From Nijmegen to Seoul

From Nijmegen to Seoul

Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by big cities. Coming from Nijmegen, a university town with a population of only 170.000, I always dreamed about living in a huge metropolis. But now I live in Seoul, it actually feels quite intimidating from time to time. The scale of everything is just unbelievable: the buildings, the subway system, the amount of people, it’s really mind-blowing. But what surprised me more, are the small worlds within the big city. Everyday, I can see the same people, standing at the same spot: the traffic controller in front of the primary school, the girl working at the convenience store, the late-night street vendor who sells snacks to drunk students and salary men. They are the constant factor in my busy university neighborhood where everyone is constantly moving from A to B. To see these people day-in-day-out, and to notice them recognizing me makes the city feel less anonymous. But moreover, it made me realize that Seoul is like an onion: each time you peal the skin off, another layer appears. – I didn’t not come up with this comparison, but I’ve often heard Koreans use this expression to say that there is more on the surface than meets the eye. – and this absolutely applies to Seoul. If you pay attention, you can see the tiny patterns in the bigger whole, get to know the individuals and discover hidden places.

I’ve been living in Seoul since February, but I kept on feeling the need to write down my thoughts on living in South Korea, both to share my experiences with you guys, and to force myself to take some distance from the situations I encounter and put them in perspective. Also, I will use this blog to post my academic essays on Korean society, culture and history. But for now, I will leave it at this short introduction and just post some pics of my life here! In case you have any questions or requests, feel free to leave a comment. Cheers – Ifang

The view from my classroom floor at Sogang University. Every day I attend 4 hours of language class. The classes are really intense, but for the first time since I started learning Korean, it feels like the hard work is paying of. Last week, I realized that in most daily life situations the Korean sentences just roll out of my mouth. Before, I would first formulate the sentence correctly and translate it in my mind before actually speaking, which really prevented me from talking freely. Often, learning a Language that is so different from your mother tongue is very frustrating, because the progress seems so small in comparison to the hours you put in. So this moment was a quite the milestone for me.
One of my goals here is to emerge myself in Korean culture and society as much as I can. So, I decided to join FC Eins, one of the Sogang soccer teams. All my team members are Korean, so it still feels a bit awkward from time to time as most of the guys are uncomfortable speaking English, and my Korean is not fluent enough to really understand everything. But attending the after-practice drinking events seems to be the way to break the ice!
My tiny “one-room” / 원룸. Yes, that thing under my bed is my desk.
Sogang University. In the building on the right I attend classes on Confucianism twice a week.
Sogang main gate
Sogang University
Although in the middle of Seoul, the Sogang campus is really green and quiet.
Sogang Library
The street I live in. Although it is right in between Ehwa Women’s University Station and Sinchon, this old neighborhood is shut off from the noisy city by some high-rise apartment buildings. It kind of feels like a village actually.

Published by Ifang Bremer

Freelance journalist and researcher with a special interest in East Asian international relations and current affairs. Alumnus of Korean Studies at Leiden University.

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