying to watch as the octopus literally tried to claw his way out of the man’s mouth as he swallowed. But I digress… the point is I arrived in Seoul unprepared. Prior to my departure, when people would ask me why I chose to study in South Korea, I had a hard time coming up with a good reason because the honest truth is I don’t really have a lot of good reasons for choosing to study in Korea. I have a variety of reasons as to why I didn’t choose other countries in which to study abroad, but not many reasons for choosing Korea itself. I feel a bit awkward saying that because there are a lot of people who have spent years planning their experience abroad in Korea. Nevertheless I am confident that this semester will prove to be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.

It has only been 6 days and already I am in love with Seoul. It’s so vibrant. At all hours of the day and night there are people in the streets, cafes, restaurants, shops, doing stuff. Stores stay open past 9pm. My hometown of Ham Lake, Minnesota is not exactly a hotbed of glamour and intrigue. Therefore it is a bit overwhelming for me to find myself in such a busy bright hub of activity. Last night (Saturday) I ventured out to the district of Hongdae in Seoul to explore the nightlife. There are clubs, bars, and restaurants  everywhere, all filled with groups of Koreans enjoying themselves. One thing that must not be overlooked about Seoul is the drinking culture. I had heard that Korea in particular has a very active drinking culture, but it definitely must be experienced firsthand. At the orientation for the new exchange students, the International Buddies program (exactly what it sounds like, Korean and international students forming friendships) ended their introductory presentation by announcing to the crowd: “Join our club! We can all go out and get wasted together!” When I studied in Rome at the John Felice Rome Center, the consumption of alcohol was repeatedly stressed as a social activity that was not to be abused, as Italians typically do not go out and get roaring drunk. Whereas in Korea, drinking appears to have evolved from a social activity into a national sport. Say what you will, bars and clubs have proved to be an excellent way to meet native Koreans, all of whom have been eager to learn English and help me learn basic Korean.

A quick word on some favorite Korean foods I have discovered thus far… (the descriptions and spellings of which may or may not be accurate as I still don’t know any Korea so I have been guessing wildly when reading menus)

  • Bingsoo: shaved ice covered in sweetened condensed milk, tried one in a bowl with almonds and one in a cup with an entire slice of tiramisu on top

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  • Shabu-shabu: basically a pot of soup in the center of the table over a burner, you are provided with a bunch of ingredients that you can cook in the pot (meat, veggies, noodles)


  • Japanese curry: similar to Indian curry (if not the same? Difficult to say…)IMG_1862

Stay tuned! More to follow…



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