New Years Day in South Korea: Watching the Sunrise (01/01/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

1/01/19 Tuesday

I started the New Year before the sun even did! Literally, I woke up at 5:15 am in order to watch the sunrise with my host family; therefore, if you think about it…. We woke up to a new year before the sun! (I do not know why I think this is cool, but I do.) Apparently, in Korea, it is quite a common tradition for families and couples to go watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day. I am not exactly sure why they find it so meaningful but I assume that it has something to do with the fact that sunrises are known for symbolizing a new beginning. When I first woke up, I was immensely tired and felt that I was not in the mood to go stand out in the freezing cold to catch only a few seconds of the sunrise but after experiencing everything, I understood why this tradition is considered so special to so many people.

But anyway, we left the house a little bit before six and were met with a good amount of traffic on the streets. I was confused as to why we left so early seeing that the sun was not going to rise till after 7 am– closer to 7:45 according to the internet. I soon found out that it was because we would be eating breakfast at a restaurant and then climbing up this mountain (or someplace that people hike???) before seeing the sunset.

For breakfast, we all piled into this restaurant that was fairly empty and I was shocked to see that it was open. I wondered if it was usually open this early during the weekdays or if this was a special occasion seeing that it was New Year’s Day. We had some light noodles and 만두 (dumplings) for breakfast before heading up to the sunrise viewing. There were so many people! Actually, the huge amount of people proved to be kind of nice because it was as if we were all huddled like penguins waiting for the sky to brighten and the sun to rise. However, because there were so many people (and we did not get there too early), we could not get a spot right where the sun would rise (I mean the spot for the best viewing if that makes any sense…) and so we had to climb up this side part of the landscape which was had very crumbly dirt making it hard to climb and stand still on.

However, being surrounded by my host family and seeing all the togetherness around me made me immensely happy. We had a perfect view of a bridge across some water and with the lights on at dawn, it looked like a picture perfect moment. I looked out to the sky and thought about everything I was grateful for in 2018.


I realized that I have been so lucky and so blessed to have had such an amazing year. A year full of dreams coming true, great times spent with people whom I love, as well as lots of firsts from trying new things! Everyone around us was chatting and I goofed around with my host siblings for a bit too until the time came when the sun was really coming up–showing a beautiful bright orange color. Everyone quieted down and took in the view of the sunrise (and many took photos too which kind of disturbed the viewing with a bunch of loud camera shutters, but who can blame anyone for wanting to document this moment?) Everyone in my host family made a wish when they saw the sunrise. I did not know that this was something that can be done (or is usually done) but I can see how observing the sunrise can be seen as (reminder of the beauty of the world and the gift that is waking up every morning) a prime opportunity to make a wish. (I would say that it should also be as popular as wishing on shooting stars! But I guess that because they are less rare (actually you can call them frequent!!) it is not as special.


I made a wish too, but I refused to tell my host family about it because you know what they say: if you share a wish, it will not come true!

After watching the sunrise, we came back home and all immediately went back to sleep. It was nearing 8:30 am at this point and everyone was exhausted from the combination of staying up late, waking up early, and standing outside in the cold for quite a bit of time. I quickly texted my friends telling them that I was going to bed but that I would call them after my nap so that I could be a part of the Secret Santa Gift Exchange and watch the countdown in Chicago with them all. Seeing all my friends made me so happy. I have not gotten the chance to talk to all of them in such a long while because of our busy schedules and the different time zones (truly proving to be a pain in my rear end). Since their winter breaks from college started, I have been feeling major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) from seeing all their posts on Instagram and Snapchat of them just hanging out and partaking in our friend group traditions (like eating pancakes at our local 24/h diner) or just things we have always wanted to do (like going to an Escape Room!) I know in particular there was a photo taken at a restaurant and my friend had put a Snapchat filter on it that read: New Year Same Squad. It was such an innocent add on to a really cute photo but of course, it made me feel sad in a way. I truly love my friends and I do not believe that we are being torn apart because of this but I do feel extremely disconnected to them due to the distance between us. They have the time to share with each other so many stories and updates and I am left feeling like I know nothing when things are brought up. These new inside jokes make me feel like an outsider… Or maybe a bit less obvious, there is a divide in where we are in life. They will have finished their first year of college while I have done something just as growth-invoking: a year abroad.


Wow, that was such a long tangent. (I am currently sitting in a cafe right now with Josh and maybe because I am being influenced by this deep/thought-provoking music, I am feeling the vibes to just dish out all my emotions and thoughts on this blog post right now… Anyway, since I brought my fears and the negative things that I have been feeling, I do want to bring up that it is not all bad. I like to think because I have such amazing friends, I have been reassured and reminded time and time again that they will always be there for me. In this past week, I video called one of my friends and she never failed to let me know how much she misses me. She told me that something always feels off without me there, and she even said she knew that they would have been successful with the escape room if I had been there too. My other friends too continue to update me on their lives through text (or by Snapchat video) and I really appreciate the extra effort they put in for me! Anyways back to my day! (and not my feelings!)

Earlier in the night, my friends came over to my house to surprise my mom with chocolates and I later heard from my mom that she was almost in tears with the kindness they showed her–she had missed seeing them around so much. My friends picked up my package with my secret Santa gifts and snacks for all of them to try. When we video called, I was so happy being able to see how excited my friend Kara got when she opened all my presents. They were definitely nothing too special but I thought she would use them well!

I got to watch the countdown with them and as the countdown reached 1, all my friends screamed Happy New Year and let off (what is the verb for this?) confetti poppers. I ended the call soon after that and also talked to my mom for a bit.

For lunch, my host family and I ate 떡국 (rice cake soup) which is a soup traditionally eaten during the New Year. In Korea age works a bit differently when compared to American age. To describe it as simply as possible… Koreans are born as 1-year-olds rather than 0 and then they increase in age on New Years Day rather than on their actual birthdays. (Yes, they still celebrate their birthdays, however.) Because of this system, you have to either add 1 or 2 years to your current age to get your Korean age. For example, I am currently 19 years (My birthday is Nov 4th, 1999) and my Korean age is 21 years old. I gained a year today! Before New Years (back in December) I was only 20 in Korean age. Before my birthday (let’s say October!), I was still 20 in Korean age even though I was 18. This is probably so confusing but I tried!!


Once you eat the soup on New Years Day, you get one year older!

The rest of the day was spent spending time with my host siblings (watching a Barbie movie and then several episodes of a Korean tv show about the body? It was very educational.) as well as cleaning my room and finishing up all my packing. We played board games and I can finally say that I have won a round of Rummikub!! YESSS!

Our last dinner together was a very special one. There was a really big spread of all types of food. The main dishes were 삼겹살 and 회 with an assortment of veggies. Before we began eating, my host dad said that they had prepared a 진수성찬 for me and then asked me if I remembered what that was. I could not help but smile and think about the good memories from the 추석 holidays when my host dad first taught me that word. (Definitely, one of my new favorite Korean words since it is associated with such great memories. Should I do another favorite words blog post? Link to the first one: here) We also did a toast before starting to eat. My host parents said a few things about enjoying having me and I also thanked them for allowing me to feel comfortable with them and all the memories we were able to make with each other. Dinner was bittersweet, but I knew that I would surely be back soon. Hopefully, the next time I come back, I can make gingerbread houses with my siblings!


And that was my New Year’s Day in Korea! (Though I will admit that a large majority of this blog post was just me explaining my emotions but what would a realistic blog about my experience be without me getting all personal out on here?) Thank you for reading if you even got this far! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Trick Eye Museum, Dynamic Maze, and Osulloc Tea Cafe {12/29/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/29/18 Saturday

The night before, I was wallowing in my own boredom as I realized I had no plans for the weekend. Rather than let the night go by without making any plans, I hopped into our AY group chat and asked if anyone wanted to hang out. Besides for Katie responding (like she normally would have), I got no response. Great. Then a few minutes later, Josh privately messaged me saying that he was down to do something too. Then Jacquelyn eventually said that she was free. We had a solid group of 4 wanting to do something but with nothing to do… I tried researching the best things to do in Seoul during the winter but the majority involved going outside to ice skate or ski and we knew that was not going to be an option.

I ended up finding this Trick Eye Museum located in 인사동 called The Alive Museum and attached to it was this maze sort of adventure called The Dynamic Maze. Everyone seemed super excited to try it out–especially because Katie and Josh had never been to a Trick Eye Museum (This surprised me seeing that the one in 홍대 is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area! I went during the summer program with Sofia. Here is that blog post!) and the maze seemed really fun with ropes to climb and tunnels to crawl through and puzzles to solve; therefore, I reserved tickets online early for the three of us. (Jacquelyn was going to join us for lunch but not for our activity because she was still not feeling well.)

We all met up at 종각역 which actually had some cheap underground shopping. Katie and I promised to come back and shop around because the sweaters were really cute. We walked out of the station and pretty quickly were able to find the place (a recommendation found by Jacqulyn #mangoplatemaster). We went to this place called 청진식당 as it was one of the best-reviewed places nearby for less than ten dollars per person. We ordered two servings of 불고기 and 오징어볶음 and it was utterly delicious. So much food for only 8 dollars a person! I left the restaurant so full from everything. I would highly recommend anyone to eat there if you find yourself in the area. Even for picky eaters, the 불고기 would be something good to introduce to someone who is trying Korean food for the first time. If my family ever came to Korea, I would take them here for sure!


After lunch, we parted ways with Jaquelyn and made our way towards 인사동 to find 박물관은 살아있다 or the Alive Museum. We passed by this massive building that Josh said was the right place. I kept telling him that there was no way it was inside of there, “Where are all the signs?” I said. So we kept walking, in the freezing cold, all the way down to the other side of the street realizing that we still had not found the right place. We turned all the way back and returned to the huge building that Josh pointed out at first. We read all the Korean on the floor markers and could not find anything that said The Alive Museum. We walked out and returned realizing that the museum’s name was not 아라이브 박물관 and tried to find it again. On the B2 sign, it said something about a dark room which seemed to be another part of the museum, so we decided to try our luck with that and go there.

When we got into the elevator, we realized that there was literally no button for B2. Literally, there was even a blank button in between B1 and B3 that you could not press. We decided to just get off at B3 and figure out what to do there. We were the only ones getting off there and were shocked to see nothing expect concrete walls and doors with vague electrical signs. We quickly found the staircase and rushed up to the B2 level. We looked around and realized that we had just found ourselves in the middle of the museum. We walked for a bit {seeing all the photo opportunities} and realized we needed to find the entrance because we were basically entering without paying. I found this guy next to the VR area and told me that we bought tickets online but we didn’t know where the entrance to the museum was. He told us to take the elevator up one floor but when we did that, we were still right smack dab in the middle of the museum. Josh decided to take lead and told us to just walk through the whole thing. If we kept going straight, we would eventually get to the entrance—and he was right. When we ran through the last curtain, we laughed looking at the line at the ticket stand. I immediately went outside to see where we were supposed to enter and found an outdoor entrance with stairs on either side. I climbed them and discovered that the entrance was next to the huge building we entered. There was a massive sign {in English} noting the location of the museum. I ran back inside and laughed with the others. Only we would miss the ginormous sign, proceed to read the Korean on the floor map and enter the museum in the middle. I got us our tickets and after playing with the lockers for a bit, we just decided to go in with our coats in hand.

We had a blast on the museum—playing with the props and posing in so many different ways. We spent almost two hours taking in everything {and we didn’t even take shots at every single location!}. By the end of it, we were so tired of taking photos but I was still able to convince everyone to take sticker photos with me. I just like having the physical memories! Plus, today was a day to remember! It was so much fun!

After finishing up and returning to the lobby, we got in line for the Dynamic Maze. Though we hadn’t even waited for a full minute before the employee told us that it would be a 2-hour wait. We looked at each other in shock… we wanted to make it home in time for dinner so we ended up skipping out on the maze even though it looked like so much fun! Maybe next time? {Though I felt so bad because I had already bought the tickets and they were going to have to pay me back even though we didn’t get to do the maze… what a waste of money…}

We didn’t want to leave just yet so we walked around looking for a cafe that wasn’t too expensive {Though I will just say is pretty impossible in 인사동!} We ended up going to 오설록 tea cafe or something like that? They are famous for all their teas {especially 녹차} from 제주도.

Katie and I ended up buying some green tea ice cream and a roll cake. {Don’t worry we fed some to Josh too!}


We sat at the cafe just chilling and chatting for about an hour. We also looked through all the photos from the museum and laughed at all the golden shots! Photos of Josh making creepy faces, Katie not being lucky with lighting, and me crying like a baby. It was a lot of fun (and the cafe eats only added to the experience)

That is all for this blog post! I had so much fun today~ It will definitely always be a day that I remember~ A good memory with great friends, conversations, and food! I hope you enjoyed. Follow for more content like this! 5 months left in Korea… wow, does time fly!

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Christmas Party at Youth Hostel in Seoul (12/24/18) NSLI-Y Korean AY

12/24/18 Monday

Emotionally, I knew that Christmas Eve was going to be a very difficult time for me–the holidays (when you are away from your family and friends) are always difficult. However, the morning was quite busy so I was pretty distracted for most of it. I needed to finish buying gifts for the Better World Staff/my resident directors (주연쌤, 소야쌤, and 민정쌤) as well as my Korean teacher so after taking a shower, getting my presents in order, and packing things for our Christmas party, I went to 홍대 to complete my Christmas shopping.

I wanted to buy macaroons from Blanc Bakery, but when I got there, they were literally out of every single flavor except for passion fruit I think? So I skipped out on that bakery and went to Daiso to buy dry erase markers for my Korean teacher. (I wanted to get her a variety of colors to use during class.) And eventually, I ended up walking several blocks to a Tous Les Jours to find macaroons for everyone (green tea, lemon, and grape flavors). A bit before noon, I was able to meet up with Katie at a cafe where I wrapped my gifts and memorized my Korean class presentation while Katie worked on letters for her teacher and then later did a part of her homework too.

During Korean class, we just reviewed most of the new grammar points that would be appearing on our monthly test. We mostly just went through the points and created example sentences to go along with them. My teacher seemed to really like the thoughtfulness of the gift (Though I know they are not the best quality seeing that they were only 1,000 Won dry erase markers from Daiso). She also said that my card was really well written! I did upload it on HelloTalk to have it edited… but most of it was written by me without any translating it! So I was happy to know that I did pretty well–especially with using formal language.


I also gave my gifts to the other Better World 쌤s (which included tissues, hand sanitizers, and hot/cold packs along with a macaroon) and they seemed to really like the letters too. 주연쌤 and 민정쌤 gave me some of the warmest hugs which made me feel very happy–I needed a hug at that moment!


Once class was over, we were on our way to begin celebrating Christmas with a Christmas party at a hostel with the rest of the NSLI-Y students. Josh, Jacquelyn, and I walked with 소야쌤 to the subway station and from there we went to the hostel we would be spending the night at. We had to all anxiously wait in the lobby for awhile because Kaitlyn, Harmony, and Hunter were decorating the room with Christmas decorations.

When we finally got to go up to the room, we were all beyond amazed at the decorations; they had done an amazing job turning the room into a Christmas wonderland. They used garlands and string lights to make a tree on the wall that looked so pretty~ We all placed our presents under the makeshift tree which made it look that much more real. (It eventually fell off the wall about 40 minutes into the party but it was nice while it lasted!) They also made stockings for every single person and hung them (along with garland) along the windowsill. (There was also a photo opportunity made with wrapping paper and red and green balloons.) They definitely worked so hard in preparing the decorations (and all the games) and I could not thank those three enough for making our Christmas special!

party 2


We were all told to bring some snacks to the party so we had so much food to go around (including the pizza and fried chicken that 민정쌤 ordered for us). They also bought hot chocolate packs so that we could make some later in the night. Luckily, there was a water dispenser that had both hot and cold water at the hostel so during the middle of the night we all went out into the hallway carrying our cups and packets in order to make hot chocolate.

We dug into the food first because we were all so hungry after Korean class. After eating, we did our secret Santa gift exchange. We started off with Katie who gave her gift to Harmony and then from there, we all passed out our gifts until the circle finally ended up coming back around to Katie with a gift from Mckenzie.

party 3

My secret Santa was June and she got me some of the best gifts ever! She must have asked around about my likes because she was able to figure out that my favorite animals are pigs and bought me pig-themed items from Daiso and Butter. I received a pair of pig slippers, a pig coin purse, and this big round pig stuffed animal. (Katie actually gave me the same pig stuffed animal but in a mini size for my birthday.) They were all very cute–Thank you June! After I got my gift, I gave my secret Santa present to Jack after explaining that it was based on an inside joke. When he opened the gift and pulled out the bigfoot plush, everyone started laughing and asking what the joke was which led Katie and me to explain the joke to the group. He passed around the stuffed animal to others in the group and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I know Jack will not really use it? But I hope he appreciates the effort I put into the gift and the thought that went into it!

But also I need to bring up the fact that Josh and Liam came to the Christmas party and changed into fuzzy pink pajamas made for females. It was so funny seeing them looking so ridiculous. I could not take them seriously. Especially, when I looked at how short the pajama pants were. They are always pulling something crazy! (민정쌤 definitely enjoyed taking photos of them!)


After the gift exchange, we began to play the Christmas version of Hot Potato (All planned out and prepared by Harmony). It involved passing around this huge present in a circle and whenever the music stopped and it landed in the hands of one of the NSLI-Y students, they would have to unwrap a layer. Each layer had little notes of what the person needed to do (both good and bad things). So the present started off as this huge box and then with each unwrapping it got smaller and smaller until it ended up being an ornament filled with candy. This game was so much fun and the tasks were really funny too. Here are some examples:

Say Ho Ho Ho after every sentence for the rest of the game

Wear this Christmas Head Accessory for the rest of the game

Wrap someone up as a present (anyone of your choosing)

Get wrapped up like a snowman by the person on your right

Get fed something by the person on your left (while blindfolded)

Sing a Christmas song (song choice by the person on your right)

Call your Mom sing Silent Night to her (no context)

Create and perform a 12 Days of NSLI-Y Christmas

Etc etc etc

The best moments of the game were definitely when Shada wrapped up 민정쌤 as a present (and even added a bow to the top of her head– the one from my present to Jack), Kaitlyn turning Katie into a snowman with a roll of toilet paper, and last but not least, June calling her mom back in America (it was probably like 5 am on the East Coast) to sing Silent Night. I was so surprised that her mom picked up and her grogginess and delirious responses just added to the whole moment. (We all also tried so hard to keep our composure and not make too much noise by laughing.) What a great game!


After playing hot present (would that be the name of the game?), we started a blindfolded cookie decorating contest. There were two rounds of 4 people and at the end of the contest, Addie and Jenna proved to be tied as the winners. During this time, Kaitlyn and I discovered that the lighting in the bathroom was perfect for selfies so it is safe to assume that we took advantage (because yes, yes we did).


Eventually, it got close to 9 pm and so the 쌤s were getting ready to leave us for the rest of night after giving us instructions for tonight as well as tomorrow morning. She brought back 닭발 (chicken feet) and other foods that are commonly eaten with it as well as a light up Christmas cake (This was her Christmas gift to us~) Mckenzie, Katie, Shada, and I cut the cake after we sang happy birthday but switching out the words “happy birthday” for “Merry Christmas.” I recently got to try chicken feet when we had the exchange day camp with the all-girls tourism high school and besides the weird texture of the cartilage, it really was not bad at all. But for some reason, these were literally the spiciest things I have ever eaten. Even though I am not Korean, I consider myself someone who can eat spicy food well. I really love 김치찌개 for example. Though that is the case, this one piece (this one foot of a chicken) burned my mouth for about 15 minutes after I ate it. I literally almost drank an entire water bottle trying to calm my mouth down because it was literally burning and my eyes teared up so badly. Yeah, I will say that my experiences with 닭발 have really not been too good to me.

Once we stuffed ourselves with more food, snacks, and cake, we ended up splitting up into the two hostel rooms (one was for those who planned to stay up late while the other one was going to be for those that plan on actually getting some sleep). The party room (AKA the #teamnosleep room) consisted of Harmony, Shada, Jenna, Josh, Liam, Jacquelyn, Addie, Jack, Hunter, and me. At first, we all just hung out, sitting in a circle–mostly on our phones–chatting about all sorts of stuff. This also ended up turning into a limbo contest somehow?  Either Hunter or Josh won; I can not remember exactly.

party 1

Eventually, Home Alone was turned on and having seen it the day prior with my host family, I left with Josh to visit the girls in the other room. They were all chilling in this lounge area (as Jacquelyn and Mckenzie went to bed early) making ramen (which they purchased from the vending machine). I did not eat ramen (too much cake I tell you!) but I did share banana milk with Kaitlyn. For some reason, the quiet and calm atmosphere made me start thinking about the fact that it was Christmas (it was past midnight at this point) and that I was not with my family–my first Christmas away from family. This made me start crying so Kaitlyn and I hurried over to the stairwell before anyone else could notice and I started balling my eyes out. Kaitlyn never properly celebrated Christmas but she could still understand my feelings and helped comfort me. (Thank you for the hug Kaitlyn; I am definitely a hugger <3) I was crying and crying standing in that stairwell at 3 am. I eventually stopped crying and turned to laughter when I looked out the window to see that the roads were still filled with cars at 3 in the morning on Christmas day. Kaitlyn thought I was going crazy as I explained that it was funny to see that Seoulites really do not sleep. This led us to talk about the fact that they stay up late but sleep in (a lot of places do not open till 10 or 11 am– even breakfast places sometimes) which distracted me for the moment from all my emotions.

Then, maybe because we were deliriously tired, a big group of us decided to go outside and do a cinnamon roll hug like the one we did in 안동 as well as just huddle together and talk for a while. It was so very cold outside but we still decided to hang out there for quite a while? Yeah, I do not know what was going through our minds either.


Jack Gives Liam a Piggy Back Ride

Eventually, it was 4:30 am and we laid out all the futons on the floor and got ready for bed. Luckily, we did not have to get up until around 8:30 am so we would not completely be lacking sleep tomorrow morning but… it definitely was not the doctor recommended 8 hours of sleep. But I was happy. Although, I missed my mother extremely and the traditions that we had (that I knew would not be completed the following day…) but I was happy to be surrounded by all these amazing individuals that genuinely made me feel supported and happy. This was not a typical Christmas Eve; it was my first Christmas Eve away from family and my first one abroad–in Korea. However, it will be one to remember~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and spent it with ones you love (even if it that does not include your family). I hope that you surrounded yourself with people that will always love and support you this Christmas~ Thank you for reading~ Till next time.

  • Emma 엠마


Catching up with Korean Friends in Sinchon (신촌), Board Game Cafe, and Brunch (12/22-12/23/18) NSLI-Y AY

12/22/18 Saturday

I met up with Kaitlyn early in the morning at 홍대 in order for us to both finish off our Christmas gift shopping for our teachers and our host families. Before we got down to business, we tried getting brunch at this place called Buttermilk that is really well known. We ended up getting there about an hour after it opened. After a wrong turn and some issues with Kakao maps, we eventually found it but others apparently did too as there was a huge line of people waiting outside. Well now that that place was out of the question, we ended up going to Travel Maker and getting brunch there. (Though when we did arrive, there were no available seats so we did have to wait for a little bit in order for the employees to clean up one of the tables.)

I was craving pancakes and was able to get blueberry pancakes while Kaitlyn got a breakfast set with a little bit of everything. (These were my second set of pancakes this week; I am living my best life here in Korea!) After breakfast, we visited the new seven-floor Daiso here in 홍대. I saw the building in the distance and told Kaitlyn to follow me but she kept saying no, that it was in the opposite direction; however, I kept pulling her over to me. Eventually, we saw the huge, tall building and Kaitlyn laughed. I do not know what I am talking about most of the time… but I do have a good memory– I remember seeing the construction for it during the past week. We got through every single floor and filled up a basket at the end of it (Though I will admit that most of the things in our basket were mine–guilty as charged). I bought a gift for my host brother, our program resident directors, some gifts for Katie, and some treats here and there for my host sisters as well as me. Also, because this new year is the year of the pig, Daiso has this really cute series with a pig at its center. If this is not already known… well, I am obsessed with pigs! It took so much self-control for me not to buy everything (I also thank Kaitlyn for holding me back). Though I did cave in and bought pig stickers, a pig USB cord, and a pink pig blanket.

After Daiso, we made our way to Morning Glory and Artbox to buy the final few things for our gifts (I needed to buy Christmas cards, tape, and wrapping paper for everything). On the way there, Kaitlyn took me to this coffee place called Venti that has been hyped up by Shada and Jenna since the beginning of the program and now I know that the hype is totally deserved! The place serves drinks in a venti size (yes the same large size you would get from Starbucks) for super cheap! I am talking approximately $3 to $5! I ended up getting a green tea frappe and it was super delicious and only 3,500 won (less than $3.50). When we left Artbox, we realized that it was almost 2 pm and we needed to hurry and rush to get to 신촌 on time. We were planning to meet two girls from 선정관광고등학교 for a movie. We ended up being late meeting them and instead of meeting at the station like originally decided, they told us to come straight to the movie theater. Kaitlyn and I freaked out about the fact that they thought that we could find it by ourselves at first but… we were able to find it pretty easily. No problem there.


We gave up on the movie as there were no seats for the Nutcracker movie (which is what we wanted to watch) as well as the next showing of The Grinch or Aquaman. And when I mean seats, I mean enough seats as there were 4 of us and we needed 4 seats all next to each other in a row. So instead of watching a movie, we decided to go and get some food. I was not hungry as honestly, the green tea frappe really filled me up and we also had brunch only a couple hours earlier but was ready to go hang out with everyone. We went to this popular 떡볶이 place and got a set with rice cakes, fish cakes, beef, 만두, as well as a side of these weird butter garlic fries and some lemonade. Everything was very very delicious! We talked over lunch and it was really fun updating each other. 연우 also brought this bunny hat that she received as a present after doing some Christmas volunteer work (something similar to toys for tots). This hat has been so trendy in Korea; it is being sold everywhere and so many kids are wearing them. It is not just a hat though, if you squeeze it at a certain spot, the bunny ears move too–very cute. Also, we talked in mostly Korean which made me feel really really good! I was able to (successfully) explain to our friends my secret Santa gift to Jack–which included explaining what BigFoot is.

After we stuffed our faces with delicious Korean food, we walked around the streets of 신촌 because they are still having a festival there that includes lots of street stalls selling handicrafts and food (things like candles, meringue cookies, caricatures (but usually in the style of webtoon drawings rather than the American style of accentuating features on the face), dream catchers, jewelry, etc. After walking through the entire thing, we stopped to watch a bit of a performance.

In the end, we decided to go to a board game cafe which made me really excited! I have never been to a board game cafe. I did not go to one during my summer program and although it has been 3.5 months in Korea this year, I have yet (well before this moment) to go to a board game cafe! We found this place on the 6th floor of this building and 연우 decided to make a bet. We decided to play a 4 way round of rock, paper, scissors, and the two losers would have to take the stairs all the way. It was 연우 and 윤지’s idea and Kaitlyn was totally against it… but guess who won and got to take the elevator? Kaitlyn and me! We got to the 6th floor clutching our sides as we were laughing so hard. We had to wait at the top of the stairs for a while as we watched our friends huffing and puffing while climbing the last set of stairs. It was okay though; they would get back at us with punishments during the board games.

The place that we went to was really nice. There were shelves upon shelves with board games. There was such a variety that there were several that I had never even seen before let alone knew how to play. The place also had this fancy looking bar set up that served drinks and snacks to enjoy while playing the games. The seats of the establishment were these red velvet couches–so fancy!

We played a lot of classic games like Jenga and the Pirate game (there is a pirate in a barrel and you insert swords into it until he pops out) but then we played games I had never even tried before like Da Vinci’s Code and Rummikub. The last two were specifically fun because they involved a lot of thinking and strategy. I definitely want to play these games again to see how much better I will be at them since I am more clear on the rules now. For punishments, we would whack the head of the loser with a rubber hammer (we also had a bald, old man wig but only 연우 put that on for fun).

After staying at the board game cafe for 2 hours, we said goodbye and parted ways. It was so nice seeing our friends again and Kaitlyn and I were both so grateful for them reaching out and wanting to meet up~  연우와 유지~ 사랑하고 고마워~

I got home from the exhausting day out and ended up playing Rummikub again but with my host sister and mother. The whole family was playing the game when I first arrived home. When I saw it, I exclaimed excitedly that I had just played the game for the first time that day and that it was really fun! We played one round and I ended up getting second place–not bad.


The rest of my Saturday night was literally spent wrapping gifts for all my host siblings and the 쌤s (teachers…) at Better World. The wrapping paper I bought at Daiso ended up being see-through! So I had to wrap every single gift twice because I knew my host sisters would try to look through the paper to try and figure it out. (And boy was I right, they did that anyway! Even with it wrapped twice… they tried!)

12/23/18 Sunday

Not much to talk about when it comes to this day… I spent most of the day just studying or lounging around in the living room with my host siblings. We did end up picking up a Christmas cake and eating that after lunch. Normally, my host family wouldn’t eat the Christmas cake till Christmas Eve but they knew I wouldn’t be at home for that {because of our NSLI-Y Christmas party} so they bought it early to eat together~ I thought this gesture was really kind and I was grateful for being placed with such a thoughtful host family. The days we have together are now numbered so I need to remember to stay grateful and enjoy the time left.

At dinner, I told my host family that my favorite Christmas movie is Santa Claus {the series itself but particularly the first movie} with Tim Allen. They had never seen it so during dinner they were looking up the actors and checking if it was available on Netflix and so you can guess what that meant… we watched Santa Clause together later that night. Or well, it was mostly me watching it while my siblings were on their tablets or reading comic books. Randomly when my host mom came into the kitchen for some tea, she exclaimed: “It looks like Emma is the only one having fun.” I just truly love that movie~ Glad I got to share it with them. Although the movie was a bit of a bust for them, the kids really enjoyed the blooper reel at the end of the movie. We kept rewinding the clips over and over because we could not stop laughing.


That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Follow my blog for more~

  • Emma 엠마

Tour of a Korean Broadcasting Building & End of Year Orchestra and Choir Concert (12/20-12/21/18) NSLI-Y AY

12/20/18 Thursday

I would be skipping Korean class today in order to go to an SBS 방송 (translates directly to a broadcast by the Korean company SBS). I did not really know what to expect but I ended up speaking with my Korean teacher about it and she allowed me to skip class to attend. (My host siblings also went to school and then got out early so that they could also come.) The morning was simply spent studying and relaxing. My host dad also brought me this really delicious red bean bun as a snack which helped give me the energy needed to get through my workbook pages.

With my host family, we drove about 45 minutes to an SBS building (not really sure which building or station (?) as there must be multiple in 서울). We hung around on the first floor for a while until our tour guide was ready which was a bit awkward because all the security guards were staring at us. I mean I know that is their job? But it still was weird and I felt pretty uncomfortable. In the building, there was a taping of a show happening. The two men that were hosting the show were popular comedians. I recognized one as having been a member of the Hello Counselor cast: 김태균. We got to listen to that for a bit before moving on. The tour guide showed us around some of the floors in order to see rooms where things are edited, monitored, planned, etc. We got to go into one of the broadcasting rooms and played around with the equipment for a bit. I think one of the coolest parts of the tour was that we got to out onto the floor of the SBS News Studio! Seeing all the cameras and the lighting still up and the fancy news table and chairs were really interesting. I have never been in a studio before or in any area where things are filmed so it was a very cool experience.

At the end of the tour, we got to watch videos of other things that SBS is in charge of like dramas and sports and such. They had these life-size posters of popular dramas like “My Love from Another Star,” ”Heirs,” as well as ”Secret Garden.” My host dad was so surprised to hear that I had seen Secret Garden. He exclaimed that it was one of Korea’s most famous dramas, but I guess because it is quite old (I think from 2008 or 2007?) he was shocked to know that I had seen it.

After our tour ended, we picked up some groceries from the Lotte Mall across the street before heading back home for our lunch/dinner. While we were eating dinner, I also found out that our plans for the day were not over–we would also be going to watch an end of the year concert by the local 고양시 orchestra and choir (including a youth choir, too). The performance was honestly really great. The youth choir sang a lot of Christmas songs like the classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” as well as the less loved but just as widely known “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen while the orchestra played a lot of very popular songs. (I am not knowledgeable on the songs but I definitely recognized them from here and there. I think one has a title about some bumble bees possibly? Not too sure… but I enjoyed the performance a lot!)


At night (and I am talking past midnight), I ended up calling my mom back in America because I suddenly was hit with a wave of severe homesickness (probably because being with my host family for the whole day made me miss my own family). It started off being just a call to update each other but then my mom hit me with that “What do you miss the most from America?” which ultimately led to me crying. While I was on the phone with her–crying and sniffling–I heard noise from outside my bedroom door. I am assuming that one of my host parents woke up to use the bathroom and definitely heard me crying in my bedroom… awkward…but oh well.


12/21/18 Friday

I woke up Friday morning so happy to be on break~ I haven’t been going to school all week but today (perhaps because there was no Korean class and because the weekend was approaching–and the holidays) I just felt so good. After I woke up that morning, I filmed a quick house tour (mostly just of my room–explaining every small little knick-knack too. It was quite extra.)


I ended up going to a cafe in 고양시 with Katie to study Korean while she worked mostly on college applications. We were there for several several hours before we left to grab lunch at a convenience store. (We love giving our wallets a break with 2 dollar lunches!)

I had gone home quite early after saying goodbye to Katie as my host dad and host mom had plans to go out and see a musical late at night. I was going to stay with my host siblings and watch a movie with them. My host mom brought back popcorn from the movie theater and made us all hot chocolate–she went all out for us. After they left, we ended up just picking out a movie from Netflix. I believe it was a Netflix Original but the name is slipping from my mind right now. It was your basic cheesy Christmas movie but it was nice to be able to watch it with my siblings. After it was over, we continued the marathon with one of the best Christmas movies of all time: Polar Express. When the hot chocolate scene came on, you know I was singing along.

Also, my older host sister showed me this app she has been using recently to practice English which involves dubbing her voice over clips from movies, tv episodes, commercials, etc. I ended up giving it a try too and dubbed my voice over a clip of Secret Garden. It actually turned out really well! I can whine in Korean pretty well!

And that was my Friday night~ I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Follow my blog for more posts about my study abroad experience in South Korea with NSLI-Y! (As I am posting this… I have less than 3 weeks left in Korea… Oh, where has the time gone? It is feeling VERY bittersweet…)

  • Emma 엠마


Pancake Brunch, Dinner with NSLI-Y Summer RD, and New Host Family Information {12/17/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/17/18 Monday

Today was the first day of winter break for Katie and me! We planned to start it off with a bang!! And what better way to accomplish that than with a pancake brunch? (This is a hypothetical question but even if you did answer, I feel like I can be assured that you would say nothing because…well, pancakes!) Katie and I went to Flapjack Pantry which is a breakfast/brunch place really close to the Better World Office. 민정쌤 recommended it to us when we first arrived in Korea, so I have been wanting to try it out since. Katie had gone last month with Jacqulyn and Liam and with her stamp of approval, we went.


We shared a plate of chocolate chip pancakes and a side of fries. Everything was quite delicious. Although my local diner still serves up some of the best chocolate chip pancakes I have ever tasted, these were pretty good too. (Though, I take points off for the fake chocolate syrup drizzled over the top. I would have much rather preferred straight up chocolate chips.) The fries were honestly the best part because they were not sweet! What a concept! (Subtle shade to the majority of fries in Korea)


Lovely Painting at the brunch place

After brunch, we went to the Better World Office to cheat them of their wifi and study in my classroom rather than going to a cafe and having to pay for an expensive drink for only an hour or so of study time. When we got to the office, there was no one there. We looked around and were worried that it was a bad idea to come early but then we realized they were on lunch and in the break room. After a very awkward interaction with 민정쌤 and 소영쌤, Katie and I studied vocab together in the classroom.


In Korean class, I felt good– useful even. I had looked over the grammar points before class so there were not any moments when I felt confused trying to piece together my teacher’s explanations of the meaning behind grammar points. I also memorized all the vocabulary from the chapter the night before, so I found the example sentences and dialogues easier to understand the first time through. And, when 민정쌤 came in to observe, I was able to do a good job in creating example sentences. I even joked around at one point. We were using the grammar point 나 보다 to speculate why Jacquelyn’s voice was gone. Josh said that she might have caught a cold. In a moment of random confidence for me, I shout out, “Or last night she went to a 노래방!” Everyone laughed and I was glad that I allowed myself to speak my mind even if it was just for that one sentence in Korean class– stepping stones.

After class, we had our bi-weekly meeting, so 3반 made their way over to the youth center for all of 민정쌤’s announcements. She updated us on the Christmas party, our reflections that were due on Thursday, and how the rest of December was looking (schedule-wise). She shared what days each high school would be having off for winter break and what to tell our host families regarding our plans for the 24th and 25th of December. After the meeting, everyone that would be switching host families stuck around and were given our new placement information. However, before she handed out the sheets of paper, she started off with a huge disclaimer. She said that it was really hard to find host families that were not millions of miles away from 홍대 or our host high schools. She said that she could really only find one host family in 서울 that was a decent distance from Korean classes. She brought up the fact that so many host families were applying from really distant parts of Korea like 파주 (Not quite the boonies of Korea but might as well be). While walking to the center, I was joking with Josh and Jacquelyn about being placed in Paju because I was already in 고양시. I was 100 percent joking! (Foreshadowww)

When she passed out all our papers, everyone started screaming and groaning as we all looked at our commute times. 50 minutes here and hour and a half over there. 민정쌤 was not kidding. Everyone was so far!

My new host family lived closest to a station on the 경의중앙 subway line (mint line) also known as the hell line (by more people than just me). It is such a terrible subway line because trains come pretty infrequently so sometimes you will have to wait upwards of 15 to 20 minutes for a train and because it comes so infrequently, it is always pretty full. I refuse to ride it during rush hour! I am sorry… but I would rather risk cutting it close to curfew than getting stuffed in a train car feeling like a sardine in a can. The distance from Korean classes to my new host family’s house will actually be about the same as it is now. Even though it is technically farther, there is no transfer (because transferring onto the 경의중앙 line is worse than simply riding it) so it will take about the same time to ride the line down to 홍대. However, to 하나고… that is another story. I will now be 42 minutes from school which requires me to take a train about 25 minutes earlier than I do now… and with walking… I definitely can no longer wake up at 6 am… (and I thought I had it better off than I did in America for high school… looks like I am going back to 5:30 am alarms!). But even though the commute is less than satisfactory, I am excited for my actual family!

I will have two host sisters that are 16 and 20 years old. I have never had a host family made up of older siblings before, so I am excited about that experience~ I can already imagine getting close with my sisters and doing things together~ Going shopping, going out to eat together, going to cafes to study, I am imagining everything. Should I also add that they have a dog? I will have a pet! Yes!! I think this family will be a lot of fun–hopefully. I will definitely make the most of it.

Once all our host family information was settled, I left with Katie to go to 이화 to meet up with our summer RD Madeline! She was an RD for both NSLI-Y 8 Summer (2016) and NSLI-Y 9 (2017). We met up with her in Korea because she is completing her Master’s Degree here at 이화여대. She has one more semester left of school so she will actually be leaving Korea around the same time we do. We went out to a 보쌈 place that she recommended and it was actually really delicious! (I would definitely come back again!)

We talked about our life after NSLI-Y and what we are doing now on the AY Program. We ranted to her about Korean classes and our life at 하나고 while she told us all about going to school and her plans for returning to the states and getting a job teaching Korean hopefully at middle school or high school level. We also talked about all the students she has met since the end of our program and I was surprised to find out that she has met so many! (Mostly from my program). There were even people I would never have expected! It was really nice catching up with her and it did not feel like it had been more than two years since I last saw her. I really enjoyed being able to chat with her and having Katie there was also really nice~ We also brought up JT (my other summer RD) whom she has not had a chance to see in a while… Addie and I are going to try to set up a meet up between JT and Madeline and us sometime in January during our break. I cannot even imagine how it will feel like meeting up with him! Having both of them in the same room, crazy stuff!


Well, that is all for this post~ I hope you enjoyed~ It was definitely a day for the books– a great way to start off my winter break. Keep following for my blog for posts like this one!~

  • Emma 엠마

Last Day at 하나고 for the Fall Semester {12/14/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/14/18 Friday

Just like the other days at school this week, every single period was basically 자습 or self-study; however, I did not spend my time studying at all really. I was too busy finishing up letters for my friends at school. I won’t be seeing many of them for two months and me being attention-seeking and lonely half the time doesn’t want them to forget about me… {I’m only half joking…} So I spent the day writing 6 letters including my final letter to 윤세 who I have for 마니또. I had bought this really cute blue flower shaped card from 인사동 and I was excited to finally get to use it {though I will admit, writing in it was a bit of a struggle.}

Also before my Economics class, I surprised my good friend 세림 with a gift. Like everyone else, I wrote her a letter and gave her a macaroon but I also bought her this cute panda stuffed animal! It’s very adorable and the colors reminded me of things that 세림 really likes and it seemed that she was head over heels with it when she got it. But as cute as this panda was… it really embarrassed me in the morning! For some reason, while coming to school, Katie and I happened to get on a bus with every other teacher in the school (exaggeration? maybe…) and we had to ride the elevator together too {veryyyy awkward}. This group of teachers included my Statistics teacher! My backpack was open cause it periodically unzips when I run {and Katie and I ran across the street this morning…} so when we were walking to our homerooms, this panda falls out of my bag and my Statistics teacher screams Emma down the hallway. It was nice of him I know!!! But I was so embarrassed! Just my luck right?

Anyway, when I came into Economics, 세림 saved my seat as always but this time, she also placed her bag on her seat with her new panda sticking out of it~



She also even explained this point of Korean grammar that has never been explicitly explained in any of the Korean textbooks I have used. Knowing this now helps me with conjugating for other grammar points as well! 고마워 세림아~

Lunch today was one of the final days we would be eating with all our friends… it was bittersweet because this meant winter break was right on the horizon but it also meant we wouldn’t be seeing our friends in a while… Lunch was honestly once again not good… {What happened 하나고? I used to brag about your lunches earlier this year!} but it was fine because we were all too busy talking and yelling to take much notice of the food (or eat it basically…) We went around the table and guessed who was who’s 마니또. I had guessed that mine was 지연 and then Katie confirmed it for me during the first week so I knew I was right but our friends did not guess right about us!! 지연 thought that 도윤 had her rather than Katie and 윤세 thought 지연 had her instead of me!! We fooled them oh so well! 


After that, 도윤 and 윤세 were screaming trying to figure out where they went wrong because at dinner last night, they were positive they figured out who every one had. I explained how I finessed the system with asking other first-year students to give her the gifts {including giving her a gift in the dorm to throw her off my tracks}, having other people write the notes, and asking her for someone else’s locker number! They all kept saying “Emma you tried so hard!” And then 도윤 joked and said you know you are Korean when you wait for the day before the end of the gift giving period to give your gift because that is when most of the girls gave their gifts.

After lunch, we took a group photo but 서린 ran off somewhere? When we sent the photo later in the group chat, she was upset that she wasn’t in the photo so Katie edited her in and so we were blessed with this lovely cursed image:



The rest of my classes was more letter writing and gift giving. I accidentally smashed all the Macaroons in my backpack… so by asking 지원 with some good explanations and charade-like gestures, I was able to learn that the word for to squish or smash is 뭉개다 or to be squished is 뭉개지다. There’s your Korean lesson for the day!

During 영미문학, 서연 actually gave me a really cute letter back to me telling me that my letter really made her day and she wanted to thank me. It was really sweet! She also gave me a piece of chocolate and vitamin c tablet and apologized for the lack of gifts due to dorm living {which is why I brought my friends’ macaroons! So they could have a treat they cannot buy at the 매점.}

On Friday I came home early and relaxed for a bit but then I accidentally fell asleep before 7 pm. I woke up again at 7:30 and could tell that my host family was eating dinner but I really wanted sleep so I figured I’d sleep for another hour and then eat dinner later—by myself. I guess I underestimated how tired I would be? I ended up waking up at 3:46 am. I was so confused when I realized I had skipped dinner. I stayed up for a bit and then went back to bed.


When I was not looking, my host brother decorated my chalkboard! He wrote “Big Sister Emma, Goodnight~” 


I wanted to quickly end this post with a little blurb about how I feel regarding today being my last day at 하나고. This is going to be 100% brutally honest!

Going to 하나고 for these couple of months was really really difficult. At first, everything was exciting and new and the nerves and anxiety seemed fully justified. I remember ending school and being excited to tell my host family everything about my day when I got home during dinner time but eventually… the excitement turned into complacency with a routine and the things I expected to get better with time only grew to frustrate me more when I continued to fail at improving my situation. Feeling incompetent and like a burden became second nature to me and I struggled with those feelings. What other people may see as trivial things felt as if I pushing mountains. Having no one to sit next to or talk to during class, figuring out where to sit or even having to take a desk from another classroom because the class had no more empty ones–all these moments culminated into me feeling dejected during the school day. Spending hours worrying about having to do work in a class that seemed impossible (*cough cough coding in statistics *cough cough) to not even being told a class was canceled were frequent occurrences for me after awhile. I cried often and had never felt so stressed in my life. And comparing my school life to the others only made me more pessimistic. Everyone has their own problems, sure. Some of them might have wished they had it a bit more like me since I did have a little bit of Korean knowledge before coming to Korea and attending school. But at everyone else’s school, they weren’t expected to participate in class as much in comparison to the expectations on both Katie and I. They weren’t expected to try and follow along. They got to do their own work every single day.

And sure, high school in America was tough and I was stressed academically but at least then, I could ask for help. I was in a familiar environment and I knew how to solve problems when they arose. This was adjusting to a new type of stress. Stress about life—something I have never had to deal with before. Something a lot of people my age have never had to deal with. Although I say that it was extremely difficult, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been placed at any other school.

I love 하나고 because I love its students. I had such good friends that made waking up so early for my 5th year of high school worth it. I’m thankful for 서린 who found Katie and me and took us under her wing and gave us a friend group that included 윤세, 도윤, 지연, and 혜지. I am thankful for 세림 for trying her best to explain to me how to code or whatever the teacher was saying. She even made me a little cheat sheet with statistic terms in Korean for things like hypothesis test, confidence interval, etc. I am thankful for 지현 for hanging out with me during our 반모임 when no one else would. I am thankful for 정윤 for always sitting next to me during homeroom and saving seats for me in 한국사 and 통합사회. I am thankful for 지원 and 다연 for making me feel like I do have friends when they wave at me in the hallway. I am thankful for 서연 for reaching out to me in world history and for exchanging Instagrams. I am thankful for 동철 for being the first person to talk to me at 하나고, for telling me to sit next to him when I was alone, and for answering all my questions over KakaoTalk. I’m thankful for 예성 as our conversations in English made it one of my favorite classes. I’m thankful for 혜지, 윤세, 도윤 and 지연 for making me comfortable during lunch and our hallway conversations–for allowing me to feel included in school life and for always being patient despite our cultural differences and the language barrier. And lastly, I am thankful for Katie because without her, I know I would not have been able to survive those two and a half months at 하나고. She helped me navigate every situation and kept me calm during high-stress times. I could never thank her enough and will be forever grateful for having a best friend alongside me for some of the best and worst times of my exchange.

HAH Quickly… why do I even try… that is all for this post. Thank you for reading. I hope that this did not come off as too pessimistic or negative. I am just trying to keep it real, for myself and for others. Exchange is not easy; I can vouch for that. But, despite that, I am having the time of my life.

(I am editing this and posting this with only a month left of my exchange. Reading this over makes me teary-eyed. So much has happened and so much has changed, and I could not be more grateful. If only time would pass by more slowly…)

  • Emma 엠마

Cultural Exchange Event with Korean High Schoolers: 한미캠프 {12/08/18} NSLI-Y Korean AY

12/08/18 Saturday

hanmi 1

For today’s activity, the NSLI-Y cohort participated in a cultural exchange between America and Korea by attending a program at a Korean high school: 선정관광고등학교 {Sunjung Tourism High School} to be exact. This school is a pretty unique high school here in Seoul as it’s a specialized school for girls who have plans to work in the tourism/service industries. {This means anything from hotel employees to casino workers to flight attendants.} They take regular classes {like math and such}; however, the majority of them are not taking 수능 (Korea’s college entrance exam) and so they focus on other things. For example, the school has its own cafe class where they learn how to make drinks!! This is where we actually started the morning off at! After a group of girls picked us up at the bus station, we all got to get a drink from the cafe. Their green tea latte was pretty great!!

hanmi 13

After we all got our warm drinks, we went up to the library to hear some speech from the principal of the school {Who happens to be Jack’s host dad?!?! Literally, no one but the other boys on program knew. We were all shook when he pulled up a picture of Josh, Liam, Jack and him eating a half gallon of ice cream from Baskin Robbins. It was hilarious though because the picture itself was quite funny.

After some words from the man in charge, we started going through our presentations. And let me just say it was clearly evident that the Korean students tried a lot harder than us when preparing their presentations. After seeing all that they did, I immediately felt bad for not putting in as much effort…

Our group presented about American pop {and other features of American popular culture like memes and trends}, American holidays, and American school culture. The Korean girls prepared presentations on Korean superstitions, spicy food, Korean etiquette/slang, and of course KPop. They all had these and funny videos to their presentations that really made them memorable. They even brought actual spicy food for us to try! So I actually had my first bite of Chicken feet in that library during the presentation. Jenna had it for the first time too but she could not swallow it… she had to spit it out in her latte.

After presentations, we split up into groups and moved onto the next activity: an M&M activity (The same one we did at the Hanmi Camp {한미캠프} during the summer program) Each color M&M corresponded to a question and so we all went around and asked each other these questions in order to eat all our M&Ms. I was put in a group with Kaitlyn and two Korean high schoolers: 윤지 & 지현. 지현 actually lived in America till 6th grade before she moved back to Korea, so she sounded just like an American when she spoke English. 윤지 was also really good at English.

hanmi 11

We went to this traditional Korean restaurant for lunch and got to eat with our new friends. The spread was 보쌈, fish, and of course lots and lots of 반찬. However, instead of being served plain rice, we were given rice that seemed to have been steamed in some kind of leave. The rice itself was brown and there were things like lotus root and beans mixed in. It reminded me somewhat of the Spanish rice my mom makes but also, in itself, very different.

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Once we were stuffed with tons of delicious food, we left to do the main activity of the day: the 한옥박물관. Yes, the very museum that is in front of 하나고. The museum explored the history of traditional Korean houses from how they are built to the most famous ones in existence all around Korea. I tried my best to pay attention but to be honest, we were all too eager to just get to know each other and goof around so the tour guide did not receive our undivided attention.

After leaving the museum, the scheduled program activities were over so we were given free rein to spend the rest of the day doing whatever we liked–with our new-found friends. First, June, Harmony, Kaitlyn, 지현, and 윤지 and I went to Baskin Robbins to get ice cream. I shared one with Kaitlyn and we got a scoop of 달고나 ice cream and one caramel crunchy one (Kaitlyn’s choosing). Once we were finished indulging in the sweet dessert, we were off to find a 노래방 (karaoke). We spent about an hour singing and dancing to our favorite Korean and American songs. It turned out that everyone that was with us had a good voice? Like what gives? Here I was practically screaming and feeling my voice crack as I try to reach certain notes while I listen to the others sounding just as good as the original singers! I am not even kidding. While we were singing Ailee’s 보여줄게, I thought it was weird that this recording included the singer’s vocals too. I was like… is this even considered karaoke then? Turns out, it was just the amazing vocals of 지현! She could have seriously been going to an art/performance school rather than this tourism high school.

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For dinner, we all (including 연우–she joined us at the 노래방) found this chicken place called Outdark. We chose to eat there because another big group of NSLI-Yians was already there. We ordered two big servings of chicken and fries–it was very very delicious. Hanging out with our friends was a great time and we spoke in a mix of Korean and English. We laughed so much and made lots of jokes. I was so happy that we came out to meet these students today. We promised to meet up once again–when the girls finished their exams. I was glad that we would have the opportunity to continue these friendships. (During the summer program, we only had a couple weeks after meeting those students so many people could not keep in touch and continue those friendships… I was happy to have more time!) Actually, when we first met, 지현 thought that we were only here for a quick trip and that we were going home to America soon. She was super happy to know that we would be here till May. I hope we can meet up again soon!~

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That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ 다음에 봐요 친구들! 

  • Emma 엠마


Last 공강, Coffee with my Korean Teacher, and Breaking School Rules {12/04-07/18} NSLI-Y Korean AY

Quick update on these days~ 😛

12/04/18 Tuesday

This was my last Tuesday having 공강 {or my mentorship class} with 호영, 근영, and 건우 which was truly sad for me. I always look forward to Tuesday mornings just to talk with them and laugh away most of my worries. It was always a good time and a nice distraction. Today was no exception. We mostly talked about New Years and how it is celebrated differently in both of our countries. We also went around and made ridiculous New Year’s Resolutions after we laughed about how they usually end up failing as soon as the new year rolls around. But we also talked about other fun topics regarding the movies that are coming out soon and the fact that Koreans only make snowmen with two snowballs rather than three! And that there is no word for snow angel in Korean!! I was really shocked to hear this.

At the end of our meeting, I gave them each little bags with a macaroon and a letter I wrote {In Korean too!} They seemed to really appreciate the gesture and we took some group photos. I’m really gonna miss them! I hope my next group can compare!~

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Tuesday’s Korean class was whatever… nothing too memorable… EXCEPT we took a quiz. I tried studying really hard for it but there were still so many doubts in my mind while taking it. The concepts were difficult for me but I wanted to prove to my teacher that I could do everything despite the stress. And guess what… I ended up getting 100% !!! Nothing wrong! I even took a risk and used hard vocabulary in one sentence example and it actually paid off. I was super proud~

I had my individual monthly with 민정쌤 after class so I walked with Josh and her to Twosome place to talk about my monthly goals and how I’ve been dealing with this past month. I explained to her all my struggles at 하나고 and in Korean class but I also didn’t leave out the numerous happy memories either.

민정쌤 said that I need to give myself love, that I need to learn to love myself– faults and all. She told me that she could not quite do that either until one day she woke up in her thirties… She told me that the friends she had that learned to love themselves while they were in their 20s were better off because they knew who they were. When she told me this, I was taken aback by how real she was being with me and it also hurt. She was so very right. She told me to stop being so hard on myself… that I am doing well right now. I should be proud; she is proud. I am so thankful for such a kind and thoughtful resident director! I am surprised I did not break down and cry at that moment! I feel optimistic now, though. I think I know how I can approach these stressful situations (or at least how I can try)… wish me luck. ❤

12/05/18 Wednesday

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Wednesday was a much better day for me~ {Emotionally speaking especially!} The main interesting that happened was that I went to a cafe with my Korean teacher near 하나고. I assumed she had forgotten that we planned to meet because I didn’t get a message the night before or the morning of. But then, 20 minutes before school ended, my teacher sent me a message on Kakao. When I met up with Katie once the bell rung, I was freaking out! I was so nervous that she was going to ask about how I was doing in the class which would make me emotional because of how much anxiety and stress it gives me but also because I know I can’t adequately express my feelings to her in Korean which will make me feel ten times more burdensome and frustrated.

She picked me up at the front of my school in her car and I was really shocked. I assumed she was taking public transportation because I knew that’s how she got to our Korean classes. I didn’t know she had a car. We drove to this fancy looking bakery/cafe thing which had about three stories! There was no parking available so we had to drive to this parking lot farther away and there was a car service that drove you from the parking lot to the cafe. I had never experienced anything like that and was quite surprised.

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A BEAUTIFUL Christmas Tree~ ❤

The cafe was beautiful! The atmosphere was really nice and they even had Christmas decorations up! The drinks were honestly not that much more on the expensive side compared to other cafe chains that don’t have such a unique appeal like this cafe. I ended up ordering some coffee drink with cream that I never heard of prior to reading their menu. I was going to just get a latte but my teacher convinced me to get that instead. We also each got a pastry— I had a croissant and it was delicious! Perfectly flaky and crispy~

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At first, being there with my teacher was quite strange… I was so awkward… but eventually we both got more comfortable with each other and we ended up talking for almost three hours about so many different things. We talked about my teacher’s experience traveling to Japan for her studies, my struggles at 하나고 and in class, my family back home {particularly my brothers}, my friends on program, our music tastes, Pokémon, Christmas, life after NSLI-Y, my 마니또, etc. We talked about so much!! It was a really nice time~ Not only did we talk for the longest time at the cafe, but she also drove me home~ or at least to the subway station near my house.

We had such a great conversation and it really showed me how much I’ve been improved since coming here. I understood her well and was able to communicate most of my ideas to her~ The me that first arrived in Korea definitely couldn’t do that so I’m so very grateful!!!

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I also got my 마니또 gift finally! I figured out it was 지연 because I compared the handwriting on the note to my birthday card from her! hehe I later found out that she put it in my bag because of Katie’s help!

The rest of my Wednesday night was spent hanging out with my host family after dinner and then working on a presentation about an area in Korea I really liked visiting.

12/06/18 Thursday

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Thursday was pretty uneventful~ Korean class was like how it always is—although I did get 100% on my quiz again which made me super happy {and proud!}. After class, I went to Holly’s Cafe with Jacquelyn just to chill until Katie was finished with her meeting with 민정쌤 but we ended up finding Kaitlyn and Shannon already there trying to join a Kpop group’s fan club? I think it was VAV? You could tell they were desperate for members because within minutes maybe even seconds of both of them sending in their applications, they were approved for membership.

I met up with Katie back at TwoSome and said goodbye to 민정쌤 before she left. Katie and I ended up staying there for a little while longer just chatting. When I got home, I opened a letter I received from my friend Grace and it literally made me burst into tears… she even sent me photos of us together and the rest of our friend group. She’s so sweet!

12/07/18 Friday

Friday would be our last real school day before finals as the next week would be mostly 자습 in all of our classes. My Philosophy teacher didn’t show up to class again but instead of going to the library, everyone stayed in the classroom. I studied Korean for the first half of the class and for the second… I took a nice nap.

Lunch was fun as Katie and I got to eat with all our friends again~ After lunch was Sociology and my friend 선민 saved me a seat by writing my name on a pink post-it note and placing it on the desk next to her~ This meant a lot to me and I was once again taken aback by the gesture~

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My very last 공강 mentorship class with 지은, 주연, and 규원 was today… it was really sad. I couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t have this time with them anymore… I always looked forward to it~ Today, instead of discussing a certain topic, 지은 suggested that we have a party! And I was all for it! In the study rooms, food and drinks were not allowed so we planned to get something at the 매점 and find someplace to go from there.

While we were walking there, 주연 was so visibly afraid and nervous. She kept muttering about getting caught and hoping there were no teachers in the hallways to run into. This had to be a knock on wood situation biting us in the butt because as we approached the 매점, we passed the Vice Principal!

We tried calming 주연 down with the comforting statement “We are not breaking any rules, just bending them.” At the store, there was no employee when we first arrived. We couldn’t decide what to buy to eat so we were there for a while, the worker at the store even had to help us out. We ended up getting a container of ice cream {less than a gallon more than a pint} and a Christmas cake! Yeah, at the store there happened to be one cake! So we ended up buying that in order to really celebrate and have a party!

We couldn’t go back to the library so we went up to the 6th floor and picked out a practice room to eat in. We were doing our best to be quiet and we scurried into the practice room the farthest from the main staircase. Spending time with them while enjoying some delicious dessert was all I could have asked for our final period together. We talked about a lot of things (switching between both Korean and English). We found out that 지은’s dad’s friend’s wife is a manager for BTS or something along the lines of that? This then led us to analyze the success of BTS in Korea and abroad. We also ranked our favorite Christmas songs and discussed after graduation plans (I hope they follow through and come out to NYC to meet me after 수능 ends! Eventually, the bell rang and we had to clean up the practice room (and leave no evidence). Even though our time together was short, I will always remember the memories we shared~

Katie had plans after school on Friday so I ended up going to our favorite cafe for a bit by myself before heading back home for dinner with my host family. The worker at the cafe gave me a tangerine as service which melted my heart! It was the perfect study snack to go along with my muffin. My host mom also later gave me a slice of cake while I was studying, so we can definitely say today was a sugar-filled day for sure.

That is all for this blog post!! I hope you enjoyed~ School has made me so busy lately but this week is the week prior to midterms so hopefully I will have time during my study periods to edit and post more blogs. A girl can hope! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

ZooLung: Fish Eat Dead Skin off My Hands?!? {11/25-26/18} NSLI-Y AY

11/25/18 Sunday

I really do enjoy Sundays. It is so nice to just have a day to lounge around at home: chilling or doing work that needs to be done in preparation for the week to come. It’s a well-deserved break from a hectic life.

This morning was no exception. I spent the morning hanging out in my room doing homework and then playing with my host sisters. They recently took out {or bought?} this clay set so we have had fun playing around with the clay in the living room. I got a lot of work done and was feeling very productive to start the week.

After we had dinner, we all drove for a bit to go to what I can only describe as a Zoo Park? But even then… that sounds wrong… the place was called ZooLung {in Korean 주렁주렁} which honestly is a weird name? I still don’t know why it’s called that? This place is basically like a more interactive zoo!

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There were lots of animals behind cases and in cages but there were parts that would allow the guests to be hands on. For example, we got to pet rabbits and some lizards, feed a hawk type bird, give treats to these small baby birds, and the best part… have fish eat the dead skin off of our hands!! In the underwater section of the place, they had a tank of 닥터피쉬 {닥달이}. These fish are famous for {usually} sucking off the dead skin off of your feet. It was such an interesting feeling. When I first put my hand in the water, I couldn’t help but laugh since I’m so ticklish. Also, so many more fish came to me than any other person so I guess I have gross dead hands? My host sisters were making fun of me, so I joked back and told them if they keep eating like this, my hand will disappear.

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It was a really fun afternoon; we spent a good amount of hours there. We also stopped by a TOYsRUs since Christmas is coming up soon. I was outright shook seeing one of those stores since they all closed in America. I told my host dad this and he explained why this one exists but, to be honest, I didn’t understand…

The rest of the night was pretty chill. I was able to relax a lot because I got most of my work done that morning. I focused on studying vocab because our monthly unit test is on Thursday… I really want to utilize more elevated vocabulary in both my writing and my speaking test.

11/26/18 Monday

Monday was another basic day of school except… I had another GREAT morning commuting to school (If you could not already tell, I am being very sarcastic.) When I went out on Saturday night with some of the others from the NSLI-Y squad (I apologize for using that word un-ironically), I used my last 5 dollars (in cash) on dessert because Josh and Liam told me to. They said I should just use it instead of my card because we would be receiving our stipend on Monday. And, I listened to them– my first mistake.

On Monday morning, I got to the subway station kind of earlier than normal which actually was a blessing in disguise! When I tried going through the turnstile, the machines beeped at me because I had insufficient funds on my card. I only had 50 cents on it! I went to refill and realized I had no cash on me! I definitely could not go back home… what would I do? Wake my host mom up and ask for cash? That was not the move. The bank across the street from the subway station does not accept foreign card at the ATMS (already tried the week before). I was literally about to cry in the middle of the subway station until I realized that I was wearing my school uniform; therefore, I had emergency blazer money! For a couple of weeks, I have kept 5 dollars in the inside pocket of my blazer in case of an emergency (I was thinking it would be more for an “I am hungry at school and want to get a snack from the 매점 (school store) but forgot my wallet in the classroom” moment but this worked too). I whipped out that money so fast to charge my card and went on my way to just make the subway.

School was pretty good. In English, we started talking about the Civil Rights Movement in America and in particular, talked a lot about Martin Luther King Jr. Before we did anything academic in class, Andrew (our 영미문학–American & British Literature–teacher) asked about the students’ weekends because they got to go home the prior weekend. One of the students (I think her English name is Diane) said that she went to an aquarium and it reminded her of her youth. Andrew then quickly adds to her sentence (in truly dad joke fashion) “When you were a fish?” Everyone in the class erupted in laughter for a solid few minutes. Andrew kept apologizing for making such a bad joke which it was… but it was so terrible that it was hilarious!

My AP Statistics class was as usual… I only really enjoyed talking to 세림. She makes me not 100% dread that class. When lunchtime rolled around, Katie and I left the school right away to get lunch near the youth center at a 편의점. We chilled outside while eating our 김밥 and fruity drinks.

Korean class was pretty good today (compared to last class when I literally left the building and cried in public… it can only get better?) We took a quiz and I, unfortunately, got more wrong than I wanted to… for one of the questions I got wrong, it was because I used the wrong verb. I knew I could have answered the question with a simpler verb like “to be fast” or something of that nature but I wanted to really challenge myself so I put “to be on schedule exactly” which I conjugated a bit wrong. The other question I got wrong was because I really had no idea what it was asking, so I expected that to be a point off. The grammar points we learned in class were a bit tricky at first, but I caught on after several example sentences. I was actually really happy because I felt that one of them was very useful and that I would be applying that to conversations a lot soon (and hopefully naturally).

After class, I waited for some of the other students at Better World because they were coming to pick up their stipends. Our RD also prepared little gifts bags for us to prevent us from catching colds during the winter. These bags included vitamin c tablets, fuzzy socks, a mask, and hot packs. It was honestly very adorable. I walked back to the station with Shannon and Katie to go home early for dinner.

When I got home, my host mom gave me this strange look bread type thing? She told me that it was homemade by her mother perhaps? I ended up eating the whole thing as it was pretty good. I am not 100% sure what it was but I have concluded that it is some type of 떡 with red bean and peas in it.

I ate dinner with the rest of the family after my host sisters were done with their Chinese lessons. I talked to them all about my Christmas. My host dad asked me if I kept getting presents even in high school {and if that’s normal} and when I told him yes, he immediately shushed me! Oops.. my sisters started screaming and I’m sorry that I may have just started something…

I spent the rest of Monday studying lots and lots of vocabulary, finishing up my workbook and a writing assignment due the next day.

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

  • Emma 엠마