SARU to Jeju

Much ado about nothing

Man, I really feel like I’ve been going at it.

Seoul Station

[A small dose of narcissism]

So classes finally wrapped up around mid-June, which was really, really great. I ended up doing quite well in everything (Operations Management, MIS, Financial Derivatives, Korean Law & Legal System, and International Business Management) which was a massive relief, because I can sleep easy knowing that all of it will transfer without a hitch. Now that I have banged out a few more classes over the first summer session online (Business Writing, Elections 2016, and Social/Legal/Ethical Implications of Business), I only have four classes this fall at Ewha (Academic Korean, Marketing, Strategic Management, International Finance) and four in the spring back in the States before I graduate in May (Econ Senior Seminar, Financial Statement Analysis, a natural science class I never took, and the capstone business policy course). It seems like I’ve been in school forever – but after I dropped out and took two years off, I started from square one because next to nothing transferred or counted. I’m not complaining though.   I’ve done some really spectacular things since high school – even if what it took to get there wasn’t always what I wanted to be doing. I just look at everything as an opportunity. In this way, after starting fresh in the spring of 2014, I’ll have completed two IU degrees (finance, economics) and a Certificate in International Studies, as well as two other certificates from separate institutions in South Korea, and (hopefully) passed the CFA Level 1 by May of 2017. Nothing ever seems good enough because I’m my own biggest critic, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves a round of applause. You never want to get behind the 8-ball, but you should always act as if you are. Stress and organized chaos have a way of motivating one to get it together.

Side note
I’ve been putting myself on a timeline. I’m a planner at heart, even if half the things I do don’t seem to make sense to others. People come, people go, but I really believe everything shakes out the way it’s supposed to. My sincere apologies to anyone I’ve curved or fallen out with since I came back to Fort Wayne (and since left), but I can’t and won’t apologize for pursuing my goals, even it’s still relatively small-ball – for now. If there’s one thing I’ve been able to incorporate into my own life from those of my role models, it’s this: never be complacent even when celebrating a job well done. It sounds goofy but I really look up to people that keep putting in work even when you think they would be satisfied. CEOs, small business owners, family friends, sisters, former employers, name anyone – their work ethic and stories instill my need to stay grinding. I wish I’d have known now what I didn’t at 18 – even if I can’t quite make up my mind yet what it is I want out of life – but for now, I want everything.


Right now I’m waiting at the Gimpo International Airport for a plane to Jeju – an island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula – where I will be living for the remainder of the summer until school starts back up in late August when I can move in to an apartment with my hombre from Canada. That’s a big jump from the last time I dropped a hint about what’s been going on with life, so let me backtrack.

Classes finished around the 15th or 17th of June, and the dormitory staff promptly booted me out about an hour after I finished my last final. No love was lost there. I was originally toying around with the idea of volunteering somewhere like – I don’t know – Nepal? Myanmar? Japan? All of which proved to be far out of my budget, but it was a nice thought.

Jeju is the small island on the southwest side of the Korean Peninsula

As many of you know, I spent a week in North Korea toward the end of April. So when an opportunity to attend a program on North Korean reunification presented itself after Plan A fell through, I jumped at the chance. Summer Academy Reunification (SARU) was slated for two weeks beginning in early July, but I had other things I could do until it started. So I booked a hostel in a neighborhood called Jung-gu just around the corner from Seoul Station and only about 3.5 kilometers from Ewha. Even though I was evacuated from my “home” the same day finals concluded, the dormitory staff was lovely enough to allow me to store some of my…”stuff” in one of the upper floors until school commences in August. Thinking back to how much fun I had horsing my luggage, bicycle and trinkets from the airport to the dorms back in February, I was only mildly disappointed I wouldn’t get to do it again.

So I drank about it!

The luxury of $9 nights

Anyways, the hostel was just like the dorms, except there was no A/C (first world problems) and my room was at the tippity-top of the seven-floor building, accessible via tight hallways and janky laminate steps. Even with half of my usual load you would have thought I dove head-first into the shallow end once I reached the top with it all. Need a mental picture? Red head, confused, annoyed, real wet. Wanna know about the room? It had bright pink lip decals and girly phrases like “love always” all over the walls of the 5×8 foot room. At least they managed to cram a mini-fridge and shower in there.


For the first couple weeks after classes I basically just worked out, finished my online classes, and studied for the LSAT. The ECC (Ewha Campus Complex) is really a state-of-the-art building. I posted pictures of it in previous ramblings, but it’s basically the money-shot of the campus and is buried almost completely underground. The facility has an amazing gym so I paid forward a month so I could get my fitness on. Also inside is a massive study space with hundreds of desks scattered across two floors. My routine was basically GTL + S(tudy), not necessarily in that order. Wake up, hoof-it a couple miles to campus straight uphill, work on the physique, work on infinite logic games problems (LSAT), walk back straight uphill home later that night, and do laundry because – yes – DPO has a perspiration issue in this humid as **** country.



Links: SARU YouTube , Ewha Website


Summer Academy Reunification Program (SARU) started in early July. It was a really cool concept. Ewha invited academics from a university in Germany (Rostock) to provide their insight on German reunification in honor of the 25th anniversary of the toppling of the Berlin Wall (a couple years back) as a framework for how Korea can pursue reunification. The program consisted of workshops and traveling to Seoul National University one weekend as well as trips to the DMZ (Dora Observatory, different than Cherweon on the South Korean side – which I had already been to) and Pyongtaek naval base on the Western seaport.

[Thinking about it, it’s kind of neat to have been to both sides on the DMZ – one time to the Joint Security Area – within a couple of months of each other while the tension is as strong as it is, even though it’s more ceremonial than anything].

During the program I was glad to have engaged in some really meaningful discussion with the German professors and some Korean officials. Topics included everything from economic integration and nuclear proliferation to human rights and healthcare. Oh yeah, they also spoiled us with a “super”-elegant lunch and dinner most days, which was a major plus. Most importantly, I managed to network with some really connected people while having a great time. We went out several nights, which made that lowboy start time of 9am pretty rough on more than one occasion!


So here we are – I’m heading to Jeju for the next month. It made economic sense to do so because the rent and airfare to Jeju is less than one would spend in Seoul for a month. I really need the time to put in some work on the LSAT, because with a late September test-date, I need all of the prep time I can get. With much fewer (immediate) distractions and the natural isolation of an island, Jeju is a great opportunity to make my study-game strong and shed some lbs. I’m really stoked about it honestly – and maybe this blog isn’t the best place to disclose this – but this morning I hit the scales and I’m a flat 89 kilograms (about 196 lbs). Perhaps this seems random, but losing weight has seriously made me  more confident. For any of you who have known me for more than a decade, I haven’t been this “small” in a long, long time. When I left IU in 2013, I was tipping the scales at a cool 345 pounds. To put it in perspective, I’m 150 pounds smaller than I was at my peak size (triple venti).

Once in Jeju– weather permitting – I’ll climb Mt. Hallasan later in the week, which is the tallest mountain in Korea (1950 meters). It should be very dope. Jeju during the summer is basically the number one vacay spot for Koreans (and expats living in Korea), so I am really excited about it all. I’ll probably rent a moped or bicycle so that I can see everything I can while I’m there, because Jeju is actually quite big.

I’ll post some pics and provide some insight as soon as possible!


UPDATE: Here’s what I woke up to this morning









6 thoughts on “SARU to Jeju

  1. You’re doing great!! Happy for you- glad you’ve made some friends, are doing well in classes, and look nourished (albeit thin). Study hard this summer- as you always do- and nail that exam in September. I love your very much and pray for you every day!-mom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep up it little brother! You are doin’ BIG thangs!!! Gorgeous ocean pic. Someday you’ll have to be my Korean travel guide!

    Btw- pretty sure you need to be a guest speaker at The Brandon Foundation when you return and share your stories and pics with our scholars.

    Liked by 1 person

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