NSLI-Y Academic Year Packing List (South Korea Edition) // 9 Months in South Korea

안녕하세요 여러분!~

I posted a blog about my packing list for my NSLI-Y summer program (You can read that post here) because I figured it may help a few people. I know that when I was first traveling for NSLI-Y (and even now to be honest…), I watched countless Youtube videos and read numerous blog posts on the topic of how to pack for about a month-long trip. When I was an alumni leader at last year’s NSLI-Y Seoul Summer PDO, I had a quite a few students tell me that they read my blog– and that they appreciated being able to look at my packing list. So I figured I would make another one! A list that was a bit more daunting to make because of the length and characteristics of this trip. (For example, seasons! I won’t just be packing for summer weather, but every possible season.)

Well, I hope someone finds this helpful! I will be bringing a personal item (backpack/purse), a carry-on, and two large-sized pieces of luggage (which will be checked bags).



What I Will Wear on the Plane:

  • Sweatshirt
  • T-shirt
  • Leggings
  • Sneakers

Carry On

(No weight restriction but the bag must fit in the overhead compartment of the airplane.)

Note: In the interest of ease, I am packing all my heavy winter clothes in my checked bags while my lighter summer/spring items will be in my carry on. I will be wearing these clothes at PDO, the hostel, and during the first couple of weeks in Korea, so it is more convenient to have everything in a smaller bag then buried in my checked bag.

  • 5 T-shirts
  • 7 Blouses (more like nice/dressy summer tops)
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 4 skirts
  • 2 summer/spring dresses
  • 2 pajama shirts
  • 2 pajama bottoms (one thin, long pant bottom and one pair of shorts)
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 workout/comfy T-shirts
  • One pair of nice winter boots
  • One week’s worth of undergarments
  • Laundry Bag
  • Tote Bag
  • Travel Scale

Toiletries Bag

  • Travel Size Conditioner (x2)
  • Travel Size Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Hair Brush
  • Hair Ties
  • Travel Size Body Spray
  • Mascara
  • Concealer
  •  Travel Size Face Wash
  • Tooth Brush
  • Toothpaste
  • One Razor
  • One Bar of Soap
  • Travel Size Shaving Cream
  • 4 Sheet Masks

First Checked Bag

(International Weight Limit: 50 pounds)

Note: I will be bringing two checked bags. Most of the stuff I am bringing in my second bag will be taken out/used up by the end of the program: toiletries, snacks, host family gifts, etc. My first checked bag will mostly just have my fall/winter clothes and essentials.

  • 1 Sweat Shirt
  • 1 Jean Jacket
  • 1 Zip-Up Jacket
  • 4 Sweaters
  • 1 Dressy Collared Blouse
  • 4 long-sleeved shirts
  • 2 cardigans
  • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • 1 pair of yoga pants
  • 5 pairs of leggings
  • 4 pairs of thick wool stockings (black)
  • 2 pairs of sheer black tights
  • 3 pairs of sheer nude tights
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 1 winter dress
  • 3 camisoles/undershirts
  • More undergarments
  • 2 knee braces*
  • Winter Scarf
  • Winter Gloves
  • Winter Hat
  • One pair of nice sneakers
  • One pair of Dressy Flats
  • Deodorant (x8)**
  • Shower Cap

(I packed a lot of tights, leggings, stockings, etc because assumed that was what I would be wearing under my uniform skirt during the cold winter months. The sheer tights came in handy and I did wear those on a daily basis but I never wore stockings/leggings (except for finals week) because none of the other girls did. Mock me if you will but I suffered through the winter with my bare legs exposed for the sake of fitting in–I did have a long padding jacket, though. Another thing I bought because it was trendy…)


  • 3 notebooks
  • 3 packs of highlighters
  • Laundry bag for delicates (x3)
  • Pencil Case (with highlighters, pens, pencils)
  • Brownie Mix
  • Retractable Bag
  • Candy Goodie Bags (for host siblings)

Second Checked Bag

Toiletries Bag

  • 1 Bottle of Shampoo
  • 2 Bottles of Conditioner***
  • Face Wash
  • Bar of Soap
  • One Package of Razors
  • Feminine Products (x6)****
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Cold Medicine (Day & Night)
  • A&D Ointment
  • Nasal Spray (for a stuffy nose)
  • Toothpaste (x2)
  • Ibruprofen (x2)
  • Travel Stain Remover
  • Acne Treatment


  • Heavy Winter Coat
  • Large-sized Towel
  • 2 washcloths
  • School Backpack
  • One Jar of Peanut Butter
  • Bag of Breakfast Bars
  • Tuna Packages
  • Stuffed Animal
  • Host Family Gifts*****

Personal Item


Note: I would have used my school backpack as a personal item but I will be flying JetBlue to NY before flying Delta to Korea. JetBlue, being a budget airline, has stricter baggage restrictions. I used this backpack for three travels this summer (to NY, Florida, and Seattle), but it does not abide by JetBlue’s restrictions. So I am opting to use a backpack purse instead.

  • Important Documents
  • Passport
  • Headphones
  • Travel Snacks
  • Wallet
  • Water Bottle
  • (new) charging cable and cube
  • Portable Charger
  • (new) headphones

*I have knee issues (They just love to pop out of their sockets during the worst times…); therefore, I have to bring braces in case I do any strenuous physical activities like hiking, taekwondo, etc.

**If you listen to one thing from my list, let it be my tip on deodorant: PACK PLENTY. Pack enough for your whole time in Korea if you can. Korean deodorant formula is not the same as American brands and so it tends to not be strong enough–Plus, if you do find the American stuff, it is really really expensive. Just bring it!

***I have curly hair (a hair type that isn’t too represented in the Korean population (besides the 아줌마s and their perms), so I am bringing plenty of my favorite hair conditioner. I know I will run out while I am over there… so I will just survive off Korean brands.

****Period products in Korea are quite different than what is used widely in America. Tampons are quite difficult to find and so if you use those, bring plenty. Pads are available but a lot of them are on the lighter side so feel free to bring them if you need pads for a heavier flow. I brought enough pads to cover my entire time in Korea just because it was easier for me and they are cheaper in the states.

*****I am bringing host family gifts for my first host family and my host family from my summer NSLI-Y program. I think that a blog post about host family gifts would be a really great idea, so I plan on writing that in the future (probably after I get back– it can be an inspiration for the next batch of NSLI-Y summer and AY students). When I finish that, I will link it here.


Thank you for reading this post! I hope this helps future NSLI-Y AY students while they are figuring out what to bring and how much.

Update: Both my checked bags were around 42-43 pounds… so I did it! 😉

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Korea AY Pre-departure Orientation in NYC {09/10 – 09/11}

Day 1:

Wow! Looking back at PDO, I feel like it went by so fast yet so slow at the same time. The orientation seminars (as exciting as they were) dragged on; however, the remaining time in America felt like it went by way too quickly.

I woke up Monday feeling pretty dazed and confused. I had stayed up till 3:30 am the previous night watching The Fosters with my mom while stuffing my face with a pint of peanut butter marshmallow ice cream.. (Need a Netflix recommendation? I have binge-watched 2 seasons in about a week! I cannot get it enough– so much drama!) I could not shake off this nervous and anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt like I had a pile of bricks weighing me down from the inside out. The morning was rushed with last-minute luggage weigh-ins, goodbyes to my brothers as they headed off to school, one final walk with my dog, and a lot of teary eyes. My only friend still in my hometown came over to say goodbye and help me load the car with my 9 months worth of luggage.

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My Evee Build-A-Bear ft. my carry on

When I got to the airport, my mom helped me check in my bags at the JetBlue counter (and BOOYAH! No bags over 50 pounds! Both my bags weighed in at 42 pounds which is honestly impossible because they are definitely different weights but oh well! Better for me then!)

My mom hugged me goodbye in front of the winding, never-ending security line, and I would be lying if I did not say that I cried… A lot. Definitely received some stares.

I met up with Katie (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 Alumna) and Kaitlyn (EIL – Peace Studies 2017 Alumna) at the gate for our flight, which was delayed 2.5 hours! I hung out with the Chicago gang and we talked to fill up the time.


Me, Katie, and Kaitlyn ❤

Eventually, we boarded the plane but because of the delays due to the bad weather in NYC, we had to wait on the runway for other planes to take off before us (or so the pilot said), but that took almost an hour so let me just say that we were very behind schedule.

Arriving at JFK was very exciting. I had been to NY countless times in the past but never used JFK–only Laguardia. So I enjoyed the new experience. After Katie, Kaitlyn, and I got our bags, we met up with some other NSLI-Y AY participants at the shuttle area. Lucky for them, their shuttle came right away while we had to wait for a bit.

The shuttle took about an hour to get to our accommodations, but we passed the time telling stories and eating Kaitlyn’s homemade cookies, Jenna’s Takis (which she pronounced so very wrong), and my brownies. We were still starving (craving real food, real sustenance), so Katie and I drafted up a message to send to our RD 민정쌤 to save us some pizza!!! 

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Blurry, low-quality photo with high-quality people! (now ft. Jenna, too)

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Equally blurry photo of NYC

We arrived at the hotel ready to eat some food! We picked up our lanyards and name tags, stipends and luggage reimbursements, as well as our NSLI-Y 10 T-shirt (one that I already own but stupidly left at home–and the one I got is one size too big).

Katie, Kaitlyn, and I scarfed down out pizza before heading out with a big group of NSLI-Yians to get some bubble tea. I believe that the place was called Shiny Tea and honestly, it was not bad at all…

We came back to the hotel, slightly damp from being rained on, and all hung out on the first floor in Jenna and June’s room. We enjoyed our drinks, passed around Kaitlyn’s cookies (again), and mostly talked. We wanted to play card games but the night just ended up being us getting to know each other. I had talked a lot to Katie and Kaitlyn (because we did live so close) and Addie (because she was a fellow NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 Alumna), but I did not talk to the others too much. I was excited to learn more about them and bond!~

pdoo 9

You know those people who look good in sheet masks? Yeah, I am NOT one of them haha

The night ended pretty early after room checks at 10 pm. I did sheet masks with my roomies Alix and Kaitlyn before heading to bed. We all knew what was waiting for us the next day: lots and lots of presentations.


Day 2:

The second day of PDO began with an early wake-up call. Everyone met in the lobby of the hotel at 7:45 am dressed in business casual attire. We were told by iEarn to dress nice because later that day we were meeting a State Department worker from the ECA (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs).

pdoo 45

We ate breakfast at this place located in the basement of the building that houses the iEarn office. It was not exactly a breakfast buffet because the cost of the food was based on weight (I believe 53 cents per ounce) but nonetheless, there was quite a spread.

After breakfast, we all piled into this large meeting room in order to begin the presentations. I do not want to go in very much detail about them because we did (basically) the same things I wrote about in my blog post about being an alumni leader for the Korea Summer 2018 PDO. (I will link that post, if you are curious to know more details about all of our sessions, right here.)

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Walking to the iEarn office~

We made a working agreement that all of us AY students must abide by during the 9 months we are together like be accountable (for yourself and others), be open-minded, and most importantly, *communication IS key* We signed the bottom to truly make it an enforceable contract!

We went through 5 sessions: intentional language learner, model citizen ambassador, safe and savvy traveler, thoughtful and engaged host student, and open-minded and flexible cultural explorer. We did a few icebreakers about obvious traits of cultures and hidden characteristics, talked about safety and program rules as well as discussing reasonable language gains to expect by the end of the program.

We ended up actually receiving our pre-program OPI scores on a sheet with our expected ending score and a description of each language level. From my performance on the OPI back in July, I was given the score Intermediate Low, which I was totally fine with. I mean, I have not studied Korean formally (or honestly consistently) for 2 years now. I just hope I can perform that well on the placement test we take on the first full day in Korea!!

pdoo 32


The State Department Official Dina Suggs congratulated us on the achievement of receiving this scholarship and embarking on such an adventure. She spoke a bit about NSLI-Y goals and other scholarships/fellowships that could be great opportunities for NSLI-Y alumni.

Once presentations were over, we all headed up a few floors to the iEarn office for a very last meal in America: Chipotle! I got to sit at a table with Liam, Jack (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 alumnus), Josh (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 alumnus), McKenzie, Teresa (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 & NSLI-Y Korea AY 2017-2018), Minjeong (our resident director), and Ligaya (iEarn staff member) and we talked about a variety of things! I was able to get to know more about Teresa’s experience because she did attend the same Korean high school that I will be as well as talk with the other summer alumni, too.

pdoo 31

We also had some interesting conversations about host families… Can you tell that I am super excited to meet mine? I cannot wait! (Also later that night, I got an email from one of my host sisters. She wrote it in English, and it was very cute. She told me who in the family also enjoyed my same hobbies so that I could enjoy those things with them. The misspelled words were endearing, and I was happy to know that she could understand my letter enough to reply back.)

After Chipotle, we all left the iEarn building and walked over to the Columbia University campus. (My first time visiting my future school!!) We took some group photos before walking back to the hotel.

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Group Photo!

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Addie (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 alumna) and me

A large group of us changed out of our business casual attire into some comfy clothes and bought frozen yogurt at 16 Handles only a couple blocks away from our accommodations.

We were then feeling spontaneous! We were quirky NSLI-Y participants that took a night walk around a small park. The trails were completely dark and it even started drizzling a little bit, but the laughs and stories made it a great memory.

I ended the night chilling with my roomies and packing up all our stuff for our flight to Korea the following morning. My lovely friend Kaitlyn kept us up by talking about her job at the Field Museum where she worked with dead insects– yes, you read that right. Well, I admit that the jewel beetles looked somewhat cool but I will forever feel grossed out by bugs.

Thank you for reading this post! PDO was a success, and the entire night was filled with nerves and a lot of anticipation. Stay tuned for more posts about Korea–  more posts from when I actually arrive! (Currently on the plane while writing this! Exactly ten more hours left~)

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year: Host Family Information

It is here! The long-awaited information is finally here! I woke up yesterday morning (09/04/18) and was shocked to see a plethora of messages in our AY Kakao group chat. I knew as soon as I saw the notification for 200 plus messages that host family information had arrived. I hurriedly grabbed my laptop and there it was, waiting in my inbox– my host family information.

My host family will consist of 5 individuals: host mother, host father, 2 younger host sisters (10 & 11), and 1 younger host brother (7). My host dad is an office worker while my host mom is a stay at home mother.

I am really excited about this host family because I have always wanted to have a sister! I was really hoping to be paired up with a family that had a girl. And lucky for me, I got the best of both worlds! I got a brother and sisters~

Additionally, I’m overjoyed that my host mom is a housewife. I hope that this could possibly mean that she will have more free time so that I can spend time with her. Maybe she is also more involved with her kids. I would really like to go out and do things together– with the whole family too. I loved my host family during my summer program but because they both worked, we never really went out and did things together besides the occasional dinner or simply taking my host brother to his soccer practices/games. I hope I can spend more time with this family! I will definitely try my best to.

goyang map

My host family lives in an apartment in the city of Goyang (고양시) in Gyeonggi Province (경기도). Which means that my family lives in northern Seoul. This is pretty convenient since my high school is also located in northern Seoul (on the same Subway line too!)

My host family’s home is about an 18-minute subway ride and a 20-minute bus ride to my high school. I don’t think this is bad at all! I am happy that I am not too far. Plus, no transfers so very convenient!

Receiving my host family information has made this year in Korea already feel so much more real. I can finally finish buying host family gifts! (Bless Amazon for fast shipping!!) Less than a week until I leave my home state of IL for NYC, and exactly a week until I am in Seoul, South Korea! Oh, how time flies… it feels like just yesterday that I got the AY notification. Thanks for reading! 다음에 봐요 친구들!~

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year: Host High School Information

안녕하세요 여러분!~

In July, I finally got some long-awaited information! I found out which Korean high school I will be attending for the 9 months on program! I will be attending Hana Academy (하나고등학교) which is a private high school located in Seoul, South Korea.

hana 3

I got this crest off their website! They even have an English Website: http://eng.hana.hs.kr/

하나고등학교 (ha-na-go-deung-hag-gyo) is a very recently established school compared to the high school I attended in the states. It was founded in 2010; therefore, it is less than 10 years old! I am older than this school! (On the other hand, my high school in the states was founded in 1890.)

하나고등학교 was founded by Hana Financial Group (one of the largest ones in Korea– according to Wikipedia!)


hana 4

This is an outside shot of my school!~

Not only is 하나고등학교 a very well-known school due to its high rankings and low admission rate, it has also been used as a location for some Korean dramas!

It was utilized for the filming of High School: Love On and Gentleman’s Dignity.

I have never seen either of them, but it is pretty cool… nonetheless!



This is the daily schedule provided by the school’s website!

One unique aspect of this school (compared to the other NSLI-Y high schools) is that this one is actually a boarding school, so all the students live at the school. From alumni that attended this school last year, they let me know that this aspect can be a difficult thing to overcome when it comes to participating in extracurricular activities and hanging out with the students outside of class. However, it also creates a unique dynamic for the student body and staff.

hana 6

hana 7

These photos are all from the school’s photo gallery on their website!

I am really excited to be able to attend a Korean high school to be more immersed in society (and to pick up some natural Korean!) I also am super excited to wear a uniform? Is that weird? I have never had to wear one before (I have only attended public schools), so I am ready to experience that. (At 하나고등학교 they were a standard uniform Mon-Wed and then they have a casual sweatsuit type outfit for Thurs-Fri.)

Okay, that is all I have to share about my high school! I cannot wait to be able to attend and make plenty of new memories! Gotta make my 5th year of high school count! haha Thanks for reading! 다음에 봐요!

  • Emma 엠마

Studying Abroad in South Korea Again? (NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year 2018-2019)

안녕하세요 여러분!~

As evidenced by the title of this blog post and the featured image, I have been afforded the opportunity to yet again study Korean in South Korea thanks to NSLI-Y (The National Security Initiative for Youth). On April 12th, 2018, I received an email in my inbox informing me on my acceptance to the 2018-2019 NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year program!!! This program will enable me to study Korean for 9 months in Seoul, South Korea as a gap year before I begin my time at university.

NSLIY Acceptance 1

The emojis don’t just cover up my personal information; they also represent my exact feelings towards receiving this scholarship!!!~

It has been a little while since I found out for two major reasons: 1. I had to figure out if a gap year was right for me as an individual and a student. 2. I had to make sure that the university I committed to would allow me to defer my admission til the fall of 2019 as well as my scholarship.

The latter proved to be more of a daunting task because I had no idea how to go about asking for a deferral, and the FAQ section of the school’s website was only so helpful.

(Have I mentioned in a blog post where I will be attending college? Well, just in case I haven’t, I will be attending Columbia University in NYC as a QuestBridge Match scholarship recipient. I will be making a post on QuestBridge and my experience when it becomes more applicable– right before applications open, for example.)

It ended up taking about a week to figure out whether or not I could accept my spot on the NSLI-Y Program. This was very stressful and frustrating because it seemed that everyone in our finalist group chat had already been deferred and had accepted the scholarship. I wanted to be excited about the prospect of spending a year in South Korea, but I could not let myself until I knew it was official–because I honestly did not know whether or not I would be accepted. I couldn’t find any information about QuestBridge (Match) Scholars taking gap years, so I went through that one week in the dark and extremely anxious.

One week may not seem like a big deal, but after waiting since November to know of the results of my application, one more week was honestly very torturous.

But, finally, it has been figured out!! And, I will be going to South Korea with NSLI-Y yet again (but this time for 9 months!)

Story Time:

I just wanted to add how/when I found out that I had been accepted into the program! (More so for my remembrance, but hopefully you can find enjoyment or a few laughs from it!)

I was sitting in AP Spanish as my teacher discussed our plans for the Socratic Seminar we would be having after we annotated the reading (It was by a famous Spanish author. Jorge Borges I think?) And like the bad student I am (just kidding), I kept checking my email throughout the class. I truly did not think I was going to get anything because I thought (if they did come out that day) it wouldn’t be til after 3 pm. However, to my surprise, an email was waiting in my inbox with the subject line “NSLI-Y 2018-19 Application Status” and an attached PDF.


Internally, I freaked out. But I was in class, so I had to contain myself. After class, tears started welling up in my eyes because everything started to become very real as I knew I could now check my email at any moment. I let my Spanish teacher know that I had received an email regarding my gap year (because she supported my wishes to take a gap year since the beginning of the school year) and that I would check it in the bathroom.

She offered her classroom because she did not have a class third period, but I knew I was going to cry (with either decision) and I figured being alone would be best. I went to the least traveled to bathroom in the school and opened the email. I read the first line and literally screamed. I erupted into a crying fit and I could not contain my happiness. I ended up missing the first 40 minutes of my third period class (American Problems) because I went to see my counselor to tell her the great news and calm myself down.

From there I told my friends and my (other) Spanish teacher who wrote the NSLI-Y recommendation for me as well as some teachers who were around. I waited to tell my mom when til I got home because, of course, in person messages are lot better than sharing the news via text message.

So that was how I found out! And I would like to just end this post with how utterly grateful I am to be able to receive another amazing opportunity to study Korean– especially because everything is paid for by the government. I am thankful for everything and everyone! I officially accepted the NSLI-Y scholarship on April 21st, 2018. Therefore, I could finally make this post! To more awesome endeavors in Korea!~

(P.S. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about my AY interview experience, but I will wait on posting it until December or January since it will be more relevant then! I will also post an updated interview tips/advice blog post then too!~ So look out for that– by following my blog!!)

고마워요!~ 다음에 봐요.

  • Emma 엠마

My NSLI-Y Interview Experience

안녕하세요 여러분! In this blog post I will be writing about my experiences with the NSLI-Y interview. Like I previously stated in my last interview blog post, I have had two interviews with NSLI-Y. Once during my freshman year of high school when I was applying to the 2015 Korean Summer Program (which I didn’t get accepted to) and the second interview was for the 2016 Korean Summer Program during my sophomore year which I was fortunately accepted to. This post will solely be about my experience and if you want to hear about my advice and tips  for the interview, I have already posted a blog about that linked here.

First Interview

Date: 01/04/15   Time: 3pm

I found out that I was a semi-finalist on the first of December a little after 3pm. I was stalking the NSLI-Y forum on College Confidential and was getting disappointed when I saw that other people in my area had gotten their notifications. I eventually just refreshed my email and there, waiting in the my inbox, was my semi notification!~ I was made aware of my interview date, location, and time on December 13th through my email. My interview was scheduled at a church. It was on the 4th of January (a Sunday) which was the last day of my winter break as well. My interview was scheduled for 3pm but I arrived at the location at around 2:30pm with my dad. I was nervous that we accidently went to the wrong location but then when I got to the door there was a sign for the NSLI-Y and AFS interviews so I knew I was in the right place. From my research from past applicants some had to fill out a questionnaire of some sorts. I didn’t have to but others did so I would keep that in mind when figuring out how early you want to arrive at the interview location.




What I Wore To My Interview

I used the 30 minutes before the interview to calm myself down as I had become extremely nervous after seeing all the other well-dressed semi-finalists. The “waiting room” I was in was the basement of the church. There were fold up tables placed in a circle but when I came in there were no chairs open so I just stood near the windows reading the AFS magazines they also provided. The area also had snack tables with  water bottles and an assortment chips and crackers. 10 minutes before my interview, a man came up to me and introduced himself to me. He then came back to me at 3pm and introduced himself again but this time as my interviewer. We left the “waiting room” and cut through someone else’s interview to get to our room. (I apologize to whoever that was! I know it was pretty awkward…) We sat around a small, round table and conducted the interview. He had a packet and papers that he was filling out during the interview. There were mandatory questions he had to fill out and he straight out told me that. My interviewer was extremely nice and pretty easy to talk to. He had been a former exchange student. He went to Austria in his junior year of high school. The only small problem I had with him was that he didn’t speak English too well. I had to ask him multiple times to repeat his questions at certain times because I could not understand some of the words coming out of his mouth due to his thick accent. He, however, was completely understanding and would repeat anything I asked him to. I was also able to talk to him about himself which helped make the interview feel less awkward. My interview lasted around 45 minutes. I was waiting for him to call in my dad for the interview as I saw that happen to the other finalists in the “waiting room” when I was there earlier. However, mine didn’t ask for my dad. Overall my first interview experience was not like how most of the blogs I had read made it seem. There were no situational questions like “What would you do if you got into a fight with your host mother?” or really any questions explicitly about study abroad at all besides the “Why do you want to go?” question.

Interview 2

Date: 01/03/16  Time: 1pm

I found out that I was a semi-finalist on December 2nd. I recieved the email a little before 11am central time during my math class and yes, I did check my email in the bathroom secretly. I can honestly say that I returned to my math class with the biggest smile on my face. I was notified of my interview by email on December 15th. My interview was at the same location as it was last year. It was still on a Sunday (On the third of January) but my time was a bit earlier than it was last year. I came around 30 minutes early again but less for my nerves and more because I was wanted to meet and talk with another semi-finalist for Russian Summer that lives around my area. There is not much to add since the location was the same and so was everything else. I also was able to talk to one of my alumni friends who had done Russian summer the past year (We talked almost everyday on the CC forum and we both applied together. However, she made it the past year while I was rejected.)


It Was Extra Cold That Day


What I Wore To The Interview


My interviewer this time around was a young girl who had studied abroad in Spain during college and had hosted several students while she was growing up at home. The interview went very smoothly and I felt a lot less stressed and nervous than I did during my last interview. There were no awkward silences and I found myself answering the questions with ease. When I finished there was something in me that told me I did really well. Again, at this interview, I did not have to fill out the questionnaire and my interviewer did not interview my dad either. My interview was around an hour.  The questions from both of my interviews were extremely different from each other which was good because they were easier to answer than the other ones but they were also a little hard since they were not expected. However, I was able to answer them well even with the surprise factor.

That is all I have for you guys! I hope you enjoyed reading about my interview experiences and I hoped this can help future semi-finalists prepare for their interview. If you would like to read a post about my interview tips and advice, please click here. Thanks for reading! 안녕 친구들!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)


Pre-departure Orientation (June 27th-June 28th)

{So… I have been back in America for more than a month now and I never posted while I was in Korea. Not even one measly post. However, I did start some entries and I kept a journal so for the next few months I will be uploading posts about my time and some informational posts too like my favorite cafes, food, what I packed etc. This first post will be about PDO in washington.}

On June 27th, 2016, I found myself up at 7am all excited about the adventure that awaited me. (Well, once I made it to the airport and flew to Seattle). Going through the airport is so different when you are by yourself. I’ve only ever flown with my mother and siblings so going through security by myself and finding my gate by myself made me feel very independent. Security was a breeze (Especially because I got to keep my sneakers on). My gate was all the way on the other side of the airport from my security checkpoint so I had a long way to walk. As I approached my gate, I scanned the crowd trying to look for the familiar faces of the other Nsliyans on the same flight as me. It wasn’t till I heard quiet shouts screaming “Emma” when I finally found Angie and Jesse. There was an hour until boarding time so we just hung out and talked until it was time. We also met up with Kyle who showed up a little bit before our flight was scheduled to take off. The 4 hour plane was ride was really hard for me. For some reason I was really restless and my plane was super hot. I just couldn’t find any position that made it comfortable to sleep. After a super long shuttle ride, all the O’hare airport kids and LAX kids made it to the University of Washington. We got to the school around 3:30 or so and were greeted by our resident director and a couple of other IEarn program coordinators. There were two long, plastic tables that had Nsli-y Korea taped onto them.


Our AWESOME Welcome to Seattle, Washington {Picture Credit @ Hailey}

When we got to the university, we received a lanyard with our name on it and a bag with goodies such as snacks and pens. After we collected our things, we got our room assignments and tried to figure out how the wifi worked (No wifi in the dorms. Only in the lounge area).


My cozy.. and quaint little dorm room.

Everyone hung out in this lounge area that had a pool table, ping pong table, and a piano. I hung around with my really good friend Angie (my plane buddy) since she was the only one I was close with at that point in time. While we were there, the university had some Japanese exchange students as well. Some of the kids in my program spoke Japanese as well so it was really funny seeing them interact with the other students there.


Angie and I snapchatting all the Nsliyians surrounding the Japanese kids like they were a zoo exhibit.

At around 6ish we finally got dinner which was an all American food- pizza! Dinner was very fun because I got to hang out with and talk to people that I hadn’t had much time with since I arrived. Angie and I sat down with Vinzent, Ava, and Adilene and they continued to prove to me that Nsli-y scholars are amazing people.


We talked about our Korean studies and what we were most looking forward to in South Korea. At this time, I also met my Korean Resident Director. Our first conversation together was about Korean dramas. It was a good one.

After dinner was when the fun began… ICEBREAKERS. Well, I know many people wouldn’t call it that but I found it really enjoyable. From all the blogs I read about PDO, I was excited for all the awkwardness! We did a lot of things on the first night. We had to line up by date of birth (Without talking)


Our birth line (It was not by year only month and day)

and then when we were in that line, we stated our name, our birthday, and a fun fact (my fun fact was that the knuckles on my ring fingers are basically nonexistent). Then we did a game of human bingo and this weird hand clap game that I couldn’t do and I also dont remember it. We wrote a constitution for our Nsli-y program and lastly (THE BEST ONE) we did Karaoke! That night we found out who the singers were on our program. We sang BTS, Apink, Taeyang, and Exo. It was a great way to end the night.


Angie & Tise Dancing to BANG BANG BANG by Big Bang


Trudi singing Save Me by BTS

The next day (June 28th) I woke up at the crack of dawn to take a shower and get ready for breakfast which was at 8am. After a lovely breakfast of waffles and fruit, we had lots and lots of presentations. These included presentations on culture shock, language learning, basic rules, program safety, and the experience of the two alumni (Zhuhur – Summer 2014 & Ben – Summer 2015} that were there with us. Dinner was at 5:30pm and I ate with all these girls and all we talked about was our excitement for the next day since we would be hopping on a plane! The dinner was also pretty funny because when I was in line getting my serving of pasta, these Japanese exchange students behind me said my hair looked like ramen (It was funny retelling the story to everyone at the table).

After dinner, a group of girls (Sofia, Rhea, Mckenzie, Teresa, Jane, Abigail, Cynthia, and Sura) and I went down to this lake on campus.

nsliy 12.png

The day couldn’t be complete without a selfie of some sort.

It was a pretty long walk and on a hill too! We just hung out on the dock talking while sticking our feet in the water. The dock was fun to sit on as the waves from the boats would move the dock up and down.


Try to convince me that this isn’t beautiful.


Top Right: Cynthia, Abigail, Sura, Jane, Rhea, & Mckenzie                                                        Bottom Right: Theresa, Me, and Sofia

We even asked a random stranger to take our picture. (He then jumped into the water which boggled my mind since it was literally ice cold!) It was a fun excursion (even though Sura almost got us lost on the way home).

We got home and I just hung out with my roommate Cynthia and Sura in my room and we just talked (Are you sensing a trend?). At night all the Nsli-y kids had to write their goals, a letter to themselves, and take a survey before the end of the night and at 10pm (curfew) the RDs came and collected everything.


View looking out from the balcony of the lounge area

And that was my PDO experience. I can’t wait to be posting more about my time in Korea and I hope everyone liked reading this post! I will update soon. (HAH)

Emma  엠마

The best journeys answer questions, that in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask.  – Jeff Johnson

Host Family Information

An underlying theme in both my Nsliy application essays as well as my interview was my excitement for my host family. I can definitely say that having a host family is a great plus to this program. I would have still applied if we lived in dorms like some of the other countries, but I am glad that I’ll be able to have the experience in Korea with another family. I’m not new to the whole “hosting” world as my aunt herself owns a homestay in New York where she hosts students from all over the world. I’ve met countless people from countless countries through staying with her every summer (unfortunately, I will not get a chance this summer but my time in Korea is something I’m super grateful for). Her business was one of the many starting points of my curiosity for other cultures and languages. But back to the original point of this post, I’m happy to share that on June 21st (Tuesday) I recieved my host family information by email. I will not be sharing everything (for privacy reasons) but I will share as much as I deem suitable.

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Seodaemun District (Seodaemun-gu)

I will be living in an apartment located in Seodaemun Gu (서대문구). This part of Seoul is where Yonsei University is located (A prestigious university in Korea) as well as Sogang university which is where previous Seoul Summer Korean classes have been held (Last year was the first year the program moved to Sookmyung Women’s University). Sinchon (신촌) is also a neighborhood in Seodaemun Gu which is known for it’s many shops and lively night time crowds. I will be living in an apartment with a mother and father who are both managers at an educational institute. I’m assuming this means that they work as managers at a hagwon (학원). Hagwon is the Korean word for a private academy or cram school that prepares students for the college entrance exam (대학수학능력시험). However, I’m not 100% sure. As for host siblings, I will have two younger brothers (Just like I do now). One is 14 years of age and the other is 11. It will take less than an hour to get to Sookmyung by subway which makes me happy since I would rather not have to wake up so early in the morning just for my long commute. Our curfew for Nsliy is also very very generous (at least to me it is). Our curfew for weekdays is 9pm and the curfew for weekends is 11pm. Both times are very manageable.

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Sinchon During the Day

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Sinchon At Night

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That’s all for today folks. Sunday (6/26/16) is my last full day in my hometown. These past few days have been spent cramming in last minute hang outs with my friends at the movies and downtown, as well as my mom making me all my favorite foods (I’m going to miss Cuban food so much when I’m gone. Tostones and Flan are my guilty pleasures). I’m still not packed yet but it’s supposed to rain on Sunday (tomorrow) so I can always do that then. Thanks for reading this post and don’t forget to subscribe!~ 안녕!!!

Emma 엠마

Flight Itineraries are Here!

I think it is safe to say that I am psychic. On June 13th, 2016 (Monday) I uploaded a blog post about how I am preparing for Korea. In that blog post, I mentioned that it was a very special day because that day was exactly 2 weeks away from the departure date to Seattle. To my surprise, Monday was a special day for one more reason… I got my flight itineraries! (For both my domestic and international flights). I would have posted sooner but I did just upload a post on Monday and I’ve been so busy trying to finish my summer homework before I leave that I couldn’t find time until today to write and upload a blog post. Nonetheless, I am here with some exciting news as I’ve been waiting for this information for awhile now! (In the past years, flight information was given out in May so everyone in my group has been anxious).

I want to start off by saying that NSLI-Y8 (NSLI-Y8 = 8th round of Seoul Summer NSLI-Y finalists) is such an amazing group of people. During the acceptance period, we made a Kakao Group Chat (KakaoTalk is a Korean messaging app that offers free texting, calling, and video chat). We have been talking throughout this whole waiting period and I can’t wait to meet them all in person! One of the amazing girls from our chat, (Her blog can be found here) formated a Google Doc so that we could put our flight information in one place. She did an amazing job! Now we all can figure out who will be on our domestic flights, as well who we will be sitting next to on our way to and from South Korea by looking at organized charts with some memes for good measure.

Basic Itinerary:

On June 27th, I will be heading to O’hare International Airport for my flight that leaves for Seattle (and I don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn. Though I’ll probably still wake up way too early because of all the excitement). As of right now, I already know of one other girl, from our Kakao chat, who is on my flight so I won’t have to go this 4 hour flight alone! We will be arriving in Seattle in the early afternoon (From the looks of it, some people are arriving as early as 10am and others won’t be in Seattle until 7pm. So there will be a pretty long waiting period before everyone arrives).

We will be having our Pre-Departure Orientation at The University of Washington. On June 29th all the NSLI-Yians will be leaving Seattle and landing in Korea in the late afternoon (but it will be the next day in Korea). I’ve never experienced any sort of jet lag (Because the farthest place I’ve flown is New York and that’s only a one hour time difference) so I’m kinda excited (If that’s the right word…) to see what that has in store for me. Who knows, my group has already talked about staying up all night the day before our flight anyways (and we will be having a Smash tournament during the plane ride with our DS’s – I did mention they are the best people ever right?).

I have no clue where I’ll be sitting when it comes to my domestic flight from Chicago to Seattle but on my international flights (Seattle->Korea & Korea->Seattle) I have aisle seats for both durations which makes me super happy because I don’t want to be that annoying passenger when they need to go to the bathroom. I’d rather be woken up then be the one doing the waking up.

Now that I think about it, I’m kinda happy that all this flight business was late because I think the excitement would have been too much if I still had to wait a month knowing all this information.

Thanks for Reading. 안녕!~

“To Travel is to Live.”   Hans Christian Anderson



How I’m Studying Korean (Digital + Physical Resources)

Today is a very special day. It’s a special day because today marks only 14 days left until I hop onto a plane for my Pre Departure Orientation in Seattle. There’s only two weeks left till I potentially leave for Korea and this honestly boggles my mind (Well, 14 days till Seattle and 16 till Korea). Again, I remember when there were 70 days left and now there’s only 14! It’s crazy how fast the days go by (I mean, I expected this… but still). Now, I don’t have anything too exciting to post about my trip yet, (as I am still waiting for my flight and host family information) but I did want to dedicate a blog post to how I am preparing for my six weeks in South Korea (Beware!~ This will be a very long post).

Obviously, I am preparing for this trip by studying Korean. Is it hard to stay in during beautiful summer days to study a foreign language? It is, and it isn’t. I have a lot of fun studying Korean as seeing any sort of growth or success in my studies can make me happy for the entire day (literally). For instance, yesterday I was able to have a full Korean conversation with my Korean friend over Kakao Talk and I only needed to look up one word (French fries). Granted, our conversation was about food so it wasn’t too difficult, but the achievement definitely made me happy.  But I do have to be honest, it is hard to plan out a certain time of the day and actually sit down and begin studying (because it is still studying- during the summer). However, I know I will appreciate my hard work when I’m over in Seoul and that is PLENTY of motivation.

Physical Resources

So as a part of our PPLP, (Pre Program Language Preparation) we were given a textbook to study from as well as weekly assignments that we are expected to complete and email to our Resident Director every Friday by midnight. So far, I haven’t used my textbook in correlation to the worksheets all too much, but I have been studying the textbook by myself (Though I am in the advanced group and i’ve heard that the basic/beginner group uses the textbook a lot). The textbook we were given is the Integrated Korean: Beginning 1, 2nd Edition (Purchase It Here).

textbook 2

What The Textbook Looks Like

I already had the textbook so now I have two copies. Personally, I think the textbook is really helpful because it explains topics pretty well. It provides questions to help further your understanding and places for you to put forth the grammar skills learned (there are even cultural tidbits at the end of each chapter). 

cultural tidbit

Cultural Tidbit About Greeting With Bows

There’s also NO romanization in the textbook which is great for getting better at reading hangul (Korean Alphabet/Written Language) because it does not allow you to use the crutch which is romanization. The only downside I have is that the textbook was created for classroom environments so you will come across sections that ask you to discuss with classmates and there are some questions that involve responses from other people (I just made things up in these circumstances so it’s not that big of a deal). Also, it is a textbook so it won’t help with pronunciation but that can easily be taken care of with another Korean language resource.

Besides my textbook, I only have two other physical Korean Language resources and they are both dictionaries of some sort. The first one I have is Korean Phrase Book and Dictionary by Berlitz Publishing (Purchase It Here).

phrase book

You Can Tell It’s Well Loved By The Bottom Right Corner

The phrases in this book are actually quite useful and it is split up into categories like Arrival and Departure, Shopping, Sightseeing, Eating Out, Business Travel etc. Everything is pretty easy to find as all the phrases are put in organized sections. The Phrase sections show the phrase in English and to the right it has the phrase written in Hangul. Underneath the Hangul, the romanization for the phrase is also displayed (Though I don’t really pay much attention to romanization, this is a handy feature for tourists that don’t plan on learning Korean). phrase book example .jpg

Lastly, the book also has a small English-Korean dictionary as well as a Korean-English dictionary. I’ve actually used this book quite often when it comes to its dictionary. When I need to look up a word for my homework, I use this since Google Translate can’t always be trusted. The book is also quite small, so it’s the perfect size to just throw in your bag when you are going to class or around town. The only thing I don’t like about this book is that most of the phrases (98%) are very very very formal. It’s pretty easy to change many of the phrases by just altering the endings but how to do that isn’t exactly shown in the book so that knowledge will need to be found elsewhere (which is understandable since this was created for tourists and not specifically for language learning but still, I’m going to critique it how I deem fit).

Next up, is another dictionary! This one is titled McGraw-Hill’s Korean Illustrated Dictionary (Purchase It Here). Dictionary

This isn’t any plain old dictionary. Why? Well because it has pictures to go along with the words inside!~ So like the phrasebook this dictionary is split up into sections like In the Bathroom, People, At the Restaurant, Transportation etc. The dictionary displays the word in Hangul as well as an illustration to match that word. The word is then shown with it’s romanization and it’s English Translation of that word. dictionary example

The dictionary also has an index in the back of the book so if you are looking for a word in particular, it is easy to find. Not only that, but the dictionary also comes with a CD with the pronunciation of every single word in the book so you can put it on your computer/phone/mp3 or whatever you use and listen to it when you feel like it (I personally haven’t touched the CD… but hey it will be there when I need it). 

Digital/Online Resources

Here I’m going to link my favorite websites for learning Korean as well as a list of the names of apps that I use. Depending on the resource, I may give a brief description or some information but I won’t be too in depth as it is very easy to just click on the link and check everything out.

(1. TalkToMeInKorean

  • A very popular Korean learning resource (that also has a Youtube Channel to aid lessons). The website also has free lessons as well as things that need to be paid for (I definitely don’t use this website all too much but I did use it to learn hangul).

(2. HowToStudyKorean

  • A very guided Korean language learning resource. It starts off really slow with hangul and works it’s way up in difficulty. (For example, this website introduces the conjugation of verbs in later chapters.) This website has recorded pronunciation of the words introduced in each chapter and it also includes free word searches that go along with the vocab learned in each chapter (Pretty much free but has workbooks to go along with the chapters that can be purchased). I also use this online resource the most out of all three mentioned.

(3. WordReference

  • Dictionary (For all languages. Works for English-Korean and Korean-English).



(1. Memrise 

  • Vocabulary app (You can download the vocabulary from lessons/chapters from many Korean language resources such as TalkToMeInKorean, HowToStudyKorean, and the Integrated Korean Textbook).

(2. Quizlet

  • Online Flashcards (Also has games to help memorize vocabulary).

(3. HiNative

  • Language Learning Community (You can ask questions about grammar and pronunciation and get answers from native speakers).


Lastly, I want to talk about Pimsleur (Purchase It Here). I personally have the CDs for the Basic Korean Pimsleur Program which can be found here.

So I purchased this program after watching Pimsleur’s youtube video about this product. It seemed like a very good buy especially since Rosetta Stone was way out of my budget. Fortunately, this program is not that expensive (at least for the Basic Programs) as I was able to get this program for around $25 (I did buy this awhile back and I’ve actually been able to find it for cheaper lately). So this program is solely an auditory language learning experience. The Basic Korean Program comes with 5 discs with an hour of conversational Korean on each disc. pimsleur cds

It really helps with pronunciation as you are hearing Korean being spoken by native Korean speakers. It helps you adjust to the pace and speed of native Koreans which is really nice. I also like that the lessons are split up by 30 minutes because it makes sitting down and scheduling time for studying a lot easier. Also, each CD reviews what has been taught previously so you won’t have to go back and listen to a CD again when you need extra help with a phrase or question. Obviously, the only problem with this program is that it is solely based on auditory learning so you need to find resources to accompany it if you want to learn how to write. Not only that, but the program does not introduce Hangul at all. If you don’t have knowledge about the Korean alphabet, these discs can prove to be difficult as you have the possibility of not knowing how to pronounce many of the words/phrases. I would suggest knowing the sounds of the Korean alphabet so that following along with the discs is easier.

And that is everything! This was quite a long post and it won’t be very interesting to people who are not studying Korean but if you are looking for more Korean language learning resources to add to your collection, I hope this list helps you with your language journey as they are definitely helping me with my studies! My next post will either be my packing list or my flight/host family information so look out for another post sometime next week. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed, don’t forget to subscribe!~

“Don’t study hard, study smart.” – Amy Lucas