Our Time is Coming to an End…
We are almost already halfway through our final week in Session 2 of the Gaming & Esports Culture program here in Seoul, South Korea. It’s been a whirlwind of a time - always moving from place to place - gaining new experiences, seeing new things, connecting with new people. We’ve had an awesome time hosting and spending time with your students and have seen great growth in their cultural competence and skills of adaptation during this time.
Here’s a glimpse into some of the things we’ve done this past week:
The students participated in an introductory class to the Korean martial art, taekwondo. They learned some of the basic ideals and principles behind the sport, as well as some of the forms for punching and kicking. They even broke a board with their own hands at the end of the lesson! After our taekwondo lesson, we made our way over to Gwangjang Market, the oldest registered open-air market in South Korea. We had a lovely tour guide, Jennifer, who is a professor here in Korea. She walked with the students through the market, introducing them to some market staples, both dry and wet foods, giving them opportunities to try some unique items. After our walk-through of the stalls in the market, we sat down for a meal in a restaurant connected to the market. Students tried (and greatly enjoyed) a variety of foods, including bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), mayak kimbap (a miniature sized kimbap with an addictive sauce), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), soondae (Korea’s version of blood sausage), yukhwe (raw beef with Korean pear), and sannakji (raw octopus - that still moves on the plate!).
The students had Korean class in Insadong, a popular shopping street close to our hotel. They completed some photo challenges given to them by their Korean teacher, which had them explore the surrounding area to take the most creative photos based on the colors of the Korean flag (white, black, blue, and red). After completing these photo challenges, we went over as a group to Gyeongbok Palace, which is one of the main royal residences of the Joseon period. Our students chose a color and style of hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) that they wanted to wear during the time we had to explore the palace.
We started our day with a Gaming & Esports lecture at Yonsei campus. In the afternoon, students worked on a community service engagement activity of decorating t-shirts and writing notes to the children who will receive these shirts. We traveled over to SportsMonster, which is a huge indoor sports facility that includes space for rock walls, bungee jumping, basketball, dodgeball, running, ping pong, trampolines, and even a high-ropes course suspended above the complex. Once students were tired, they had some free time to explore the Goyang Starfield Mall. It’s incredible how many things are built into the malls here in Korea, including sports facilities and movie theaters!
We started our weekend trip to Gangneung bright and early in the morning, with a ride on the KTX (Korea’s high speed train that goes over 200 MPH). Gangneung is a coastal area of Korea and is the area where the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were held. After a very traditional Korean lunch - which included an almost impossible number of banchan (side dishes) and mats on the floor as our seats - we headed over to the curling rink. The students had opportunities to learn more about the techniques of curling, practice both throwing and sweeping, and compete in a mini tournament. The icy temperature inside the curling arena was a welcome contrast to the hot weather outside! Following our curling experience, we toured Ojukheon, the birthplace of two Koreans who are featured on the won (Korea’s paper bills). Students not only had the opportunity to see some of the traditional style houses, known as hanok, but also to have the experience of staying in one! Our hanok stay included a shoe cabinet outside the door to their rooms and sleeping mats known as yoh. The students had a great time exploring the hotel complex in the evening, which included a soccer field. They met a Korean family whose three children invited our students to play soccer with them. What followed was an intense, but immensely fun, 2½ hour game! (Lots of liquids and electrolytes were provided, as it was a hot and humid evening.)
Despite some lingering soreness from the soccer game and their first overnight experience with Korean sleeping mats, the students were eager to explore the two remaining destinations in Gangneung and Pyeongchang. The first destination was Seongyojang, another hanok complex which is well-preserved and includes some of the oldest hanok in Korea. The second destination, Woljeong Temple, took us about an hour into the mountains on the bus. We had time to walk around the temple complex, a peaceful area that was made more scenic and ethereal by the lightly misting rain. For lunch, we enjoyed vegetable bibimbap (mixed rice), which is a popular dish among the monks at Woljeong Temple. After lunch, we spent some time at the museum associated with Woljeong Temple, and then headed over to the KTX station to head home. Everyone slept well on the train ride back after such a busy weekend!
It’s hard to think that we only have a couple days left in this session - we’ve greatly enjoyed our time with your students and are looking forward to all the fun experiences we will have in the last three days of the HSSA Gaming & Esports Culture program!