Inspiring South Korea

   Anion Haseum! I was living in Seoul and traveling around South Korea for one month. This is the story of a master degree student of Creative Business who got the opportunity to study in a Korean university and have the best learning experience in his life. What do I mean by that? Well the thing is, I visited almost every European country and I thought that nothing could amaze or intrigue me and now I could stop.Oh, how I was wrong. Instead, Korea inspired me to travel more and see the rest of the world. Let’s start.

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The story began in May, when I was writing my thesis and, like the majority of the students, getting bored in some moments and try concentrate on useless things like emails or Facebook. While doing that, however, I received an email from my university (VU BS) in which there was an offer go to Korea and study Entrepreneurship. After a little bit of paperwork and one month of waiting, on the 1st of July I was in Seoul’s International Airport. The first impression was unique, completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen, especially in my native country of Lithuania: tallest buildings imaginable, thousands of people flocking the streets, good roads and city infrastructure, and of course, hills and mountain ranges beyond the city…

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After arriving at my dormitory of Kookmin University I found my room empty. Well I didn’t wait for anyone, took a shower and went for a walk around the campus. In the beginning as foreigner in Korea the biggest trouble I faced was the humid tropical climate which was big surprise for me as I thought Korea had similar weather as in Northern Europe or Asia. Secondly, if you have trouble with spicy food be ready for challenges, because Koreans love chilli and everything what is spicy. And of course, the language barrier. Not all Koreans know English very well, because of that I accidentally bought soju (basically, Korean vodka) instead of a soda.

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Seoul is the city to stay if you love exploring big cities as it has everything that includes Korean culture and traditions. From an architectural point of view, I like how historical and modern buildings feed off of each other very well: you can walk around the business district and suddenly find a small traditional temple between the skyscrapers. The ones I loved the most were the the museum-palaces of “Gyeongbokgung”, “Changdeokgung” or other palaces with tongue breaking names, as the architecture is really unique and different from other buildings which I saw in my life. And it’s hard not not mention the scale of the city, Seoul’s metropolitan accounts for around 30 million people, and if you want to walk from, let’s say “Guepngbokgung” palace to the Han river, it’s gonna take you about 5 hours, at least it did for me.

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I really enjoyed my time at Kookmin University where I met new friends and learned new things. I had opportunity to study from best international professors and work with international team on our start-up idea which was fantastic. I learned theory as well as practical things, starting with entering the market with a new product and finishing with public speeches, which was was a big challenge and made me leave my comfort zone. Every weekend we had to publicly present our business ideas and explain investors why ours was better and why they had to chose us.We’ve shared many laughs and had fun while learning, but entrepreneurs have to be positive and crazy, other ways how you can create something and make money from that if you are not gonna think outside the box.

But let’s talk about Korea some more… Every weekend, when I had some free time I didn’t waste it and traveled around Korea. On the first week I had a chance to visit my friend Bomi in Gwangju whom I met year ago in the desert of Morocco and stay at her place to see the life of a typical Korean household. Compared to Seoul, Gwangju did not have many historical things to see that’s why Bomi’s parents showed me some traditional  touristic villages. Yeah, her family was really nice to me, I love them and am forever grateful. They made me a delicious breakfast, showed me some traditional places and as well they introduce me to their relatives in towns around Gwangju, which was very exciting. The most exciting thing was perhaps that they have never seen white people (only on TV), so I was something exotic for Bomi’s grandmothers. Well, but it would be the same for my grandmother if i would bring some asian or black people to her house. In “Suncheon” village saw how rural Korans were working, playing, having fun, doing business and I  even had the pleasure to wear traditional Korean outfits (could not resist to make selfies).

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Next weekend I and the Kookmin group went to another big Asian favela, full of plenty bridges and seaside city-Busan, which was a great partying and clubbing experience. That trip was crazy, our hostel was close to the Korean red light district where I saw Russian  night workers. Alcohol price in Korea are ridiculous when talking about foreigner drinks, it is really expensive. 0.7l bottle of Jack Daniels can cost more than 100USD, so why “cheap” (~30EU per bottle) Russian vodka had to do. You’re probably asking why vodka and not local drinks? To be honest, local drinks weren’t so good, at least for us, and after a few parties Soju become really disgusting. There was also a case when we weren’t let into clubs 3 times in a row because we were white (not Koreans). The first time I felt kind of humiliated because of my color of the skin, it was really surprising. Anyway, the 4th club opened its doors for all nations and we had fun if you do not count the entrance cost of 30 EUR I guess capitalism sees no colour but green . Next day we just layed down on the beach and didn’t do anything, just relaxing and enjoying our time in Busan.

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The funniest thing is that all my trips were planned in last minutes-friday nights, just days before trips. So last weekend also was not an exception, and in the middle of the night, Junha, my roommate bought tickets to a Mud-festival which was 3h away by bus from Seoul. This trip was also unforgettable. First thing which we faced in the festival was that all the tickets were sold out and we had to buy an illegal one from local guys who had them. Don’t know how they got them, don’t care. Soju helped us pass the time during the long line, but there were lots more inside to various rides and activities. Anyway, it was fun, in the mud we was playing fun games, wrestling and dancing. The festival closer was a music show where sexy korean girls were dancing go go dances which made all the guys scream and stare. After the sun went down most of the people decided to staying on the beach and talk and drink all night, so we did the same. We joined other Koreans (usually girls), and just talked to them..

The worst part of this project was saying goodbye to Korea, to friends which i made during this project, all of them were friendly and kind, like all of  my international friends from around the world. I am in love of this land, with all its traditions, its mountains, nature, skyscrapers and historical architecture, friendly people and tasty food.

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Some tips:as South Korea is far away from Europe, don’t expect that tickets will be cheap, mine cost me 1400 eur in both directions, of course there are cheaper options around 1000 eur. I chose this one because it was comfortable to me as I had a direct flight from Warsaw to Seoul, and I also visited some of my friends in Warsaw. I payed for the food only on weekends, rest of it Kookmin University was paying for it so in this case I was lucky as I saved a lot of money. I have to say, food in korean restaurants where locals go is not so expensive, 10 EU for two people is enough to eat well, but you have to be careful, sometimes some dishes are too spicy or it can be alive. If you are gonna travel around public transport it’s also not so expensive, like Seoul-Busan bus tickets cost 27 USD so it’s bearable. If you do not count plane tickets, accommodation and food which my scholarship payed for (4000usd) i spend in all my money on food, parties, traveling around, museums and souvenirs, which ended up around 500 EUR, is it a lot? Well, depends on you.

I have to say big thanks to Vilnius University Business School and Kookmin University for this opportunity to travel in Korea. As well for all professors who taught me many interesting and useful things ….names…surnames…. and of course my colleagues and friends, new family members….names…surnames…

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Thank you all! See you!!! Anion!!!

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