Since I have been back from Seoul, South Korea I haven’t been able to express my gratitude to some people that made my experience on the NSLI-Y program amazing. Therefore, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I felt that it was necessary to make a post expressing my thanks to some people even though they will probably not read anything that I write on here. Now I wont have the ability to thank everyone that deserves a thank you for making my experience great, but I mean well. This post would be so long if I did all that. This is going to be a very long post already… and I am writing it to make myself happy. So I am warning you, if you decide to keep going… this may take you several minutes to read.
A quick shout out to my apartment complex’s security guards, the nice woman who worked at 7/11 near 숙대, the most hilarious Dragon Beard Candy (꿀타래) vendors, and so many more!~ Authors Note: This list is in no particular order!
My Host Family
My Korean Mom
I am so thankful for my host mom. She honestly made me feel so at home even though I was thousands of miles away from my home. I was definitely awkward with her during the first few weeks and my Korean was awful, but she was still so patient with me no matter where or what we were doing. She tried extra hard to make sure I was doing okay by constantly asking me if I needed help with my Korean homework and asking me about twenty times per night if I was still hungry and if I wanted watermelon, yogurt, tiramisu, or whatever else she had handy.
I also loved the fact that she always talked to me. This might not seem like much but I truly enjoyed those breakfast and dinner conversations we would have. She would talk to me like I was a native Korean making sure to speak Korean normally to me. I am able to understand Korean pretty well and that is because she never used her amazing English skills with me if I didn’t ask her to. We would talk about her students, life at home, and how I was doing in Korea. If I didn’t understand something, I would ask and then she would tell me what the word translated to in English. My host mom also always expressed her pride in me when I would speak Korean. She always cheered me on. It made me feel so good when I would talk to her in Korean (and use a new vocabulary word or grammar point) and she would tell me how she had noticed me improving from the first week. One moment I specifically remember was when I told her about where I had eaten cold noodles with chilled broth (물냉면) earlier that week. I told her “저는 친구들이랑 숙대근처 물냉면을 먹었어요.” She was so proud of me for simply using the word “근처” which means near/close to. I thought it was a simple word that everyone would know (and I still think it is) but it made me really happy that my host mom told me I was improving and that she could tell. I can’t wait to come back to Seoul in the future and be able to see my host mom again. I miss her so much and our Kakao messages are simply not enough for me.
My host dad and I definitely didn’t get as close as I did with my host mom but I didn’t have a bad relationship with him either. He meant well but we didn’t talk too much as he was very nervous to speak English and was even nervous when I would speak to him in Korean but nonetheless I am thankful for him. He would usually just tell my host mom to tell me anything he wanted to say. My host dad was great. Because even though we didn’t talk as much, he was still nice to me by basically making all my meals while I was in Korea. My host mom believed that she wasn’t a good cook and all she would make for the family was eggs (계란), rice (밥), and Donkatsu (돈까스). He would wake up earlier than he needed to every weekday to make me breakfast. He could have given me cereal but he instead made me nice breakfasts of different types of Korean soups, fried rice, and meat/seafood dishes. He also took me out to eat dinner with him and my host brothers on several occasions for things like Korean barbecue (삼겹살) and Black bean noodles (짜장면).
But my favorite memory with my host dad was the day before I left for America. It was the morning of my graduation ceremony and only my host mom and host brothers would be going. While I was eating the breakfast he made me, he started talking to me like a motivational speaker… and it was in English. My host dad was terrified of speaking English and hearing him do it on the last day made me so happy to see him try because he really wanted me to understand what he was saying. It made me start tearing up and he kept telling me to stop crying. But I will always remember what he ended his “speech” with.
“Live for you, not others. It is important” – Host Dad
My host brothers and I didn’t get as close as I had imagined I would with my host siblings but I don’t think badly towards them because of it. We both had to deal with a language barrier and we didn’t have too many common characteristics to bond over. But I am glad that my host brothers were my host brothers because they allowed me to work towards a better relationship and though I didn’t see it as a very good one at first, it definitely got better compared to the first week or so when my youngest host brother would whine about sitting next to me at the breakfast table. We had our moments when we would talk and I brought them home treats. I still remember the first time my host brothers tried War Heads and they ran around the kitchen screaming and then my host dad ate one like it was a strawberry — with no reaction whatsoever. It was pretty funny to me since I love sour candy. The best thing I did for my younger host brother was go to his soccer practices and games. Even though I felt that I didn’t do enough with my host brothers, I tried and my experience in Korea wouldn’t have been the same without them and so I am thankful. My host brothers taught me that sometimes the littlest things are what you remember and cherish the most.
Like the time I went walking to the convenience store with my youngest host brother and when we passed his school, he showed me the bunny they had in a cage by the gate. He was telling me stories about the bunny and even though I didn’t understand much of it, I enjoyed the thought that he was sharing part of his life with me. Once I left Korea, my host mom messaged me on Kakao one day telling me that my host brothers told her that the house felt weird without me and that was the best thing anyone could tell me.
My Supporter Group
Sujin was my supporter. She had to be with me. She had to act as a tutor. But what she didn’t have to act as was my friend. I grew so close to my supporter group and Sujin. From what I observed from all the other supporter groups on my program, I would probably say that my supporter group got the closest. Sujin was the best supporter ever! When I first met her I really wanted to make her like me but I knew it would be a bit more difficult since my Korean language skills were not too great… especially compared to Jodi’s and Casey’s Korean language skills. Sujin and I were able to forge a friendship that pushed passed language barriers and when I improved my Korean, our friendship grew and got more meaningful. I miss hearing her laugh when I ask her for the millionth time to repeat something and her stern voice when reprimanding Jodi for whatever she had done. I want to thank Sujin so much since she really did make my experience better.
So much that when I found out that she couldn’t come say goodbye to us at the airport like she had planned, I (and Jodi) spent a good 20 minutes crying to Casey about how much we would miss her. I still text my supporter Sujin very often and I know one of the first things I will do when I return to Korea, is to visit her and hopefully catch up at a nice cafe. In particular our favorite cafe, 카페 아레카 (Cafe Areca).
죠디!!! NSLI-Y is such a great experience due to the people you will meet and the relationships you will create during the duration of the program. Jodi was no exception. Until the supporter meeting started, I hadn’t talked too much with Jodi and I am so glad we were able to get close through our supporter meetings. Jodi and I got close super quickly and I enjoyed every minute that we spent together whether it be stuffing our faces with banana milk (바나나 우유), triangular kimbap (삼각김밥), or simply making konglish (Korean and English) jokes.
Jodi never failed to make me laugh and she was always there when I needed help with my Korean in class. I want to thank her for making my supporter group one of the best parts of my NSLI-Y experience.
Oh Casey! 오 미선! I miss my Casey so much! Casey and I always joked around in class, during our supporter meetings, and especially just hanging around in Seoul. She and I would be immersed in laughing fits from the littlest things and I never regretted any moments I spent with Casey. I also want to thank Casey for always helping me out during supporter meetings. Whenever I couldnt understand Sujin completely, Casey would be there helping me out making sure I didn’t lose out on any important information. She also never failed to cheer me on when I impressed her with something I said in Korean. Casey and I could talk to each other for hours and I truly miss our conversations.
Our skype calls always remind me why we are such close friends even though we don’t see each other every day any more. I want to thank Casey for being there every step of the way making my journey in Korea the most fun I could imagine (and for calming me down when I started crying at the airport. It meant a lot).
My Korean Class
I have never loved a class more than my Korean class 나무반 (Tree Class). Sure I have had fun in my classes back at home from time to time but I have never had such an interest in a class before that everything we do is fun to me. Even when I would get only 5 hours of sleep, I was always still looking forward to class. I want to thank all my 나무반 classmates for making Korean class so fun and interesting. If it wasn’t for all our funny jokes and ridiculous answers to our teachers questions. (I am looking at you Jesse! *cough cough 결혼한 여자 *cough cough ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ.)
I am thankful for the white board in the back that we never used for class but as the days went on, more and more weird and funny drawings started collecting on it. I am thankful for all the positive attitudes that everyone brought to class every single day and I am super thankful for all those runs to the convenience store during our ten minute breaks because those green tea bars, chocolate mushroom snacks, and pepero saved me from my always growling stomach. My classmates made my Korean class the best! I am really thankful for this experience. Korean classes in college could never be this good! 🙂
Teaching a foreign language is definitely difficult but my Korean teachers didn’t make it seem that way at all. In my Spanish class back home, especially during my freshman year, we were always using English during class. However, I can count the amount of times I used English in class on both my hands. My Korean teachers made learning fun and always encouraged us if we didn’t understand. We were engaged with constant role plays and questions and we got enough examples for each grammar point to last us a lifetime! I want to thank them so much for helping me improve my Korean language skills and being able to see my improvement as well. Receiving the most improved award at the end of the program ceremony made me super happy. I knew I improved and knowing that they could see it too… made me thankful for having such great and observant teachers.
감사합니다 이선생님 그리고 박선생님!~
고마워요 메들린!~ Madeline was such a great resident director. Sometimes I felt that I was annoying her going to talk to her every morning and between classes with Sofia but I honestly just enjoyed talking to her. Even though I never had a real emergency while I was in Korea I know that if I did, I could count on Madeline to help me out with anything. Plus, saying “Madeline!” every time I would see a “Madeline Shirt” in Hongdae, Edae, or Myungdong was pretty great. I got lots of stares too! By the time the end of the program came around, I felt so much closer to Madeline.
The more time I got to spend talking to her did not only create good memories, but also a good friendship as well. I can’t wait to soon have the opportunity to meet up with her in NYC! It has been long enough!
JT쌤! ㅎㅎㅎ 고마워요! It was really funny meeting JT for the first time since I didn’t even know that we had another resident director. I saw him walking around the patio of Washington University and was really confused on why one of the Japanese students was so interested in talking to everyone. I soon found out he was our RD when he came and started talking to my table about what got us interested in the Korean language. I am so thankful for JT being such a great RD and making me laugh so much. Since he was in charge of the cooking club I got to talk to him a lot more than I probably would have if it wasn’t for the club. He made everything so fun and he would get so excited for us for the silliest things. For example, he would smile so big whether it was just us succeeding in flipping our 김치전 (Kimchi Jeon – basically a crispy kimchi pancake), talking to him in Korean and not English, or just asking him about his time in Michigan. I will never forget JT for being a savage towards me and also being so sassy. I am thankful for having him on our program which made my experience even better. He also gave all 49 of us permission to come to his house in 8 years from the day we arrived in Korea for a potluck dinner and ramen! I mean it wasn’t exactly permission… but I know we will be coming. 😉
“You think you’re smart but you’re not!” – JT
Sofia!!!!! I can honestly say that I probably got the closest to Sofia out of everyone I met on the trip and for that I am so thankful! When I first met her at the airport and talked to her on the shuttle ride, she was so quiet and I thought she didn’t like me. I hovered around Angie during the entire time in Seattle and didn’t give much thought to anyone else since I was scared I would have trouble making lots of friends (which soon proved to not be difficult at all). I started bonding with Sofia on the plane ride to Korea since we sat next to each other on the plane. You can’t help but become friends with someone you spent 10 hours with in a small confined place. I got to see Sofia change and grow as a person and we started hanging out more and more once we found out we were in the same class.
Most of my blog posts mention Sofia or are about an adventure I had with Sofia because we honestly became best friends seeing each other basically every day. I am thankful for Sofia since we did so many things together and we grew so close. I still talk to her every single day and we skype sometimes too. NSLI-Y would not have been the same without her and she knows it too 🙂 I can’t wait to meet up with her this summer in New York!~Best Reunion ever! ❤
What is NSLI-Y8? NSLI-Y8 is the 8th group of NSLI-Y scholars to Seoul, South Korea. I was lucky enough to be apart of this amazing group of people and I could not be more thankful!~ These 49 people made my trip amazing. I didn’t have the chance to get close to everyone but I am thankful to say that I didn’t leave without talking to everyone and I was able to start a good relationship with everyone on the program. The Nsliyians on my program were honestly some of the best people I have ever met and it had to do with the combination of their awesome personalities and us sharing common characteristics like our passion and love for the Korean language and culture. Whether it be being able to text our group chat and plan fun activities or simply walking around during break and joining peoples after school plans, there was never a moment of isolation. Everyone included everyone and no cliques were formed. I am thankful for no drama!!!!
Everyone worked so hard with their Korean and made the most of their time in Seoul. I was able to make so many amazing memories with spending time with my NSLI-Y8 family!~
나는 니슬리8 가족을 너무 사랑해~ ❤ !!! 고마워~
The People that Made this Possible
Last but not least a huge thank you to everyone that was able to make my trip to Seoul, South Korea possible. That means my lovely parents for allowing me to take a hold of this amazing opportunity. The State Department for seeing the benefits of sponsoring this program for the rising generations. IEarn for doing all the “behind the scene” stuff to make this program to Korea a reality. The Better World Staff for making our time in Seoul a blast and making sure everything in country ran smoothly from the start. My Spanish Teacher for writing my recommendations and supporting me on this endeavor. All my amazing friends back home who were always supportive every step of the way especially when I was able to share the good news. And a thanks to everyone at my old middle school and those teachers who encouraged me to follow my passion (even though some called it a phase). I would not have been here today if It wasn’t for the influences of those around me. Lastly, thank you to Elaine. A Korea summer and year alum that was the one who introduced me to the NSLI-Y program in 7th grade. Who knows where I would be without her. Thank you all so much! I am so grateful for everyone.
And thank you for reading. I hope this encourages you to thank the ones that have helped you on whatever journey your dreams will take you on and if NSLI-Y is that dream, I wish you the best of luck!~ It is worth it — TRUST ME!
“Whatever happened this past year, be thankful for where it brought you. Where you are is where you are meant to be.” – Mandy Hale