By Nick Frisk, sport management student (with intro from Chris Lebens, assistant clinical professor)
Well, we have arrived. Cougs are in Korea. I can attest that the pilot was amazing for 10 hours in the air. During the 30 min decent
into Seoul, well… lets just say he landed safely so no complaints from the Cougs. For those that don’t know, I am Chris Lebens, J.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor in the college of education. Dr. Yong-Chae Rhee and myself are abroad with the WSU COE first study
abroad. We are currently in Seoul and will travel every 2 weeks across the country to other universities. I cannot speak for all of our
students as to their experience, so I have assigned them to tell us all about it. Today’s post comes from Nicholas (Nick) Frisk, a senior
in Sport Management at WSU. Please, enjoy his story.
For those of you who don’t know that is hello in South Korean. It’s very surreal to be half way around the world experiencing a new culture, a new set of ideas and seeing a new place. Though the first week has been much of experiencing the culture of Korea the group has done a little bit of exploring for sport related land marks. Seoul Tech University is a rather small university in comparison to Washington State University but it still has a decent sized sport program. In one of our first classes we took a short field trip to their soccer stadium and sport complex. Luckily for us the stadium and the entire complex was under renovation just like the Washington State football and soccer complexes. We walked around the area watched the workers and looked at the differences of the new stadium. This is what we could take away from this experience.
The most prevalent thing that caught the group’s attention was how unsecured the entire construction area was. This speaks to the difference in cultural beliefs of how citizens are expected to act. The only thing holding people back from entering the construction zone was a small red and white caution tape (see below). As everyone who has explored the Martin Stadium renovations, or even a normal construction site in the United States, knows that at the very least a large fence is put in the way to keep people out. Korean people are raised to show respect to everything from the people they interact with to the places they go and what they do there. If United States construction companies tried to use this small strip of tape to hold out community members we would have so many more construction related injuries and lawsuits. Korean people know not to go into restricted areas therefore construction companies do not have to be so careful with how protected areas are.
Also while exploring the construction area we walked past a gentleman welding part of the stadium. Normally this would not be an oddity but we noticed that he did not have any eye protection on as he was watching the welding from a few inches away. From this one can deduce that there is not a strong emphasis on personal safety in Korean construction just yet.
As far as sport related oddities and/or similarities go, we noticed a few very obvious features. The complex is set up very similarly to a high school football field. The soccer pitch was in the middle of an Olympic sized track with a lifted cement structure to become the stadium seating on one side. This is very similar to many multiuse facilities in the United States.
However two things struck us as odd at this particular track and soccer pitch. One of these was the lack of a throwing area for the track team. We speculated about where it might be or if it took place out on the soccer pitch but it is possible that we missed one option. Throwing may not be a big thing here in Korea like it is in the states. If there is one thing that is easy to notice about Korean people it is their body size. Not many Korean people are built large enough to compete against the Americas and European people in throwing events. It might not be an emphasized set of events at the national level therefore it may just be nonexistent at a relatively small university. The second thing we noticed was the soccer field was specifically painted for soccer. For being located in such a big multi-purpose area we kind of expected other lines to be painted on the field but that was not the case
We made a couple of other stops in the multipurpose area. Next to the track and soccer pitch there is a wide expanse of sand and dirt that had many different things to do. There were places to hit baseballs, take part in an unofficial soccer game, play some basketball and it even had a few tennis courts. Basketball is an interesting sport here because if there is an area of flat ground there is most likely a basketball hoop nearby. The group visited a mall the other day and just outside the mall there was a random court yard with a hoop that anyone could play a pick-up game on. Even the soccer pitch had fully functional courts at either end that anyone and everyone could access.
The last thing that really caught my attention was how easy it was to access this particular area. In a later visit to the area I was able to watch how many different people were using the facility after they removed the construction tape. They definitely were not all college students since. Young middle school and high school aged kids were playing basketball by the soccer pitch. Toddlers were playing with their parents near parallel bars. Even I was able to run on the track less than week after our original visit. The fact that a place like this was accessible to the entire community was an incredible concept to me. Very few places in the United States are accessible to the entire public so soon after construction for upgrades occur. We do not know how many official events take place there but with continuous use it would force a sport manager’s hand to keep the facility up to date more often. In the US we would rather spend money up front to keep people out of the facilities than to update them more often.
Our small little class field trip was our first experience with international sport facilities. In many ways it was not that much different from those of the United States yet the ideas surrounding its use can be very different. Soon we will be seeing large scale sporting venues that could potentially trump anything we have ever experienced, even back home. It only gets better from here, stay tuned.
In the months leading up to this trip I had to constantly explain to friends, family and even a Subway sandwiches worker we were going to Korea and why. The most common responses were why?, oh fun!, and North or South? Well thank goodness we ended up in SOUTH Korea because it has been an amazing experience thus far.
In the first week here we have seen so many different things that there is way too much to write about. When I get overwhelmed I like to think about food because food is good. Coincidentally South Korea has some of the best food I have ever had the pleasure of eating. There are three different types of food that must be discussed to really understand what a Korean travelers diet is all about. These are Korean barbeque, street food and dorm food. All are equally intriguing, mysterious and flat out delicious. So let us explore Korean food for a while.
Since it has been and will be our most frequently dining place it is only fair that we dive into the university’s dining hall food first. South Korea is not a place where picky eaters can visit and survive. I was one of those picky eaters coming into this trip and had to learn really quickly to just go for it. One of our students summed it well by saying the dining hall is the best place to eat because it forces you try different foods instead of being able to pick and choose what you want. So far the menu has dishes such as squid, kale, a curry type dish, anchovies, bean sprouts, tofu, rice, a lot of rice and even more soup. There have been maybe one or two different dishes that I have not thoroughly enjoyed while eating at the dining hall. Being forced to open your mind to taste different things is awesome because you have to lose all inhibitions and just dive in. I have discovered a liking for kale, radishes, small squid, beans sprouts and way too much more to list out. All in all, dorm food is awesome here.
While being forced to try new things is probably the best thing to happen to a picky eater, I do have to say it is nice to choose what you really want to eat. Seoul has a large number of outdoor markets unlike anything I have ever experienced in the United States. With these outdoor markets comes the novelty of street food. As a group we make an effort to find random little markets solely for the purpose of finding that next street food gem. My first experience was this massive ice cream tube. It cannot be called a cone because literally they have a cone tube that they filled from the inside out with some of the best ice cream I have had. It was in the shape of a candy cane yet, surprisingly, tasted so much better. Then while walking around the other night three of us stopped at a little chicken shish kabob stand. It started as a snack for one, and turned into all three of us buying the chicken and not being able to stop talking about it for the next ten minutes as we found a cab back home. Our single best meal so far though happened when we split up in this massive street market and just ate whatever we found. It started with corndogs laced with french fries on the outside and smothered in sauces. Then we felt bad so we picked up some fresh fruit and some other small snack I cannot remember. Before I can tell the next part though you must understand how much walking we did that day. We easily walked fifteen to twenty miles that day with very little time relaxing. So to congratulate ourselves we finished the night with a waffle cream ice sandwich. Before you ask not it is not ‘ice cream sandwich,’ it is cream ice. They start by making the waffles in front of you then spreading this thick creamy substance (mine was cherry flavored) across one half of the waffle and putting a scoop of vanilla and chocolate ice cream on the other side. They topped it off with some chocolate chips and then folded it over into a warm, creamy, delicious sandwich. It is and probably will be the best dessert I will ever eat in my entire life. The only regret I have is eating it in about 2 minutes and not going back for a second one. I’m sure many of our readers will have been to an exotic street market or something similar to what I am talking about here but you will never understand the excitement I feel eating this food. This is my first visit to a foreign country other than Canada, so experimenting with this food is amazing to me.
The last type of food I want to discuss is Korean barbeque. This is such an interesting concept for me because there is a large stone grill placed in the middle of the table. You order meat, Kim chi, a vegetable usually, some garlic and some sauces. Now some places have these large grills or woks on the table but they cook it for you. At the barbeque place we visited the people at the table had to cook it to individuals liking which is great because not everyone can do rare meat or even well done meat. In order to eat everything we were instructed to take a large piece of lettuce put everything inside and make a wrap out of it. The great thing about this type of food is that it is all freshly made on fresh vegetables. This stuff is so good and even somewhat healthy for you. This was close to being my favorite meal, but it is a close second to street food.