A native Bulgarian, studying Journalism at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, I ended up coming on exchange to Seoul, South Korea. My name is Snezhana Shutova, or simply Jani as friends call me, and I am proud to say I have been a Seoulite for 77 days now. I still vividly remember the day I landed on Asian earth as if it was yesterday. After more than 12 hours in total, spent on planes and at airports, from Sofia to Frankfurt, I finally made it to Incheon International Airport on the 28th of August. This is the date my adventure in Korea and Asia (as a continent) started. I call it an adventure as this has been the first time I have been so far away from home, on a different continent, out of my comfort zone, and in a place where I did not speak the language. Before coming here, I did not know much about Korea in terms of its culture nor had I believed I would be spending almost half a year living in Seoul.
As I rewind back to the point of the very beginning of this adventure, where I had to make the decision of putting Korea and Hanyang University(HYU) on my list as a number one choice, I am pleased I did it. I feel this is one of those lifetime opportunities I should not miss but take advantage of. Words are not enough to describe Seoul, as it is one of those places that should be, actually, must be seen and sensed in order to create a complete impression.
It is a metropolis which has managed to develop astonishingly well and fast in terms of technology and economy and yet it has kept its tradition and preserved its culture.
As soon as I arrived, I was no longer just an exchange student but a tourist, too. So far, I have visited many places in and outside of Seoul. And every single one has been adding a little bit to make my bigger picture of this place. Another stage I went through was becoming an official and legal alien by obtaining my alien registration card. All of those steps have helped me slowly adapt to this new world, bringing me to a point where I feel like a real Seoulite.
Even though I have a passion for foreign languages, to be honest I had never believed Korean would be among the ones I would be learning. I am only taking the so-called “Survival Korean Course” during my semester here at HYU, but hopefully it will give me a good base on which I can relate and hopefully continue improving my skills in the future. What is really curious and worth mentioning is the way you greet people in Korean. Probably this is one of the very first things foreigners learn here. I was no exception. The Korean phrase an-nyeong-ha-se-yo, which generally means “hello,” can be literally translated as “peace be with you” which simply shows the respect and kindness most Koreans have for others and elders as this is the polite form of that sentence.
Having come to a place where such values are honored can only enrich me as a person and expand my horizons and the ways I see the world. Korea has been a pleasant surprise so far as I did not have any expectations before I came simply because I did not know what to expect. I am loving every single part of my stay here, from the street food to all the quirky holidays being celebrated here (For example, Pepero Day, which I happened to experience) to the fact you can get almost anything delivered to you 24/7, almost anywhere.
Every day I either learn something new or meet somebody new and I guess this is the most essential part of my whole experience being here. This is what I will carry with me when I am back in my country along with the good memories and new things I have learned and adopted throughout my stay in Korea.