The exchange is an amazing opportunity, it was such an incredible three weeks that I will never forget. I had been interested in doing it since Grade 7 but decided to apply in Grade 8 so I had the option to go international. I looked at options in Jordan, Canada, France and Switzerland. The thought of going somewhere more regional never crossed my mind, but when I was given the opportunity to go to Korea, I got really excited. I had never thought about going there but when I was online and looking at places there, I saw the different food, culture and landscapes and I couldn’t wait to go.
I was travelling to Incheon, Korea, a city a few hours away from Seoul. I hadn’t been in a cold country for around 7 years so I when we arrived I underestimated how cold it would be. We exited the airport and went into the carpark and I was greeted with a cold blast of air. It was certainly different to humid Singapore. On the first day we spent the morning at home but for lunch we went to old Songdu and looked over the city and some of temples. We had our first Korean meal, which was a Korean version of a pancake with leek and octopus. It was so good. We walked to the top of the hill and looked out over mountains, it was so beautiful. We had a traditional Korean barbeque for dinner, which was delicious.
The first day of school was exciting. It was very different to UWCSEA. There were only around 100 people in the grade which is ⅓ of the size of my grade. The school was also casual dress which made the atmosphere way more relaxed. The timetable was also very different because they seemed to have every subject every day. The lessons were very short but they have it four times a week. It was very different. They also had much smaller lunch options, since they have a much smaller middle school.
I participated in volleyball as an after-school activity as my host plays for the school team. Volleyball is the sport there, so there were a lot of people in the gyms. Most days after school we would go home complete homework and go outside and walk around Songdu. Behind the apartment was a river and basketball courts which we played on often. Usually we ate at home during the week but went out alot at the weekends.
One weekend we went to Seoul to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was massive plot of land with temples dotted all over the place, it was incredibly beautiful. There were ponds and lakes intertwined the palaces. The Koreans were all dressed in traditional, elegant dresses and suits. We also went to Gangnam which was very busy. There were street markets and shops with hand crafted pots and mugs which were so intricate and pretty. My hosts also ran a football club for young girls, so I participated and helped them coach and played with the girls. It was so fun.
I really didn’t want to leave, the food and culture was so incredible and I wanted to explore it more. The school was so welcoming and the teachers and students were warm and fun. I learnt to be independent and not rely on my parents. Being alone makes you think ahead and be more organised. I had to think about doing things that I wouldn’t usually do at home. However, it taught me to be more self-manageable and self-sufficient. I discovered a new culture full of history and delicious food and I made friends from a different part of the world. I will always remember the kindness and hospitality of the people I was around and the generosity of my hosts.
It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
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