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.
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)