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First Impressions

Hi everyone. My name is Carly Bond, and I am a rising junior studying chemical engineering at Caltech. I have been in Gwanju, South Korea for a little over a week. My first impression was that it is very bright. I arrived in Gwanju around midnight, and as we drove to the Gwanju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), I noticed that a lot of the buildings had big neon signs in many colors.

The majority of the streets around GIST are at least this bright. When I took this photo, the grad student I was with asked me why, because to her this was perfectly normal. I grew up in Alaska, so this was very different for me. Even in Pasadena, I have not seen lights like this. When I look at the skyline from my office, I feel like i’m in Las Vegas or Hollywood.

Eventually I made it to my dorm room. These new dorms were built just last year, and they are AMAZING. I get a double to myself, and I have my own balcony and bathroom. They even gave me bedding for the summer!

The sliding doors in the back lead to my balcony, and the door on the right leads to the bathroom. I even have wallpaper.

The floor just in front of the door to the hallway is recessed a few inches below the rest of the floor is used as a place to leave shoes.

They also have raised floors at some restaurants near here. You leave your shoes at the entrance and sit cross-legged on a mat in front of a low table instead of in a chair.

I met my lab group the next day. Professor Tae, my mentor here, is very kind and told me to ask him about anything I wanted help with. There are about 18 graduate students and researchers associated with his lab and they are really fun. Not all of them speak English well, but they are all really friendly.

The staff provided us a water pitcher instead of refilling individual glasses, but here you hardly ever pour your own glass. One of the students would fill everyone else’s glasses and then pass the pitcher to someone else so that their own glass could be filled.

After our meal we went to an arcade for a bit. There was a game where you shot at targets with an airsoft rifle-like gun. The boys were all pretty good at this because they had already served their mandatory two years in the military.

Just when I thought we would be heading back to campus, Wonil, my graduate student mentor (pictured above in the green shirt) announced that it was time for “second party” and we went to another restaurant, where we ate more food, drank more beverages, and played games. My favorite thing that we ate there was called honeybread. I think it was made from torn pieces of sweet bread mixed with berry honey butter.

You might think that two parties is enough for one night, but you would be wrong. After we left the second restaurant, we went to the supermarket and bought more drinks and snacks which we ate on a raised wooden platform in the park near campus. The park was pretty crowded, and a lot of young children were playing, even though it was 10pm. I found out later from first-hand experience that this is because it is too hot during the day to go to the park.

I think this is a little long, especially for my first post, so I will leave off here. Next time I will include more about my research here. Tell you more later!

One last photo…

From left to right: Marino Di Franco, Sylvia Sullivan, and Kelly Guan

Carly Bond