Last Day of Korean High School, Goodbye Party, & Lots of Crying!!! (05/17/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/17/19 Friday

You have not seen sentimental until you have met me. And I am not advertising this as necessarily a good thing but it is a fact. I am the most sentimental, emotional person I know and this is clearly well exemplified by my very need to document almost every moment of every day with personal glorified journal entries, pictures of literal subway train floors if I thought I would miss the sight of them, and receipts from the too many convenience store snack runs this year because even if they add about 2 pounds to my wallet…hey, they could make a cool, artsy background to one of my scrapbook pages. Oh, have I mentioned that before? I also am prematurely accepting my mid-life crisis fate of having a hobby involving glue and hole punchers–oh, and tons and tons of stickers. 

Maybe it is also because I am a water sign? Although I would not necessarily say I fit the ‘typical mold’ for a scorpio but I definitely have a good grasp on the water-works and emotions if that means anything. 

Anyways…

All of this seems of importance today because today was my very last day of Korean high school. My last day at 하나고등학교 as an exchange student. And (technically) my last day of high school EVER. How could I not walk the halls with tear trails permanently etched into my cheeks?

As per usual, I woke up this morning to the sound of birds noisily (but sweetly) chirping outside my window and I buttoned up my dress shirt, shimmied my skirt on, and swung my backpack onto my shoulder with the anticipation of a day at school for the last time. HOW BITTERSWEET!

First class of the day was Music class with Katie and while the other students were working on new projects that involved some music theory in a way which shocked me because I thought this was an average music class but looks like the days of just singing songs from a textbook are over. Instead of having Katie and me do that, our music teacher gave us these worksheets about 농악 otherwise known as peasant music, farmhand music, or community band music. It discussed the origin of such music and accompanying the sheet was a little bag of wooden people playing 농악 악기 (musical instruments) and there was a color code at the bottom of the paper explaining how to color in the traditional outfits with red, blue, and yellow.

I also ran into 세림 during the break in between first and second periods and she gave me this adorable gift as a going away present and I almost burst into tears right then and there. She gifted me cute stickers with phrases written in 한굴 (Korean alphabet), a panda stuffed animal, and the cutest scroll/letter that must have been typed up from the computer. 

Also, our music teacher finally put up all the music project posters in the hallway and it was fun being able to see what all the other students did. They would later be voted on by the other classes so each project had a number on it though Katie’s and mine were just done for fun so ours was on the wall with a pink heart and our names were written on the bottom. It made me happy just to see it. It meant a lot to still be included.

After music class, was my very last English class with Jason쌤 which is definitely going to be a class dearly missed because of how fun it was–and not only because it was conducted in English. It was just a lot more enjoyable than I had imagined with exercises in speech giving, impromptu practices, tongue twisters, body language and those things not only being informative but fun ways to interact with my classmates. This last class was no exception because Jason쌤 was kind enough to buy the whole class donuts from Dunkin Donuts so were able to have a party.

We just got to goof around the second half of class after doing some reading exercises. At one point I wanted to snag a video clip for my 1 Second a Day video and all the kids were enthused and started waving and/or throwing their hands up into the air as if they were one of those inflatable long-armed sale balloons you often see in front of car dealership lots. It was a lot of fun.

Right before lunch, Katie and I were thrown a surprise going away party (which we may or may not have been alerted about–by accident–by several different people: our lunch friends and English conversation pals, for example.) The meeting room/lounge on the second floor which we utilized for one of our English conversation 공강s (because the library’s private rooms were filled) was made up as the location for the event. The layout of the room was the same but there were decorations littered around the room and the tables were filled to the brim with snacks, pastries, and juice boxes galore.

Throughout the time of the party, students would come through and talk with us and hang out–some giving us letters and drawings. Some were from people I never really talked to and they usually wrote that on the note like “We had so and so class together but never talked.” It was nice that they wanted to wish me a farewell but it also made me realize the connections I missed out on making and I wished they had reached out to me or I that I had done so.

It was such a memorable time and I was so thankful for everyone that came including all of my English mentorship students (new and old), my homeroom classmates, all my third-year friends, and of course our lunch group made up of our 2nd year friends. My homeroom teacher also was there and she wrote a letter to me which she read aloud while Katie’s homeroom teacher played a melody on his guitar. I could not help but tear up at her words as she talked about how proud she was of me and how she silently supported me when she would see me studying Korean before class and making friends. I never really thought about how even those little moments or decisions would have an impact on how she viewed me as a student but I was happy to know that they had a positive effect. She also gifted me a book of short stories in Korean and although I am not sure if my reading comprehension level is quite there yet, the thought was greatly appreciated.

At one point during the party, I started just tearing up at everyone surrounding me asking for goodbye selfies and at the fact that my arms that were filling up with letters that I knew would have a difficult time fitting into my backpack. 도윤 saw my face and almost immediately also burst into tears and so there we stood, in front of everyone, hugging each other in tears. She gave me a little wrapped baggie of her favorite hair oil that she promised would help me remember her by–mostly because of the smell which I had to agree. Her hair always did have a particularly nice scent.

After our final school lunch (and dessert which consisted of these grape-flavored ice cream balls? Imagine Dipping Dots but HUGE) and the bittersweet goodbye party, I had my economics class which comprised of our first period actually being a lecture (although, I studied Korean in preparation for my test) but the second period involved going outside and having a snack party with every kid offering up something purchased at the school’s convenience store. Basically today involved a lot of goodbyes and a whole lot of food to numb the pain and sadness in a way. 

Even at the time of walking out of the double doors of the main gate at school at the end of the day, I could not really wrap my head around the fact that I would be leaving. I could not believe that this would by my last time at 하나고 for the foreseeable future. (EDIT: Quite sad that because of world health circumstances, I was not able to return to my school before all of my friends graduated…sigh) 

Katie and I cleaned out our lockers and I just stared at the empty shells of what was once filled with pictures, random snacks, some winter jackets, and most importantly a next time. My homeroom gave me this giant goodbye poster board (made by taping two poster boards together) which included post-it note messages from every person in the class written in English or Korean and they must have went on my Instagram and printed out a photo of me from my feed to have it be the center of the board. They all signed the back too and I was just a crying baby once again when I received such a thoughtful gift!

It was so hard leaving the school building but of course we kept getting stopped along the way which lengthened our journey and made saying goodbye that much harder. My 3 second year friends from English 공강 (The gals that I had went to 홍대 with together recently) stopped me and Katie for some last minute gifts and to thrust a bag filled with more Korean snacks into our possession. They also helped Katie and me take our final pictures–dressed in our school uniform–in front of the 하나고 sign in the lobby of our school. We recreated the photo that we took the very first day of school. Oh how things come back full circle~

There was so much to carry home and it was quite an emotional day so I ended up going home right away. I decided I would spend the night relaxing in preparation for the graduation trip tomorrow but also high key cramming for my Korean test because I am no psychic… but I was not going to be doing a lot of studying in the ~mystery location~ of our 1박2일 (2 days one night) trip in celebration of completing our program (successfully?)

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ This is one of those blog posts that I know I can return to when I want to reminisce on all the good memories I made while abroad on my gap year because no matter how hard those 9 months were, this post highlights examples of why everything was 1000% worth it and how I would do it again in a heartbeat!

하나고 친구들 혹시 이런걸 읽고 있다면.. 할 말이 있어요.

하나고 친구들과 선생님 영원히 고맙습니다. 진짜 너무 감동 ㅜㅜㅜ

하나고에서 다니면서 재미있는 추억도 많이 만든거 같아서 헤어지는게 너무 너무 아쉽고ㅜㅜ 진짜 그리울거 같아용! 나 잊지 말고! 연락해줘요ㅠㅠ 한국 들어가면 꼭 밥이라도 같이 먹었으면 좋겠네용. 하나고 학생들 진짜 열심히 살고 능력이 있는 사람들이라는 걸 느꼈어요! 하나고에서 이렇게 고생한 만큼 좋은 꿈같은 결과를 있을 거라고 항상 응원할게요!

서린, 도윤, 윤세, 혜지, 세림, 지은, 정민, 주연, 수빈, 은서, 지연, 호영, 근영, 건우, 예성, 서연, 민지, 선민, 도연, 원준, 동철하고 더 많은 학생들인데 저에게 영향이나 친절한 기억을 준 모든 친구들 포함할 수 없어요… 암튼 하나고!! 화이팅! 또 만나자!

  • 엠마 (Emma)

Yeonnamdong Cafe and Waffles, & Live Octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market (05/16/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/16/19 Thursday

2nd. To. Last. Day. At. Korean. High School. I almost could not believe that time had passed by so quickly, but at the same time…hadn’t exactly done so smoothly or unnoticed. (I will reiterate sentiments along this line for probably every single post from this date forward as we count down to the impending departure date back to the states: you have been warned.)

Usually, at 하나고 the students get to wear their comfy/casual version of their uniforms to school (which consist of a jogger and matching sweater set) on the last two days of the week but because I knew it would be my final days there–and expected lots of photos to be taken–Katie and I agreed earlier that we would wear our full uniform: vest, long sleeve button down, ribbon/tie, and plaid skirt. (Of course forgoing our blazer because HELLO, May weather.) Waking up before 6 was never fun but on these final days, the alarm did not seem so menacing and the stillness of the apartment did not seem as lonely and stares from subway passengers did not seem so awkward. I guess your perception changes as routine turns into signing off.

As always, my first class for Thursdays was AP 미시경제 (AP Econ) and had a seat saved for me next to 서린 and I happily soaked in the final moments in that class. My teacher passed out a new note sheet for the day’s lecture and I of course took one despite the fact that I knew I would be zoning out today–millions of thoughts racing through my head. During the breaks or project-work time, I studied Korean. I was learning a couple advanced grammar points from our supplemental textbook because I really wanted to do well on this final and jump a level. 

My next class was 한국사 and 임선생님 immediately smiled at me–with his 1,000 watt smile– when I walked into the class. I still remember him as one of the first teachers I met at this school and how kind he was and the fact that I told him his writing was hard to read on day 1…yeah, I still shudder at the thought of that. He knew that I recently spent his class working on homework or studying and he had encouraged me to continue to do so and would even occasionally come over to see what I was doing and ask about my work. I did not have anyone I was close to in this class but I felt silently supported by him with his huge grins and fervent nods. 

For lunch this day, I decided to go in earlier so that I could eat with my friends were the 선배s of the school (seniors) aka the third years. This group included 세림 from AP Statistics last semester, 정민 whom I was currently taking 3학년 한국사 (3rd Year Korean History) with, and 지은 and 주연 from last semester’s English Mentorship 공강. I usually eat with my 2nd year friends or just with Katie so this was a nice change of pace to be able to truly talk with them more and say our final goodbyes too, of course. It was fun being able to goof off and talk altogether since they all happened to be a part of the same friend group which made coordinating quite easy~

We took selfies altogether because I of course would never want to forget their lovely faces! I love them so much and I do not think they will ever know how much every single of them as shaped my time here for the better (well, unless they are reading this… then 얘들아! 미국에 언제 와??  보고 싶따아 ㅋㅋ)

After lunch, 지은 did not want me to leave yet so we went to the school store and got ice cream (well, she bought mine~~) and we linked arms and walked around the blooming campus while enjoying our cold treats before I really did need to yeet to make the bus back to 홍대. Today was the Korean final for 1반 and 2반 but something came up for my teacher so my class’ test was pushed back until after we came back from the graduation trip on the following Monday. Honestly very bittersweet because yeah…on one hand we did get more time than the other students but obviously there was no way we were going to study on our trip so I felt like it would leave me more underprepared but oh well, nothing I could do about it but my best.

I rode the bus back home alone while eating my ice cream cone which felt very against-the-rules to me because generally you should not be eating on public transportation in Korea but it was a tear-filled day so I cut msyelf slack. 

Instead of heading off to take the test like all the other Nsliyians, I agreed to meet up with Josh to chat a bit and also study for our upcoming final. I first took a detour at H&M to buy a skirt I was looking at (The weather was warming up and I needed more options okay…the excuse I told myself as my suitcase would later probably overflow with clothing and other misc. doodads.) We agreed to meet at a café called Layered which apparently was all over Instagram and it was not too hard to get too following Kakao maps, it was actually quite close to the Better World office. I walked up the steps to the vintage looking home turned café and knew upon first glance why this place was so popular–it was overwhelmingly adorable. To the wall decorations, the cute colorful furniture, and the impeccably decorated pastries on different sized and shaped cake stands. I just wanted to order a little bit of everything!

Josh and I found a place inside to sit (which was a feat in and of itself) and we shared this little early gray flavored cake with frosting decorated on top to look like the breed of dog from Lady and the Tramp–Lady in specific. Is it a cocker spaniel? I am not sure about that one.

Eventually we finished the dessert and our drinks and moved out into the sun and sat on the balcony which had gorgeous views of the city all spread out around us. I was shocked that I had not stumbled upon this café sooner and actually bummed out I had not. I definitely wanted to take Katie here.

After we studied a bit, I went to meet up with Katie at our favorite waffle place–와플대학–while Josh went to go find Jenna who was in KFC with Kaitlyn and Liam. Us Three had plans to later have dinner at Noryangjin Fish market and it would be my first there! (It is arguably the most famous seafood market in all of Korea… wait I take that back..maybe only in Seoul. I know Busan is extremely famous for their coastal delicacies.) Originally, I was going to have my first taste of 산낙지 (live octopus) there but I had already checked off that bucket list item with my host family the previous weekend. Josh was disappointed that I did not wait for him which was funny to say the least. I promised him that I we could still order it again because it was not half bad.

Katie and I shared an after-Korean-test-waffle which was a tradition of ours (and the last time it was gonna see the light of day this program). Today’s waffle moment was one filled with light whipped cream and pieces of strawberries.

After I hugged Katie goodbye, Josh, Jenna, and I took the subway to Noryangjin (노량진) Fish Market. It was kind of hard to get the market because we went through this tunnel that was underground which then let us up above ground but we walked through this building that was practically empty and kind of scary to be honest and then eventually were able to figure out what building to go to and before we even entered through the doors, my nose knew we were at the right place. Even upon leaving the market, I could not get the fishy smell out of my nose, perhaps the seafood particles attached to the hairs in my nose. 

The fish market was indoors if that could not have been assumed by the mention of buildings and it felt like a huge school gym with high ceilings and lots of floor space but instead of a track or a rock wall, there were stalls and stalls of bins and jars and cases of a myriad of seafood. It was very overwhelming because prices were not listed out on signs like most street food places which meant that haggling was going to be very important here. Josh warned Jenna and me that the vendors will really try to rip off foreigners when they come here since they presume they do not know how much they should be paying for the certain amount of fresh fish. He also said that one way for them to get more money out of people is to tell them that they can eat the stuff they buy at a ‘restaurant’ on the second floor so that when they are done shopping around they can go upstairs and eat their selections that are prepared for them but this, of course, comes with an extra cost that is unnecessary (if the weather is nice because then you can just eat outside.)

Josh was the real G as he talked to the vendors with such unabridged confidence and joked around with them and they surely liked how fluent he was in Korean. That also gave us brownie points and so we got some nice, dense slabs of fresh, raw salmon for a very good price. We also got to pick out our own live octopus from a case and watching the young man take it out of the water and it attaching to his hand almost immediately was really fascinating.

I am not too sure where we went after that because I was just blindly following Josh but we ended up on some sort of rooftop that had lots of outdoor picnic tables and gazebos and the most beautiful sunset view of the surrounding area. We all sat next to each other–crisscross applesauce–and enjoyed eating our fresh seafood using wooden chopsticks right out of the bag they came in. It was a really nice way to end the night and the pairing of Josh and Jenna are two that I do not spend much time with so it was fun getting to talk to them more.

Thanks for reading this blog post~ It is also a bit long and spacey since I feel like I went on tangents and maybe included too many descriptions… but I know I will not it regret later

 I don’t (,: – Future Emma

See You next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Celebrating Teacher’s Day in Korea, Class Election, and Saying a Final Goodbye to My Supporter (05/15/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/15/19 Wednesday

Today was actually Teacher’s Day in Korea–a holiday that celebrates amazing teachers and all that they do for their students! There is a nationally recognized teacher’s appreciation holiday in the states too but most people do not actually take it too seriously. At my high school sometimes there would be banners up in the lunch room or perhaps over the school announcements, but even I was guilty of really not doing much in celebration of my teachers.

When I walked into my homeroom class this morning, I was met with all the desks pushed to one side of the room and the lights being off. There was one single desk in the middle of the room with a chocolate cake on top. The homeroom class was planning on surprising our teacher with the cake when she came in to lead homeroom for the day. However, when the start of homeroom came around by the indication of the school bell, our teacher never showed up… and she was usually never late. A group of students, including me, brought the cake and tried to find her in her office. She was there!! Apparently she was feeling too shy to come to class because she knew everyone would pull something like this. I thought that this was kind of sweet–her not wanting to be the center of attention even though everyone was so grateful for her! And I felt the same way too, she did not treat me differently for being an exchange student. She never spoke to me in English and she even wanted me to do everything that her students were required to like having a counseling meeting and giving her my class schedule. It made me feel like truly a part of the class. 

When I returned to homeroom, I was surprised to see another cake on the single desk in the middle of the room which all the kids said was for me. They had also prepared a cake for me and once again someone was able to light up the many candles all around the cake and I got to blow out the candles. We also all took a class picture together before first period started. It was too early in the morning to eat the cake so they told me to just save it until lunch and eat it with my friends so I did just that.

For lunch, we were eating a special meal which was even served with dessert: a cupcake with a pretty carnation (the flower usually given to teachers on Teacher’s Day). The big part of the meal was 쌀국수 which is basically just noodle soup with beef. As a possible garnish, they had a side table with bowls of 고수 otherwise known as cilantro in English. Apparently, a lot of Koreans despise it!! So it was at a separate table with a sign that said “This is the cilantro you put on top of the soup to eat. Cilantro to taste” or something along the lines of that. I have found that translating these to English statements is rather difficult. I was talking to 서린 about this because she was the only one from our friend group that took any for her soup. She explained that most Koreans have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. I found that really interesting because I can eat it just fine. It is hard to imagine eating something as normal as an herb and then tasting soap.

After lunch, I grabbed the blueberry cake gifted to me by my class and shared it with all of my friends. Luckily, 혜지, 서린, and 윤세 were all in my next class (law and politics) so we were able to eat all together and bring the leftovers to our class. We still had a slice or two left in the hallway so I just ran into the room and asked if anyone wanted cake and shared the final bit.

Today’s politics class was quite fun because we were having the election of our political parties. Each of the party’s presidents went up to the podium at the front of the class and gave their platforms/campaign presentations. Our president, 윤세, did a wonderful job giving her prepared speech and she was also joined by our campaign manager 서린 who did a really good job winning the audience over. She knew exactly what to say to make our president look good. Also, while 윤세 was giving her speech, the other members of our party (including me), shouted our “fan chants” if you will which really just included our party name and various cheers. Our political party was 올리당 which is word play on 정당 (political party) so we would scream 올리다 올리다 올리당!

I am proud to say that our party won the election. :,)

The school day ended a bit earlier as usual (since it was Wednesday) but instead of going home early or attending club meetings, there was an event for Teacher’s Day in the performing arts center. 

The event consisted of prepared videos and slides of the students expressing their gratitude for their teachers. There were even clips filled by alumni of the school and recent graduates which I thought was extremely sweet. Every single teacher in the school got their own slide with comments written by students for them–Even the cafeteria ladies and the janitorial staff. When a slide appeared for the front fate security staff, I almost lost it. I greeted them every morning and every afternoon when leaving and coming from school and even though I never said more than one word to them, their smiles were really appreciated. I took a lot of pictures of the presentation; I mostly took photos for all of my teachers but especially my favorites. I would like to remember what they look like even after several years. 

They even included slides and comments for the forgeign teachers which made my heart swell. Of course, I clapped even louder for them!!

With my 국어 선생님 and ofc Katie (AKA Keet) ㅋㅋㅋ He wanted to join in on the selfie!

After the event ended, Katie and I planned to meet our supporter 혜린언니 at 연신내 for dinner but while we were walking to the station after getting off of the bus a stop early, we took a photo of the legendary 하나 은행 (Hana Bank) in our school uniforms. That was a check off the bucket list! (In case it was not clear, 하나고 was founded by 하나은행)

For dinner we went to this cheaper place that for one set price, you could have all-you-could-eat 떡볶이 (Korean spicy rice cakes) and an immense amount of extras and sides including ramen, vegetables, fish cakes, cheese, sausage, etc. The menu was kind of elaborate with cooking instructions as you had to do everything yourself: pick out the type and shape of rice cakes, the sauce, what level of spiciness you wanted, and then of course all the extras to go into the soup. It was a struggle at first but our 언니 did an amazing job–it was delicious!

Afterwards, we walked to a nearby Holly’s Café and chatted over some warm drinks until it was time to go. This would be our very last meeting together which was hard to even imagine. We had gotten so close over the past several months that separating now… was soul crushing. We gave our supporter a letter and hugged for what seemed like forever. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye but I know that this was not goodbye forever. I know we will meet again so I found comfort in that.

Well, that is all for this blog post. It was a long one! Congratulations if you got this far, I hope you enjoyed reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Smuggling Cake & McDonald’s into Korean High School & Surprising my Korean Teacher!!! (05/14/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/14/2019 Tuesday

Tuesday marked my final mentorship meeting with three of my three 2nd year friends 수빈, 지연과 은서. After having a really great time hanging out together on Saturday, we were still buzzing with excitement during this meeting. Although it was the last one, we did not make it sad and instead focused on anything but eventual goodbye at the end of the period. I also gave them their s’mores kits which they absolutely loved since all of them had never eaten a s’mores before. From the night before I ended up buying baggies and letter sheets from ArtBox and wrote a cute little letter with instructions on how to make the smores. I also detailed that if a bonfire could not be found (IF…lol), that the microwave in their school 7/11 store would be a perfect substitution.

Music class as well as my other academic classes are a bit foggy now. I do not think anything much out of the ordinary occurred. Katie and I took a walk around the school this morning because as it got warmer this weekend, the plants and flowers around campus were exceptionally beautiful and vibrant. Throughout the year, Katie and I tended not to explore campus all too much but when I stroll around like this, I realize how beautiful the campus really is. And so of course I had to take a ton of photos to remember everything.

Today, I also had my final mentorship meeting with my other two second year friends and because I also have this period with Katie and her two first year students, we decided to throw a little party which would include cake, McDonald’s chicken tenders, and lots and lots of snacks from the convenience store. Our cake came with candles but we had nothing to light them with…or so we thought. Before we knew it, one of the students (hiding the name for privacy reasons), pulled out a lighter and so we were all able to make a wish by blowing out the candles. But not before we were all exclaiming how funny it was that they just casually had a lighter in their bookbag.

It was a really nice party and everything was delicious–even the cake which was only ten dollars!! I really do think the students enjoyed it and I was happy that we were able to make our last meeting together special. We ended our time together by playing some games which left me clutching my side because it hurt so much from laughing. One of the games we played was this elephant one that I learned in my ASL class from senior year of high school which comprises of one person standing in the middle of the others forming a circle and they point at someone randomly. The person that gets pointed at has to put their hands on their nose in order to impersonate a elephant trunk while the people standing next to them have to form their ‘elephant ears’ with their hands. It was fun and got us moving after eating so much sugar!

After our meeting was over and we separated to grab lunch, Katie and I made our way back to 홍대 for our final Korean class before our final exams, if you will. I quickly rushed over to the $10 cake store and bought a cookies and cream cake for my teacher (I also had a card I had written to her during one of my classes that day). While our teacher was filling up her thermos with hot water for tea, we told her to take her time as we needed to prepare ‘something.’ That something was the cake if you are not catching on. She started laughing and played along while Jacquelyn stayed in the hallway to stall our teacher and started asking her questions so that she would walk slower our classroom. Eventually she came in and we all shouted for her and wished her a Happy Teacher’s Day. Honestly, I wish I could replay that moment in my head always as her smile truly made my day. I think she thought we were only surprising her because it was the last class; she did not expect us to be doing all of this for Teacher’s Day (as well). Is my teacher not the most adorable teacher ever? (My classmates are cute too I guess… :p) Teacher’s Day is technically tomorrow but like I mentioned early, today was our last class and a test day is usually… not the mood for a celebratory day involving cake.

We passed out plates and forks and all got to enjoy some cake while the teacher started going over the grammar review. She kept trying to get us to eat more and we were like “This CaKe iS fOr YoU!!!”

This blog post is rather short but here it isssss anyways. Thank you for reading!~

  • Emma 엠마