Having (another) Mental Breakdown in Korean Class & Eating my Feelings with Heart-Shaped Korean Street Food (03/28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/28/19 Thursday 

Today was our March monthly exam so of course I was a nervous ball of energy the whole day as I worried about how I would do on this test. Today’s classes were pretty chill (just AP 미시경제학 and 힌국사) so I prepared for our monthly exam during those couple of hours—reading over the reading passages in the book, preparing OPI possible answers, and finishing my review of all the newly learned grammar points. 

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During 한국사 however, the teacher would still try to include me in the conversation. In the beginning of the class he told me that he was going to go really fast today so he apologized and said I could work on other things—and that’s what I was doing. At one point, I got really frustrated at myself because I did something wrong and I showed it on my face and he literally stopped class to apologize! He then asked me if I had the book to which I replied no and that’s when he realized I was doing self-study. It was a pretty awkward interaction (and in front of the whole class so that made it better…) At one point he told the class this 속담 or proverb about the roots of plants (the color being the main point of the proverb) and tried to explain it to me. At the time, I’m pretty sure I was able to grasp the general meaning but now I have no idea. Though, the really nice first year next to me wrote it out on a post it note just for me! That was a really kind gesture. 

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Katie and I skipped lunch at 하나고 and just went straight to the cafe next to the youth center and ordered drinks. It was cram time! I had to leave a bit early to walk over to Better World to be able to take the monthly test. 

What can I say about the monthly test? How about that I pretty much bombed it?? Not only that, but my OPI ended up with me leaning against the wall and on the floor sobbing like a child! Wow, it must be nice to have a stable emotional state like mine. 

We took the reading test first which I just wasn’t feeling. There were several questions that made me scratch my head in confusion and I had to end up guessing. I was really upset because when she said there were only two minutes left, I had almost a handful of questions that still needed answers. I was able to read everything in the allotted time but when it came to comprehending everything and being able to answer the questions… that was another thing entirely. 

Then we started the writing and speaking portion of the test and I volunteered to go first which might have been my mistake? We were doing the test over the phone again which I thought would be okay because I did just do objectively well on the OPIC and that was over the computer—not even with a real person. Boy, was I wrong. I started off the call strong with my 자기 소개 and my teacher started right off the bat with questions describing the current place I live which I prepared for and was able to talk quite naturally and coherently about the topic.

At one point I tripped up and she corrected me which I think made me become nervous. She continued to ask me questions but I kept doubting my answers and being unsure of myself which prevented me from thinking about how I could have answered the questions and instead made me focus on the mistakes I was making or the fact that what I was saying was too simple (like lack of advanced grammar or vocab) or my extremely shaky voice. At one point (I actually can’t even remember the question), I started crying. I couldn’t think of anything good to say so I started crying and my teacher kept trying to calm me down and I was able to for a couple more minutes but then she asked me a question about the economy and the relation between America and Korea which just made me burst into tears as I paced around the room for a minute trying to think of what to say. My teacher told me to calm down and that it was alright but I just kept crying and sobbing “I am sorry” into the telephone microphone. Before she ended the call, she told me to calm down for a minute before returning to the writing portion of the exam. 

Once I knew she hung up, I cried on the floor of that meeting room. I was so mad at myself for being like that. Why couldn’t I just take the exam like everyone else? No one has broke down in front of their teacher as much as I have like this (if at all to be honest). I guess I’m not cut out for this type of program. I’m too weak… I wished I could taken the OPI well. Do-over? But I knew there was no time. I began to resent my actions which only made me cry more. I ran into the classroom crying while handing off Jacquelyn’s phone to josh before running out into the hallway to cry in peace. 주연쌤 saw me and ran after me to comfort me. 

I told her that I literally just failed my speaking test because no words could come out of my mouth. She gave me the biggest and warmest hug I’ve had in a long time and let me just cry into her shoulder for a couple minutes as she patted and traced circles on my back. She cupped my face with her hands and told me that we all have bad language days and just because I had one on a rather important day (compared to most others) doesn’t make me a bad student or bad at Korean. She also brought up my OPIC score and how I am doing well. I smiled and wiped my tears but her encouragement only worked halfway. I understand that everyone has those days (Like Hannah Montanan said, nobody’s perfect!) but why do those days seem to happen so frequently with me? Why do I always feel so judged? And crumble under pressure? Some people don’t seem to have those days… 

After I calmed down in the bathroom (after a few more hushed sobs), I returned to the classroom to finish my writing test: however, I didn’t have as much time as usual because I spent so much time crying in the hallway so I was not able to finish my writing. I didn’t even make it to the minimum—600 characters. I felt humiliated and mad at myself for allowing my bad speaking test affect another part of my performance. 

Once we finished the test, our teacher proceeded to have us finish the rest of the last chapter in the textbook rather than allow us time to breathe and relax. I was not in the slightest mood to take risks with Korean and participate in class so I sat there with teary eyes for the entire last half hour of class. I kept thinking about having waffles after class with the other NSLI-Y students and ranting about how we did. I needed time to breathe. The room was increasingly feeling more stuffy. I did not want to be at the Better World Office any longer.

But instead as I was trying to escape the office with josh (bless him for trying his best to always comfort me), my teacher called me into the room and asked if it was okay that I skipped waffles and went to a cafe with her instead. This was a tradition that I loved and was a bit upset that I was missing out on one of the last times to partake in it but I took my teacher’s genuinely sweet offer and got tea with her. We walked together to a cafe near Better World and talked about my test. She wanted to get down to the bottom of why I had a literal mental breakdown during the class. I tried to explain my thoughts but as I foreshadowed earlier, my Korean skills were not their best today… 

I tried to explain my fear of disappointing myself and others and how mistakes really kill my confidence faster than anything else. I also talked about the fact that being alone in that room enables my body to freak out like that. We talked for a bit and she tried her best to comfort me but I still couldn’t help but feel incompetent. We had to cut our meeting short because my teacher forgot that she had a meeting with 민정쌤 so she had to hurry on over to the cafe next to the youth center for that. She walked with me until then and we had good conversation on our walk. I felt like I was able to be more open to her because of that meeting but I didn’t feel better about what I did this day at all… 

Josh and Katie were still waiting for me at the waffle place so I sat with them until Katie finished the last bits of her waffle. Josh and I had dinner plans with Kaitlyn that night so I decided it wasn’t worth it to eat a waffle if I wasn’t going to have it with everyone else as we simultaneously complained. 

Kaitlyn, Josh and I ended up eating at this 분식점 that we always pass while walking around 홍대. We shared some 떡볶이, 순대, 튀김, and 오뎅. It was all really cheap and it ended up only being less than 5,000 Won per person.

Also, because we were clearly not done with all that greasy, unhealthy food, we went to eat 호떡 at this one famous spot that I have been meaning to try out for the longest time! (서울호떡 is the name of the place!) Why this particular place? Because they had the cutest slightly pink colored, heart shaped 호떡! And wow… was it delicious. It was 2,500 Won which is a bit more expensive than the ones I am used to eating (cheap ones on the side streets of 신촌 or the 녹차 ones near 연서시장) but it was worth it! For the picture and the actual taste of the pastry. The filling was amazing!

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Thanks for cheering me up guys ❤

Afterwards, Josh came with me to buy ingredients to make S’mores for my public speaking classmates as a part of my speech on ‘How to Make S’mores.” We went to a foreign specialty snacks store in hopes of finding actual graham crackers but no luck… although we used Korean branded crackers and chocolate (Hershey’s was more expensive man… I’m on a budget.), we did buy American marshmallows! 

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And that was my Thursday! 

Wow, what a long blog post this was… and a lot of it was me rambling about my emotions. Honestly after reading over this post (while editing), I became depressed. All of my feelings of inadequacy and failure came rushing back to me because this day is one of those that would be difficult to forget–one of the hardest of my entire time in Korea. For me, there was such a difference between feeling these emotions during the beginning of my journey (maybe because I still had that ‘I-am-a-novice-excuse’) and towards the end. I began questioning why I was still feeling these types of emotions. I debated whether or not to include those parts because of how personal they are…but honestly, this was the REAL me. This was a REAL experience on my exchange. I do not want this blog to just be the highlights of my study abroad experience–as traveling and living in a foreign country is not all rainbows and sunshine and glitter. I hope this can bring some reassurance to those that are also going through a hard time. You are not alone; you are never alone.

Thanks for reading. I apologize for yet another long tangent ending off a blog post. I hope you stick around for the next one~ Till then!

  • Emma 엠마 

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