“Cafes, restaurants, festivals and plenty of fun”
Aïtzbea Hyau studied abroad at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea, in 2021. She is a French student from the University of Havre Normandy, and during her stay, stayed in Seoul. But Aïtzbea also travelled around Korea and fell in love with Busan. Check out her interview below if you are interested in her experience in Busan and South Korea in general!
How do you feel now that you are in your home country and not in South Korea?
There are many things that I miss, such as the ability to go out to restaurants often. I miss all the convenience stores and honestly feel like they should be implemented everywhere in the world. I miss the busyness of Seoul, there is always something to do, always something new to do, and it will take people a year to get to know the city.
What made you interested in studying abroad?
I’ve always been interested in abroad destinations. I wanted to do an exchange in high school since middle school, and so I did! I went to Seoul, and I really loved that and knew straight away that I had to do it also during college, which I did too.
Was there a specific reason you chose South Korea?
I did not have any specific reasons. I just wanted to do something different. There were offers to Korea, Taiwan, or Japan, and Japan was hard to get into. I figured Korean would be easier to learn than Chinese, so I asked for Korea, which was pretty much it.
You have visited Busan a couple of times. How do you like the city?
I love Busan for its weather as it is always slightly better than in Seoul. In winter, it’s somewhat warmer, and during the summer, there’s the sea breeze which makes it more breathable. The pollution is relatively even everywhere.
In June, it becomes very humid in Seoul, so it’s nice to go to Busan. During summer in Busan, it’s more livable, you don’t sweat as soon as you step outside, I love that about Busan, and of course, the beach is something I also enjoy.
If you compare Busan and Seoul, what were the main differences?
Transportation! Both Seoul and Busan have good transportation options, but Busan Is more spread out. Going to places takes more time to get to than in Seoul, and the Subway is not as good since it is not the main city which can be the slight downside of Busan.
From my own experience in Busan, I would say some tourist spots can take 30 minutes to get to, and it is also slightly more expensive than Seoul. It is still relatively easy to get around, but for a trip to Busan, I would say it is better to go there for a few days rather than a simple weekend trip as you won’t be able to see enough of Busan.
What was the best thing about Seoul?
Firstly, I have several favourite things, like being able to go out to a restaurant often. I love that I get to eat something different daily! Groceries are rather expensive, so sometimes you have nothing to eat in the fridge. I think I did groceries twice in the entire six months.
I barely ate at home except for ramyeon, which I really love and miss now. In general, I ate plenty of mandu, kimbap, and ramyeon. These kinds of food are very cheap, around 2 to 3 euros from the street vendors. Depending on the area you could easily eat at a restaurant for 5 to 6 euros. The food usually has a bunch of vegetables and sesame oils, but some can be pretty greasy. I get triangle kimbap from the convenience store almost daily, and it was almost ridiculous!
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What was the best thing about Busan?
In Busan, I loved going to the Gamcheon village, I love all the touristy stuff, and I wanted to do the sky capsule but didn’t get to. Sky capsule is a small train that takes you around the beach. I would have loved to do that, but the line was long, and we didn’t have time.
My most favourite memory of my experience in Busan was the first time I went visited the city when I was in high school. My host family took me to a Korean comedy festival, and we somehow got to join the after-party! We got plenty of delicious food, and because these were pre-covid, they had plenty of festivals.
There were festivals such as cherry blossom, herbal medicine, and all sorts of festivals that I didn’t recognize what festivals they were. In my city, there was also a fascinating lantern festival. You get to see many things and try new things as we were in a local community. There were not a lot of foreigners.
People would offer us food, and we had friends that went to the herbal medicine place. They took them for a photo shoot and ended up on buses! That was cool. I loved all the festivals. You get to try all kinds of things depending on what the festival is, there are many of them, and they have different types of food and various fantastic activities.
How do you feel about your experience in Busan?
Overall, my experience in Busan was quite positive. I did not face as many challenges as I had been to Korea before and knew what to expect. I have a decent knowledge of the language, and so it was easy to get around. As I speak relatively good Korean, enough to hold a basic conversation, I did not face any problem this time around, but the first time was somewhat more challenging. I was in a host family, and so I was pretty much thrown into the environment. We had differences, but we went over it together, and afterwards, it was simply a good time.(learn about free Korean language courses in Busan)
Do you have any tips for South Korea newbies?
Since Korea is a small country, it is generally easy to get around. If you want to travel to other parts of the country, they have excellent flights and buses that are fast and comfortable. It is easy to visit the rest of the country, and you don’t have to be stuck with visiting just a nearby destination.
How was your experience with AsiaExchange? Did we meet all your expectations?
Absolutely, even though the class was online, it was worth it. Instead of figuring out everything on your own, Asia Exchange helps organize everything for you. Applying was so easy, and I always got quick replies.
Do you want to study abroad in Busan, South Korea? Find out more information here!
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