Tuesday (July 5th, 2016) was the first day of classes at Sookmyung. I was super excited to attend a real Korean class (I have only self-studied it in the past) and see where I was placed regarding my skill level. However, getting to school wasn’t exactly easy since it was raining super super hard in the morning and when I was riding the subway to school (at 용산역) the lights of the train turned off and it stopped moving for around 5 minutes. I called JT and told him that I would be late getting to school (this phone call was really awkward as the train was silent and the only one talking was me and the fact that it was in English made me stand out even more). When I finally arrived to the station, I met up with Saha and Sarah who were also late getting to school. We went out exit #10 and began to walk up the huge hill to get to school. We literally had to walk up a river. There was so much rain that the sidewalks were flooded. When we finally got up the stairs of the university, the drainage on the tiles were stopped up and so there was a huge pool of water. Of course I didn’t see it so I put both my feet into the pool of water. My sandals got so soaked! (I later took my shoes off in the classroom and set them on the air vents to air dry).
When I got to the right floor, there was a long list hanging up next to the stairwell with the four different Korean classes and all the names of who was in which class. For this years program, we were split up into 4 different classes. The first two classes were beginner classes. The only difference between the classes was that one class learned the alphabet on the first day while the other class simply reviewed it and then started learning other things. The third class was called the intermediate class (it wasn’t intermediate level but from the kids in our program, it was considered the intermediate class) and finally, the last class was the advanced class (again the students in the class weren’t advanced speakers of Korean. I would classify them as intermediate at the beginning of the summer. They were just the advanced students in comparison to everyone on the program).
I was pleased to find out that I was placed in the intermediate class. Our class’ name was 나무 반 which translates to tree class (it was a great fit since my classmate Yves’ Korean name is 나무). The only bad thing about my placement was that a majority of the students in my class were way more advanced than me. They could easily conjugate verbs and I still hadn’t learned future tense yet. The problem must have been that I couldn’t be placed in beginner (because I was passed that) but I wasn’t exactly at the same level everyone else in my class had been at in the beginning of the summer. The first class was spent receiving our textbooks (we had a textbook and a workbook) and of course introducing ourselves to our two teachers. It was a lot of fun and it was nowhere near being the same as my Spanish language classes back at home. For three big reasons;
(1. Everyone WANTED to be there
(2. They wanted to actually Learn and Study Korean
(3. Everyone gave their best effort
After class ended at 1pm, we only had 30 minutes for lunch because we had to be at 이촌역 (Ichon Station) at 1:40pm. For lunch I went to 김밥천국 (Kimbap Heaven) with a lot of the Nsliyians but I sat at a table with Yves and Ariel (two of my 나무 반 classmates). We ordered three rolls of Kimbap and they were around $2 each (such a good deal). We ordered 소고기 김밥 (Beef Kimbap) , 계란 김밥 (Egg Kimbap), and 누드 김밥 (Nude Kimbap. Normal Kimbap but with no seaweed wrapped around the rice).
We took a little too long eating lunch so we ended up showing up late to the meeting spot which made our resident directors pretty mad but we apologized profusely and at least we weren’t the last ones to show up (they were over 10 minutes late. We were only a couple minutes late).
First, we went to the Hangul Museum.
We watched a few videos on King Sejong and how he was able to create Hangul, an alphabet easy enough for the common people to learn. We also watched clips of indigenous cultures from Africa and parts of Asia that adopted Hangul as their writing system in order to preserve their languages (this was very interesting to me as I had never heard of anything like that before).
Then we learned all about Korean holidays such as New Years. We learned about Hanbok (Korean Traditional Clothing) and 세배 (Korean New Year Bow).
세배 (romanized as sebae) is a deep formal bow that younger members of the family perform to the older members of the family to show respect. On New Years, a well-performed Sebae will result in the older family members giving gifts or money to the younger members of the family.
Then we watched a video on the King Seongdeok Bell (and how it is the best bell in the world) and a video about modern advancements Korea has made since the Korean War.
Our little presentation ended with some traditional Korean treats/desserts. We were given slices of Korean Pear, Korean rice cakes, and some fruity tea/juice.
Then we headed on over to the National Museum of Korea where we were split up into two groups and had a tour guide take us around the museum and give us talks on the things that we saw. My favorite room was the ones with all the buddhist statues. I just find them very beautiful.
After the museum, I went home on the subway right away. Some people went out but I was tired and I had to study really hard that night if I didn’t want to be behind (because my classmates were so good). I stopped at the convenience store on my way home, picked up some banana milk and I got home just in time to have dinner with my host mother and siblings. And that was my Tuesday in Korea!~
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- 엠마 (Emma)