Saturday, May 03, 2014

SNU Exchange - Reflections

Unknowingly, my exchange with Seoul National University has come to an end, and I've been back in Singapore for 5 months! Everything that happened on exchange feels so surreal now. It is indeed unbelievable that 4 months passed so quickly.

Finally decided to find some time to wrap up this exchange chapter, after er, 5 months. ha. ha. Well better late than never! I guess exchange hasn't been entirely fun (MUCH HATE FOR WINTER) in the way i expected it to be, but nevertheless, an amazing experience that I would never have given up. I believe everything happens for a reason, so whatever happy/unhappy things that happened, must have happened for a reason! to those who are still considering whether to go on exchange, I would say: JUST DO IT. really, its the last and final YOLO moment in university before you graduate. Don't worry about the money (well the worst scenario is you end up in debt now like me but its worth it), don't worry about having no friends, or having gotten an ulu exchange partner etc... it WILL be worth it.

Some exchange moments:

Us trying to act cheem at Dutayeon

Autumn at Nami Island

View from Mount Inwang

Our geography classmates bringing us to eat good bossam!

Zee classmates on our recce trip to Ansan
One of the initial nights.. Just look at their short hairs


In Busan with the girls!

Annoying winter days...

Of course there was one random day after a really satisfying BBQ buffet that we decided to hobo outside CU (their convenience store) and drink... and we drank and drank way too much until I swore off soju for the rest of the month (that was only like 2 months in). Probably one of the best nights before winter kicked in. Can't help it that a bottle of soju only costs $1.50 over there.

(This was our THIRD round)

Some of the more touristy things we did were to visit DMZ, and rail biking in Gangchon! yes the place where Running Man went. I really enjoyed rail biking! It was just so relaxing and enjoyable although it could get boring for some if you dont go with the right company. I'm just a sucker for relaxing, scenic places...

Exchange is truly a journey of learning, of self-discovery. I've learnt many valuable lessons from this exchange alone:

Quantity Vs. Quality
I guess many people embark on exchange with a mindset of "OK this university is centrally located i can travel to many other countries! maybe 203942059 cities", which is one of the main attractions of places like Europe, US. The first time someone asked me, "so did you travel a lot in Korea?", I realized that I hadn't! Well I didn't even go to Jeju. But did it matter? No.  I guess at the start we expected a lot of fun, exploring, hopping new places. But, looking back, I realized that sometimes you find that the happiest moments with the most laughter are not from travelling, but its just the times spent simply chilling at the same cafe that you guys have been to 320492805 times or at a makgeolli house with the rest. Or from exploring the little streets near your hostel. I guess this kind of changed my perspective towards travelling; the no. of countries I traveled to used to matter to me, but now, no longer anymore.

Independence & Loneliness
Even the most independent person will feel lonely at times. This exchange had forced me to do a record number of things that I would have never done alone in Singapore - eating alone in a restaurant, cafe-hopping alone, shopping alone, studying alone, travelling alone to Japan... after a while, solitude does overwhelm me and I start to feel a little depressed. But such is life, not everyone shares the same schedule or to-do list. Friends have their own lives. In Singapore, we have a home to return to, on exchange, its just returning to a little prison room with no windows. In fact, I spent alot of time at my favourite cafe near my dormitory

To Cherish what I had
In the middle of my exchange period, an old friend passed away. It wasn't a good feeling, having to grieve alone, not being able to pay my respects for the last time, not being able to grieve together with my other classmates. I truly felt so lost, so helpless. At that moment, I realized that being geographically close to your loved ones, was something I always took for granted. However, in a foreign land, life goes on. I bawled for 15 mins after receiving the news and washed up and went out to attend to an (essential winter clothes shopping) appointment with other friends. It was timely that I had a solo hiking trip to Seoraksan the very next day, which gave me some much needed time away from everyone, to escape to nature and deal with the grief alone.

Which leads me to my next leisure point: HIKING! I super love hiking the mountains in Korea. Just so gorgeous yet painful because they are all rock mountains! Knee killers. I had to stop after 3. Unfortunately nobody liked hiking so I went alone with the expat meetup groups, but glad to have made new friends! :)

My absolute favourite Seoraksan. 2nd time climbing the mountain, first time ALONE. It was quite a new experience to be hiking alone - not to mention I was on slightly different and a more tedious ascent route which made me thought i was never gonna make it for the sunrise. Thankfully, the moment I stepped onto the summit the sun rose :') beautiful things in life. It was a good time for the antisocial in me, to seek some quiet and peace. Just lying on the big rocks beside the stream, starting at the grey sky and clearing my head of worldly obsessions... I only started to talk to the other hikers after we came down and met at the gathering point.

Also climbed daedunsan and of cos SNU's very own gwanaksan! pity daedunsun was misty the day we went, and I couldn't get a nice photo of the suspension bridges which was hanging so damn high about ground I think my legs would have turned to jelly if the clouds weren't hiding the view below.


Of course, exchange would not have been that enjoyable without the company of this amazing fun gang of people! But they all thought i was guy and STILL treat me as a guy =.= okay. Most of us didn't know each other before the exchange, but after we met, we could just talk about anything under the sky! probably one of the more spontaneous, un-paiseh, unpolitical group of friends I've ever had. AND they're all gonna be really successful in the future. dayum why my friends so high flying. Really fond memories for all the dinners, desserts, hobo-ing outside CU with bottles of soju (TOO EPIC) and late night binge sessions with beer/makgeolli and fried chicken. Cheers to more dinners and drinks in Singapore!

1 comment:

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