Thursday, September 12, 2019

Japchae with a touch of Chuseok

It's been almost two weeks since I’ve landed in South Korea, and it already feels like I’ve been here forever! After stepping outside at the airport, I was hit by high humidity which my straightened curly hair did not like. It did not hit me that I was across the other side of the globe until I saw signs everywhere in Korean, a foreign language I only know a little bit of.

I’m staying at Korea University-Sejong campus in the university dormitories and have two Korean roommates. The university is located in a rural setting, and so the locals don’t speak much English. I found this out when going to the market for the first time; this is a unique experience for me to dive in another language. This will surely be a challenge, but I’m ready to take on this language barrier.

Bloomsburg prepared me to be fearless.

My roommates are so welcoming and informative. I’ve not experienced culture shock, because I’ve made an effort to ask my Korean friends on how to be polite to others and not be disrespectful. Elders are extremely respected here, so much that there are two different ways of talking — formal and informally, all of the endings are completely different for both. It’s been a great learning experience so far. Academic wise, I’m taking a North Korean socio-culture and human rights class with other South Koreans and though classes just started, it’s been really interesting.

I have a short week this week, it’s Thanksgiving here and so we don’t have class Thursday Sept.12 and Friday, Sept. 13. Thanksgiving this year will be celebrated on Friday, Sept. 13. It’s called Chuseok, and it’s not celebrated like in the United States. In my South Korean culture class, we learned that in Chuseok (literally meaning Autumn Eve) South Koreans thank their ancestors and celebration for the bountiful harvest.

I’ve already learned so much about the customs here, and I’m pushed out of my comfort zone every day. I will be visiting a Korean folk village and the DMZ with my class and will be visiting temples and palaces on my own, which I’m super excited for. I love history, and I know the Asian continent is full of it along with hundreds of years’ worth of traditions.

I’ll also be cooking japchae, a Korean noodle dish! Something I’m not used to yet here is the spiciness of the food. The food is so delicious, but every meal has a spicy component (or is spicy itself), which I’ve not completely adjusted to yet. I hope to become accustomed to this and a pro at using chopsticks by the end of my stay here. I’ve never used chopsticks in America, weird right? Chopsticks are used for everything here, even to eat fried chicken.

— Liz Hernandez, a health sciences and sociology dual major, is studying abroad this fall in South Korea at Korea University in Sejong, studying such topics as North Korean socio-culture and human rights, as well immersing herself in the Korean culture such as experiencing Chuseok and learning to cook japchae.

#HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU #BloomOnward #HuskyUnleashed #BloomUpward

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