2017 Ewha International Co-ed Summer College
Following the successful completion of the 2016’s E-school program between the Korean Studies department at the University of Nairobi and the Korean Foundation, I was selected to go for a 3 week summer program in S. Korea. I was to enroll for a course in Korean culture and Korean language at Ewha Womans University.
I arrived in Seoul on the 8th of August around 2.00 pm and later left for my host university where my hostel was based to boot. On the 9th of October at around 12.00pm we all gathered for an opening ceremony at an auditorium in the Ewha Campus Complex. The place was thronged with 94 student participants from 12 countries. These were the Netherlands, the US, Belgium, Britain, China, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Mexico, just to name but a few. Suffice it to say, I was the only participant from Africa.
The opening ceremony was conducted by the program coordinator and later unveiled by the head of International studies at the institution. I made five friends: Xai (China), Gavin (UK), John (Brazil), Princess (UK) and Oang So (China).
The following day, (the 9th) we started classes. For Korean language, we were divided into class levels going by how perfect our Korean language was. I landed in the intermediate level. For the other culture class, we all met in an auditorium in the afternoon. After the lecture, we would go for an outdoor tour or event. This is where things could get interesting.
The first week, we 1st toured the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan district, the flagship museum of Korea’s history and art. Shown around by a guide, we saw a number of artefacts and monuments that spoke volumes about Korean culture. Of note was the 5th century Silla gold crown that was excavated in Gyeongju, the Pensive Boghisattva (a statue that postures lord Budha contemplating the life of human beings) and the incense burner that was a celadon in openwork. Not only were these range of cultural artefacts a well of knowledge about the nation’s culture, Buddhism and what not, it also brought a sense of calm that only art and a society’s history could invoke. We later visited a movie theatre to go watch a famous Korean movie, the ‘Confidential Assignment’.
The clincher of all the outdoor cultural classes was visiting Hahoe village in Andong city. This was a special cultural excursion trip that painted loads about village life in Korea. Far from being a famous village full of rice paddies, it was a designated UNESCO cultural heritage. My most thrilling experiences here was rafting at Nakdong river, nature walks in the quiet and serene, visiting the Byungsan Confucius school and eating fried Mackerel.
The second week we poured ourselves into classes. For culture, we were taken through ‘Korean Society and Women’ and ‘Korean Traditional Music’. We also had special studio type courses: making Korean temple food at a Buddhist temple in Seoul and a K-Pop dance class at a dance studio near Ewha. We were also taught how to dance to Korean traditional music at one of the theatres in Ewha and later went to Jungdong theater in Seoul to watch a musical featuring a local traditional performance. .
The 3rd and last week we only had one Korean language class and then had exams. We also had our last culture class on contemporary Korean Culture and the Korean Wave.’’
I had an interesting time in Seoul. Even though it was hot, this could not stop me from visiting places around and buying into the city’s vibe. I entered a number of local restaurants for local food, took the subway for my round trips and attempted to strike conversations with the locals in pure Korean. A lot of joy came in making lots of friends from different parts of the world.
Seoul was fun and I would encourage anyone to visit. But brace yourself though; you need enough money, because really, stuff is expensive.
Story by Socrates Luseka