This is my 125th hour in Korea so I thought it would be fitting to do my first update:

Ok… I arrived last Monday, and boy that felt like a blur. I hadn’t slept in about 45 hours, yet I felt more awake than ever when I landed. I was honestly terrified. However the family that was sitting next to me asked if I wanted some help getting to the baggage claim/customs/immigration so I felt quite a bit better. I thanked them and WOOSH! I met with everyone; my host family, Mr. Ryu, who is essentially my school counselor, and my rotary director. I then ate at a Korean restaurant in the airport. I was given a platter with a bunch of different foods on it. Kimchi, Soybean soup, and one inch long whole fish. Everything was delicious. I met with my very temporary host brother Gunho as well. He can speak English extremely well, much better than my Spanish or French. We talked during the entire drive home.

The city overall isn’t very tall, but wide. There are buildings as far as the eye can see, but the only tall buildings are apartment blocks and a few company buildings. The apartment blocks are also completely identical. They look systematically placed.

The apartment is wonderful. I have my own room and it is perfect size, not too small that I can’t fit everything, but not too big so I can’t lose anything. There is also a kitchen that is merged with the sitting/living room. The bathroom is the only thing that feels different. First off, there are about 50,000 buttons on the toilet. I have no idea on what any of them do. The shower head is also different. It is only handheld, making the bathroom consistently rather wet. Anywho, I love the apartment.

Funny little endnote for Monday, all of the advertisements for casinos here are just the name of the casino and stills of Robert De Niro in Goodfellas…


I got up around 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Rather late in comparison to some of the other days this week. After an extremely good breakfast, Gunho and I went on the bus to a clothing outfitter to buy my school uniform. Conceptually I agree with it, and it’s comfortable! Then we arrived at the school for the first time. As far as building volume goes, it is much bigger than EPHS, however it houses a mere 1000 students. It is 105 years old, and has some interesting history during WWII due to Japanese occupation of Korea during that time.

I met with Mr. Ryu many times once I arrived. We went over a lot of monotonous things, nothing terribly interesting. I also met the principal. His office was absolutely humongous, with wood furnishings and the largest TV I have seen in Korea. After I met the principal, Mr. Ryu and I talked again, then I left.

Gunho showed me everything and I asked about everything. On the bus, on the subway, at school, in the clothing store, on the street, we conversed in English. It was a very exciting experience, but I felt bad needing to be spoonfed by a soon to be fellow exchange student to Northfield, MN. So an official and sincere thank you to him.

I was very tired when we got home. I ate, took a shower, and went to bed.


                I got up around 6, and for some reason wasn’t very tired. I ate breakfast and used the bus and subway to get to school.

                Public transportation feels like the life blood of the city. It gets you anywhere you need to go quickly, efficiently, and simply. You can even buy a T-Money card that works as a prepaid card for buses, subways, and even taxis.

                When I arrived I was greeted by Mr. Jung, my English teacher and homeroom instructor. He speaks English impeccably – very few errors. We talked about what I would do during my days at the high school along with ways to learn Korean more efficiently. After we finished talking, we went to my first class in Korea, English. All of my classmates were bouncing off the walls trying to practice their English with me. I even got to read some sample sentences for the class. Then there was the reading class. Rather odd, I feel as though I can’t do its purpose justice quite yet, I’ll talk about it later. Then there was earth science. It was the class where I could understand the most because I had already learned the material beforehand. I even described (in broken Korean) the reason why Iceland and Greenland are named Iceland and Greenland. Then there was Korean class. Not much to say. Not much I could understand. After that I had lunch with my classmates. They were all really excited to talk to me, especially considering I was the first American many of them had ever talked to.

                Gunho and I went home early that day. I talked to my host parents about college education expenses. It’s about $3000-4000 a year there. Then I ate, watched some local news, and went to bed.


                When I got up today I went to my first rotary meeting. It had about five times the number of people, five times the space, and was about 4 times longer than Eden Prairie AM rotary. Thus I was extremely embarrassed when I forget essentially my entire speech once I got up to the podium. I felt pretty bad, but Gunho made me feel a bit better after. I met with a whole bunch of people after that. I have about 12 business cards in my wallet now.

                Then my host parents drove me to school. We left the meeting during Seoul rush hour… It took a very long time to get to school. Once I arrived, it was third period, math. It was the single easiest thing I have ever seen. About geometry level. I talked to Mr. Jung about switching levels, but I found out that I am actually beyond the highest level of Korean math due to Mrs. Grunewald’s excellent teaching! I then showed off some remedial level integrals and Chelle (shell) method applied integration to the class. Everyone was dumbfounded. After that there was gym. It was basically do some stretches real quick and then play soccer. I think I am going to be the new school goalkeeper too. I did however scratch my knee a bit, more on that later… We then ate, a classmate bought me a drink, and back to careers class. I had to attempt to take the MLST – Multi-Lateral Strategies Test, a test on how to take test. I didn’t get very far. After that there was art. We watched a video about Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Rather interesting. The last class of the day was geography. We also watched a video, however I could understand more of it because it was the geography of France and all of the people who were interviewed spoke French. It was a lot of fun understanding what was going on but still not using English.

                After school Mr. Ryu and I talked about more boring stuff; bank account, phone, that sort of a thing. Then I got lost. I used the subway just fine, but the bus is the more difficult beast. The bus has no signs, therefore I could only listen for the stop. There were so many people on the bus that I couldn’t even look out the window. So I got off at Byucksanblooming apt. Pak Il instead of Byucksanblooming apt. Pak Oh. I went through a park, crossed a whole bunch of streets, and then I eventually asked a local to help me. It was quite a character building exercise. I eventually arrived home, drenched in sweat. I took a shower, (my knee hurt a lot…) and watched a Twins baseball game. Except it was the Korean LG Twins… My knee looked worse so we put a bandage on it. Then I slept.


                I got up at 4:30 in the morning to see Gunho off. He was really nervous, but I know that he will do just fine. I was once again in a lot of pain with my knee, it made me a little nervous. Anywho, we got to the airport, checked his bags, ate at McDonald’s (which now tastes gross), and went to school.

My parents walked me to the school nurse. She said it was a SECOND TO THIRD DEGREE BURN! I had no idea I could get a burn that bad from sliding with my knee. She treated it with some medicine embedded gauze and I was on my merry way. Sunday update, it feels great, so nobody worry!

Well this is just about as much as I feel like typing right now, If anyone has a question feel free to email me!

Thanks to everyone,

Harrison Matthew Grogan


                Hello again! I apologize for being a little late with this email. It is rather difficult to write them because I have been busy lately, therefore I both have more to write about and I don’t have the time do so. Anywho…

Friday 8/23

                When the nurse was done treating me I was off to art. Normally not a strong suit of mine, but it is rather easy to paint like Basquiat… After that there was English. Still a very interesting class. I even got an English paper to correct for the weekend. After that I went to eat lunch. I haven’t gone into detail with lunch at the high school so allow me to fill you in.

There are metal trays with six slots for different food items. The two larger slots are for rice, which is on the left, and a soup or broth, which is on the right. The smaller top four slots, from left to right, are for a Western type food, like hashbrowns or roast beef, a Korean protein, like Bulgogi or Tofu, a vegetable, like kimchi or even coleslaw, and finally some type of fruit, like canned peaches or juice. Although this may seem like a lot of food, it is actually way more than one could imagine. As of September 5, I have yet to completely finish a school meal. Once you finish, you go to throw away the rest in a compost bin. After that you normally have about forty minutes before your next class. Not too shabby compared to EP, huh?

Anywho, after lunch I went to math. We were still doing triangle rules and basic trig so I asked if I could meet Mr. Ryu to change my class. Mr. Ryu actually already wanted to see me so when I went to his office I didn’t get a word in about math. Instead we drove off to the bank to get my checking account setup. They have an interesting system where the school and a bank have a partnership so students get to have a checking account with their student id, free of charge. The banker spoke English very well, so it was a very simple transaction. Once that was over with I went back to school, sat dazed at my last class, Korean, and finished off the school day.

I waited outside for my host parents because they insisted on picking me up because of my knee. It hurt, but I would have been fine. We got home pretty late. We had some Bibimbap for dinner. It is rice, beef, egg, carrot, soybean sprouts, and any other Korean goodies put in your bowl and mixed thoroughly. Delicious! (before mixingafter mixing) After that I got my phone, a bright pink 2003 Blackberry, just my style… Then bed.

Saturday Sunday 8/24-25 Abridged version

                This was a wonderful weekend. I only left the house once for a brisk walk with my host sister but other than that I was just relaxing. We also got to play on my 3ds for quite a while. She is fun to be around, but quite shy.

 I was also writing in my journal for the first time, which took up quite a bit of the weekend considering I had to catch up from Monday. I also got to correct that English paper, which was quite fun. The English here is extremely good for a non-native speaker, however there are many preposition based or article based errors in everyone’s speaking and writing, not excluding the English teacher.

I also got to try 뻥뒤기, which is essentially giant, circular, unflavored Cheetos. A new personal favorite. 

Monday 8/26

I got up at 6:00 and got ready for school. This normally now entails grabbing my school uniform; a button down white tee with the school emblem and a pair of brown slacks, eating some fruit or rice bread, and then heading out to the bus around 6:30.

I once again got confused with the public transportation… I took the bus just fine, however I took the wrong subway to Jongno 3 (sam) ga. It went in the correct direction, however once I arrived at the first stop everyone had to get off the subway. It was rather odd, but it is supposed to be the express way of getting to Yongsan. Regardless, I arrived five minutes before class started so I was just fine.

My first class was English. I got to give him the paper I had corrected. I think I might have even been too thorough considering I even advised against certain words because they sounded rhetorically off. We started off the English class with a fifth grade level reading lesson. It was interesting listening to my fellow students read in English, especially considering many of them had no idea what the story was about. After English I had more boring math. Not much to really say about it now though, very remedial. Then I had English again, but this time the class had to answer questions about the reading. They were pretty difficult too, even I had forgotten some of the character’s names and the whole story was in English! Then geography. Then lunch (I don’t get much from geo). Lunch was once again quite an event, and I once again had a drink bought for me again. Everyone is too nice here… After that there was biology. I think that I am able to overall learn the most from this class. Today we talked about the oxygen cycle in plants and animals, pretty simple as long as there are pictures. Then Korean. I get even less than geo in Korean class. Understandable I guess. The school day ended with gym. The soccer field was taken up by middle schoolers so I ran for the hour. I was not as tired as I had expected I would have been, especially considering I ran for six miles. Once gym was over my English teacher asked me to stay until 5:30 because he wanted to buy me a Korean textbook later. I decided to go back and run some more. It felt good to clear my head like that.

At 5:30 I met up with Mr. Jung. We had to head out pretty quick because we almost missed the bus, but after running for about four blocks we got on. The bookstore was massive. I think it was four floors, each floor being about half the size of a Target. I plan on coming back to pick up an ACT test prep book later in the year, but for right now I need to learn how to speak the language… We left the bookstore with a solid Korean grammar book and briskly strolled over to a local noodles and Bulgogi shop. Except these noodles were chilled with ice. It tasted really good, but the noodles were actually about 3 feet long so it was very hard to eat with chopsticks. While we ate we talked about the philosophy of education. His perspective was very interesting to listen to. He is a very young teacher so he has the idea of learning material, rather than just test prep. In Korea this is a pretty ludicrous idea because the college entrance exam basically decides one’s socioeconomic level. Regardless very interesting to learn about. I also gave him my constitution. It held a big personal significance to me, but he felt like the person to give it to. Anywho, we eventually parted ways and I went to bed.

Tuesday 8/27

I was not in a very good mood today. If I had written this section on Tuesday the 27th then I would have sounded like a whiny teenager.

I got up, got dressed ate breakfast, and arrived at school early for the first time. A rather big accomplishment. I had earth science and physics for the first two classes. I couldn’t follow any of it… It was infuriating, I felt like I was just in a box and everyone else was actually in the classroom. This subsequently made me quite depressed for biology and geography. I kept on thinking that I would and could never learn Korean. I feel quite a bit more confident now though. This does remind me of observing the average Korean classroom, so once again, allow me to explain.

First off, classes are composed of around 33-38 students. It doesn’t honestly feel very different from EPHS in that sense, but occasionally it feels a little big. Secondly, you have a homeroom class that you stay with during every class period. This means that instead of going to the teacher, the teacher comes to you. This is one of the oddest things about the school for me right now. Especially considering there is a solid 12 minutes for passing time compared to 48 minute class lengths. You just get to sit around for 12 minutes waiting for the next teacher to show up… Anywho, once the teacher arrives everyone has to be at attention and subsequently bow, at the class president’s discretion of course. Once everyone has done this strict feeling ceremonial honor, sleeping becomes fair game. I would say that at least 40% of the class is sleeping at any given time. It feels ridiculously disrespectful, but it is just a norm that teachers have to deal with. This does probably occur more often because during class there is no such thing as class involvement. It is just the teacher talking and maybe asking 3-4 questions to the class. If you have any questions about the classrooms here I would happy to oblige by the way.

Back to my depressed day. I went to talk to Mr. Ryu about learning Korean after geography class. He told me that I will have a more structured set of grammar lessons with him every Friday, so that made me feel a bit better. I still didn’t eat lunch that day out of pure frustration. I had English afterward though. Mr. Jung makes the class pretty interesting. Then math and sociology. Math was too easy again and sociology was becoming slightly more understandable. After school Mr. Jung and I talked about math. He told me that the vice principal was working out a way to swap me out into a different math class. It made me feel quite well taken care of…

 I went home afterwards. I took a long, hot shower and had a big dinner with my host family. It made me feel quite a bit better. After dinner, my host father and I went to get my phone working. If you thought dealing with a phone company in English was bad, try doing it here. After a solid hour we got a prepaid phone ready. Then we went home and I went to bed.