As a native of the Pacific Northwest, one of the things I was worried about was not being able to get my outdoor fix in Korea. Back home, I would spend my time outside running on soft surfaces and running trails. When I moved to Korea, I thought that this was one of the things that I was going to miss because my perception of what Korea would look like entailed high rise buildings, the subway, and lots of people. However, I was surprised by how many mountains, trees, and trails were here.
I am placed in Bundang, just a 16 minute train ride from Gangnam, and at first I was a little bummed to be not be placed directly in Seoul. Now that I have been living here for a while, I can't express how glad I am to be teaching outside of the city. In Bundang, it is much quieter, more spacious, and greener than the heart of Seoul. Although there are many advantages of a city center, living in Bundang is so nice. If you are a person like me that is moving to Korea and is not used to living in a big city, you may want to request to be just outside of Seoul.
Another awesome thing about this city and Korea in general is the running trails that follow the rivers. In Bundang, the Tancheon cuts through the city.
The paths are usually busy with people walking their dogs or getting their exercise in for the day. But if you are a runner or bike rider, it is such a convenient and flat surface to get in a quality workout. I am currently not training for a marathon, but people use it to get in their long runs. I often see fellow teachers and other expats on the path. Also, in just about every park or recreational area, you will see the work out stations that are usually being used by old men and women. It is really funny because couples who are exercising wear matching outfits. They can also be very friendly and if they speak English, they ask me what I am doing, where I am from, etc. Or if they don’t know English, I give them a big wave, smile, and bow and they say something back to me that I can’t understand quite yet. When you decide to move to Korea, I'm sure you will have experiences like this. It makes being an expat that much more fun.
Just a 5 minute run from my apartment, there is a mountain where I go once a week to run on a soft surface. It starts with a steep hike up to a military tower (that I accidently climbed up once) but settles into a nice set of rolling hills with different options to venture. Lately, I've been going on the different trails just to see where they go. The most amazing part of all of this is that I usually only see 2 or 3 people in the woods. It is an awesome place to get away, and I feel much calmer and happier for the rest of the day.
Most Korean hiking trails are crowded, filled with people, kids, dogs, etc. While it is awesome to see people outside exercising, the beauty of hiking or running in the woods is to be alone and to have the place to yourself. What I realized is that the trails that are marked and "well known" will be busy. Fortunately just about all the woods outside of a city are carved with trails in them, so your chances of having them close to your placement are very high. If you are worried about being surrounded and congested in a tight urban setting, have no fear. Also, the -Overseas Teacher Quiz can help you determine what area is the best for you. Living outside of Seoul has been great for me, but find out for yourself!
In short, if you are in Korea and you want to get away by yourself, with friends, or on a date, there are places to go hiking and running, and it is awesome. Since Koreans are very motivated and hard-working people, there are always a lot of different activities to do and fun to be had. I'm pretty happy to be here right now. Feel free to comment, and I can get back to you with more information about running, hiking, or any other questions you have.
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After graduating from Georgetown, Brian sought out the life of international travel and living abroad. Beginning with his volunteer work in South Africa, Brian decided to continue on to South Korea to experience East Asian culture and society. In February 2014, Brian accepted a position through Aclipse to teach for Chungdahm Learning at the Bundang branch just south of Seoul. When Brian is not in the classroom, he is busy with his running club, exploring the surrounding mountains, and learning the Korean language.