by Jenna Verhoeven
Rucksack packed. Travel documents tucked away in my carry-on backpack. Passport at the ready. I am standing at Sydney International Airport. Meet at 8AM at the gate. I have been standing here for about 10 minutes with my partner. He was going to wait until I met my crew before he left, but he must make a move to get to his flight school by 9am. I am standing directly under the check-in gate letter. Directly in front of me, about 5 metres away is someone who I think I will be travelling with. To my right, about two steps away, is another potential candidate. I finally break the ice…
Are you with CSU?
One of the things that gives me mild social anxiety is diving on in travelling with five people I have never met before. Within a flash the individuals I had pegged to be on the trip have come together and we are all making introductions; names, ages, who is studying what and where. We check-in and part ways until we meet back at the boarding gate. The students on this experience are all seated together. We poke at our in-flight meals, catch a movie, and squeeze in a nap.
Are we there yet?
After 10 hours in the air, we arrive at Incheon airport. We are welcomed to Korea with a nice one-hour wait in the plane until we have a ‘carpark’ for the aircraft. My head is throbbing and it’s way past my bed time. We board a local bus for the one-hour drive to our hotel. We prise open the bus window for some much-needed fresh air, this helps to wake me up and enlivens me. A fellow Complementary Medicine student and I chat all the way through the city. Despite being a Sunday night, Seoul greets us with bright lights and bustling traffic. As we drive past Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun) Gate, I know that we are getting closer to our accommodation.
The bus spits us out on an island median strip, and we wearily walk to our hotel. It’s getting quite late, and we all know we have an early morning start tomorrow. A quick team meeting and we discuss the aim is to be at Kyung Hee University by 9:30, all fresh as daisies. Checking in takes a bit of time, due to an uneven number of students, but we get it right and all trudge off to our rooms.
The long first night
The view from my room overlooks the bustling street below. Bright lights, a pizza joint and a Starbucks coffee. In the distance, the lights continue for quite some time, then stop abruptly. In the morning, I will discover that in the distance I can see Bukhansan National Park and its beautiful mountains. Despite being exhausted, I cannot sleep. I am so excited about what the next two weeks will bring. I watch CNN for a bit. When I get up to brush my teeth I smash my toe into the large metal doorstop on the floor. Any excitement has been squashed by cursing and immediate swelling of my little piggy. This is not a good start, I think as I gingerly get into bed. All good vibes for my trip have been whitewashed. Headaches, flight delays, suspected broken toe, whose idea was this?