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2 posts from September 2013


Fall 2013, Issue 1


Welcome to Seoul! Fall 2013!

안녕하세요!  Annyonghaseyo! Greetings!

Fall has arrived and is a time of change. And it’s noticeable everywhere.  The hot humid days of summer are slowly giving way to the crisp days of autumn. The sky is high and blue.  The rice fields are turning gold.  The lush green foliage is starting to change. And, our fall students have settled into the school routine, having attended classes for four weeks. They have been busy with schoolwork and various activities, from exploring Seoul and meeting new friends to getting involved in CIEE community engagement projects and university clubs.

To help them transition into Korean university life, we had a 2-week-long orientation.  In addition to discussions about health, safety, security, and academic policies, it included lectures on Korean pop culture, Korean cinema, and life in North Korea, a culture shock workshop, a photo scavenger hunt to help the students learn how to get around the city, and more. Some of the activities involved CIEE Seoul Mates. To wrap up our orientation, we had a 3-day excursion to introduce the students to other parts of the country as well as many of the elements that make up the Korean cultural fabric and psyche. We stayed overnight in Korean traditional style houses, visited a Buddhist temple and a Confucian academy, made pottery and did literati painting, hiked in the mountains, and more.

Here's what one student wrote about orientation and settling in:

SF 11 




Sarah Fewell, University of the South

Coming in to the program as the only person from my university and not knowing anyone, I was pretty nervous about coming to a foreign country where that lack of relationships would be even greater. But from the time that I arrived, I quickly started to get to know everyone in the program through the many activities that the CIEE staff had prepared for us; from the Seoul scavenger hunt to the three day excursion, we all were getting to know the people that we would be sharing this program with, while simultaneously learning about the country we are going to be calling home this semester and in some cases year.  We had talks on Korean media and even heard a lecture from one of the top North Korean experts in the region. But my favorite event that we have had so far would have to be the three day/two night trip to the central Korean Mountains. It was so much fun going outside of the city and to see the countryside and to see how life is outside of the capital. Plus the food was really good!

 When I talked to some of the other international students here and have heard their experiences about applying and adjusting to life here in Korea, I am so glad that I decided to apply for the CIEE program. I could not even imagine trying to apply for all the proper paperwork and trying to navigate the ins and outs here in Seoul by myself having never been exposed to living in a large city, especially when the city is in a different country and works by different cultural norms. Suzanne, Tina, and Boram really take good care of you and are always willing to help you out with any question you might have. They really try to cater to the interests of the group by organizing lectures, activities, and trips that the group seems interested in. I am really looking forward to the future programs that CIEE has prepared for us; from trips to the DMZ and Busan to the cultural workshops, I am looking forward to my upcoming year here in Korea!

Scenes from Orientation

Korean Spirit & Culture Workshop

Ksp saebaeLearning the proper way to bow Photo bowing
Learning how to receive bows Ksp girls

Ksp malesDressing in hanbok, Korean traditional clothing, is always fun

Scavenger Hunt 

A team at Gwanghwamun Gate

At the end of the hunt, a team poses with some CIEE Seoul Mates

Scenes from Explore Korea Excursion

Picnic 2 - Copy

Picnic 1

We stopped for lunch at a stream and waterfall in Soebaeksan National Park (above) and then traveled on to Buseoksa, a renowned Buddhist temple.


248 (2)
A brief lecture before ascending to the main temple halls.

Buseoksa 2
Learning about one of the temple's many structures and iconography

Crossing a stream after visiting a Confucian academy

Fan making 1
Students show the fans they decorated with traditional paintings favored by Korean literati.

  M gate - Copy
At the first Mungyeongsaejae Gate

Girls as queens
"Queens" for a day at the film set at Mungyeongsaejae

Making pottery

Scenes from Other Activities

Rice cakes 2
Students and Seoul Mates with teacher during class to make rice cakes for Chuseok, Korea's harvest moon festival.

Rice cakes 1
Making rice cakes

Kpop 2
Some students at a K-Pop exhibition

Community Engagement

Senior citizens 1
Two CIEE students teaching English to senior citizens

Sarang school
CIEE volunteers at a school for students with learning disabilities





My First Homestay Experience

This weekend I had my first experience with a homestay family. I was very excited about it; so excited I was counting the minutes until 6 o'clock in class on Friday. Once class was over I raced to my room to pick up my packed bag and headed outside to meet my homestay mom and sister.

Mi Seon (my homestay mom) and Se Heon (my homestay sister) picked me up at Yonsei. We introduced ourselves and were on our way. Se Heon asked me about my age and my family in the car. Her English is so good! I was very surprised at her level at only eight years old. She's a lively, energetic little girl. She immediately decided she would touch me Korean this weekend; needless to say, I did not have a dull moment the entire weekend!

Once we got home I put my things away, Mi Seon began to make dinner and I began to explore the house. Their home is quite gorgeous; it's very spacious and simple. We had Chicken Japchae noodles with a lot of banchan on the side! We then tried on some hanboks and chatted about our lives while Se Heon drew on her whiteboard. A little while later Ji Hyun (my homestay dad) came home. We ended up talking about business for almost two hours! He sarted his own business and me being a business student, I was extremly interested in finding out more about it. A short while later we said goodnight and I slept like a baby in my sister's room. 

2013-09-13 20.37.07

The next day was spent at Insadong with my mom and sister (after my mom made Kimchi Jiggae, which is my favorite, for breakfast). We visited many shops, ate fish and kimchi soup for lunch and visited some traditional Korean homes. Once we came back  home my dad and I chatted for a few more hours and had ddokbokki for dinner. It was so good! My mom is such a great cook!

Overall, I had a great experience. My homestay family was very kind and caring toward me. During our conversations they provided a lot of insight into what Korean culture is and I feel I learned a lot just by observing them too. They also said I am welcome back anytime and I am very much looking forward to another experience where I will get to know them even more!

2013-09-14 19.10.33My homestay family before saying goodbye.