Global Youth Service Day: Making Korean Masks at Youth Center & Eating REAL Pie (04/27-04/28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/27/19 Saturday 

Today was Global Youth Service Day! And if you don’t know what that is, it is an international day recognizing youths’ contribution to their communities. It calls upon the youth of the world to also complete community service on the day in honor of what it stands for. Because of this, Better World organized us to do an extra community service event at the youth center in 마포구 which I did service at throughout the duration of our winter break. 

Today we prepared presentations for the children on Korean traditional mask dance (since we did see one in 안동, we are basically experts—just joking…) Each Korean class had a more specific topic under the branch if mask dance to focus on and present about. My class focused on the history although in my part, I talked about the present usage/application of mask dances (tourism mostly) and then ended off the presentation with a cheesy “If you get the chance to see a mask dance, don’t miss the opportunity and make sure to grab it.” Everyone loved it, though!

After our presentation, we all got matched up with one Korean student (well except me and Addie but we ended up stealing other people’s kids instead) and we made Korean masks! We were given a plain white shell/mold of one of two types traditional masks (One was the bride and the other was the nobleman I believe? Or maybe the fool?) Then to decorate them, we had this textured puffy/slime colored clay? I really don’t know how to describe it! It was like using textured foam and clay at the same time! We used that to cover our masks and decorate them. 

Making the masks was actually fun and kind of calming, stress-relieving even. It was also really nice getting to talk to the kids about a lot of things from their trials making homemade slime to BTS—a room favorite it seemed. We also ate lunch with the kids. Better World and the youth center bought us all burgers from McDonald’s.

This was my first time ever having a shrimp burger!! I remember opening the wrapping and expecting to see a beef patty (as I did not read the label when grabbing my food) and was extremely shook to see a pretty much pink/beige patty. It was good though. I will admit.

We ended off the event by all cleaning up together, taking a group photo, and dancing? We played this one girl group song which has a pretty provocative dance and these two little boys danced along with it so well! I haven’t seen the original but I would bet tons of money that it is definitely not as entertaining as the version we saw today. 

Afterward, I didn’t want to go home right away, so Kaitlyn and I made plans to visit a cafe together and get some work done (Korean studies or our individual research projects). It was kind of a last minute decision to go so I just hopped on Mango plate and looked for a cafe that seemed pretty and I found this one that seemed to serve real, authentic looking pie! Most places in Korea that claim to sell pie really just sell fruit tarts. (This was first learned when searching for pie to eat on pie day last month…)

The name of the cafe was 오늘의 위로

But these looked like the real deal. Real slices of American-style pie! I pulled it up on Kakao maps and somehow, with my mediocre navigational skills in tow, we were able to find the cafe! It was actually extremely small with only about 4 tables to sit at so we decided not to stay that long as courtesy to the other guests that would want to eat here. We left after a short line formed outside. Kaitlyn ordered a strawberry cake while I went for a slice of warm apple pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream–which was extra but worth it. It was honestly so delicious! Tasted like Thanksgiving! I was in love! (And in addition to the amazing taste, everything looked so aesthetically pleasing!)

We were pretty productive in between the random spurts of us just having fun conversation. We left the cafe before dinner time, both returning to our respective homes for the night. Originally I wanted to go out but since I had already done the most this midterms week (basically going out and having fun every single day for the whole week), I needed some rest. 

Lazy Dinner = Ramen

4/28/19 Sunday

Today was a very chill Sunday. I did nothing. I stayed at home all day and worked on my Korean homework and created the outline for my individual project (which was due at 11:59 pm that night).

앤디야~ 왤케 귀여워??

I’m also writing this blog post more than two weeks after this day happened so a lot has left my memory unfortunately… additionally, the lack of pictures does not help but I am assuming it wasn’t too eventful. 

Sometime in the afternoon, my host mom bought croquettes from the little shop within the train station that sells them for like 1,000 to 2,000 won or less. I had never really eaten a croquette before (or the particular ones at that shop although I pass it every time I use the subway and usually always consider buying something but talk myself out of it every time). For those who don’t know what a croquette is, it is basically a fried pastry (kinda like a fritter type thing?) filled with something.

The ones my host mom bought were filled with vegetables, sweet potato, cream cheese, and red bean. (There was one with corn salad but y’all know I did NOT touch that beast…) My favorite ones from the bunch were the 찹쌀도넛 which were these circular donuts (honestly like munchkins) that were filled with red bean and had mochi-like texture. They differ from traditional donut holes;however, because they are made with rice flour rather than being yeast donuts. It was chewy and soft at the same time!! My host mom and I just ate them and talked for a bit before I returned to my room to attempt to be more productive. (I do believe I finished a movie on Netflix this day as well…) 

I was doing homework and then got so confused by this passage. We are currently learning about recent innovations and high-tech products and this particular line brings up a fridge with a screen that allows for its users to check where certain things are inside. I was like what? Are we really becoming this dependent on technology? We can just OPEN the door!

Well that is all for this blog post~~ I hope you enjoyed reading! I’m really behind on these posts but life has gotten so hectic here since it is the end of my time in Korea (10 days left exactly!) so I’m trying to make the most of everything and that does not mean spending hours on my computer writing and editing blog posts…only downside is I forget a lot when I don’t write them soon after… *sigh* Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마 

Asia Philanthropy Awards & Hanging Out with Korean Friend in 서촌 (04/24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/24/19 Wednesday 

My school uniform had to go and mess up my plans for this morning. I was originally planning on going to 경복궁 with Katie this morning to wear pastel colored premium 한복 (Korean traditional dress) and take photos but my uniform (or the lack of one) stopped me from following through on that plan. After 경복궁, we had to meet at 을지로입구역 at 12:05 pm to attend a mandatory NSLI-Y obligation, so we were only going to be walking around the palace grounds for about an hour and a half.

I woke up at 7 am and got ready by 8 am because it takes me about an hour to get to 경복궁 from where I currently live (west side of 고양시). While getting ready, I proceed to pack my bag with my school uniform (We had to wear our high school uniforms to the event– It was mandatory), only to realize that everything was in the wash.

Because I was not attending school this week, I put all of my uniform in my hamper to be washed without even considering the fact that it would not be dry in time for Wednesday. I started to freak out but I assumed I could just dress formally–in a dress– and then wear my school blazer (the one part of my school uniform, besides my bow or tie, that was not in the wash). I texted 소영쌤 about the situation and assumed that it was already solved and that this would be the end of that but… unfortunately, I was wrong. I was on the train–about 30 minutes from my house– and 소영쌤 tells me that I need to wear my uniform no matter what. Even if it is just my skirt and blazer but with a different top. But she stressed that I needed my skirt.

So I had to turn around to get home and wait an hour until my host mom woke up so that I could ask her to get my uniform (because it was hanging up to dry on the balcony attached to her room). My vest and dress shirt were soaked so I ditched those and just wore my wet skirt to appease 소영쌤 and the other 쌤s. I was back on the train before I knew it on the way to the ceremony…low key wishing that I did have the chance to go to 경복궁 with Katie.

I ended up getting to the meeting location about 20 minutes early and so did Alice so we ended up just walking around the area nearby. It reminded me of the main shopping streets of 명동 but way less touristy. It was definitely a place I could see a lot of college students going. Alix and I stumbled upon an earring shop with a lot of sales so we looked around and both bought something. (Since coming to Korea, I have fallen in love with earrings! I used to wear the same earrings every single day for basically all of high school.)

Eventually, we all met up with each other and made our way to the banquet hall that would be holding the APA: Asian Philanthropy Awards. (Did I mention earlier that this was what we would be doing?) Our group included all of the 대원외고 students, Katie and me, and the couple of others who wanted to skip school to attend this event: Hunter, Alix, June, and Jacquelyn. 

We ate some 김밥 that they prepared for us for lunch and then we pretty much sat there for the next hour. Jacquelyn was the only one really doing stuff as she had to practice for her co-host position. (She translated what the host said into English throughout the award ceremony. She was given a script before the event.)

Look at us ❤

About an hour before the start of the awards, June and I were delegated the task of standing in front of the second set of elevators (and the bathroom) to direct people coming off of the elevators to the check-in as well as direct people looking for the bathroom in the right direction. So we stood near the doors awkwardly yet boldly telling people where to go with Korean phrases we practiced with each other several times before we got the first chance to use them. Some people were really impressed with us and I really appreciated the people that would still greet us and ask us questions in Korean, it was validating. There were plenty of people that tried to shake our hands and only greeted us with “Hello” did it for us, but I tried my best to not take the comfortable route and go along with the ‘foreigner’ treatment. (plus I speak Korean so !! it was strange to suddenly switch to English.)

As expected… the group photo! 역시 그룹 사진을 찍었죸ㅋㅋ

The awards started at 2 pm and you best know that I raided the dessert and refreshment table before it began—one plastic cup filled with butter cookies and chocolate wafers. The people winning awards were from all around Asia including a Vietnamese Non-Profit Organization, a Japanese businessman, and an Indian man who won philanthropist of the year. There was also an award that went out to this high school student for developing music therapy programs at her school and others in the nearby area. She actually goes to an international school here in Korea and speaks perfect English! 

They even had a performance! This group did a lively tap dance routine!

Once the award ceremony was over, Katie, Mackenzie, and I convinced 주연쌤 and 소영쌤 to have individual meetings with us so we could talk about our stresses and how we are feeling about the end of the program being so soon. (This involved convincing them not to return to the Better World Office after the event).

❤ 우리 사랑하는 소영쌤과 주연쌤 ❤

They said yes and so we went to a cafe and all had ice cream! Most of us tried their seasonal flavor of cherry blossom but honestly the flavor was really weak, which actually turned out to be a good thing since the after taste was reminiscent of cherry kid’s cough medicine. But still, I ate all of it and felt very grateful to 주연쌤 for buying it all for us! ❤

After that, Katie and I made our way to the 서촌 area near 경복궁 (made it here eventually ;”) in order to meet our supporter 혜린언니 for dinner and a cafe date! She had finished midterms that day (and had stayed up all night to study), so she ended up falling asleep right before we met up and woke up right at our meeting time. We waited about half an hour for her to arrive and she could not stop apologizing to us! But we wholeheartedly understood! We had no problem waiting for one of our favorite people! 

Two of my favorite things in this one photo: 혜린언니 & 떡볶이! hehe

For dinner, we decided to go to 통인시장 but by the time we got there, pretty much every stall was closed or starting to close so our options were very limited. We found this one small place that had some indoor seating near the exit of the market and we shared some 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 순대 (blood sausage), and 튀김 (fried veggies like sweet potato and seaweed). 혜린언니 did not think the food tasted that good and wished we could have ate something better but Katie and I kept reassuring her that we enjoyed the meal! And regardless of the taste, we were not here for the food but for her! It really touches me that she cares so much about us. How did we get so lucky to have been basically placed with the best supporter?

We went to a cute cafe after dinner and shared a lava cake and a strawberry and blueberry late which were way too expensive but nonetheless very delicious! We spent the next couple of hours just talking and laughing the night away. The previous times we have met, we talked in a lot of mixed English and Korean but this time it was almost all in Korean! I could not believe how much we have improved to talk about all that we did! A lot of dating talk went down? Comparing relationships in America and Korea. It was quite fun. We also high key talked about people and things they do that annoy us– AKA pet peeves!

I really enjoyed this night with 혜린언니 and Katie and my heart truly aches when I think about our last meeting before we return to America (because this will not be our last!) I am going to miss her so much! It has been great having an older sister that I am so close with! Luckily, I know she will always be here for me to hang out whenever I do return. For that, I am grateful!

  • Emma 엠마

TempleStay in South Korea (2 Days & 1 Night) (3/23-24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/23/19 Saturday 

Katie and I woke up around 8:30 am today to start getting ready to spend the weekend outside of our homes. She ended up basically not packing any clothes so she borrowed a T-shirt, some sweatpants, and even socks from me. (Which, while writing this, have still not been returned to me… Katie!!!!) We had to meet the rest of the NSLI-Y program at the subway station around 12 so we needed up heading to a bakery in the shopping mall next to my train station for some starchy breakfast. I didn’t end up taking a photos of the bread we ended up sharing but here are some really cute croque monsieurs (Shoutout to Kaitlyn for sharing my first one with me a while ago and bestowing upon me knowledge of such a great French carb!) that have heart cut outs in the bread! 

Apparently when we got to the station, it was raining really hard and only one NSLI-Yian brought an umbrella so 민정쌤 ran out to the closest convenience store and bought us all rain ponchos. All the students were wearing rainbow colored plastic coats that highly resembled gummy bears… you could say we came in an assorted batch of colors and flavors. What made this really funny was that when we made our way outside once the final student was accounted for, it was basically not raining at all—if anything it was just a light drizzle. But hey, at least we looked ridiculous all together! 

We took this one tiny bus where we all almost didn’t even have room to stand let alone breath but after a quick ten minutes, we arrived at the temple: 길상사. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the program because they were locked up during the duration of our stay so the photos that I took last up until this point. (Though I will scatter them throughout this blog post so photos are not only concentrated on one part.) Plus, there was a professional photographer that took photos of us, so I have those shots as well! 

templestay 1

On the walk there, we passed a famous statue of Korean comfort women from the Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The community (?) dressed the women up warmly for the cold winter weather with hats and scarves.

templestay 3

The first order of business was giving up our most worldly possessions (cell phones and wallets) and then we went and changed into our Buddhist attire which consisted of these really baggy sweatpants type bottoms and then a corduroy vest that went over whatever top we were already wearing. 

During the beginning of the templestay, we met the main workers and volunteers for the day and the monk that would be taking us through our journey of experiencing Buddhism. We started off learning about the rules of the temple aka the rules we also must abide by while we are here. Most of them were common knowledge like being respectful, peaceful, no phones, etc but others were new to me. I knew that many Buddhists didn’t eat meat (so we would be eating vegetarian all weekend) but I didn’t know that you were required to finish everything that you put on your plate. Also, during the duration of the stay, we were supposed to try our best to be silent but that didn’t last very long…

We were doing the program along with another group of foreigners (a couple European exchange students from SNU) and then several other native Koreans; although, foreigners definitely outnumbered the Koreans. 

It was at this time that we also learned how to properly bow like a Buddhist would in a temple and also how to create the 합창 pose– which is just the post of putting your hands in a prayer-like formation.

The first activity of the day was to take a tour of the temple grounds. We provided our own interpreter aka 소영쌤 for our programming but for the tour part, we switched her out with one the of the volunteers whose English was fluent and almost 100% natural. She was definitely thankful about that because earlier the Monk was being quite a savage to her when she couldn’t quite translate everything (Especially when Josh would shout things out from the crowd to help her out). The volunteer actually attended 대원외교 and so he bonded over that with the rest of the NSLI-Y kids attending that school. 

templestay 6

One of the more interesting parts of the tour was when we found out that this temple actually started out as a high class restaurant/ alcohol joint for rich men and politicians. There were also usually female performers to entertain the men that came to drink. The lady that ran the place was very rich as the place brought in a lot of revenue but she ended up giving it to one of the monks at the temple, after begging them for years to take the location.

templestay 13

This unique characteristic is why some of the buildings and the makeup of grounds is not exactly representation of most Buddhist temples. When 소영쌤 was translating this fact earlier, she called the place a high-class bar. Everyone was a bit confused so when we actually got to see where people would drink (and where the females would change), the volunteer rephrased the explanation of the place so we wouldn’t be confused. (So, in conclusion, the place was not as seedy as a normal bar.)

templestay 26

We walked around a bit more to see the rooms in which the monks sleep in and mediate in and the main temple where the monks (and visitors to the place) can go and pray. We also were showed two statues that our tour guide really made sure to emphasize that they symbolized religious harmony. One of them was donated by a rich white Christian to the temple while the other depicted Mary. 

templestay 21

After our tour, we learned how to mediate like a monk. This involved a demonstration of hand positions and breathing techniques and then all of us trying out meditation for ourselves. The monk walked around us carrying this large wild stick (Don’t you love my descriptions?) and showed us how he would hit people if they fell asleep during mediation time. He ended up showing off the stick’s power (it sounded like it hurt badly but apparently it was not that hard) on Alix, Jacquelyn (good foreshadowing) and 민정쌤. I am going to be honest, it was really difficult for me not to fall asleep while sitting there. I was tired and toasty from wearing so many layers and so I definitely felt myself nodding off at times. (Luckily, he never caught me) Although I will say even when I wasn’t fighting with sleep, I couldn’t mediate very well.. I kept the thinking of other things—my mind was racing with thoughts about everything and anything. I wouldn’t be a good monk for sure. 

templestay 16

Picture of me meditating…or was I dozing off at this point?

Eventually dinner time rolled around and it was time for us to experience Buddhist food—very simple ingredients, no meat, not much seasoning, and very healthy. In Buddhism there are actually a lot of different words for things that differ from plain-spoken Korean. For example, meal time is called 공약. And like I mentioned previously, the food you take is all the food that you need to eat! Monks do NOT waste food. 

Unfortunately, since there was no cameras or phones allowed, I can’t exactly remember what we were given to eat… what I can remember was that there was soup, different types of 김치 and vegetable 반찬, batter covered mushrooms and other root vegetables, rice, watermelon, and traditional rice cakes. Every single person had to wash their own plate and silverware at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, we had an evening Buddhist service in which we got to bow along with the monks at the temple as they had their nightly pray session. We were given pamphlets to follow along with what they were chanting but regardless of the fact that I can read Korean, I was confused at what page to be looking at. Either way, we all got to participate by bowing along with the monks.

We also did walking meditation after this which although it was very cold, I really enjoyed just mindlessly walking around the temple grounds. Compared to sitting meditation, I was able to let loose of more my thoughts during this exercise—maybe because I wasn’t as tired and because I had just eaten and was in a very calm and satisfied mood. 

We got the chance to talk with a different monk and ask him all his questions during a tea time session. We were given plum tea and a bunch of 약과 and assorted nuts. I was able to understand a lot more of what the monk said (before the volunteer translated) which made me quite proud. I could not imagine how I much I would have understood after only being here for a little while (say back during first semester).

We finished off the night with a movie documentary on a famous monk: 법정스님. It was interesting seeing how he lived his life as a monk. One thing that I thought was interesting was that he was highly judged by his parents. They had paid so much money for him to get a college education (not an easy feat now and not an easy feat then either) and he decided to leave the academic world behind and become a monk. But because of this tension, he did not help his family at all once he started earning money from the royalties off of his bestselling books. He had some ask for help but he basically cut them off completely. Instead, he would donate a lot of money to students who were struggling to pay for their college tuition and were near having to drop out. 

We all got ready ready for bed and slept on mats on top of the heated floor. I was expecting it to be rather uncomfortable but honestly, it was one of the best rests I have had in awhile. I think that sleeping on the floor is really good every once in awhile! I definitely do not mind it. I fell asleep right away and the next thing I knew… it was three in the morning.

3/24/19 Sunday

The lights slowly turned on and a bell began to sound. I looked around the room and watched everyone stir awake. No one had their phones so we could not tell that it was 3 in the morning but our bodies definitely were aware of this fact. We got up, changed, washed up a little, and then headed out for the early morning Buddhist service in the temple. Like the evening service, we got our own mats at the side of the temples and were given pamphlets to follow along with the monks. We finished off the service with another round of walking meditation around the temple grounds. This one, in comparison to the last, was actually very relaxing for me. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was the morning and I was too tired to think of anything else but I was able to just watch my feet while I walked and forget about the world around me. It was very nice.

The next program on our schedule had been highly anticipated since the beginning. We would be doing 108 prostrations or bows. This involved bowing in the right way that was taught to us during the temple etiquette presentation and with every time we came down to the floor, we strung a brown bead (handmade, completely unique bead! You cannot find them/buy them anywhere else. You can only obtain them by doing a templestay!) on a string that would later become a necklace. We were told that with every bead strung onto the string, we were saying goodbye to a temptation, something bad in our lives, worries, etc. I found this activity very peaceful and I actually enjoyed being able to count out everything that had been consuming my mind recently. I metaphorically imagined myself saying goodbye to all my worries: not reaching my desired Korean level, confidence issues, not making friends in college, struggling with grades in college, homesickness, trust issues, my friends moving on without me in their lives, not being able to find true love, negative body image, missing out on a dream job of mine, etc. (Was that information too intimate? Oh well…)

It felt good feeling like I was releasing them into something else. I also figured that the 108 bows would be more tiresome than they were. I felt wobbly by the end (my legs) for sure but I did not really break a sweat. By the end of the activity, I was able to look at my necklace, and its 108 beads, with pride. I had done that. I had made this with my own hands and it definitely was not easy. When I got home, I hung it on my vanity mirror and I cannot help but smile when I look at it every day.

templestay 12

The finished product!~

We had breakfast after which consisted of 죽 (porridge), 잡체, spicy tofu, salad, lots of 반찬, and apples. It was all very clean tasting~ The next activity of the day was community work. For this part of the morning, we returned to the temple that we prayed at earlier and “cleaned” the mats that you kneel on while bowing. This process involved taking the mats out of the temple (assembly line style) and patting/smacking the dust off of them outside and then placing them back into stacks inside the temple against the wall. 

templestay 24

Smiling faces after accomplishing the task!

To work off some of the breakfast, we did temple yoga next which was not exactly like my yoga classes in high school; this yoga was definitely centered more on stretching and breathing. It  was a nice final session to end this program before we wrote our reflections and got ready to leave the temple. 

templestay 25

Last Photo of our TempleStay experience!

Katie and I went back to my house together so that she could pick up her bags. We ate lunch together at the shopping mall near my apartment– at 홍익 돈까스 to be exact, sharing 돈까스 and tomato pasta.

We also dropped by a cafe where I bought Katie bread for getting into UCLA!!! Congratulations Katie! ❤ We hung out there to study and chat for a bit before we both returned to our respective homes for dinner.

templestay 9

This bread’s name was 남편보다 더 달콤한 빵 (Sweeter than your husband bread)

My host mom was not feeling well and my sisters were out so I ended up eating dinner by myself in my room that night while I was studying. It was a very chill Sunday night. Although I did no actual work or studying during the templestay, it was still quite draining yet rejuvenating at the same time. Probably one of the biggest examples of something contradicting itself but hey that is how the world works sometimes!

templestay 10

That is all for this blog post! It is a very long one… more than 2,500 words yikes! If you got through all of it then… thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I really had an amazing experience doing the templestay. I am so glad that we were able to get approved by Better World as it truly was such a unique and eye-opening experience. Especially because a lot of Buddhist values can be seen in aspects of the Korean culture even to this day! 여러분 기회가 있으시면 꼭 템플스테이를 해보세용~ Alright BYE!

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting the DMZ, Dorasan Observatory, and a Secret North Korean Tunnel (02/20/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/20/19 Wednesday

Today was our first cultural excursion of Culture Week (or of all of February as a matter of fact)! We would be visiting the area around the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone–border zone that divides both halves of the Korean peninsula) with a pre-orchestrated tour that had planned stops throughout the day. To start off our day, we all met at 시청역 (City Hall Station). This stop was about an hour away from my home station which was a little bit annoying seeing that we would need to go up to 파주시 (just south of the 38th parallel) anyway… which is actually close to me! I live literally two stops away from the city! For once, we would be going somewhere close to my home and yet I had to meet everyone somewhere else… Oh well, I was able to write some blog posts during the hour train ride.

We took a shuttle bus to our first location which was also being shared with several other English speaking foreigners who booked our same tour guide and then another separate group of Japanese tourists that had their own tour guide. We ate breakfast on the shuttle bus and then mostly tried to sleep till we arrived at the first place: 임진각 (Imjingak). 임진각 is the last settlement in the city of Paju right before the DMZ. Most tours make this place a pit-stop because it has a lot of famous statues and monuments from the Korean War.

임진각 has the bridge of freedom (a bridge that South Koreans used to return after the signing of the armistice agreement), a peace bell, a pool shaped like the Korean peninsula, observation deck/lookout, and a bombed-out steam locomotive still standing on its original tracks. Also… a bit more on the touristy side… this area also includes gift shops, a convenience store, fast food places (like a Popeyes!), and even an amusement park called Peace Land! I mean I guess that is Capitalism for you… I could never imagine why anyone would want to build a theme park near a zone brewing with so much tension and memories of pain and anguish… it really beats me… 


View of the said amusement park. You can see a couple of rides. 



I think my favorite place of the large settlement was the barbed wire with all of the colorful prayer ribbons tied on. These ribbons had messages of hope and reunification on them–many were written by individuals with family members or loved ones still living in the North. It brought up images of hope but also sadness as no one knows how long it will take for these people, these two counties, to be united once again.


The next place on our itinerary was 도라산역 (Dorasan Station) on the 경의중앙 subway line (The one I take from Korean classes back home!) This is the train station that is the closest to the border of North Korea (about 17Km I do believe… according to our tour guide!) Currently (as you could probably guess), this train station is not in use. A train does come into the station about twice a day but this train is the DMZ tour train (owned by the Korean Government) and is not actually public transportation. You cannot take a train on the 경의중앙 line and end up at this station.

At the station, we were able to pay for a fake ticket and gain access to the station platform (which was called 통일–unification–platform) for about $1. The air felt kinda eerie as it looked just like any other outdoor train station platform except for the fact that there was no one there.

dmz 4

Our next stop was 도라산전망대 (Dorasan Observatory) which looks out across the demilitarized zone. On the very top floor, there are special viewing areas but because the dust was really bad today (or maybe it was actually fog this time; I have no clue) it was pretty hard to see anything. All of the photos we took up there literally looked like they were taken in front of white backgrounds but nope… that is the color of the sky!

dmz 2

I also took some time to go to the gift shop and buy some products only available at the DMZ tourist stops–and that would be all food products of course. I bought these DMZ soybean chocolate and chocolate eggs as well as this special Choco Pie (famous Korean snack) that is made with ingredients grown around the DMZ. The reason that the choco pie became a famous snack to buy at the DMZ is because there is one famous North Korean refugee that escaped North Korea by car by crossing the 72 hour bridge (or also known as the Bridge of No Return– it is named the 72 hour bridge because it was only built in 72 hours). He was shot countless times while crossing the bridge but still happened to make it to the other side alive. When he made it to South Korea, the first thing he wanted to eat was Choco Pie and so the CEO of the snack brand vowed to give him free Choco Pies for his entire life! It was a really interesting story. 

The last thing we did for the day was going underground and walk through the Third Tunnel which was a secret tunnel that the North Koreans built trying to find a secret passage from North Korea to Seoul for sudden sneak attacks. We were not allowed to take our phones inside to take any pictures so I have nothing to share besides my words! We had to wear yellow hard hats and walk down to get to the tunnel. The ceiling and the walls were quite moist and the tunnel was quite low. I was able to stand up straight most of the time (without any worry of hitting my head) but I am only five foot three or so…anyone taller than me probably had a sore neck after walking through the tunnel. At the end, there was a sign and viewing area for looking into the North Korean side of the tunnel. Something that we noticed which was interesting was that we could see an actual plant growing on the other side! There was life! Walking down to get to the tunnel was not too difficult (besides the fact that it kinda hurt my knees…I love having weak joints!) but walking back up was pretty exhausting. 


dmz 7

Once we finished exploring the tunnel, we walked around the area and took lots of group photos (We had to take a banner photo in front of the iconic DMZ letter sign.) before heading back into the bus for our return back to 시청역. I was able to pretty much sleep the entire way back which was much needed seeing that I could not go home right after we arrived… I was going to do community service!


Usually, the Wednesday squad consists of Shada, Kaitlyn, and I but Josh had nothing to do for the rest of the day so he decided to join us. We had about three hours to kill before community service so we chilled at this cafe in the subway station called Tammy’s House or something like that. While we were there… I tried finishing my workbook but it was hard. I just wanted to hang out and talk with the others. While we were there, Josh and Kaitlyn were getting really existential and asking really deep philosophical answers and it was interesting to see how their answers more often than not differed. Today, I learned, that Kaitlyn is such a nihilist at times! One of the questions that I remember vividly was “Are Humans or Animals More Free?” Kaitlyn was on team animals since they are not constrained by society and its rules/standard while Josh argued that they cannot even understand the concept of freedom with their small brains. It was such a fun conversation! I love hanging with them two!


We did our community service which ended up probably being the last one for a while (We could not go the following week because of orientation and now that school is starting soon… I do not know if I will have the energy to do community service every week.) I really enjoyed spending the time helping out with my fellow NSLI-Yians and the kids have really begun to open up to us~ It was fun being able to have more conversations with them today. It was probably the best service yet! I will definitely miss it…

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I put in a lot of effort into this blog post to make it interesting and educational at the same time. Honestly, it is probably one of my favorite ones. Well, until next time!

  • Emma 엠마


After Class Karaoke, Supporter Meeting, & Dinner with Yonsei Students (02/11-13/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/11/19 Monday

I am so utterly behind on blog posts… so these combined blog posts are going to be quite all over the place because my mind can only patch together the days’ activities. Especially for the days when I barely took any photos… Well, enough of that, let us get on with this blog post!

On Monday, I went to a cafe in the morning by myself–just to do some studying before class because I was not being productive at home at all. I ended up going to a bakery with Kaitlyn for lunch rather than getting our usual 편의점 lunch… just to shake things up! I ate a Croque monsieur or something like that? Some fancy french sandwich of some kind which Kaitlyn made me feel bad for not knowing the name! 

After Korean class (look at me high key ignoring what happened during class since I cannot remember), I went to a 노래방 for about an hour with Liam, Kaitlyn, and Josh which was super fun. I will never truly learn to appreciate the amazing feeling it is to sing your heart out (good mood, bad mood, frustrations, worries, anything) with your favorite songs. I know I am probably the worst singer on this planet! Regardless, I still enjoy singing karaoke. After that, I went to some interesting language exchange group meeting… would not recommend. I am all for language exchange so maybe I will try again another time but right now, not for me.


02/12/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was our second to last supporter meeting before the big Cultural Explorers Presentation on Friday! There was a lot to get done! We met up at Blanc (the OG meeting spot) and just focused on preparing for the presentation. I edited the video for the presentation (which included all the statistics and background information of the financial situation and government policies regarding single mothers.)


The BEST Supporter Group!<3

Korean class was pretty chill today. The break times between classes were a lot of fun as the 1반 students kept coming into our classroom to hang out and chat with our teacher which was fun. At one point, Kaitlyn and June kept making fun of Josh for walking like the walking man emoji? Josh actually became worried after this–worried about his posture. It was also McKenzie’s birthday so I bought her some jelly beans with adorable pig wrapping because well, that is my brand. Our teacher had us sing to her when she entered our room after I made it known that it was, in fact, her birthday.


Today we finally learned the rules for how to pronounce 의. There are situations in which you can pronounce it in three different ways: 의, 이, and 에.

I went home right after class today because I knew the rest of the week would be a lot of late nights–definitely fun nights but nights without a lot of interaction with my host family in turn. I had a delicious dinner with my host family and then I also went on a walk with my older host sister and Andy. We just walked around the mall connected to the subway station for a while and talked about a lot of things. One thing was going back to school… oh, how I am dreading that… Especially now that I have a longer commute! Oh well, that cannot be helped. I guess I will just have to become a normal person and develop healthy sleeping habits! What a concept!

02/13/19 Wednesday

Wednesday was a jam-packed day indeed! It felt like at every moment I was busy doing something or on my way to get to the next thing. I started off the morning visiting my old subway station 화정역 with Katie. We walked around and reminisced together and I realized how much I missed the area near the station! It is so lively~ We ate at our usual 편의점, bought some really cheap macaroons at my favorite place next to Daiso, and then just strolled around until it was time to meet Josh at the station. I, of course, took them to my favorite cafe near the station called Dodori Cafe! We ended up studying there for 4 hours together! And I will say that it was pretty much all productive work time with a few chatty distractions. Practically the whole time I was editing the video for our presentation on Friday rather than doing any actual Korean studying. I forgot how tedious video editing can be! And I am not even any good at it~ All my edits were beginner level (this-would-never-actually-look-professional-type edits) but hey, I was trying! 



One of my favorite pictures I found about single mothers while editing the video. Translation: Going out into the world is scary. Clearly, it would be painful. However, for the child, (she) must face it (stand it).

Seeing the owner of the cafe was nice~ She seemed happy to see us and said that it had been a long time since we last came in and it definitely had! I believe the last time I was there was when I went by myself on a Friday. But that was back with my old family, I have now been moved in with this one for more than a month! Oh, how time flies! I ordered my usual green tea latte and we all split one of the delicious (and cheap) chocolate muffins too. 

After dropping off Katie at the train station (Josh and I decided to study a bit more) this group of male high school students stopped me and asked if I could take a survey. The survey was targeted to only foreigners living in 고양시. The boys were from the foreign language high school nearby. I answered the questions that just asked about the beauty of 고양, the people, and the smoking on the street. The last question asked about working conditions so I told them that I was a student. I also talked to them for a little bit about how many foreigners they were able to find for the survey. I was not surprised that I was their first one of the day. I’ve definitely seen foreigners around the train station but I can definitely count those experiences on just one of my hands. 

By 6 pm, I made my way to the youth community center in 마포 for 급식 봉사 활동 (Community service serving meals). As always, although I don’t feel that we are the most needed when we are there, it was still some good fun: interacting with the kids and of course, being a part of the best 급식 gang {Shada & Kaitlyn!} 

After finishing up community service a bit after 7 pm, I made my way over to 신촌 to meet up with Jessica! {Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current student at 연세대학교} We were originally just meeting to have dinner and spill some tea at a cafe but she ended up inviting me to hang out with all of her friends?!? First, while she found me on the road, she was like “My friends are here and they want to meet you.” I assumed they were foreigners as exchange students that come to Korea usually have bad luck with making actual Korean friends. But then a part of my mind had this -it-is-Jessica-so-these-friends-may-be-Korean feeling so I asked… if you could see the look on my face when she told me that they were indeed Korean and from her unification club at school. Once I greeted them and we all relished in the awkward atmosphere for a while, she asked me if we wanted to all go and have dinner together—and that is what we ended up doing! 

We went out to this Indian restaurant which made my second time having Indian food that week! {Which is crazy seeing that before Sunday, I had never eaten Indian food before!} Conversation with everyone was really awkward at first… they all expected me to just be confident and really good at Korean because of what Jessica told them. They had a lot of questions for me—mostly about the fact that I’m attending a Korean high school right now. I spoke Korean to all of them while Jessica and I would talk to the side in English. It was an interesting night … I was glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to have dinner with strangers and use my Korean skills. {Also found out that Jessica and I were born in the same year! I was so shook! I always thought that she seemed so much older than me! Her friends made jokes about us not really being friends since we did not know we were born in the same year but in America, it’s not like that—age really isn’t important in relationships.}


Once dinner was finished, Jessica took me to this cafe called Pie Hole which is a pretty trendy place in 신촌. We just hung out and shared a slice of pie {though I ate most of it} while updating each other on what has been happening. Jessica had just come back from her winter break in America and I was telling her about our research projects, any NSLI-Y tea I had to spill, and how I felt about the impending doom of returning to high school in March!! Looking back, I still had so much time left on this day. As I’m writing this now {… two weeks later… I only have 4 days left of freedom!!} 

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I definitely did! It was such a jam-packed day! I did so much! This is the kind of day I really enjoy~ Everything is chill cause nothing is really mandatory or holding any weight (since it is winter break) but I am still busy doing fun things! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

연탄 {Coal} Community Service, Korean Movie Theater, & 잊지마 식당 {02/01-02/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/01/19 Friday 

Friday was our second big community service activity as one cohort. This activity consisted of delivering cylinders of coal to mostly poor elderly homes that did not have electric heating. They counted on the coal to heat their houses during the winter. We were brought to the area surrounding 영등포시장 (yeong-deung-po market) which is known for having a large elderly population. We met the man in charge of the community service activity and he prepared us by explaining directions and handing out materials that we would need: gloves, aprons, etc. 

com ser 5

Shada & Me

2 hours were designated for this activity but because we were so productive, we ended up finishing in 1.5 hours! For the first “shift” or “session” if you will, I was in a group of 4 with Shada, Jenna, and June and we moved a stack of the coal to a little storage area near the side of a house. The other 12 students did a separate house and that had a farther distance between the coal drop off and the destination which is why they needed more people for the assembly line.

After we finished those two houses, we moved onto the last one which involved carrying the coal through a narrow alleyway. All 16 of us did this one but rather than doing an assembly line, we just had each individual take a cylinder of coal to the storage area while the boys stacked them with help of the director or leader of the service activity. It was difficult labor as the coal came with a lot of powder and sometimes the dust was too much. Additionally, the cylinders were quite heavy. Moving them from one place to another wasn’t too hard but when I had to pick them up from off the floor to hand them to the next person {2 each} my back started hurting. 

But before we knew it, we had finished! It was a nice little rewarding experience. We didn’t get to meet any of the people we were actually helping which was kind of disappointing. I think it would have been better if we got to see the people that would be using the coal.

com ser 4

We also got to take home keychains that were mini coal blocks with faces on them!

After the community service, a big group of us decided to go to the market and have lunch there. It was literally huge! Much larger than 통인시징 (Tongin Market) but then again that’s probably why it has its own station! Katie, Alix, and I got these really delicious huge 호떡 (Korean pancakes sold as street food)! They were of the thicker variety of the pastry known as 찰호떡. They were a dollar each and 100% worth it. In fact, I was pretty full from just eating that!! We kept walking around and we ran into Shada who showed us this really good place to buy 만두 for cheap {only 2천원 = a little less than 2 dollars}. That was my lunch~ Because my commute was over an hour-long due to me having to wait 20 minutes at 공덕역 {The next train didn’t go all way to my train station so I had to wait for the following one}, I ended up eating my dumplings while sitting on a bench inside the station. But honestly, it was really good so I didn’t mind the interesting circumstances. 

I came home from community service and relaxed for a bit—watching YouTube, writing blog posts, etc. Eventually, I even fell asleep and took a nap for a couple hours. My host mom and host sister had dinner during that time so when I woke up, I ate some 돈까스 that they brought back for me. And my night basically ended like that! 

02/02/19 Saturday 

Lately, I’ve been coming home early on both Friday and Saturday night just because I don’t make all day plans. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but sometimes 9 pm rolls around and I’m lying in my bed thinking “I could be out and about playing right now!” This could be because I’m bored or because my feelings of loneliness tend to skyrocket when I’m alone in my room at night. For the first time in a while, I made some plans for all day Saturday with some pretty cool people: Shannon, Josh, and Harmony. 

Our day mostly revolved around seeing the movie Unbreakable from that director M. Night Shyamalan. The night before we had tried ordering the tickets online {to make sure we got seats next to each other because literally the theater we found was the ONLY theater in Seoul playing this movie and there was only one showtime!} but because of our lack of Korean credit cards or Korean bank accounts in general, this attempt failed. Instead, we planned to go to the movie theater several hours before the movie started and reserve our seats ourselves. 


So Harmony, Shannon, and I met up at 충무로역 at around 1 pm and tried to find our way to the theater using Harmony’s map. Actually, the theater ended up being almost right next to the station but we passed it as we were too busy talking about the abundance of pet stores in the area rather than looking for our destination. We turned down some random street and ended up seeing the theater from the back. When we got to the theater we texted Josh to see if he still had plans to come and he was like the “moment of truth” which was so unclear. we were just standing in the theater being anxious and trying to figure out what to do with our boy Josh. He ended up telling us that yes he would come so we went up to the electronic self-checkout machine to order our tickets. We were determined to figure out how to buy the tickets without talking to any alive tellers—and we did! Plugging in our information and payment was a bit confusing but we managed. It honestly felt so good to have done it by ourselves {never changing the language to English}. It was definitely nothing besides a really simple accomplishment but in this household, we appreciate all.

After buying the movie tickets, Harmony, Shannon, and I went and had lunch at Popeyes which I had been craving for quite a while now. I really wanted their chicken tenders! Now, the Korean Popeyes does not have my favorite Cajun rice but the recipe for the biscuits was not that far off from the ones back in America; they were just a bit sweeter {but that is to be expected when it comes to bread in Korea.}

We hung out at this cafe called People’s Cafe {which also has a logo that resembles 나쁜여자 (bad woman) bar in 홍대 (Hongdae) which made us all laugh (Disclaimer: I have not been but it is an iconic landmark so it became an inside joke! Do not come for me Better World!) Besides the interesting choice of outside signage, the place was nice. Not too busy, WiFi was good, and the drinks were actually pretty cheap! Josh met up with us eventually and we went to see Unbreakable at the theater. 


The movie itself was interesting and it kept me entertained for the duration of it because of its absurdity and the many surprises. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No. But the experience was one! We decided to sneak in snacks from the Emart right next to the theater like everyone does in America which was a great decision on our part! (Do Koreans do this too? Or were we really foreigners overstepping our boundaries?)



After the movie, Harmony left to go home for dinner while Josh, Shannon, and I decided to eat dinner out because, by the time we got home to our families, it would be passed dinner time anyway. We walked down this long sketchy alleyway of really traditional ma&pa Korean restaurants that really made me anxious. I guess it was just the dim lighting and the quiet empty atmosphere that really freaked me out. We ended up stumbling upon this 24 hour operated restaurant called 잊지마 식당 {Don’t Forget Restaurant is how you would directly translate it.} 

We ordered three portions of meat and 김치찌개 and ate all of it. However, although the food was very delicious, that was not what made this eating experience unforgettable… it was the lady serving us. In all honesty, I couldn’t really understand her Korean, but Josh had no trouble answering all her questions so he just went on with talking with her. After all our food came out, she prepared to show me how to make a lettuce wrap with the meat and the 반찬 with all our food. I was confused as to why she was doing this {mostly because we knew what to do} but it was a nice gesture by nature. Then, she took the lettuce wrap and fed it to me by putting it in my mouth for me. I was shook and had to try hard not to laugh or I would have choked on my lettuce wrap. She did the same thing to Shannon so I was not alone! 

We had a nice dinner and then separated with Shannon. Josh and I spent another hour and a half at a cafe—I wrote a blog post while he worked on some scholarships. And that was all for my night! It was a lot of fun~ I feel like I haven’t gone out and done things outside of my comfort zone {getting movie tickets and eating at that type of restaurant} or out of routine {going somewhere that’s not Hongdae and hanging out with people other than Katie}. It was a nice change of pace! 

That’s all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed~ 

  • Emma 엠마


Cafe Hopping, Teaching Korean Students American Dances, & Community Service (01/29-30/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/29/19 Tuesday

Tuesday morning I met up with Josh at Coffee Slob (Yes, the cafe I went to the previous day… it was cheap and had such a good atmosphere…so here we are!) right at their open time to study for our unit test. Well, I studied for the unit test (studying vocabulary) while Josh worked on some essays for a scholarship he is applying for. Eventually, Jenna came by and then later, Katie joined us. I feel that with some people, I can be quite productive while others… can be quite a distraction. I think that just the combination of everyone made my brain want to have fun rather than study. 

When 11 am rolled around, Katie and I separated from the group and met our supporter 혜린언니 to plan out the rest of our supporter meetings because we really needed to start getting things done. Our final presentation day is rapidly approaching! We organized what topics we wanted to bring up in our video presentation/ in the actual powerpoint presentation and assigned ourselves homework to have done by our next meeting on Thursday (after the New Year–설날–holidays).

Before Korean class, I met up with Kaitlyn and Harmony at the youth center and had a very nutritious 편의점 lunch. (I know it is sad that I have not been eating real food here but the timing is not right… plus I am always doing some last-minute studying… Cannot exactly do that while scarfing down some real Korean food. We had a lot of fun before class because we were freaking out about where everyone was. It was 5 minutes before 2pm (the start of class) and only Harmony, Alix, Kaitlyn, and I were there. Every time the elevator opened, we expected to see some of the other NSLI-Yians but they were not showing up. Random Korean adults were just coming out to go to their rented conference rooms. Eventually, the rest of my class showed up 3 minutes before 2pm but the other three girls from 1반 actually were late (They were doing their field trip for the research project.)


I will not be posting the video but I did film us freaking out about no one showing up including time updates. It was a lot of laughing and clips of the elevator opening to show no NSLI-Y students.

During class, we learned the last two grammar points that would be on our test and if I am being honest, one of them confused me to no end… I still really do not understand the point of it… Maybe I can get it down by the test? Class went by really quick and within a blink of an eye, it was over. I ended up going straight home because I knew it was the last night my eldest host sister had at home before leaving for Japan. However, when I got home, her stomach was badly hurting and my other host sister had already eaten ramen so I ate some noodles by myself.


01/30/19 Wednesday

On Wednesday I had plans besides community service for an hour at night; however, after texting Kaitlyn about what she was doing before community service…she convinced me to also join her and June for the afternoon session of community service (unlike the nighttime section which just involves us serving and eating with the kids, this session was about introducing them to American culture!) I gave her the idea of teaching them American dances (Cotton Eyed Joe and Cha Cha Slide) which they both loved–probably because they both love to dance! I knew they would be all for it. Usually, I do not do the afternoon sessions but Liam and Jacquelyn would not be there, so I joined them so that it would not be just the two of them.

It was the day before our big unit test and I wanted to make sure I would be productive so I went to the area near the youth community center and found a cafe to sit in and study at. I went to Tous Les Jours and sat down with a cup of coffee (I know… unusual but I knew it would be a long night!) Kaitlyn came and joined me after a while and we both left to meet June at another nice cafe nearby. We made plans for what we were going to do with the students at the center before just chatting. I used this time to also continue my studies–trying to review as much grammar as possible before getting home later that night (to make my workload lighter).

During our community service session, we gathered all the students onto the huge stage to teach them the dances. I was the one put in charge of explaining the directions to them and because everyone had so much energy, it was quite difficult getting them to listen to us. But nevertheless, it was really fun teaching them the dances. When the familiar music turned on and we showed them all the dance moves, I immediately thought of school dances back in high school. As silly as it sounds, I thought of all the happy memories I have had with my friends dancing to such obnoxious but catchy songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy the dances as well. Unfortunately, we ran out of dances to teach them and they were getting really antsy and restless, June and Kaitlyn started showing them Korean songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy just running around and doing random dance moves to the melody. At the end of the session, when we still had 10 more minutes to entertain the children, June started showing them her gymnast tricks–cartwheels, flips, and even a walking handstand! It was cool to me too!

After our session, we said goodbye to June. Kaitlyn and I walked over to a nearby Kyochon Chicken and shared some honey chicken and a salad for dinner. After eating, to kill more time, we ended up at Twosome Place (I also got some more studying done there!)

Shada joined us for our 급식 community service at 6 pm and we served our second dinner here at the community center. We thought it would go smoothly as we remembered the procedure, but they had no clean trays or utensils so we had to make do with plastic trays and chopsticks. At one point we ran out of plastic spoons… so some kids had to eat their soup like it was a drink. We took such a long time serving the food (and the kids kept coming up to get food and seconds pretty late into the hour) so by the time we served ourselves, it was too late to eat with the kids, unfortunately. They were all cleaning up the classroom while we ate dinner and wrote our reflection. And then while we were cleaning up all the food, they left so we did not get to walk them home either… A bit disappointing but it was still a nice session. Seeing the kids again from earlier in the day and of course, Shada and Kaitlyn are great company.

I came home and studied well into the night. I finished writing example sentences for all the grammar points and I also finished my workbook assignment. Lastly, I went through almost ten vocab sets and tried to memorize everything. It was a long and stressful night. I was so nervous for the unit test! Mostly because I felt like I had not studied enough… this was winter break… I should be trying harder!

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time!


  • Emma 엠마

Research Project Interview, Community Service, and (Real?) Tacos in Korea {01/23/19} NSLIY Korea AY

01/23/19 Wednesday

We needed to record our interview today with KUMFA {한국미혼모가족협회} for our research project but we were not given a camera. To add on to that, the tripod that 더나은세상 gave us wasn’t compatible with our phones. Later, 혜린언니 found us one that she had at her home but it only filmed things vertically which made the videos not come out so nice… therefore, Katie and I went on a hunt to buy binder clips and rubber bands to somehow attach her phone to the borrowed tripod—horizontally. While we were at Morning Glory trying to search for some thick rubber bands, I found this weird phone mount for a table top which led us to find the actual tripods! They were kind of expensive but Katie took one for the team and used her parent’s credit card to pay for it. 필요한 것이라서 괜찮은 것 같은데요 ㅋㅋ

While we were messing with the tripod, Katie accidentally left her wallet on the bench we were sitting at. She didn’t realize until we were at a 편의점 about an 8 min walk away. We hurried back and returned to the same bench to see no wallet. I noticed some guys surrounding the area and saw one holding a wallet that seemed pretty similar to Katie’s—as you guessed it, it was hers! Those men were just holding it and waiting for her to return and were leaving the area as we approached. They were so kind to wait and we got there at a good time because who knows where they would have brought it. After that, we went to meet our supporter at the subway exit to head over to the location of our interview. We took a quick bus ride and then waited at a Paris Baguette. There, we practiced our interview questions and bought a cake for the workers at KUMFA. 

The office was on the 5th floor of this building and they were getting a lot of shipments the day we were there so there were boxes everywhere. We were taken to the children’s playroom in order to conduct the interview because there was no free room anywhere else. We were allowed to record ourselves and the content of the interview but we were not allowed to record the face of the man we were interviewing. 


Fun Storytime: We got to the interview location early so we just waited in the elevator on the 5th floor for several minutes. Until we saw a delivery man try to use the elevator and then we scrammed.

The interview ended up being almost an hour long! We had 52 minutes of footage! And I did understand the vast majority of what was said; I will admit! I also kept getting distracted with other things in my mind because I couldn’t always understand him… the content was quite difficult. We left after the interview and giving the present. He asked us how much the cake was and I was so confused??? 혜린언니 later told me that government officials {I think?} aren’t allowed to receive gifts from the public that are more than $10 or something along the lines of that. It was pretty interesting.


Also…take a look here! Better World used a picture of me and my former two host sisters for host family recruitment!

After the interview, we ran to find a place to have lunch because I needed to use the bathroom so badly—plus we were hungry. So, we ended up at Burger King, with some delicious chicken tenders & fries. 

We separated at this point with 혜린언니 going home and Katie going to meet Josh at a cafe. I was heading over to 마포구어린이수련관 early because Kaitlyn had gotten out of community service and wanted someone to chill with her until we both did the nighttime community service. June and Jacquelyn {and Shada} eventually joined us so we all hung out at a Twosome Place for a little more than an hour. We also ordered three pieces of cake because we wanted to live it big!!! Not mad about it…


Out of the three cake slices, the raspberry cheesecake was the best!

I tried doing some studying at the cafe… but that did not go too well if I am being honest… but anyway, eventually 6 pm rolled around and we met the director of the center to hear about what we had to do for the community service. We were just going to go get the food for the dinner, set it up on this table outside of the classroom, eat with the kids, and then lastly, clean up. It was fun serving the children {I was on rice duty} although I was pretty bad at giving them all a good amount of rice. We ended up not eating with them because I had plans with Kaitlyn to get pasta after the service so we just sat in the rooms and tried to speak with the children… they were shy so it was a lot of silent whispers and awkward conversations. Hopefully, next time {when we actually eat with them} it will be less weird? I do think it will get better! 

After service ended, Kaitlyn and I headed back to 홍대 to visit this restaurant known for really pretty pasta ice cream??? {Don’t worry it’s real pasta and fake ice cream!} Unfortunately, with our luck, it ended up being closed. Apparently, on weekdays the place closes at 6 pm while it stays open to 8 pm on the weekends. We were there at around 7:30… it was quite sad. We decided, instead, that we would go either after class on Monday or before community service on Wednesday. 

Instead, we went on a hunt for tacos! Kaitlyn found this one place on the main bustling street on her phone maps but we could not actually find it. We walked down the street twice before she finally accepted the fact that it no longer exists! I remembered seeing a place near exit three that Liam pointed out a while ago and we were able to successfully find that and eat there. 


We shared a plate of nachos and I ate quesadillas! I was so happy to have somewhat of a familiar taste of Hispanic food! Like there was salsa! I haven’t had salsa since America and I love salsa! It was pretty pricey not gonna lie but definitely worth it. 


We ate too many of the nachos before I was able to snap a picture…

I came home pretty late and immediately got on the grind because I had a presentation to do for Thursday!!! And I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet!!! Our teacher told us to do cultural differences between America and Korea but I really wanted to try something else so… I decided to be wild and do the concept of Lookism—the obsession of physical beauty or discrimination against others for the way they look {these two definitions exist}.

I spent so much time researching the topic because I knew it was sensitive and I wanted to represent it correctly. Since it took a lot of research time, it also took a long time to write. I finished writing the script— getting it to three minutes— at 2 am! But it was okay, I did this to myself~ I had time to start it earlier… I just didn’t. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe to make my PowerPoint. And that was the end of my day~ 


My host mom brought strawberries to my room~ ❤

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Till the next one~~ 

  • Emma 엠마

Community Service in Korea: 밥퍼 (Preparing Food for The Poor Elderly) 01/16/19 (NSLI-Y AY)

01/16/19 Wednesday

Today would be our first time during community service as a full NSLI-Y Group. We had to meet at 청량리역 bright and early so I had to wake up before 6 am–something I have not done in a very long time (since I got out for winter break from 하나고, to be honest). The station we were going to was very confusing so 민정쌤 told us to not come in on any line but line 1, that it would be easier to find the exit since it is not connected to the same building of the other two lines. However, this transfer caused me a lot of stress and ended up making me late since the trains seemed to all be late today. My first train on the 경의중앙 line was late and so I ended up missing my transfer train and then my next transfer train was late so overall I ended up being about 5 minutes late to the meeting time. (Though I will argue that I am one of the individuals that lives the farthest from this station!)


Anyways, we walked to the location of the community service together and piled into the church to hear about their purpose, the origins of the organization, as well as to hear the instructions of what we would be doing for them today. The Dail Community (다일공동체) works to provide lunch for the poor elderly in the surrounding area. The elderly may be homeless or living alone, or just not receiving enough wages to afford to eat for 3 meals a day. Some of them have disabilities or mental health issues. Some younger adults will come through but we were informed that they often are ridiculed by the others (because they are still young and able to go out and get a job) and so they will try to make themselves look older so no one knows. Hearing this, made me feel pretty sad… I would hope that if someone needs help, they would not feel embarrassed to seek the help they so desperately need. We got to watch a short video about the work that 밥퍼 also does abroad in countries like Tanzania and The Philippines to help feed hungry kids. It was all very touching and it made me excited to lend my hands to this organization today.

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Hunter, me and June!

After discussing all that we did, we got to ready to perform the community service. We put on aprons, rain boots, and tied up our hair and were led to the kitchen where we would first prepare the food and then later serve it. For the 45 minutes or so, I was on chicken duty: peeling the skin off and deboning the chicken before shredding it in order for it be made into soup. Once we finished all of that, the elderly started piling into the dining area. We were given new jobs that involved either helping pass out food, collecting money, or actually serving the food. I was on rice duty at first, meaning I served the rice onto the lunch trays. After about 5 minutes, this old man switched with me and I later found out it was probably because he could not do more of the laborious tasks–which I was given instead.

I was on dishwashing duty with Josh and we focused on washing bigger dishes in a large sink with hoses. We cleaned the large pots that had rice cooked in them and we also cleaned the pots that contained the soup, meat, and the side dishes. This involved scrubbing the remnants of food off before using soap and water to finish the job off. While I was cleaning, my back began to hurt and I accidentally got my left arm soaked with dirty dishwater which made me wish that time would go by faster or that I was doing something else. But from the station I was at washing the dishes, I could look out the door and see a long winding line of old people–hungry for nutrition. Seeing all these people out there reminded me how much all of this food meant to them. They needed our help. I saw those people waiting outside and realized that the faster I cleaned these pots, the sooner they could be used to make more food. We were helping these people. It felt good providing them with our time to help out.

We served lunch for the elderly for two hours. Once 1pm came around, we started cleaning up for a little bit before stopping for lunch. We ate the same things that were served to the elderly with some extra beef added in just for us. We ate the chicken, potato, onion soup (It tasted so much like the chicken noodle soup my mom makes! At that moment, I really missed her) with beef, seaweed and anchovies, kimchi, rice, and a tangerine. Everything was very delicious. We had to eat our lunch in less than 20 minutes and then hurry back to the kitchen to finish cleaning.

I returned to the large sinks in the back with Josh and we cleaned the rest of the big pots and bowls. Eventually, we were told to put away our aprons and gloves and head outside for a group photo as we were done with our community service. I could not figure out where to put my gloves so I asked one of the older ladies still washing some utensils. She showed me how to turn the rubber glove inside out using this method that involved twisting the glove until air collected in the palm area and then squeezing the end which caused the fingers to pop out. It actually was really fun. After I finished my two gloves, I realized that there was a pile of gloves from the other students so I proceeded to do those too. I asked the lady once again to show me and I was able to do them faster and with more success the more I went on. The lady told me that I could bring this skill back to America and show my mom. It was a very cute interaction.

After taking photos and taking off our rain boots, we had time to fill out a reflection about our time volunteering. I really enjoyed thinking about everything and I even wrote my reflection in Korean just because I wanted to try. I think it was not too bad…

I originally planned on going home and studying at a cafe for a bit in order to get a start on my homework and presentation but when I was with everyone, I had the urge to hang out with them. Katie, Shannon, and Kaitlyn were planning on visiting a healing cafe in 신촌 and I decided to tag along (and convince June to come with us). I had the goal to study while there but if I am being honest… I was only able to study one grammar point. But looking back, I am not mad about it! This cafe was so cool and I am glad I took advantage of it!


When we first arrived, we took off our shoes and put them in lockers. We went to go and talk to the cafe employee to pay for how many hours we wanted as well as to order our drinks. (Guess what I got? I know that you are probably right–it was a hot green tea latte.) We paid about 9,900 Won (less than $10) for two hours at the cafe (with a 30-minute massage). After dropping off our coats and bags in the little cubbies, we went to get massaged. I have sat in a massage chair before but these were like on another level! I picked the massage type that focused on the back, shoulder, hips, and butt for total refreshment. It was so good but also so painful! If I come back, I am going to have to try another one–maybe the deep sleep one.


View from the cafe–at sunset

At the cafe, I goofed around with June and Kaitlyn who were in the same cubby hole as me. After the time was up, I took the train back home with June because she only lives two stops away from me. We had to transfer at 홍대 and would be transferring onto the 경의중앙 line which were both nonideal situations. When getting on the train, we realized–via subway announcement–that we were on an express train which explained why we were packed into the car like sardines! I was in front of June so I could rest my head on her but she was squished in between these two men and could not even move her head to fully look at me. It was very uncomfortable until the last possible stop when everyone cleared out.

I came home and ate dinner with my host sisters which was a lot of fun. We ate this spicy beef stew type thing (maybe 매운갈비찜 but I am not sure). Again, they were surprised I could eat it so well because even my older sister kept breathing in and out harshly as she drank the soup. We had a lot of fun conversation again about office life, our least favorite foods, spicy food, nicknames for different countries (For example, 스시국 is Japan– translates to Sushi Country), as well as this really funny story my older sister had on a plane ride. She was taking a flight from one American state to another with a friend and this man sat in between them. She explained to me how smelly this man was. She even wanted to switch seats because of it. She explained that she never thought that Americans were smellier than Koreans (since that is a stereotype and one that can be true if you think about deodorant) but that was the one time she experienced something like that, something that made her consider the stereotype. After dinner, I zoomed to my room to work on my project on the differences between work life in America and Korea. My older host sister helped me with the conversation we had over dinner and she even gave me some data to use! It was very helpful. I ended up going to bed after 1am because of the project and studying grammar for the quiz.

That was my blog post for the day! It was a very long and tiring day, but it was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. These 빨리 빨리 (fast fast) days keep me on my toes!! I hope you enjoyed reading! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Seodaemun Prison Excursion & Volunteering at a Halloween Festival {10/27/18} NSLI-Y Korean AY

10/27/18 Saturday

This Saturday Morning was our cultural activity for the month~ We technically had two this month, but that was because the September one was rescheduled so many times due to the rain—usually, we will only have one cultural activity every month. This cultural activity was one based on Korean history as we would be visiting 서대문감옥 (Seodaemun Prison) to learn more about the Japanese Occupation of Korea.

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Before heading to the prison and learning more about the events and things that occurred there, we sat in the Freedom Park and discussed what we already knew about that time period and what we learned from asking our host families or our high school friends. Everyone’s answers were pretty similar. We all mentioned that we all heavily learned about World War II but not much about Japan and the countries it occupied. There was maybe a sentence in our textbooks at most.

We then talked about Koreans’ attitudes toward Japanese people. Katie and I, during our conversation class, asked our friends and they seemed to agree that Koreans don’t hate the Japanese. They said if there are any hostile views or thoughts present today, it is mostly toward the government and how they handled the situation rather than on an individual level. Most people don’t showcase negative attitudes when connecting with Japanese people on an intrapersonal level; however, they did bring up that the same thing really can’t be said about the older generation—the people that lived through the time period. The students mentioned that because the event wasn’t that long ago, there are many people still alive who hold very negative and distasteful opinions on the Japanese and sometimes they pass that down. Though this is the case, the younger generation {as it often appears} is often more open-minded than the older generation.

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What a BEAUTIFUL Fall Day with Kaitlyn, Josh, & Jack

We talked about that for a bit, hearing from a bunch of different people, before heading into the museum. I didn’t take too many pictures because I really tried to read everything that was there and I also followed 주연쌤 and 민정쌤 around because they had more information to share about the many things we viewed.

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One thing that I thought was interesting was that they created new words in the Korean language that were given as titles to certain figures during the resistance. For example, There was a female student who was also the youngest female participating in the resistance. Because of everything she did, they added a title to her name. Her full name is Yu GwanSun (유관선) but she is often referred to as 유관순 열사.

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Photos of Fallen Resistors

Reading about all the torture methods was honestly really difficult but I do agree that it gives me more of a perspective of the atrocities that were committed then. I know wars always come with violence but knowing this, helped me see the occupation on another level. I won’t go into detail with those here because they are honestly quite disturbing; you can do some research if you’d like.

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We got to walk through the jail corridors and could even go inside many of the cells. We walked around the training fields and got to see where the prisoners would be executed. I learned from 민정쌤 that the training field was built in a fan shape to allow for there to be only one guard on duty and yet he would be able to see what every single prisoner is doing.

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There was also this really large tree right next to the execution building that was coined as a wailing tree because as the resistors would be dragged to their death by the Japanese guards, many of them would hold onto the tree and say their final goodbyes to the world. It was surreal to be able to stand in front of this tree.


After we finished walking around, learning more about Korea’s history, and taking some group photos, we went to have lunch together. We had 전주비빔밥 (Jeonju Bibimbap — very famous bibimbap–mixed rice with vegetables and beef!) in a stone pot. It was utterly delicious! I know some people can get sick of 비빔밥 when they come to Korea but I could never—but I also don’t eat it too often.


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Our official cultural activity was over once the last person put down their spoon. After that, we were free for the rest of the day. I signed up to do a volunteer activity with 5 other NSLI-Yians at this Halloween Festival put on by Mapo-gu Youth Center. I was very very surprised when we got there; I was expecting this small, little festival with a couple of tents and some good decorations but it was way more than I could have asked for. The only thing it lacked was true American Halloween Candy and everyone wearing costumes.


We arrived an hour early so before heading straight to the festival, we killed some time at Ediya’s Coffee to just chat, drink some warm lattes, and study a bit of Korean. When 3 pm rolled around, I called the woman in charge and tried to communicate to her where we were but it was so very difficult. My listening skills were not helping me out and talking on the phone in any language is hard when the reception isn’t good… eventually, she found us after a really awkward description by me about where we were.


She took us inside the center and explained to us what we would be doing: playing Go-Fish with kids and switching groups every 30 minutes. She also bought us Subway Sandwiches but we already ate so I felt bad for having them go to waste. Before we started the volunteering, we had our faces painted! We all got wounds (special effects makeup) put on our faces! It was fun having the prosthetic put on although my conversation with the guy doing my face was an EPIC fail. He asked me where I wanted the makeup and all I heard was where so as the self-conceited person I am, I assumed he was asking where we were from. I told him America before he said it again during which I realized how much of a fool I am! There was another incident shortly after with another face paint artist asking Shada to show her the stamp she got {guarantees payment} and then she tried to tell her she needs a stamp while we both thought she was asking if she wanted a stamp. {Granted this was a bit more understandable because we didn’t know how the “stamp system” worked here.} Eventually, I realized what they were getting it and I said that we were here today to volunteer and both her face painter and mine went “Ahhhhhhhh,” and that was the end of that conversation.

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Face Painting!


Jacquelyn, McKenzie, and Shada took the first shift so Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I just got to walk around and explore the booths. They had lots of food, face painting, nail painting, Halloween crafts, book readings, and this huge stage that was having a fashion show of all different types of costumes! It was so cool to see authentic Halloween costumes in Korea. We also found a booth selling Pickachu 돈까스 which was a bit frightening.


There were these two clowns on {those raised sticks? I cannot remember what they are called…} who were making balloons and I ran over to one and he immediately said I was pretty. I started to tell him that I wanted a balloon animal too but before I could finish my sentence, he shouted that he was surprised by how good I am at Korean. He let me cut the line {a big apology to those people waiting in line}, and he made me this yellow balloon flower rather than an animal. When being a foreigner gives you perks!


Eventually, Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I started our shift of board game playing with the little kids. Harmony held up a sign and would shout “play a board game” in Korean while Kaitlyn and I supervised or played with the kids. It was hard at first because I didn’t know how to explain the board game in Korean but eventually, I figured out which things made sense to the kids and what didn’t. A lot of them had trouble understanding when to say “Go Fish” so some of them would just say it during every turn—this was really cute!

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It got so cold that I was glad that the tent was blocking some of the wind. Later during the shift, my host family showed up to play some games. I told them about the festival the previous night and they really wanted to come! I got to teach my host sisters how to play Go-Fish and they were happy to receive prizes after winning.

When our volunteering shifts came to an end, the youth center coordinator had us come to the stage to watch some performances. It was so cold by this time that we were all cuddling trying to stay warm. Harmony’s arms made a nice scarf! We watched this hip hop performance that was pretty much boys against girls in the beginning and then at the end they joined together for an epic finale. The next performance {which the coordinator told us was somehow related to Better World} was these two groups of girls that did a cheerleading/Poms Routine? I’m not quite sure. The younger girls were dressed in sporty wear while the older ones looked like pirates? They were very fun though! I found myself bopping around and clapping along to the music.

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I was living for the gash on the side of my face!

After the festival, Kaitlyn and I got rid of our wounds in the subway’s bathroom {There was nooo way that we would ride the subway looking like that.} and went to 홍대 for dinner. We had 겨촌치킨. The original honey flavor~ It was delicious but we had a lot of leftovers.

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The rest of the night with Kaitlyn was spent walking around the streets populated by Buskers. They were all wearing Halloween costumes which were so nice to see! There was at least some Halloween spirit going on there. We eventually found this one group whose costumes were pretty lacking but their dancing was incredible. Though Kaitlyn and I found what happened surrounding the group the best part! Oh, who does not like people watching?

First, there was a guy wearing a long black padded coat and a mask dancing along awkwardly to the songs right next to the group. He was so funny and honestly more entertaining than the other dancers. Then, there were these two older ladies that screamed when one of the guys came over to her and she did this really ridiculous dance as a kind of dance face-off type thing—but it was great. She had some moves! Lastly, when these two girls danced, they pulled this really tall foreign guy into the circle and danced with him {in a pretty sexy way}. At first, he just stood there awkwardly but after the chorus played for a bit, he copied their movements and squatted on the ground with them. That was surely a sight to witness: I will say that.

After watching the Buskers for a bit, Kaitlyn and I went our separate ways to go home. I know when I came home I talked to my host family for a bit, but I don’t think I studied much if anything at all. I put on a Halloween movie and went to bed pretty early.

That’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ Stay tuned for more!

  • Emma 엠마