Walking around Ewha’s campus, one may wonder where all of the classes are held, as there are not glaring signs addressing the buildings. Inside of what appear to be two grassy hills from the outside is actually a complex system of Ewha classrooms, as pictured below. The bottom floor of the Ewha Campus Complex (EEC) is filled with stationary stores, rice cakes, and a GS25 (like 7-11 but better). The first three floors of the building are chock-full of glass-walled classrooms. In each room, sunlight pours over the desks. As I walk past, I can peek in to learn about Korean history and cinema before approaching our room for Intellectual Heritage (IH).
In IH, we discuss reading assignments and participate in debates. Class time is Monday through Thursday in one of the see-through classrooms. The desks line the walls in an oval, as seeing everyone allows my class to have a better discussion. Then on Fridays, we usually take a trip that relates to culture or history mentioned in the reading. These trips have been encouraging, in terms of education and learning to travel solo. However, make sure to have Google Maps or Naver Map if planning on going to Korea, because Apple Maps sometimes has difficulty navigating through Seoul.
The balance between class life and social life was at first difficult to adjust to. Having the same class and seeing the same people everyday can be a bit monotonous. The balance truly comes at the end of the week when my class participates in field work. At least in my experience, this has helped solidify concepts that we have talked about in class and has raised questions involving justice and culture norms. Whether it be visiting a Korean Folk Museum and looking at an eerie wax figure of Confucius or getting lost in a reconstructed traditional village, elements of tradition still deeply remain ingrained in Korean culture.
Coming to Ewha and Korea opens up an opportunity to establish new goals and meet new people. An ongoing goal that I have thought about in and out of the classroom is figuring out where non-binary individuals lie in Korean culture. A follow up question that’s been on my mind relates to this topic: how are non-binary individuals brought up in Korean conservative conversation? Are there any gender inclusive terms outside of the binary terms expressing status of age? For example, in Korean culture, it’s common during conversation for a woman to refer to an older man as oppa (오빠), meaning ‘older brother’ or, on the other hand, a man referring to an older woman as noona (누나), meaning ‘older sister’. These terms refer to blood relatives, but they can expand much farther than that as well. These are questions that run through my mind as I’m on the street and sitting in class. As a gender-queer individual, it can be especially difficult to navigate traditional spaces. I have come to Korea in part to observe the level of inclusiveness that Koreans exhibit towards individuals like me. At the end of my time in Seoul, I would like to learn more about queer culture throughout the city.
A final goal that I have outside of the classroom is to experience and learn about Asian culture and history. I realize Korea is one small sector of Asian society, but that doesn’t absolve the fact that Korean history is erased from textbooks and film within the country itself. Learning more about this idea will allow me to be a better advocate for this group of people…. I intend to educate myself in order to spread knowledge to others. To lessen human injustice is a goal that has followed me to Korea, and I plan to leave with more reasons to keep this goal alive.