Art by Madeline Duvall
Photos by Claire Lee
Every day in Seoul, South Korea has been very different, but the most consistent factor has been the fast pace of time. Traveling alone means I don’t have an established program to guide my adventures. Although I have a general plan for each week, every day tumbles into a new adventure.
When I wake up early enough, I jog to a local park to feel the morning air and stimulate my mind with some exercise.
After my run, I jog back home to eat breakfast since many of the restaurants and cafes do not open until 10 a.m. I attend my online classes and complete my other online coursework.
I try to finish my assignments by lunchtime and eat with a few of my house mates at a nearby restaurant. Afterward, I visit a spot on my bucket list either solo or with a house mate or friend.
I use the public transportation system multiple times every day, and the subway trains are more crowded than when I first came out of quarantine.
The subway’s public announcement system still prompts passengers to wear a mask due to COVID-19, and the visual reminders are posted all around.
One of my favorite places on my bucket list is the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery; my visit taught me about the significant impact of faithful missionaries from America and other foreign nations to South Korea. Although tours were canceled and the information center was closed, I was able to use a brochure to learn about various missionaries such as Horace Grant Underwood.
After visiting a spot on my bucket list, I explore nearby areas without a specific plan. The leisure of spending a semester in South Korea allows me to explore the depths of the city without the pressure of only visiting the best tourist attractions.
Surprisingly, this method of unplanned exploring has allowed me to discover secret gems in the city. My favorite gem is a small, gray building called Parang Kore, a new public facility that provides a space for local artists and businesses to hold small events.
The day I discovered this facility, I found a local artist giving away many of her art supplies because she was moving to another country. Finding this as an opportunity to create art, she set up an event at Parang Kore to exchange her art supplies with drawings of them.
After finding something interesting or becoming familiar with a specific destination, I call it a day and go out to eat dinner with some of the friends I’ve made in South Korea.
At around 9 p.m., all my roommates are back from work and we usually order a late-night meal together. This part of my day is when I get to fully communicate in Korean and learn about the culture of South Korean college students.
After spending time with my roommates, I either resume my studies or prepare for the next day.
While this routine may sound structured, each week starts and ends very differently. When I am overwhelmed with online studies, I complete my homework at a nearby cafe. Other times, I spend the day on an exploration with a friend. I have also taken several trips that are further away and require me to double down on my online studies, such as my trip to Busan and a weekend tour with Tour08.
Spontaneously traveling while also planning out parts of my week allows me to have a general structure that is not too restraining. This trip is my first time exploring a new country independently, and I would not trade this experience for any other.
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