I know it seems like forever since I wrote here; I guess you can say I was waiting for something inspirational to hit me before I wrote senseless words. It seems that so much has happened to me since I've been in Korea but at the same time nothing has happened. I know that doesnt really make sense, but its the way that life is going for me. Classes are pretty easy here and I am rather sad because of that. When I was preparing to come to South Korea, I was prepping my mind for hard work and nothing short of that. Yet once I got here I still had that mindframe that classes were going to be tough or equal to Maryville, but sadly I was mistaken. I am taking only four classes--simple I know but I was not sure how classes really worked over here and instead of overwhelming myself; I kept it nice and easy. My professors are pretty laid back guys who expect me to do my work and be able to have fun. Though I must say, its hard to have fun especially in my one class because I'm the only foreign English speaker. I can say one thing for MC though, since they have a variety of international students I am able to be around a lot of different people and not feel sense of loss. I am making friends with some of the Koreans here and when we meet, its nothing but laughter from both sides.
I am still the same as I was in Maryville, but now I think that my persception of those around me has changed to adapt to those who are here with me. I still remember the one afternoon walking with my one Korean friend and we were talking on our way to the library. I forget what the conversation was about, but he stopped me in mid-sentence and said, "Can you slow down a little." I had completely forgotten that his listening skills were not as fast to pick up my English; I slowed down but our conversation didnt stop. I have found that once a Korean is approached more than once and each time talked to, they seem to open up. This seems to me almost like an onion, to get to the heart, each layer needs to be pulled back--almost like befriending a Korean. My one friend Jiwon is simply adorable!! I still remember how we became friends-- I was waiting on one of my classes to start and I sat down beside her, but she was giving out information for a new club on campus. We struck up a conversation and she invited me to the club event. I had already been invited by the president, but I didnt let her know and this was how even today we are still good friends. Both of us like music so we try and share what music we like.
Right now I am learning Korean, the grammer is hard like English and those in my little class now know that I don't like grammer in both English or Korean. It's fun learning though I'm a little sad that I couldnt take the actual classes like some of the other people I know here. I hope that when I go back home that I will still teach myself Korean. I am losing my other language--American Sign Language, this was bound to happen since I don't know anyone who signs here. The Korean Sign Language is totally different from American, but I have seen it on T.V when the news comes on. It's a little weird to watch especially since I don't know the language. Though while watching I saw the same gesture and wondered what they were signing that could have the same gesture over and over.
So now I'm enjoying myself.. Midterms have passed and I only had one midterm in class and the rest were take home essays. I am a little angry that my one professor has yet to write the essay questions for my take home midterm essay. But until he does, I'll just relax and do what I normally do--nothing :)
"Enjoy the journey, enjoy ever moment, and quit worrying about winning and losing."
University of Hyderabad, India
Today is Gandhi's birthday and the very beginning of October, which means that I've been living in India for nearly three months now! And when I say "living in India" I very much mean that I'm "living" here. As in I have a residential permit with the Andra Pradesh government, which, personally, I think is petty damn cool.
However, when I say that I'm "living" in India, it could also be taken that I'm "living life to the fullest" and "living new experiences" and "finding the meaning of life." As of yet, not all of those things are particularly true. I'm still not sure what the meaning of life is... sorry. But I do feel like I'm becoming an Indian, or at least as Indian as a pale American ginger can.
I no longer have to psych myself up about leaving campus and going out into the Indian world. When I first got here, going out into India was an all day commitment. It was, and still can be, exhausting and completely over stimulating. We'd come back to Tagore dirty and irritable from being stared at all day. There would be some weekends where we just weren't up for India, so we'd stay around campus and if we went out it'd be to the more Western parts of the city.
Now I'm finding that I no longer need to be in the "right mood" to face India. I can just pop into the city or Lingampoli (the neighborhood close to campus) to run to the store or for the afternoon, and when I get back I don't feel like I'm totally drained and wiped out. Yeah, I'm still dirty and it's always annoying as fuck when people stare at me, but I've learned to deal with it. While it still bothers me, I've definitely learned to ignore it and go on my way.
In the first couple of days when we first got here one of the women at orientation told us that to properly navigate the Indian streets we needed a third "Indian eye," which Indians were born with but foreigners had to develop. While my Indian eye may not be fully developed, I think it's definitely there. I went to the grocery store in Lingampoli by myself the other day and I was effortlessly, consciencely aware of everything around me. I know how many people were walking behind me, I knew what type of vehicle was coming my way and how fast, but knowing that didn't seem to extol any extra energy. It was all just something I was aware of, as part of my environment.
To learn more about MC Study Abroad Student Harper Ganick’s adventures in India visit http://harperganick.blogspot.com/
to read her blog "There and Back Again: A Ginger’s Tale"
Good evening all, I know it's been awhile but it really doesnt feel like it. I do have to say that with classes and trying to be a little social its crazy; why do I say this? For starters I have to keep in the back of my mind that what I do here can somewhat affect what happens when I get back home. Hahah almost like a child, being cautious in case mom or dad finds out what I've done--nothing bad of course;-) Classes are going well, all of them are in English with Korean professors who are not as tough as what I expected them to be. Yet let me not say that to loud, don't want them to think anything differently. South Korea especially the capital, in a way reminds me of the big cities of the US; traffic, bars, clubs, lots of people and not enough trees or stars in the sky because of pollution. Most of the times I think that I am back home and have just gone to New York for a visit, the only thing really different is that here the majority is Korean. I don't speak the language except for the baby words like thank you, goodbye, hello; and the Korean people are shy around foreigners unless you approach them in which case they might forget what English they learnt. My classes are really interesting, since what I learn in one class seems to be what we are starting to learn in my other class. What I really like about these classes is the way they are getting me to think in the way of my major. lick here to edit.
Nothing new has really happened to me much while I have been here besides eating new food, meeting people from different states and sometimes different countries, and joing a club that is trying to help children of multicultural families. All in all, I'm enjoying myself.
Until next time bye bye
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post at
At least twenty people decided to travel to Goa, which sounded like a lot of fun because it is basically just a giant beach and tons of people I know would be there.
We were all changed and on the beach by 10am, and thats where we stayed for the rest of the day. The others we knew that had already been there were kind of wandering around the area with their rented motor bikes, but we saw them throughout the day. The beach was beautiful and hot. The sand, other than being absurdly annoying, was made up of very small pieces of shells, so if you looked closely it was full of beautiful colors. I collected a few really fascinating shells. While the beach was fabulous, it did have a major downfall: Indian women.
Alanna and her horde
As soon as we laid out on our towels we were immediately surrounded by Indian women trying to sell us jewelry, trinkets, henna, ect. And they wouldn't leave. I mean, I felt like a total bitch but the only way to get them to go away was just to completely ignore them. You couldn't say "No thank you," or "Maybe later," because as soon as you gave them an inkling of attention they latched onto you like a spider monkey. Eventually they wandered away, but Alanna had it really bad. She just couldn't ignore them, so I'm actually not sure if she had any beach time without being surrounded. Even though the rest of us were trying to ignore them, they would just sit at the edge of our towels and stare at us. I was getting extremely hostile so I had to put in my headphones.
I just had a problem with the whole system revolving around these women. Some of these sellers were children who should've been in school, and I have always had a huge problem with working/begging children. Some of the other people that we met up with said that the women that were following them openly admitted to be beaten if they didn't sell enough, and they said it as if it was just no big deal, because to them thats an acceptable norm. Another woman, visibly pregnant (or at least with a tumor/cloth bump) told Diana that her husband wouldn't give her money to go to the doctor. Even if these stories were true, which they probably were, the entire exchange is solely targeted towards Westerners. The groups of women don't congregate around Indian families on the beach. One time Diana even pointed to an Indian couple and said, "Why don't you go ask them?" and the woman said "No, they're Indian."
I refused to buy anything or even acknowledge these women, because I would not support their system. Yes, it might've given them money that day, but it's an unsustainable and abusive system.
Really this is just a continuation of my hatred of being targeted because I'm white.
Wow where did the days go? Seems that once you try and enjoy your time abroad the days just fly by and you don't even realize it. I guess for me in between my low moments and high moments time decided to skip merrily by without even a glance back. I am enjoying my stay in South Korea and slowly learning some words; all while meeting new people= great! Word of advice from someone who is going through the the adventure (being abroad), you really have to be willing to let go a little bit to really see what the country has to offer. I know being stuck in one frame of mind can be a survival thing, but at the same time that can hinder having a good time with complete strangers on campus. This morning I was walking to get some coffee with my roommate and I saw this guy sitting by himself looking like someone stole his best friend. I was feeling quite sleepy and happy so I motioned that he should smile and he did, I don't know if that made him feel any better; but that simple act of making a smile could possibly make his day much better.
I am realizing as I continue to stay in the city and in South Korea, that most people will not smile unless they are with friends or family. They have what I am coming to figure out two faces- nothing bad about it; but when they are around complete strangers they have a straight no laugh face. This face can flip at the drop of a hat if family or friends come into view, strange I know but it has worked for them. For me personally I try not to adopt this style from the people around me, though when you are in a new place we all try and adopt to fit in.
To switch the subject now, yesterday was a really fun time with my peers who were from the states and some who were from another country. We traveled it seemed all over Seoul and I finally got to ask a Korean friend of mine questions that I've wondered about Korean people. Surprisingly, he answered them with no hesitation while incorporating what he learned while in the USA. If he didnt have the answer he wasnt shy to admit that he didnt know. This was good mental stimulation for me, because when I am with other Korean people they have a hard time knowing what to say or they get really shy, or they don't know how to express in English well. So to have my friend talk to me confidently and at what I consider "normal pace" was good.
Let's hope for more good times and fun adventures!! Annyeonghikaseyo(goodbye)!
Hyderabad University, India
An Excerpt from her blog post "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
Last Saturday some friends and I went and visited the Qutb Shahi Tombs
, which I learned about in my Lonely Planet
before I even got here. We've been meaning to go and see them for a few weeks now, but we've gotten side tracked or been away from Hyderabad. No one here has even mentioned them to us as a suggestion to "go see" and we didn't know anyone who had been to them so far, so we really had no idea what to expect. In fact, I really just expected an old grave yard with some ancient "mausoleum" type structures. Not for the first time, we were totally unprepared for the reality that is
These tombs were all pre-Moghul, ranging from the 15th to 17th century, and all in various states of decay. However, their disrepair made them all that much incredible. Each tomb, like a smaller version of the Taj Mahal but in stone, still has an attendant, and the actual tombs inside are still decorated with shawls, incense, and flowers.
After the first tomb there were another ten, at least, behind a fenced in area. Some were smaller than others, but all were beautiful. The vegetation and life growing through the hundreds of year old stone made them even more beautiful than they might have been when they were first erected.
Not only were our surroundings amazing, but the day was great too; hot, blue skies, and not too humid. Unfortunately I chose to wear jeans that day... We spent all afternoon there, just wandering around and taking pictures.
It's happened.. I wasn't sure it would, but it's happened. I am experiencing what most would call the "drop" or after the honeymoon feeling that one gets when they travel to somewhere new. I thought for me that Korea would stay interesting for about a month or two, yeah not happening. Yet I'm okay with that, hmmm... I must really be growing as a person, me being okay that something is becoming boring. In the past I would throw a fit that something was becoming boring or dull to me, but now I'm accepting it and going with it. I've talked with fellow students at MC about the feeling and they are all like, "hang in there," "it's to be expected," I'm not quite sure what they were expecting me to do, what freak out? Hahaha I guess I could freak out and go crazy but my inner person is really relaxed and waiting to see what's going to happen next. I know for some people though, they can't seem to sit still and let things come naturally, always in a rush. Usually I would be right beside them, demanding the next thing to happen on my time.
After coming to Korea, I've become even more chill/relaxed which I don't mind. It's weird being in Seoul though, the busy city like its American partners (NYC and LA) never sleeping but always awake. I didn't think I would be in a busy city and like it, yet here I am taking in everything around me. The hustle and bussle of people, buses, cars, and seems to never stop. Here I am away from the quiet of my hometown to the roaring of Seoul Korea--who would of thought?? I got the chance to talk with my roomate from Japan and she couldn't believe I was studying abroad, the only thing I could do was just laugh. If she couldn't believe it, how did she think I felt?! I knew it would happen someday and well I demanded it happened when I wanted it to. Now that I'm on this adventure I'm glad that I did decide now, I wouldn't change anything about it.
Wonder what's going to happen on my next adventure? Hahaha every moment is an adventure :) I've enjoyed the past couple of downtime now it's time to get out and see the city again...
Where should I begin or matter of fact where should I end this? Being in South Korea now for 3 weeks has opened my eyes to people quite different than I but yet the same. We've all heard negative things about South Korea or just Asian people. I won't go into details with those because like any negative comments about people of a different ethnicity there are lies and some truths. What made me feel a little "warm hearted" today was that there are people out there in the world who don't mind helping a stranger find their way. At first in my mind I thought Koreans are not always nice, but I actually stopped myself and made myself rethink that statement. Some Koreans are not nice and others are nice folks who will help a stranger. That statement that I just mentioned about some koreans being nice is true for almost all the world. There are some folks who are ignorant while others try and move past that wall into understanding or at least try to. Today brought about that idea that there are nice people out there who will try and extend beyond the line even if different languages to help someone in need. During my travels today I rode the subway with another american girl. Not having much practice by myself in the subway and the other girl being a newbie too I decided I would lead the way. Actually we both did our parts in getting confused and finding our way.
The start of our journey to the Immigration Office began sour as we tried to find which track to ride and finally looking at a bigger map I traced where we had to go. I don't know why but a feeling of "you're in the way" came over me and sure enough there were two guys behind us also looking at the map. "You're fine," the one guy said, relief that he spoke English I asked which way to get to the other track and graciously he pointed to the other side of the path. Thanking him we headed for the other side of the pathway. Our next mistake came when we got half-way to our destination and this time we were on the wrong side of the tracks. After asking one elderly guy which side we moved down the hall alittle and started speaking English. The funny thing about being in a country where some of the people speak English and the rest don't, it seems the ones that you think don't speak the language, actually do. While we were speaking another elderly guy turns his head and looks at me, nothing unusual on my part, this is a common thing in Korea. But he doesnt turn once to look at me but again as if trying to grasp what we are saying and I know my face had the lost look on it. So what the heck, I leaned forward a little and said where we needed to go and oh my gosh he answered in English. Actually he did more than answer in English he followed us to the escaltor and told us to go to the other side. If we werent in a hurry I probably would of hugged him for helping us. I guess it goes to show that some of the older generation are trying to move into the 21st century but heheh at their own speed.
Now I know that South Korea is modernized and technical savy but some of their people are like some Americans. You pass them on the street and they look at you curious as to who or what ethnic group you are. What really bothers me is when you are somewhat dazed as to where you are and go to ask for directions from them; they blow you off and keep walking the other way. Now where is the kindness I don't know and it's not like I was trying to sell them anything; hahaha I didnt have anything to give. We did eventually find our building funny thing was it was a block down the street we were on. So we really didnt need those girls help but I guess it was more of a mental comforter if they would of helped. After the longest time in the Immigration office we had to return to the subway and somehow manage to not get lost which we didnt really.. hahahha.
There are a few things I like about South Korea, and will give them some credit, when the promoters for new restaurants or stores are out they don't bother me. I was with a girl who looks Korean and they gave her a flyer but didnt even pester me with one. I guess I didnt matter but hey I am not complaining, the less paper I have to carry.
Finally I made it to Yonsei University and have settled in; but I did more than settle in, I made friends. No sooner had my Korean host mom put the van in park and wonder inside a wrong building another lady who spoke English approached saying that this other building was where she thought internationals students went. Following her lead my sister and I proceeded to the building the Korean lady told us and I met up with a girl who was from Singapore. I just did what came natural and started conversation and that is how I met her, otherwise the elevator down to the next building would have been boring. Dead end for me.... I thought the building below would be my home too along with the Singaporean girl, but it wasnt. I headed outside and my sister was waiting, " You're suppose to be upstairs, I asked the lady at the desk." There was hope for me! Using the elevator again I went upstairs and the lady did have my information and was waiting for me. Getting everything I needed from her I went up to my dorm and surprise--- small room.. Good news is I have a girl from Singapore as a roommate and she is super sweet! Saying goodbye to my Korean mom was sad but at the same time it had to happen. Now being at Yonsei has made me miss my Korean mom and her endless Korean chatter. Here there is English and other foreign languages that I could pick up, but nothing is the same as my Korean mom.
First night out in the city and I don't know what to do or where to go but Im in luck. Two of my Korean friends from MC are in the city and they come get me and show me Seoul. I get to try spicy noodles which it's name says it all and we go see a movie-- Step up 4 revolution (in English with Korean subtitles). My day has gone well and after we split ways, I am again with another friend from MC--Eun and we enjoy dinner together at an Italian restaurant. The day seems to have been a dream but a very good dream.
The days seem to float into the next without me realizing it. That seemed to be the case until the day Yuji flew into Seoul. It seemed I was once again a newbie in Korea, enjoying the sights and exploring as a kid would. That day seemed to be the drinking day as well, in Korea it is the culture when with friends you eat and drink. I was with friends and we did what was part of Korean culture. Like all things it had to end the next day and we split paths once again.
Indian Giant Squirrel
University of Hyderabad, India
This is an excerpt from Harper's post "Monsoon Vacation"
Our very lofty goal was to see wild elephants, but it's best to see them in the early morning and even then only if you're lucky. Almost as soon as we began our hike we saw a Giant Indian Squirrel (which is classified as threatened). It was cool, but mostly just weird lookin'. Not too cute. That and a snake that Kaia nearly stepped on (just a teeny-tiny brown one) was the only wildlife we saw. However, we saw signs of elephants everywhere, including elephant poop from that very morning! and tracks leading to the river.
If you've ever gone hiking with me, or just walked with me outside, you'll know that I'm a very slow hiker because I have to see and touch everything. So me and one of the guides brought up the rear, which turned out to be just fine because he told me neat things about what we were seeing and hearing. one of the coolest things was a low-laying branch that was polished smooth by elephants scratching their backs up against it! Our trek culminated in a beautiful, giant waterfall. Our guides didn't really speak much English, but they made it clear that I wasn't supposed to go to near the waterfall. However, I thought that was dumb because I was wearing my bouldering shoes and I know how to climb on slippery things. Once Diana said that she wanted to go closer as well I made my move. I don't think I ignored our guides, I just feigned ignorance as they motioned for me not to go further up the waterfall. Then Diana followed me, so we kind of pressured one of the guides to follow us up the whole side of the waterfall until we were way up and behind it. Right before we left I got my first chance to wash my hair since we left the boat (and by "first chance" I mean that I refused to shower in the freezing water in the guesthouse, and by "wash" I mean stuck my head in the river and beat my hair with rocks).