I’ve just ended my exam so I thought I’d write about this event which was really memorable for my year.
In July, I went on an exchange and met 83 youths from over 23 countries. It was truly an eye-opening experience because I met people from countries that I couldn’t even point them out on the world map. This programme is held annually by the Ministry of Family and Gender Equality of Korea. I was lucky enough to be one of four Singaporeans to be selected to go for this exchange! It might sound like its a fully subsidised trip, but exactly. I paid for the air tickets because our GDP does not fulfill the criteria. (Ooooh)
I scheduled my own flight so I arrived 1 day earlier than I was supposed to. One representative from each country was supposed to be part of the dance item, Twice’s Cheer Up, which was supposed to be performed on the following day. (“Okay JYP training style. One day to master a choreography. Oh yes we can do dis”) Pretty much the first day spent of orientations, briefings and of course the dance.
On the opening ceremony, we performed Cheer Up onstage, which was hella cringe imagining it. Followed later in the evening, we had individual countries’ participants presenting on the youth activities in their country. Well, we weren’t told that we have to present anything in prior, so we rushed everything over the night. We just pulled everything from National Youth Council — Outward Bounds Singapore, SHINE Festival etc. And quickly, that concludes the first two days.
On the 3rd day, we went to Paju. First stop, we were welcomed by the instaworthy Paju book city with books shelves and books piled ceiling high.
We visited the letterpress studio to try out traditional letterpress.
We moved to a Korean Scout Association Seosungneung Campsite for some real bulletproof boys scouts experience (OH BTS? Nope not appearing). We had an orienteering session around the campsite, so basically, we ran around like fools, but it was fun because the area was so secluded, it was like our own playground, but a supersized one. After that intense cardio, we had a laidback night, with an emcee for the night, a camp facilitator that is supposed to hype up the crowd I guess. We got really crazy right there, with limbo and other games. We ended with a ‘clubbing’ night with people going up on the stage to battle their dance moves out in the hall of the scouts camp (lmao).
The best thing about this campsite, it was like reliving Basic Military Training (BMT) once again. We slept in tents, but this time, the tents are already set and it’s above the soil/mud. I shared the tent with 3 other participants from Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, and Myanmar.
We got transported to Mungyeong Youth Hostel to experience some activities! We placed our bags and we moved to our next activity in the area, which is zip line!
I am sure you all know what zip line is about. I thought we were just going to zip line once and that’s it. Turns out we did like 7 different levels? And I couldn’t forget something extremely hilarious — This girl from Kyrgyzstan , she was holding the selfie stick to film her zip line experience most of the time, at one point when she was zip lining, we were queueing for our turn, and we witnessed her phone just dropped off the selfie-stick phone grip because it collided with the zip line anchor… But you know what, she’s got to be the luckiest person on Earth, the earphone jack saved her because it was attached to her phone from the selfie-stick. We witnessed that and almost died of cardiac arrest but after that event, we just can’t stop laughing about it.
Unfortunately, we were supposed to go for the rail bike as well, but due to the heavy monsoon, it was canceled. (Since I did it before, I ain’t missing out on the good stuff) We went back to the hostel and did indigo fabric dying at night.
I’d like to call it tie-dye, so yeah, we made our own tie-dye T-shirts. It somehow shrinks after dying and it is too small to actually fit me properly…
Day 5 : Goesan
Day 6 : Jeonju
The very place for bibimbap. I didn’t know anything about Jeonju Bibimbap until I got here. I found out that Jeonju’s bibimbap was special because of its beansprout from Imsil, which makes the texture really crispy even after cooking. (uhh I don’t prefer this texture but my mom loves stuff like this).
At the Jeonju Nambu Market, there’s also a ‘youth market’, which is bustling in the evening. However, we went during the daytime where a majority of the shops were closed. They really nice murals there which are perfect for photos!
After that, the bus took us to the Jeonju Hanok Village which welcomes more locals than tourists. We put on some cheap hanbok, by cheap I mean really cheap because we got a good deal. It is a norm to walk around wearing the Hanbok in the Hanok village. You get to take photos of the traditional houses which there are much more there than in Bukchon. Initially, we didn’t want to rent a hanbok because it is not like we haven’t worn it before and it costs around $20. We managed to bargain to 5,000 won each for minimum 2 rentals. #cheapthrills. I would say bargaining for a Hanbok was definitely worth it.
We supposed to do a photo challenge by replicating poses like BTOB’s pose… To be honest, it was a chore. We just wanted to hang out around and take ‘tourist photos’. We hurriedly finish the challenge and got our ‘real priority’ started on.
Day 7 : Korea Traditional Culture Center, Jeonju
Making of the Hanji (Korean Traditional Paper) using pulp, designing a personalised traditional fan and cooking up some nastily tasty bibimbap. I also designed my own paper fan by tearing tiny pieces of Hanji and sticking them on to the fan to create my own design.
I got back to Seoul, and get started on a proposal for Youth Activity, basically what we’d love to recommend for the future camps.
Day 9 & 10
From morning till noon, we heard presentations from other countries and presented ours, and… we are free! We had some free time so we went shopping at Hongdae (You know that usual thing when you go wild at everything you see), visited the World Cup Stadium and getting lost while at it. We stayed at Stanford Hotel which was considerably near the World Cup Stadium but we somehow took a longer route to reach. It costs 3,000 won for a shuttle ride up to the park and 5,000 for a return trip.
The following day, I had my very first Lotte World kid experience. The outdoor rollercoaster and ‘Gyrodrop’ is a must ride guys, I prayed for my life while taking those rides.
We reached the hotel by 3pm and got ready for the closing ceremony, where we had to give a speech on behalf of the foreign representatives. That was my first time speaking Korean in a formal setting, I can’t even get myself to join the speech contest in the Korean school but I am so glad I did it at the closing ceremony! Such an awesome experience it was, speaking in front of so many VIPs!
With that concluding the end of the programme, the enjoyable days of adventures ended with a blink.
I extended my flight tickets beyond the programme dates to spend some recreation time shopping and what not since we were required to book the tickets ourselves. It was so depressing to see everyone going back to their own countries. The thought that I might never see them again makes it so sad.
I must admit I’m bad with goodbyes, it was so fulfilling to meet these youths from other countries which are so unique and diverse in their own cultures, but after this short time span, we have to all head back and continue with our lives. All of the sudden, the world feels so connected.