50 Minutes Late to My Second Day of Korean High School {10/02/18} NSLI-Y AY


This blog post is going to describe my nightmare of a second day of high school which mostly {totally} focuses on my hellish morning due to my commute to school. Let’s begin:

I woke up for school on time and was once again nervous and excited for a new adventure to come out of my second day of high school. I ate the breakfast my host mom prepared and made it to the subway station to catch my train— early. However, when I went down the stairs, I noticed that there was a large group of people just standing around near the middle of the station. They were loudly talking and many were speaking on the phone. There was a man in red with a megaphone type device saying some sort of announcement which I didn’t understand whatsoever, but from the whole situation, I could gather that something was happening and it wasn’t good.

I kept walking to the T-Money turnstiles and noticed that no one was going through them to head down to the tracks— instead, there were three women wearing blue uniforms standing in front of the turnstiles. I asked them if I couldn’t ride the subway. With my limited Korean abilities, I could understand that she said I wouldn’t be able to ride the subway but I couldn’t understand her reasoning for why. I just nodded and pretended to understand.

I ran up the steps of the subway station back above ground and tried to get home as fast as I could. I knew at this rate that I would be late for school. I got back to my host family’s apartment and my host mom was shocked to see me home. She exclaimed, “Why are you back? What’s wrong.” I tried explaining to her about what I saw and what happened but my Korean vocabulary was not that advanced and I didn’t even know what was going on. I had no idea why I couldn’t take the subway to school. My host mom pulled up the way I could get there by bus. This commute involved a 45-minute bus ride which then would transfer onto another bus that would take 15 minutes.

I left the house and immediately called 민정쌤 and explained what was happening. She didn’t seem mad at all which was good seeing that I could not have prevented my situation— it was not like I missed an alarm or something. I made it to the bus stop and while waiting for my bus to arrive, I called 하나고 민정쌤 but she didn’t answer so I sent her a text explaining my situation. I also texted Katie to tell her to go to school without me.

I rode the bus being squished by other people. We were packed into that bus so tightly– like anchovies in a can if you will. Everyone that couldn’t take the subway had now made their way onto the bus as their last resort. Let me just say that that bus ride was probably the most uncomfortable 45 minutes I have ever had to endure. I was cramped, in pain, tired, and so sweaty because it was hot being packed in with all those people {Also I was wearing a thick blazer and a long-sleeved dress shirt so I was so hot.}

하나고 민정쌤 called me on the bus and let me tell you I have skills for being able to get my phone out of my backpack to answer it while being squished to death. It was also so very awkward speaking to her on the bus because it was pretty quiet and I was really the only one talking, and in English at that. I then kept answering her and Katie’s text messages—another demonstration of my skills! One handed texting on a flip phone? Millennials could never?

When my first bus finally arrived, I waited at the same bus stop I got off from because my transfer bus would be arriving there shortly. At first, I was worried that I was going to be taking the bus going in the wrong direction but I decided to test my luck. I got on the bus and waited to see what the second stop would be to indicate whether or not I had made a grave mistake. The next stop happened to be another stop near 구파발역 and I recognized the mall behind the stop from the day 민정쌤 took Katie and me to 하나고. I took the biggest deep breathe being happy that I was almost at school. Though, while I was riding this bus, I got a phone call from an unknown number. I answered it and realized it was a teacher, the teacher in charge of my first-period class. I could not truly understand everything she said but I got that she was asking me to check in at the desk in the library and that the library was on the 7th floor. I assume she thought that I must have been lost in the school, walking around not able to find the library. I awkwardly told her that I was on the bus right now and that I will be arriving at school late. I let her know that I told my coordinating teacher (and homeroom teacher) but apparently she did not tell anyone else. She told me not to worry and that she would see me soon.

The clock struck 8:50 by the time I arrived at school! I was 50 minutes late to school! When I walked into the library, I was sweating so much and my heart was beating so fast, I felt very bad for being late and making the students in my group wait. For my first period class, I did not have a normal class (which honestly was a blessing because I cannot even imagine having to walk into an actual class being late…} Instead I have this mentoring program that states it’s an exchange student “lecture” on my schedule. Basically, from what others have told me, it’s just a time for the students to practice their English with me as we talk about a variety of topics.

I knocked on the door of our private room in the library and opened the door to see 3 guys sitting at a table. I instantly felt bad for them as I realized they had to wait for me before doing anything as I was the whole point of having that class. I came in and apologized but couldn’t really explain my situation coherently so I didn’t… they probably thought I was a giant mess.

I came in and when I sat down, one of them started whispering to his friend in Korean something along the lines of “Oh I’m worried because I can’t speak English well.” And I responded back “It’s Okay.” They were all shocked and were surprised to know that I could understand a bit of Korean. {Me too, though!}

They pulled up a Powerpoint on their computers in order to introduce me to today’s topic which was talking about 하나고 and then Korean & American food.

They also showed me their “group” or “team” name I guess you could call it, which was “We don’t even know.” Very no-nothing party-esque. They also wrote their names on the slide and proceeded to ask me if I could read Korean. I read their names to show them that I could and they seemed to be shocked yet again. And this has happened before! Multiple times! I don’t get why Korean people don’t assume I can read if I’m 1. Clearly studying the language and 2. Able to speak somewhat with them! I don’t know, I just find it interesting.

They showed me more parts of their school that I haven’t really gotten to see like their swanky arts center, the dorm, and the PE Field. I also was given a “test” to see how much of the Korean food on their power point I would know. {And while we were doing this— we were speaking in English}. The guys seemed to be interested in American food and asked me about that but it can be hard to figure what foods are “traditionally American” or the most popular because America is so large and diverse. They seemed to really like the idea of Steak and Potatoes. I feel that they were kind of disappointed when I said I didn’t really eat steak because it’s kind of expensive. They also asked about Shake Shack Burgers {I think?} And I was straight up with them telling them that I also had never eaten it before! {Am I a bad American?}

I talked to them about traditional American desserts like Apple & Pumpkin Pie and funnel cake while also mentioning other meals like hot dogs, Chicago style pizza, biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinner, etc.

Our time together was pretty short {because I was so late}, but it was still a very fun time. I think I can look forward to the days that I meet with them. We also took a selfie to commentate our first meeting.

sec day 5

After my mentoring class, I had the Korean language which I already didn’t have high expectations for. 호영 from the mentoring group told me that it’s very difficult Korean and that most kids sleep in that class. I already can’t speak Korean and if you are going to throw in 16th century Korean and 한자 (language borrowed from Chinese) to the mix then… I can’t even finish this sentence.

The class was pretty silent the whole time besides the infrequent jokes told by the teacher to the class {jokes that I never understood might I add}. The class material was tough so I couldn’t understand anything and so it was pretty difficult trying not to fall asleep. Also, because the class was so quiet and there wasn’t any collaboration, I failed to make any friends in that class… so I felt extremely lonely. After the disaster that was my 국어 class, I headed off to a brighter hope in my timetable: AP World History.

I was looking forward to it because history class always seem to be my favorite. {Though I will admit I was also quite nervous because I knew I would be understanding basically 0% of the vocabulary in that class.} I also never got to take AP World at my high school because it was introduced during my junior year while I had already taken regular world history sophomore year.

When I got to class, I found 지은 who was in my English Literature class. I sat next to her and she talked to me so I didn’t feel completely lonely. I also waved to and greeted multiple people in the class that also were in my English Literature class.

Luckily, the notes and PowerPoint the teacher used were in English! Hallelujah! {I assume because it was an AP class; however, the whole class was taught entirely in Korean.} I was able to follow along by highlighting and annotating the English handouts. This class should be fun and manageable.

sec day 1

Also during this class, 지원 went down to the 매점 (school store) to buy a snack during the break and when she returned to class, she brought me back some gummies~ I was so appreciative that she thought of me!

sec day 2

But probably the part of World History that really is the most memorable {and probably forever be} was the fact that my teacher played this Korean independence song? That I believe was from the Japanese occupation of Korea? He pulled up the lyrics and during an in-class break {separate from our ten-minute breaks between periods} and everyone sang it loud and proud! I was able to follow along mostly and I could see why it was so fun. It was like singing in a 노래방 (karaoke room) but in class!

I later looked up the song to show my host mom and I found the lyrics on YouTube. I will link the video here: if you are curious. It is honestly a bop so if you like history or are even mildly interested in Korea, take a listen~

Finally, lunchtime came around. I waited for Katie in our usual spot and realized she was not coming. I checked my Kakao messages to see that her AP Calculus teacher took her class out to a cafe during class and that she was going to be late coming back to lunch. She told me to just go ahead and eat lunch without me which translates to eating lunch alone! I began to freak out because I was too embarrassed to eat lunch by myself or ask to sit with a random group of people by myself. I opted for waiting out lunchtime in the bathroom; however, Katie came as up the stairs right as I was making my way to the bathroom. (Reminds me of a high school movie…) Katie and I got our lunch and sat next to some second years. Though we did not pay attention to how much food they had on their plate, so they left soon after we sat down. And since Katie had come late to lunch, we ended up taking longer to leave the school than the previous day (which meant missing the bus that would have gotten us there at a good time). Our scheduled arrival time at 홍대 station was 1:58 pm… Korean classes start at 2 pm! Katie’s walk to her classes would only be a couple of minutes so she would only be a little late but my 15-minute walk would make me pretty late. I didn’t want to be too late so I even ran the last couple blocks. I scurried into the building, quickly greeted the Better World Staff, and basically died from exhaustion when I sat in my chair. I then attempted to explain today’s predicaments in Korean which proved to be very difficult, but my teacher helped me through it and I learned all the vocabulary I needed to explain everything to my host mom during dinner.

sec day 3

School Lunch!

Dinner consisted of a lot of laughter! My family could not help but laugh at the day I had. But though I was the butt of the joke, I really enjoyed the conversation we had. It was very enjoyable, and it was mostly in Korean! I was very proud of myself for being able to coherently speak Korean for so long. I am so thankful to be so comfortable around my family and that they care to hear about my day~

sec day 4

My host sister correcting my Korean homework~ ❤

Thanks for reading!!! What a day! What a blog post!

  • Emma 엠마

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