Classes!

Hello. Today was the first official day of classes at Hanyang. I’ve enrolled in three: beginner’s Korean, crisis management, and the Korean media industry. However, I’m planning on switching from crisis management to biology as that will take the place of my last science course. And apparently the professor gives away chocolate (according to my roomie at least).


The weather here in Seoul was nearly as bad as Calgary today. When my roommate and I started walking to class at 8:20 in the morning to pick up text books and avoid getting lost, it was cool enough to wear a cardigan. By 8:40, I was ridiculously hot even after taking off my cardigan. Darn this hilly campus. During my last class, there was a torrential downpour in the area. The thunder was loud enough to make the curtains in the classroom shake!

Classes were pretty good today though, and we were let out as soon as we took a placement exam in my Korean course. The exam was entirely in Hangul, so most of us just wrote our names on it and handed it in. There’s a reason we signed up for the beginner’s course, which in the course description said it meant for those with no knowledge (or very little) of Korean. I know a lot of students were complaining that coming to class was a waste of time due to only spending five minutes to take the test, but I think the teachers were just trying to see if they could split a larger class into two or more based on how little they knew (for example, I can read Hangul, so the fact that we have an entire week to memorize the alphabet is a bit wasted on me).

The crisis management course if pretty much public relations all over again. And for all my j-school friends who took the PR introduction course, you’ll be pleased to know it’s almost exactly the same in that I need to read two chapters and then teach the class about said chapters. I’ve decided to drop this course, as I’ve learned (albeit not in as much detail) about crisis management back at Mount Royal, and I really have no desire to teach a class for two days. Not to mention that I’ve been sent on a mad hunt for the textbook, which apparently can be found at any bookstore in Seoul, except for the one on campus. Instead, I’ll switch to biology, where the text will only cost $5 (compared to $50 for crisis management) and the teacher gives out chocolate. Cheap and free food! What more could a student ask for?


The media industry course is definitely going to be my favourite. I might be a bit biased though, as the professor, Changhee Chun, reminds me so much of all the journalism professors in first year (right down to taking shots with him!). He’s done plenty of film work both in the States as well as Korea, including documentaries and music videos. Not to mention that he’s trying to bring in someone from an idol group to talk to us. The course is pretty work intensive, with five-minute presentations and a short essay due every week. It’ll be worth it though.

I’ve also met some great new people so that’s always exciting. Tomorrow is the Seoul City Tour, which will wrap up the rest of the touristy things I need to do. So many picture posts to do over the next few days! The plan is to visit Gyeongbokgung, a traditional Hanok village, and the Seoul N-Tower.

My one complaint is that the school seems to be a little disorganized at this point. I’ve mentioned the textbook fiasco, but there has also been some issues with paying fees (as the fees for Mount Royal students are being waived) as well as with the dorms. As I was placed in an off-campus dorm, we were notified by a sign on the main entrance this morning telling us we would need to pay for gas and water once we check out. Not something you want to hear when you’re already paying the university dorm fees. It’s been sorted out now, and confirmed that the students will not be charged for gas and water (after mass confusion on Facebook and emails sent to the coordinators). All in all, not a bad day.

Deoksugung

The next few days are going to be Korean history days. You’ll see what I mean in the coming posts. My first stop: visit the “gung” (or as some of you are more familiar with, “goong”), or at least one of them. There’s plenty of palaces in Seoul, so my deciding factor in choosing the first I would visit was proximity to the hostel.


It was a quick walk from the hostel (almost everything is), just a bit past City Hall. No more than half an hour. I wanted to take a few photos of City Hall, but there was a very large protest happening at Seoul Plaza blocking my view. According to the news, taxi drivers were gathered in a nationwide strike to protest the rise in fuel prices and asking the government to raise the price of taxi fares. 

The turnout was impressive and reached all the way to the palace. It was nearly impossible to make my way through the crowd and to the palace gates. I think I was lucky to even get in, considering security closed the gates soon after I entered. I was also allowed to enter for free, as many people watching the strike were entering to rest in the shaded areas of the palace. Or at least that’s why I think they just waved me through without taking my 1000 won note. Or perhaps my guidebook is simply outdated.

Despite being one the smaller palaces, the grounds of Deoksugung are still quite large, with many buildings having been restored. After the Japanese invasion of 1592, which left the main palaces destroyed, it was used as a temporary palace, and later became only a residence for the royal family, with the palace’s administrative complex being removed.

Deoksugung is also the only palace to have modern buildings mixed within the traditional architecture. One, Jeonggwanheon, mixes both western and eastern architecture, while Seokjojeon, and entirely western looking stone building, was used as King Gojong’s sleeping quarters and audience halls.

Along with Seokjojeon is the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum was free to visit, although I here it depends of the specific exhibition featured. While I was there, “The Centennial Celebration of Lee In-Sung’s Birth) was the main exhibit.

Leaving the palace was a tad confusing. The gates had closed, and I originally thought that no one would be allowed either in or out. At least there were plenty of shaded areas around the grounds. After continuing to wander around aimlessly for a few minutes, I timidly walked up to security by the gate, asking if I would be able to leave. He pointed to the side, which led to a small enclave housing a side door to the plaza. Upon opening the door, I realized why the gates were closed. Protesters were sitting and standing, backs pressed against the gates. It was a pain to try and make my way through them all.

In an attempt to avoid the strike, I decided to risk getting lost and try and make my way around the plaza and the crowds. My trip brought me past the Canadian Embassy, as well as a few others. About a block ahead is Seodaemun District, which I like to call the museum district as there are nearly ten on one street. I also walked by Geobukgung, the main palace as I looked for the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. Turns out the statue is situated right in front of the palace. I believe the university is planning a field trip there sometime. Or at least I hope so, or else I probably won’t get a chance to visit. (I’m just waiting for this supposed field trip as I don’t want to visit twice.)

Look what I found!