By Manuela Hiches
This past summer I had the privilege of traveling to South Korea for an independent research project for my architecture major. I have always loved South Korean culture and its language; you can imagine my excitement when I realized I would be able to make the trip of my dreams. It was made possible by the Tow Summer Research Fellowship offered to Barnard juniors (juniors-go apply!).
After moving into my small but cozy apartment in Seoul, I began my journey. It still felt quite surreal — even contacting my mother back home felt like an everyday thing. I felt like I belonged there and wondered why I hadn’t made this trip before! The only problem was the heat! I thought New York was bad but summer in South Korea was crazy. Of course, I decided to follow the trend and bought myself a small electric fan to carry around my neck — 80% of women walk around with these things! If they didn’t have the small fan, they carried umbrellas or hand fans.
Honestly one of my biggest worries was the food, but that turned out not to be a big deal. I can be quite picky and America, of course, has Asian food but we all know how “authentic” it can be. Breakfast was truly the easiest meal to find because there are coffee shops literally everywhere! Aside from that, their dishes are absolutely amazing.
I won’t go into the details of everything I did for my project, but essentially, I looked closely at traditional and modern homes in Seoul. It was fascinating to see traditional architecture in South Korea so well preserved. I even got the chance to enter some homes and experience the living space of those who lived during the last dynasty of Korea. The traditional Korean home, or Hanok, is truly amazing. It is meant to harmonize with its surrounding nature. It is not simply a representation; the decisions made during its construction truly show the respect that the Korean people have for nature. Like in the picture below, the mountain in the background doesn’t symmetrically align with the gate. Instead, the outline of the mountain seems to seamlessly flow into the roof of the gate. All throughout my analysis of Korean architecture I was able to see how much architecture and nature blend together, almost like they are always there together.
The kindness of the people in the area was a bonus to this experience. There was even an elderly woman who gave me ice cream, free of charge! South Korea is the place to visit. This small article can’t do the justice it deserves. You’ll just have to see it for yourself!
Opportunities like this one are only possible by looking and applying for them. Don’t shy away from applications because the results might just blow you away!
Manuela Hiches is a senior at Barnard and Vice President/Treasurer for Barnard Bite.