The reason I was able to come to Seoul in the first place is because I am studying abroad here through the Yonsei International Summer School, which is paid for by my college back home. I’ve been here a week already and have stayed in a friend’s house, a hostel, and the apartment of a guy I met through couch surfing named Parham. Today I finally moved into my dorm at Yonsei University.
I woke up to the sound of Parham leaving for work. It’s 2pm and I’m lying on the floor of his roommate’s room. He told me when I first moved in that he likes for every couch surfer he hosts to leave him a note to remember us by. This was a pretty easy thing for me to do, because if there’s one thing I have learned about Parham, it’s that he loves languages. The guy speaks six languages including fluent Korean and he has only been here about a year. His undergraduate honors thesis was a class where he taught Esperanto, a language created about a hundred years ago with the idea of promoting peace and unity, which he prepared for by living in Europe for a year attending conferences and staying in the homes of people in different countries who speak it. I wrote him a note in Esperanto with the help of Google Translate thanking him for making my stay a comfortable and friendly experience, grabbed my things, and left.
I walked out into the humid furnace that is Korea in summer, and hailed a cab. When I arrive, I walk aimlessly around, drenched in sweat, trying to find any information about where my dorm is when I notice a white man walking with a Korean girl. I ask him if he knows where SK Global House is, and we start talking. He is the chairman of Asian studies as the Australian National University who specializes in Japan. He was in Korea because he wanted to create a relationship with Yonsei University to promote Korean studies and exchange in his department, and the girl was his guide. After walking uphill and dripping my weight in sweat for what felt like forever, I finally find SK Global and check in.
In the elevator after unpacking and taking a shower, I hear a girl who seems very distressed about the university not supplying us with towels. I make a joke about how she can just use her dirty clothing and we start talking. We decide to meet up in an hour to go out to Hongdae, a popular location for its nightlife, with her friend from home because we don’t know any other people. I spend the hour walking (and sweating) trying to find a place to buy an ethernet cable to no avail. When I go back to the dorm, I run into her again in the elevator with her friend and a guy they met named Marcus. She tells me we’ll meet in another hour in the lobby so Marcus and I decide to grab food. We go to a place I passed while trying to find the ethernet cable with really cheap bimbimbap. It was served to us without vegetables, so it was a bowl with rice and a little bit of beef. It was a little disappointing, but when you’re starving you don’t have time to complain.
When we finally meet up with the girls, we take a cab to Hongdae and walk around a bit. We find a really cool bar with glowing blue walls and get rejected after we sit down because as it ends up, the girl’s friend is 17 (18 in Korea) and too young to drink. I’m surprised because I didn’t know that incoming college freshmen could attend the program. We just find a restaurant and grab drinks there and play a few ‘get-to-know-you’ games.
The girl I met on the elevator’s name is Liza and her friend is Faith. They are both ethnic Koreans from Los Angeles, and the guy is Marcus, a Chinese-American pre-med student from Hawaii who studies in California. He is also working on a blog while he is here as well (http://secretlifekorea.blogspot.com).
After a few drinks and eating an incredible bowl of dukbokki  we found a cool bar that played American rock in the basement of a building and ordered a round of rum and cokes, and a cosmo for Liza. We chat for a bit and then go for a Hookah bar. The place is well decorated with plants on the walls and birdcages hanging from the ceiling. We sit on an elevated carpeted spot with lots of pillows and get comfortable. The vibe of the place was really relaxed. The lighting was just dim enough and on the speakers they were playing Korean rap, which, to my surprise, reminds me a lot of rap I would hear in Chile. It’s slow and smooth, the beats are more old-school, and the rappers would stress their syllables in the same way a Chilean rapper would. If I could find the artist(s) I would link them here, but I suppose that would have to wait.
After once again failing to blow smoke rings for an hour, we cab it back to Yonsei and split up. I take a short walk around campus and I end up finding an ethernet cable in a store connected to the dorm (-_-). I run into the girls again on the elevator and they tell me that they’re going back to Hongdae because they have some friends to meet there. Good luck to them: we have orientation early tomorrow morning.
1. Dukbokki is a Korean dish with rice cakes served in a red sauce with garlic and spices. This one had an Italian twist and was served with a creamy alfredo sauce and the rice cakes were filled with mozzarella