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!

class 1

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.

class 12

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!

class 6


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

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

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