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.


Mt. Namsan is a lovely location, located exactly between my new home and Dongguk University!
Mt. Namsan is a lovely location, located exactly between my new home and Dongguk University!


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.

View from the Accommodation
The view from the 29th floor of my new home.

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!

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A film/TV crew working at a gas station in Gangnam!

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!

Trying to use the local ingredients!
Trying to use the local ingredients!

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!

All this wonderfully tasting, and presented, food comes from the uni cafeteria for only £2.50!
All this wonderfully tasting, and presented, food comes from the uni cafeteria for only £2.50!

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!

Settling into Seoul

Leo Barton

I am a filmmaker and film student currently studying in one of the most exciting environments for filmmaking in the world--South Korea!

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4 thoughts on “Settling into Seoul

  1. The Ihwa village was something I had read about in a guide book a while back, but I completely forgot about it. I’ve added it to my list of things to do and might give it a look this weekend. Thanks so much for the suggestion! If any more places come flooding back to you do let me know. 🙂

  2. Your food plate picture is what grabbed my attention and I can recall my coping up days in Seoul… trying to make sense out what food looks like and what it has.. 🙂 As colors and sea food are an integral part of it. I would strongly recommend you to visit the Ihwa mural village and keep a day to yourself to wander around it’s narrow streets looking for graphitti and street art. I fell in love with the city and the energy is carries every single day. Hope you have a memorable stay as well throughout your study period. Cheers!

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