10 Ways in Which Korea Changed/Impressed Me

The months in Korea were certainly some of the best in my life. In between a vivid nightlife, extraordinary food, deep conversations, a great number of wonderful friends from different cultures, a very special football club and the exchange life itself – this is what shaped me most within the last few months.

Cozy Bars in Jeju

Cozy Bars in Jeju

1. Korea Showed Me Asia’s Creative Face
Without any disrespect for other places, whereas HK is famous for economy and Japan is famous for craziness – Korea is the creative hub of Asia. All the cute artsy places, exhibitions and details one can detect everyday in Seoul are just beautiful. Especially in Insa-dong, Hongdae and Hyewha I always felt surrounded by creativity and plenty of stunning ideas. Koreans have a certain sense for these details and a particular atmosphere. Almost all restaurants, cafes and bars are cozy and tastefully decorated. I really love this fact about Korea. Seoul is just a lovely place.

Constant eating2. Korea Made Me a Snacker
I’ve never been somebody who ate much besides the three regular meals every day. But as I mentioned before Koreans are massive consumers. And as Koreans seem to constantly snack, I had to adapt my behavior. No joke, it feels like Koreans are always eating something. Chips and popcorn, finger food, sweets, nuts and a lot of other things I do not even really know the name of. Personal favorites after my time where definitely Honey Mustard Pretzels (not distinctively Korean I know) and snow flake ice. The snow flake ice is by the way representing what we all have been dreaming of during ski trips as children. Snow that has a beautiful taste – with exactly the same texture as real snow and flavors like Oreo, Strawberry or Mango it is a one of a kind sweet snack.

 

12244424_945745648843708_9117469386550240786_o3. Korea helped Me to Make It to the German National Team
My biggest dream in life came through. Since I can think I wanted to play for the German football national team. And in Korea I eventually made it. Well, it was „just“ the “German National Team of Korea” – but who cares? I was wearing the German jersey, sporting the 15 and making great friends on and off the pitch. Who needs Özil, Kroos and Müller if you can play with Hunni, Jens and Dennis? Thanks to all the players and especially the management of FC Dogil – I will be back!

New glasses after the eye infection

New glasses after the eye infection

4. Korea Made Me Treasure My Health
As you might remember, I got a pretty serious eye infection at the beginning of my exchange semester. I have to admit that at that point I realized that I took to many things for granted. Health is the most important thing after all. We usually always strive for more and bigger things and forget to be grateful for all the things we already have and that are given. Luckily everything went smooth for me. I was able to realize once again how lucky I was to spend time in this beautiful country.
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5. Korea Made Me Understand What Pressure Means
We all like to stress out how stressed we are sometimes (sorry for the pun). I do that too. Since I have lived in Korea I am not sure if I will ever dare to say I am „stressed“ again. It would be really offensive for every Korea person to set my stress on the same level with what stress means in Korea – plus, Koreans do not even complain about it. Working usually 50h, forgetting to sleep, being pressured into being always the best, having to compete every single day, not being allowed to fail and being asked by the society to constantly succeed – this kind of pressure is what we don’t even know in Western areas of the world. I wrote already about the differences in education, and I can just mention it again: The pressure students experience here is insane. And honestly speaking, I do not believe this is the right way. I hope sincerely for Korea and the lovely Korean people that the system will change sooner or later and that reforms may come up. For now, big respect for your diligence, Koreans.

Center of Pressure

Center of Pressure


6. Korea showed Me the Ups and Downs of Rapid Development
The history of Korea is crazy and I really recommend everybody to try to get a little insight. When visiting Korea nobody can believe that just about 30 years ago this was one of the poorest countries in the whole world. What the country and especially its people have achieved in just a small amount of time is insane. The technology is super modern, the organization of such a megapolis is stunning, nightlife is world class, the people are getting more liberal and open-minded and financial stability is given more and more. Nonetheless with rapid development some things fall by the wayside. It is notable that the gap between the young and the old is nowadays so big that most understanding for each other totally diminished. Or the mentioned education system. Also the economy can be seen in a critical way. The big chaebol (family companies) like Hyundai or Samsung are ruling everything, have way too much power and thus leave no chances for small firms or start-ups. Korea has achieved big things recently but it is still in total transition. It will take some time until this country’s system is totally evolved – let’s hope the best!

Beautiful Jeju

Beautiful Jeju

7. Koreans Made Me Embrace Also Other Cultures10525969_542858672539075_2343468395583091182_n
Whereas I would never dare to call one country better than the other, it is always interesting to compare in which ways which countries seem to be more or less evolved. Whereas the diligence and creativity is outstanding in Korea, Scandinavian countries for example might have better ideas regarding education. Working culture is probably more fair back home in middle Europe. These are just subjective conclusion from long, deep conversations but the point is that exchanging and talking about the cultures helps immensely to widen one horizon. In between Tacos and Tequila, Baguette and Red Wine, Burgers and Coke, Ramen and Sake, Bread and Beer and especially Kimchi and Soju one just learns to embrace all the different cultures. It is so beautiful to be able to take advantage of so many cultures and to get enriched through every single one. Whereas certainly no single culture is the best, combined they are. This also emphasizes another important fact:

IMG_11818. The Time in Korea Let Me Feel Again Once Again How Important It Is to Go Abroad
Nothing more beautiful than exchanging culture. I had the pleasure to do this again while living in Seoul and I do not want to miss a single conversation, discussion, argument, drink, dinner or night out with all the people I met from different cultures. I learned a lot and I hope I was also able to give something to people by sharing my thoughts. In nowadays society I believe this to be one of the most important things to have a happy life. Exchanging, questioning, evolving. When I see what happens nowadays in my home country and whole Europe, with how much hate people attack other cultures just out of pure ignorance and inexperience with „the foreign“, I just want to strongly advise everyone to get in touch with other cultures to be less narrow-minded and understand each other.

Of course there are several problems when different cultures clash together and we have to face the fact that some people misbehave. But there are assholes everywhere – in Germany, in Korea and also within refugees. It depends on both sides to open up. Don’t be an asshole and meet people halfway – embrace shared culture. I do not intend to go too much into the complex refugee debate right now, I just really want to stress out that there is nothing more beautiful than opening up. Sharing, experiencing together and learning from one another. I believe it made me a better person, and I encourage everyone of you to go abroad as much as possible and widen your horizon. At this point I want to emphasize that if any of you has questions or thoughts about going to Asia or about Asia Exchange, please feel free to contact me directly! (Btw, in case you decide to do an exchange with AE you would do me a huge favor if you could mention my name as a reference.)


9. Korea Showed Me That We Are All Kind of the Same
Ironically in the country that is one of the most homogenous, I came to realize that we all don’t differ that much after all. It came at the very serious point of the Paris Attacks. Somehow this incident really changed the whole mood at the university for a few days. I do not want to say that these attacks are more horrible than any other terroristic events like Beirut or in Russia, but the implications it had were certainly different. Somehow they were kind of worrying all of us equally. It was a moment where we had no choice but to stand together. What followed were a lot of serious and enriching discussions and conversations. And even though our backgrounds were so different, our cultures sometimes so far away from each other, I can say that after all, the Mexicans, the US-Americans, the Azerbaijanis, the Kongolese, the Koreans and the Germans, and all the other nations, we are all kind of the same. There are disputes, there are misunderstandings, there are certain histories. But what we want these days is a happy, fulfilled life surrounded by beautiful people. And the globalized world gives us a wonderful opportunity to do so. All in all, I am so grateful to be part of this marvelous international generation. And despite a lot of negative factors I look forward to a bright future with this one of a kind generation.

IMG_154610. My Love to Asia Was Emphasized Once Again
If you know me, you know that Korea was not a random choice. Since my time in Hong Kong, I was a huge fan of East Asian culture and society. Being in Korea, I realized that this passion was not short-term but that I really feel like this part of the world is supposed to be my future home – at least as long as I am still young. My way will lead me to Amsterdam now, but I am quite determined that as soon as possible, I will return to Asia long term. I will take any chance to make this dream come true. If you have any hints or recommendations for me – I would be happy to hear from you.

Thank you for following me within the last months, I appreciate any attention you gave me. It is unbelievable how lucky I am to make so many precious experiences. At this point I should definitely say thank you especially to my family that enabled me to do so.

Guys, do me a favor and try not to be assholes in the next year, open up and be kind. We are all just people with the intention for a happy life, so let’s have it together. All the best to everyone for 2016!

So long,

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Niklas

Seoul Nightlife From A Students Perspective

Seoul and its nightlife are totally up and coming within the last years, steadily evolving and constantly booming. Nowadays Seoul consists of three distinctively different party areas which can hardly be seen as one and the same „nightlife“, which is why I decided to describe all three of them separately. Here is my little insight of how you perceive the nightlife in Seoul as a student. Please keep in mind that I just roughly spent 5 months in Korea. So forgive me if I missed out on any hot spots.

(c) flickr.com/photos/molinarius/

Bustle (c) flickr.com/photos/molinarius/

Itaewon: Cosmopolitan, flashy and wild"Foreplay"
Itaewon might be the American capital of Korea. Nowhere will you hear so much English, get such an amount of Non-Korean food and feel so much like not in Korea. Even though also Koreans like to mingle with the crowd in Itaewon, it is more a spot for those Koreans who especially like Western culture, people and also behavior. Most clubs here could easily also be competing in Paris, Berlin or New York, whereas the vogue seems a little bit more chic and the high heels a little bit more prevalent (which is frankly the case in all of Seoul). The area is not too huge, which makes it a perfect destination for club-hopping. With it’s both hilly and crowded alleys, pounding music sounding from numerous one of a kind bars and characterful venues like Venue, Itaewon has a pretty outstanding international mood that offers opportunity for any kind of nights from cozy to crazy.

Personal favorite: Cakeshop, a wine cellar-ish house music club.

(c) flickr.com/photos/taqumi/

Up all night to get lucky (c) flickr.com/photos/taqumi/

Gangnam: Posh, fancy and massive
Without disregard, Gangnam is the home of plastic surgery, Rolex and Dom Perignon. Whereas beauty and haute couture is all over the place, a, well, rather casual student like me gets a bit overwhelmed in those surroundings. On my first night in Gangnam I went to Octagon in sneakers and t-Shirt. Despite the really surprising fact that I have gotten into the club without further problems, the audience inside was not pleased by my appearance. Whereas the girls stopped noticing me at the second they recognized instead of a Cartier my wrist was adorned by handmade bracelets, guys in suits looked at me like they would commiserate me. However after I pulled out my denim bottom up shirt for the next Gangnam night after this, things were going more smoothly – even without the watch. After all, it has to be stressed that the clubs in Gangnam offer massive, passionate and powerful parties. In clubs like Octagon, No. 1 club in Asia and No. 6 of the world, the boisterous crowd is usually offered straight heavy EDM, refined with excellent visuals topped with stunning special effects and dancers. And you might not want to miss the after hour at Arena. Psy’s song Gangnam Style is by the way more a satire than a homage about Gangnam.

Personal favorite: Syndrome, a club as seen in any crazy EDM music video.

(c) flickr.com/photos/liopic/

Hongdae Playground (c) flickr.com/photos/liopic/

Hongdae: Hipster, artsy and playful
Named by the Korean abbreviation of the Hongik University it is surrounding, this area offers a home for all party addict students living in Seoul. The buzz of it’s vibrant streets at nights is rousing. Countless atmospheric cozy bars and coffees offer the perfect opportunity to get in the mood and even more hidden and not-so-hidden pubs, lounges, hang-outs and night clubs tempt the visitor to spend all night in Hongdae. Except for the Winter, the playground (an actual playground that got turned into an playground for students’ play purposes) is the hot spot to see and be seen (make sure you leave Hongdae station at Exit 9). The streets around Hongdae are filled with indie bands, street artists and dancers and their audience. Nights in Hongdae consist of constant exceptional and stunning moments, as this area never fails to surprise with new venues, new faces and little artsy details.

International Hongdae Happiness

International Hongdae Happiness

Personal favorite: Complicated! Most places here offer the ability to be exceptionally great and not-so-great hang-outs at the same time, which is why in Hongdae you should just go with the flow. Starting at Thursday Party or Mike’s Cabin is never the wrong thing – but be careful not the get stuck there all night!

 

 

Further impressions:
This guy is gonna take a walk trough Itaewon. This video is a little too long, but he captures the mood on the streets quite good.

This is a promotional video of Octagon, Gangnam. The artists you see in there are Jewelz & Sparks from Germany, partly from my hometown Freiburg. Doesn’t hurt to support them 😉

And last but not least, the Student’s favorite: Hongdae. This video does not give a perfect inside about clubbing, nonetheless the feeling of a Hongdae is quite accurately represented. The couple filming this video are pretty famous in Korea and have a lot of other useful information about Korea on their Youtube channel. Their project is called Eat Your Kimchi.

2 weeks and counting for me. Sending you all the best from Far East,

Niklas

10 differences between Korean and European university education

As I noticed that rather unconventional methods of blogging get way more attention that normal storytelling, I decided to keep this entry’s structure also rather alternative. Fellow students already explained about the university I am currently visiting, so I want to focus more on differences between the East Asian and German/Austrian approach of tertiary education.

To explain those, I am going to do what writers should never do: I will be fully working with ignorant generalizations. Reading the next paragraphs, I ask you to take my extreme version of both the Korean and Mid-European stereotype not too serious and remember that all these observations are purely subjective and based on nothing more than my foolish little mind. I do not intend to cover the full truth, I just hope explaining differences makes both Asians and Europeans understand the others’ educational culture a bit more.

All observations are based on experiences I made on HUFS and the University of Vienna, and also the knowledge I already have about German universities as a German. There’s not much difference between German and Austrian university education which is why I will see it as the same thing in the following.

Iconic main building of HUFS

Iconic main building of HUFS

International HUFS Fest

1. Koreans pay for university – and it pays off
All universities in Korea expect students to pay tuition fees. Of course the amount that has to be paid differs but an average about 3000€/3.7m₩ has to be covered. These costs are nowhere close to some schools in the UK or US but nonetheless don’t pay themselves. Anyhow, there are a high number of scholarships and also parents like to invest in their children’s education. Once a student figured out how to pay the tuition fees, it may be stressed that to a certain degree they make sense. Whereas German and Austrian public universities suffer under extreme shortness and cuts on money, Korean universities seem not to worry too much about financial costs. These mirrors especially in events, small classes, marketing and quick decisions about financial investments. As an interesting fact it might also be mentioned, that Korea has the highest percentage of 25-34 year olds having a tertiary education degree in all OECD countries.

2. Freedom in Korea is a lot more restricted
Whereas freedom can generally describe the university part of the life of European students, in Korea it definitely does not. First of all, this is shown in pretty strict rules in classes and education. Attendance is an important term. European students on the other side don’t take it too serious with attending classes. But also the living conditions are different. Most Korean students live either still at home or in on-campus dorms. From these two options, the first one might even provide more freedom since the rules in dorms are pretty harsh and curfews stop many students from a European-style wild university life. Most Europeans on the other side live in shared flats, totally independent and uncontrolled. A lot of students in Berlin, Vienna or Munich start missions of “finding themselves” outside the university during years of tertiary education. Koreans just find themselves stuck in textbooks.

Events at HUFS

3. In Korea there are no boundaries between leisure time and education
In Vienna and all other German-speaking cities we really like to separate between leisure and work. It means that as soon as class ends, we are done with the university and do not feel like spending any more time on educational grounds. Totally different in Korea. As the school provides almost 24 hour entertainment and options to stay busy, many students spend almost their whole twenties on their campuses. Festivals, competitions and leisure events get hosted there, people gather for drinks and food and the whole school feels like one big family. People find their best friends and oftentimes even their significant others within their majors. Through clubs and activities, many students do not really have to leave the campus for many things other than sleeping which makes their school their life. This is leading also to the next point…

Popular K-Pop band 4minute on a free school concert

Infamous wooden stairs

Infamous wooden stairs

4. In Korea there is a strong community and identification
Universities in Korea have a strong community. It is almost like one big family that is spending their days in their huge backyards, their campuses. Students wear college jackets to represent their schools and majors and own tons of university branded utensils and clothes. As mentioned, most of the students spend a lot of their time on their campuses, which also includes food (at least nearby restaurants) and especially drinking. All Korean schools do apparently have a certain place on their grounds that is considered to be “the drinking spot”. Here at HUFS it’s the infamous “wooden stairs”. In Germany and Austria we wouldn’t really think about drinking at our university – we are usually quite happy when we got out there and can enjoy a chilled beer far away. The community however does not only get built through clubs, classes and drinking but also through common problems. The pressure in Korea is immense and thus students know how others students suffer and support each other. I will cover this in more depth at the points 7, 8 and 9.

5. Koreans are way more diligentCafeteria
Education in Asia is about achievement, no doubt. In Europe it is more about experience. Whereas Koreans are strictly focused on grades, in Germany students tend to use their university time a lot on the mentioned “self-finding”, growing in terms of maturity and questioning the world. Focus of the university times in Europe is not the university itself but more the process. In Korea it is all about being diligent and getting things done. Korean classes always full, the students well organized and in time. Austrian classes are rarely full of (at least not hung over) students who are additionally barely on time and do usually not prepare anything beforehand. It seems like Koreans are focused all night and everyday but prefer to listening over questioning. Learning structures of Viennese students are a lot messier. Though, students in Europe tend to question things more often and like to debate. Whereas the individual approach is quite common in Europe, Korean students are more conforming. The diligence however in Korea is way higher. As always, meeting halfway would probably be the best for both sides.

Prestige. Meeting the World.

Prestige. Meeting the World.

6. Teachers are parents in Korea
The relationship to professors in Europe is usually strictly professional. After the class ended both the teachers and students go their ways and meet again a week later (if the students succeed to attend). In Korea the professors take more of a parenting role. As mentioned, the community is strong and the university is almost like one big family which makes the professors really caring and being there for their students. This also shows in remaining relationships. Most students stay in touch with some of their professors their entire life and even invite them to marriages. In Europe, this would be rather uncommon.

7. Education is about competition in Korea
University is life in Korea. It decides who you are and what you will be. Thus, the future is solely based on what is achieved during university years. Who fails in university, will most probably fail everywhere else too. The society puts incredible pressure on students and expectations from families, teachers and future bosses are super high. This results in a certain kind of silent dog-eat-dog society.

8. Education is about competition in Korea
Yes, again. For a good reason. University in Korea is pure competition. Also between the universities. As every institution has their own characteristics and identity, students of different schools like to compete against each other. But this also happens on a higher level. The universities in Korea are super competitive towards each other. Rankings of the schools mean everything and decide a lot about future jobs. Whereas in Europe most students don’t look at any kind of ranking when deciding for which university they apply for, in Korea everybody does. It is about prestige, about showing off, but also about future opportunities.

9. Education is about competition in Korea
It can not be mentioned enough. Also for very sad reasons. The pressure that is put on students through constant examinations, relative grading systems (!) and other competition goes to an extent that is in some cases not bearable anymore. As a European student with good time and task management, getting through bachelor and master years while having a proper social life and fun is hard but feasible. Unlike in Korea. Who doesn’t pay attention and focus enough, who doesn’t work hard and compete succesfully, who lacks on certain skills or enjoys fun and leisure too much can easily get left behind and become victim of a certain kind of natural selection. This results in one of Koreas saddest statistics: The highest suicide right among the OECD countries. The competitive pressure in Korea goes beyond what some students can handle. Thus, some students do not see any exit but ending there lives.

10. After all, we do not differ that much
Despite this very sad statistic, one thing should not be forgotten: After all we students are not so different. Living in Korea, I meet students having the same dreams, wishing for the same things and worrying about the same fears. The frame might look a bit different and the approaches of reaching a goal are not exactly the same, but it is kind of beautiful to see that wherever I go we are unified in searching for actually just one particular thing: happiness. And as over-dramatic as this may sound, I feel really glad to be part of this hectic globalized generation, confused somewhere between being lost and changing the world in everyday small steps.

Joining uni sport events

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you feel like criticizing or debating some of the points, I am glad about any comments or additional ideas on Facebook or here. Other than that, I will not let you wait too long for the next article. So long!

Love letter

My dear,

We just know each other for a few weeks. But we have both realized it was love at the first sight. Since the first day you opened up your world to me I could not let go anymore. Every night with you is still as adventurous as the very first time.

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(c) roketship.com

You never fail to surprise, you’re too random. Like when I intend to turn on the water tap and you decide its shower time instead. Or how you never sell yourself too cheap, but your price policy doesn’t make much sense. I enjoy how you play music out of the blue, how you’re never predictable. Your silhouette in the nighttime is stunning. You’re huge but in perfect shape. It’s nice to see you being so diligent and achieving. Though, sometimes you should slow down a little imho. But then, when you live it up, you do it properly. You eat so much, you consume so immensely and you play so hard. For you there’s no limit. You’re always up to date, nonetheless you don’t forget your past. I can see occasionally you’re scared of what could happen in the future, but you don’t let anyone feel it. You have to maintain strong.

You look so cute when you’re too well-behaved and shy to kiss on the street. When you don’t dare to talk English because you’re scared to make mistakes. But on the other side you’re so outgoing and noisy once you had some soju. I like how you sing when you’re tipsy, how your streets are filled with energy and leisure at the same time. I’d like to see you sleeping but you never do. Even at 4am on a weekday you seem more awake than anyone else, calmly eating your tteok-boki while sipping on some makgeolli.

Butt-Face Emoji (officially "Peach")

Butt-Face Emojis

You know you are odd sometimes, right? Your guys wear make-up. Your girls go to the beach in high heels. Everybody is suddenly one year older with you. You love wearing shirts that say random things in English (condensation), French (Je suis canon) or German (Weltraum). You watch actual TV in the metro on your smartphone. Everything is a mirror here, you are obsessed with beauty. Some elder people tend to stare a little too much a little too grumpy occasionally. And when your people fall in love, they start wearing the same things. Your Emojis are Butt-Faces. Yeah, you are very odd. But you also know that it makes you special.

Everything you do has a sound, you seem to like jingles and fanfares. There’s nights that you shine brighter than during the day. You always take care that I’m not getting too hungry, you’re well prepared for everything. You treasure your ancestors but you keep your view focused on tomorrow. You’re homogenous but at the same time you’re diverse. You know how to dress, it’s never too much nor too little. Your sense of fashion is stunning, but you’re also reflected and smart. You always keep yourself busy, you hate boring things. You’re naughty but never dirty (even if you’re really missing on trash bins). You’re not like the others.

At the same time you’re wicked and neat. You are the organized chaos, a beautiful mess. For now we two have not much time left. But I promise I’ll do my very best to get back with you for the long time. Until then, let’s enjoy what we have right now. Saranghaeyo Seoul.

Your Nikeullaseu

Everland Day Trip

Everland Day Trip

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Buddy Activities

Buddy Activities

Namsangol Hanok Village at Chuseok

Namsangol Hanok Village at Chuseok

Traditional Chuseok Celebrations

Traditional Chuseok Celebrations

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Vintage Korean Movie Posters

Vintage Korean Movie Posters

Celebrating Chuseok

Celebrating Chuseok

My Atti and me

My Atti and me

Han River

Han River

Han River Water Park

Han River Water Park

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Modern Tradition

Modern Tradition

Peaceful Seoul

Peaceful Seoul

Insa-dong

Insa-dong

Tandem tours at Han River

Tandem tours at Han River

Ocolus Future

Ocolus Future

Some serious words about gratitude

Alle Wünsche werden klein, gegen den gesund zu sein. Literal translation: All wishes appear small compared to the wish of being healthy. This is a popular German proverb which means nothing is as important as being healthy. It may sound quite cheesy but as soon as one gets into a critical situation, it becomes clear how true these words are.

My situation isn’t quite that critical, but unfortunately I caught an eye infection last week. Though, greedy as I am, I could not accept staying in on a weekend in Seoul. Additionally, I didn’t realize the eye drops I had to take contained antibiotics. However, one thing came to another (alcohol came to antibiotics, to be precise) – and Saturday morning I woke up a Zombie. Honestly, it looks scary.

Well, it doesn’t seem to be as horrible as it looks and will hopefully be gone soon. The point of writing these words is more to remind myself of being grateful. Sometimes, it happens that I missed to realize how privileged and lucky I am. For example being able to study in this beautiful country, meeting all these incredible people and making unforgettable memories. I guess, as long as everything is fine, we forget to value some of the most important things such as our health. At least I am.

As far as I know myself, I never get enough and want to live up everything to the fullest. Thus, I take silly risks. Indeed, it is also necessary for us to stop, think, step back and reflect. Sometimes, it is vital to be just thankful and not to ask for more.

Even though it is really annoying for me to take a rest and stay in these days, I had to admit to myself that I have been taking too many things for granted. Health will always be the most important thing and it should be treasured. So I hope I’ll be fine soon and can get back out.

Enough of the moral speech to my own though. I actually wanted to post a description of my school on this point but the infection stopped me from writing it. Nonetheless, within next week I will eventually deliver some information about my school.

To make this blog entry a little more fun, I will be sharing some photos of the Bukchon Hanok Village and the Jogyesa Temple I visited this weekend. Also, some impressions of the beautiful people surrounding me here. Furthermore, you can find an updated About, and even more interesting: stories of other exchange students. And for the aural pleasure here’s one of the most chill Korean songs I got to hear so far.

 

Thanks to everybody who took care of little Nick these days, especially to the one who dragged me to the doctor, translated for me and played mommy. I can’t wait to get back on my feet and enjoy Seoul with this marvelous international and local crowd – probably a bit more careful this time.

Niklas

Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ

International Rooftop Party

International Rooftop Party

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Mini Karaoke Booth

Mini Karaoke Booth

Sinchon

Sinchon

Namdaemun

Namdaemun

Temple

Temple

Anguk

Anguk

Bakchon Cultural Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

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Hongdae

Hongdae

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Rainy days in beautiful Jeju

Annyeonghaseyo folks,

I spent the second part of my backpacking holidays on the Island of Jeju. Jeju is called the “Korean Hawaii” and a hot spot for lovers and romantics. With no doubt this island offers a variety of beauty, from mountains to beaches, from cozy coffees to fairytale-like paths and corners.

Unfortunately, of the 8 days I spent in Jeju only about half a day offered sunny beach weather. It was mostly rainy and stormy. Though, this couldn’t change my great mood. My will to experience the island and its secret hidden spots actually just got stronger. The “bad” weather luckily made some experiences even more memorable.

All in all, the time in Jeju was really enriching. I was able to meet awesome travelers and Koreans who discovered the beautiful places with me. Also, we could experience Jeju’s nightlife and students scene, which consists of super sweet bars, fun clubs and an open-minded youth.

My personal highlights were daytime at Hamdeok beach, cozy snack places on Weoljeongli beach, a thunderstorm day on Udo Island and a night out in Stone Island Bar. A night at a Jeju craft beer brewery should als not miss on this list. Furthermore, I could finally add gimbap, twigimgob chang stew and fried gob chang to my Korean food portfolio.

It isn’t easy to put the magnificence of Jeju in words, which is why I will attach the most suiting pictures to provide an insight. This wonderful laid-back hippie island has really got me fallen in love and I might need to come back here. Especially because I’ve missed the mysterious love land this time – and the sun.

Once again, it is beautiful to spend holidays at places that consist of almost no Western foreigners. This made also the Jeju trip really special. This Island is one of the most beautiful ones I have seen, a must-see in Korea. I would advise choosing a not so rainy time for a visit anyhow.

I just settled in my students dorm near my school. Things are about to get serious. I already had a chance to meet a lot of fellow exchange students and the staff of the International Students Organization. People here are more than awesome, our dorm is cozy and Korea is welcoming me so warm. Everything appears to be really good here at the moment. I can’t wait for the semester to start and for all the experiences that lay ahead.

Further updates will be provided regularly, I send the warmest regards from the beautiful city of Seoul that will be my hometown for the upcoming time. For me it’s time now to explore.

Niklas

On the way to the waterfalls

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Stormy days out

Udo

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Beautiful Hamdeok Beach

Beautiful Hamdeok Beach

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Fairytale island

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What I call a strand bar

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Weoljeongli Beach

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He is everywhere! Glad also Koreans admire him

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Cozy bar booth

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Inspecting Jeju Craft Beer – worth it!

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Having gopchang (intestines), surprisingly good!

How I experienced Busan

The days in Busan are over, I just landed on Jeju Island.

Overall Busan is really an impressing place, it is as crowded and busy as it is peaceful and charming. Following, I want to point out some things that appear to make Busan special:

  

 

Food: So good. As I fancied a lot about the food to a friend, she justifiably told me to mention about it in the blog. From old school Busan style fried chicken, various local soups and special Korean BBQ to outrageous street food is is definitely worthwhile noticing. Especially the deep fried chicken was probably the best I ever had. And the location was so original – it can hardly get better. An about 1.2m high loft filled with pillows, small tables and cute paintings and advertisements. Super cozy and apparently the old fashioned restaurant way in Korea.

 

Me being really happy about mandu and rice cake soup

   

Korean BBQ

  

The chicken

 

The loft (my sister complained about my bad panorama skills, I’m trying to improve here)

  

Gamcheon Cultural Village: A scenery that can rarely be seen somewhere else. The little colorful houses that used to be slums have some really inspiring and calming character and the view from any angle on the little artsy stores and apartments is just beautiful. It reflects an really individualistic character that seems to be really common in South Korea and makes things appear really attractive. We had the pleasure to meet a super friendly older local (about 60) who was so kind to offer us to be our volunteer guide. He was able to give us an insight into Busan history in a thrilling way. His English was impressively good and he had that old guy charme helping him deliver every story perfectly.  

    
    
 

People: As far as I am able to judge this, it seems like Busans citizens are not used to too much contact with foreigners yet. Apart from Haenundae beach, which is the main tourist spot, the society seems to be really homogenous and without much influence from the West or anywhere else. English is rather rare and one is usually the only foreigner in restaurants and clubs. That has both ups and downs to it. On the one side, the people present a pretty conform and consist picture and are also really interested in the individual foreigners background. Surprisingly, especially older people have been trying their English skills on me. On the other side, sometimes as a foreigner one appears to be a bit unwelcome outside the tourist spots and some looks or reactions on questions could be interpreted as rather ungracious. Though, I don’t feel in the position to judge this yet – probably sometimes it might be better not to welcome the Germans 😄 Overall it has to be stated that Busans population was incredibly friendly and kind and mostly also even interested in the German culture.

Some further fun facts I don’t want to leave out:

  1. It seems like everything in Korea has a melodic jingle: the train approaching, opening a door, even the toilet flushing in rare cases. Koreans seem to love that – in Busan there is seriously a little symphony once a train reaches the platform. Sometimes in the underground there’s also random alarm or bird sounds.
  2. It is apparently considered hot to wear long sleeve swimsuits for girls in Korea. I asked, it is not because they don’t want to get tanned (the slip is still almost nothing) but because it’s en vogue at the moment. Fair enough.
  3. You don’t wear shoes inside in Korea, you just don’t. And dare you going one step too far! 

In case you wondered what we drink here

 
As Busan is a place that is not really discovered and overpopulated by (Western) foreigners yet, I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience an Asian/Korean metropolis that has not much Western influence.

It was a pleasure visiting you, Busan. So long!

Nick

First impressions from Seoul and Busan

After a little two-day glimpse into Seoul, I got to Busan safe and sound yesterday.

What happened the last days was basically a lot of soju in Hongdae. Soju is like the national drink and some kind of ethanol that can have a variety of different strengths and tastes. Usually people drink it neat, but also mixes with juice, tea and even vinegar appear to be common. I’m sure it’ll play a big role during the next months for me, since it’s cheap, rather strong and doesn’t really give you hangover – the students magic potion. I recommend everyone to try that! 

Hongdae is the hipster party area where the biggest nightlife buzz found its home. Street musicians, food, clubs, parks, outgoing people. It’s the place to be and will probably become my second home pretty soon.

Yesterday we arrived in Busan, as the Koreans celebrated their 70 years of independence from Japan. Coincidentally we happend to witness the probably most Korea-stereotypical thing that was possible. On the national day on Haeundae(THE Korean beach), surrounded by Korea flags we saw PSY performing gangnam style live – while drinking soju of course. Unless eating kimchi while doing that there weren’t any possibilities to make this experience more Korean. 

I will attach some impression and will keep you updated!

Anyeong,

Nick 

  Our hostel 

 view from the hostel      

 Haeundae beach 

   
  

PSY   

Mandu    
    
    
  My uni for the next semester 
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The Korean in its natural habitat   
  Street musicians  

Announcement from Qatar

Annyeonghaseyo dear readers,

as my months in South Korea are about to begin, I am happy to tell you that I will be keeping you updated through this blog as you might have expected. I don’t have a proper clue yet what will be happening and published on this blog but I am sure it will contain some more or less entertaining, fun or even philosophic insights in my experiences.

So far I made it to Qatar, where I am sitting at Doha Hamad International Airport now. I inspected this place deeply and had a brief talk with Sepp Blatter. So far, I have to say this location seems pretty ready for a Football World Cup. Just we will never be ready for this place, I guess. Sorry Qatar, money just can’t buy everything.

The next days I will arrive in Seoul and spend some days at Busan and Jeju to get my first glimpse into South Korea – if everything goes right. As you might know, I am quite talented with things going not so right, which could be a reason to follow what I experience.

I would be happy to have as many of you as possible taking a little look at my tiny diary and its content then and when.

Here goes!

Nick