서울에서 띄우는 편지 (Greetings from Seoul!)
By Trey O’Neill ’10
DURING MY SECOND week living here in Seoul, I ate a tuna’s eye the size of a gumball because my new Korean colleagues insisted that it would bring me strength and good luck. The eye wasn’t pleasant, but I certainly hope it was worth it.
Experiences like that one are what have made my time living in Seoul so fascinating. Every day brings new tastes, sights and sounds. While missing important events back home has been difficult, Seoul’s unceasing activity keeps me occupied.
I tell people that Seoul is just like New York, but everything is an adventure: the noise, lights and food are all unfamiliar. There is a ’90s K-pop club and more “tteokbokki” (spicy rice cakes) street vendors on my block than I know what to do with. All of the neon streetlights, board game cafes and soju (a Korean rice-based alcohol) add to the excitement.
I speak English at work and many of my friends are expats, so my Korean language skills plateaued early, frequently leaving me without a clue as to what was going on. Once, I took a visiting friend to a restaurant and ordered sannakji, which is live octopus that’s still wriggling when you eat it. It had always come prechopped when I ordered it before, so when the waitress explained something I couldn’t understand, I just nodded. She then brought out a plate of noodles with a live octopus that was trying to escape, and handed me a pair of scissors. I handed the scissors back and she helped us, but it was a very scary meal.
Believe it or not, soju-fueled Scrabble tournaments are not what brought me to Seoul. I work as a consultant in Samsung’s Global Strategy Group, an opportunity that came after I got my MBA from a business school called INSEAD. My work requires organizational leadership and teamwork, which are skills that I learned at Rice by managing Willy’s Pub and helping to found The Hoot [a late-night, student-run café]. One of the best parts of my current job is working with colleagues who hail frommany countries.
When I’m not at work, I spend my time training for marathons and hiking in Bukhansan National Park, which is about an hour outside the city. After a year of living here, I’ve adopted some Korean customs. For example, I no longer allow people to wear shoes in my home, and I eat kimchi whenever I have the chance.
I feel lucky to have been able to live in Seoul, a great city that I had never even considered visiting, much less living in. Maybe the tuna eyeball made good on its promise. — AS TOLD TO NATALIE DANCKERS ’17