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First Days at Hanyang University 09/06/2012 at 8:15 AM EDT

So I moved into the dorms this past Thursday and unfortunately for me it seems like the janitors didn’t get a chance to clean it since the people staying in it during the summer just left the day before. So it was pretty gross and also the room is quite smaller than the room I had last time in Korea. BUT when you’re staying somewhere rent free I guess I can’t complain so I won’t.

So!! About Hanyang University. It is built on a hill that is made up of tiny little hills as well…I’m exhausted everytime I go to class but I guess I am gonna count it as my daily exercise?? My classes all seem normal and I’m not expecting anything to throw me for a loop or completely confuse me. Hanyang is located in a really nice location because there is a fun downtown area with lots of stores, restaurants, and bars. There is a subway station right on campus which is also really convenient for going to other places in Seoul.

I have yet to make any strong friendships with Korean students but I’m working on it. In regards to international students, there are over 300 exchange students this semester I think and most of them are all from Europe (which really surprised me). I was expecting there to be mostly Asian or South East Asian students but to see all these other white people took me by surprise. While they are all very nice I feel like a lot of them don’t really have an interest in Korea and just came here for an experience and aren’t really trying to embrace the culture. For example, for the first weekend we were here they organized parties that took place at Western style bars and it felt like I was back in America instead of in Korea. If I am travelling all the way to Korea, why do I want to do things I could’ve done back at home especially the first weekend I am in the country? . I would much rather prefer going out with like 4 or 5 Koreans with a a few other international students that way the Koreans can tell us where the fun places are and other things like that. Again, this is my thinking and its not for everyone but I’m curious what others would think if they were in my position.

So now that I finished complaining…I will talk about something cool about Korea! The topic: City-Planning. Now I know you may be thinking “boring” but trust me its cool. When you come to Korea, city planning is something you really notice right away. Everything is so convenient in Korean cities, navigating subways and roads is very logical, and parking is never a nightmare despite the city’s high population density. Its also quite amazing to see how they also have integrated nice parks, walkways, and river side paths seamlessly into the city. In my opinion, the reason Korean cities are able to be so efficient is because compared to US or European cities, the Korean cities are fairly all brand new. After the Korean War in 1953, most of all of Korea was completely destroyed. They were able to completely re-build their cities which allowed them to apply new ideas for city planning and infrastructure. All the buildings in Korea are all built within the past 50 years where as in American cities (like Philadelphia), there are buildings and roads that are over 200 years old and so when they were built, things like cars or subway systems were not even a thing. So like I said, you really notice city planning and infrastructure in Korea and how it IS possible to live in a big city and not be stressed over lack of outdoor walking areas, parking, or convenience.

(This is a picture of the running/bike path that goes along one of the rivers in Seoul. There are skate board parks along the path, outdoor excercise equipment, restroom facilities, water fountains, scenic views, benches for sitting, etc. All of this is within walking distance to shopping centers, super markets, and restaurants. So convenient and diverse!)

And so it Begins... 09/02/2012 at 5:35 AM EDT

Hey everyone. My name is Colby Hepner and I’m an International Area Studies major who studying abroad at Hanyang University this term in South Korea.

This is actually my second time in South Korea because I studied abroad here 2 years ago at my previous university Lock Haven University. 2 years ago I was in a city called Daejeon which is located in the middle of Korea; this time I will be studying in the capital of Seoul. With that said, the city of Daejeon has 1.5 million people (its enormous but if you ask any Korean they will tell you straight up “Oh its such a small city” * LIES* ) and Seoul has a whopping 10 million people. Some people may think going to such a huge city would be intimidating or scary but I think American cities and Korean cities operate differently. In America, every city is very different and has its own very distinct look, style, and way of operating but in Korea if you’ve learned how to navigate, find restaurants, and generally understand the surroundings of one city then you can easily transition to another city without having to learn anything new. Now that I am in Seoul, it feels the same as Daejeon except that it just covers more area

Anyways, so I arrived in Korea last Saturday evening and I had been running around ever since. I really wanted to visit with all my old friends in Daejeon and the surrounding areas so once I arrived at the airport I took a bus to Daejeon and met with my home stay family I had 2 years ago. I got there at around 10:30 pm and then they already had a huge meal all ready for me to eat. After that first bite I almost cried; the memories of the amazing flavors of Korean food from 2 years ago came rushing back. I must have been kidding myself to think that the slop they called Korean food in back America could even compare to this. (As you can tell, I’m obsessed with food so full disclosure: I WILL be talking a lot about food in this blog. Haha)

I have run into a major problem with the food in Korea; because its so cheap, delicious, the portions are huge, and you can get free refills on some of the food I am pretty sure that I will need my stomach pumped soon because I am like a guppy and I will eat till I explode. I have no self-control and when I see food in front of me I just have to eat it. Haha. Its kind of a cultural thing here though to over eat because it shows that you thought the food was really delicious and that the person who cooked it (especially mothers) did a really good job.

Back to my story, so I spent the first 5 days in Korea just visiting old friends, hanging out, eating (obviously), drinking, and just catching up with them. Now that I have arrived in Seoul today I need to get my mind ready for classes to start and to start making new friends with the other exchange students. The next post I’ll talk about my first few days at Hanyang and starting classes

(Don't mind my hair in the photo, its SOOO humid in Korea and it makes me sweat from head to toe...also they don't bump the AC up in Korea like we do in America. haha)