By Allison McKinnon
This winter break, I travelled to South Korea with Dr. Alfred Ho to study the nation’s rapid economic development. Dr. Ho, eight other students, and I worked with students from Seoul National University, touring the city and attending lectures by some of Seoul’s premier academics. Overall, I would highly recommend this trip for anyone interested in public policy or economics. I gained immeasurable amounts of knowledge and fantastic memories during my experience. However, this trip is not for anyone who tires easily; we were constantly seeing sights and walking around Seoul.
For the first part of the trip, we toured major sightseeing areas in Seoul such as the Korea National Museum, Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple, a traditional marketplace, and even a Korean megachurch. We then began attending lectures in the morning and viewing related sights in the afternoon and evening. One of my favorite places we went during those days was Samsung; the new technology we saw on our tour was breathtaking. The most interesting place we saw, however, was a facility called “Megastudy”. At Megastudy, students spend fourteen hours per day studying diligently for Korea’s national college entrance exam. The facility even had a café, so students would not have to leave the building between classes. That kind of facility was unlike anything that I have ever seen in the U.S.. Finally, we toured South Korea’s new capital-city-in-progress, Sejong City.
While there, I also got a taste of Korean culture, literally and figuratively. One of the most distinct aspects of Korean culture is the food, which is characterized by a somewhat sour spiciness. Another interesting part of Korean culture is the fact that they don’t tip. My friends and I tried to tip in a restaurant one night, and the owner ran out after us, shouting, “you forgot your money!” Overall, though, the people were incredibly nice and friendly to foreigners.