Back home in Seoul again. It’s raining outside, and I am confined to my bed with a irritating case of pharyngitis. I guess you can’t expect your body to stand by quietly as you travel between 3 different climate zones in less than two week, with over-night flights, general lack of sleep, a packed schedule and, on my flight out of New Zealand, a person coughing in my face no less than 4 times during the flight. That same flight neatly combined about half of the entries in Huffington Post’s latest travel article: 10 signs you’re the worst person on your flight.

However, disregarding the discomfort of not being able to breath properly, the last two weeks have been more than worth it!

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Right now I am sitting on in the bedroom of my Airbnb-haunt in Auckland, getting ready for my last day in New Zealand’s largest city. The last week and a half I have managed to travel to Australia, back to Seoul, attend classes for 3 days and then travel back to the other side of the ocean. In the process I have learnt some valuable lessons about appreciating the simple things in life: like a long and warm shower after a an over-night flight, or decent WIFI (Seoul has officially turned me into a wifi-snob).

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In my eternal hunt for cute things to make up for the fact that I am not – as a general fact – a very girly girl, Korea has presented me with endless possibilities in the shape of food and coffee. From Hello Kitty Cafe to Monster Cupcakes, food shaped like comic book creatures and coffee art in the shape of Hello Kitty, Pokemon or elaborate flowers is the norm here. At least in Hongdae.

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After almost 4 weeks in Seoul, I’ve inevitably discovered the most Western part of the city. Itaewon (이태원) is the neighborhood in Seoul that embodies – both in soul and in actual ethnicity – foreign culture. If you’re craving a really delicious American burger, real Mexican food or Italian pizza, Itaewon is the place to go. The neighborhood has also got plenty of caucasians around, the US is heavily represented both in the shape of military personnel, and ESL teachers.

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The temperatures in Seoul right now are hot and humid. Cold noodles (YUM!) and ice cream has turned into a crucial recipe to secure my survival, and this past weekend we went looking for a very specific ice cream shop in Hongdae: Molly’s Pops. I discovered this while trekking through a myriad of Seoul-related blogs, and was intrigued when I heard that they served flavors like Erdinger beer, wasabi and strawberry + wine.

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It’s been over a week since I landed at Gimpo and set foot on Korean land for the first time. Since then I have learned more than I would think possible in a week, while at the same time realizing that I know nothing (just like Jon Snow).

Korea is often known for its nickname “the Land of the Morning Calm”. Google tells me that this is usually credited to Percival Lowell who coined the term back 1885, inspired by earlier attempts to translate the Chinese name for Korea (Joseon), and refers to the calm and fresh landscape of Korea.

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Today I woke up (in my new bed!) to the news that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Shocking, right?

“Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.” – Sanrio

To deal with the mind-blowing idea of Hello Kitty not being a cat, and also the fact that she has a cat of her own (meta!), I decided to go look for one Seoul’s popular Hello Kitty Cafés. While the one in Hongdae is a tourist staple, I opted for the one near Sinchon Station instead. Less people, and it’s also in walking distance from my apartment.

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Out eating Korean BBQ (yum!) last night

I’ve been in Seoul for 36 hours now, and I am already starting to fall in love with the city. It is strange and different from the cities I am used to, and being part of a minority in a very homogeneous city is definitely different. Even though there are English signs on subways and in most of the coffee shops, I am really looking forward to learning Korean.

I’ve eaten Korean BBQ, been introduced to my first Korean drinking game (and soju), explored the metro, gotten my first Korean friend and looked at what seems like a thousand different apartments. Also discovered one of my favorite parts of Seoul so far: free wifi everywhere!

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This weekend, after two days of meetings in Oslo, we went on a 24-hour trip to Stavern. We in this case referring to the newly elected board of ANSA (Association of Norwegian Students Abroad), which I am lucky enough to now be a part of. Key words: BBQ, wine, games, more wine, embarrassing games, even more wine, self-inflicted insomnia, dancing and team building.

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Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have read the news already, but for everyone else I am happy to announce that I am on my way to the big unknown yet again. This time I have settled for a place where they speak a language so foreign to me that I am both over-joyed and petrified at the thought of trying to learn it.

At the end of August I will be boarding a plane and setting my sight on South-Korea and Seoul!

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