As most of those who read my blog know, I have spent the last 11 days in Seoul, South Korea, along with an additional day of travel (June 22-July 3). That makes 12 full action packed days away from home, and I have absolutely loved every second of it! To start off, I'll just explain why I was in Korea: For the second year in a row the Korean Institute of Design (KIDP) has hosted students from around the world to participate in the International Integrated Design Camp in Seoul. The president of this camp, Sooshin Choi (CEO & CDO at The Modus Design LLC and CDO & Executive Design Director at DEKA Research and Development), reaches out to professors at Universities across the world to select one or two students to come and work on innovative ideas to better different aspects of the world we live in. KIDP and the Korean government also pay for the airfare, hotel, and food costs for all of the students and tutors; the camp lasted 6 days (Mon-Sat). This years topic was Towards Inclusivity: Smart and Sustainable Cities. Luckily for me, he reached out to one of my favorite professors at NYIT, Youjeong Kim. Youjeong selected both the incredible Sedona Young and myself. *I am so thankful Sedona is such an amazing friend of mine, I couldn't imagine having this experience with anyone else.* At this camp students were put into 13 groups based on connectivity, mobility, productivity, and security/safety with a head 'tutor' who is a professional designer to help lead the project. The 13 tutors are highly experienced people who have worked on world renowned projects at global brands, such as Apple, BMW, and so on. They really know what they're doing. My group was C2, aka Connectivity group 2, which was tutored by Mr. Sangwoo Cho. Sangwoo is from Seoul but currently lives in Sweden working as the Principal Designer for Sigma Connectivity Group and is an all around awesome guy. He not only tutored us, but also did things with us, worked with us, and listened to all of our ideas. Sangwoo had dinners with our group each night, and drank a fair amount of Soju with us, along with partaking in a pretty intense bowling match one night. I feel really lucky to have had him as a tutor, and to have had such an amazing team to collaborate with. My team was made up of myself; a communications student from NYIT, Kasturi Khanke; an industrial design student from Iowa State University (originally from India), Samuel Sheckells; a product design student from the Royal College of Arts (originally from Maryland), Daeyoung Kim; a design and engineering student from Seoul National University of Science and Technology, WingYee Wong; a social design student from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Jinyoung Kim; a material design convergence student from Hanseo University. Together we worked on a project surrounding Happy Cocooning for Single Households. Basically, we tackled the issues that people in single households face, such as isolation, emotional stunting, anxiety, and so on. The goal was to come up with a plan or device that would encourage these people to physically interact more with one another, outside of their homes. What we came up with was a device that allows these people to connect based on what they watch on youtube and subscribe to so they then watch the youtube videos (of any kind) together while video chatting with AR. This makes it so the device may track the time that they are chatting and then give them a coupon to get dinner, drinks, or do an activity together in person. There's a lot more that goes into that logistically, but there's an easy description for you. At the end of the camp we had a showcase for all of the designs made and judges picked which ones were 'best'. If sustainable and realistic then some of the ideas will be shown to government officials to potentially be put to use in Seoul or other cities!
The other 4 days in Korea were spent doing non-design related things. Sedona and I got to spend a night by Hanseo University with students from there who will be coming to NYIT in August for another conference; we'll be guiding them around the city then! And the last two days were spent checking out Seoul, eating good food, going to cafes, and just having fun. And flying back to the states, sadly.
Here's a quick recap of each day:
Day 1, Saturday:This was a complete travel day. I woke up at 3 am, got to the airport at 4 am, and was on a plane by 6 am. I had a quick layover in Atlanta and then was on another plane to Seoul. In total I spent 18 hours on a plane.
Day 2, Sunday: I landed at the airport in Korea around 4 pm, where I met up with Sedona, who had flown in from Jersey. We took the bus to the hotel we stayed at and met a few others that were attending the camp. The five of us went out to dinner at a seafood place down the street. If you ever go to South Korea, do NOT eat sea squirt. We tried it, just for fun, and regretted it immediately after. After dinner we just went to bed, it had been a long travel day for all of us campers.
Day 3, Monday: Sedona and I shared a hotel room and woke up around 9 am, we got ready and went down for the hotel breakfast. This consisted of scrambled eggs, fruits, small muffins, home fries, juice, and a lot of coffee. We were able to meet some other campers at breakfast and decided to all go to Gangnam Square to do some shopping. Gangnam Square was super fun and held a lot of small shops and food carts; Sedona and I ate little buns filled with pumpkin, crab, and potato for lunch. Much better than sea squirt. At 1 pm everyone loaded onto buses to head to KIDP for orientation and introductions and a BBQ dinner. The BBQ was huge, tables were covered in foods for everyone. We all sat around and ate and drank and enjoyed the entertainment provided for us, which was some drawing clowns, a guy that had us play games, and a dancing/instrument group called Harmony for the Future. All of them were really fun. After we got back to the hotel a big group of us went back to Gangnam square to go to a bar. An 'American' styled bar. We drank and played beer pong, with actual beer in the cups. We fell asleep easily again this night.
Day 4, Tuesday: After breakfast we went to KIDP and started our group projects. We worked until lunch, then we packed up and left for group field trips to do research for our projects. My group went to Konkuk University to observe single college students; we walked around the school and sat by Han river, taking in the area. After this we moved on to a space called Common Ground, where we split up to be alone for an hour and see what it's like as a single person. I shopped around and bought some gifts to bring home while I waited for the hour to end. Once reunited we walked around some more, taking in the space, and then got dinner. We went to a food market area and got fried kimchi rice, udon, fish patties, and Soju. I drank a lot of Soju.
All of the food was crazy spicy and so I ended up also getting fries.. oops. After a fair amount of food and drinking at this location we moved onto the next spot, a nearby bar. Here we sat and just drank more Soju until we were tired and decided to go back. WingYee (Rainee) and I ended up getting on a subway just as it shut and were separated from the group, the Soju helped me to stay calm though and we all found each other again, eventually making it home safely.
Day 5, Wednesday: We really just worked all day on our projects, followed by pizza for dinner and drinks on the roof. Nearly all the campers, and some tutors, crowded on the roof until about midnight. We got to bond with some pretty cool Germans and a girl from England, Helen. Definitely a night for the books.
Day 6, Thursday: After breakfast and working at KIDP into the early afternoon buses took everyone to DDR, an amazing design and architectural location, to explore. My group and I walked around, went to a KPOP store for Kasturi, and got noodles (that weren't spicy!). A little later we ended up in a bowling ally, where I lost.. a lot. It was still super fun though! For a treat Sangwoo bought my group, and a tag along Tom, bubble tea. We went to bed early.
Day 7, Friday: Friday was our final day of preparations for our projects before the presentations, so we worked a lot and finished our design; the HATCH. We worked and worked and worked, until my eyes were dry from staring at a screen and it felt like it had been a week in the same chair.
At 8:30 pm my team left KIDP and went to get dinner near our hotel, I got Korean-style pizza and bibibop; a Korean specialty. After dinner we went back to the hotel and rehearsed for presentations for the next day.
Day 8, Saturday: Presentation day! Once we arrived to KIDP around 9:30 am we sat and listened to President Sooshin Choi give credits, and so on. Every group presented their projects, which ranged from transportation ideas to apps and heart monitors. Everyone put so much work and effort into their projects and it really showed. After closings and goodbyes at KIDP everyone went back to the hotel and took naps, some groups had not gone to bed until 6 am. A few students and I skipped the naps and went shopping at Gangnam Station again and got dinner at a buffet place. Once back at the hotel a bunch of us went to the roof and had some drinks, after those we moved onto Gangnam and went to a bar. There were a lot of tequila shots involved. Once we were all drunk enough we ended up at a karaoke bar.. I sang some pretty good duets with Sedona. Around 4 am we ended up at McDonalds eating hash browns, then we were asleep by 5 am. Yikes.
Day 9, Sunday: On Sunday Sedona and I overslept and missed breakfast, oops. We were not feeling well. But we pulled through and got checked out of the hotel and in the car with the Hanseo University students by 11 am! Jinyoung and Jino were our guides for the day and they took us to some pretty cool places. First we stopped for lunch which was at a 'rest stop' and had some incredible Korean street food. The place was really like a food market. Then we went to an old castle near their school where we got to walk around, learn about the history, and play old Korean games. Finally we got to Hanseo Uni and took a tour; their campus is huge. It just kept going, and it was surrounded by mountains and gorgeous views.
Also, there's a ton of stray cats and dogs. When inside one of the main buildings we got to meet some of the other students that will be coming to NYC, they were all super nice and welcoming. We got to tour the design ideas from the students and meet a couple of professors, as well. After this we checked into our hotel and cleaned up and then left for dinner, which was at a sushi buffet place that was incredible. And lastly we went bowling with the students, this was so much fun and I learned that I never want Sedona as a bowling partner.
Day 10, Monday: Sedona and I checked out of our hotel and got to Hanseo Uni around 11:30 am, where we met the President of the university, Dr. Kee Sun Ham, and got a private tour of their museum. After this we got to tour their aviation center and check out all kinds of jets and planes, it was so interesting! Dr. Kee Sun Ham also owns a yacht, which we got to go out on: The weather was great, the people were fun, it was like a movie.
After this, Jinyoung and DJ (one of the Hanseo students) took us to lunch at another food market and took us to our airbnb. In the afternoon Sedona and I met with some other students from the IIDC conference at a bunny cafe. It was amazing. We got to just sit around and play with bunnies! We walked around a market after and got dinner at fried chicken/shrimp place.
*A huge thank you to the people at Hanseo Univeristy for paying for our stay at their Uni and all of the things we did there! We are so grateful!
Day 11, Tuesday: Our last full day in Seoul was spent with pizza for breakfast (there is no real breakfast in Korea, as far as we could find) and walking around the Korean Palace.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is gorgeous, with paintings on the woodwork and flowers growing around it. The charm of the palace was further enhanced by visitors walking around in traditional Korean gowns and suits. After the palace Sedona, Sari (and Australian student), and I walked through the museum by the palace and then hopped in a taxi to go to a market. At the market we got soup dumplings and noodles for lunch, and of course, shopped.
Day 12, Wednesday: Sedona and I woke up early and got to the airport, preparing for another full day of travel.
Our time in Korea was truly a once in a life time experience that I will cherish for years to come. I am so thankful that our professor, Youjeoung, thought highly enough of us to send us on this excursion and connect us with so many people. I learned so much about different cultures, tried so many interesting foods, and got to hear and learn about the ways other people see issues and consult on ways to fix them. But, most importantly, I met amazing people who I will be able to continuously connect with in future years. I feel so humbled to have had this opportunity at such a young age and plan to put the lessons I have learned to use.
Alan Chi Wing