Last Supporter Meeting, 미소국수, Research Project Presentation, and Night Out in Hongdae with the Supporters (02/14-02/15/19) NSLI-Y AY

02/14/19 Thursday

Thursday was our very last supporter meeting before our project presentation happening the very next day. We had to have our PowerPoint slides and video done by that afternoon, so as one might guess, it was a very hectic morning at Holly’s Cafe. I stayed up really late the night before editing the video to the point where I could edit no more {because I was lacking in audio recordings from Katie} so I actually had actual coffee at the cafe—yes a surprise. No Green Tea Lattes today, no sir. 

The two hours of the meeting went by really fast as we were busy working the whole time. I was able to finish our video and although it is no professional YouTube quality video, it was good enough for us! We also put the final touches on our presentation and split up the speaking points—timing everything to make sure it was under 10 minutes. 

At the end of the meeting, 혜린언니 surprised Katie and me with little gift bags she prepared. They each included a little pig keychain {she did not know this at the time but my favorite animals are pigs!}, a mirror, and a little handwritten letter. It was the sweetest gesture and at the time I felt extremely guilty for not having anything prepared for her. But Katie and I planned to meet early the following morning to get her a gift! 


We ended up not having the chance to get lunch together because I had to finish writing an essay for Korean class {which ended up not being due then… but the following class period…ugh} and Katie wanted to cram more for her vocab test so we promised each other to grab lunch before the presentation day! 

I have literally no recollection of Korean class today and I ended up going straight home after class too {Oh I just realized… it was Valentine’s Day this day… well, no surprise… no dates for me.} So the rest of the night was just spent having dinner with my host family and studying Korean. I also took a quick run to Artbox {bless it only being a 5-minute walk from my apartment complex} to buy 언니 a letter set. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe before meeting Katie to write everything down. 


02/15/19 Friday

On the subway ride to 홍대, I typed out what I wanted to write to 혜린언니 out on a Google Doc and hastily wrote it all out at Holly’s. Katie and I met up with each other about an hour later and went around buying stuff for her gift. We settled on a blind box of this one naked baby angel toy called Sonny Angel {We chose it because she always is calling us her babies since she is older than us.} as well as a strawberry tart from Blanc bakery because she as always mentioning wanting to try one of their cakes but never got the chance. We didn’t buy a cake cause it looked too sweet for her, but we did think that a fruit tart would please her. 

We met up with 혜린언니 at the subway station and we all walked together to get lunch at this restaurant called 미소 국수 {smile noodles} and I had really good 만둣국수. It was nice to hang out and finally feel relieved—as if a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders—since the project was now officially over. No more due dates! Just showtime during the presentation.


Her reaction to our gift was the cutest!~

Listening to everyone’s presentations was actually really interesting. I was excited to see what they all ended up coming up with as their final work and some of them were so creative in how they delivered the information. For example, Pansori Vs. Kpop group {Hunter, Kaitlyn, and Shannon} had this really nicely edited video with clips of performances, interviews, news shows, etc. Honestly, at first, it seemed to be a real documentary on Korean music: old and new. Also, the group that had plastic surgery {Liam & Harmony} actually had them giving their supporter a fake double eyelid surgery in the video with scrubs, medical masks, and even tools! It was so realistic and I could not stop laughing at Doctor Harmony asking Liam for the scalpel. 


Harmony thought it was hilarious to play with my hair and put it in pigtails!!

I think that my group did such a great job on our presentation! I believe that it was really informative and was able to shed light on a topic that many aren’t really aware regarding Korean society. My edited video could not compare to Hunter’s masterpiece but hey it did the job! And I think everyone liked the images and political cartoons I included from Korean sources. I will admit that adding the English subtitles gave me more work; however, I believe it was worth it! I think that everything was able to hit harder because all the American students were able to understand. 


I won Playdoh for answering a question right and Katie made a pretty rose out of the clay!

After all the presentation were over, the Better World staff members gave out awards for each of the groups. They said that the awards weren’t really serious… that they were funny awards. Well, I will let you decide what you think about the awards: rough patch, book worm, tried their best, etc. My group 독립여성 {Independent ladies} got the award for … beautiful face {아름다운 면상}. I mean I’m flattered they think we are pretty but… this would have been more clever with the plastic surgery group. I don’t know… I thought we would get an award that really related to our topic/effort put in…


Besides awards, we also received our certificates of achievement {for successfully completing the research project} which consisted of us coming on stage and presenting the certificate to one other person in our group and saying a few words {we did it first and said it all in Korean}. We also had time to write out reflections and a few extra things for a booklet that would be made to include all of our presentations. 

Once the final commencement was made, we all went to have dinner together at this chicken place near the Better World office where we ate chicken and 떡볶이. A big group of girls {Katie, 혜린언니, 유빈언니, Harmony, 은하언니, Shannon} and I went to a 노래방 and then got sticker photos done. It was a lot of fun! The place we went to for the karaoke was one of those fancy buildings on the Main Street of 홍대 that you can look into and see all the people dancing and singing sound in the large plush rooms with velvet couches! It was my first time being at anything like that before. 


After saying goodbye to everyone, 혜린언니, Katie, and I headed to the hot chocolate cafe to just chat some more before having to go home to be back in time for curfew. I figured that since I was out for the night {and since I rarely stay out till curfew on weekends}, that I was gonna stay out as long as possible! 

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~~ This was my third to last week of winter break! Oh, how time has just continued to fly on by! I hope you enjoyed this post. Till next time~ 

  • Emma 엠마

After Class Karaoke, Supporter Meeting, & Dinner with Yonsei Students (02/11-13/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/11/19 Monday

I am so utterly behind on blog posts… so these combined blog posts are going to be quite all over the place because my mind can only patch together the days’ activities. Especially for the days when I barely took any photos… Well, enough of that, let us get on with this blog post!

On Monday, I went to a cafe in the morning by myself–just to do some studying before class because I was not being productive at home at all. I ended up going to a bakery with Kaitlyn for lunch rather than getting our usual 편의점 lunch… just to shake things up! I ate a Croque monsieur or something like that? Some fancy french sandwich of some kind which Kaitlyn made me feel bad for not knowing the name! 

After Korean class (look at me high key ignoring what happened during class since I cannot remember), I went to a 노래방 for about an hour with Liam, Kaitlyn, and Josh which was super fun. I will never truly learn to appreciate the amazing feeling it is to sing your heart out (good mood, bad mood, frustrations, worries, anything) with your favorite songs. I know I am probably the worst singer on this planet! Regardless, I still enjoy singing karaoke. After that, I went to some interesting language exchange group meeting… would not recommend. I am all for language exchange so maybe I will try again another time but right now, not for me.


02/12/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was our second to last supporter meeting before the big Cultural Explorers Presentation on Friday! There was a lot to get done! We met up at Blanc (the OG meeting spot) and just focused on preparing for the presentation. I edited the video for the presentation (which included all the statistics and background information of the financial situation and government policies regarding single mothers.)


The BEST Supporter Group!<3

Korean class was pretty chill today. The break times between classes were a lot of fun as the 1반 students kept coming into our classroom to hang out and chat with our teacher which was fun. At one point, Kaitlyn and June kept making fun of Josh for walking like the walking man emoji? Josh actually became worried after this–worried about his posture. It was also McKenzie’s birthday so I bought her some jelly beans with adorable pig wrapping because well, that is my brand. Our teacher had us sing to her when she entered our room after I made it known that it was, in fact, her birthday.


Today we finally learned the rules for how to pronounce 의. There are situations in which you can pronounce it in three different ways: 의, 이, and 에.

I went home right after class today because I knew the rest of the week would be a lot of late nights–definitely fun nights but nights without a lot of interaction with my host family in turn. I had a delicious dinner with my host family and then I also went on a walk with my older host sister and Andy. We just walked around the mall connected to the subway station for a while and talked about a lot of things. One thing was going back to school… oh, how I am dreading that… Especially now that I have a longer commute! Oh well, that cannot be helped. I guess I will just have to become a normal person and develop healthy sleeping habits! What a concept!

02/13/19 Wednesday

Wednesday was a jam-packed day indeed! It felt like at every moment I was busy doing something or on my way to get to the next thing. I started off the morning visiting my old subway station 화정역 with Katie. We walked around and reminisced together and I realized how much I missed the area near the station! It is so lively~ We ate at our usual 편의점, bought some really cheap macaroons at my favorite place next to Daiso, and then just strolled around until it was time to meet Josh at the station. I, of course, took them to my favorite cafe near the station called Dodori Cafe! We ended up studying there for 4 hours together! And I will say that it was pretty much all productive work time with a few chatty distractions. Practically the whole time I was editing the video for our presentation on Friday rather than doing any actual Korean studying. I forgot how tedious video editing can be! And I am not even any good at it~ All my edits were beginner level (this-would-never-actually-look-professional-type edits) but hey, I was trying! 



One of my favorite pictures I found about single mothers while editing the video. Translation: Going out into the world is scary. Clearly, it would be painful. However, for the child, (she) must face it (stand it).

Seeing the owner of the cafe was nice~ She seemed happy to see us and said that it had been a long time since we last came in and it definitely had! I believe the last time I was there was when I went by myself on a Friday. But that was back with my old family, I have now been moved in with this one for more than a month! Oh, how time flies! I ordered my usual green tea latte and we all split one of the delicious (and cheap) chocolate muffins too. 

After dropping off Katie at the train station (Josh and I decided to study a bit more) this group of male high school students stopped me and asked if I could take a survey. The survey was targeted to only foreigners living in 고양시. The boys were from the foreign language high school nearby. I answered the questions that just asked about the beauty of 고양, the people, and the smoking on the street. The last question asked about working conditions so I told them that I was a student. I also talked to them for a little bit about how many foreigners they were able to find for the survey. I was not surprised that I was their first one of the day. I’ve definitely seen foreigners around the train station but I can definitely count those experiences on just one of my hands. 

By 6 pm, I made my way to the youth community center in 마포 for 급식 봉사 활동 (Community service serving meals). As always, although I don’t feel that we are the most needed when we are there, it was still some good fun: interacting with the kids and of course, being a part of the best 급식 gang {Shada & Kaitlyn!} 

After finishing up community service a bit after 7 pm, I made my way over to 신촌 to meet up with Jessica! {Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current student at 연세대학교} We were originally just meeting to have dinner and spill some tea at a cafe but she ended up inviting me to hang out with all of her friends?!? First, while she found me on the road, she was like “My friends are here and they want to meet you.” I assumed they were foreigners as exchange students that come to Korea usually have bad luck with making actual Korean friends. But then a part of my mind had this -it-is-Jessica-so-these-friends-may-be-Korean feeling so I asked… if you could see the look on my face when she told me that they were indeed Korean and from her unification club at school. Once I greeted them and we all relished in the awkward atmosphere for a while, she asked me if we wanted to all go and have dinner together—and that is what we ended up doing! 

We went out to this Indian restaurant which made my second time having Indian food that week! {Which is crazy seeing that before Sunday, I had never eaten Indian food before!} Conversation with everyone was really awkward at first… they all expected me to just be confident and really good at Korean because of what Jessica told them. They had a lot of questions for me—mostly about the fact that I’m attending a Korean high school right now. I spoke Korean to all of them while Jessica and I would talk to the side in English. It was an interesting night … I was glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to have dinner with strangers and use my Korean skills. {Also found out that Jessica and I were born in the same year! I was so shook! I always thought that she seemed so much older than me! Her friends made jokes about us not really being friends since we did not know we were born in the same year but in America, it’s not like that—age really isn’t important in relationships.}


Once dinner was finished, Jessica took me to this cafe called Pie Hole which is a pretty trendy place in 신촌. We just hung out and shared a slice of pie {though I ate most of it} while updating each other on what has been happening. Jessica had just come back from her winter break in America and I was telling her about our research projects, any NSLI-Y tea I had to spill, and how I felt about the impending doom of returning to high school in March!! Looking back, I still had so much time left on this day. As I’m writing this now {… two weeks later… I only have 4 days left of freedom!!} 

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I definitely did! It was such a jam-packed day! I did so much! This is the kind of day I really enjoy~ Everything is chill cause nothing is really mandatory or holding any weight (since it is winter break) but I am still busy doing fun things! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

All About NSLI-Y Academic Year Korean Classes (3반 //Advanced Class)

In this blog post, I will be discussing Korean language classes on the NSLI-Y Academic Year Program (2018-2019). Seeing that these language classes are the most important part of the program, I have gotten quite a few questions about them from prospective applicants as well as finalists. Without further ado, like the version I made for my summer program experience (linked here), I will be splitting this post up into seven sections: placement, general information, textbooks, tests, break time, homework, and a reflection on my personal experience.


During the arrival orientation at the Better World building, you will have to take a placement test in order to gauge how much of the Korean language you already know. Even if you indicated that you have had no prior experience in Korean, you will have to take the test anyway. The placement is not fully definite as you are allowed to move between classes if the Korean teachers also agree with your decision to do so but more often than not, the placement test does a good enough job sorting the students into the classes that are right for them. No one during my program switched classes (even though I was close to it during the very beginning of the program). Usually, rather than switching classes, most students just end up doing extra homework or something of the sort if they feel like their placement is too difficult or not challenging enough for them.

Our placement test was a three-page test consisting of multiple-choice, fill in the blank questions (with a word bank provided), and finish-the-rest-of-this-sentence type questions. At the very end of the test, there were two short answer questions with three-part questions. This is the part of the test that you can really showcase your skills because it is a chance to use vocabulary and grammar points that were not suitable for the rest of the test as the answers for those questions are more concrete.

The second part of the placement test was the verbal interview which was done in front of the two of our would-be Korean teachers (mine being one of them). The interview will only be a few minutes (no more than 5 minutes) and they will start off by asking pretty simple questions and then see how far you can advance from there. Their job is not to trip you up but to figure out which class would be the best fit for you.


I was placed in 3반 (Third Class) which was considered the advanced class. I had two other classmates (Jacquelyn and Josh) so we made up the smallest of the three classes. We were by no means advanced level speakers but because of the makeup of the other two classes, it was just easier to refer to our class as the advanced class. We were really just intermediate speakers. I entered the class at an intermediate low level while the others were most likely around an intermediate mid-level.


3반!! My Faves<3

The normal schedule for our Korean classes was three times a week: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We had three hours of class from 2 to 5 pm but on Thursdays, we would have an extra hour of class until 6 pm.

What we did during class highly depended on what textbook we were using as it seemed that our teacher liked to keep the routine of the class fresh by changing it ever so often. During some sections of the class, we would study about 2 grammar points with some listening/reading/speaking practice sprinkled in for good measure every class period. However, then sometimes, we would learn all the grammar points for a chapter on one day and allow for practice of those points the following class period with more of the main focus being the practice of other skills. Additionally, as the vocabulary in our textbooks increased in difficulty, we would spend class periods going over vocabulary together and eventually we also introduced proverbs. (Yes, you heard that right. We would study about 3 proverbs a week during the last half of the program.) We would also give presentations every Thursday class usually about a topic that related to the theme of our current textbook chapter but sometimes it was more random. This was something we did from the very beginning of the program which really helped me with both my Korean writing and speaking skills–most importantly, it helped me to reinforce the things we learned in class. (By the end of the program, the other two classes also started to incorporate presentations into their class curriculum as well.)

Korean Textbooks

Our class instruction was supplemented by the Ewha Korean (이화 한국어) language textbooks which include audio mp3 files for listening practice. We also used the matching workbooks for each textbook for homework. The series of these textbooks go up to book 6. The first three books are split up into two separate textbooks (1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, and 3-2) while the last three books are just stand-alone (4, 5, and 6). My class started on textbook 2-2 and we were able to finish book 5 by the end of the program (So we were able to finish 5 books in total!) I believe that most classes were able to get through at least 3 and almost 4 books by the end. Just something I thought was interesting was that after book 2-2, the textbooks are fully in Korean–no English at all. Not for vocabulary definitions or explanations for the grammar points. Of course, it is good for immersion but during class, it can prove to be a hindrance if you are unable to understand the Korean (Reason number 1 for why these books are only good in the classroom and not for on your own studying).

In addition to the Ehwa Korean textbooks, we were also given Korean Grammar in Use books which were honestly the best Korean language learning materials I have ever used. If I had to recommend something to the Korean self studiers out there, I would say get yourself this book. (They are available for about $30 on Amazon –> link here: Beg, Int, Adv.) In the future, I would like to make an updated How I Self-study Korean blog post and I will talk more about these books then!

Korean Tests

Every class did smaller assessments differently (vocab tests, quizzes, etc) but we all had monthly examinations during the last class of each month. These tests took up about three hours out of our four hour class period. Our class would usually first have a multiple-choice reading test for around an hour and then a writing portion of the test which consisted of one short answer (300-400 characters) and then a long essay question (600-700 characters). During the writing portion of the test, our teacher would call us into another room, one by one, for a 15-minute verbal interview (OPI). The OPI is done like what is expected for the end of the program assessment in June with a roleplay, too. My class even started conducting our speaking portion of the test over the phone for the last two or three tests in order to practice speaking on the phone for the actual OPI. We would get our test results back in the form of an email about one full week after taking the test. It would include the percentages and points we received on all portions as well as our Korean speaking level (The end of the month tests were what could move your OPI level up.)


Last-minute cram sessions were frequent!

Break Time

After every 50 minutes of Korean class, we would get a 10-minute break to spend however we liked. Honestly, it does not seem like a long time but the 10 minutes were always greatly needed and we were grateful for the time. When I was in high school in America, we would only get 5 minutes every 57 minutes! (And we would have to switch classes so what kind of break was that?)

When my class was at the Better World Office for the first half of the program, I would spend the breaks talking to my resident director and some of the other Better World staff. When I was at the youth center with 1반 (the beginner class), we would just chat, dance (we had some dancers on our program), and go buy and eat snacks from the convenience store. Luckily our nearest GS25 was only a 2-minute walk away from the center! Truly convenient!


For my class, my teacher would usually not collect or check our homework during every single class period. We were assigned the workbook that follows our textbook curriculum for homework every night but it would usually only be collected at the end of a chapter or two. Along with the workbook, we were also assigned writing assignments every week which usually had prompts that were similar to the topics we were discussing in class. We used these homework essays for writing practice but also for TOPIK practice (Korean proficiency test which will be taken around April). Lastly, we were assigned presentations for every Thursday class so for homework, we would have to prepare a speech and a powerpoint (or well… I usually made a powerpoint and memorized my presentation) to present in front of the class. These speeches had to be around three minutes long.

During the second half of the program, we were given take-home TOPIK practice tests to take. We would be given them on Thursday and would have the weekend to complete them. They were due Monday at the start of class.

Although we were not assigned homework for specifically memorizing vocabulary, I would make Quizlet flashcard sets for the vocabulary in each chapter as a part of my self-assigned homework. We were given the Grammar in use Korean textbooks to aid our Korean studies but we were actually never assigned homework from that book. We sometimes looked at it during class; however, it was mostly just given to us to use if we needed extra help. I used that book to take notes on every grammar point that we learned which truly helped me a lot in class.


Korean class, for me, brings about many mixed emotions. The language classes on NSLI-Y are undoubtedly the most important/highly stressed part of the program. (For good reason… this is a language learning scholarship after all!) However, because of this, I found myself hitting some of my ultimate lows (as well as highs) during class or as a result of Korean class.

Korean class was extremely fun. I loved being in an environment where, most of the time, my classmates were just as eager and passionate and ready to learn Korean as I was. They chose to be there and that kind of atmosphere can really add to one’s language learning journey. We were able to enjoy each others company while learning and goof around as well–always making jokes. There were times that I had trouble breathing from laughing so hard and times when I would momentarily stop and take in the huge smile on my face. My teacher always tried her best to explain everything to us and her passion for teaching also shined as she was always happy to answer all the curious questions we had. She was never afraid to teach us certain words or talk about certain topics no matter our skill level (which was a good thing as well as a bad thing). She always wondered how she could better teach us, better prepare us and changed how she instructed our class to fit that goal.

However, the class also proved to be extremely difficult for me. In fact, I almost moved down a level during the beginning of the program. After our first class, I felt like I could barely understand anything at all and so I walked out of the classroom in tears because I was so overwhelmed. Throughout the whole program, many of these emotions and feelings never vanished. They simply laid dormant until something would make them resurface again. I cannot even count the number of times I felt utterly stupid, worthless, and dejected during class. The number of times I had to stop myself from crying during class or the times I ran into the bathroom in order to hide from all that was happening around me.

Despite all of this, I would not have changed one single thing about my Korean class experience. I felt guilty for keeping my other classmates behind due to my inability to catch up in class so this only pushed me to study that much harder. My teacher, and classmates, and resident directors were so supportive of me that I knew that I always had people to talk to when things turned sour. They may not have realized but every hug, every proud smile, every reassuring back pat, every comforting subway ride pep talk, every understanding nod of the head, and every chat at a cafe made me get through everything and I am a better person for it all. I can say that I am proud of myself for learning so much and making such great progress. And I am so very thankful for all of those people.

Never knew how much I would miss Korean class! ❤

Thanks for reading this little (That is a joke! This is such a long post!) informative blog post about Korean language classes during the NSLI-Y Academic Year Program. Some of these things can be generalized but a lot of it also follows my own personal and tailored experience in my class so remember that each class will be different! Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed~~ Till next time!

  • 엠마 (Emma)


Gangnam Cafe, Indian Food Birthday Dinner, & Having a Friend Over (02/08-10/19) NSLI-Y Korea

02/08/19 Friday

I did not have any big, exciting plans for Friday. I texted some of the students on NSLI-Y too see if anyone was free and wanted to hang out (I did not want to stay home on a Friday–at least not all day). Harmony invited me to come over to Gangnam so she could show me around but we ended up actually going to this really cute cafe nearby rather than roaming the streets. This cafe was called Emma & Lia which peaked my interests when she first told me about it because I mean… look at the name! 

The cafe had a baked goods section so instead of ordering the overpriced drinks, we indulged in some overpriced food. Harmony bought a sandwich for lunch while we shared this croissant-like pastry that was shaped in a dome. I also had this chocolate pastry which was literally a chocolate cake that was filled with straight-up chocolate–like a lava cake I would say! It was all very delicious! We hurried and finished our food before actually starting our work. We stayed at the cafe for a couple hours working on our CEP research project as well as class homework (lots of grammar review!) This was the first time I had hung out with Harmony–just the two us. We have been together in other group activities before but hanging out at the cafe was good for us to just talk and get to know each other better.

Harmony had community service at the youth center this night so we ended up riding the subway up together which was nice seeing that it took me out about an hour and 20 minutes to get back to my home station. Because she came with me for half the journey, I only had to take the train by myself for 40 minutes. (Oh the struggles of living so far…)

I came home and ate dinner with my host sisters and we had some really fun and interesting conversations. I really enjoy just sitting at the kitchen table together and talking. We discussed our types for guys which were interesting. Once again, my older host sister brought up the Would You Rather question about dating a hot guy with some lacking personality or Edison with perfect traits except his looks… of course, I laughed enough to avoid answering this question.

IMG_1648 (1)

02/09/19 Saturday

On Saturday, my favorite person on the NSLI-Y Program (Katie <3) came to visit me at 탄현역 and she even came to my host family’s house! When she first came, I showed her a tour around the three-story mall type building connected to the station. (Again how do I describe this?? From now on, I will call it a mall!) We eventually decided to go to a bakery so that we could eat some delicious bread while studying. Besides the Twosome Cafe outside and the one travel-themed cafe I went to with Josh, I have not been to many of the cute cafes or bakeries in the mall, so I was happy to try a new one with Katie. (Mostly because I am too anxious to explore by myself all too much!) One of the small, sweet bread loaves that we ended up sharing was called “남편보다 더 달콤하다” (or sweeter than your husband). Fitting.

We studied at the bakery for a couple hours before heading back to the apartment. Katie met my host mom and younger sister and of course ANDY! We immediately headed into my room and just laid on my bed together and chatted for the rest of the afternoon. Andy is such a player (a play puppy if you will) and wanted to get close to Katie right away–never leaving her side.

It was nice hanging out with her in my room because it reminded me of just hanging out casually with my friends at my house back in the states– just chatting. I have not had that since coming to Korea so I really appreciated this moment with her~

After Katie left, I just worked on Korean homework for the rest of the night and ate dinner at home. It was a very chill and relaxing Saturday night. 


02/10/19 Sunday

Sunday is usually my do-all-your-Korean-homework-last-minute-and-also-relax-and-prepare-your-mind-for-classes-starting-back-up-on-Monday day but I actually had plans today at night! Today was Jenna’s 19th birthday, so she planned a little get together with all the NSLI-Y girls to go to an Indian restaurant. We almost got all of the girls to go but unfortunately, Shannon and Mckenzie ended up not coming.

Anyway, in the morning after breakfast, I got to try this new fruit called Hallabong (한라봉) which is a type of fruit under the umbrella that is mandarin oranges named after a mountain from 제주도 (Jeju-do). The fruit itself tasted just like a tangerine except for the fact that the size was bigger. (It also looks incredibly cute! I mean look at the shape and the cute little leaf~ I love it!) 

After breakfast, I got ready for the day (or should I say for the night?) which included buying a gift for Jenna. I decided to finally visit the Artbox on the lower level of the mall connected to my subway station. I had avoided going in for so long because I love anything cute… and I especially love cute stationery so for me to go to Artbox with those traits in mind… it is always a bad idea. Some people cannot leave Target without buying things they do not need AKA leaving with their cart full although they only came with a shopping list of three items. I cannot leave Artbox without cute but insanely useless or unnecessary items.

This Artbox was the biggest one I have ever been to! It was definitely at least three times as big as the one in 홍대. There was even a space for taking photos with the characters that act as mascots for Artbox. I ended up buying a pack of colored pens, a couple of mechanical pencils, and a card and a bag for Jenna. I ended up reading the price of the pencils wrong so pencils that I thought cost less than 2 dollars… ended up being 4 dollars and 50 cents each! I love stationery but I am not crazy! I love Jenna but I was not planning to break the bank with her gift.


Eventually, I left my house and rode the train for about an hour to meet up with the rest of the girls to have a nice dinner. When we arrived at the Indian restaurant, there was literally no one there besides the family running the restaurant. We got to sit at this really long table all together while we ate which was nice since we were not separated into groups which usually happens when we hang in large numbers. I ended up getting Chicken Makhani (I think that is the spelling?) with some garlic naan which was delicious! After dinner, we went to Baskin Robbins to grab some dessert and talk more.

I was tired by the end of the night–especially knowing that I still had homework to complete once I arrived home; however, I had a lot of fun so I would not have changed anything about the night! I enjoyed being able to hang out with all the girls and although we all have our own busy schedules, it was nice to come together for one dinner like this. I hope we can do something like this again.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed this combined post of my weekend! Thanks for reading and until next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Lunch and Study Date in Paju-shi & Quater Squad Takes on Pizza in Hongdae {02/06-07/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/06/19 Wednesday

Wednesday was the last day of our 설날 break before returning to Korean classes and program activities on Thursday. Josh, June, and I convinced Jenna and Kaitlyn to come up and visit us in 파주시 for the day. (Although, June is the only one of us that lives in 파주시. I am only two stops away, however.) We planned to all grab a nice lunch and then study together (be all productive) at this really adorable cafe that June found–It also happens to be literally right outside of her apartment. 

After arriving at June’s station, I waited there with Kaitlyn until the rest of the group arrived. We had to take a 20-minute bus to get to the neighborhood that June lives in. I figured that the bus we would take would be one of the normal buses I have ridden in Seoul with the other NSLI-Y students or like the one I rode to school every single day back and forth. In case you could not guess…it was not! This bus was really just a glorified huge van with buslike qualities. It was so weird getting inside as I was confused as to whether or not I was riding a bus or not. We all piled into the back and joked around until we got to our stop. 


June took us to this 부대찌개 restaurant. It was the first time I have ever had the dish. Not only did I get to enjoy the delicious tastes that accompany this unique food, I also received a history from the lovely Kaitlyn and Josh.

Apparently, 부대찌개 literally translates to “corps stew” and was created during the Korean War. Leftover military rations from the American soldiers (mostly including sausages and spam) were taken and thrown into a huge stew with whatever other vegetables and ingredients were laying around by poor Korean families. That is how this dish came about! The meal was very very filling and I really was craving some spicy soup recently so this 부대찌개 really hit the spot. Also, Kaitlyn kept making the joke about 부대찌개 making the booty do a jiggy (If you can read Korean– this joke makes sense because it fits with the pronunciation of the dish). 


Once we finished all the food (basically scraping the dishes clean with our spoons), we left to head to the tea cafe by June’s house. It had this huge table in the back which we took over and used it as our headquarters for the next couple hours we all did our own thing: winter break homework, TOPIK practice tests, scholarships, CEP project, etc. I ordered royal milk tea (which I usually dislike but this place served a good one!) and this cheesecake covered in a white chocolate casing that resembled a block of yellow cheese! It really did resemble a cartoon block of cheese you would see Tom and Jerry fighting over on Saturday mornings. At the cafe, we were all… sort of productive. I was able to do a couple workbook pages, memorize some vocab, and get started on my practice Topik listening test but we mostly just shared interesting stories.


After we separated in the mid-afternoon, because most other people had plans for the night time, I went back home and found myself in another cafe trying to finish the listening test. I wanted to be able to show something for my studying efforts after spending such a long time at a cafe rather than accepting the fact that I could have done more. While I was at Twosome Place taking the test, the last two fingers on my right hand became numb all of a sudden. I assumed it was just because I had my hand on my ears for a long while as I was trying to block out some of the music playing at the cafe; however, the numbness would not go away as quickly as it usually does. I kept moving them around and flexing the muscles but the feeling would not go away. I just accepted it as fact for now and left after finishing the 50 question test.

Upon returning home, my fingers were not better and an hour had already passed. I was beginning to get a bit worried. My host mom served me 자짱면 for dinner and I ate by myself since she and my host sister had had a really late lunch and were not ready for dinner quite yet. I tried really hard to eat the noodles with the chopsticks but my numb fingers were inhibiting me from even getting one noodle into my mouth. They were not only numb but I had no strength in those fingers and soon even holding a pencil proved to be quite tedious.


I was able to eat my first persimmon though

By the time I went to bed (a bit past midnight) my fingers were still very numb. Kaitlyn told me that I might have damaged my ulnar nerve somehow which connects to the last three fingers of the hand. She told me that it could result in irreversible nerve damage soon since it has been so long since it has started which only freaked me out more! I went to bed with a lot of worries… not the best sign of optimal health I will admit.

02/07/19 Thursday

On Thursday both Korean classes and our research project meetings started back up after the three-day holiday break because of 설날 (Lunar New Year). I met up with Katie and 혜린언니 at Hollys Cafe and there, we really set the plan for our final week of the project. We spent half of the meeting writing our final report (after splitting up who was doing what) and then we spent the rest of the time discussing how to then split up our content for both the presentation and the video. 

After our meeting, I went off with Kaitlyn to have a good ole 편의점 (convenience store) lunch at the youth center in order to get some cheap food and have time to study before class. There is this one older 아저씨 that works at the GS25 by the center and we always end up there at least once a day it seems. We bought our lunch and he ended up giving us these free Hershey chocolate bars as a service! It was the sweetest thing! I could not believe it~


During Korean class, we got our January monthly tests back and I did really well! I was so happy when I saw the scores on the top of both of my tests. I do know that the test overall was easier than the last one (Our teacher was probably trying to better our damaged confidence from the last test….) but seeing that I only got three wrong on the reading portion and received a pretty decent essay score truly lightened up my mood by ten folds. At the start of class, we realized that we would be starting our new book (Book 4!), but none of us had copies… so Jacquelyn, Josh, and I all made our way to the Better World Office and back which took some time off of class but it was a fun little break and the walk was dearly missed. We had not been at the building for so long! (Altogether at least.)

Our teacher also just came back from Guam so she brought us back some snacks and tea from her trip which was very thoughtful of her. She did not have to think of us at all!


After class, I did not go home right away but instead, I went out for dinner with Liam, Josh, and Kaitlyn! The Quater squad took on a pizza dinner!! We went back to this one restaurant–called New Order Club)–to stuff our faces with pizza. We ended up ordering a small pizza that had 4 different types of cheeses and then a Quater which is a pizza that allows for each quarter of the pizza to be a different flavor. We all shared a chicken tender pizza, french fries pizza, arugula pizza, and lastly macaroni pizza.

Everything was honestly really delicious but my love still goes out to the macaroni and cheese flavor. It was our OG flavor and there is a reason! Besides the food, hanging out with everyone was a lot of fun. I hang out with Kaitlyn and Josh a lot (recently more so it seems) but I barely ever get to hang out with Liam. But the four of us together is always a good time!!!

While we were walking through the area around the pizza restaurant, we went up these sketchy looking stairs to this rooftop cafe. It was a part of a cafe which seemed to be closed (or maybe out of business?) but that did not stop us from taking some photos on this fancy chair they had. We also took some photos at one of those random photo booths they have throughout the streets of Seoul (Honestly, one of the things I am going to miss about Korea!) I will say that the best amount of people for these booths (if they are a normal size) is about two people. Three people are okay–but anything more than that can be kind of awkward. We proved that today.


At the pizza restaurant, we started this conversation about our first impressions of all the NSLI-Yians and then what we think now. Basically, how our perceptions has changed (for the better or worse). It was really interesting to see what everyone had to stay and I was able to compare my thoughts with their own experiences too. Once we finished eating, we went off to another place to continue our conversation. We ended up at 망원동 티라미수 and shared some cake with each other. Here, at this cafe, is where we discussed ourselves. I am not sure if everyone was being nice since they were talking about me in front of my face, but I was pretty happy with what they had to say–it was all very nice. 


(BTW on Thursday, my fingers were still not normal. They were no longer completely numb but they were still hard to control and my fingers would tingle randomly throughout the night. I still could not use chopsticks (One of the reasons we went to get pizza!)

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading. I am very very behind on blog posts… I blame my Korean studies and the research project (and honestly, my own laziness) for making my time kind of limited. But I am catching up right now! I gotta get back on track before school starts! 

  • Emma 엠마


Lotte World Trip During The Lunar New Year {설날} with My Host Sister {02/04-05/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/04/19 Monday

In Korea 설날 or Lunar New Year was on the 5th of February this year but the day before and after are usually considered part of the New Year holiday, and so many people are off of work and take the time to visit their families outside of Seoul. Today was the day before the big holiday but my host family had nothing special planned; we decided to just chill and relax at home. Although this was the case, I did not mind that they were not doing anything traditional. I was happy to just be able to spend time with them. Additionally, my host sister had just gotten back from Japan so she was tired beyond belief.

Anyway, in the morning, we had breakfast together and then we had a Japanese snack taste test! My older host sister brought a lot of delicious and even some fancy snacks and cookies from Japan and she was kind enough to share it with all of us. She even gave me an individual small box of fancy chocolates which were delicious! I did not eat them today but I saved them for another day when I would have a sweet tooth. We got to try some corn flavored snacks, vanilla wafer cookies, red bean puffs, and some animal-shaped cookies. Not only tasty but cute too!

For the rest of the day, I tried to work on my practice Topik test but it was harder than I thought to get motivated to finish everything… so I only ended up finishing the reading test. I also did write some blog posts… but I am still so very far behind. I am talking several days behind! I ate dinner with my host sisters and we had some fun conversation. Since we were planning on going to Lotte World the next day, my host sisters told me a story about a Korean girl with long hair who went on one of those tall drop rides and got her hair and face skin ripped right off. We were eating mind you… While she told this story, I was so freaked out. But because of this conversation, I was able to tell her that I was against going on any drop rides. They were totally not for me! She was lucky that I was going to get on the roller coasters… because I am usually against those too…But I had the goal to get over my fears!

01/05/19 Tuesday

LOTTE WORLD!! Today my host sister and I left the house a little bit before 10 am and made the 1 hour and 30-minute long subway ride to Lotte World. This would be my first time going because I never got the chance to during the summer program and plans fell through when I tried going with high school friends back in October.

As soon as my eyes laid upon the entrance, I was so excited to just go in and look around. Unlike other people, I don’t frequent amusement parks so going to them is still very special to me—magical even. I went to Disney for the first time this year and I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been to 6 flags! While we were waiting in line to buy tickets {don’t even get me started on how kind my host mom is; she paid for the entire day’s expenses!}, my host sister and I noticed that the majority of people standing in line were foreigners—mostly Chinese. Because it was 설날, many people were spending the holiday with their families {many who often live outside of Seoul} and so we expected Lotte World to be practically empty. However, it seemed that many Chinese families visit Korea during the New Year. Not only that, but there were a lot of couples there as well. And lots of students wearing school uniforms—apparently there was a discount for wearing a school uniform. If only I had known, I would have just thrown on my 하나고 uniform. I’ll have to come back again with Katie and some other NSLI-Y students with our uniforms maybe!

It wasn’t empty but the crowds definitely weren’t bad and the waits for the rides weren’t ever more than an hour which was nice. Actually, the ride that ended up being my favorite {Gyro Spin} was only a 30-minute wait so we got to go on it twice! Lotte World is apparently the LARGEST indoor theme park in the world. I honestly have nothing to compare it to so I wouldn’t really know… but I believe what they say. There seemed to be so much!!! rides, games, restaurants, and lots of pretty photo zones. 


Our first ride of the day was the Viking/pirate ship ride. I think here it was associated with Spain? I can’t quite remember the name to be honest. This is actually one of my most hated rides because I hate the feeling of air going through my stomach as the ship swings up and I also hate the feeling of extreme fear that I may fall out of the seat when it swings up so high. At Disney, I refused to ride it as the last time ended with me crying. I knew I was going to have to ride it here but I was willing to. Luckily, my sister didn’t seem afraid to ride any of te rides; however, she also wasn’t the type to really enjoy the thrill of rides so she screamed in fear with me which gave me much-needed comfort. I held so tightly onto the bars—basically gripping for my life. My feet did not stay on the floor flat, instead, they were pushed up against the backboard of the seats behind me as I tried to keep myself from feeling like I was going to fall right out. I screamed with every swing and was sourly mad at this one guy in front of me who literally rode the whole thing with the most stoic face I’ve ever seen. This guy was intense. At the end of the ride, I had tears in my eyes which surprised my host sister! 

After a good warm-up, we rode my favorite amusement park ride {swings} and this really fun roller coaster ride that had a meteor shower theme. It was one of the longest waits for the park but it was 100% worth it. The ride wasn’t actually a roller coaster I would say… but the ride itself took place in complete darkness and the coaster cars would spin around and go down steep drops {even backward suddenly}. I think what made it so thrilling was the fact that you couldn’t see what was happening in front of your eyes. Unlike huge roller coasters {specifically those on outside structures}, everything was a surprise. You couldn’t see any drops or turns approaching on the track and prepare yourself for those to happen. I loved every minute of it {though my vocal cords probably did not}. We also rode this ride called the gyro swing which had seats that you sat on as if you were mounting a bike or a horse. Then the seat secured you with some back padding that pushed you up against the front of the bike like seat. Then the ride spun around in circles up and down this track that also went over the water. This one also had the surprise element because you never exactly knew which direction the ride would swing. It was probably my favorite one of the day! 

For lunch, we went to this school cafeteria themed restaurant and ate 떡볶이 {spicy rice cakes}. I was really surprised by how relatively cheap the meal prices were at Lotte World. They weren’t the same prices of the same dishes outside of the park but seeing how big it was… I assumed the costs would be similar if not the same as Disney World. 

We also got to ride bumper cars which were honestly kind of easy to drive? Like I can’t drive in real life so this made me feel a bit better about driving… {Who am I kidding… kids can drive these cars!} However, something I realized was that most of the Koreans were too shy to really attack anyone with the cars. In fact, some people wouldn’t even hit any strangers—only the people that they came in with. In some cases, I understand this like when they were couples but still… for some rounds, it seemed they were all just driving around a track–with no collisions whatsoever. In America, most people tend to go crazy with bumping people with no reservations. That is the fun of it all!

The ride that I rode which made me proudest was the most famous ride at Lotte World: Atlantis. This is their biggest roller coaster {though I will say, it does not compare to anything big at Six Flags}. We waited in line for around an hour for a fast-paced and heart-racing couple of minutes. Honestly, I did a lot better than I expected! I was intensely shaking and sweating before going in and while the cars slowly made their way up the first large arch {hill? Not a loop… what are they called?} I was cursing myself for getting into that situation. But, it ended up being a lot of fun! My stomach got that airy feeling throughout which I really hate since it makes me feel like I’m falling but once those feelings passed, I enjoyed the fast turns and all the anticipation. I will definitely ride it again if I ever return.

We rode a few more VR and 3D technology-based games, enjoyed some popcorn chicken, and watched a quick little performance by some dancers and the Lotte World Mascots before calling it a day and heading home. 


Andy wearing a new hat from Lotte World!

We got home pretty late and relaxed until it became 10 pm and my host sister and I were hungry for dinner. She ended up taking me to this 24-hour place near the apartment complex that sells a lot of traditional Korean foods. My host sister and I both had 콩나물국밥 which is basically rice and bean sprouts in a soup broth. It was a very simple taste. My host sister told me that it is usually eaten more regularly by older people and that it is a common hangover food. 



And that was my day!! I spent a great 설날 with my host sister doing something that has been on my bucket list for a while now~ It was a lot of fun and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this blog post! 

  • Emma 엠마

Outdoor Korean Mall, Escape Room, and Bonding With My Host Sister {02/03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/03/19 Sunday

Today I spent the day with my host sister walking around this outdoor mall area called Lafesta. Apparently, it is a really popular hangout place in Ilsan, Goyang-si. We went on a Sunday afternoon and since it was raining, there were not too many people (which was honestly better for us. Crowds are never fun!) but I realized quickly that I had been to the area before with my last host family. We walked around the area on Christmas and watched the Disney Nutcracker movie at the theater that is located there. When we first arrived, nothing looked familiar at all but as we kept walking through the street, I recognized the placement of the Artbox, the book store, and the outdoor arcade.


With my host sister, our first stop was to get her ears pierced! We found this one little shop and waited for a little while as there was already a woman there getting her ears pierced and a couple other girls in line to go next. There were so many really pretty earrings and it took my host sister quite a bit of time to pick out the earring she wanted. She ended up getting her ears pierced in two different places: on her earlobe and then on the outside cartilage of her ear (I do not know the official name for that placement on the ear.) At the time, I kind of wanted to get my doubles pierced but piercing is not allowed on the NSLI-Y Program!

After she got her ears pierced, we continued walking around the outdoor mall and stumbled upon this little cafe that allows you to decorate phone cases. There was a large counter with a bunch of small dishes filled with gems, character molds, and other little plastic pieces that resembled cute foods, flowers, hearts, and unique designs. We got to walk around, pick what which ones we wanted to use, and then glue them onto our individual phone cases. They also gave us free drinks as they were included in the cost of making the phone which I thought was interesting, but looking back… I guess it makes sense since it was advertising itself as a phone case making cafe–so drinks were to be expected. 


We were ready to eat by the time we finished up our cases and they dried, so we went to this one well-known restaurant that my host sister recommended. It was a seafood restaurant that was known for its good quality salmon. We ordered some salmon rice bowls (연어덮밥) and a kimchi seafood crispy pancake (해물김치전). When we ordered, they needed to make more rice which was going to take 20 minutes, so they apologized by giving us some 연어회 (raw salmon) as service. Because of the extra food and our pancake appetizer, we barely had any room left in our stomachs to eat the salmon rice bowls! When the waiter brought out the raw salmon for free because our food was going to take a long time, my host sister brought up the fact that sometimes foreigners (especially white foreigners) get special treatment and she believed that this was one of those occasions. She also gave me other general examples and one about her sister’s American friend.

After lunch, we went to finally try doing an escape room! I have never done one before (well I mean… maybe you can count the one made for children that I did with my last host family but… I will not.) and neither had my host sister, so it was a first experience for the both of us!! We ended up picking one of the hardest rooms that the place offered just because the room looked pretty (well we did not outright say that but I believe it was both of our motivations–Also, maybe we both believed that we could do well at the hard room.) The worker told us that we had three clues and we definitely used all of them and then some! We started off in a room with lots of really pretty paintings (like a gallery or exhibition or something). We were able to get halfway with a lot of tricks. We could tell what we needed to do in some way but exactly how to execute it was the issue we came across often. It was most difficult for me because I could not understand the Korean throughout the room. Most of the paintings had little descriptions that hid clues to solve the problems and I had trouble catching what was said through the recordings because my listening comprehension is horrible! The room was a lot of fun though because paintings would like pop out of the wall or doors would swing open which added to the experience. We made it to the second room but struggled so much trying to figure out how to start that the worker actually called our room to give us a hint! I could not help but laugh at the fact that he had been watching on the cameras and felt pity for us, so he gave us another hint to help us out. 

There was one point where I figured out how to solve the next step but when I tried executing this idea, nothing happened–I was wrong. My host sister went to call for a hint and it turns out I had been doing it right the whole time! I must have just made a small mistake because when we tried again, it worked and the secret door opened. That was a bit frustrating! Eventually, the hour was up and we did not make it out of the escape room. We made it to the final area but did not even get the chance to start any of the puzzles. The worker came to get us when the time was out and he showed us how to solve the remaining couple of puzzles and escape the room. Even though we did not make it out by ourselves, I think we did a pretty good job for our first time. Especially regarding me and my participation, I think I did a pretty good job for not speaking the language that literally everything in the escape room was written in (except the one lock that used the English alphabet.) There was one point where we were looking at this one sheet of paper and on it were three bolded words in Korean and I was able to point that out to my host sister! Small things like that made me feel like I was helping so that made a difference to me, in my opinion at least!

We left the place with a good attitude about what we did and a free drink in hand. We took a taxi back home and just relaxed for the rest of the night. My older host sister ended up coming home later at night from her trip to Japan so we all welcomed her back.


Well, that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed what I have to share with you all today! Thanks for reading~ Til next time!!!

  • Emma 엠마

연탄 {Coal} Community Service, Korean Movie Theater, & 잊지마 식당 {02/01-02/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/01/19 Friday 

Friday was our second big community service activity as one cohort. This activity consisted of delivering cylinders of coal to mostly poor elderly homes that did not have electric heating. They counted on the coal to heat their houses during the winter. We were brought to the area surrounding 영등포시장 (yeong-deung-po market) which is known for having a large elderly population. We met the man in charge of the community service activity and he prepared us by explaining directions and handing out materials that we would need: gloves, aprons, etc. 

com ser 5

Shada & Me

2 hours were designated for this activity but because we were so productive, we ended up finishing in 1.5 hours! For the first “shift” or “session” if you will, I was in a group of 4 with Shada, Jenna, and June and we moved a stack of the coal to a little storage area near the side of a house. The other 12 students did a separate house and that had a farther distance between the coal drop off and the destination which is why they needed more people for the assembly line.

After we finished those two houses, we moved onto the last one which involved carrying the coal through a narrow alleyway. All 16 of us did this one but rather than doing an assembly line, we just had each individual take a cylinder of coal to the storage area while the boys stacked them with help of the director or leader of the service activity. It was difficult labor as the coal came with a lot of powder and sometimes the dust was too much. Additionally, the cylinders were quite heavy. Moving them from one place to another wasn’t too hard but when I had to pick them up from off the floor to hand them to the next person {2 each} my back started hurting. 

But before we knew it, we had finished! It was a nice little rewarding experience. We didn’t get to meet any of the people we were actually helping which was kind of disappointing. I think it would have been better if we got to see the people that would be using the coal.

com ser 4

We also got to take home keychains that were mini coal blocks with faces on them!

After the community service, a big group of us decided to go to the market and have lunch there. It was literally huge! Much larger than 통인시징 (Tongin Market) but then again that’s probably why it has its own station! Katie, Alix, and I got these really delicious huge 호떡 (Korean pancakes sold as street food)! They were of the thicker variety of the pastry known as 찰호떡. They were a dollar each and 100% worth it. In fact, I was pretty full from just eating that!! We kept walking around and we ran into Shada who showed us this really good place to buy 만두 for cheap {only 2천원 = a little less than 2 dollars}. That was my lunch~ Because my commute was over an hour-long due to me having to wait 20 minutes at 공덕역 {The next train didn’t go all way to my train station so I had to wait for the following one}, I ended up eating my dumplings while sitting on a bench inside the station. But honestly, it was really good so I didn’t mind the interesting circumstances. 

I came home from community service and relaxed for a bit—watching YouTube, writing blog posts, etc. Eventually, I even fell asleep and took a nap for a couple hours. My host mom and host sister had dinner during that time so when I woke up, I ate some 돈까스 that they brought back for me. And my night basically ended like that! 

02/02/19 Saturday 

Lately, I’ve been coming home early on both Friday and Saturday night just because I don’t make all day plans. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but sometimes 9 pm rolls around and I’m lying in my bed thinking “I could be out and about playing right now!” This could be because I’m bored or because my feelings of loneliness tend to skyrocket when I’m alone in my room at night. For the first time in a while, I made some plans for all day Saturday with some pretty cool people: Shannon, Josh, and Harmony. 

Our day mostly revolved around seeing the movie Unbreakable from that director M. Night Shyamalan. The night before we had tried ordering the tickets online {to make sure we got seats next to each other because literally the theater we found was the ONLY theater in Seoul playing this movie and there was only one showtime!} but because of our lack of Korean credit cards or Korean bank accounts in general, this attempt failed. Instead, we planned to go to the movie theater several hours before the movie started and reserve our seats ourselves. 


So Harmony, Shannon, and I met up at 충무로역 at around 1 pm and tried to find our way to the theater using Harmony’s map. Actually, the theater ended up being almost right next to the station but we passed it as we were too busy talking about the abundance of pet stores in the area rather than looking for our destination. We turned down some random street and ended up seeing the theater from the back. When we got to the theater we texted Josh to see if he still had plans to come and he was like the “moment of truth” which was so unclear. we were just standing in the theater being anxious and trying to figure out what to do with our boy Josh. He ended up telling us that yes he would come so we went up to the electronic self-checkout machine to order our tickets. We were determined to figure out how to buy the tickets without talking to any alive tellers—and we did! Plugging in our information and payment was a bit confusing but we managed. It honestly felt so good to have done it by ourselves {never changing the language to English}. It was definitely nothing besides a really simple accomplishment but in this household, we appreciate all.

After buying the movie tickets, Harmony, Shannon, and I went and had lunch at Popeyes which I had been craving for quite a while now. I really wanted their chicken tenders! Now, the Korean Popeyes does not have my favorite Cajun rice but the recipe for the biscuits was not that far off from the ones back in America; they were just a bit sweeter {but that is to be expected when it comes to bread in Korea.}

We hung out at this cafe called People’s Cafe {which also has a logo that resembles 나쁜여자 (bad woman) bar in 홍대 (Hongdae) which made us all laugh (Disclaimer: I have not been but it is an iconic landmark so it became an inside joke! Do not come for me Better World!) Besides the interesting choice of outside signage, the place was nice. Not too busy, WiFi was good, and the drinks were actually pretty cheap! Josh met up with us eventually and we went to see Unbreakable at the theater. 


The movie itself was interesting and it kept me entertained for the duration of it because of its absurdity and the many surprises. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No. But the experience was one! We decided to sneak in snacks from the Emart right next to the theater like everyone does in America which was a great decision on our part! (Do Koreans do this too? Or were we really foreigners overstepping our boundaries?)



After the movie, Harmony left to go home for dinner while Josh, Shannon, and I decided to eat dinner out because, by the time we got home to our families, it would be passed dinner time anyway. We walked down this long sketchy alleyway of really traditional ma&pa Korean restaurants that really made me anxious. I guess it was just the dim lighting and the quiet empty atmosphere that really freaked me out. We ended up stumbling upon this 24 hour operated restaurant called 잊지마 식당 {Don’t Forget Restaurant is how you would directly translate it.} 

We ordered three portions of meat and 김치찌개 and ate all of it. However, although the food was very delicious, that was not what made this eating experience unforgettable… it was the lady serving us. In all honesty, I couldn’t really understand her Korean, but Josh had no trouble answering all her questions so he just went on with talking with her. After all our food came out, she prepared to show me how to make a lettuce wrap with the meat and the 반찬 with all our food. I was confused as to why she was doing this {mostly because we knew what to do} but it was a nice gesture by nature. Then, she took the lettuce wrap and fed it to me by putting it in my mouth for me. I was shook and had to try hard not to laugh or I would have choked on my lettuce wrap. She did the same thing to Shannon so I was not alone! 

We had a nice dinner and then separated with Shannon. Josh and I spent another hour and a half at a cafe—I wrote a blog post while he worked on some scholarships. And that was all for my night! It was a lot of fun~ I feel like I haven’t gone out and done things outside of my comfort zone {getting movie tickets and eating at that type of restaurant} or out of routine {going somewhere that’s not Hongdae and hanging out with people other than Katie}. It was a nice change of pace! 

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

  • Emma 엠마


Monthly Korean Test, Waffle Tradition, and Package from Home! (01/31/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/31/19 Thursday

Today was our monthly test for Korean so you can probably guess what I was doing earlier in the morning: did you guess studying at a cafe? Extra points if you said with Katie!! 

Katie and I met up at Holly’s Cafe at around 9:30 am to study before our big tests. We both were studying as if this was the most important test yet but during our short breaks, we also reassured ourselves that this doesn’t have to be our month… we reassured ourselves that February could! We would get all the bread then !! 


Drinking a Cafe Mocha (Test days were coffee days for me)

Anyway, at the cafe, I read all the reading passages from both the textbook and workbook as well as writing out a rough sketch/outline for my 자기 소개 (self-introduction) for the OPI. It’s a question that is always asked and I try to always switch up what I say to show off different grammar points and to give my teacher fresh new topics to talk about. 

This past month, my class {3반 with Jacquelyn & Josh} has been having class at the youth center rather than the Better World office—where we had classes from Sept-Dec. The Better World staff members wanted to get the chance to see some other NSLI-Y faces more so they switched our class with 2반 for winter break. {There were talks about having 3반 have their turn there for the spring semester but I talked to 민정쌤 about it and I’m more positive that the current class will stay or we will go back.} Anyways, what a long ramble away from the point I was getting at!! For the monthly test, 2반 and 1반 were switching teachers during the OPI portion due to a disagreement with how students were scored last time as it involved moving students down a level. To make that easier on everyone, those two classes would be taking their tests at the youth center and 3반 returned to Better World. 

I ate a quick 편의점 lunch with some of the other girls before making my way to Better World—I walked by myself with some headphones in. I had made the walk this winter break with Katie to get brunch at flapjack pantry or to get to Better World for our orientation but it felt weird going there again knowing that I would be returning for a Korean purpose (The test!). {Does that make any sense?} 

I ran into 민정쌤 on the way actually and that 5-minute long by chance meet up improved my mood as previous to the encounter, I was practically shaking—not from the cold, but the fact that I would be taking my unit test! 

When we all arrived at the familiar room, my teacher explained the monthly test process once again and we immediately started on our reading test. 

Honestly, when I flipped the last page and was brought back to the cover of the test, I was relieved and happy. It felt like an easy test. Yes, there were questions that I, of course, did not understand whatsoever and I felt really iffy about answering certain questions but overall, I felt good. 

Then came the writing and speaking portion. Our teacher decided that we would do Rock Paper Scissors to decide who would go first for the OPI because no one was sacrificing themselves. I technically hadn’t gone first yet but if I didn’t have to, I wasn’t going to! Unfortunately, however, I lost!! I would be doing first. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost start crying because I did not want to go first. My teacher even exclaimed, “Emma it almost looks like you are going to cry.” Little did she know… Why was I being so emotional? For such a trivial concern? I could not tell you…

But honestly, going first wasn’t that bad. I shuffled into the room angrily and let out an exasperated sigh but getting it over with was nice. I didn’t have to wait with the anticipation so that my nerves had time to build up. 

The writing section was okay. It went very very quickly. I didn’t feel the best about it because I knew I didn’t utilize advanced vocab terms or grammar but oh well what is done is done. 

After class, Josh joined me in walking to an after monthly test tradition: waffles! We went to 와플 대학 and met up with Katie, Alix, Hunter, and Shannon to eat waffles but because the walk was so far and our teacher let us out late {she decided to finish the textbook with us that day so we learned 2 new grammar points during the last hour… everyone had to leave as soon as we got there. Katie stayed with us, though~ 

Another thing that happened by surprise today… was that a package from my friend Kara arrived!! When 주연쌤 handed it to me, I was beyond ecstatic!! I got home and happily opened it. She sent me the cutest pig ornament, a book I’ve been meaning to read, and some good old American candy! Oh, and the most heartfelt letter~ Ahh I definitely cried!! 

Also, last week 주연쌤 went to America for a partners workshop with American Councils and she met Emily Matts and Brian Leopold who both said hi to me! Apparently, at the end of the workshop, they had a session on what alumni reps have done and both Jacquelyn and me were included. I was so proud that my legacy could live on to them~~ 주연쌤 said that she believes it’s the first time an AY participant had been an alum rep so she was very proud of the both of us. 

Anyways, that was my Thursday~ I came home and just literally spent the rest of the night in my room exhausted. Although the days leading up to the monthly exams are so stressful, the weekend afterward is always the best because we have no work to do!!! {Even though this time my teacher gave us another practice Topik test to do… but that is break homework rather than actual homework… I’ll tell that to myself to make me feel better!} 


Also meanwhile… It snowed like three times in Korea during the winter… while it was negative 50 in Chicago!

I was going to add this post to tomorrow’s post because I figured it would be short and boring but instead, it’s long and boring! Stay tuned for the next post that will hopefully be more interesting: delivering coal community service activity and a trip to a traditional market! 

Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

Cafe Hopping, Teaching Korean Students American Dances, & Community Service (01/29-30/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/29/19 Tuesday

Tuesday morning I met up with Josh at Coffee Slob (Yes, the cafe I went to the previous day… it was cheap and had such a good atmosphere…so here we are!) right at their open time to study for our unit test. Well, I studied for the unit test (studying vocabulary) while Josh worked on some essays for a scholarship he is applying for. Eventually, Jenna came by and then later, Katie joined us. I feel that with some people, I can be quite productive while others… can be quite a distraction. I think that just the combination of everyone made my brain want to have fun rather than study. 

When 11 am rolled around, Katie and I separated from the group and met our supporter 혜린언니 to plan out the rest of our supporter meetings because we really needed to start getting things done. Our final presentation day is rapidly approaching! We organized what topics we wanted to bring up in our video presentation/ in the actual powerpoint presentation and assigned ourselves homework to have done by our next meeting on Thursday (after the New Year–설날–holidays).

Before Korean class, I met up with Kaitlyn and Harmony at the youth center and had a very nutritious 편의점 lunch. (I know it is sad that I have not been eating real food here but the timing is not right… plus I am always doing some last-minute studying… Cannot exactly do that while scarfing down some real Korean food. We had a lot of fun before class because we were freaking out about where everyone was. It was 5 minutes before 2pm (the start of class) and only Harmony, Alix, Kaitlyn, and I were there. Every time the elevator opened, we expected to see some of the other NSLI-Yians but they were not showing up. Random Korean adults were just coming out to go to their rented conference rooms. Eventually, the rest of my class showed up 3 minutes before 2pm but the other three girls from 1반 actually were late (They were doing their field trip for the research project.)


I will not be posting the video but I did film us freaking out about no one showing up including time updates. It was a lot of laughing and clips of the elevator opening to show no NSLI-Y students.

During class, we learned the last two grammar points that would be on our test and if I am being honest, one of them confused me to no end… I still really do not understand the point of it… Maybe I can get it down by the test? Class went by really quick and within a blink of an eye, it was over. I ended up going straight home because I knew it was the last night my eldest host sister had at home before leaving for Japan. However, when I got home, her stomach was badly hurting and my other host sister had already eaten ramen so I ate some noodles by myself.


01/30/19 Wednesday

On Wednesday I had plans besides community service for an hour at night; however, after texting Kaitlyn about what she was doing before community service…she convinced me to also join her and June for the afternoon session of community service (unlike the nighttime section which just involves us serving and eating with the kids, this session was about introducing them to American culture!) I gave her the idea of teaching them American dances (Cotton Eyed Joe and Cha Cha Slide) which they both loved–probably because they both love to dance! I knew they would be all for it. Usually, I do not do the afternoon sessions but Liam and Jacquelyn would not be there, so I joined them so that it would not be just the two of them.

It was the day before our big unit test and I wanted to make sure I would be productive so I went to the area near the youth community center and found a cafe to sit in and study at. I went to Tous Les Jours and sat down with a cup of coffee (I know… unusual but I knew it would be a long night!) Kaitlyn came and joined me after a while and we both left to meet June at another nice cafe nearby. We made plans for what we were going to do with the students at the center before just chatting. I used this time to also continue my studies–trying to review as much grammar as possible before getting home later that night (to make my workload lighter).

During our community service session, we gathered all the students onto the huge stage to teach them the dances. I was the one put in charge of explaining the directions to them and because everyone had so much energy, it was quite difficult getting them to listen to us. But nevertheless, it was really fun teaching them the dances. When the familiar music turned on and we showed them all the dance moves, I immediately thought of school dances back in high school. As silly as it sounds, I thought of all the happy memories I have had with my friends dancing to such obnoxious but catchy songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy the dances as well. Unfortunately, we ran out of dances to teach them and they were getting really antsy and restless, June and Kaitlyn started showing them Korean songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy just running around and doing random dance moves to the melody. At the end of the session, when we still had 10 more minutes to entertain the children, June started showing them her gymnast tricks–cartwheels, flips, and even a walking handstand! It was cool to me too!

After our session, we said goodbye to June. Kaitlyn and I walked over to a nearby Kyochon Chicken and shared some honey chicken and a salad for dinner. After eating, to kill more time, we ended up at Twosome Place (I also got some more studying done there!)

Shada joined us for our 급식 community service at 6 pm and we served our second dinner here at the community center. We thought it would go smoothly as we remembered the procedure, but they had no clean trays or utensils so we had to make do with plastic trays and chopsticks. At one point we ran out of plastic spoons… so some kids had to eat their soup like it was a drink. We took such a long time serving the food (and the kids kept coming up to get food and seconds pretty late into the hour) so by the time we served ourselves, it was too late to eat with the kids, unfortunately. They were all cleaning up the classroom while we ate dinner and wrote our reflection. And then while we were cleaning up all the food, they left so we did not get to walk them home either… A bit disappointing but it was still a nice session. Seeing the kids again from earlier in the day and of course, Shada and Kaitlyn are great company.

I came home and studied well into the night. I finished writing example sentences for all the grammar points and I also finished my workbook assignment. Lastly, I went through almost ten vocab sets and tried to memorize everything. It was a long and stressful night. I was so nervous for the unit test! Mostly because I felt like I had not studied enough… this was winter break… I should be trying harder!

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time!


  • Emma 엠마