We anticipated this moment to arrive ever since our junior year of high school. We are now juniors in college. Yes, that is exactly how long we’ve been wanting to study abroad in Seoul. After countless moments of disappointment where one year we didn’t have enough credits or another when we didn’t finish our requirements, we finally got approval and acceptance to spend one semester at Sungshin Women’s University (성신여자대학교).
Our entire summer revolved around us leaving. We prepared for everything. We bought all the necessities, we got our paperwork in order, we said good bye to family and friends.
And on August 19th at 9:55 AM we were finally Korea bound.
The first couple of hours were mingled with a bit of sadness, nerves, and excitement (with just a hint of nausea). And then reality hit and exhaustion set in. Thirteen hours in flight couldn’t go fast enough.
We finally landed on August 20th, 3:22 in the afternoon at Incheon Airport. Despite the rain and humidity, we were excited to meet the student buddies Sungshin had assigned us and finally get to our new college for the semester.The bus ride from Incheon to Seoul was an hour long during which we watched the landscape evolve from suburban shrub to urban jungle. The rice paddies and fields of Incheon slowly blended with the highways and high rises of Seoul to capture a moment of old and new- a concept that we soon learned is very prominent in the capital city which holds on to its rich historical roots in the midst of a bustling metropolitan.
In that hour of quiet scenery, prior to the hustle of unpacking began, Seoul was everything we never imagined to be. Our expectations were exceeded in the sense that they were never really accurate. We expected to see the core of the city right away- essentially the Manhattan of New York City. But we saw what the shiny kpop MV’s and edited dramas don’t really capture. Outback steakhouse, 7/11’s, Burger Kings-Western corporations dotted along the narrow streets which snaked into alleys that supported small, modest apartments and cozy houses.
We were surprised definitely, a bit naive some may say but the mundane-ness (as some may see it) of our surroundings is what made it more tangible and almost remarkable. This is our home for the next four months.