A few summers ago, I went to Seoul to study abroad, taking a class I believe was called International Business Law (It concerned mostly pragmatic issues companies face when they do business abroad, and a whole lot of history about the South Korean legal system. Sort-of-fun fact: prosecutors in South Korea are from the top of their law school classes and, unlike U.S. prosecutors, they have a more direct role in investigating crimes, making them like a hybrid attorney-detective—awesome. Sorry, I’ll get back to the travel stuff.).
Another clumsy arrival
My plane landed sometime in the evening and I bought a ticket for the last so-called Airport Limousine Buses for the day which took me from Incheon International Airport to the center of Seoul. For a while, I was the only person waiting outside for this bus, so I was a bit worried that I’d somehow missed it entirely. As you can see in the accompanying image, a handful of other people eventually showed up.
Dropped off in downtown Seoul, I pulled another A.D. Martin and lugged my bags around for a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the Best Western hotel I’d Google’d prior to leaving Los Angeles.
I didn’t find it.
So, I gave up and checked into a nearby hotel instead. The nearest one was Lotte Hotel, but it was a bit out of my price range, so I walked next door to the President Hotel. If I remember correctly, it cost me around $120 which was rather pricey for a student, but I needed some place to leave my crap for the night. A few distinct memories of this hotel: all of the other guests were Japanese for some reason, and I couldn’t get onto the wi-fi there.
The next morning, I took a taxi to Kookmin University (국민대학교) which was sort of built into the recesses of the mountains in the north of the city. If I was a better photographer I would’ve taken a photo that showed this off.
When I went to the front window of the dorm I was supposed to be staying at and tried to tell the security guy that I was there for the study abroad program, he brought me next door to an apartment building and showed me to a considerably large one-bedroom suite with its own bathroom and living room. It was too good to be true. The thing with the guard was that he spoke less English than any random student I could have grabbed on campus.
Turns out the dude thought I was a visiting professor of some sort (despite being in my mid-twenties at the time and looking like I was in my early twenties) and brought me to the wrong place (actually, through one of my classmates, I later met a young-ish South African woman who was in Seoul teaching English and living in one of those apartments).
Some school faculty guy eventually showed up and corrected the mistake, and they sent me to my dorm room. Being a law student studying abroad, however, I at least got a 4-bed ensuite dorm room to myself (yep, still had my own bathroom).
The funny thing about the dorm was that the front door automatically locked itself at a certain hour (I think it was 11 PM), enforcing the undergraduate curfew on us (I think you could get out, but then you wouldn’t be able to get in without calling people and waking them up). That was pretty ridiculous, considering the fact that my law classmates and I were all in our mid-twenties or older (there was also a thirty-year-old, and a guy in his—I’m not really sure—forties or something).
So, whenever we were out late doing grownup things, we were locked out until 5 AM.
One of the law students from Hawaii eventually made friends with some of the undergraduates living in the dorm, and introduced the rest of us.
The undergrads showed us a way to sneak back in. It involved a bit of climbing and being of a certain slimness to get in through a window in the basement, but it worked. Some of my larger friends had trouble getting in, but we made use of it a handful of times.