When travelling to a different culture and country for the first time, knowing it will be the place you are going to live, you are never quite sure what to expect. But when you arrive to the welcoming warmth of smiling faces of your peers, teachers and complete strangers you know that you’ve made the right decision to spend your year on the other side of the globe.
From the top of Mt. Namsan I could see all that the massive Seoul, which houses around 12 million lives, has to offer. Seoul is a vibrant 24-hour city combining tradition with hyper-modernity, rich with poor, and workday business with an entertainment-rich nightlife. All these contradictions sound like chaos, but it is in fact the recipe for, what seems like, a happy country.
My University, Dongguk University, sits at the foot of the very same mountain and shows a similar trend. Mixing traditional Buddhist study and practices with advancing modern technologies and arts. Maybe instead of having a foot in tradition being a hindrance it in fact allows for a strong foundation to step out into the new while maintaining a strong code of ethics and worldly understanding inherited from their Buddhist roots. Either way Dongguk will be a stunning place to study, filled with friendly faces (of both staff and students). One of the most exciting differences is the variance in the teacher-student interaction; I have already been to a bar with my tutor and have been invited out for future dinners and gallery trips with others. Not only this but as my tutors are filmmakers themselves there is a newfound respect and connection between us, a connection that not only allows us to talk about our subject (film) but also provides a deeper level of connection in the subject knowing that we both not only love film but are creators of it. Furthermore Seoul is a vibrant place to study film, ripe with cinemas and productions going on pretty much 24/7, since arriving I’ve found 3 different teams shooting in Seoul already!
Setting up a home abroad is simpler than expected, and much more excited than in England! Instead of buying things I am familiar with I have filled my cupboard with similar Korean products, which will bring a new tint to my cooking and home-life—instead of merely making a little-England over here. However bin-bags seem to be an illusive item in Seoul, I have been searching far and wide but still nothing. Hopefully I’ll find them soon as the bins are piling up, I’ll keep you updated!
The city is endless, offering a wealth of art galleries, cinemas, shops and music venues—some flaunting their colours but many (probably the best ones) hidden away in small alleyway basements. Even a single street in one of the many bustling neighbourhoods (Hongdae, Gangnam, Insadong etc.) feels like it would take a week to fully explore…fortunately I have the whole year! But the real places I need to visit are all the restaurants! I am yet to order a dish, or even taste a flavour, that my palette rejects—and I have been trying as wide a range of foods as possible! The next step is raw octopus (산낙지) which, although freshly killed, wriggles around on your plate as you feast!
I have had a ridiculously busy week and although I now feel comfortable knowing a little bit about the city I feel like I could explore Seoul for many years!