NSLI-Y Spring Orientation: Free Gifts, Classic Korean Movie, & Hostel in Hongdae (02/27-28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/27/19 Wednesday

Wednesday marked the first day of the spring semester and simultaneously the beginning of our last few days of freedom before school started back up again on Monday. Since I was not moving host families this time, I did not have to show up to the Better World office until 1:45 pm. So, instead, I met up with Katie beforehand and we went to the cafe that has been deemed Josh’s cafe (by me). We were greeted very warmly by the baristas and they asked us if we were doing another lunch with the workers today. The younger worker also asked me if my hair was natural or a perm which made me laugh. I always forget that most (Korean) people, when they see my hair, assume it’s a perm because natural curly hair isn’t that common here. Katie and I both ordered the same drinks and when the owner brought them out to us, she also asked us if we needed notebooks. We told her that we really didn’t need any. She replied that she had these extra notebooks and wanted to give them as a gift to us because we were so pretty. This was the cutest thing so we immediately told her that actually, we did need notebooks! 



Tapioca Nut Lattes ❤

We did work at the cafe for a couple hours. I say work but I was mostly just doing blog posts—no actual Korean studying was done. When we gave her our empty cups and left to buy some bread for lunch, she praised us for being such hard workers and studying so much! We laughed at this remark and explained that we were really not working that hard. 

We met up with Alix on the way to our favorite cheap bakery and then bought some basil cheese bread. This place on the way to Better World sells these little small specialty loaves for about $3 each. I know… I know you can get a whole loaf of normal bread for less than that but these are the perfect price for a small thing of bread when you are feeling the carb craving. Plus, they had special flavors!! You can not easily find basil-flavored things in Korea!

Walking up to the 7th floor and into the showcase room is honestly starting to feel so familiar as we have been there so often during these past two months. When I walked into the room, I noticed a sleeping man in a makeshift bed and I literally almost screamed because I was so shocked to see the figure. After a minute of staring, I realized that it was indeed Josh! 


Apparently, Josh stayed up veryyy late the previous night packing because he is switching host families.

Unlike our last few meetings or orientations, I didn’t take quite as many photos this time so I am trying to piece together what we did with my memory to the best of my abilities. I believe we started out the day discussing host families as about half the group was switching for the spring semester. Our first activity was to get into groups and use our own problems to create host family case studies that we saw plenty of during the beginning of the program. I was in a group with Shada, Harmony, and June and we ended up writing about a NSLI-Y student named Nelly who had been going out a lot with friends to distract her from bad news that she received from back in America which made her host family think that she didn’t want to spend time with them. We solved this problem with the answer to almost all misunderstandings: communication! 


After discussing host families for a bit, we brought up the elephant in the room… the impending sense of doom we were all feeling about going back to high school. 민정쌤 flashed up on the board all of our new homeroom assignments and where we needed to be on the first day of school which immediately made me feel anxious. I cannot believe that winter break is already over! It was very long I do admit… but it also felt like it just zoomed on by… 

We got into groups based on where we go to school {so you can probably guess who was my partner…} and we discussed our feelings about going back. Let’s just say that besides our happiness for being able to see our friends again, we were not ready to go back to 하나고 whatsoever. 

Our next session was information on the OPI and TOPIK which we will be taking in April {We are also taking an online version of the OPI in mid-March. 주연쎔 explained to us a bit more about the OPI which I thought I had known plenty about but I guess I was pretty wrong. Apparently, the text examiner uses the first 5 minutes of the test to prob you with questions to see what level you are at which means that your self-introduction actually does have a lot of weight on your exam!}


Let me explain this in a bit more detail. Say you have given your self-introduction and have answered a couple of the questions that were asked in the beginning, at that point, the examiner decided that you are an intermediate speaker. From then on, no matter what you say, you will be placed at the intermediate level. From then on, the interviewer will ask you questions ranging from an intermediate-low level to an intermediate-high level to see where they should place you. If they make a mistake at the beginning about your level, they will continue to go with it because saying that they were wrong is difficult as that involves canceling the test right there and having to administer a new one as it was an examiner error. What complications does this have? Well, for example, this could mean that even if you are at an intermediate-high level but make the proctor think you are advanced which then causes him to probe you with advanced questions which you couldn’t handle, you would be stuck with an advanced score. If they didn’t cancel your test, you would be given Advanced Low even if that’s not where you belong. At the time of explanation, I felt that this method was kind of strange? I wonder if mistakes are made often… probably not, though. 

The rest of the sessions included talking about our independent research project and a few of the other activities planned for the rest of the year. {I would like to point out that my constant nagging has granted my cohort the opportunity to do a temple stay! And an overnight one at that!} We also talked about the newly implemented lunch and dinner dates with the 쌤s starting in the spring semester. From now on we can go out for lunch or dinner (one on one) with food being paid for by Better World. The only catch is that we have to only speak Korean with the teachers! It will be a great way to practice some Korean~ I’m excited. 

Finally, orientation was over and we all went out for dinner at the first restaurant we ever ate at as a big group! This time around, we ate 부대찌개 which I talked about in one of my posts from a little while ago {click here to read about the origins of this Korean stew}. It wasn’t as good as the one I had in 파주시 but the broth was excellent!  


After dinner, everyone went out around 홍대 to hang out but I left my program phone at home which 민정쌤 needed the following day for OPIK registration so I had to spend almost an hour and a half on public transport to go back home to fetch my phone. By the time I came back, it was already 9 {our curfew was extended till 10} and so I just walked the 홍대 streets with Katie for a little bit. We tried going down some unfamiliar streets in case we stumbled upon something new which was kind of exciting. I liked seeing that there was still so much of this part of the city that I have yet to explore!


On our way back to the guest house, we stopped at a convenience store and bought some ice cream and Oreos to share with the other girls in our room {McKenzie and Jacquelyn}. 

I stayed up very late this night doing nothing. Scrolled through Instagram and texted friends for hours~ Also chatted with Katie for a bit later in the night when she returned to the room from hanging out with some of the other students. It was a relaxing evening.

02/28/19 Thursday

Orientation today was really not an orientation? We bought bread from Paris Baguette the night before and so we quietly ate bread in our rooms for breakfast while getting ready. After breakfast, all that was planned for us was to watch a Korean movie. {The 쌤s also prepared popcorn!! It was like watching a real movie!} We watched the Korean movie 국제시장 {Directly translates to the international market but its English title is actually Ode to My Father}. 

It was such a good movie! I cried several times because of how emotional this movie was! It pulled on every single one of my heartstrings—strumming them all with no consideration for my overstimulated eye ducts! The story took place during the Korean War and illustrated the life of one family who was torn apart by the devastating war. The main character was the eldest son of a family that lost their father/husband while trying to seek refuge from North Korea to South Korea. The movie tells his story through a lot of flashbacks from different parts of his life. The story follows a man who had to make lots of sacrifices and do the absolute most for his family’s wellbeing—often negating his own health and or desires. The part that made the movie the saddest or what really drove it home for me was the message of the gap between generations. The main character {an old man with grandchildren in present day} is continually misunderstood by his family members for being irrationally angry or unnecessarily attached to their small shop in the market. The final scene really got me… and besides the plot and content being extremely well done, the filming itself was great. I took a half-semester of cinema studies during my freshman year of high school so I feel utterly qualified when I watch movies to pick up on the different camera angles and such. Honestly, this might beat out Hello Ghost for my favorite Korean movie! 

After the movie, we went to have lunch all together before some of the NSLI-Yians would leave to meet their new host families. We ate 된장찌개 (Soybean Paste Stew) and 오징어볶음 (Stir-Fried Squid).



Once lunch was all finished up and greetings were said, Katie and I decided to go to a cafe for a couple hours or so to do work or just chill and chat. We ended up going to a Twosome Place cafe with a rooftop that we had never seen before! Turns out…there was a reason for that! It was just built! Today was actually the opening day! 

The cafe still smelled a little like paint {especially on the 2nd floor} but the environment was chic and all the tables had very comfortable chairs. I spent the time researching a popular neighborhood in Seoul that Katie and I planned to go to the following day {익선동} and then editing a blog post and publishing it that very same afternoon {mostly for Katie’s sake as she wanted to read another one.} This whole time, Katie was playing the new Club Penguin because it is back online! 


I ate dinner with my host family and just relaxed the rest of the night. I was excited for the last weekend before school because I planned on spending it well. I was also thankful to have this time with a host family I was comfortable with. I thought about how the first day of school would be if I also had to deal with switching my host family… 

Thanks for reading this blog post! It’s kind of on the longer side but I didn’t think that it needed to be split it up. Plus, it is nice to have orientation be all on one post! I hope you enjoyed! 

  • 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


Last Day in South Korea & Flying Home (August 13th, 2016)

Saturday (08/13/16) was the last day of my NSLI-Y Korea Summer (Seoul edition) 2016. The day started out bright and early with me waking up to take a shower before all my roommates (and the extra people in the bedroom) woke up. I finished packing all my belongings and sorting through all the thank you letters I had written before any of the girls woke up (which is crazy because if it was any other day of the summer, I would have slept in as long as possible). Room check this morning was hectic as I forgot to put away the gifts so when Maris opened the door for our resident directors, I dashed to the shelves to hide them with my body. They didn’t notice, luckily, though we did get in trouble for allowing Joy, Casey, and Sofia to sleep in our room. Our RDs told us that breakfast was in another room on the floor above us and that we had to bring our bags down to the lobby soon. I got the breakfast for everyone and we were having muffins from Paris Baguette again as well as apple and grape juice.

After we ate breakfast and brought all our suitcases to the lobby, we were given two hours to leave the premises and do whatever we wanted to do before lunch would be served in the hostel. I went off with Sofia, Angie, and Jodi to Myeongdong and explore some more. I was able to get us there quickly as I had just done the same trip the day before.

We stopped at a convenience store (for duh banana milk) and then walked the main shopping streets of Myeongdong. Sofia and I wanted bingsu for the last time but we had no memory of ever seeing a Sulbing in Myeongdong and we were not quite sure what other cafes sold good ones. We then saw Gongcha and decided to get Bingsu from there as we had it before and it was quite unique… like silk bingsu… if that makes any sense (it probably doesn’t). We ordered a Taro Bingsu and I also got the matching bubble tea drink (the last time I would be having both of these lovely foods that summer). Jodi and Angie bought some KFC chicken and brought it on over to us at Gongcha and we all ate together.


We were all alone on the second floor


Taro (silk) bingsu with boba and cheese cake cubes

We also stood and watched some street performances as well. There was a group of three girls and a guy as well as this trio of little girls with their “lead” being a bit older. I want to insert the video footage but my blog, unfortunately, doesn’t support videos.


They were really cute!

When we got back to the hostel we got to have lunch. I was really hungry as only having bingsu did not fill me up. I packed a lot of things on my tray but when I sat down to finally eat, I had no appetite whatsoever. I tried eating but I couldn’t. I ended up giving most of my food to my friends and I was only able to stomach the soup and some rice.


Ham and veggies, sweet potatoes (고구마), kimchi (김치), rice(밥), and fried tofu soup




After lunch, we turned in our program phones, phone chargers, and T-Money Cards and then started grabbing our suitcases and getting into one of the two shuttle buses that were waiting outside for us. I didn’t want to sit down in the shuttle so I left my group and my seatmate Sofia and just left to hang out in the lobby with Ari 쌤 until all the NSLI-Y8 kids had retrieved their bags and made their way to their own shuttle bus. Then, it was realized that there were too many bags and they wouldn’t all fit underneath the shuttle bus in the bag compartment. So I helped JT and our program photographer put the extra baggage onto the bus in empty seats. Then, we were on our way.


Our shuttle bus


Our Bus~

The shuttle bus ride was sad but also happy as we never failed to make each other laugh even at the grimmest of times. I mostly talked to 나무 (Yves) and Jesse during the ride. We (plus Sofia) started singing our talent show song that even JT sang along and swayed his arms too. One funny conversation from the shuttle ride was when two of the suitcases fell out from the seat and into the aisle. JT exclaims “Where did these come from?” and Sofia (oh the dear friend she is) replies, “You see JT… When two bags love each other very much…” JT laughs and quickly declares “That is against program rules!” And 나무 completely puts us in a laughing fit when he interjects with “It is an extreme sport!” This was so funny to us because, in the many hours of orientation, we learned that any extreme sport (skateboarding, skydiving, rock climbing, etc) were wrong. Inside NSLI-Y joke. One day, I hope you can have the chance to understand 😉


Yves being Yves


View out the shuttle bus window

We got to the airport and Sofia and I helped unload the suitcases from the shuttle bus. We ended up standing around in the airport for so long while everyone checked their bags and did all the “fun” (HAH) airport stuff. Finally, when everyone’s bags got taken care of, we started moving along. JT came with us all the way to the security line (He would not be going back to Seattle with us; he was going to stay in Seoul.) and read us this long letter from him to us about how thankful he was for this summer.

His letter was a TEAR JERKER! I cried so much as it was very cute and really sweet of him to do. (Especially when he said his usual “See You Later” in his British/American/Korean English accent. JT started crying at the end of the letter and Madeline started crying too. They must have gotten so close in Korea… I was last in the security line and I hugged JT and gave him my thank you letter I had written to him. I was crying and so he told me “엠마 울지 말고!” (Emma Don’t Cry) which only made me cry even more. JT continued to tear up and said: “My tears are spicy.” Madeline laughs at this and replies “You mean salty.” JT took off his glasses, wiped his eyes and goes “No, they burn my eyes!”


Waiting to get on the plane to Seattle

The plane ride (as well) was very difficult and sad. The minute the plane took off, I was holding hands with Sofia and we both cried together (as I assume most Nsliyians were doing at that point in time).

But, we made the most of our plane ride (and the last hours I had with my new best friend Sofia). One funny thing that happened was that the flight attendants were speaking Korean and then they heard us speak in Korean as well. One of the flight attendants said, “They understand Korean, better be careful of what we say, ladies.” The plane ride was also spent having a jam session with Sofia and 나무 behind us. We were listening to kidzbop. We whipped and we nae nae’d so hard that we got stares from Koreans (and fellow Nsliyians). Casey judged me A LOT. But if I am being honest, most of the plane ride was sad and mopey. I slept most of the time. When dinner time rolled around, Sofia and I both got 비빔밥. I started crying again when I started eating the bibimbap as It was my first Korean meal and it would be the last (of this trip).


I got the window seat this time around


30 minutes till Seattle :,(


Airplane food (dinner)


We finally got to Seattle and we actually had gone back in time (It was still August 13th but at the time of arrival, it was around 1pm. Getting through the Seattle airport was pretty messy as our RD had to go back on the plane with a student and everyone was confused, dazed, and feeling down. At one point in time, all the kids flying on Delta were separated from the group and because of this, we were not able to say goodbye fully. No one knew that they would be going somewhere else to get their bags and so it was a very abrupt ending with those Nsliyians (though I did sneak past the security guard and gave a few final hugs especially to Sofia.) However, some of us were able to meet back up at the gates. Once we made past the check in, all the Nsliyians met up in a fast food joint and just hung out together as individuals or groups would leave one by one as their flights took off. I was waiting in the airport with the other Chicago airport Nsliyians for around 4 hours but I valued the extra time with all my friends. I also got to hang out and say goodbye to Madeline one last time (and give her my thank you card). She was also thinking of me as she asked me if I had said goodbye to Sofia properly (as she was a part of the Delta crew) and she looked reassured to know that we got to say goodbye.


Saha and I

I ended up arriving in Chicago a little bit before midnight. I walked with all the other Chicago/Wisconsin (Angie :P) Nsliyians (Angie, Kyle, and Arjun) to baggage claim. I stood around with Angie and met her parents. We all talked until I saw my mom walk through the doors. I did that thing they do in the movies (basic) and ran to her with tears streaming down my cheek. The ride home was awkward. I sat in the back and everything was completely dark. I tried to stay straight faced and stoic in the back seat but I couldn’t help but tear up when certain memories came into my mind. I arrived home after midnight and my mom gave me some chicken noodle soup. I had trouble eating it because it was so salty. I then went to bed because I needed to get back on a good sleep schedule. I only had the Sunday and Monday to do so because my junior year of high school was starting on Tuesday.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this sappy, emotional post. Do not forget to subscribe to my blog. I will not be posting any more days in Korea (as I have written about all of them) but I will still be making posts about other opportunities I come across as well as other travel things. I will also still be posting Korea content such as lists, help for future applicants and other sentimental things… You will have to subscribe to see!

  • Emma (엠마)


Night at The Seoul International Youth Hostel (August 12th, 2016)

Friday Afternoon (08/12/16) was a time for all the NSLI-Y scholars to spend the last couple of hours with their host families. Most went on their last cultural excursions or simply had lunch with their families one last time; however, not everyone’s host family could make time to do this. Both of my host parents had to get to work and so my last meal with them was yesterday night. Therefore they brought my luggage to the university and I was told I would make my way to the hostel with the help of one of the supporters. I wasn’t the only one, though. I was traveling with Nicole and there were about three other students who were hanging out with their supporters because their host families were busy. It was around lunch time when the ceremony ended so I went along with some supporters and our program photographer to get some lunch at one of the restaurants close to the university. It was such a hassle heading to the restaurant because we couldn’t leave our bags at the school; therefore, we had to carry them to the restaurant which was not easy. Not even that, but the restaurant they chose was on the second floor of a building so we had to carry all of our bags up the stairs (I am really surprised no one got hurt…) The lunch was nice even though I was really quiet in the beginning. (I didn’t know any of the supporters before this lunch and I was also still pretty sad about all the goodbyes and not being able to spend the rest of the day with my host family.) We went to Bbalbong. I ordered this dish of Ddeokbokki (떡볶이) and Donkatsu (돈까스) which also came with french fries, a salad, a small chicken leg, and white rice (staple). It was all very filling and delicious too! I was also able to handle the heat brought by the 떡볶이 (Spicy rice cakes). Once we got some food, I found some energy and started engaging in conversation with the other supporters and my fellow classmate Nicole. We talked about our favorite memories from Korea and even some “gossip” like who we think had feelings for each other.


Afterward, we continued to walk down the main street and we went into a couple of stores to pass the time. We also had to stop at a glasses store as Trudi (one of the girls whose host family also had to work) needed to pick up new contacts. That store though… was so aesthetically pleasing. The shelves were so organized!



띵똥와플 (Ding Dong Waffle) sprang up out of nowhere. It only started to be built a week ago and it already looked like this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t done in time for us to try out the waffles… and they look so good!~


The famed egg blow up (I loved seeing it this summer!)

I took a taxi with one supporter (I forget whose supporter she was… but she was in my group back at the HanMi Camp as well.) to the Hostel we were staying at again. It was my first time in a taxi in Korea and it was a very nice experience. My Korean was the best it has ever been and I was able to have a good conversation with the driver about my skills and my time in Korea. He was very surprised to hear that I was only a high school student. When we got back to the hostel, we were one of the first ones there and our rooms were not even ready yet so we had to drop off our luggage in the lobby. I hung out in the lobby with the supporters and Nicole until a couple other NSLI-Y kids came back from lunch with their host fam. I believe the time everyone was supposed to back was 5pm. Abby showed up after her host mom and sister came and one of our program coordinators told us that we were allowed to leave the hostel, as long as we came back home by 5pm. I went with Abby, Nicole, Trudi, and a few of the supporters to Myeongdong which was a close walk and subway ride away from the hostel (well the main shopping area). We spent the next two hours walking around, talking, and hanging out around the area. It was great because I thought I had already made my last visit to Myeongdong but it looked like it really wasn’t the last (for the summer). We came home just in time for our rooms to be ready and we got to carry our luggage up once the room keys were administered (there was only one per room… it was weird having all the power haha). We were not in the same rooms from the beginning of the summer but we had the same room mates (so in my room there was Me, Angie, Jodi, Jane, Rhea, Grace, Maris, and Jessica). For dinner, our program totally spoiled us! They ordered each room a box of Korean fried chicken and a box of pizza (we got the plain cheese pizza but they also were giving out sweet potato pizza). It was a lot of fun to pig out on all this food while spending some of the last moments in Korea with the same people who I started out the summer with (Read about those nights here and here).


Sofia taking candids XD


Me writing a thank you letter to Madeline while Jodi is cooling down (Our room was very WARM!~)

hostel food edit.jpg

Hostel Dinner (Photo Creds: Nicole)

That night was also very hectic as I was running around the whole hostel (with Sofia at times) to finish up our group presents to our resident directors Madeline and JT. So earlier in the week Sofia and I visited the Morning Glory (A Korean Stationery Store) in Hongdae trying to find a group gift for our RDs. We were able to find these really pretty jars filled with these tiny messages/scrolls. We thought it would be a very fun idea to have every student in the program write a message for our RDs and put it in the bottle. And that is what we planned to do.


One of the Jars we bought~

The night before the graduation ceremony, Sofia and I fixed up the bottles by putting in mostly “masculine ” colors in one jar for JT and we put all the other pastel-colored scrolls into a jar for Madeline. We also had to count out 50 scrolls for each jar to make sure it would be ready (but we kept the access in a baggie just in case some accidents were made… and there were PLENTY). Then, at night at the hostel, Sofia and I went around to every room and placed scrolls on the vanity to have all kids fill them out with short messages. You would probably think the rest of it would be easy… but it was not! I had to follow and stalk so many people trying to get them to write their message before the curfew. I literally had a list of people that didn’t hand in their scrolls yet and I had to track them down. Not only that, but getting the scrolls from the boys rooms was even more difficult because every time I would head up to their floor… JT was there. One time Kenwoo told me the coast was clear and when I came up to collect their scrolls, JT opened the door (I quickly and quietly rolled the jar down the hall… I do not think he saw me.) But he did notice that I was acting funny since he told me not to worry. He promised that everyone in the room was decent XD Eventually, however, I was able to collect all 50 and fill up the jars to look all pretty.

That night was spent mostly switching between hanging out in the lobby with my resident directors and Ari 쌤, talking with my roommates, collecting scrolls for our group presents, and hanging out in the “lounge” area of our floor. We all stayed up until past midnight just chatting. We had a curfew but we were allowed to go to other rooms even if it was past curfew (which is why Joy, Casey, and Sofia hung out with my roommates). The last night in Korea was spent well and I am glad I got to spend it with so many people that influenced me and made this summer one of the bests. (Actually… I think it earns the title of the BEST SUMMER EVER!) The next morning we would be waking up in Korea for the last time leaving for the states in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading~ And I hope you enjoyed~ 안녕 친구들!

  • Emma (엠마)

NSLI-Y Korea Summer Graduation Ceremony (August 12th, 2016)

Friday morning (08/12/16) was the fated day… our NSLI-Y Korea Summer Graduation Ceremony. I woke up in the morning feeling something I have never felt before. I sat up in bed and just took in the quietness of the house. There was no clatter coming from the kitchen signifying that food was being made and no sounds of traffic outside my bedroom window. I woke up just a few minutes before my alarm and so I woke up naturally and not forced. I sat in my bed and just felt very aware of my surroundings. I slowly realized that this would be the last time I would wake up in this bed and this room for the summer. I realized that in two short days I would be in my hometown starting my junior year of high school. I didn’t specifically feel sad at this point in time, I just felt connected to everything around me… probably as a distraction from the sadness I would be feeling later in the day… and even later this very morning.


My breakfast plus my snotty tissues. There was even the box of fried chicken we had last night still on the table.


Picture of me from breakfast. (I look like a wet dog XD)

My host mom made me breakfast as usual. She served me a nice plate of eggs, toast, Korean peaches, and a glass of milk. She also took this time to hand me some presents that she had picked out for me as well as a letter she had written to me. We talked for awhile and I couldn’t help but get teary eyed. She started panicking and handed me some tissues trying to make me calm down. Her eyes started getting watery and she excused herself to get ready for the day but I could hear her sniffling in her room. I finished my breakfast quietly with my host dad in the living room. We started talking and had a very heartfelt conversation – in English. My host dad never used English, and I didn’t mind since I was here to learn Korean. But I knew it was because he was embarrassed by his skill level. At that moment, however, the feeling that would usually keep him from speaking English with me had disappeared. He first started to talk about how much I have improved being here with them and how much he really enjoyed having me stay with them. But then he started talking to me about something I never imagined would come out of his mouth. He told me how proud he was of me. He said that he was always rooting me on when he saw me at my desk, studying, till late in the night. He told me that he knew I would do amazing things because I proved to be such a hard worker and never gave up. Hearing those things coming from a man who welcomed me into his home for 6 weeks, could not have made me tear up any more than I did at that moment. He kept laughing throughout this exchange and told me that he was sorry he could not stay at the graduation the entire time since he had to work. He told me that if he didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to me at the graduation, that he wanted me to remember him saying this,

Live for you, not others. It is Important.

That morning, when I was making my way to the subway station, I noticed something new. A fence.


And you are probably asking yourself “A fence? What is the big deal about a fence? And why did you take a picture of a metal fence?” Well, it isn’t really a big deal or anything. Every morning, when I would cross the intersection, I did what all the other Koreans did– I jaywalked. Which isn’t exactly allowed, but none of the Koreans would walk in between the lines, they all jaywalked at the corner since it saved time. But today, that was not an option for me as the fence prevented jaywalking. The fence made it so you HAD to walk on the lines. It just made me realize that Korea is always changing. I know I was looking to deep into this whole occurrence but this made me more comfortable for some reason. I realized that change isn’t always a bad thing, and though I knew this already before, this situation comforted me after feeling very emotional towards the goodbyes that would occur that day. I know it sounds ridiculous but it got me through the morning ride to the university.



The last time I walked through this entrance.

The ceremony was a lot of fun surprisingly. My host family came and I felt so happy seeing them in the back watching me. My supporter Sujin also came and I had no idea that she was going to be attending at all. They both acted like my mom by calling my name when I went on stage and taking photos of me. One of the best parts of the ceremony was when our university was awarding a student from every class a “most improved/exceptional achievement” certificate. We had 4 Korean classes and so a student was chosen from every class. And to my surprise, I was awarded the certificate from my teachers. I was so shocked but also overjoyed to know that my teachers could see my immense improvement. My host mom and supporter both took photos of me, they were literally my moms.

The one on the left was taken by my supporter Sujin while the one on the right was taken by my host mom.


Sarah received the award for her beginner class, I received the award for my intermediate class, Angie received the award for her advanced class, and Jessica received the award for her beginner class.

We then had all the culture clubs show off what they did over the summer. The fan dance group performed a really beautiful number. They all had on really long skirts and these huge fans. I have lots of shots from the dance as Casey was in it!


The dance was very pretty~

The taekwondo (태권도) cultural club also did a performance to show off all the new kicks the students learned their ability to break wooden boards. I was so deeply enthralled with the performance that I was not able to take any photos. I was having too much fun laughing and enjoying all their kicks and screams. The traditional music culture club also performed a short song that was really good as well. I couldn’t believe they only spent around 2 hours on it once a week and it sounded like that. I also did not get any pictures because our cooking culture club was going next so we had to wait in the wings until we could go. We just filmed a video with clips of what we did (we can’t exactly cook in front of the whole audience… though that would have been fun) as well as clips of some individuals explaining background information of the food that we made.


Photo from our video (Creds to my supporter). I was explaining Japchae which we made on our second club meeting.


우리 요리 동아리 !~

We also had the talent show portion of the ceremony where we had lots of acts from different individuals in the program. We had a fashion show of different Korean styles, lots of dances, some singing, and my class’ talent show performance.

Angie, Tess, and Vinzent danced to Pick Me by I.O.I (아이오아이) and they did so well. Everyone was jamming along in their seats and the dance moves were great!

The talent show was also super fun to watch. Casey acted as the host/narrator and a bunch of different students from all of the Korean classes sported different Korean fashion styles. They had categories such as Work & Play, Seoul Food, Cutesy/Girly, Hip Hop, Clothes that are geared towards foreigners, and couple outfits.

My class 나무반’s talent show performance was also super fun. Most of us were not good at singing whatsoever but we still had a great time singing along to our video and music. It took a lot of time for me to edit it but I was glad to see it being so worth it.

The rest of the graduation ceremony was spent taking group photos (of supporter groups, Korean classes, and host families) and obtaining all of our certificates of completion, Korean class grades, and photos from our photographer. The ceremony was also spent saying a lot of goodbyes. My host mom had to leave with my host brothers early because she had to go to work. Most families took the students back after the ceremony to finish the day together and have dinner but mine couldn’t. That made my goodbye so much harder and I cried a lot after we said it. While my host mom and brothers were leaving through the doors, Sujin comforted me and I still couldn’t stop crying. (Even when we were taking our class photos, I was all teary-eyed and Jodi had to comfort me.)


Class Photo (Angle #1)


나무반!~ ❤ (Angle #2)


Showing off our RINGS~ ❤


My Resident Directors and I


Me, My Host Mom, and My Youngest Host Brother


My Host Brothers and I

And that was my NSLI-Y Summer Graduation Ceremony. I will be making a separate post about the rest of the day as this post has become very very very long. This day was very emotional as it marked the ending of such an amazing summer. Even though that was the case, it was also a very happy day as it reminded me how much love I have received from so many new people as well as all the relationships I have formed. I will always have these amazing memories and I wouldn’t exchange them for anything in the world, even if they caused a few crying sessions. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this post! 🙂 Do not forget to subscribe~

PS: Today, of last year, I received my NSLI-Y Korea Summer finalist notification. I want to congratulate everyone that was given a scholarship for this upcoming summer. And if you didn’t, please re-apply and give it another go! CLS is also an option if you will be entering university. Also, for the new finalists, I will be on iEARN’s Korea Summer Finalist Call as an alum to answer you or your parents’ questions! I will also be continuing making informational posts for supporter groups, my packing list, culture clubs, etc. Stay Tuned!

Also, if you care about programs such as NSLI-Y and want to keep them going for as long as possible, in order to give equal opportunities to citizens from all around the world, you might want to sign this petition regarding the new U.S. budget plan that could defund the Department of States ECE programs (such as NSLI-Y, CLS, CBYX, etc). Please take a few extra minutes out of your day to support this cause. The link will be linked here.

  • Emma (엠마)


Last Day of In-Country Orientation & Meeting My Host Family! (July 2nd,2016)

July 2nd, 2016 was the day that our host families would be picking us up from the hostel. The morning started off with some breakfast in our room as usual. We were given an assortment of muffins once again (blueberry muffins never disappoint) and more juice boxes.


The outfit I wore to meet my family. They recommended us to wear something casual but nice.

After breakfast we did an activity about host families. We had to write down the stuff we would do with our host family, how we would help them throughout the summer, and our worries about what was to come. We then listened to various host family situations (that were all real) and how to solve these issues without making anyone mad or ruining relationships in the process. We even had to perform a skit which was actually pretty fun (I played an angry host dad haha). After all the skits were performed, we got our stipends for the first three weeks of the summer as well as our program phones. My program phone was a pink flip phone and it was actually super adorable. The cover was electronic so every time it was opened and closed, a little virtual bird would fly across the front and then the time and date would flash across as well. My music was also pretty popping. All my ringtones were OSTs from Secret Garden (I never watched the whole series. I never got around to finishing the last episode).


I couldn’t find a picture of my phone w/o scrolling through all my photos (there are too many) so here is a stock photo of the exact phone I had.

Then we had lunch which was more japchae, fish, rice, soup, and more banchan (반찬 is Korean side dishes. A staple for every Korean meal) I don’t know the name of.

After lunch was when everyone started leaving one by one with their host families. We were sitting up in the presentation room being all anxious as our RDs and Better World Staff would call someone’s name and help them take their luggage down to the lobby. It was such a torturous environment. We all kept betting on who would be next and when a car pulled up, we all tried to guess which person the family belonged to.


Everyone stalking the parking lot

Eventually JT called my name and I internally died. Everyone screamed my name and shouted Fighting! (good luck in Korean). I hugged everyone around me (it was like I was going off to war and I had to say goodbye to my family haha). I came down to the lobby and was super scared. I didn’t know what my host family looked like and I was afraid of walking up to the wrong family (there were multiple waiting). I walked up to one of the Better World staff and asked them. They shoved me towards a family and then the photographer took several photos of us (I also don’t know where those photos went…). I followed the family to their car with Grace as she was also leaving with her family at the same time. She started to speak to her host dad in almost perfect sounding Korean and I was afraid that my host family expected me to sound like that too. My host mom (in English) asked me if I spoke Korean well and I shot that idea down real quick with a simple no. I was relieved to hear her speak English and I soon found out that she owned an English Hagwon (학원 is an after school tutoring center) near the apartment. You would expect that the car ride would be really awkward but it honestly wasn’t too bad (still awkward though). My host mom spoke English very very well so during the car ride she only communicated to me in English and I tried to use my nonexistent Korean skills but mostly found myself answering her questions in English. My youngest host brother was in the passenger seat of the car and he didn’t say one word to me. My host dad tried to add onto the conversation but his English wasn’t good and every time he messed up he would apologize and stop saying his thought. I kept telling him it was alright but he was so nervous about speaking in English.

The first thing we did was my host dad drove us to this lookout place (I really don’t know what to call it nor the official name for it). We parked on the side of a hill and walked along this path until we got to a cliff with a fence keeping anyone from falling off. There were those binocular machines and even a police officer standing guard. My host mom told me he was there because the location had a perfect view of the Blue House (the place where the Korean president lives). There was a plastic map stand and so my host mom showed me all the famous things that could be seen from this point including Namsan Tower (she was surprised when I told her I had already known what Namsan Tower was).

We spent around 10 minutes looking at the view of Seoul and then we returned to the car and started driving again. My host mom asked me about my life back in Illinois. Things like what my family did for fun, how my brothers acted, and what I usually ate for breakfast, etc. We took a quick stop at Digital Media City at this Ice Cream store and picked up this giant container of ice cream for my youngest host brother to share with my host dad. My host mom also bought me and her a cup of green tea ice cream. It was so weird having her buy something for me. I felt really bad about it at the time.


Our green tea icecreams

After Icecream, we drove to Seoul World Cup Stadium. Next to the stadium there was a huge field that little kids played soccer at. The teams that play there are called The Future of Seoul. The field was very big and it was split into 4 sections for 4 different teams split up by age group. My little host brother was there for a soccer practice. I sat with my host mom and host dad watching the practice. My host mom and I also walked to the supermarket (that was right next to the stadium, there was also a movie theater) and bought a few groceries. We walked around and she asked me what I had tried and what I wanted to try and bought things to make for the next week.


The field (before the practices officially began)


The bleachers are very different than what I see in Illinois (There was also a roof over the bleachers to keep the sun off everyone’s faces))

For dinner we had Korean BBQ (삼겹살) and it was so delicious. It was the first time I had Korean BBQ and it was such a fun time. It was hard at first because I could not put the lettuce wraps in my mouth and not look like a crazy person trying to chew the food. Koreans must be born with this skill. haha My older younger host brother also joined us for dinner. He just walked into the restaurant and I was so confused on how he got there (I soon found out it was only a 7 minute walk from the apartment).


It looks delicious right?

When we finally got to the apartment, my host mom showed me my room (it had been my host brothers room- the older of the two. He was now sharing with his younger brother) She showed me around the apartment. Explained to me what shower shoes were and how to throw things away properly. I then went to bed because I was so tired but before I did so, I had to actually ask my host mom how to close the door because it had a magnet and was connected to the wall. It was nothing like I had ever seen before so after freaking out for five minutes, I finally asked her and she helped me (culture shock moment #1 haha).

That was my first day with my host family! They are honestly the sweetest family ever and I could tell that they were really excited to host me for the summer. I was excited for what was to come as well since my host mom told me  that once this weekend was over, she would try to never use English with me again. I was excited for this practice, it had been what I was looking forward to since I found out about NSLI-Y in 7th grade.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Please subscribe to my blog by adding your email and you will then receive emails every time I update. Hope to see you soon!~ 안녕!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)

In-Country Orientation (July 1st, 2016) at Seoul International Youth Hostel

On July 1st, I woke up around 7am so I could take a shower and make myself look presentable before breakfast at 8am. For breakfast we had muffins from Paris Baguette, bananas, strawberry yogurt, and apple and grape juice. It was quite a spread and I was happy to have something from the notorious Paris Baguette (I wanted to eat something from Paris Baguette because literally every single Korea travel vlog on Youtube featured a Paris Baguette breakfast).


We had chocolate, blueberry, original, and cheese muffins. I split a cheese muffin with Angie and It honestly wasn’t too bad.

At 9:30am I found myself sitting on the floor with all the other Nsliyians in front of the room where we were going to have all our presentations. We had to wait for the room since it was still being prepared but it was all good because we were given all these snacks which were very delicious. We also recieved name tags from Better World (Better World was the program that run all our in country stuff) for our stay.



Our official in-country orientation started at 9:50am  with a small ceremony  with the president of Better World, a guy from the U.S. Department of State, and some of the other Better World staff. We were shown a presentation on Korea as well as some information regarding safety (phone numbers and things we had already heard in Seattle).


NSLI-Y8 watching a video about Better World

Then after most of the informative presentations, one of the Better World staff members started conducting some icebreakers  on whether we like cats or dogs better, our favorite animals, our favorite kpop groups, etc. And because we are who we are… the icebreakers ended with even more dancing and singing. Some were more cringey than others *cough cough JESSE cough cough*.


Angie and Tise dancing to Bang Bang Bang by Big Bang AGAIN! lol

We played a lot of mini games as well. One game we played was this one chopsticks using challenge. We got into small groups and had to stand in a line. The objective was to use chopsticks and move all the shrimp chips from one paper plate to the other. A lof of the Korean staff seemed pretty impressed with all of our skills (even though the chopsticks were literally for kids).


Shrimp Chips are my life!~

We then recieved these plastic musical instruments known as 소고 (pronounced as soh-goh). JT (our Korean RD) taught us the name of all the different parts of the small drum (I do not remember any of these names) and then he taught us a small song to play. It was very fun and JT was having a blast teaching us how to use it. It was the first time we all got to experience his overly positive/happy attitude. haha


Stock Photo of the 소고 (we actually got to keep ours) but I am too lazy to get up and take an actual photo of mine.


Us learning the 소고 song


Then we had lunch in the cafeteria once again.

hostel 8.jpg

We had white rice, tofu soup, zucchini, sweet potato, kimchi, and some ham type thing again.

After lunch we signed up for the cultural activities we wanted. The options were Cooking club, Fan dancing club, Musical Instrument club, and Taekwondo club. We had to write down our top two choices in case some choices got filled (Cooking class could only allow a certain amount of people since it was more expensive due to all the food costs). My number one choice was cooking class and luckily I got placed in Cooking club! I was super excited about my placement because learning to cook Korean food seemed so fun. Especially because I would have the opportunity to cook Korean food once I returned to the states as well.

After that, we were split up into groups for a Survival In Korea mission. I would describe it as a scavenger hunt/learning excursion. We had a checklist and had to do the stuff on the list in order to complete the mission and be able to come back to the hostel. My group included Eliya, Addie, Ava, Peter, and Tatum. Tatum was a Korean Summer 2014 alumni. She was in Korea because she was interning with Better World and attending Korean classes at Yonsei University. Our mission was to take the subway to Hongik University (홍익대학교) otherwise known as the famous Hongdae (홍대) and buy street food. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually complete that exact mission because while we were out and about in Hongdae, it started pouring! I have never been in that much rain before in my entire life. Chicago rainfall is nothing in comparison to Seoul’s rainfall. No street carts with food were actually out, but there were carts with umbrellas.


Instead of getting street food, my group and I headed off to Sulbing (설빙) which is a very popular Bingsu (빙수) cafe with various locations all over Korea. Bingsu is a Korean dessert popular in the summer. It is basically a shaved ice dessert with toppings such as fruit, red bean, and condensed milk (depending on what you order). We ordered the  Injeolmi Bingsu (인절미 빙수) and the chocolate bingsu (초코).


Injeolmi Bingsu is just Bingsu topped with Korean rice cakes, powdered dried bean powder, and almonds. The choco bingsu was what it sounds like. It also had cheesecake and brownie bites. The cups with the white liquid are condensed milk.



We ate all of it. We left no trace of food.


I soon found out that this sight (empty tables at Sulbing) was a very rare sight indeed. It is so hard to find tables in any location.

After Sulbing and eating bingsu, we walked around the main streets of Hongdae and we finally got a glimpse of Seoul. All the hustle and bustle of the streets was just how I imagined the streets of Hongdae to look like. Hongdae was very very crowded even though it was raining. We visited a convenience store and Ava and I split a banana milk which was a dream come true. I have always wanted to drink banana milk ever since I watched Taemin from Shinee drink it day in and day out during the first year of their debut. I even tried making my own sometime in 7th grade (it turned out pretty good actually. A bit chunky but overall okay). Banana milk soon became the drink of choice while I was in Korea because it is so sweet and tastes like real bananas, not that artificial banana candy taste.


The famous Banana Milk





Blurry Pics but I felt awkward taking photos at this time

We got back home right in time for dinner which happened to be Japchae, (잡채) duck, kimchi, rice, and another type of soup. Japchae has to be one of my favorite Korean foods (Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of my plate). After dinner the alumni that were present (most of them were there because they were studying abroad for college in Korea except for Tatum who was interning, for the summer, with Better World) gave us a run through of useful Korean phrases to know and presentations on what they did when they went to Korea with NSLI-Y. They were all academic year students except for Tatum. These were the funniest presentations because the stories from the alumni were hilarious. After listening to their stories, I was super excited to make funny ones of my own.

We ended the orientation with some group photos as usual.

The rest of the night was free time and so I just spent the rest of the night in my room with my roommates. We stayed up till around 1am talking about whatever. We laughed so much (especially me) that even if some of the girls wanted to sleep, they couldn’t. Better World also bought us a midnight snack of pizza and fried chicken which was amazing because it was two foods I had never had before (Korean pizza is soooo different in comparison to American pizza or Italian pizza). We also had an incident when we finally decided it was time for everyone to go to bed. Right as we turned off the lights to our room, these ajusshis (아저씨 – Korean word for an older man) in the room next to ours started screaming and talking so loud (obviously drunk). Our two best Korean speakers, Grace and Rhea, opened our door and kindly started talking to the ajusshis (the door to their room was open) and asking them to quiet down since it was so late. They didn’t listen to us and actually started getting louder. Then, in some magical way, JT was still up and he showed up at our door asking us about the issue. He told us to go back inside and then he went and talked to the men. He actually helped a lot, they weren’t as loud as before and we actually were able to fall asleep. I got the whole thing on Snapchat but my blog doesn’t support videos so here are some photos of what had happened instead.

And that was my  first full day (second day) in Seoul, South Korea. It was filled with many presentations, icebreakers, and some excursions to the outside world. haha My next post will most likely be the first weekend in korea and it will also be with my host family! Hope you enjoyed reading and don’t forget to subscribe if you want to stay up to date with my posts. Thanks for reading! 고마워요!~

  • Emma 엠마

Flying to Korea! And the First Night at In-Country Orientation (June 29th-June 30th)

On June 29th, I woke up at 4:30am with an alarm (a second apology to my roommate, Cynthia, who woke up with me even though she didn’t need to!). I took a shower, packed my things, and then Cynthia and I headed down to the lounge. We all had our matching NSLI-Y t-shirts on and it was a pretty awesome feeling. Everyone was hanging out for a while- showing off their suitcase sets (I am not kidding) and using the wifi to update friends/family or blogs (something I definitely didn’t do XD).


We all waited outside for the bus that would take us to the airport, for a pretty long time. It was funny to see how excited everyone would get when a bus came into view, and then when it wasn’t ours-how sad everyone got. We also took some pretty great group photos in front of the library. I will never underestimate taking photos of big groups ever again!

Check-in at the airport took quite a while because no one was paying attention to their name being called. Our Korean resident director JT was becoming so stressed trying to collect everyone and get them through the bag check. The airport employees were also pretty rude to us. It was hard for everyone to stay together being such a big group but eventually we got everyone to security which also happened to be the longest security line I have ever gone through! I passed the time talking to Mckenzie and Sofia and messaging my penpal (Our American RD Madeline got us penpals from the school she taught English at). I have never been out of the country so I had yet to experience such security lines.


After Security, we were given an hour to buy breakfast and snacks for the long plane ride to South Korea. I bought breakfast at Starbucks (A blueberry muffin) and didn’t buy any snacks which I’m glad I did since we were fed so often on the plane.


Eating our breakfasts~ (Super Blurry and Shoutout to the businessman cameo in the back)


It was really an unbelievable amount of food. For dinner I ordered 비빔밥 or bibimbap (Korean dish with steamed white rice, cooked vegetables, and meat. Also, a spicy pepper paste for the spice factor. I put the entire little squeeze bottle in mine and I also kept the bottle as a souvenir).


It does not look appetizing but I thought it was good. I had not eaten a real Korean Bibimbap yet.

We were also given pretzels, peanuts, an ice-cream sandwich, egg muffin, strawberry yogurt, and a KitKat Bar. The plane ride wasn’t too bad. I slept a lot but definitely not as much as I thought I would. I watched three movies on the plane (Zootopia, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Bakuman) and updated my journal. I was not uncomfortable on the plane like I had been on the flight to Seattle so that was a giant plus. On the plane I sat next to Sofia and when you sit next to someone for 10 hours, you get close real quick! We became the best of friends so quickly-it was crazy. We talked about our bucket lists and just informing each other about various details in our lives. In the beginning of the plane ride, I couldn’t sleep so I was awarded this position where I would wake up Sofia whenever we were given food or something extra (like a hot towel).



Kenwoo (the main focus of this picture) was another form of entertainment throughout the plane ride. Joy (not pictured) used this tiny hand finger puppet and continuously stroked the back of Kenwoos neck. It was hilarious!!

Getting off the plane and walking into Incheon Airport was honestly such a surreal experience. We were immediately greeted by a sign that said Welcome to Korea!


The said sign

pdo 6.jpeg

Selfie with Sofia

I had seen Incheon International Airport in several Korean dramas before arriving. So seeing it for the first time in person… well, lets just say I was pretty much jumping up and down in awe. If the airport was cool looking, I could not imagine what the rest of Korea looked like. And even though everyone else was also really excited for what was to come… we still had to take a group bathroom trip and roll call. (Everyone has a number and we count from 1 to 49. I was 39).

After we got all that very important stuff out of the way, we went through immigration, picked up our checked bags and made our way through the airport to the pick up area. Coming from Illinois, my school is not diverse at all. Seeing a whole sea of Koreans all around me was very weird at first (and the stares didn’t help very much either).


Our group Picture (We got so many stares while taking this lol)


After our group picture, we split up into two buses by last name. And these buses that we took to our hostel were pretty amazing. They looked like what I imagine party buses from 10 years ago would look like. The bus had decorations, curtains, and cool seat patterns. I had never ridden in a bus like that before.


Everyone staring out the window in awe

I sat next to Sofia once again and we basically spent the whole bus ride looking out the window and reading out all the signs in hangul and seeing if we could understand what each store was. Seeing all the stores with names that weren’t in English… was such a weird thing to get used to.

Eventually we arrived at the hostel and we stayed at the Seoul International Youth Hostel.

hostel 1.jpg

I brought my bags up to the room I was sharing with 7 other girls (Rhea, Jane, Jessica, Jodi, Angie, Maris, and Grace). We were also only given one room key for the 8 of us and so I got locked out quite a bit (but it was honestly part of the experience. Figuring out who was in the room last was always a fun mystery to solve).


Our room. It was super cute and quaint.

After we got our room situations figured out, we all had our very first meal in Seoul, South Korea! I imagine that the food we ate was what Korean high school students eat at school. It was honestly very good and some of the stuff I had there, I never had again anywhere else (Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of like anything I ate while being in the hostel). I was super afraid of my chopstick skills before I ate dinner (especially since I have never eaten with metal chopsticks). However, I did just fine and I don’t use them 100% correctly but… I can still eat perfectly fine! haha The 아줌마 that ran the dishes part of the kitchen was so sweet to me even when I didn’t know where to place the utensils and my water cup. She was also very happy that I finished everything on my plate (아줌마 is a respectful word to use when addressing a Korean woman who is a little bit older and at a married age).

hostel 3.jpeg

White rice, Kimchi, Sweet Potato, some type of Soup, and some Ham and Vegetables

Nothing was planned for our first night at the hostel for the obvious reason that everyone was super tired and moody as well as super happy go lucky and not in the mood to sit and listen to presentations all day. After dinner most of the Nsliyians (including me) went up to the rooftop garden of the hostel. Some people played cards under this gazebo type thing but Sofia, Rhea, Mckenzie, Teresa, and I sat at some tables and enjoyed the night view of Seoul. The hostel is located really close to Myeongdong so we were able to see Namsan Tower and in the distance we also saw some traditional Korean houses. Very pretty.

Then some Korean middle schoolers/high schoolers (I think it was a mix) showed up and everyone surrounded them (just like they did with the Japanese students in Seattle) and tried speaking in Korean. Only a few kids actually succeeded, but it was pretty funny seeing everyone trying. We even set up a yoga class and some of the Korean students joined in. (Shout out to Vinzent- the best yoga instructor ever!!~)

After the nice exercise of doing a few yoga poses with Vinzent, Sofia, Cynthia, Sura, and I went back to the hostel and started exploring it by getting in the elevator and stopping at each floor. We started at the second floor which turned out to be the ultimate jackpot! The second floor had a cultural center (made for kids but whatever). There were tables and couches and lots of shelves with books (all in Korean).


Korean children books are VERY difficult! I personally feel that some chapter books can be easier to read than children books. So Cynthia, Sofia, and practiced our Korean skills while reading children books.


The one book I could ACTUALLY read (ft Cynthia)

The cultural center also had this giant sneaker with broken and old toys glued onto it with hot glue I presume. There was also a costume center in the back and Sura and I had a pretty amazing photoshoot but the photos are too cringey to share to be honest.

At 9pm I went back up to my room and literally fell asleep at 9:30pm since I was so exhausted from the whole day but nonetheless it was really really fun.

And that was my first day in Seoul, South Korea! Hope you enjoyed reading~ Next post will be about the REAL part of my in-country orientation. Spoiler Alert: More presentations and more matching shirts! haha

  • Emma 엠마