Running on Four Hours of Sleep, Two Bottles of Coffee, and into the Wrong Classroom (03/20-21/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/20/19 Wednesday 

It’s been awhile yet again since this day actually happened (almost two weeks to be exact..) so what I did in my actual classes at 하나고 this day are but a faded distant memory. During lunch, Katie and I ate with 혜지 and 윤세 and today happened to be an unofficial “eat-all-your-food-and-get-a-fun-snack-or-prize day” so if you ended up eating the majority of your food, you got a pack of green grape gummies which were delicious~ 

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I had politics for the last period of the day and was dreading the boring lecture of which I could only (barely) understand every 5 words or so. Luckily, I was literally saved by the bell—or to be more exact, the fire alarm. 하나고 was having their fire drill for the new school year which involved getting everyone out of the building and onto the soccer field which only proved 2 things to me: 1. The school is so small that they were able to fit everyone on that tiny field and 2. If there was a real fire, we would be too close to the possible fire zone. (In a real situation I would hope they actually leave the camps.)

But anyways the drill was actually fun. Because of it, I got to talk to a few more of my classmates and somewhat bond with them?!? We talked about fire drills in Korea and getting ready for school in the morning (They were shocked to hear that I have to wake up before 6 am to come to school.) Everyone was curious about what club I will be doing and where I take Korean classes so we talked about that as well. It was nice feeling like I was a part of the conversation (actually contributing meaningfully) rather than feeling like I’m on the outside of one. I do not feel this way with my close friends but with the general school population, it can be quite different…

We finished up the last period of class after the fire drill with a debate on the mandatory military service for Korean men. Did I really follow along well? No… did I sneak Korean homework under my notes? Yes… 

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Before we left school, 도윤 ran up to me and deliveries a plastic bag of snacks to me from my 마니또 (My homeroom is currently playing the game! Like Secret Santa but more like Secret Angel). Unfortunately she, too, didn’t know who it was so I was stuck having nothing to go off by. Though, I appreciated the snacks of chips and chocolate! 

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After school, Katie and I went to Paris Baguette for a bit and just chilled—enjoying some macaroons and bread. I ended up changing into real clothes at the subway bathroom and met a Korean friend for dinner. 

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We had been language exchange partners for the past month (Though, to be honest, it was not really a language exchange seeing that I only ever spoke in Korean.) and we finally decided to meet up. I have done this before during my summer program with HelloTalk friends so do not worry, I was being safe!

We went to a fried chicken place that took us quite a bit of time to find as we got lost… and it was also heavily raining which was unfortunate. But the food was good! And although I had so much anxiety about being able to hold a conversation for so long over dinner with a stranger, I did well–it was fun.

We ended the night with some ice cream and a movie.

3/21/19 Thursday 

Wednesday was a really late night for me… I got home late from my plans and I still had to do homework and write a presentation for the following Korean class so I stayed up really late to finish everything. (I ended up writing some of my presentation on the train and memorizing it in school/on the way to 홍대 for class.) 

Katie and I took a trip to the convenience store near the school to buy some coffee to wake ourselves up. Since I also could not eat breakfast, I ended up eating some Greek yogurt there too. what happened after this.. left me scarred for the rest of the day.

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We ended up getting to school late because the stoplight took forever to change so we were stuck waiting across the street for what seemed like forever. When we got to school, we went to the right floor but failed to make our way to the right hallway. I ran into the first classroom on the left and Katie ran passed me as her class was a couple rooms down… when I entered the class, I did not recognize anyone and I saw my world history teacher at the front of the class. I was confused but then saw 지연 and ran to her. At that moment, I realized I had entered the wrong classroom and suddenly everyone’s stares turned into lasers and I could feel my face getting hot. I said bye to 지연 and then ran out of the room to see Katie waiting a bit away from the door laughing—she had looked at the room number before entering, noticing that it was the wrong room. We both sprinted to the other hallway (already late might I add) and passed by some teachers and frantically bowed. They laughed. They definitely knew we were late. I was so embarrassed! I explained my morning to 소연 and she told me a similar story about her finding a math class during her first year here. It was nice to share this with her and have her try to make me feel better–bonding over our shared embarrassing experiences.

Today’s 한국사 class was definitely something… something I didn’t except. Let me break it down, last semester I had one of my two current 한국사 teachers (I am taking Korean history this semester with two teachers–one class with first years and the other is with third years). When I first joined his class (back in October), I told him that his writing on the board was hard to read and he already knew that me trying to keep up with what was said in class {I was at Intermediate Low at this point the semester} was practically impossible so he gave me permission to study Korean during class and that is what I did.

Every single class period (once a week) I would usually do workbook pages or review grammar. When I had his class for the first time yesterday, he told me that he was ready to have me learn along with the rest of the students. He gave me a thick packet of notes and told the student next to me to share their book with me. I realized right then and there that this 한국사 class was not going to be like last semester… but even though I had this expectation in my mind for class today, I had not expected that he was going to actually interact with me during class. While he was lecturing, he kept asking me questions about random things (often times comparing things to America). I was shocked the first time he did and with every name call, I would get so anxious that I would mishear or not understand his questions at all. Let me add that he did this to no one else. I was the only one to answer any questions throughout the class period.

Not only that but when we opened the textbook, he asked me if my Korean skills improved and I replied with a not confident maybe (though I do know that I’ve gotten better) and then he proceeds to ask me if I can read the textbook. I look at the passages and say that I, of course, can (though I also could have last year too…) I felt queasy a lot of a sudden because I realized where this question was going: He. Asked. Me. To. Read. Aloud. To. The. Class. 

I was the only student to read and I read several lines and honestly not that well—I accidentally said 15 instead of 50 when I was trying to translate a number. Yikes. After I read the first line, everyone started to clap for me which I will admit, felt nice. During break, I ran out to rant to Katie who conveniently had her class right next to me and my teacher came out and greeted Katie as well. He asked me if reading in class was okay and I said that it was fine despite it giving me an anxiety attack every time. 

However, I’m glad he’s making me try. I realized that I can understand so much more when I actually try and focus. All the history terms flew over my head but I was able to understand some of the fun stories and descriptions of things. At one point he was asking the class which person out of three individuals that were somehow—in a roundabout way—related to Korea, would be the best president and be considered a Korean by definition. The person that was the right answer was actually a Chinese man who moved to Korea when he was young rather than a Korean person by blood but had only been to Korea on vacation. Honestly, I agree with the answer but I was surprised to see that because bloodlines and the Korean heritage seem so important here. Despite me being a nervous wreck during the entirety of class, it was enjoyable. I’m glad that he includes me rather than ignores me. That part is nice.

After Korean class on Thursday, I went to Blanc Bakery and bought some macaroons for my homeroom 마니또. I got this random boy in my homeroom and I would be lying if I told you right now that I know his face/could recognize him among the boys in my homeroom. I came home right after that and had dinner with my host sisters and Ellen at home. We had 떡볶이 and then some really good chocolate cake! Ellen picked up this cake from Twosome on her way home from her plans today. I spent the next couple hours sitting at the kitchen table with them talking about everything and anything—one thing that kept surfacing was love.

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Ellen told us about an ‘office romance’ she had with a guy at her work but she was completely blind to the fact that he liked her but after hearing the stories she described to us, my host sister and I knew that she was being ridiculous—it was so obvious! For one thing, he invited her to hang out on Valentines Day while he had a girlfriend (who was long-distance or something like that! She offered an excuse by saying that maybe he forgot what day it was and we hardcore laughed. No man with a girlfriend could EVER forget Valentines Day enough to invite another girl to do something with them… it’s all good now because Ellen has found a cute guy that lives close to her so she’s set. 

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That is all for this blog post! I do not know why… but I found it entertaining to reread! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Hiking 심학산 With my Host Family & Eating Acorn Pancakes and Noodles (03/17-19/19) NSLI-Y AY

03/17/19 Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty relaxed—just how I like it. For the first several hours of the day, I stayed in my room attempting to complete my TOPIK practice test and do whatever else was assigned to me for that weekend. I was able to finish the listening portion but for the rest, I kept getting too distracted to do real work.

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Eventually 3:30 pm rolled around and my host family and I left to go hiking!! We even got to take Andy along on the adventure. We drove about 20 minutes out to this mountain and temple in 파주시. Also, Ellen, my host sister’s friend (They also hosted her once upon a blue moon through the NSLI-Y program) came with us.

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We didn’t spend too much time up on the mountain because no one really was physically inclined to go up any higher once we made it to our first look out point. We took some pictures and mostly enjoyed how happy Andy was to run up and down and all around the mountain.

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While we were climbing the mountain, we also bumped into a wild or stray Shiba Inu? My host mom guessed that he belonged to the temple—we saw a cat too. It looked healthy and well groomed so I bet she’s right. The dog was incredibly cute but literally wanted nothing to do with humans. It would cower and move away whenever a human got too close to it. However, it absolutely loved Andy and they ran around together while climbing the mountain. Actually, they got so close that the little dog followed us down to our car in the parking lot! If only we could have taken him home too!! 

We decided to take a late lunch at a restaurant near the mountain that was famous for making their food using acorns. Acorns are plentiful in America and yet I’ve never even heard of food being made out of them before so I was excited to have it for the first time. We honestly had a 진수성찬 (a large feast) spread out on the table: 도토리쟁반국수 (acorn noodles), 도토리전 (acorn pancakes), 수수부꾸미 (red bean wraps?),  and 도토리 사골 들깨 수제비 (Some kind of acorn soup paste?). It was a much needed meal for a morning of hard work—both studying Korean and hiking! 

Also, we found this small little store on the side of the road selling 누룽지 which my host mom explained as “crunchy rice.” From my understanding, it is the scorched rice at the bottom of the rice cooker which is often eaten in the form of a savory snack or with soup/stews. We bought a HUGE pack to last us throughout the rest of the winter. Basically, think rice chip!

03/18/19 Monday

This is why I hate falling behind in blogs… I forget what I did.. especially if I don’t take many photos to jog my memory… School was most entirely a blur. I stayed up really late to finish my TOPIK practice test (reading and writing portion) so Katie and I grabbed some coffee at the convenience store closest to the school before heading to our homerooms. The kids are allowed to have coffee in school but it’s not sold in their school store, so Katie and I felt like we were sneaking in some contraband into the school once again… so we tried our best to chug the drinks in a corner of the hallway before classes started.

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Katie and I ended up skipping lunch at 하나고 for the day because she needed to memorize her presentation, so we grabbed a 편의점 lunch and ate at the youth center. In other exciting news, I got to finally try the popular Korean ice cream 돼지바 (Literally–pig bar) that my Economics teacher brought up in class the other day. Harmony went with us and together we bought them for about a $1 each. We concluded that they pretty much taste just like those pink strawberry shortcake bars back in America except the outside is covered in chocolate flavoring rather than all strawberry and vanilla. (I do not think I am being biased but America’s bar wins hands down.) 

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Korean class was also a blur so I really have nothing to add to that… I couldn’t finish my writing assignment because of the fact that I procrastinated with my practice tests so I was feeling out of it during class. 

After class I went to Better World with a group of students to pick up our stipend. I also had a package waiting for me!! Earlier this month I ordered some jeans online cause I lost one pair (idk where it went…) and my two pairs of jeans (not black) have a hole forming in them or they are too big for me, so I had my mom ship them to me. She also included some hot chocolate and snacks in the box as well. 

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03/19/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was an exciting day because Katie and I would be meeting some of our English mentorship students for the first time! I had my first period with three second year girls, most of which I knew already as we did have classes together. It was nice seeing familiar faces! There was 수빈 (co-President of the school), 은서 (She is in my 정치와 법 class) and then I met 지연 for the first time. We spent the hour talking about ourselves—getting to know each other with icebreakers—and then we talked about our favorite foods and famous foods in our respective countries. I had a Google Doc of American and Cuban food from when I discussed food with 호영, 건우, and 근영 so I showed them that. We also talked about one day (possibly) leaving the school during our meeting time and getting 분식 and bubble tea! I really hope that can happen~ 

The rest of my day at school was another mentorship program period and my 한국사 class with the third years so I spent that time doing Korean class work. We ended up (once again) not staying at 하나고 for lunch because most of our friends wanted to wait till 12:40 to eat and that was around the time we needed to leave the school to make it to class on time. Instead of rushing to eat our food (after getting through the long lunch line too) we opted for some 분식 at the same place we adventured to find the past week. We ordered the same thing (떡볶이 and 튀김) and stuffed our faces until our stomachs were about to explode. And the lunch was cheap! About $2 per person~ No wonder this stuff can get addicting.

Once again, too much time has passed so class is honestly a distant, foggy memory for me right now. During one of the breaks, however, I got to watch Harmony, June, and Kaitlyn practice their dance. (They formed a dance crew with people from their class as well as Liam from 2반 and a supporter from the research project days.) They are practicing a cover dance by Lisa from BlackPink to perform maybe? One day? I am hoping at our closing ceremony! 

I came home right after Korean class and went out to eat with my host family and Ellen. We decided to try out the new meat grilling restaurant that was built in the space of the abandoned 설빙. The building was empty since I moved in with the family and within probably the last two weeks, that restaurant was finally put in its place with a total outside makeover. (Quite literally though, the outside was somewhat remodeled to look like an old, traditional 한옥.) It officially opened on Sunday so we were one of the several customers trying it out in hopes of finding a new 맛집! The place had a pretty nice interior and the atmosphere was family friendly. The cutest part were the paper cups we received for water. Each cup had its own little character drawing of a food item. I do not know if it was planned (or if we got lucky) but we each got a different character!

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We ended up eating a couple orders of meat, a platter of cheese (It was grilled and then eaten with the meat… my host mom made sure to give the last two pieces to me and Ellen because… American, that is why.) and we also had 쫄면 which is a type of cold, chewy spicy noodles. Honestly, I do not understand the difference between those noodles and spicy 비빔냉면? The way we ate it at this restaurant was way overly spicy. I’m good at handling most spices so I still finished my portion and ate what my host mom continued to give me without tapping into the other water supply on the table but the same can not be said about the other girls at the table—even my Korean host sisters. Also while we were eating dinner, I told my host family about the joke my 국어 teacher said in class. At the time, I understood that he was telling the kids not to sleep in class but I didn’t get the reference to the noodle. The joke is 쫄면 졸리면 안돼요. Funny right? No but I was happy to be able to connect it somewhere. 

That’s all for this blog post~~ I would rather not make three day combined posts nor have the organization of this post to be so jumbled but this what I have for you at last! I hope you enjoyed anyway the post anyway~

  • Emma 엠마