Summer in Seoul

Hello and welcome to my month-long adventure in South Korea!

Oh, what a long ride it’s been to get here. I’ve been trying to study abroad for many years, even before attending university. Getting here was a process, but it all became irrelevant once I arrived. I had made it! 18 hours of travel, and I’d landed in South Korea, my first international travel experience, and I did it alone. That in and of itself has honestly increased the confidence I have in myself by quite a lot, but being here these past three weeks, I think I’ve changed for the better, more than I have in a while. 

One of the first things I thought once I landed, after “Woah. I’m in a completely different country halfway across the world now,” was just “It is. So. Hot.” I was definitely not prepared for the humidity in Korea, and it doesn’t help that I arrived right at the beginning of the monsoon season…yes, right at the start of the weeks-long monsoon season. As you can imagine, the humidity has been very present and inescapable since I arrived. When I first arrived I was wearing not only a windbreaker jacket and a hoodie but also a long sleeve shirt. Mistakes were made. I did not look at the weather before coming, and that definitely made my first hours in Seoul an interesting combination of desperate fanning, sweating, and being lost. Disoriented was very much the word I would use to describe my first few hours in Korea. Starting in the airport, though, I learned that communication really is KEY. From getting to the right booth to picking up my Korean SIM card to finding the subway so I could get to my accommodations, I could not have done it without the help of many amazing airport employees. I discovered many kinks in the rough plan I had made to get to my accommodations, but the many sweet employees helped me get there. 

My second day in Korea went much smoother. I arrived late Saturday, June 25th, and my program began Monday, June 27th, so I only had one day to explore, but I definitely did. My friend who lives in Busan came to Seoul to hang out and help me get things I needed that Sunday. We went around my new neighborhood and ate some of the most delicious pajeon 파전 (Korean green onion pancake) I have ever had. It was my first meal in Korea, and I am very glad it was because it was huge and just the perfect amount of crunchy and savory. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to eat a Korean pancake (jeon 전), I highly suggest you try it. There are many different types like seafood jeon and potato jeon, so there’s something for everyone. I also explored my neighborhood and took some pictures at a photobooth shop with my friend and roommate. All in all a fun, fulfilling day.

Monday came, and so did the beginning of classes. I’m taking 3 classes; each is 3 hours long, so I’m on campus from 8:30 am to 7 pm. My favorite class is hands down, my evening ceramic arts class. This ceramics class is one of the main things I wanted to do with the program and it has been amazing. The professors and student assistants have been wonderful, so patient, and helpful. Working with my hands has also been amazing; I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It takes my mind off of anything else, and I can just focus on working with the clay to create something. Having to take the time and be patient with the clay and myself in learning has really helped ease some anxiety I had coming here. I’ve also learned to be more patient with myself because of this. I’m learning to do something I’ve never done before, so of course, I’m not amazing at it from the start! However, I have really learned to be more patient with myself and to see myself in a more positive light since coming to Korea.

An activity we went on, which is basically a field trip included with the program, was to a rail park where we peddled our way across the countryside of a mountainous area, ate dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken), played a survival game with bb guns and drove ATVs by the river. The rail park and ATV ride were definitely the highlights of this day because I got to see some of the beautiful scenery Korea has, and simply being out in nature helped me to just exist in the moment and take it all in. Below are some pictures I took of the scenery.

Now I haven’t experienced a lot of culture shock since arriving, but one thing that was a definite shock was how sweet and/or buttery chips are here. I bought some garlic bread flavored chips expecting them to be well, garlicky, but when I ate them, they were very buttery. So buttery and sweet that I couldn’t eat more than a few pieces before needing to stop. The butter was so overpowering I didn’t taste any garlic. Similarly, I bought some nacho cheese-flavored Doritos, hoping they’d be more savory, but when I ate them, those too were sweet. I personally prefer savory and salty foods, especially in chips, so the fact that so many chips are sweet was really shocking. It honestly made me crave chips and snacks from the U.S. a lot more than I ever expected. 

This time in South Korea has not only helped me learn about the country and culture but also about myself. I’ve learned much more about myself these past few weeks in South Korea than I expected. I knew that this experience would help me grow as a person, and it truly has. I’ve discovered once again that the world is really just full of people, people whom I can communicate with regardless of language barriers. One day as I was heading back to my accommodations by myself, I was passing by this little bakery inside the subway station, and it smelt so delicious. Specifically, it smelt like glazed donuts, and I just had to have some. It smelt way too good to pass up, so I didn’t! I went up to the lady and asked her in broken Korean what flavor each bread was, how much they were, and I got a couple of bread pastries! It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it first seemed. When I first arrived, my roommate and I went together to most places, but now I can easily go around by myself, and navigating using the subway is simple. I’ve learned that I am a lot more capable than I’ve given myself credit for, and it is a lot easier to simply do things now. I don’t have to quadruple-check with myself and others to be sure, I’ve definitely grown to trust myself more these past few weeks, and I’m looking forward to even more growth and experiences!

Study Abroad starts at home!

I haven’t left yet, but I thought it would be good to write about some of the issues I faced getting all of my stuff together in preparation for my Study Abroad experience.

I’m slated to go to the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, which is located in Beppu, a city in the Oita Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu, in Japan. Orientation for the school will commence on the 27th of March, and the actual semester will start on the 1st of April and will go on till the 3rd of August.

Continue reading “Study Abroad starts at home!”

Summer Staycation in New Zealand

After my first semester in New Zealand came to a close, my next question was: What am I going to do for the break between semesters? Because of the way that the school year works in New Zealand, the break that would be winter break at SDSU is actually the summer break for AUT. Right when the semester ended I traveled to Sydney, Australia with some friends (you can see my vlog about it in my previous blog post). But I still had from the end of November until the 24th of February. So I thought it would be fun to talk about what I’ve been doing for the past couple months.

Continue reading “Summer Staycation in New Zealand”

Mexico: Food & Culture

It’s been exactly a month since I first arrived in Mexico and I can’t help but think it has gone by way too fast. In the short span of 4 weeks, I have settled into my new home in Puebla, Mexico, adjusted to having roommates for the first time, met amazing new friends, tried new food and traveled to various cities around Mexico, on top of keeping up with my classes! 

I couldn’t be happier with choosing Mexico as my destination for the semester. As a Mexican-American, I didn’t experience much culture shock. As I’m fluent in Spanish, there was no language barrier but I have come across many differences including accents, and slang that I’m not familiar with. Taking classes in Spanish has proven to be a bit more difficult than I had anticipated but its something that I’m glad I’m working on.

My favorite part of being here has definitely been the food. I’ve discovered plenty of amazing Mexican food that I hadn’t heard of and I already know it’s something I will truly miss, once the semester is over.

One of my first trips was to Tepoztlan, which is a town that’s famous for having a pyramid on a clifftop above the town. The goal was to hike up to reach the pyramid. It was a short but strenuous hike but it was worth it. Sitting at the very top was the pyramid, where many sat down to rest and regain energy for the way back, while also taking in the amazing views of the town below.

Tepoztlán: Pueblo Magico. The mountain I hiked pictured in the background.

I also got to experience a traditional carnival that happens once a year in Cuernavaca. The whole town takes part in this event and gets together to dress up as “Chinelos,” which is the blend of Indigenous and Catholic traditions for Independence Day celebrations.

Locals started gathering as early as 10am until dark, to celebrate and dance. The city blocks where full of locals in colorful costumes, and there was music, and street vendors everywhere. Something I learned is how many states throughout Mexico have their own festivals and how each state has their own colors when it comes to their costumes.

Puerto Vallarta y Sayulita!

Sayulita was very small but full of color and the best way to describe it is a “hippie surf town.” Here I got to surf, eat lots of seafood including shrimp tacos and aguachiles, and enjoy the warm weather lounging at the beach.

In Puerto Vallarta, I was surrounded by amazing views. The scenery was incredible – picture bright green palm trees everywhere. The beaches were lined by tropical jungles and the water was clear and warm. Being there made me think of home and how much I’ve taken having the beach close by for granted. Although I’m having the time of my life in Puebla and I’m definitely not ready to go back home, I do miss the beach at times, so it was a nice weekend getaway.

My time here has been amazing so far and although it has only been a month, I know that the semester will fly by. I already have more trips planned and I can’t wait to update on my upcoming adventures here in Mexico!

Hola! – Special field trip to Mexico

It’s been two months since I arrived in San Diego, and almost everything is settled. There are still a bunch of fresh and interesting activities that I’ve never tried before in Taiwan, which always reminds me to explore, experience, and cherish more here in the following 80 days.

I enroll in Global Sustainable Tourism Management (RTM 470) in SDSU this semester. The focus of this course, sustainability, is different from my major, business, and I have never engaged in this kind of topic before. Therefore, it’s a perfect opportunity for me to learn about tourism and sustainability in the course. Last week we went on a field trip to Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico for four days to visit some wineries and hotels and to interview the locals about their opinions of the tourism in Valle de Guadalupe.

Continue reading “Hola! – Special field trip to Mexico”

Settling, Experiencing, Home

It’s been just over a month since I arrived in my newly-beloved Spain! From the earliest of my travel days leaving San Diego and flying 5,000 miles across the globe, to the unknown extent of my allusions with what this experience would bring me has definitely come around full-circle. The period of angst revolving around the uncertainty of any solo abroad experience is a usual and normal one. For me, this was soon met with a sincere feeling of comfort and ease as I’ve grown to love this beautiful city.

Continue reading “Settling, Experiencing, Home”

The distance of 10000 km

Ten-thousand kilometers. That’s the distance from my hometown- Taipei to here- San Diego. To reintroduce myself, my name is Kiki, and I’m from Taiwan. It’s my first time to leave my home city to study, and also my first time to study abroad. The distance from Taipei to here isn’t just literally 10,000 kilometers, but also the large cultural differences between West and East. So it’s a little bit challenging for me to study here. But I’m all ready to take on that challenge. It has been approximately one week since I got here, and just in this one week, I faced many eye-opening experiences that not so usually, or never happened in Taiwan, and I’m gonna share with you guys in the following!

Continue reading “The distance of 10000 km”

Egypt, Shukran!

Shukran means thank you in Arabic 🙂

My soul is so grateful for my time spent in Egypt. I’ve transformed in the hands of my ancestors… This year my sankofa manifested and my perspective grew in reflection of that. One of the most important things I learned about myself and the world this year is that I have so much to learn.

Continue reading “Egypt, Shukran!”

Blog at

Up ↑