Friday, January 11, 2013

Wrapping Up

Now that I'm back in Hawaii, I have had some time to reflect about my time abroad in Korea.  I had an amazing time and I learned so much in just four short months.  I met great people, ate fantastic food, went to really cool places, and got to play in the snow!

Above all else, I miss my friends the most!  A lot of them were American but the others were from places all over  the world.  They taught me so much about the world and my view of our country has changed quite a bit.  Going to Korea gave me the opportunity to see the US as someone not from the US.  This experience has helped me understand who I am as a person, not only as a student but in general too.

As a student, my study habits have changed a bit.  I find that I get the most work done when my friends are all hanging out when I'm at the library.  If I have things to do, I get them done a lot faster and more efficiently because I want to go hang out with them.  As a person, I have become more independent and I really don't like driving anymore, especially here in Hawaii!  I have come to love public transportation and cannot wait until Hawaii gets a good system of its own.

This is me and my friends in the lobby of our international dorm.

Ending the Semester

The friends and memories I made at Yonsei University in the short four-month semester spent there will be unforgettable!  During Finals week, my closer friend group had a final dinner in celebration of the semester coming to a close and also for Christmas!  We all pitched in some money to buy ingredients and cook dinner for everyone!

This is me in my friend's apron!  Throughout the semester, I always cooked and a lot of my friends didn't have a lot of cooking experience so I earned the nickname of Chef Huy!  :)

These are most of the people that I was close to.  I spent a lot of time with them, essentially every waking moment of every day.  Some are also from the US (California, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, Washington, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Wisconsin) and others were from all over the world (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Morocco).

 I will never forget them and I can't wait until I see them all again in the future!!

Noryangjin Fish Market [노량진 수산시장]

During Finals week, I went with a couple of friends to the Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul.  It was only about a 30 minute ride there from Yonsei and I am a little disappointed that I didn't go there earlier!! The fish were fresh and cheap! You can buy the seafood that you want from the market and someone will take you from the market to a restaurant where they prepare them for eating!

This entire plate of sashimi was only W10,000 (about $9 US).  Koreans don't eat tuna as much as salmon and some other type of fish so I definitely missed tuna and especially SPICY AHI!

We also bought 4 nakji (small octopus-like animals).  I had the restaurant cut two for eating the legs and just clean the other two to eat whole.  You can see the two whole ones in the bowl below.

And here are the cut up legs of the other two!

One friend and I wanted to try them whole since we had already eaten the legs before.  I thought I was prepared to eat it but got pretty nervous when I saw the eyes staring back at me!

 Before eating, you dip them in sesame oil and salt for flavor and to make them more lubricated so that their suction cups aren't too strong.  My friend's one went crazy when he dipped it in the sauce.

After dipping, you wrap their legs around chopsticks in order to make it easier to eat and to prevent the legs from going all over the place.  Once you put in in your mouth, make sure you chew very well! It can potentially be dangerous if you don't chew enough to kill it and break down the tentacles.

For the most part, eating it whole wasn't too bad until I bit the head and the inner juices came out.  I think I prefer the legs cut up!  The next time I go to Korea, I will definitely make it back to the Noryangjin Fish Market!

Busan Again [부산에 다시 갔어요~]

I enjoyed my trip to Busan a lot last time so I decided to go back down again.  From December 7 to 9, after my LSAT the week prior, I went back down to Busan with a group of friends and I had an awesome time again!  Here are some pictures from the trip:

We took the KTX (Korea Train eXpress), Korea's high-speed train system from Seoul to Busan and it was nice because it started snowing when we went!  This was part of my view from the ride down to Busan.

I went back to Jagalchi Fish Market and had some fun with the birds on the port!  I also got to eat sannakji, raw octopus, legs.  It was pretty good and a lot of foreigners enjoy eating them because it is something that you cannot find in other countries.

I also went back to Haeundae Beach and this time was a lot sunnier despite it being the winter. The water was colder than last time but surprisingly, a lot of people were still visiting the beach!

Even though Busan is Korea's second largest city, the night views of the city are still as nice as Seoul's.  This was in an area called Centum City, where Shinsaegae Department Store is located as well as the location for the Busan International Film Festival.

I also found this interesting statue in a park walking around the area!

We went to a really fancy Noraebang (Korean Karaoke).  We had paid for two hours of singing but somehow, we received five hours!  Five of us were only able to make it through three hours and the others stayed the whole was very intense!

All in all, I really do enjoy Busan.  This trip was a great getaway and was so relaxing especially the weekend after taking my LSAT and two weeks before finals!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 buzz KOREA Awards

On Tuesday, October 30, I was able to attend the 2012 buzz KOREA Awards, an event held by the Korea Tourism Organization.  Last month, there was a worldwide contest for foreigners to submit videos about Korea (language, culture, food, etc.) in order to win trip to South Korea and move onto the next step in the competition, which was to participate in a country wide tour alongside two celebrity groups, 2PM and Miss A.

2PM has been a favorite of mine for a few years now and I like Miss A a lot too so I was pretty excited to see them in person!  The awards show was cool and the venue was very cozy and not too many people were allowed to attend so I felt like a VIP!

Coming from Hawaii, where basically everything is about tourism, it was very interesting to see how the Korea Tourism Organization gains more and more visitors every year.  It’s a shame that we can’t have any Hawaii-pop stars to help us draw in more tourists because the Koreans are doing an unbelievable job at attracting foreign visitors via their celebrities.

See you guys soon!  I'm inspired to study more for my LSAT hehe but I'll try not to neglect this blog so much!! Sorry for the inconsistent updates ㅠㅠ

부산 [Busan]

A couple weeks ago, from Friday, October 26 to Sunday, October 28, I made a trip with some friends down to Busan, South Korea’s second largest city.  I had been wanting to get out of Seoul for quite some time and a weekend trip down south was perfect!  I had so much fun and really enjoyed my short stay there.  We went to Haeundae Beach (extremely popular but not so crowded in the middle of fall—there was even a South Korean thriller movie about a mega tsunami occurring there a few years ago), Busan aquarium, Busan Tower, Jagalchi Fish Market, and the Hae Dong Yong Gung Sa Buddhist Temple, which overlooks the ocean on a cliff.  In Busan, locals speak with a slight dialect different from the standard Seoul way of speaking and I was able to pick up a few Busan dialect words.  Busan was by far less populated than Seoul and people seemed a bit friendlier there.

Anyways, here are some pictures from our trip!

It felt great to be at the beach again after so many months!  Yes, that’s a couple doing a photoshoot with newly purchased coats at the beach.

The Busan aquarium is marketed as the largest aquarium in all of South Korea so I was expecting something very impressive but well, it wasn’t anything special.  I still had fun regardless!

Busan Tower was very cool and I got to see all of Busan from the top but the weather was making a turn for the bad so I’m glad we got up there when we did because the rain came shortly after.

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT SHRIMP!  The Jagalchi Fish Market is a major attraction for tourists since Busan is a big fishing city and the array of seafood present in the city is amazing!  We ate a rather pricy, but definitely filling buffet for lunch at the top of the fish market building.  Oh, how I have missed sushi and sashimi (AND FRUITS!)!

The Hae Dong Yong Gung Sa Buddhist Temple was truly one of the most beautiful and scenic temples I have ever been to in my life!  It is located on the eastern part of Busan and overlooks the Pacific while sitting on a cliff.  It was so nice to see in the morning as the sun had just risen and the monks were just starting the day.

Our time here in South Korea is really coming to an end shortly, but I hope I can squeeze in some time between classes and studying for my LSAT coming up in just three weeks to get more travelling done!  Hopefully I will get to visit Busan again one day!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

추석 [Chuseok-Korean Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival]

This year, Chuseok was from September 29 to October 1.  Chuseok, often referred to as Korean Thanksgiving by foreigners (but it really isn't), is a three-day long holiday held in celebration of the harvest season according to the lunar calendar.  Korean natives usually return back to their hometowns, or parents' hometowns, or even grandparents' hometowns to celebrate with a large feast of traditional Korean food and also to practice ancestral rites such as cleaning the grave sites of their ancestors.

During this holiday, while millions of Koreans are travelling to other cities on over crowded trains and buses, I stayed mostly in Seoul and enjoyed a very relaxing and fun-filled weekend.  The major places I went to this weekend were Gyungbok Palace, Everland, and Lotteworld.

경복궁 [Gyungbok Palace]

Gyungbok Palace was the biggest and main palace of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty.  During the 20th century, it was almost completely destroyed by the Japanese government but recently has undergone major renovations and restorations.  It was not my first time visiting the palace, but because it was a national holiday, they had some special events such as traditional music and dance performances, as well as interactive showcases like trying on a 한복 [hanbok], or traditional clothing of Korea, and eating 송편 [songpyeon], or traditional Korean mochi-like food for this holiday. 


Everland is an amusement park located about 2 hours outside of Seoul.  This weekend, there was a discount for foreigners due to the holiday because they know we don't have families to return to and well, that's pretty good business sense!  We made the trip out to Everland and I'm so glad we did because it was a great experience!  The world's steepest wooden roller coaster is located here as well as some horror mazes in the spirit of Halloween and a bunch of other attractions.  I am definitely going to come back during the winter for other winter attractions!


Lotteworld is another amusement park, but this one is located in Seoul and is half indoors and half outdoors. It's a lot smaller than Everland was but definitely just as fun and had many attractions.  I first saw this place on a Korean drama called "Stairway to Heaven" back in seventh grade and I'm glad I was finally able to visit!  It was fun hanging out with new friends and very convenient since it's located within the city!  It's a very popular destination for couples, so I was glad I was with friends and didn't feel like a loner...

Both of these parks resembled Disney in many ways, like music playing and even their characters.  However, I feel like it was just enough to give the nostalgic feeling of visiting a Disney park, but not enough to cause any lawsuits.  This weekend was a good time to relax and refresh my mind for the upcoming busy weeks of midterms and presentations!