Celebrating Chuseok (추석) in Korea with my Host Family {09/24/18} NSLI-Y AY


I woke up this morning bright and early— if you can even call it that since I was up before the sun. I woke up at 5 am to leave for my host family’s relatives’ house at 6 am.

My host family decided it would be best to drop me off at the house of my host grandmother {mom’s side} for a few hours while the family visited the dad’s relatives. I didn’t really understand the explanation on why I wasn’t going but I think it was mostly because I wouldn’t understand all of them? My host mom said I could I could watch my host grandmother prepare and perform 차례 {ancestral rites} and then sleep a bit more as they have an empty room.

They dropped me off at 7 am and I was quite awkward with my host grandmother at first. She gave me some 식혜 {traditional Korean rice drink} while she finished cooking some of the food being offered to the ancestors. I also helped! She took out these round dishes and I plated them with a variety of things: 대추 (Jujube), 약과 (fried pastry), 성편 (filled rice cake), and other things I didn’t know the name of…

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식혜: traditional Korean sweet rice beverage

I watched as my host grandmother, host grandfather, and host uncle {I believe? He didn’t talk much. Stayed in his room mostly} bowed as they performed 차례.

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Afterward, I also helped clean up by putting the food back in their original bags and wiping down any of the wet dishes.

I ate breakfast with my host grandfather and grandmother. We ate 갈비탕 (short rib soup) and lots of 반찬 (side dishes) like 오이 김치 (cucumber kimchi), 전 {소고기, 김치, etc} (Korean style fried pancakes– beef, kimchi, etc), 생선 (fish). And to my surprise, I could actually hold a conversation with them despite my lack of Korean skills. They did not even use English at all! They asked me lots of questions about my life in America and why I wanted to come to Korea. My host grandmother also asked me what my favorite Korean food was. This is always a hard question to answer but I went with 잡채, a forever favorite. She told me that she would teach me how to make it later and I wanted to cry at how sweet that sentiment was. I also got to try 송편 finally! Ever since I learned about it in class (and did more research when creating my 추석 project, I have been yearning to try it! I had a yellow one and it had 팥 (red bean) inside. Very delicious!

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Rice cakes filled with a variety of fillings: red bean, sesame, chestnut, etc.

After breakfast, my host grandmother made me a place to crash in the empty storage room and I slept there for about 2 hours. I woke up to see my host grandmother preparing what seemed like 잡채. There was a large bowl on the floor with mixed vegetables inside. My host grandmother then poured see-through glass noodles into the bowl. It was around 11:30 am now and while she was cooking, my host family arrived. My host sisters, host mother, and I sat on the kitchen floor while my host grandmother mixed the 잡채 together. We used our hands to grab some noodles and veggies to eat. My host grandmother then grabbed a handful and fed it to my eldest host sister. The next thing that happened, which also took me by surprise, was that she did the very same thing to me! She grabbed a handful and told me to tilt my head back as she dropped the noodles into my mouth. At this moment, I felt so very grateful to this family for treating me like on their own (as best as they possibly can). I was so happy to be welcomed with open arms (or should I say with mouthfuls of noodles– and lots of other foods). But also at this moment, I felt a slight feeling of sadness. All I could think about was my mother and how much I missed her– her hugs, her comfort, her cooking, her presence, etc.

Shortly after my host family arrived, we sat down in the living room and ate a big lunch. My host dad taught me a fancy word to use for this meal: 진수성찬 (translates to a sumptuous feast). After dinner, all the kids now had tons of energy and we needed to burn it off somehow so we took a little walk! (But beforehand, we stopped at a shop near the apartment complex to pick up snacks. I just got the same chocolate bar my host sisters were getting.) While getting to the store, my eldest host sister and I missed the elevator. The others would not wait for us! Instead of waiting for it to go down and back up 20 something floors, we decided to run down the stairs. Wow, was I dizzy afterward. And then, as we walked to the store, my host sister and I walked with our arms hooked and we skipped a bit. This may sound silly, but it truly made me feel like a big sister~

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Our 추석 feast!

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The said chocolate bar– it tasted like a Crunch Bar

I know that I was in 서울, but to be honest I do not know where. But near where my host grandparents lived, there was a large river park. Along the river, there were walking and bicycle paths, basketball courts, and lots of open spaces. Across the river, there were stones so that you could walk across them. The weather was not too cold or too hot and the wind blowing off the water felt so good. I could have stayed there for hours.

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On our way back, we also took some time to play on the exercise machines. This park area had a bigger variety in comparison to the ones close to my host family’s home. It was entertaining to try out all the new structures. (And it was even funnier to watch my host brother be tilted to upside down. He was having a blast, though.)

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Upon returning back to the apartment, my host grandmother was already preparing bowls of 시계 for everyone. I sat at the kitchen table with my host mother and host grandmother and enjoyed the cooling effects of the sweet 시계 and some more 송편. We talked some more which was fun (and good practice for me).

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For dinner, we had 김치찌개 (kimchi stew), 잔치국수 (party noodles) and all the 반찬 (side dishes) from the previous meals. It was all very delicious. We all ate in the living room once again on the foldable table. And this time, my host uncle (possibly?) joined us, too. I do not know how every dish was able to fit on the table; it will forever be a mystery to me.

After dinner, we relaxed some more: watched tv, read books, studied a bit. When it was time to go, we all took a quick look outside to see the full moon from the balcony. It is part of a 추석 tradition to make a wish on the full moon (and I knew this from my Korean class!) I made a wish with my youngest host sister, and then we began the hour drive back home.

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Cannot tell you my wish or it will not come true!~

That is all for this blog post! This day was a really special day to me and I really hoped that it has helped me move along the relationship I have with my host family. Additionally, in my NSLI-Y essays, I wrote about getting to experience more of Korean culture and society, like through their holidays. I could not have asked for a better day. I am so thankful. Also, this is my 100th blog post! I cannot believe I have written that many… I wonder how many words that comes out to be?

오늘 저는 제 호스트 가족들이랑 추석 잘 보내니까 너무 감사했어요~

  • Emma 엠마

Bike Riding, Badminton, & Ice Cream with my Host Family {09/23/18} NSLI-Y AY


Today was my youngest host sister’s birthday. We spent the day one part chilling at home in each other’s company and the other part being outside doing a million different things.

I woke up pretty late and stayed in my room to sort my laundry and message some friends so when I did come out, my eldest host sister and host dad had already eaten. So I ate with my host mother only. We had a nice breakfast of 계란 (egg), 미역국 (seaweed soup), 밥 (rice), and of course lots of 반찬 {side dishes}.

I watched some television with my host sisters and studied a bit of Korean that morning too {I had done none the day before. I’m studying from the book one level below the one I’m using in class. I’m making sure I know all the grammar and vocab in that book to truly allow me to catch up to everyone. I know a lot of it already but there are some new ones. In particular, there are grammar points that I only understand but can’t implement or that I know how to use by naturally picking it up from others but never actually learned the rules behind them.}

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After studying, my youngest host sister asked me if I wanted to ride bikes and I was all for it! I hadn’t ridden a bike in a while and I have missed it! At home back in the states, I would just hop on my bike and ride around the neighborhood for fun, for a little exercise, and to clear my head. I like thinking while riding bikes.

I got dressed and we all {except my host mom} left to go to the park. Now I’m not sure if all Korean bikes were like this but the one I was using had a very low frame? Does that make sense? I don’t know much about bike terms but it was not really like the one I ride back home. (Such a stupid statement by me! Yes, of course, there are different types of bikes! What is my mind?) When we got to the park, I realized that it was just a block away from the subway station I use to get to class! I will definitely have to visit that park again just to stroll around.

First, I just rode around with my host sister for a bit. I then left the area where everyone was staying to bike a longer path. It was so quiet and the trees draped over the path as if they were making a roof. It was pretty, and I really enjoyed the wind albeit it was a bit cold.

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When I came back, my host dad asked me to join the badminton game with my host sister as he had become tired. While we played, we didn’t say much except the occasional “I’m sorry.” We mostly just laughed a lot because we were both not very good {though I will say that badminton is my favorite sport!}

After a couple rounds, I played on the 아줌마 (older lady) exercise machines with my sisters as we watched my host brother catch gross bugs. I know when I was little I caught frogs but bugs?!? It’s cute though~ He gets so excited when he catches one and watching him run around with a net bigger than him is adorable.

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We went out for Chinese food for lunch— or at least Koreanized Chinese food. I ate 짜장면 and my favorite yellow radishes as a side dish! I had yet to see them since I’ve been here. They are my favorite! I also tried 짬뽕 (Spicy Seafood Soup) which was way too spicy for me and I like to consider myself a person that can handle spice. My host mom also made me try this thing that was in the soup. You bit into it and it burst and stuff came out, but you wouldn’t eat the outside. I really don’t know what it was so I will have to do some research to figure out what it was. (Still have no idea what it was… someone enlighten me?)

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After lunch, we stayed at the park a bit more. My eldest host sister wasn’t very good at riding bikes so I took her around the park and made her comfortable riding it! We also played some more badminton. While we were playing, this little old lady came by and sat near us. She would make comments sometimes. Like when she first sat down, she was like “Oh my, your hair is so long!” And later when we kept missing the birdies, she said: “blame the wind!” It was cute~

I also rode my bike near the library with my youngest host sister. During our ride, she asked me lots of questions about Halloween. {She is very interested in it!} I think I want to surprise them by having a Halloween party! I can buy decorations at Daiso and buy lots and lots of candy. We can maybe watch a Halloween movie on Netflix! Maybe I can invite some NSLIY friends too~ I think that would be fun! We will see what happens.

After our tiring day at the park, we went to Baskin Robbins for ice cream. I got to try a flavor only available in Korea! I believe the name was “너는 참 달고나.” It’s an ice cream flavor based on the old Korean candy 달고나. Basically all sugar! But it was very very delicious~~

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At night, we ate dinner at home. We had ribs {with their favorite TGIF barbecue sauce. They were excited to show it to me, and I was surprised to hear that’s popular here. Though, I don’t particularly like barbecue sauce.} For my host sister’s birthday party, my host mom made these sausage rice cake skewer type things and they are the best!

I studied a bit at night with the 이화 textbook and watched a Korean drama with my host sisters called 어느 와이프. We then celebrated my host sister’s birthday with a vanilla roll cake. We put one candle in it and sang her happy birthday again~

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I played with my host sisters for a bit. We played this fun game where we would lie on the ground and play catch but we couldn’t really see the ball until it was right in front of our faces. It was quite thrilling.

We all ended up going to bed early cause we had to wake up before 6 am to visit relatives for 추석 (Korean Holiday)

Stay tuned for a 추석 post! And I hope you liked this one~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

Celebrating My Host Sisters Birthday with a Party! (09/22/18) NSLI-Y AY


I slept in this morning; it was so nice~ I woke up at around 9 am and then I left my room at about 9:15 am. The morning was hectic as everyone was running around to get ready for the birthday party starting at noon. My host mom was cooking while my host dad was cleaning the living room. I even helped out too by going with my eldest host sister to pick up the cake and buy some fruit for the party.

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We went to Tours Les Jours Bakery and picked up a chocolate golden cake and then to a fresh fruit stand right outside with fruits nicely packaged for 추석 presents. We decided to go with tangerines.

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Birthday Cake!!!~

At home, we continued setting up. I stopped for a bit to FaceTime my friend. She’s currently thriving at Notre Dame and so we talked about that and some issues and worries she’s been having. I also ranted about Korean class and shared my excitement for all that is to come.

The party started a little after 12 once the two guests arrived. We set up a table in the living room with cake, snacks, sausage & rice cake skewers, ribs, and lots of fruit.

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Once everyone ate, my host dad began some games he prepared earlier that evening. First, we played a version of Bingo. My host dad would say a topic {like countries} and then we had to fill in our card with our answers. I, obviously, could NOT fill out an entire sheet with country names so I ran into my room because there is a Korean globe in there. It saved me!

Then we all went around in a circle and said one country name from our sheet at a time and crossed them out as we went. The first person with three bingos was declared the winner. Hilariously enough, the birthday girl won each game!

After that game, we played something that I would describe it as a mix of telephone and charades. We all had to line up and face the opposite direction. My host dad showed the first person a random word and they had to come up with a gesture {no sounds allowed} to get the next person in the line to guess what the word represents. Everyone has to copy the gesture as they go down the line. Then, the last person has to say the word. I did pretty well actually! Even when I had to guess the word! I used Korean for all my answers besides one!

The last game was kind of like the board game Taboo. My host dad prepared a list of words and we had to try to get everyone else to guess the word without using the word. This game was a lot of fun cause it really tested my Korean abilities!

For example, my first word was 핸드폰 {cellphone}

So I said “메시지를 보내고 싶을 때 뭐 사용해요?” {When you want to send a message, what do you use?}

After games, I had to relax for a bit since I was so tired. I ended up falling asleep for like 20 minutes {power nap!!}

For dinner, we ate some fried chicken and seaweed soup. {My host mom told me that seaweed soup is usually eaten during birthdays. I told her that I learned, in class, that you shouldn’t eat seaweed soup before taking a test. It’s a Korean superstition that says you will not do well on the test since the soup is so slippery.}

I watched Parent Trap with my host sisters for a bit before I went to bed. I put on Korean subtitles for them, but it was also interesting to see how they were different from what was actually said.

And that was my Saturday with my host family~ I will be spending a lot of time with them for the next couple of days since it’s the 추석 holidays. I’m even going with them to visit relatives. I’m grateful that I can be a part of that~ I’m very lucky to have been placed with my host family~ They are the best!

  • Emma 엠마

Last Day of Intensive Korean Classes & Bonding with My Host Sisters {9/21/18}


For this past week, we have been having intensive Korean class from 2pm to 6pm every single day. Today was our last 4 hour class of the week. It seemed like this day would never come!

The classes were exactly like the summer program, four hour daily classes; however, they did feel a lot different. During my summer program I definitely was at the bottom of the class and had to do catch up during the first two weeks, but this time I am wayyy at the bottom. I lack so much knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Also, playing catch up at this level—with such difficult vocabulary— is hard to accomplish. Additionally, the timing of the class, to me, makes it harder. Once Korean class is over, it starts getting dark and we have to hurry home for dinner. But I am not trying to only complain! I am wholeheartedly grateful to these classes, and I have already seen a small improvement– though my confidence needs some work.

From now on, I will only be having Korean class every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. On those days, I will be leaving my host high school after lunch time (still am not quite sure when that will be) to take the subway and head to class by 2 pm. On Mondays and Tuesdays classes end at 5 pm while classes on Thursday will end at 6 pm. (This will make sure that we have 10 hours of Korean class every single week during the duration of the program. Though, I do believe we get a week off during winter break.)

This Friday morning was mostly spent studying. I had finished my 추석 presentation and my workbook pages the night prior, but I had to practice the grammar points for a quiz, study all the vocab I had made a Quizlet for, and memorize my presentation. This was the plan; however, it was quite a difficult thing to do because my host siblings would not leave me alone. We have gotten a lot closer and now they are not shy enough to stay out of my room when I go in– they happily follow me and sit next to me while I study, hovering over me. I find this really cute at times– especially when they draw cute things on the paper and decorate for me. However, sometimes I need just peace and quiet and privacy to study at the best of my abilities. I did get everything done, though. I finished memorizing my presentation on the subway by quietly whispering to myself! Hopefully, no one heard me 😛

During class, we took our quiz and I did worse than what I would have hoped for. I spelled one word wrong, used the wrong verb, and then I failed to utilize a grammar point correctly… so look at me failing at Korean….

I gave my 추석 presentation first (so I would not have to try and follow up Jacquelyn’s or Josh’s presentation– which was probably my best decision that day because Josh’s went into depth about the history of 추석 and Jacquelyn discussed gender discrimination stemming from 추석 traditions {or so I believe because like I said my Korean is not good!!}) What did I talk about? The basics of 추석: what foods are eaten, what games they play, and other traditions. Yeah… mine was definitely child’s play in comparison to theirs….

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One of my presentation slides

After class, I was beat. Staying up till 1:30 am made it hard to not nod off in class and I just wanted to get home right away! Luckily, a lot of people had left 서울 already to visit hometowns, so the subway was not too crowded. I took the line up to my host family’s home and I was not packed like a sardine during the duration of my commute~

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We also started prepping for my host sister’s birthday party~

For dinner, I ate with the entire family. We had fish, 김치찌개 (Kimchi Stew), and other side dishes. I ate 멸치 (Anchovy) for the first time ever, too. At first, I did not know what it was (yes… I missed the eyes) but I did really like it. When I found out what it was, I was shocked!! I continued to eat it though because I am not the type of person that gets grossed out by something after knowing what it is. It was good before I knew and it is still good now. Probably one of my favorite side dishes (after squid and cucumber kimchi)

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I studied Korean a bit last night so I would not have to spend much more time doing that later. I made a quizlet with the words from my textbook and the ones I did not understand during class and then I got a head start on the textbook vocabulary for the next class by making a quizlet for that too. While I was studying, my host sisters were hanging out with me in my room. The youngest of the two began using my pens to draw me. It was adorable! I took a break from studying to draw her too. My eldest host sister felt left out and wanted me to draw her, so I did. She drew me too! Now their two drawings decorate my room~ Makes it more personal!


We played around with Snow and Snapchat filters too!~

I went to bed early that night because I was so tired~ I fell asleep listening to some Youtube videos.

Thank you for reading this post~ Subscribe to my blog if you want to receive alerts when I upload a new post. I am doing daily posts as of now but I have a feeling that will shortly turn into posts that encompass several days as I have less and less time to write. We will see… I also feel like these may be super boring to most people probably? Since in most of them, I am not doing too many exciting things like I did during the NSLI-Y summer program. But, I mean, that is real life on an AY program~

  • Emma 엠마

Last Orientation, Korean Fried Chicken, and a Night Out in Hongdae {09/20/18}


On Thursday, I woke up a little bit before 7 to get ready for the day. We would be having our last Better World Orientation at their office around 9:45 in the morning. This meant waking up earlier to be able to take a shower and get there on time.

I ate breakfast with my host sisters and we both left the house at the same time— them for school and me to talk about culture, communication, and “How my week is going.” For breakfast that morning, we had chicken soup, rice, and more side dishes including 돈까스 {fried pork cutlet}, 오징어 {squid}, 김치 (Kimchi) and 오이김치 {cucumber kimchi}.

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Breakfast! (Already started eating before snapping the picture, sorry!)

When I got to 홍대 station, Liam was waiting there for someone to walk with him, so we ended up walking to the office together. We talked about Korean class and other awkward small talk topics.

We were like the 3rd and 4th NSLIYian to arrive so we had to sit and chat for a while. 9:45 came around and someone was missing… Josh!

민정쌤 told us that in Korean {friend} culture, when someone shows up to a plan late, the other people in the group often clap when they arrive and force them to do a punishment. We decided on dancing or singing along to a song!

When Josh walked in, we all stood up and clapped while he huffed and puffed from what I presume was him being out of breath because of running to the office.

He went to the front, onto the stage, and 민정쌤 played a Black Pink song. Josh starts dancing but it looks more like Jazzercise. It seems like he was doing jumping jacks and getting his steps in for the day! Everyone had their phone pulled out, Snapchat open, to write this moment down in history.

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Our orientation consisted of talking about how different Koreans and Americans communicate. We learned about the term high and low context cultures. High context cultures depend a lot on already established context like things done, none verbal communication like facial expressions and gestures. This can cause someone to often beat around the bush and come off to be passive aggressive.

On the other hand, low context cultures say everything directly with verbal communication. These people are usually very blunt and can come off as rude. They may not be able to pick up on hidden context.

We established that Korea {as are most Asian countries} is a country that follows high context culture, while Americans {often} follow low context culture.

After that lesson, we went on to look at some host school case studies—commonly had problems— and how to solve them. They revolve around feeling lonely in class, getting yelled at for doing Korean homework, and such.

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We were supposed to have a cultural activity on Saturday together, but the rain made Better World Reschedule. They decided to show this to us through pictures on their slide show! XD

Once that was over, we were free for lunch! Better World wouldn’t be taking us out for lunch but this day was covered by the lunch stipend we received last week.

I sat by Kaitlyn during the orientation and kept telling her that I was craving fried chicken, in particular… Kyochon Fried Chicken. I told her that we should eat lunch together. At the end of the orientation, everyone was asking where others were going for lunch and Kaitlyn just said, “Emma wants Chicken.” And then it was decided. We would ALL {yup, all 16 of us} eat fried chicken. I kind of remember where the building was {but I was not gonna trust my two-year-old, rusty memory map}, so I used Kakao maps to guide our way.

It was farther than I remembered and I soon found out why; they had changed location. Everyone was complaining about being hungry or “lost” but I was like just wait, guys! I know what I am doing~

Eventually, we made it! 5 minutes till opening which was perfect because the whole restaurant was empty. We were able to sit all 16 of us at three tables in the back on the second floor.

I sat with Kaitlyn, Katie, Liam, Jacquelyn, and McKenzie. We ended up getting an order of the red original chicken {spicy} and the honey original chicken {my favorite}. It was delicious! Even more than what I remembered {probably cause I was so hungry}. I ate so much and was totally stuffed after.

After we finished eating, Katie and I tried to exchange money at the bank (Keyword: TRIED). We walked into a 신한은행 {Shinhan Bank} but realized we had no idea how to say anything relating to exchanging money in Korean. With no source of WiFi, we left real quick.

{Luckily, I learned the word to exchange in class today! I am currently writing this on the subway on my way home from class. 환전하다 means to exchange (money)}

I think Katie and I will try our luck again next week Thursday or Friday {After the 추석 holidays are over}. These two days are the last weekdays before high school starts so we will have to wait for the weekend if we don’t get it done then!

Class today wasn’t terribly bad. Yes, there were moments where I was completely lost. Yes, I filled three pages of my notebook with words I didn’t know. However, I talked more than I usually do! I gave extra information in my example sentences just for the heck of it! And, I tried my best to add to the conversation as much as possible.

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The Better World Staff gifted us some traditional Korean candy and snacks they received as 추석 presents. Here is Josh trying to eat one of them! 

After class, I decided to get dinner with some of the NSLI-Y students. It was the first time I wasn’t having dinner with my host family since the start of the program, but I texted my host mom during lunch to let her know. Jacquelyn really wanted 짜장면 (Black Bean Noodles), so she found a highly recommended place and we TRIED finding it. She pulled it up on Naver Maps, but it was still a lost cause– we trekked all over and could not find it. We then gave up and sat down at a Meat restaurant but left as soon as we sat down. We found out that each person had to order a serving of meat but a lot of people were not feeling too hungry or up for meat. We kept walking and decided to just grab some dinner at a convenience store. Honestly, I was happy; I was kind of craving 김밥 lately. We got our food and sat outside along the walkway, eating our dinner and chatting. It was actually really nice~

After eating Hunter, Harmony, June, and Alix left cause their commutes were pretty far. That left Kaitlyn, Addie, Jacquelyn, and me to hunt for some dessert. We all wanted 빙수 (Korean shaved ice dessert) originally but the place we tried first only had personal bowls— no sharing permitted. Then, the second place we went to… their story was their machine was broken! After that, our 빙수 dreams were shattered. We kept on walking, trying to get our sweet tooth craving in, and eventually discovered a tiramisu place. I wasn’t feeling cake, and I don’t think I like Tiramisu very much, so I didn’t get anything. But the cafe was really cute inside and the cakes were not on plates but in cups, instead! It was quite unique! Jacquelyn got the original flavor while Addie got earl gray. I definitely would have eaten one but I didn’t want to spend $6 on it. #savingthatstipend

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Me, Jacquelyn, Addie, and Kaitlyn!

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The fun part of my night ended like that, the rest was spent agonizing over workbook sheets, my presentation on 추석, and studying for a grammar quiz.

I went to bed at 1:30 am that night working on my presentation. I broke out my American snacks for the late night study session. I’ll have to ask my mom to send more!

Thanks for reading! Follow my blog for more like this~

  • Emma 엠마


Korean High School Orientation {09/19/18} NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year


Today was the day! The day that I would be visiting my host high school—하나고— for the first time! I was so nervous but really excited to see where I would be spending so much time during the next 8 months.

I woke up early and had lunch with my host sisters before they went to school and even got in some studying time before I started getting ready for the day.

Katie and I were told to meet 민정쌤 at the subway station 구파발 at 9:50. I left my house a little before 9:20 and got to the station at 9:45. 민정쌤 greeted us and immediately asked us what was the matter— our faces most likely showed straight up fear.

After a mishap with where to wait to board the bus, we made it to 하나고 in 20 minutes. While the bus approached the school, you could see the giant mountains in the distance. When our stop came, I hurriedly got off and took in the view. Wow, the school was huge! Way bigger than my high school! It looked like a college almost— just with no surrounding campus. But there is a traditional hanok museum on the other side of the street. Katie and I will have to visit it one of these days~ Maybe on the last Wednesday of the month (Culture day! Entrances to palaces and museums are usually free!)

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As I walked up the steps to the main entrance of the school, my excitement somewhat disappeared and all I could think about was how nervous I was: would the students like me? Would I find the classes too hard? Would my Korean be good enough to communicate and not be a burden to everyone around me?!?! Dramatic? Maybe… the real question is are these questions realistic?…

First part of the orientation was meeting our coordinating teacher 민정쌤 {yup same name as our RD!} and the second coordinating teacher 민주쌤. With them, we got to figure out what classes we were interested in as well as what years we would be placed in {we did rock, paper, scissors to decide this; however, Katie won so I’ll be with the first years.}

I told them the type of classes I would really like to take: history, ethics, psychology, etc. 민정쌤 said she would take them into consideration and send us our schedules later. I also got talked into talking AP Stats… looking back, I really regret that decision. I hope it won’t be that bad? I did get a 5 on the test back in May but… I forget things easily and the class will be in Korean too! Sigh

Then, we sat in a large meeting room with the principal and vice principal of the school. I was so nervous at this point. They were all asking us questions in Korean and some of it was hard to understand to be honest. The vice principal actually went to UChicago, so his English was amazing !!

After that awkward conversation ended {just kidding… it was nice to see the school supporting us!!}, we dropped off our bags in the teachers’ lounge where we watched all the teachers in there look at us in a strange way. Katie and I kept bowing and saying hello as we walked through the entire room. We then took a tour of the school. We got to see the cafeteria, the school library, and the 7-Eleven they have on the first floor. {There is a 하나은행 (Hana Bank) ATM too, fitting since the school was founded by them.} The school has a rule that students aren’t allowed to bring in any outside snacks or drinks— they must buy everything from their in-school convenience store. I find this kind of extreme but obviously, I will respect their rules. Our coordinating teacher let us know that the students may ask us to bring them coffee or cake from outside and that we must say no.

She somewhat explained how all the room numbers worked, but I know I will probably still get pretty lost on the first day. Hopefully, the students can help me? Katie and I will be meeting the coordinating teacher 10 min before school starts on our first day of school so she can help us, at least, get to our first class. This is really considerate of her!

The thing that Katie and I were the most excited for about school orientation was the chance to get our school uniforms finally! We all took a taxi to get to the uniform store. {My first one since being in Korea! The only other time I rode a Korean taxi was after my summer program graduation ceremony~}

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We walk up the narrow staircase to be greeted by large cutouts of the BTS idols wearing uniforms. At first, I thought, “Aren’t they too old to be wearing uniforms?” And then I thought back to the fact that Katie and I are both 18, high school graduates, and will be turning 19 in two months… you do you BTS, get that coin!

The uniform store consisted of shelves and shelves of different collared shirts, skirts, pants, blazers, etc. The lady behind the counter simply looked us and picked out some sizes from the back wall. Katie and I tried them on in the dressing rooms to make sure they fit, and from there, we were basically on our way.

Our uniform is honestly really cute! At first, I had some reservations. I still don’t appreciate the shape of the skirt (realized on the first day of school that we had to cut the tags off of the skirt in order for it to be pleated! I like it better now~) I am extremely excited to wear it to school! Our uniform is made up of a striped collared shirt, a navy blue vest, a plaid skirt, and a gray blazer. We were also given a plaid bow and tie to wear with our uniform {We were only supposed to get one {either bow or tie} but the lady was quite kind and gave us each both.

Lastly, we got 생활복 which it seems (out of the NSLI-Y partnered schools), is unique to 하나고. 생활복 roughly translated to life outfit? I’m pulling at straws here but that is basically it’s “direct meaning.” It’s an outfit that 하나고 students wear on Thursdays and Fridays and consists of a sweatshirt {more like a noodie?} and a pair of navy blue jogger pants. It was so comfy!!! I can’t wait to wear it!

One our uniform mission was complete, we were off to eat lunch with 민정쌤. She told Katie and me to pick a food that we think is too expensive for us to buy and eat at normally. We just said “고기!” {Meat!”}

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Our lovely 민정쌤 ❤ ❤ ❤

We ended up eating 찜딹 near 홍대역 {Hongdae Station} which I had never had before this day! It was soooo delicious! I definitely remember this spot to come back again. During lunch Katie, 민정쌤, and I just talked about the orientation, any questions or worries we had, and we even got to practice our Korean a bit~

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찜닭 (Korean style braised chicken with veggies and potatoes)

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Katie and I left lunch somewhat early to start heading back to Korean class. Thanks to my habit of being very observing of my surroundings, I was able to redirect us back by following prominent buildings I remembered seeing on the way there.

Class was a struggle as usual. I found myself understanding some difficult topics and being proud of it but then it seems that immediately after I backtrack by being unable to answer a simple question. My comprehension abilities have definitely surpassed my speaking skills.

At home that night I had a delicious meal with my host family. While I was eating, I told my host mom that in class today I learned about 돌잔치 {Baby’s first birthday} and how babies pick something from an array of objects {돌잡이}. This led us to have a conversation about what my siblings picked. She pulled out these two scrapbooks and showed me all the cute photoshoot shots of my host siblings dressed up in a formal dress and 한복 (Korean traditional dress). The rest of the night was spent (you guessed it) studying. I made a new quizlet with another 80 something words I did not know and reviewed the grammar points we learned that day. We were having our first quiz the following day, so I had to do a lot of studying.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ While editing these posts and adding photos before posting them, I started wondering how I was going to continue this style of writing (one post per day) once I get a routine– when things start getting normal? (Is that the right wording?) I have decided that I will try to do a post per day (like an average journal entry of sorts) but when those days come when I do not have much to say or many pictures to show, I will combine some days. Maybe do a weekly post? We will see!

  • Emma 엠미


The second Day of Korean Classes: Anxious, Stressed, yet Hopeful {9/18/18} NSLI-Y AY


This morning, I was left alone for about three hours in the apartment as my host dad left for the library, my host sisters went to school, and my host mom and host brother left to complete their daily routine. I really enjoyed this time, however. I finally had some personal, private time. Something I’ve been lacking since I got off the plane in New York.

I got ready for class and even got the chance to video call my mom. I updated her on how I was doing and what was planned ahead. I cleaned my room a bit and studied vocab I learned yesterday.

My host dad came back home around 12. We had curry together for lunch. It was awkward at first but then we began to make conversation. As the meal continued, I started feeling more comfortable as well so I just started telling him about my first day of Korean class the previous night. He told me he was studying to get a certificate for his job, so he is on a break from work this week. He said this all in Korean… and I understood! But, I wouldn’t be able to relay this information back to you. Though I did learn the word for certification during this chat: 자격증

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Me feeling emo before class started

Immediately after lunch I left for school and got to the station with the perfect amount of time to walk to the Better World Office and have time for speaking with 민정쌤 beforehand; however, 민정쌤 hadn’t arrived at the offices yet. She was still in 인천 with the girls attending 문일. I got the WiFi of the office from 솔지쌤 and realized that 민정쌤 messaged me. We would talk after the first hour of class— during break time.

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Waiting for everyone in our makeshift classroom

The first hour of class actually went really well. I was feeling slightly more confident and began to ask questions and speak more in class. I even answered the teacher’s questions with words we learned yesterday to show her that I knew what I was doing, that I studied hard to prove to her that I could be in her class.

During break time, 민정쌤 pulled me away to her desk and we talked about my place in the class. I told her that the grammar wasn’t what was giving me trouble… it was the vocabulary, the conversations we would have in class. Josh and Jacquelyn knew soooo much more than me that I could hear multiple sentences and not understand. And I couldn’t have her explain… I didn’t want to keep them back from learning new things if I kept struggling with what we were being taught. 민정쌤 reassured me by saying that I shouldn’t worry. If grammar was what was difficult, I may have to rethink my place; however, vocab is something you can catch up on and study very hard to memorize. She told me that our 선생님 talked to her after the first day and told her that I belonged in her class and that I would stay there till the end of the program. Hearing that made me feel really good. I kept thinking that every mistake I was making was causing the teacher to regret placing me in this class. Though the class was making me feel very frustrated, I did want to stay in it. I knew that it would help me learn quickly, and that was exactly what I wanted. If I moved to the class below me, I wouldn’t be learning too much new grammar. There would also be no one to push me to do my best— because I might have been the best? {I promise I don’t mean to brag.}

After the talk, the class went by pretty quickly. I had the expected moments of not understanding and just nodding along but this time, when those moments occurred, I made sure to remind myself that I am still learning— it’s okay to not understand everything. If I did, I wouldn’t be improving!


After class, I went straight home. Our homework consisted of workbook pages, and writing a paragraph on our 이상형 {ideal type}, and studying for our quiz the following day. I wanted to show the teacher I could keep myself above the water. Maybe not more than half of my face but still, I wasn’t submerged— that was the goal.

My host sisters helped me with studying again. While doing workbook pages, I would circle my answer and they would shake their head in agreement or disagreement. It was nice to have a living, breathing answer key but it also made me very self-conscious about my mistakes. I liked that they were so invested in my learning, though.

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열공 (Studying Hard)

And tonight, I got to return the favor, I helped my eldest host sister with her English writing. She has an assignment to write about an animal family; she chose rabbits. I helped her come up with the contents of her essay by asking her simple questions and allowed her to phrase the sentences herself. Then, I checked for spelling or grammar mistakes.

I went to bed pretty late. I stayed up making Quizlets to do in the morning. I also had a lot of nerves for school orientation the next day. But that was my day, I’m assuming this is what my daily routine will be like for a while. It’s very different than the summer. I was constantly busy then— always having plans, always going out. This is different… but in a good way.

That’s all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thank you

  • Emma 엠마

First Day of Korean Classes! {09/17/18} NSLI-Y Korea AY


I think I wrote in an earlier post that my NSLI-Y program could be described by all the nervous emotion I have been feeling. Yup, that consensus still stands. This morning I was so worried about how the first day of classes would be… and more nervous about where I would be placed.

In the morning I woke up early to have breakfast with my host sisters before they headed off to school. We had 콩나물국 (bean sprout soup), 밥 (rice), and assorted side dishes that even consisted of 오징어 (squid). I even did my eldest host sisters hair! I braided a small piece near her face~ She seemed to really like it!

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Lunch: Large Croissant (Not pictured: hard boiled egg & apple)

I didn’t have to meet up with the other NSLI-Yians and our RD until 1:20 pm so my morning was pretty chill. I got to take my time getting ready and rest a bit before a period of constant studying would begin. I did leave my house somewhat early to meet up with Katie in 홍대. We planned to visit Daiso together and buy some essentials and things for our room.

I wanted to make my room homier, so I bought a little standing bin for my notebooks and folders, a mirror, and a toothbrush holder for the bathroom. I know… very small things. But those type of things make me happy— they make me more comfortable. And if I’m gonna be living in this room for the next however many months, that’s really important to me.

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My Messy Desk (Also peep my knees in the mirror Hah!)

Also, the pictures below are of me happily freaking out that my host sister sent me a cute message for my first day of Korean classes. I tried really hard to take a photo but the outside lighting and the phones low brightness were not helping me.


After our Daiso trip {we also ran into Jenna and Harmony there}, Katie and I hopped over to the 편의점 {convenience store} to get drinks. I bought three water bottles {gotta love 2+1 deals} while Katie bought some lychee drink— it was very sweet, like candy. Liam and McKenzie joined us for a bit and we chatted outside sitting in the plastic tables out front. Eventually, 1:20 pm came around and 민정쌤 came to take us to the Better World Office.

We were back in the same room that held orientation last week. And when we walked in, there were lots of textbooks, workbooks, and cute Kakao Friends themed notebooks to greet us. Seeing the different books freaked me out even more; this was actually happening.

And I sorta saw it coming. But my concerns were still there whether I predicted the outcome or not: I was placed in 삼반 {third class} or the 상급반 {advanced/highest class}. My two other classmates were Jacquelyn {A goddess at Korean. She’s done NSLI-Y Summer, 4 years at a language camp, and is half Korean} and Josh {Did NSLI-Y last summer and studied with a tutor all this year}. And then there’s little ole incompetent me. I did NSLI-Y two years ago and haven’t really consistently self-studied since then. I’m a mess.

The moment 주연쌤 handed me the green colored textbook {indicating the advanced class}, I wanted to cry. I knew I didn’t belong in that class and that it would be very difficult for me… so much so that I knew I would make a fool of myself. I immediately considered going down a level. I thought that would be best. I was the only one on the program that got the same OPI level as me but I assumed the intermediate class would probably fit me better than this one. But then I wondered if that were the case, wouldn’t they have placed me there?

Our Korean class teachers came to the room to introduce themselves and present how Korean class was gonna work, the rules, grading, etc. And then they whisked us a way to spend the next 4 hours studying Korean. The advanced class wouldn’t be taking place at the center like the other two. Instead, we walked with our teacher to the Better World Office where we would be conducting the class. And the walk was quite painful—at least for me. So awkward. I just tried to hold back tears the entire time.

Class started and the teacher made us introduce ourselves. Josh did a wonderful job explaining all the details about his family and Korean studies. I listened in awe. Then it was my turn. The room fell silent. I was so nervous that I couldn’t help stuttering. My intro was so short and consisted of so many simple sentences. I felt so incompetent afterward and I had to fight away the tears. I probably looked miserable. Jacquelyn went and blew everyone away with how fluent she sounded. And at that moment, she sealed what for me was the obvious sign that I didn’t belong in that class.

The four hours seemed to fly by and yet seem like years at the same time. The grammar we learned were things I had already known {either studied at 숙명 or retrieved naturally through constant exposure. However, the conversations in class were way over my head. I had so much trouble grasping the meaning of what was said constantly. I shook my head in confirmation but then would scribble every single word I didn’t know in my notebook. I’m going to admit; it was not an enjoyable experience. I always thought learning Korean was fun, but now everything I had known seemed to be on the brink of change.

After class, Jacquelyn, Josh, and I left the room and we were greeted by 민정쌤 and 주연쌤. I knew they could tell I was on the edge of tears because 주연쌤 immediately hugged me and asked if I was alright. I just shook my head in silence and tried to put on a brave face. 민정쌤 smiled at me and told me I was doing a good job but also continually asked if I was alright in those 5 minutes.

Once we got out of that building, my chest felt a bit lighter. I walked back to the station with Jacquelyn and Josh and we had some friendly banter about things totally unrelated to academics.

When I got to the station, I immediately ran to Katie and June who were there waiting for me and gave them giant hugs. And I ranted. I put all my emotions out there. It felt good to do so and then take a deep breath. When I arrived home, my host mom greeted me at the door. I told her that I was placed in the 상급반 {advanced class} and she laughed!!!! She was like you?!?!? Even she found it funny and unbelievable.

For dinner we had curry and just talked about our days. I really enjoyed the rest. After the dinner, I proceeded to take a rest on the couch but my host mom was not having that. She told me to get my notebook and show her all the words I didn’t know. Let me tell you… there was a lot. Three pages worth of example sentences and grammar with words I didn’t know littered between.

I then sat down and rewrote all the words in my notebook and practiced the grammar points. My host sisters hovered over me as I did this. They corrected my mistakes when I misspelled something and helped me pick out the colored pens to use. They even drew little cute characters on each page to cheer me on with phrases like 화이팅!

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The moment I finished rewriting everything, I started getting ready for bed. I wrote a blog post and watched some YouTube videos. I knew I would have time the next morning to finish studying, so I put off making a Quizlet till then. While in bed, I contemplated my spot in the advanced class. I started to think that if I studied really hard at first, I could possibly catch up… I didn’t know if this was wishful thinking or a moment of clear rational thought.


Woah was that deep and personal and really really emotional. I told myself that before I started detailing my days here, that I would try to not write about negative things or make this blog my personal diary. But while writing this, my thoughts and emotions were fresh and it really helped me. {Also I had something to do on the subway beside stare off into the abyss.} I might not post this but if I do, it’s because I want others to know what I went through— what they could possibly go through. An exchange isn’t easy. Learning languages isn’t easy. And although I don’t really know what is gonna come out of this yet, I have faith.

  • Emma 엠마

Chill Sunday With My Korean Host Family {9/16/18} NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year


Today was a very simple, chill day. And though nothing too exciting happened, I really enjoyed the day. I was able to relax and bond more with my host family. I knew craziness would soon ensue because Korean classes would start up the next day, so I appreciated this time I had with them– stress-free.

Breakfast today was 밥 (rice), 미역국 (Seaweed Soup), and several other 반찬 (side dishes). Once we finished that, my host dad and eldest host sister taught me how to play a Korean traditional game called 윷놀이. At first, it was so very confusing. I just did what my host sister told me to do because I had never played anything quite like it before. Eventually, I caught on to the rules, realized some good strategies, and learned the names of everything!

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On the board, certain rolls of the 윷 were represented by animals: 돼지 (pig), 개 (dog), 양 (sheep), 소 (cow), and 말 (horse).

1 윷 facing up was 도

2  윷 facing up was 개

3  윷 facing up was 걸

4  윷 facing up was 윷

5  윷 facing up was 모

Later in the day, my host sisters and I left the apartment to pick up some paper at the stationary store nearby. They wanted to frame the puzzle we did together to put on the wall. I had fun walking and chatting (somewhat) with them and particularly, exploring the surrounding area.

When we got home, I helped my sister use the paper purchased to frame the puzzle. We also spent some time decorating the edges with drawings and gold foil paper. We did not really talk much while decorating but doing something together was really what was important.


Finished Product

Before lunch, we also visited the library to return books and check out a large sum of books. Walking around the kid section was kinda surreal? It was interesting to see all these books in another language– popular stories that I definitely never heard of or saw before. It was interesting to see the types of books Korean kids like to read. Also, I saw the Magic Tree House chapter books in Korean! I tried reading one… and laughed during the process. But maybe one day! I can check out some books from the series and read them no problem~

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Lunch was 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 순대 (blood sausage), and the best drink ever 쥬시쿨 (peach drink)! I am eating so well here~ Lots of variety! A big grateful thank you to my host mother~ ❤

In the evening, my host dad (with my eldest host sister in tow) showed me how to take the subway from our closest subway station to 홍대역 (the station closest to our language classes). He really helped me out and made me comfortable taking this trip (and he did a good job too, I did not get lost the next day!)

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My host dad gave me all these maps of Seoul! He is too thoughtful~

We finished the night off with reading the new books from the library, eating a dinner of chicken and rice (very similar to my moms cooking… I miss it so much! Even though I loveee Korean food.), and writing some blog posts while my host mom watched a really famous Korean Drama called Mister Sunshine. It is a historical drama I believe. I cannot follow along at all; it goes way over my head!

Thank you for reading this post! Stay tuned for the next one– my first day of Korean classes!!~ Subscribe so you do not miss any posts!

  • Emma 엠마