So it came down to the final week of an awesome summer in Korea. I have endured a lot over the three months, but I will summarize my whole time here later in the post. In the early part of this final week I decided that I wanted to visit a casino while in Korea. I love going to the casino in America so I wanted to see the difference between the countries. The casino was called Seven Luck and it was made for foreigners, but they still have the Korean ‘touch’ on the inside. I didn’t have much money but I thought to myself that if I could win…well that would make my last week a lot better (I don’t know who doesn’t think that they’re going to win big when going to the casino). The adventure took us, Kyle and myself, into the area of Gangnam (where the wealthy people live). I was blown away as soon as I stepped inside. There were lights, big ceilings, and nice furniture everywhere. I didn’t even think I was in a casino at first. My goal was to come out with a playing chip from the tables to take home as a souvenir. The first game that we played was blackjack. On my very first 6 hands I had won $140 (I won every hand). I was playing well and feeling good. However, soon after that I started losing (If you ever gamble you know that it’s very hard to stop once you’re up) all of my hands and was only up $60. This was the point where we left the table to go grab some food before heading to the roulette tables. I’ve only ever been on a roulette table that is run by a computer program, but a person ran the tables here manually. This made the game a must for me. I ended up throwing down only $20 on this game just to give it a try. After a couple of rounds, I came out $20 short. After roulette, Kyle and I decided to be done. Kyle finished with a loss of money, and I came out $30 up because I kept $10 of it as a souvenir. The casino was a good time and I’m glad that I saw one over my time here.
Later in the week we went to a flower market in the cities. I wasn’t too excited about seeing this, but am now glad that I went because I had the opportunity to buy some gifts and see a lot of amazing plants. I don’t really know much about flowers and plants, but it was cool to see the hundreds of kinds that they have in Korea. My favorite plant was the bonsai tree. Those plants are the coolest (I’m going to buy one for my home when older. Whoever hasn’t seen one should look them up). Anyways, the flower market was worth my time.
Kyle was leaving us on Friday of this week (something went wrong with his plane ticket) so we had a final dinner with all of the students that we worked with throughout the summer on Thursday night. They took us out for some pig’s feet. I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste, since I usually don’t eat the feet of animals, but it was really good. It kind of tasted similar to chicken/pork but with a lot of fat on it. It was something different, but really tasty. After this extremely large dinner we made it to a bar (the only bar I went to in Korea) to get some drinks. We were celebrating because not only was it Kyle’s last night, but it was also Fritz’s birthday. The outside of the bar looked really small, but as soon as we got in I realized it was actually a nice size. There were two floors, but both were on the smaller side. After a few drinks in us we finished the night with some karaoke. Lets just say I’m not really a singer, so I wasn’t too happy about the plan, but after a bit I jumped in and started singing. I haven’t ever been to karaoke in America but I know that it usually consists of a single person singing on a stage in some type of bar in front of a crowd. This was not the case in Korea. What we did was rented a small room (enough for the 10 of us to sit on the floor) with two microphones, a remote, and TV for choosing songs. I was glad that the room only contained the group that we came with because I don’t like large crowds. I had a blast singing some fun songs for about an hour and it was a good way to get closer with the graduate and undergraduate students.
Over my three months in Korea, I never made it to a nice club and apparently South Korea is known for its late nights and partying. And no other part of South Korea is better for partying than Gangnam. There is even a song called Gangnam Style (I’m sure that everyone has heard it), which has over 2 billion views and refers to the partying style in Gangnam. This area is full of wealthy people, and is home to the 12th best club in the world, Club Octagon. After seeing that this was the most popular club in Korea right now, Fritz and I decided that we had to go. The club is two floors (upper floor is mainly VIP) and has an inside pool, which is used for certain events only. There isn’t much more to say about the club…there was dancing, music, and lots of fun.
On Monday of the last week we had our final presentations with the students and professor. It was just like our first presentation but with some edits to the methods and results sections. After the presentation we talked with the other students to set up a plan for continuing our research over the fall semester, even though we will be across the world from each other.
On Tuesday Fritz and I ventured to the Seoul Zoo. On our first week here (you might remember from my earlier post) we tried to take a tour of the zoo with our professor, but we got lost because of the busses (we took the wrong way). This was upsetting and we had felt defeated so Fritz and I took advantage of our last full day to see the animals. The Zoo is at Seoul Grand Park and is surrounded by mountains. The view was beautiful. The walk up to the zoo was about a mile or so, but it was worth it. After entering, I had realized quickly that this is a very large zoo. We saw all of the animals except for the dolphins and birds. Every area with birds was blocked off…something was wrong. Maybe bird flu? The animals in the zoo were very similar to the ones found in Minnesota, but they were spread out a little further from each other. The coolest thing that I saw there was the trainer feeding the lions. There were a bunch of lions in a field and all of a sudden the trainers came out and started blowing their whistles and throwing meat across the field. It was cool because the lions were jumping in the air catching the meat and their growling was very loud. It sounded like some motorcycles were being started up. That was basically our whole adventure at the zoo…just a bunch of walking around and exploring the animals there, which I thought was fun to do considering I love animals.
On our final day, or half day, we went to one of our neighbors’ homes (her American name is Madeline) to return the dishes (which held the food that she brought us over earlier in the summer) and look around the bird museum that she had. Before mentioning her home, I want to say that this lady is extremely nice. She can speak English fairly well and was very excited and eager to have us come over. She’s one of the nicest ladies I’ve spoken too. Anyways, at her house she had multiple hand-made homes and birdbaths in her back yard. Apparently she has many kinds of birds that eat in her yard and lay eggs in her homes. After she showed us her yard she took us into a little shed type thing. Inside were bones, nests, feathers, and even full-bodied dead birds. Also, she had many books on birds, and even books with feathers from birds she has found. Over her life she has become very intelligent in the study of birds and has performed her own studies. I learned that she is very passionate for birds, and it seems that the love for them spread to her daughter because now her daughter is studying them in graduate school. It was very nice to get close to some of our neighbors and have the chance to interact with them more than by just saying hi. I’m glad I met Madeline and was able to share the experience with her. This was the last thing I did in Korea…it was all over. I couldn’t believe that I was heading back to America, but I was ready to be home after this amazing adventure.
During the fall, I will be continuing my research on Hyla japonica. The research question, why are the frogs calling in the forest, could not be answered yet because we need sound recordings of the frogs outside of the mating season (mating season ends in August). The students in Korea will continue to survey the forests and record the frogs’ calls in order for us to characterize the calls and compare them to the frogs’ calls during the mating season. I will then be helping them here by using the sound analysis program Raven to help them listen to the recordings. Along with this, Kyle, Fritz, and I may use the data that we got over the summer to come up with another research question (maybe something along the lines of which paddy did the frogs prefer) that we can focus on and make a presentation out of.
On a final note, I would like to end my blog by quickly summarizing my cultural experience in Korea. I’m not going to talk much about my research experience in this final part (that’s not saying that I don’t have much to say). In short, I have never participated in independent research. I’ve always had a teacher talking me through experiments and lab time for the most part. However, in Korea I learned how to set up a study, perform the necessary research methods for a good outcome, and analyze the data correctly. I would like to say that overall my skills as a researcher and young scientist have improved all around. Aside from the research, I want to reflect on my final thoughts after leaving Korea. I learned that the people of South Korea are some of the nicest in the world. A lot of them are willing to help tourists and will sometimes just come up and talk to you about something random. I’ve spent many hours with some Korean locals and had a blast every time. Also, I feel safe there. There are minimal crimes, no guns, and just nice people all around. On another note, I also feel that I have grown as a person. I’ve never been out of the country so I wasn’t sure if I would like or hate the experience. I ended up loving it, but it took me awhile to get used to the changes (mainly language). From the 3-month research abroad I have become more independent as a student and individual by learning to trust myself as a young scientist. Korea is a beautiful country with its array of mountains and large cities, and I’m going to miss it there now that I’m gone, but hopefully it’s not a goodbye forever. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it was worth your time. I’m out!