1. Quarantine experience

After 24 hours of travelling, I was more than happy to not have anywhere to go for a couple of days.  Surprisingly, even after a couple of days, I really enjoyed quarantine.  Getting to be by myself with peace and quiet was soup for the soul.  acI did have some responsibilities (for example online classes, and lots of Zoom conferences), but as a person who is always busy, having time to get my work done early was such a good feeling.  

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But let’s talk about the FOOD! The portions were huge, and my goodness was it good!  Personally, I thought the breakfast they provided was top 2 (and it’s not 2).  Each food delivery was like mini Christmas, never knowing what you were going to get.  

One thing I really appreciated about quarantine, was getting to know everyone better through our Zoom call check-ins.  Even with the anxiety of not knowing whether or not we were truly ready to explore Korea and begin our research project, seeing everyone always put a smile on my face. 

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But alas, quarantine came to an end and boy was I ready to go! It was so nice to finally come together as a group outside of Zoom, and I knew that day that this trip would be extraordinary. 

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  1. Interaction with the research lab members

I absolutely love my research lab team.  They are so kind, and patient with the bare minimum of Korean that I know.  My mentor, Kayla, is who I work with the most and she is just so much fun.  On my first day, I got to sit down with Professor Kang and go over what I will be doing.  As described by one of my fellow lab mates, “he is awesome”.  

I also love the atmosphere of the lab.  Everyone is eager to help each other, and there is rarely a dull moment.  In just the first week they had me doing little tasks with pretty expensive machines so it’s been really cool to have the space to learn and grow.  Also, meals together are always a blast!  

I made a little video about what it’s been like for me so far:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lJH76tFeA19pJcYaIvPwIFoSeTZ7p–2/view?usp=sharing

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  1. Excursions 

Once we arrived at the Express Bus Terminal Station, we met with Dr. Kim and she treated us to a lovely breakfast.  It was so nice to finally have a hot meal.  After eating, everyone went their separate ways and Ryoma, Elizabeth and I explored the station a little more.  It was absolutely stunning, and the stores were so lavish and designer I thought we weren’t even allowed to walk around.  What truly took my breath away was the amazing art they had on display (and the $800 jackets being sold haha). 

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After that, Elizabeth and I unpacked at our apartment and set out to explore again.  We wanted to make sure we did as much as we possibly could, and I truly think that we did.  We met up with Ryoma and went straight to Lotte Tower.  Like everything in Seoul, it was absolutely stunning.   The mall areas were so clean, pristine, shiny, and gold.  But, we went to Lotte Tower on a mission to go to the 120th floor.  To be honest, it was my idea, but I actually was starting to chicken out because of my fear of heights.  Elizabeth and Ryoma (but mostly Elizabeth lolol) forced me to go anyways, and I am so glad they did.  The view was so beautiful and it didn’t feel real to be up so high. 

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After Lotte Tower, Elizabeth and I planned to go back home and take a little break.  We decided instead to “purposefully” get lost, and we ended up eating the most delicious dessert ever (of which we purchased at Lotte tower) on the side of the road.  It took less than a minute for us to completely demolish the treat, and every second of that moment was pure bliss.

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So, after our “break”, we met up with Matt and Ryan (M&N as Elizabeth would say) before they left for Daejeon.  After a lovely dinner, we set to it that we would find the Golden Hands of Psy, singer of Gangnam Style in honor of Dr. Kim.  Little did we know how hard that would be.  It took a full 2 hours an lots of misguided directions to get there, but it was totally worth it.

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The next day, Dr. Kim helped us get a sim card and that was truly a game changer.  I was able to meet with my friend, C and we had jampacked day filled with food, shopping, dog cafes, and dancing in Mapo-gu – Seogyo-dong.  

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The jam packed days and fun had to stop for a couple of days for me, as I had finals for my classes.  But once I submitted my final assignment, Elizabeth and I were right back at it!  We spent that evening in Gangnam with bright lights, music, and fun!  Elizabeth found a free game to play mortal kombat, and I won a round (and she won the other 2 but that doesn’t matter).  We ended up gambling our money away trying to win a giant avocado from an arcade.  We didn’t even win candy from what was said to be the easiest game there.

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That brings us to yesterday, where Elizabeth, our roommate Nadia, Ryoma and I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace.  I know I’ve already said this about some of the other places we went to, but the palace truly took my breath away!  The fine artistry, size, and history was just so amazing and I am so glad we got to go.  We even got to wear traditional Hanboks (and they even had sizes for tall girls!)

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After visiting the palace, Ryoma recommended we go to Jongo-gu.  It was very touristy, and the food was delicious. There was also a mini event happening, so we got to lounge outside and watch an old Aubrey Hepburn movie. I also finally got to try Dragon’s beard candy, a treat I have been obsessed with after seeing a YouTube video on how it was made years ago!   

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I just cannot fully express how grateful I am to be here, and I honestly do not want to leave.