Hi everyone, I’m Jamie. I am the university’s new student blogger for history and will no doubt ending up sounding like your secondary school history teacher on account of my unhealthy love of history. At some point I will probably begin to bombard you with updates on my dissertation but for now, if you have any questions about what it is like to study history of any sort at Leicester, feel free to post in the comments and I will do my best to help.
Right, now all the awkward pleasantries are out the way, I am going to talk about my experiences in Seoul. To just give you a little context as to why the I am half way the world , I am just coming to the end of one of the university’s summer exchanges programs with its partner univeristy, Sogang, in Seoul, South Korea. The summer program was part of the university’s new Korean Global Studies department and I have been studying Korean performance tradition and culture as well as Korean immigration history and geopolitics.
It has certainly been more hard work than I had expected, and if any of you are somewhat daunted by the prospect of your workload when you get to university, I assure you it pales in comparison to Korean conventions. My two seminars were each split into 2 subtopics and seminars are placed into four hours blocks, 2 times a week. Although I must admit that the program subjects have been really interesting, especially coming from a non-western centric focus, it has been rather hard adjusting to the work load alongside jet lag and the desire to go out and explore Seoul. In fact, I learnt that Koreans have a rather interesting saying on the matter of studying saying ‘3 hours sleep a day means you can go to university, while 4 hours sleep a night means you can’t.’ Upon hearing this I certainly felt bad about complaining the workload for my degree is too much.
Anyway, it’s has not all been doom and gloom. Despite what might be termed as an ‘obscene’ amount of work for a summer school, I have still managed to take the time to slum around the awe inspiring urban metropolis that is Seoul. Just when I thought Leicester was big, my first trip into Sinchon cruelly dispelled my illusions. Without doubt; Seoul is an urban jungle made even more miraculous by how quickly the city’s dense web of skyscrapers and tangled back streets has come into being. It has been great just to walk around the city and feel a little dumbfounded by it all. In a way it has also made me appreciate how shielded you are until you go abroad and realise how big everything is.
Its also been nice to have some sun for a change, although the weather has been really varied here on account of it being monsoon season. Days have started with torrential downpours only to shift into scorching hot afternoons and then back into evening showers. The weather has flitted so quickly I have basically carried umbrella around religiously. The humidity has also been hard getting used to and at times its felt like I have been walking through a damp flannel all day. Still, it has been great to have some assurance of sun, given it’s something rather strange to Britain and when the opportunity has presented itself it’s been a surprise to find I have actually tanned.
Aside from the weather I have been genuinely taken aback by Korean students. Aside from their ridiculously high work ethic, it has been really interesting to discuss with them how they see the world and what their aspirations are for Korea’s future. A lot of these responses have been regarding the reunification of the Korean peninsula and their deep seated distaste for the Japanese. In this sense, I have been surprised by how much more politically conscious Koreans are compared to the British. While we may offer our casual opinions in the pub on the royal baby, most Korean teenagers are fully literate in the politics of their country and have been more than willing to discuss their opinions of North Korea and the politics of the Pak administration. In a way, I am a little jealous of how much they actually Korean know about their country and how much pride they have for it.
In that respect, I pose a question to you all as I end my first blog. Do you think that British kids are to disinterested in politics? And do you think that we should take the model of South Korea and encourage an active discussion on politics amongst Britain’s teens? Feel free to leave your comments in the box below or ask me anything about how life has been in Seoul over the past 5 weeks.