End of Semester
We’ve had a great semester! We’ve had lots of fun traveling, volunteering, hanging out and of course studying. As our students are taking final exams and preparing to leave, it’s time (actually overdue) to give you a look at some of the things we’ve been doing since my last newsletter in early March.
Field Trips & Cultural Activities
We had a hiking-lecture excursion on Mt. Inwangsan, which is only a bus stop away from the university. The hike took us past a number of important historic and sacred sites. The mountain is a sacred site for shamans as it is home to numerous oddly shaped rocks and trees as well as the national shaman shrine. We were fortunate that a shaman ritual was taking place at the shrine and the students were able to observe it for a few minutes.
We had an excursion to the LG Digital Complex, which is located in Pyongtaek, about a one-and-a-half-hour’s drive from Seoul. We watched a video about the history and development of LG Electronics and then, wearing special eyeglasses, we watched a short 3-D movie. Then we moved to the exhibition area where we were introduced to the latest in big screen TVs, including 3-D TVs, cell phones, including a cell phone with 3-D camera, computers, monitors and more. The presentation was quite informative as well as interactive. From there we moved to a cell phone assembly plant, but only after leaving our cell phones and bags on the bus. Here we learned about the various tests that cell phones are put through and the different assembly processes.
As many of our students are into K-Pop music and dance, we attended PSY’s concert to introduce his new release after the phenomenal success of “Gangnam Style”. He performed his long-awaited new song, “Gentleman”, as well as his big hit “Gangnam Style”. A few other groups that are among our students’ favorites also performed.
In May we had two excursions, one for spring participants and one for our academic year participants (AYP). These provided quite a change from urban Seoul.
Spring Excursion to Jeungdo Island, May 9-11
Our excursion to Jeungdo off the southwest coast to explore island life was very successful, although we were not able to harvest salt because of the rain. It began raining as soon as we arrived on the island. Nonetheless, first off we did a guided eco tour that began with a walk through a pine tree windbreak. On the beach, we learned about some of the creatures that live in the sand and how to recognize “their homes”, traditional fishing methods, laver harvesting, and such. We also walked through the mudflats to get a close-up look at some of the inhabitants. Back at the condominium where we stayed, we had a barbecue dinner on the beach. The next morning we visited the mudflats museum and then headed out on bicycles to explore the island. For lunch, we had fish stew and a variety of creatures and plants from the mudflats and coastal waters. We then biked to the other side of the island to visit the salt fields and salt museum. For our evening meal, we had a cooking contest with prizes—traditional Korean games the students could play together. The students formed two teams to cook curry while the CIEE staff cooked rice to go with the curry. My staff and I were the food judges and after we announced the winner and awarded the prizes, we all enjoyed a lovely meal and games together. The next morning everyone enjoyed free time on the beach before departing for Seoul.
AYP Excursion to Suncheon and Geogeumdo Island, May 23-25
Our AYP excursion to the south coast to explore rural life and visit the International Garden Exposition Suncheon Bay 2013 was very successful. The students appreciated being able to explore the Expo and the Suncheonman Bay wetlands on their own. They learned about the importance of the wetlands to the overall ecosystem, not to mention how important products from the wetlands, mudflats, and sea are to the Korean diet. On arrival in Unyong-ri, Silver Dragon Village where we stayed overnight, we visited on foot several village landmarks and then walked to a condiments factory, our “hotel” for the night. Here we made tofu from scratch, beginning with the grinding of the beans and ending with eating the products of our labor at a Korean barbecue dinner under the stars. The next morning, before breakfast, we had an optional bike ride around the village led by the factory owner. He stopped at several places to introduce us to edible plants and berries and tell us stories about them. After breakfast, we boarded our bus and set out to visit some islands. On the way we had a seafood lunch at Nokdong Port. We then stopped at Sorokdo Island, home to Korea’s largest leprosarium, and had a guided tour in Korean of the section of the island that is open to the public, including the remains of a hospital and garden created by the Japanese during the colonial period; the hospital was used for experiments on the residents. On the way to our final destination, our lodgings on Geogeumdo Island, we stopped at a supermarket to buy food for dinner and breakfast. Once we got checked in to our cabins, it was free time till dinner. Most of the students explored the beach, which was not the typical sand beach but a beach of round boulders. For our barbecue dinner, we had teams for washing and cutting vegetables, cooking rice, grilling meat, and cleaning up. Saturday morning was free time to explore the beach and surroundings. On the way to Suncheon, where we were to take the train back to Seoul, we stopped again at Nokdong Port and the students were on their own to explore and get lunch.
Grinding soybeans to make tofu.
Sampling berries while bicycling.
A docent explaining about the leprosy hospital museum.
In addition to our BACK Project, through which CIEE volunteers help North Korean refugee students learn English and about the world in general, we had a number of students volunteering at the BOSA center for senior citizens, the Sarang school for students with learning disabilities, the
Eastern Social Welfare Society’s baby care center, and the UNESCO Cross Culture Awareness Program, to name a few.
Early in the semester our BACK project volunteers and North Korean refugee students went to places of historical significance in Incheon such as MacArthur Park and also visited Chinatown, where they ate lunch. On another weekend they made tteokbokki, a popular spicy Korean snack made of rice cakes, and cooked spaghetti. Everyone pitched in to cut, dice and cook and, of course, clean up after everything was eaten. There was great interaction and lots of Korean and English learning going on. And on another occasion they had a Korean dance class.
Volunteering at the Sarang School.
In addition to interacting one-on-one with students and in small groups, our CIEE Seoul Mates organized several group activities for our students. These included a Korean games day, a picnic at the Han River, and a Korean “jeopardy” event.
In Their Own Words
A number of students used the CIEE Cultural Reimbursement program to explore and experience other facets of the culture and see other parts of the country; for example, to take music lessons, see movies, and attend concerts and drama performances. Some were involved in campus clubs and sports such as crew, taekwondo, soccer, painting, bird watching, drumming, toastmasters, hiking, theater and such. And, a number of students participated in our CIEE short-term homestay program whereby students can stay one or two nights in a Korean home. Here are a couple of their stories:
Traditional Drumming Club
Sarah Connelly, Gettysburg College
“Before I even landed in Korea, I had known that I wanted to take part in a traditional Korean drumming club because I had initially signed up for a Saturday morning janggu class outside of the college. Unfortunately, the class didn't work out with my schedule, but I was already in the process of joining 떼 [ddei], one of Yonsei's drumming clubs. It was difficult at first; I did not speak any
Korean and most of the members had a difficult time communicating in English. However, everyone kept trying their best to speak with us foreigners (three North Americans in total) and we all worked together to make the club atmosphere comfortable and fun. Language barriers are easy to avoid when music is involved, and though I couldn't always understand what everyone was saying, I never felt left out because I always knew what they meant to say. Overall, joining this club was one of the best decisions I made in my semester in Korea. I was able to make friends with Yonsei students, practice Korean in a natural setting, learn about a different style and culture of music, and feel involved in a school that was before only an ‘exchange institution.’ I can't imagine what my semester would have been like without meeting the wonderful, hilarious, and warm people of my drumming club, but I know that I would not have felt as nearly as rewarded with this semester as I am.”
Sarah and club members after performing during on-campus Akaraka spring spirit festival.
University of Minnesota
“My homestay experience was in a quieter, poorer area of Seoul, much farther away from the Yonsei campus than I had ever been before. I stayed with a family of four for two nights and two days; given that the two children were in college and my host-father worked, I mostly spent my time with my host-mother. They were very kind; I learned how to cook Korean dishes and bargain at markets, as well as how Koreans behave in family settings. My homestay also gave me the opportunity to truly be on my own, and interact with Korea one-on-one. While many CIEE-organized events are conducted in such a way that it becomes easy to fall back into a comfortable cloud of foreign friends, my homestay allowed me to push the boundaries of what I was comfortable adapting to. It was an absolutely invaluable experience.”