Kayla Black

Kayla BlackKayla Black
BA 2014 Asian Language in Culture: Korea
Go Global Exchange to South Korea – Ewha Woman’s University

Kayla Black, BA 2014, recently returned from an exchange to South Korea and attended Ewha University for 2 semesters. We asked her questions about her experience.

What fascinated you the most while being immersed in a new culture?

I think one of the fascinating things about Seoul is its trends. You cannot live in Seoul and not know the trends—you are bombarded with them wherever you go. Especially living at Edae (Ewha Womans University area) a.k.a. the area for cheap, fashionable clothes, I could spot anyone in clothes from our shops from a mile away, and they were everywhere.

Some of the trends that were really big while I was in Korea were

· Waffles! From fancy expensive ones in cafes to $1 ones on the street!

· Orange lipstick! (it looked more red on though) You could see whole groups of middle school girls come on the train, all wearing the exact same makeup! (maybe it’s a sign of loyalty?)

· Sheer floral printed clothing! Yes. Even on guys.

· Honey Comb Soft Ice Cream! I thought it was just, “Meh,” but they were everywhere!

· EXO, SISTAR, A-Pink, Fly To the Sky…Really, once a song was released you would hear it EVERYWHERE 24/7 for MONTHS. In the make-up shops, the clothing shops, the coffee shops, the restaurants, the radio, the train station…there was no avoiding the Kpop! And FROZEN! I wanted that song to be ‘Let Go’! Regardless of if you were a Kpop fan or not, you were marinated in it and whether you admit it or not, you sang those exact same songs in noraebang (karaoke room).

What was your favourite experience in Korea?

Honestly my most special experiences were just the regular happy moments of hanging out with my dear friends chatting, eating bingsoo, and singing noraebang!

If I were to pick one really special moment though, I’d have to say my time spent swing dancing in Korea was amazing. I had done a bit of swing dance at UBC, but then found a club and got involved in Korea during my second semester. I signed up for a in-Korean Swing Dance class, met some great people and just danced the nights away! “Happy Bar” in Sinchon has this great ambiance with little Christmas lights decorating the roof, mirrors on the walls, upbeat music, and hundreds of happy and talented dancers (seriously, it’s so packed it’s like clubbing! Only it’s swing dancing!).

One of my first days, we had lessons from 5-7:30, took a 30 minute dinner break in our groups, and then returned for general dancing which went until midnight. I ended up dancing from 5pm-12pm and had the most fantastic and magical time! Swing dancing is surprisingly popular in Seoul, and people go every night of the week! I really recommend anyone to go try it out!

What was the most memorable class/educational experience for you? How did studying/researching at a different university contribute to your academic career and perspective?

As far as my educational experience went in Korea, it was fine. I learned more about Korean history than I knew before and improved my Korean, but there were many dull dull hours spent (and Ewha has an obsession with Group Projects!) So we’ll just say in general it made me appreciate and love UBC haha! Probably one of my most memorable classes was actually a distance education class from the University of Hawaii (that offered their class at Ewha) called “Korean Women in History.” Fantastic class that really opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about before.

*Note: I was fortunate and did not need full year’s course credits while in Korea, as I had spent many summers in summer school at UBC. I’d choose spending time exploring or meeting people over doing homework usually, after all this is a foreign country and homework can be done back in Canada.

How has your learning abroad experience shaped or changed you? After returning to Canada what is next?

It has made me see my Canadian home as greener pastures, literally! I hadn’t realized how smoggy Seoul had been until I saw the clear blue skys, blue mountains, and green grass of my countryside home….

Nevertheless, I really loved the energy and the ????(fast-paced) lifestyle in Korea and am working on returning ASAP or rather ASAJ (As Soon As Job)!

As long as everything transfers as it should, I am about to be a graduated woman on the job hunt! I have been dividing my search between Vancouver and Seoul for communication-based work or internships (e.g., Public Relations, Social Media, etc.), but I’m also very open to new experiences and new opportunities.

I had everyone telling me to teach English while I was in Korea, from taxi drivers to my best friends, and am now (ironically) teaching English in Vancouver (when I never did it in Seoul), while looking for other opportunities.

What advice would you give to students interested in a similar program?

Making international friends is easy, speaking in English all the time is easy, but if you’re in Korea (especially for language study) it’s a constant fight to break out of this bubble. Most of my close Korean friends were friends I already knew from Canada. My advice is to know your hobby or search for it, and then find a Korean group that shares your interests (e.g., Swing Dancing!) , or another great way to meet people is to find out about Language Exchange Nights at different Cafes, these are super popular; the only issue is making sure you get a chance to speak Korean too!