The final month in Seoul

Hanyang University Festival: RACHIOS

An integral part of a university student’s life in South Korea is the university festival culture. Universities in South Korea often have festivals where booths are set up around campus with food and games. The highlight of such festivals is that the universities would invite K-pop idols and celebrities to perform at these festivals. The best part is that as a student, you get to watch and enjoy these perfomances for free. Talk about a free K-pop concert.

For our batch of exchange students, we were lucky to be at Hanyang University for their spring festival RACHIOS. The festival lasted 3 days and each day had a special line-up of performers. Day 1 was more of an RnB line up with LOCO and Gray. Day 2 was PSY who I thought gave an incredible performance. Day 3 was Paul Kim and (G)IDLE.

PSY performances included water canons to hype the crowd
GIDLE was the finale for Day 3

Not to mention, we also got to watch and cheer with the university’s cheering team which is a tradition in Korean universities!

HYU’s cheer team

As students, you are able to sit in the Hanyang Zone of the outdoor amphitheatre which is a specially cordoned-off zone with a better view of the stage. For future exchange students interested, take note that once you enter the zone, you can’t come out as the queue will be very long and you might not be able to enter again. Also… there are no toilets within the Hanyang Zone so you might need to do some bladder planning before you enter.

Even if you are not student and still want to enjoy the festival as a general public, you can watch the performance from the seating outside the Hanyang Zone but you would have to queue really early as it gets crowded early.

Photo booths are set up around campus

Overall, this was one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences I’ve had while at HYU.

Picnics, Drinks and Supper by the Hangang


Picnicking the local way

After our contemporary Korean studies class on one of the Fridays, me and two friends I made in the class, Heather and Jenny, had a nice picnic at Banpo Hangang Park (반포한강공원).

Many people were at the park on this very pleasant Friday afternoon

Heather and Jenny showed me how to picnic the local way: buying snacks (including a bowl of 자이언트 쫄볶이 which is some pretty spicy noodles) from the convenience store and also ordering a delivery of 찜닭 (jjimdak) which is braised chicken. It’s pretty amazing that you can easily get food delivered to the park since there is a designated place for orders to deliveries to be collected. The place we ordered 찜닭 from is called 두찜 and Heather, who somehow always has the best food recommendations ever, got us the 로제찜닭 (Rose jjimdak) which might be one of the best things I have tasted.

Thanks to these two, I had a very local picnic experience 😉

Late night drinks and conversations along Hangang

Another friend that I made from Contemporary Korean Studies class is Sungwon, who invited me to hang out with his group of friends. After a game of pool at a bar, we picked up snacks and some soju at a mart and headed to the Hangang to chill.

Sungwon from Korea, Pascal from Switzerland and Mo, who is Sudanese but born and raised in Korea.

We spent the night talking about cultures in our different countries and our experiences through life. Pascal who is very passionate about learning about different cultures and the world also has a podcast series where he invited people of different nationalities to speak about their countries. I was honoured to be invited and did one podcast about Singapore. Do check out his series to support him!

Pascal’s podcast series.

Safe to say, I had the most enlightening and interesting conversations that night. Time flew by as we chatted until about 2am in the morning and since the last trains and buses were long gone by then, Sungwon suggested what I now agree to be the best way to commute home: cycling. He showed us how to rent the public bicycles using 따릉이 (Ddareungi) app. The app is pretty easy to use as it has a foreigner option that allows you to rent the bicycles by purchasing a one-off ticket using a foreign credit/debit card. For an 1 hour of rental, it only cost 1000 won (about 1 SGD) which is pretty worth it to me. And so we rode along the river and parted ways at one of the bridges to get home.

Weverse Con Festival

Another of my bucketlist activities was to attend a concert while in South Korea. Fortunately, I found out from friends that Weverse was holding a 2-day concert festival during this time and had a wide range of artists performing including Le Serrafim, New Jeans, TXT, Enhypen, Fromis_9, Hyolyn, etc. So for a price of $187 SGD per ticket, I attended day 1 of the event that was held in the Olympic Park and KSPO Dome. Since it was a full day event, I spent the afternoon watching the outdoor performances of Hyolyn, Enhypen, Lee Hyun, etc at the outdoor 88 Lawn Field. At night, the concert performances of Le Serrafim, TXT, Hwang Min Hyun, Fromis_9, etc were held in the KSPO dome.

Inside the KSPO Dome
Le Serrafim’s performance

The concert vibe definitely felt different from concerts I have attended back home. The fans here are also definitely a lot more intense and passionate in their cheering… let’s just say, my ear were constantly ringing from the all the screams. Overall, I would recommend attending a concert in South Korea just to experience what it’s like!

Final Exams and Projects

It’s all fun and games until finals rolls around. Perhaps the most noteable part of finals was the final project of the Embedded System Design course that me and my friend, Karlene partnered up to do. Our project involved us having to program a robot in C language to navigate and solve a maze. The robot would also have to optimise the route it took for bonus points. This project was hard for us as we did not have experience in C. Eventually, with the guidance of our SUTD friends back home as well as many hours of troubleshooting, we were able to (somewhat) complete this project.

Here’s Karlene working on our C code while waiting for the festival performances to start lol

Last solo travel: Jeonju (전주)

Over one of the weekends, Suhyeon, who I met and became friends with in Sokcho, invited me to Jeonju which is her hometown. Jeonju is about a 3 hours bus ride south of Seoul. Suhyeon picked me up from the bus station and for the entire day, she brought me around Jeonju to explore and eat.

We first ate the famous Jeonju Beansprout Soup (콩나물 국밥). This is a nice, hearty beansprout stew that is eaten with rice that is mixed into the soup. It’s super healthy because it is filled with beansprouts and other vegetables.

After lunch, Suhyeon brought me to the Royal Portrait Museum (어진박물관). The museum grounds were very nice to walk around and we took many photos in the traditional hanok houses.

Lucky for us, there was a cultural event happening at the time we were there so we got to watch some performances and also create some handcraft souvenirs.

Cultural performances during the event

After this, we walked around Jeonju’s famous hanok villages to take in the view of this quiet yet lovely city.

View of Jeonju Hanok Village

Although I did not watch the show, we also saw the 한벽굴 (Hanbyeokgul Tunnel) which is featured in the drama Twenty Five Twenty One.


We ended the day with Suhyeon granting one of my bucketlist wishes: to try eating 홍어 (hongeo) which is fermented raw skate fish. Considered a delicacy in Korean, fermented skate fish is a dish that even many Koreans don’t like to eat due to its very pungent smell and strong taste of ammonia. After putting just one piece in my mouth and tasting the fish, I almost saw the light and decided to call it a day. It was a good thing that Suhyeon loves eating hongeo because there was no way I can eat another piece. If you’re an adventurous eater, I recommend giving fermented skate fish a try when you are in Korea.

Moments captured before disaster: sniffing that piece of 홍어

Thankfully, we also ordered the famous Jeonju bibimbap which might be the best bibimbap I have every tasted in my life.

As the day ended, we parted ways at the bus station and I took the last bus back to Seoul and arrived slightly after midnight. Unsurprisingly, all the buses and trains were closed so I rented the public bicycle and rode all the way along the Han river from the bus station to my accomodation. At 1am in the morning, I had the most serene and beautiful bike ride in my life. I also stopped at a certain point to just sit and take in the chill summer night by the river.

Saying goodbyes to new friends

When you’re having that much fun, times flies. In a blink of an eye, 4 months of my GEXP has come to an end. To be honest, I did not expect to form such genuine friendships and have so much fun with the people I have met here. Thanks to them, I was able to truly experience what life in Korea is like and to have a better understanding of the culture. From the crazy karaoke sessions to the enlightening river-side conversations, I have made unforgettable memories during this exchange. To all the new friends I’ve made, thank you for the friendship and kindness you have shown me 🙂

Thank you Heather and Jenny for always bringing me around to do all the local activities and eat the best Korean foods!
Thank you Suhyeon for showing me your hometown and for all the jogging sessions we did together!
Thank you Sungwon, Pascal, Mo and friends for all the interesting conversations we had!

That’s a wrap on my Spring GEXP 2023 blog, thanks for reading!

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