On July 1st, I woke up around 7am so I could take a shower and make myself look presentable before breakfast at 8am. For breakfast we had muffins from Paris Baguette, bananas, strawberry yogurt, and apple and grape juice. It was quite a spread and I was happy to have something from the notorious Paris Baguette (I wanted to eat something from Paris Baguette because literally every single Korea travel vlog on Youtube featured a Paris Baguette breakfast).
At 9:30am I found myself sitting on the floor with all the other Nsliyians in front of the room where we were going to have all our presentations. We had to wait for the room since it was still being prepared but it was all good because we were given all these snacks which were very delicious. We also recieved name tags from Better World (Better World was the program that run all our in country stuff) for our stay.
Our official in-country orientation started at 9:50am with a small ceremony with the president of Better World, a guy from the U.S. Department of State, and some of the other Better World staff. We were shown a presentation on Korea as well as some information regarding safety (phone numbers and things we had already heard in Seattle).
Then after most of the informative presentations, one of the Better World staff members started conducting some icebreakers on whether we like cats or dogs better, our favorite animals, our favorite kpop groups, etc. And because we are who we are… the icebreakers ended with even more dancing and singing. Some were more cringey than others *cough cough JESSE cough cough*.
We played a lot of mini games as well. One game we played was this one chopsticks using challenge. We got into small groups and had to stand in a line. The objective was to use chopsticks and move all the shrimp chips from one paper plate to the other. A lof of the Korean staff seemed pretty impressed with all of our skills (even though the chopsticks were literally for kids).
We then recieved these plastic musical instruments known as 소고 (pronounced as soh-goh). JT (our Korean RD) taught us the name of all the different parts of the small drum (I do not remember any of these names) and then he taught us a small song to play. It was very fun and JT was having a blast teaching us how to use it. It was the first time we all got to experience his overly positive/happy attitude. haha
Then we had lunch in the cafeteria once again.
After lunch we signed up for the cultural activities we wanted. The options were Cooking club, Fan dancing club, Musical Instrument club, and Taekwondo club. We had to write down our top two choices in case some choices got filled (Cooking class could only allow a certain amount of people since it was more expensive due to all the food costs). My number one choice was cooking class and luckily I got placed in Cooking club! I was super excited about my placement because learning to cook Korean food seemed so fun. Especially because I would have the opportunity to cook Korean food once I returned to the states as well.
After that, we were split up into groups for a Survival In Korea mission. I would describe it as a scavenger hunt/learning excursion. We had a checklist and had to do the stuff on the list in order to complete the mission and be able to come back to the hostel. My group included Eliya, Addie, Ava, Peter, and Tatum. Tatum was a Korean Summer 2014 alumni. She was in Korea because she was interning with Better World and attending Korean classes at Yonsei University. Our mission was to take the subway to Hongik University (홍익대학교) otherwise known as the famous Hongdae (홍대) and buy street food. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually complete that exact mission because while we were out and about in Hongdae, it started pouring! I have never been in that much rain before in my entire life. Chicago rainfall is nothing in comparison to Seoul’s rainfall. No street carts with food were actually out, but there were carts with umbrellas.
Instead of getting street food, my group and I headed off to Sulbing (설빙) which is a very popular Bingsu (빙수) cafe with various locations all over Korea. Bingsu is a Korean dessert popular in the summer. It is basically a shaved ice dessert with toppings such as fruit, red bean, and condensed milk (depending on what you order). We ordered the Injeolmi Bingsu (인절미 빙수) and the chocolate bingsu (초코).
After Sulbing and eating bingsu, we walked around the main streets of Hongdae and we finally got a glimpse of Seoul. All the hustle and bustle of the streets was just how I imagined the streets of Hongdae to look like. Hongdae was very very crowded even though it was raining. We visited a convenience store and Ava and I split a banana milk which was a dream come true. I have always wanted to drink banana milk ever since I watched Taemin from Shinee drink it day in and day out during the first year of their debut. I even tried making my own sometime in 7th grade (it turned out pretty good actually. A bit chunky but overall okay). Banana milk soon became the drink of choice while I was in Korea because it is so sweet and tastes like real bananas, not that artificial banana candy taste.
We got back home right in time for dinner which happened to be Japchae, (잡채) duck, kimchi, rice, and another type of soup. Japchae has to be one of my favorite Korean foods (Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of my plate). After dinner the alumni that were present (most of them were there because they were studying abroad for college in Korea except for Tatum who was interning, for the summer, with Better World) gave us a run through of useful Korean phrases to know and presentations on what they did when they went to Korea with NSLI-Y. They were all academic year students except for Tatum. These were the funniest presentations because the stories from the alumni were hilarious. After listening to their stories, I was super excited to make funny ones of my own.
We ended the orientation with some group photos as usual.
The rest of the night was free time and so I just spent the rest of the night in my room with my roommates. We stayed up till around 1am talking about whatever. We laughed so much (especially me) that even if some of the girls wanted to sleep, they couldn’t. Better World also bought us a midnight snack of pizza and fried chicken which was amazing because it was two foods I had never had before (Korean pizza is soooo different in comparison to American pizza or Italian pizza). We also had an incident when we finally decided it was time for everyone to go to bed. Right as we turned off the lights to our room, these ajusshis (아저씨 – Korean word for an older man) in the room next to ours started screaming and talking so loud (obviously drunk). Our two best Korean speakers, Grace and Rhea, opened our door and kindly started talking to the ajusshis (the door to their room was open) and asking them to quiet down since it was so late. They didn’t listen to us and actually started getting louder. Then, in some magical way, JT was still up and he showed up at our door asking us about the issue. He told us to go back inside and then he went and talked to the men. He actually helped a lot, they weren’t as loud as before and we actually were able to fall asleep. I got the whole thing on Snapchat but my blog doesn’t support videos so here are some photos of what had happened instead.
And that was my first full day (second day) in Seoul, South Korea. It was filled with many presentations, icebreakers, and some excursions to the outside world. haha My next post will most likely be the first weekend in korea and it will also be with my host family! Hope you enjoyed reading and don’t forget to subscribe if you want to stay up to date with my posts. Thanks for reading! 고마워요!~
- Emma 엠마