Give Less Popular Places a Chance! / Poland Reflection

When planning for study abroad, of course it involved creating an EXTENSIVE list of anywhere and everywhere you want to visit while in a foreign place. For myself, and for many I assume, the top of my list included every iconic city in Europe. These consisted of all of the typical ones that you see in movies and are very commercialized like Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, London, etc. I didn’t even take much time to consider less popular places because in my mind I didn’t think they held the same weight or need to visit them.

So, when I was given the opportunity to visit Poland for a weekend, I didn’t find myself jumping at the prospect of it. It was all already planned by my program so I said why not? I didn’t have another trip planned yet so let’s do it! Only 3 people in my program of 20+ decided to go, which in itself said a lot considering almost everyone went on the other trips. What I’ve found is that I think it is intimidating to people to be on a trip to a place that holds such heavy history, and Poland was the center of some of the most horrendous scenes in the last century.

The majority of our weekend in Poland focused on the central theme of World War II and its effects on the Polish people. We visited places like Auschwitz and Schindler’s Factory, which hold such weight to even be close to these sights. The majority of time spent in Poland I , as well as most other attendees, found myself in intense reflection and often times of silence trying to come up with a way to understand the things we were seeing and the heinous events that occurred. Auschwitz, “the world’s largest cemetery where nearly 1.1 million people lost their lives”, was so powerful of a place to visit and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to go.

Poland was immensely beautiful and full of life. From this weekend trip I’ve created a newfound respect for less popular places. I know Poland isn’t an “unpopular” attraction, but for sure one not one the immediately came to my mind. After visiting, however, I will recommend everyone see this beautiful country at some point in their lives.

Heart and Seoul

Anyeong-haseo: A phrase I have spoken more than once a day every single day since coming to Seoul, South Korea. One may tell you that this phrase means, “Hello,” however, that would undermine the true meaning of this beautiful phrase.  It literally translates to, “Are you at peace with yourself today?”
In such a bustling metropolis such as Seoul, one may think peace to be impossible: car horns blast all day and night, people shop from the late afternoon through five AM, and someone (myself often included) is always running to catch a subway when they are running late to university. How can one even begin to think they are at peace here?
Even through this insane hustle that is Seoul, I have truly found peace here. In the past few months, I have seen glorious sunsets through the city skyline, made many amazing and lovely friends, eaten some of the best food I have ever tasted, seen architecture one can only experience in Korea, and gotten the privilege to attend an utterly beautiful and lively campus in the gorgeous mountains lining the country. Korea is a new adventure each day.
It can be difficult at times to live in such a different place. There is a language barrier, sometimes ahjummas and ahjussis (old Korean women and men, respectively) stare straight into your soul unforgivingly, and it is often difficult to make friends with Koreans. These things should not be discouraging to a foreigner (we’re called “waygookin” here!). Rather, it should be an opportunity for learning about such a vastly different culture than our own. Sure, the language is difficult, the stares re obvious and uncomfortable at first, and it sucks to feel utterly invisible at times. Nobody said it would be easy!
I have learned a lot about these concepts in my time here. A simple “Anyeong-haseo,” “Kamsahabnida,” and “Anyeong-hikeseyo” can get a foreigner pretty far in Korea. To be fair, Seoul has been the easiest place to get around, to find things to do, and to meet people I have ever had the chance to travel to. Some Koreans can be distasteful of foreigners, but many are so kind and lovely. I have made lifelong friends in Seoul with people from around the world.
There is no place I would rather be.

Places to visit:

-Pretty much any cafe aside from Starbucks. If you are into K-pop, there are cafes for K-pop idols and groups! There is also cat cafes, dog cafes, raccoon cafes, and meerkat cafes.

-Dongdaemun History and Culture Park (The DDP). Here, you can see many cool art installations and see fashion at its highest. Plus, it looks like a spaceship that crashed straight into Seoul.

-Hongdae during the day is a shopping haven with some of the cheapest and cutest clothes. Hongdae during the night is a wild party with the cheapest alcohol selection in the city.

-Edae (Ewha Women’s University) street. Ladies can find the cutest clothes and accessories here!

-Though I personally hate Myeongdong, many people suggest going there to shop and eat.

-Ikseondong has an adorable small hanok village with the CUTEST coffee shops and trinket shops! Plus, the old architecture takes you back in time to a Seoul before the skyscrapers and bustle.

-Any palace is a beautiful and wonderful experience! Many offer free entry if one rents and wears the traditional Korean clothing called hanbok!

-Dongguk University offers temple stays to students on a regular basis. I have not gone to one, but many of my friends have and have told me its an interesting and amazing experience if you are interested in Buddhism.

-My temporary home, Sindang, has the best ttebokki (rice cake in spicy red sauce) in the city! They even call it “Ttebokki Town!”

A lot of people think Korea is a scary place for some reason, but it is far from that. Its amazing here and I suggest EVERYONE take the chance to check out Korea in their travels in life.

Note: I wrote all of the romanized phrases in the above post in Korean, but WordPress doesn’t red Korean. If you ever want to learn some simple Korean phrases and know how to write them correctly, don’t hesitate to ask me! It is actually quite a simple language to write.