5/8/19- Experiences That Defy (Bio)Logic

I learned many things today, (as I have every day thus far). However, the most surprising thing I found out was how far and wide Seoul stretches. Officially, the city limits span over 233 square miles, as was made extremely clear to me today. I woke up while the sun was still only peeking over the distant mountaintops (around 6:15), to get showered and ready for the long day of visits ahead. After grabbing a breakfast of champions (a cookie from the lobby shop and a bottle of water) on the way out, we boarded the bus and were off for Samsung Biologics. Just short of two long hours later, we arrived on the scene. We were greeted by James Choi, the Chief Information Officer of the firm, and proceeded to walk into a large hall just inside the plant. Once seated, Mr. Choi presented a high-level overview of the firm’s operations and history, which was quite interesting. They were founded in 2011, and have steadily grown to three neighboring plants, making them the largest Biologics firm (by capacity), on the planet. Basically, biologics are vaccines (and other medical products) that are made from proteins or other excretions of living organisms. Samsung experiments to discover the ideal conditions for capturing these excretions as quickly as possible, and proceeds to mass-produce them in massive 1500L vats. After a group picture and tour of the impressive, modern facility, we boarded the bus for the trip back to Insadong. After what seemed like forever, we arrived at a restaurant that I can only describe as the Korean food version of a short-order diner. The food was okay; but was a little disappointing as it had no meat, only rice, vegetables, and an egg. Afterwards, Dr. Yun generously bought us all ice cream cones from the convenience store by our hotel, which were delicious. Then, we had about 45 minutes of free time to recharge in the hotel before boarding the bus once more to travel to Seoul Citizens Hall, a massive, seven-story city structure that boasts far more amenities than your average government building. We were given an excellent tour from our guide Kim, an elderly Korean man that volunteers to give tours in his free time. He shared with us that he has led over 700 tours, but we were his first ever group from Pittsburgh, which I consider to be a high honor. He led us through the building’s levels, including its rooftop garden, vertical shrubbery, public library, museum, and more, all while telling very interesting anecdotes about each part and its historical significance. When we were finished with this, we boarded the bus for a short trip to our last site for the day: the Seoul Global Startup Center. Here, we saw many foreign-born entrepreneurs working hard to develop the million-dollar firm of the future. One of the most interesting products was a smart recycling bin that rewards people for recycling through an app. We met its creator, and after a group picture, returned to our hotel. Dr. Yun recommended a local restaurant with what he called “the best chicken in the world”. A group of us went with him, and he ordered a selection of fried chicken bathed in a wide selection of sauces ranging from spicy to sweet. I don’t know if they were the world’s best, but they were downright delicious. That concluded our day. This trip is truly flying by!

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