After 5-weeks of exciting adventures, I am finally heading back home. I have learned so much more about my own culture and the friendship that exists among Koreans despite the “busy-ness” of city life. In one of my classes, “Globalization & Multicultural Studies,” we studied and analyzed different countries’ cultures based on Hofstede’s dimensions. The one dimension that I felt deeply in Korea was the Individualism & Collectivism. It should catch none of us in surprise to find that US ranked no. 1 in individualism; Korea was on the other spectrum near collectivism. Friendships – no, rather “oojung” (which does not have an english equivalent) – I have made in Korea are bound to last beyond the incredible distances. The four-day Japan trip was an excursion of its own in midst of the heat & ridiculously expensive items. The temples and the gardens were beautiful, but the reflection on the Japanese way of life and the importance of language were more profound.

All in all, among many things I have learned, I have learned few major lessons:
1) Study – both the academics & the culture (which includes language!).
2) Create friendships that will last (be yourself as you do so).
3) Travel more (this includes studying abroad!)- the more you see the world, the higher you’ll go and achieve bigger things.

For anyone in doubt, study through the International Summer School at the University of Seoul. The initial application process may be tedious, but every minute of that grudging work is definitely worth it.

– Esther S. Kim


I’d like to take a minute to describe the city of Seoul in general. This description will be,I’m afraid, mediocre at best, since Seoul is simply way too large to be able to explore in 6 weeks. However my impression so far is that Seoul is a city thats turning into the next hot spot of the world. Everyday as I walk around Seoul, even near campus, buildings are being torn down and rebuilt, and new businesses are opening up. Still, Seoul is so large that one minute you can be walking down a part of the city that seems to replicate photos of downtown New York and then stumble into another part that may remind you of some old photos of Shanghai in the 1930s. Seoul has so much to do, no matter what kind of person you are. You could go to the ancient Gyeongbok Palace shop in the morning and then to Myeongdong in the afternoon, a sprawling section of Korea that is packed with people wanting to buy clothes, jewely, etc. Afterwards you could go to the fish market to try out all kinds of unique types of food, from shark to live octopus. After it gets dark, theres a place called Namsan Seoul Tower  that overlooks the city from the very center of Seoul. When it gets to be about 11 or 12 Gangnam and Hongdae are two of the most popular spots in Seoul. These two places are lit up at night from the lights on various restaurants, bars, or dakpogi stands (small stalls of streets food where you can sit and eat spicy rice cakes or corndogs.) In short, Seoul has so much that after my six weeks here, I hope to be able to come here again to study to explore the rest of this place.          -Warren

A thought about studying abroad…

There are many cool things about Seoul, Korea. Of course, the city-life is vibrant & the traditions are beautiful. There are so many people & just so many things to do. (Please check out the pictures!)

Besides that point, this University of Seoul International Summer School (UOS ISS) allowed me to meet students from all over the world – Sweden, Germany, Canada, China, Japan, Portugal, and so many more. The thing that struck me the most was the linguistic capabilities of the Europeans. They know their native countries’ language, English, and one,two, or even three other European languages near their home country.

Klausurzeit! (that’s right, exam time once again)

I have been preparing for the end of the Summer Semester here in Mainz and I have to say, time is absolutely flying by! I have been here almost a 10 months now and my final days here are just disappearing. I don’t leave until the middle of August (giving me just about 10 days to organize everything for the beginning of of new UofL semester), as I will be working for my boss as a Tutor/Assistant for the International Summer German Course at my university. Not to mention that exams at most (including my) university don’t end until the middle of July.

Well, I have already managed to face two of my final exams: Wissenschaftssprache yesterday, and Christa Wolf’s “Kein Ort. Nirgends” this morning. The first was a course dealing with the construction and use of scientific and generally higher level German (everything from the dangers of over-fertilization to world population growth…). I had actually planned to take a additional German course this semester dealing with Business German, but unfortunately that course was canceled two or three weeks into the semester, but hey, that’s just life! Regardless, I am happy the exam is over, but it is just a step in the right direction for the rest of the semester!

This morning I took my oral exam over the novel “Kein Ort. Nirgends” by Christa Wolf (I believe that the title was translated at some point as “No Place On Earth,” in the off chance that you have read it). The course consisted of reading and analyzing the book while learning the historical figures and appropriate contexts (in this case, Heinrich von Kleist, Karoline von Günderrode, Goethe, and of course, the situations surrounding the Author in former East Berlin etc. etc. etc.). Every week we would prepare about 8 pages of the text and work through the book line by line, every student analyzing and paraphrasing 10 or so lines in his or her turn, working our way around the classroom. The book was particularly interesting, as it takes place across the river from Mainz in the company of some very famous local early 19th century personalities. Though I knew what to expect from the final oral exam, as I had the professor last semester for a play by the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, I was still put on my toes for some of the questions: (keep in mind that this was, of course, in German) What similarities, if any, could be drawn between the opinions of Christa Wolf and Kleist in regards to their societies, respectively? This lasted about 15-20 minutes with a series of varying question and themes. WELL, maybe it wasn’t too bad… but you get the point, and to be fair, the professor is a genuinely great professor. And hey, I have nothing to complain about, I received a grade of 1.5, a pretty unusual grade… but that’s another story. Either way, a 1.5 is considered to be substantially above average (it is incredibly difficult to get anything ‘above’ a 2.0, as the German system is a reverse scale from 1-5, one being the highest), and I am especially happy with it!! It could end up a 1.7, depending on what happens next week, either way, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Otherwise things have been ‘normal’ here. I have just been busy with the usual day to day affairs, that we tend to take for granted (I will definitely think that next year when I am back in Louisville!). I went to Cologne a few weeks ago to meet up with a few teachers of mine from High School, who were on a trip through Europe with a group of students. I was actually on the last trip that my school went on 5 years ago! Talk about a flash from the past. It was great to see them again – one of whom, appropriately enough, is the German teacher. Nonetheless, it was great to see them!

I recently spoke with Michael and Heidi Boel, from the Sister Cities Louisville organization, and they were kind enough to invite me to come and visit with them as they are spending the summer in Germany! I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to visit with all of my exams, but I will certainly try to work something out.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Last week was Johannisfest here in Mainz – a huge 3 or 4 day festival celebrating the most famous Mainzer of all time (and the namesake of my university), Johannes Gutenberg. The entire old town was covered with stands, rides, book sales, stages and all sorts of other things. From Schillerplatz to the Rhine River (a very very large distance), the town was converted. One of the traditional activities for this festival is the ‘gautschen’ – the dunking of students who have finished studying book making. The students are lifted up and thrown into a giant cask of water on a stage in the shadow of the 1000 year old Cathedral while their names are announced. I found a video of this year’s ceremony: (notice that they took a beer break half way through… dunking students is hard work). Either way, this is really important step in the students lives, and it was a very culturally significant thing to see!


Sevilla, Spain

After studying in Sevilla, Spain for a month, I have mixed feelings about returning home. I lived in a homestay with a Spanish family who did not speak English. It was very interesting considering I have not taken any Spanish classes since preschool. They were very nice, however. They made sure I was well fed. Sevilla was very hot, though, and the families there do not generally use air conditioning. Make sure if you go to Sevilla in the summer you wear light clothing. The best advice I can give is to find the Burger King by the Triana Bridge because it is air conditioned and you can access the free wifi from a cafe across the street. It was a great place to study.

Although my homestay was enjoyable, I had friends who had interesting experiences with their families. One friend of mine saw their Senora naked on the first day! But don’t worry, if you participate in ISA or an independent program they will move you if you do not get along with your family.

Sevilla was a beautiful town, the only downside being that there was no beach. It was very easy to catch a bus to the beach though for only 12 euros. During the week  I went to school for most of the day. After class we would go to a local bar to watch the world cup soccer games. It was nice to sit in a restaurant or bar with locals and cheer for Spain or the U.S.

My favorite part of the trip was the excursions that I went to on the weekends. I liked Sevilla, but after a month in the city I was excited to explore other destinations. Our group went to Grenada, Toledo, Cordoba, Jerez, and Morocco. All were unique and beautiful in their own rights. My advice to fellow study abroad students is to save enough money to travel around to nearby cities once you arrive at your destination. After a prolonged period in one place, it is nice to travel around.  Overall Sevilla was a beautiful city with lots of things to do. I would recommend it to anyone wishing to study abroad in Spain!