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This is apparently what the "countryside" looks like in Korea - Daejeon. Photo: Chantelle Yeung

“I think beer brings people together.”

I don’t drink much, so at first I thought this was a bit hyperbolic. But as I looked around the table, here we all were: a Korean aerospace engineering professor, a Frenchman who came to the country 13 years ago and never left, a young Brazilian chemist and myself, an Australian student, together about an hour out from Seoul on the KTX high-speed train. So maybe the guy was right.

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This week, I was lucky enough to go on radio station TBS eFM’s ‘The QUBE’, an English-language quiz show where four contestants compete once a week.

Originally on the production and writing team for the show, I was surprised and thrilled when they asked me to come in on Tuesday night and compete for the top prize — 300000 Won, or approximately 350 AUD (that’s a lot of bibimbap). All my years of watching Jeopardy re-runs, and fast-forwarding through the ads on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire had prepared me for this moment.

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The QUBE contestants and hosts. Photo by: Kyungmi Choi

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I swear this is for work. Photo: Chantelle Yeung

My hands have been disinfected and I’ve been seated in a pastel-coloured playpen with a blanket to cover my legs. I soon find out why when a curious meerkat, rapidly followed by another, scrambles over my lap, claws scrabbling very uncomfortably for purchase on the surface that is one very ticklish person. This is probably the weirdest journalistic research I have ever done.

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This week's activities gave me a greater insight into South Korea’s colourful history.

I visited three of the city’s palaces, checked out the Bukchon Hanok village, got to wander through the vibrant cityscapes of Gangnam and Itaewon and chilled out at some cool cafés and restaurants.

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Walking through the streets of Gangnam. Photo by: Alison Xiao

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Puddles in rainy Ikseon-dong. Photo: Chantelle Yeung

Korea’s monsoon season lasts from late June until mid to late July. Summers here mean soupy air and a thick cocoon of heat, made all the more unbearable by the microclimate that is unconditioned subway platforms. The heavens open without warning, and often without forgiveness – raindrops are fat and streets rapidly turn into torrents. Lucky for me, I found all this out as I trudged to an impromptu interview across town in upmarket Apgujeong.

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My first week in Seoul has been a challenge, learning to adapt to the new work environment and soak up some culture.

I feel like I’ve already learned so much on the job at radio station TBS eFM. The show I'm working on is largely comprised of various news roundups — domestic, business, sport and sport news as well as different daily segments. I had to do a crash course in issues such as South Korean governance, as the show has been reporting on domestic political news, and the formation of President Moon’s new cabinet. As a political nerd this has been insightful, getting to compare the specific differences between our two democracies.

The most exciting part of the week however was the launch of North Korea’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (Note: I mean exciting from the perspective of an intern working in a fast-paced newsroom…Not as a concerned month-long resident in Seoul). Our rundowns had to be thrown out, East Asian security experts from institutions like Harvard and the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy were contacted — it was all very high-octane, and felt like a dream come true, like being in Episode 1 of HBO's 'The Newsroom'.

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Snap of the TBS eFM live studio, during This Morning. Photo by: Noah Vaz

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I’m currently sitting in my little apartment, ready to start another exciting life experience, spending the next four weeks here in Seoul, South Korea. This amazing opportunity is thanks to the generous programme organised by the Australia-Korea Foundation, The University of Sydney and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The past week feels like a whirlwind as 5 days ago I just returned from 6 months abroad at King’s College in London — and now I’m in South Korea for one month! Hence, all my meetings and greetings with family and friends last week have been a kind of “hi… okay bye” interaction — which has been a little bit overwhelming. But I’m grateful and excited to embark on another overseas adventure so soon after having completed one — something to soothe the post-exchange blues.

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Pre-departure, eagerly waiting for my plane to Seoul. Photo by: Noah Vaz

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About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
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