Saturday, November 12, 2016

South Korea has got Seoul

Yeah, I am aware that title is both probably overused and a bit cheesy. When in Rome, right? Okay okay, I will stop. I know it has been a while since my last post, so I will catch you up on my trip to Seoul, South Korea.

Seoul has an inherently different feel from Hong Kong, and ultimately it was a feel that I found refreshing. There are skyscrapers, of course, as with any large city. However, most of the city is not built up high. It is covered in buildings that at most usually extend to a fourth floor. These buildings are tightly packed, and many of them actually touch, all along the street. However, the makeup of these buildings is absolutely beautiful. So many of the shops have this brand new, trendy feel. Many of them playing music as well. It really contributes to giving Seoul a lively feel. It really is a great place to be a young person.

 As you can see above, the palaces here are something to be admired. Good thing there is certainly no shortage of them! All of Seoul is actually a fortress, so there are many chances to see the wall that was originally erected to protect the city. This means that all throughout the city you get to see beautiful palaces such as this one. The name is too difficult to remember and even pronounce, so for both of our sake I have decided to just leave it out. Funny story about this one though. On this day they were celebrating the man who created their language, and since he used to live in the palace it was free entry! I waited in line for a half hour or so, and I figured that was reasonable and worth it. Interestingly enough, everyone was in traditional Korean dress. It was a sight to see. The real sight to see was our faces when we found out it was  free entry for everyone wearing the traditional dress. So, even though you may get tired of asking questions as you are traveling, it is important to remain persistent! Also pictured above is a traditional Korean style pancake. The cooks take some sort of bean and grind it up with their hands, and then fry it in a huge fryer. They add meat, vegetables and spices, and there is even an all vegetable option. It was quite delicious, and I will always encourage people to try the local food. You may not like it, or you may love it. Either way, you will have a story to tell. If you have already looked downward, yes, indeed, that is a raccoon.

South Korea has so much to offer. A modern city. A nice economy. It is pretty safe, and reasonably priced. Raccoon Cafes. Gorgeous national parks. Yeah, a raccoon cafe! I do not know about you, but back home touching a raccoon is a big no no. So, I was a bit cautious when entering the raccoon arena. You actually have to take your shoes off and wear special flip flops. Then you pay a small fee and you can enter the area. You don't actually have to buy a drink if you don't wish to. It is actually pretty relaxed and they are quite tame. However, the black raccoons seemed as though they did not wish to be picked up, and it tried to claw at me when doing so. The white raccoons did not mind being held at all while I was there, and were almost like a dog. Except, more curious and they can climb stuff. There are also dogs in the arena for those of you that do not wish to touch the raccoons. The dogs are supposed to make the raccoons feel more relaxed. However, there was a moment when the dog started getting angry with one of the raccoons over some food. The raccoons immediately got out of there and climbed up their posts. I could see their hearts palpitating. It was a pretty intense moment, but then everything returned to being peaceful. But can you blame the dog? I'd most likely slap your hand if you tried to take my last fry, too.

Food is life. In literal terms, and in goals. Experiencing different foods is one of the easiest ways to experience a new culture, and South Korea has some awesome food!! South Korean barbecue is world renowned. Something I found humorous is that, while in Hong Kong, I have been on a boneless chicken hunt. I have done some serious research. To my disdain, I haven't had too much luck. Anyways, when I kept reading about KFC, I was becoming frustrated. I could easily eat Kentucky Fried Chicken everyday if I wished. It is only 15 minutes away. Actually, I was reading about Korean Fried Chicken. I couldn't believe it. I will be honest though, I took advantage of several opportunities to eat boneless chicken while in Korea, and I do not regret it. They have quite  selection of delicious foods though. It is a foodie haven, really. From grilling your own meats over a fire, while sitting on the floor to eating grilled mackerel (pictured above). The grilled mackerel was what Soomin suggested for a traditional Korean dinner. It came with several sides, such as seaweed, kimchi of course, rice, a kind of tofu made from chestnuts (I think), and various other veggie dishes. I took the liberty of trying everything, and I can say it was really nice. One may be surprised how nice seaweed and rice go together. We also made a special soy sauce infused with wasabi. The soy sauces hinders the heat from the wasabi, and gives it a nice flavor. I actually tried to spell flavour because I am becoming so accustomed to reading the U.K. style of English. Wow. If you have watched the video (I hope it works), you are probably wondering what that is... Well it is live octopus. Yes, you read that correctly! It is supposed to be a Korean delicacy. Interestingly enough, I only saw tourists actually trying to eat it. You may think that live octopus would be quite disgusting. I thought the same thing before I tried it. It is actually pretty tasty! This is where you may start to think I am crazy. So, it actually has to be a very young octopus. They take it straight from the tank and cut the tentacles off and chop them up. The lady also gave us a dipping sauce with a sweet taste. On the plate it is quite intimidating as it is squirming all around. So, my friend and I just decided to go for it. It continued to squirm in the chopsticks, and then as you put it in your mouth.... it suction cups to your cheeks! I almost thought it was painful at first because it is such an unfamiliar feeling. My friend and I had no problem finishing the plate. It surely is an experience that I will never forget. 

 If you are still reading, thank you. Also, it is clear that you are interested in having such experiences of your own. I hope that you act on these desires because you won't regret it! I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my Seoul trip. The city has so much to offer, and I could probably type for hours detailing every experience that I had, but I have some homework to do now. I made the picture of me the biggest because this is my blog, so I can do things like that.

Until next time,

Monday, October 17, 2016

"It isn't what you know, but who you know".

So, this is less about being in Hong Kong (maybe more about just going abroad in general), but about the windows that can arise from participating in an experience like this. If you're interested in education abroad, you are probably aware of  what is 'supposed to happen to you'. Although, from a first hand account, these things you have heard are quite true.

So what do I mean? You've probably heard that you won't be the same person that you were when you left. That employers are going to love hearing about your experiences. You will meet friends from all over the world. You're going to get lost (trust me, this is so much more awesome than it sounds). You will attain a more global mindset. I can honestly say, all of these things have happened to me at one time or another. Oh, and don't forget how independent you will feel after testing your limits.

I would like to focus on how education abroad can potentially influence your career. Let's talk about the connections. I have friends from all over the world, now. I cannot begin to express how nice it is to have friends on almost every continent. Who knows if I will use one of them to help me get a new position, or vice versa someday. The awesome thing about our BGSU programs, in the business college, is that you will always be meeting other young professionals. For example, I just went to Seoul, South Korea last weekend, and I met up with a friend that I met while studying in France. He was able to show me some of his favorite places, treat me to a traditional Korean dinner, introduce me to his best friend, and provide some absolutely awesome company. One thing I have learned is that unless you are purposely traveling solo, people will shape your experience, and getting the local perspective is much better than aimlessly wandering around snapping photos for your Instagram account.

So, what about the networking/professional aspect? Well, he works at a large bank, and his friend is also a young finance professional. It was really nice to continue to network while in the company of friends, and not having to feel the need to act so professional. On top of that, I would be lying if I said that my travel experiences didn't help me to acquire some of the things I have attained since my first trip. Interviewers almost always want to hear more about what it was like. It is pretty cool to take a substantial amount of time during an interview just to talk about all the fun you have had. Another perk, I now have the chance to visit the PwC office in Hong Kong (I will be interning with PwC in January)! When I asked during my interview, I thought maybe it was a bit far-fetched, but they have accommodated me on both sides of the world. Also, the person I have been chatting with from PwC Hong Kong has been giving me travel advice!

There are also opportunities to network with many other professionals. Recently, it has come to my attention that a BGSU alum living in Hong Kong would like to meet up, and possibly take me to dinner. I have also been invited to meet the creator of a new application. The guy wants to release it internationally, and would like to assemble a global team. To add to that, there are companies visiting campus all of the time. Even if you think you know what you want to do, it is always a benefit to you to increase the size of your network. Tonight, I will be attending a seminar hosted by BNP Paribas, and in two weeks I will be hanging out with the local Bloomberg team.  The opportunities out there are boundless if you desire to achieve and search for them.

Currently, I am sitting in a Pacific Coffee a few tram stops away from campus. It is quite relaxing to get away from all of the students and enjoy a grande hazelnut latte, some banana walnut bread, and write to all of you. I envision myself as a professional telecommuting or on an assignment abroad someday. I think back to when I was a senior in high school, or a freshman in college and had no idea what I wanted. All of this time has allowed for some key moments of clarity, even as I sit in this cafe surrounded by a concrete jungle.

"A Hong Kong second is a New York minute". - unknown


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monkey Hill Adventure

Being from the rural United States, I am quite used to seeing animals. All sorts of them from deer, squirrel, chipmunks, woodchucks, coyotes and the occasional wild townie. But a monkey? No. Never. Not in my wildest dreams have I seen a monkey on the loose. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to go on a hike with our distant cousins, I had to take it!

Disclaimer: Monkeys can be dangerous and should not be fed....

The pictures of angry monkeys, the common sense of not feeding a wild animal processed food, and maybe a slight lacking of bravery would prevent my friends and I from feeding the monkeys. However, the locals didn't seem to care at all! Within five minutes of the hike we saw locals feeding a monkey. He was pretty receptive and seemed to be more appreciative than anything else. He had pretty nice table manners, and probably could tell which fork was meant for a salad at a nice restaurant. One could assume it has attended Dean Braun's workshops.

It looks pretty chill, right? Well it eventually finished the tomato and decided that the local family would be generous enough to provide him with some more fruity goodness. He actually got on that pole next to the tree and was walking around really close to them (imagine your dog begging for some food). He never ended up becoming aggressive, but he got close enough to make the family feel uncomfortable and leave. The worst it ever really escalated to was my friend in the picture got pretty close and was looking face to face with him while taking pictures. It is not a good idea to stare at a monkey... The monkey started to open and close his mouth, in what we deemed to be concerning, so we decided that we should continue onward with the hike.  

As we continued we stumbled upon more locals feeding the monkeys. They are trying to be nice, but every time that we saw it happen the monkeys continued to follow the people! This time around the monkey was getting really close to the smallest child. It said on the sign to not let your small children near them because the Monkeys might think they can play with them. The father had to step in-between and scold the monkey. Now, these monkeys are completely wild, but they are not foreign to the human race. They get very close to humans, and they still continue on with their normal business. We saw near 30 wild monkeys and they all seemed to be in their own little groups. They were all up to something different like cleaning each other, taking care of infants, horsing around and even mating...but this isn't National Geographic, so I have left it out. 

Mommy monkey grooming her baby near a campsite. 
Monkey Hill is known for nothing other than the monkeys. It is not a hike for eye-catching views whatsoever.... until you get lost! haha

To be honest, I am not even sure if we went down the right path, or if we were even on the actual trail.. but that is part of the fun! Maybe I was lost, maybe I wasn't, but we still had an amazing time and no harm was done. There are a little over 2,000 monkeys in Hong Kong and around 1,800 of them reside in Kam Shan Country Park. So, you are bound to see them just being in the area. On our way back to the city we saw one on top of a mechanic's shop! Anyways, the beauty of us getting lost was this little village we were able to find in the park. All of the pictures below were taken in the village.

This is where we ended up when we made it through the village

Small temple the village uses to pray

It was almost like we were in a jungle. This is the only time I have encountered a village like this. Hong Kong is a "concrete jungle" with many parks, islands, beaches, and places to hike. There is plenty of natural land. This however, was in the Kowloon area, and we were able to walk right out of the jungle, and back onto the highway (after approximately two hours of walking and taking pictures)! You absolutely cannot see this place from the street. Something I have learned about this area is that, while it is hard to completely escape the skyscrapers, you can get a completely different vibe from almost everywhere in Hong Kong. Maybe that is why they call it Asia's World City. 

If it were not for getting lost we wouldn't have had exposure to that side of Hong Kong. So get lost (not literally, please keep reading)! I bet there is something you haven't experienced in Bowling Green, your hometown, or wherever. You could even get lost in a book. It will make your parents happy. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Getting to know some locals!

Hi, I'm Nate, a student in the College of Business at THE Bowling Green State University (S/o to all the fellow finance and accounting students). Some of those who know me well often call me Hack. Anyways, I made the decision to do a 2nd study abroad term this fall in Hong Kong! Yes, Asia!! 

Now, for some reason, others questioned me more this time than when I studied in Europe (studied for a semester in Nantes, France). People would ask me questions such as: 
Why would you want to go to Asia? Is it safe? Aren't you afraid? 
Now, some of these questions were easier than others to answer. Yes, Hong Kong is a safe place. In fact, citizens are not allowed to carry pepper spray, guns, or knives on them. (Please no gun law debates :) ) As for the other questions, Asia is about as diverse as a culture as you can get! There is always some tradition to learn, a temple to explore, or just a different style of life to immerse yourself in. Was I afraid? I will honestly say no, I was not afraid. However, it wasn't easy to accept the fact that once again I wouldn't see friends and family for four months. But this is not a reason to worry! You will never be alone here in Hong Kong. There is always someone willing to go out and do something or just relax and hang around.

I have been here for about three weeks, so I have much to update you guys on. But, I will treat those as their own entries when I have more free time. For now, I would like to talk about my recent experience hanging out with the local guys. 

It is important to note that my hall floor is the craziest in all of the dorms, and they are always out messing around and having fun. So, I had gone for a late night run, and got back to the dorm around 12:30 am... yes.... that late. On my way into my room a bunch of the guys were just out in the hallway kicking a ball around and others sharing a dinner. I was suddenly stopped and asked if I wanted to arm wrestle. This isn't something I usually get particularly excited about. But I figured that I had nothing to lose. They had me arm wrestle about 6 different kids ranging from the strongest to the weakest. I lost to the strongest kid! In my defense, he's a strong guy!! haha they were even making bets with the weaker kids that if they couldn't last five seconds they had to buy food for all of the guys! This really is just when the fun began.

Next, they have me trying moon cakes (Mid Autumn Festival traditional food), some vegetables with Chinese fermented cheese dip (not as bad as it sounds), and the hottest cup noodles that come from South Korea (kind of like Ramen back in the states, but they are too hot).  After that I was challenged to a game of FIFA 17. I ended up winning in penalty kicks and all of the kids were going wild, some rooting for me, and some against me. It is now about 1:30 am. They decided is was a good time to go play some soccer in the dark! 

Not only have I never played organized soccer, I have definitely never tried it in the dark! Even though my team lost, it was still a lot of fun just messing around with the guys. Nobody was really a ball hog or anything, and they were just out there to have fun. The local kids like to shout a lot and celebrate which kind of made it a wild experience because I really had no idea what they were saying. Then, we had to, of course, play some basketball...once again in the dark.

These kids must have imagined that since I was American that I was like LeBron James or something. They were always passing me the ball, and were even asking me to dunk. Disclosure: I currently cannot dunk. By the time we had finished everything it was 3:30 in the morning. I really couldn't believe it. Getting to talk with, make friends, and meet some of the local students was a really cool experience. They are always saying hi to me now, and asking me to hang out with them.

So, a lesson to be learned is to take a risk. Whether it be studying abroad, applying for an internship, joining a club, asking someone on a date, etc. You never know what the outcome may be, and you just may have the time of your life! 

Until next time,