A tete-a-tete over a cup of green tea Frappuccino at Starbucks, going to Starlite to grab some snacks, or picking out clothes at the "girly" shops are some of the most common leisure activities for Ewha students after class. As an Ewha student, it is easy to predict and get a glimpse of other Ewhaians' extracurricular life. But what do exchange students, especially male students, do after school? A peek into the after-school life of Steve Gowa (Rutgers Univ., 3), might help solve the mystery.
On Weekdays: Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Steve's last class of the day, Media and Korean Society, has just ended. He heads down to the central library to hit some books. Sitting amidst Ewha girls delving into books is something he's neither hesitant nor embarrassed about anymore. After a while, Steve meets his fellow exchange student friends, Katherine (Martin Luther Univ., 4) and Chu Shan (University of Hong Kong, 3) and goes out for dinner. Today's menu is An-dong style chicken. As the phrase "practice makes perfect "says, using chopsticks is not too difficult for Steve anymore due to continuous practice. And, his immune system must be working on the spicy chicken because the taste of the peppers no longer bothers him. After, the three of them go out to get Korean style fruit cocktails, in Sinchon. After chatting over a pitcher of lemon cocktail they head back to the international dorm to get a good night's sleep for tomorrow.
On Sunday: Sunday, May 15, 2005
Waking up to a fresh zephyr on a brisk morning at the dorm is one of the things that Steve will miss about Ewha. A morning like this, especially during the weekend, is a sweet treat after a tough week's schoolwork. For Steve, a little American football game among exchange students is another pleasant event waiting for him during the day. Steve had invited about 20 exchange students to join him in playing American football that afternoon. As expected, only a very few turned up, due to most students having hangovers from partying and drinking the night before. Steve mentions that, during the weekends exchange students like to go out clubbing at places like the Hilton where female students are allowed to go in for free on ladies' nights. Anyway, because only six people showed up at the field, they end up playing catch with the football. After tossing the ball around for a while, the crowd watches a Sah-mool-nol-ee percussion band practicing their drums in the field. The foreign students find this sight quite interesting comparing the vibrant drum routine of the band with those of marching bands at their universities. Then, they decide to call it a day and go back to the dorms. He must start some readings now to avoid cramming all the work together. "Ewhaians sure are hard workers," comments Steve, as he starts his chapter on Anarchism.
On Saturday: Saturday, May 21, 2005
A peek at the DMZ (De-militarized Zone)! This is something that Steve has been looking forward to for quite a while ever since he first heard about this trip. Going to the DMZ will be a way to see and experience the stark reality that South Korea is still a nation at war, although commercialization in Seoul leads one to forget.
Students from the ISF (International Student Fellowship), an organization of students from all over the world attending universities in Seoul, gather and head straight to the DMZ by train. In the train Steve has a chance to talk to a Pakistani student studying at Kyunghee University. Although encountering a Muslim Pakistani is a rare opportunity for Steve, he manages to break the ice with the other young man by cracking a joke. The Pakistani student tells Steve how many of his countrymen back home have antagonistic sentiments towards the Americans. Nonetheless, they agree that people should be treated on person-to-person basis instead of blind anti-state sentiments.
Once they arrive at the DMZ, the crew gets a traditional Korean-style lunch, have their passports checked, and then head in deeper, going to a tunnel dug by North Koreans. Steve is impressed by the sight of South Korean and American soldiers at the DMZ, who seem completely professional, if a bit intimidating. He is also surprised by the fluent English of the Korean soldier. The students can tell a North Korean soldier is staring at them through his binoculars from the opposite side, which gives them a slight shudder. The students also visit the meeting hall where George W. Bush and Kim Jong-il held conferences. The whole experience at the DMZ is simply surreal. It's seeing a face of war in a place that seems utterly stable and relaxed.
At the end of the day, Steve, with his ISF crew goes back to the train and rides home. Once Steve gets to Sinchon, he gets a bite at McDonald's, eating one of the products of his culture transformed through localization: the Bulgogi Burger.
Steve's social life gives us a glimpse of the Korean experience through an exchange student's eyes. But his experience only show one set of possibilities. There are 88 exchange students, each with a unique perspective to share.