In April Mr Akhtar (Loxford School) and Miss Fallon (Gaynes School) took 9 students to Seoul, South Korea. Read on for their eye-opening story…
After just over eleven hours of flying and some airport ice breakers, we were instantly ready and raring to go. As our trip progressed past that initial jet lagged haze, we found ourselves constantly in pursuit of food – something that divided the group into kimchi lovers and kimchi loathers! We also discovered the public transport system could have us hopping from one part of the city to another so easily we could make stops at all of the main tourist destinations. Blossom trees and the tall towers of Seoul allowed us to take in some beautiful and impressive sights that can only be described as unforgettable.
We visited Seoun Middle School in Gangnam where Mr Akhtar taught in 2013. The students were so welcoming and found it fascinating to have students from a different country in their school. It may be the only time we would all be treated like celebrities and swarmed by crowds of screaming people. We were welcomed into their lessons and got to present in English class, allowing us to be exposed to the Korean school system.
Our trip to the outskirts of the city was the most physically demanding with most of our group making a long and draining hike up to the top of Bukhansan Mountain. Those of us who made it to the top posed with the flag and nursed our various aches and pains with some locals who wanted a quick selfie with the school group. The walk down wasn’t less painful, but they had ice cream and food at the end of the trail so it stopped quite a few of the complaints.
Our time in South Korea also opened up a lot of opportunities for us to get a glimpse of life in North Korea. Our visit to the DMZ (North Korean border) was so informative and allowed us to learn about the tragic history of the war; this perspective allowed one of our next stops to be even more moving. Through the work of PSCORE, a non-profit organisation fighting for the rights of North Korean citizens, we were able to meet a defector. The meeting was an emotional one for all involved as we learnt of his seven hour swim with his father to escape and other stories that had us all realising just how lucky we are to be born into a country of freedom. We were also able to learn of some of the wonderful work PSORE does fighting against human rights abuses, working for peace and stability, making domestic improvements and reuniting families across the Korean peninsula. After such a long and busy week, we decided to end our week with a relaxing trip to the spa!
In just eight days, we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture, sights and many of the important issues facing South Korea. It was a truly fantastic experience and it is one we will all cherish for the rest of our lives.
Key sites visited: Gyeongbokgung Palace – Yeoudio Cherry Blossom Festival – Samsung D’ Light, Gangnam – Seoun Middle School School – Bukchon Hanok Village – Hongdae University -Bukhansan Mountain – National Museum of Korea – Seoul Sky Tower – Lotte World Theme Park – DMZ Tour – Noryangjin Fish Market – PSCORE – Dragon Hill Spa – Namsan Tower
Here’s what the students had to stay about their adventure:
Elijah (Y11: Gaynes School) – I was overwhelmed by the aroma of Korean BBQ, the scents of fish and other Korean delicacies. I particularly enjoyed the shopping districts of Myeongdong and Gangnam hidden between aisles of skyscrapers.
Cayden (Y10: Loxford School) – My experience in South Korea was one of the greatest I have ever had, especially due to the expedition to the Demilitarised Zone where I was confronted with the stark realities of the division between the two nations. Our interview with a North Korean defector later in the week was deeply inspiring!
Christina (Y10: Warren School) – My experience in South Korea was amazing – especially the five hour hike! The week was full of surprises and each day got better and better!
Naomi (Y9: Gaynes School) – The spa was absolutely amazing – there were different rooms with a range of temperatures in order to ease and relax your muscles. One was even 108°!
Luke (Y8: Gaynes School) – Our trip to South Korea was the best experience. I am so dearly grateful that teachers of Loxford worked so hard to make sure we got to this amazing country. I loved when we sang our hearts out in the fancy karaoke rooms and got to create our own games during our tour of the Samsung Headquarters!
Grace (Y11: Abbs Cross School) – The Bukchon Hanok Village gave an accurate insight into how average Korean citizens lived in the Joseun Dynasty. Also, the palace and temple highlighted the religious and royal aspects of Korea’s history. I will be sure to continue research on these fascinating subjects!
Adnaan (Y10: Loxford School) – The National Museum of Korea was an experience that really opened our eyes to the build-up of the nation. It was extremely eye-opening and made me realise that a place on the same planet is in an entirely different world. I never would’ve thought life could be so different!
Alice (Y10: Tabor School) – My favourite experience during the trip was visiting the Korean middle school because we were able to observe their lessons and experience their school’s culture. In addition to this they gave us traditional school meals and Korean snacks during our stay there. The students and staff were also extremely polite and friendly, and we received many of the students’ contacts so that we could stay in touch.
Matthew (Y11: Gaynes School) – Sightseeing was my favourite, specifically Lotte Tower which is the fifth tallest building in the world. The view was extraordinary and had a glass floor which was very abit scary. I loved the climb in Namsan Park towards the North Seoul Tower too.
Mr Akhtar and Miss Fallon would like to thank all the students for their excellent behaviour and positive energy throughout the trip, and also their parents/ carers for allowing them to embark on such an unforgettable experience. Take a look at the video for some highlights and keep a look out for more international adventures!