WHEN WE look back at our lives, it is impossible for us to remember every moment that we have lived. We usually only remember our greatest accomplishments or noteworthy moments like trips with friends. To remember them in the future, we capture them through the art of photography. They are a reminder of the places we have been to, the experiences we have lived and the people that we spent time with.
March 10, 2020
An exchange student stands in the front of the huge black gates of Yonsei University, trying to familiarize himself with the campus that he will attend for the next year. Compared to the peaceful and quiet environment of Oklahoma, United States, Seoul seems like a completely different world, practically vibrating with energy. Even though he doesn’t understand Korean yet, his eyes are drawn to the huge sign engraved on the grey slab of rock. “Yonsei University,” he reads. He turns to his companion and they take turns taking a picture of each other next to the sign. Eventually, they muster the courage to ask a passerby to take a picture of them together. This becomes the first photo he takes with his first friend in this country, and one that he will treasure always.
Talking animatedly, they begin the campus tour by walking along the grey road, which they would later find out is called Baekyang-ro. They walk past dozens of students who are walking briskly, either talking with their friends or tapping away at their phones. The exchange student can’t help but marvel as he looks around the campus, as it is quite different from what he is used to. As he reaches the end of the grey brick road, he can’t help but move towards the large statue standing imposingly in the middle of a well-kept garden. He realizes it must be a statue of someone important to Yonsei University, perhaps a founder or an important contributor. Even though he doesn’t know exactly who it is, he can’t help but take a photograph of the statue. “It seems so peaceful here,” he comments as he looks around and keeps exploring.
Near the end of the tour, his friend takes him to the stadium where most of the school’s festivals take place. As he looks around, he notices the stone seats are engraved with letters. His friend tells him that each seat is engraved with the names and majors of notable Yonsei alumni. Being so close to so much history is completely new to him, prompting him to take out his phone and conclude his tour with a selfie in his new favorite spot.
March 14, 2020
A few days after his tour, a group of friends invite him to a trip to Han River, one of the most popular tourist spots in Korea. At Yeouinaru Station, they take several pictures next to the huge “I Seoul U” letters. Despite the chill in the air, they walk alongside the riverbank and take more pictures to commemorate their first short trip. They end up renting a picnic blanket, eating chicken, and drinking bear as the sun sets. It may not have been the most exciting adventure, but it was a memorable moment for them that cemented their friendship.
March 20, 2020
After an exciting yet exhausting first week of online classes, he is ready to go out and have some fun. He calls out his friends to go see a movie at the cinema nearby, although many people protest that going to places where crowds can gather is not a good idea during these times. However, he finds two friends who are willing to go see Invisible Man with him. At the movie theater, his friend rearranges their popcorn and drinks to take a photo with her phone. Mildly impressed by how aesthetic her photo looks, he asks her to send it to him. She gladly agrees and he finds himself saving it in his album, next to the other photos he has taken to remember his exchange program in Korea.
After the movie ends, they decide to go for drinks. Even though people in Korea typically go to drink so-ju* and beer, they decide to go for cocktails in a well-known bar. As they get their drinks, he takes a picture of his glass, admiring how it looks in the red lighting.
* * *
At the end of his exchange program, the student will return to his college life in the United States. While he may keep in touch with all the friends he made, his experience as an exchange student in Yonsei University will be nothing but a memory. To preserve those memories, he may choose to hang all the pictures that he had taken in a collage on his wall. Every time he looks at them, he will remember the places he went to and most importantly, the people he went there with.
*A distilled Korean alcoholic beverage