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

04/24/19 Wednesday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at us ❤

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

As expected… the group photo! 역시 그룹 사진을 찍었죸ㅋㅋ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Escape Room & Cake Cafe with 혜린언니 and Katie (04/04/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/04/19 Thursday

The school day was a blurrrr (If I tried to figure out the most commonly written phrases from my blog, I bet one of them would be calling school or Korean class a “blur.” Along with things like “it was so delicious” and “I had so much fun.”) so I believe that I just tried to pay attention during the lectures at first and then when I got too bored, I took out my own Korean stuff and worked on those things. (I definitely remember trying to memorize my Korean class speech during 한국사.)

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Me and one of the Japanese exchange students!

At one point during class, my 한국사 teacher told me that after meeting the Japanese exchange students, he realized how good I was at Korean because they all literally came with no knowledge (not really even basic knowledge) of the Korean language because they did not take it in school nor did they self study it–like me. He laughed about this, finding his thoughts amusing, and then asked the class if there were any Japanese students present right then and there to hear what he had to say. When he found relief in the fact that there were none, he then made another joke about the fact that even if they were there, they would not have understood what he said. I felt happy that the teacher could see that I am putting in effort to speak Korean but then I felt bad for the Japanese students. They were not here to learn the language, but to just participate in an exchange and that exchange was mostly for culture. It made me think about the other NSLI-Y students who came with a very low level of Korean abilities and if teachers treated them like that at first… I would have been very disappointed.

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One of my classmates in 한국사 gave me this Japanese jelly snack ❤

Anyway, Katie and I left school early before lunch (I needed to memorize my presentation which did not give me time to have lunch at school today) and went to Korean class. Once again, class was a blur. I did present about my favorite Korean expressions which included an expression for laughing (that should ONLY be used between friends) 실실 쪼개다 and 답답하다 which is an expression to use when you feel suffocated and frustrated. 

After class, Katie and I met up with our supporter 혜린 언니 to have a fun night together in 홍대! Since classes on Thursdays end at 6 making it pretty late already (and we had our escape room time reserved for 7 pm) we ended up going to 7-11 for dinner instead of having a full meal…. And by dinner I meant that Katie and I ate ice cream!

We did an escape room at Mystery Room Escape that was themed after this novelist who committed suicide because he failed his book and the point of the escape room was that you were supposed to be trapped with him in his novel. The escape room was all in Korean and if we did not have our supporter with us, I am not confident that we would have even been able to make it past the first room. But besides the added difficulty because of the language barrier, we were all able to work together quite well to solve the puzzles. It was really rewarding to see how we were all able to figure out our own small things that contributed to helping us get farther and farther through the room.

Even though I think we did really well at first, we did get stumped at the last puzzle of the first room which involved placing these phrases in a certain order on the wall according to what was written in a note left by the author. We kept messing up the order and even just started putting random things in order because we could not figure out how to solve the puzzle. This wasted a lot of our time. Eventually, we did actually make it through the door but then we got stuck on the second to last puzzle of the escape room! We were supposed to place one of the items we got out of the drawer in this whole which would show us something that we desperately needed to solve the puzzle but we were just holding the item the entire time, twirling it around without even thinking that we needed to do something with it. When the clock’s time ran out and we heard the deafening alarm that might as well been a voice recorder saying “loser” over and over again to rub in the fact that we could not succeed in our faces. 

When the employee came in and shoved the item in the hole, I wanted to scream. The room lit up, a video started being displayed, and the major KEY for the solving of the puzzle appeared! We all wanted to scream! The guy gave us a chance to solve the puzzle again and when we did, we felt even worse for having messed up doing it ourselves. We left the room and proceeded to get our stuff from our lockers (walking past the group that came in before us while they took their celebratory escape photo was almost torturous) and the other employee came up to us and asked if we succeeded in escaping. I sadly told him no and his eyes immediately widened, you could tell that he was shocked. Yup, you heard it here folks, we could not even escape from the easiest room!! (I may seem very salty but… okay, I am. But we just laugh about it now. Our wounds have healed…)

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We were actually the only ones in the cafe which was really nice! We had the whole place to ourselves! It was cozy and peaceful~ Come here at low-peak time!

After our failed attempt at doing an escape room, we left to chill at a cafe together and just update each other on our lives. We have not seen each other for more than a month! We went from seeing each other multiple times a week for two months and then no in-person contact for a solid month! Katie and I really grew to miss our supporter! I took the girls to this cafe called Caffe Yam which I found from a Youtube video and was hoping that I remembered enough of the way so that we could stumble upon it again. I really hoped that we would be able to order some really adorable sugary drinks (I really wanted to go for the pictures… was not expecting much from the taste).

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We ended up staying at the cafe for only a little bit more than an hour–just chatting and enjoying our unicorn drinks and rainbow cake (literally the cutest things ever!). 혜린언니 was literally our big sister and proceeded to scold us and be happy for us all at the same time as we told her what we had been up to recently. Chatting with her reminds me of how lucky we were to be placed in a group project with her~ And I know wherever we end up in the future, we will always have 언니 to talk to and support us through all of our endeavors.

Well, that is all for this blog post, I hope you enjoyed! Have you ever done an escape room in a foreign country? How was your experience? I actually still have not done one back home in America… but the ones in Korea were just so much fun (and cheaper too…) Until Next time! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Last Supporter Meeting, 미소국수, Research Project Presentation, and Night Out in Hongdae with the Supporters (02/14-02/15/19) NSLI-Y AY

02/14/19 Thursday

Thursday was our very last supporter meeting before our project presentation happening the very next day. We had to have our PowerPoint slides and video done by that afternoon, so as one might guess, it was a very hectic morning at Holly’s Cafe. I stayed up really late the night before editing the video to the point where I could edit no more {because I was lacking in audio recordings from Katie} so I actually had actual coffee at the cafe—yes a surprise. No Green Tea Lattes today, no sir. 

The two hours of the meeting went by really fast as we were busy working the whole time. I was able to finish our video and although it is no professional YouTube quality video, it was good enough for us! We also put the final touches on our presentation and split up the speaking points—timing everything to make sure it was under 10 minutes. 

At the end of the meeting, 혜린언니 surprised Katie and me with little gift bags she prepared. They each included a little pig keychain {she did not know this at the time but my favorite animals are pigs!}, a mirror, and a little handwritten letter. It was the sweetest gesture and at the time I felt extremely guilty for not having anything prepared for her. But Katie and I planned to meet early the following morning to get her a gift! 

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We ended up not having the chance to get lunch together because I had to finish writing an essay for Korean class {which ended up not being due then… but the following class period…ugh} and Katie wanted to cram more for her vocab test so we promised each other to grab lunch before the presentation day! 

I have literally no recollection of Korean class today and I ended up going straight home after class too {Oh I just realized… it was Valentine’s Day this day… well, no surprise… no dates for me.} So the rest of the night was just spent having dinner with my host family and studying Korean. I also took a quick run to Artbox {bless it only being a 5-minute walk from my apartment complex} to buy 언니 a letter set. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe before meeting Katie to write everything down. 

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02/15/19 Friday

On the subway ride to 홍대, I typed out what I wanted to write to 혜린언니 out on a Google Doc and hastily wrote it all out at Holly’s. Katie and I met up with each other about an hour later and went around buying stuff for her gift. We settled on a blind box of this one naked baby angel toy called Sonny Angel {We chose it because she always is calling us her babies since she is older than us.} as well as a strawberry tart from Blanc bakery because she as always mentioning wanting to try one of their cakes but never got the chance. We didn’t buy a cake cause it looked too sweet for her, but we did think that a fruit tart would please her. 

We met up with 혜린언니 at the subway station and we all walked together to get lunch at this restaurant called 미소 국수 {smile noodles} and I had really good 만둣국수. It was nice to hang out and finally feel relieved—as if a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders—since the project was now officially over. No more due dates! Just showtime during the presentation.

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Her reaction to our gift was the cutest!~

Listening to everyone’s presentations was actually really interesting. I was excited to see what they all ended up coming up with as their final work and some of them were so creative in how they delivered the information. For example, Pansori Vs. Kpop group {Hunter, Kaitlyn, and Shannon} had this really nicely edited video with clips of performances, interviews, news shows, etc. Honestly, at first, it seemed to be a real documentary on Korean music: old and new. Also, the group that had plastic surgery {Liam & Harmony} actually had them giving their supporter a fake double eyelid surgery in the video with scrubs, medical masks, and even tools! It was so realistic and I could not stop laughing at Doctor Harmony asking Liam for the scalpel. 

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Harmony thought it was hilarious to play with my hair and put it in pigtails!!

I think that my group did such a great job on our presentation! I believe that it was really informative and was able to shed light on a topic that many aren’t really aware regarding Korean society. My edited video could not compare to Hunter’s masterpiece but hey it did the job! And I think everyone liked the images and political cartoons I included from Korean sources. I will admit that adding the English subtitles gave me more work; however, I believe it was worth it! I think that everything was able to hit harder because all the American students were able to understand. 

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I won Playdoh for answering a question right and Katie made a pretty rose out of the clay!

After all the presentation were over, the Better World staff members gave out awards for each of the groups. They said that the awards weren’t really serious… that they were funny awards. Well, I will let you decide what you think about the awards: rough patch, book worm, tried their best, etc. My group 독립여성 {Independent ladies} got the award for … beautiful face {아름다운 면상}. I mean I’m flattered they think we are pretty but… this would have been more clever with the plastic surgery group. I don’t know… I thought we would get an award that really related to our topic/effort put in…

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Besides awards, we also received our certificates of achievement {for successfully completing the research project} which consisted of us coming on stage and presenting the certificate to one other person in our group and saying a few words {we did it first and said it all in Korean}. We also had time to write out reflections and a few extra things for a booklet that would be made to include all of our presentations. 

Once the final commencement was made, we all went to have dinner together at this chicken place near the Better World office where we ate chicken and 떡볶이. A big group of girls {Katie, 혜린언니, 유빈언니, Harmony, 은하언니, Shannon} and I went to a 노래방 and then got sticker photos done. It was a lot of fun! The place we went to for the karaoke was one of those fancy buildings on the Main Street of 홍대 that you can look into and see all the people dancing and singing sound in the large plush rooms with velvet couches! It was my first time being at anything like that before. 

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After saying goodbye to everyone, 혜린언니, Katie, and I headed to the hot chocolate cafe to just chat some more before having to go home to be back in time for curfew. I figured that since I was out for the night {and since I rarely stay out till curfew on weekends}, that I was gonna stay out as long as possible! 

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~~ This was my third to last week of winter break! Oh, how time has just continued to fly on by! I hope you enjoyed this post. Till next time~ 

  • Emma 엠마

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

02/11/19 Monday

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

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

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

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02/12/19 Tuesday

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

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The BEST Supporter Group!<3

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

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

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

02/13/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Lunch and Study Date in Paju-shi & Quater Squad Takes on Pizza in Hongdae {02/06-07/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/06/19 Wednesday

Wednesday was the last day of our 설날 break before returning to Korean classes and program activities on Thursday. Josh, June, and I convinced Jenna and Kaitlyn to come up and visit us in 파주시 for the day. (Although, June is the only one of us that lives in 파주시. I am only two stops away, however.) We planned to all grab a nice lunch and then study together (be all productive) at this really adorable cafe that June found–It also happens to be literally right outside of her apartment. 

After arriving at June’s station, I waited there with Kaitlyn until the rest of the group arrived. We had to take a 20-minute bus to get to the neighborhood that June lives in. I figured that the bus we would take would be one of the normal buses I have ridden in Seoul with the other NSLI-Y students or like the one I rode to school every single day back and forth. In case you could not guess…it was not! This bus was really just a glorified huge van with buslike qualities. It was so weird getting inside as I was confused as to whether or not I was riding a bus or not. We all piled into the back and joked around until we got to our stop. 

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June took us to this 부대찌개 restaurant. It was the first time I have ever had the dish. Not only did I get to enjoy the delicious tastes that accompany this unique food, I also received a history from the lovely Kaitlyn and Josh.

Apparently, 부대찌개 literally translates to “corps stew” and was created during the Korean War. Leftover military rations from the American soldiers (mostly including sausages and spam) were taken and thrown into a huge stew with whatever other vegetables and ingredients were laying around by poor Korean families. That is how this dish came about! The meal was very very filling and I really was craving some spicy soup recently so this 부대찌개 really hit the spot. Also, Kaitlyn kept making the joke about 부대찌개 making the booty do a jiggy (If you can read Korean– this joke makes sense because it fits with the pronunciation of the dish). 

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Once we finished all the food (basically scraping the dishes clean with our spoons), we left to head to the tea cafe by June’s house. It had this huge table in the back which we took over and used it as our headquarters for the next couple hours we all did our own thing: winter break homework, TOPIK practice tests, scholarships, CEP project, etc. I ordered royal milk tea (which I usually dislike but this place served a good one!) and this cheesecake covered in a white chocolate casing that resembled a block of yellow cheese! It really did resemble a cartoon block of cheese you would see Tom and Jerry fighting over on Saturday mornings. At the cafe, we were all… sort of productive. I was able to do a couple workbook pages, memorize some vocab, and get started on my practice Topik listening test but we mostly just shared interesting stories.

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After we separated in the mid-afternoon, because most other people had plans for the night time, I went back home and found myself in another cafe trying to finish the listening test. I wanted to be able to show something for my studying efforts after spending such a long time at a cafe rather than accepting the fact that I could have done more. While I was at Twosome Place taking the test, the last two fingers on my right hand became numb all of a sudden. I assumed it was just because I had my hand on my ears for a long while as I was trying to block out some of the music playing at the cafe; however, the numbness would not go away as quickly as it usually does. I kept moving them around and flexing the muscles but the feeling would not go away. I just accepted it as fact for now and left after finishing the 50 question test.

Upon returning home, my fingers were not better and an hour had already passed. I was beginning to get a bit worried. My host mom served me 자짱면 for dinner and I ate by myself since she and my host sister had had a really late lunch and were not ready for dinner quite yet. I tried really hard to eat the noodles with the chopsticks but my numb fingers were inhibiting me from even getting one noodle into my mouth. They were not only numb but I had no strength in those fingers and soon even holding a pencil proved to be quite tedious.

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I was able to eat my first persimmon though

By the time I went to bed (a bit past midnight) my fingers were still very numb. Kaitlyn told me that I might have damaged my ulnar nerve somehow which connects to the last three fingers of the hand. She told me that it could result in irreversible nerve damage soon since it has been so long since it has started which only freaked me out more! I went to bed with a lot of worries… not the best sign of optimal health I will admit.

02/07/19 Thursday

On Thursday both Korean classes and our research project meetings started back up after the three-day holiday break because of 설날 (Lunar New Year). I met up with Katie and 혜린언니 at Hollys Cafe and there, we really set the plan for our final week of the project. We spent half of the meeting writing our final report (after splitting up who was doing what) and then we spent the rest of the time discussing how to then split up our content for both the presentation and the video. 

After our meeting, I went off with Kaitlyn to have a good ole 편의점 (convenience store) lunch at the youth center in order to get some cheap food and have time to study before class. There is this one older 아저씨 that works at the GS25 by the center and we always end up there at least once a day it seems. We bought our lunch and he ended up giving us these free Hershey chocolate bars as a service! It was the sweetest thing! I could not believe it~

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During Korean class, we got our January monthly tests back and I did really well! I was so happy when I saw the scores on the top of both of my tests. I do know that the test overall was easier than the last one (Our teacher was probably trying to better our damaged confidence from the last test….) but seeing that I only got three wrong on the reading portion and received a pretty decent essay score truly lightened up my mood by ten folds. At the start of class, we realized that we would be starting our new book (Book 4!), but none of us had copies… so Jacquelyn, Josh, and I all made our way to the Better World Office and back which took some time off of class but it was a fun little break and the walk was dearly missed. We had not been at the building for so long! (Altogether at least.)

Our teacher also just came back from Guam so she brought us back some snacks and tea from her trip which was very thoughtful of her. She did not have to think of us at all!

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After class, I did not go home right away but instead, I went out for dinner with Liam, Josh, and Kaitlyn! The Quater squad took on a pizza dinner!! We went back to this one restaurant–called New Order Club)–to stuff our faces with pizza. We ended up ordering a small pizza that had 4 different types of cheeses and then a Quater which is a pizza that allows for each quarter of the pizza to be a different flavor. We all shared a chicken tender pizza, french fries pizza, arugula pizza, and lastly macaroni pizza.

Everything was honestly really delicious but my love still goes out to the macaroni and cheese flavor. It was our OG flavor and there is a reason! Besides the food, hanging out with everyone was a lot of fun. I hang out with Kaitlyn and Josh a lot (recently more so it seems) but I barely ever get to hang out with Liam. But the four of us together is always a good time!!!

While we were walking through the area around the pizza restaurant, we went up these sketchy looking stairs to this rooftop cafe. It was a part of a cafe which seemed to be closed (or maybe out of business?) but that did not stop us from taking some photos on this fancy chair they had. We also took some photos at one of those random photo booths they have throughout the streets of Seoul (Honestly, one of the things I am going to miss about Korea!) I will say that the best amount of people for these booths (if they are a normal size) is about two people. Three people are okay–but anything more than that can be kind of awkward. We proved that today.

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At the pizza restaurant, we started this conversation about our first impressions of all the NSLI-Yians and then what we think now. Basically, how our perceptions has changed (for the better or worse). It was really interesting to see what everyone had to stay and I was able to compare my thoughts with their own experiences too. Once we finished eating, we went off to another place to continue our conversation. We ended up at 망원동 티라미수 and shared some cake with each other. Here, at this cafe, is where we discussed ourselves. I am not sure if everyone was being nice since they were talking about me in front of my face, but I was pretty happy with what they had to say–it was all very nice. 

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(BTW on Thursday, my fingers were still not normal. They were no longer completely numb but they were still hard to control and my fingers would tingle randomly throughout the night. I still could not use chopsticks (One of the reasons we went to get pizza!)

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading. I am very very behind on blog posts… I blame my Korean studies and the research project (and honestly, my own laziness) for making my time kind of limited. But I am catching up right now! I gotta get back on track before school starts! 

  • Emma 엠마

 

Running in to a Youtuber, Visiting a Shelter for Single Mothers in Korea, and Studying at a Comic Book Cafe (01/24-25/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/24/19 Thursday

We had no project meeting today, so the morning was free for every NSLI-Yian to spend it however they liked it. I decided to wake up early and work on my presentation for Korean class at a cafe, so I ended up at The Coffee Bean (and Tea Leaf). To be honest, I really dislike going to cafes alone; I really do prefer being able to study with friends! Though this is the case, I will say that I got a lot done at the cafe by myself! I was able to make my powerpoint for the presentation and memorize all my lines. Usually–because of a lack time–I only memorize lines well enough to recite some off the top of my head and the rest come to me after reading the first couple of words on my presentation slides. But this time, I was able to memorize it fully. I also think that it helped that I knew exactly what I was saying. I used complex grammar and advanced vocabulary but I made sure I knew how to use them rather than just writing things that would sound good to my teacher. While I was at the cafe, a YouTuber named Sissel (A model from Denmark) showed up. At first, I did not notice it was her. I was very concentrated on what I was doing, so I never looked up from my laptop. The thing that made me finally look in her direction was when I heard her open her mouth– her lovely accent gave her away! She was there meeting someone and I did not want to be rude so I did not approach her to say hi. I will say she is far prettier in person! I don’t even know why… but I was starstruck! (I later DMd her on Instagram to tell her that I saw her at the cafe and she responded telling me that she also noticed me because of my hair. It was a sweet interaction). I literally watched one of her videos the day prior, so running into her was such a coincidence.

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Anyway, after finishing up my presentation (and memorizing a new chapter of vocab words on Quizlet) I went to the center where my classes are held and grabbed some lunch from the 편의점 with Shada and Kaitlyn (That 김밥 life though…) I just chilled there and reviewed some grammar while Kaitlyn taught Shada a dance to some Jay Park. It was really funny to watch. (Though, they were actually pretty good! Especially Kaitlyn, she is actually a dancer.)

Korean class went really well today. We had four hours today so we were able to learn two grammar points and do some reading and listening passages in our textbook. The grammar points were really not that difficult and I can see myself using them frequently which makes me happy. But, I think the best part of the class was the presentations for this week. I did a really great job presenting. I did not forget anything that I was supposed to say and I kept a good pace and even did a good job with inflections and expressing emotions. At the end of my presentation, we had a short discussion on the topic: lookism. It was really interesting to hear from the teacher and what she thought about everything.

After class, I just came home right away and had dinner with my host family– black bean noodles were on the menu. I did not do too much homework because I was tired and since tomorrow was Friday, I knew there was no rush to finish anything. 

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But looooook at this! When I got out of the bathroom after taking a shower, my host dog Andy was waiting for me!! This was too adorable for me not to take a photo of! Anyway…

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01/25/19 Friday

Katie and I met up early at 홍대 with the goal of withdrawing some money because we both have officially accepted the fact that it is winter break and we will have to spend more money than our stipend no matter how much it hurts our cheap hearts. Katie met up with me a little late so we did not have time to take our usual 10 ish minute trek to the Citibank ATM. Instead, we wandered around hoping to see a non-sketchy looking ATM closer to the subway station and we did! This whole time there has been a 신한은행 (Shinhan Bank, my favorite bank might I add…sorry 하나은행… I have no experience with your ATMs so….) right by exit 3! And we had no idea! Well, next time, we will know! Now we can more easily get cash to feed our poor spending habits.

Anyway, we met up with our supporter 혜린언니 and walked to the Hmart Express near the Better World office in order to buy daily supplies for the single mothers and children we would be visiting at the shelter the very same day. We ended up buying two shampoo bottles, six adult tubes of toothpaste, 3 children tubes of toothpaste, and a couple bars of soap. After purchasing everything, we left to go have lunch at this ramen place we tried going to the other day when Josh joined us for lunch.

Luckily, this time, it was open! We all ordered the same thing and got to enjoy some really high-quality ramen while enjoying each other’s company. Katie and I have been speaking more Korean with our supporter which is always good. This lunch was a really good example of it because I noticed the times when Katie and I would switch back and forth between the two languages depending on the subject at hand. I also found myself saying some things just to be able to use recently studied grammar points so go me for putting what I learn into my daily conversations!

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We walked from the ramen shop to the shelter for single mothers which was only a 10-minute walk from exit 4 of the subway station. We originally planned to do some actual volunteering there but that is going to be rescheduled for another day and possibly a different shelter that needs more help. At this place, we were just brought into the office by one of the women that ran the shelter and we had a casual interview type conversation about single mothers in Korea and their lives. She basically restated many of the same points that our interviewee on Wednesday said but with a bit more detail on different subjects (Also, her Korean was a bit more manageable to understand I will say). One thing that she talked about more was the psychological support the women and children get at the shelter which really interested me because I also know that mental health can be a bit of a taboo and really personal topic in Korea (while it feels a bit more accepted by western countries specifically America).

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We were then given a tour of the shelter and I was a bit surprised by how nice it was. It kind of reminded me of a college dorm with a common eating area, shared bathrooms on each floor, and separate single rooms for the mothers and their children. There is a kitchen but meals are not provided at the shelter. The moms are given that space to cook for themselves and their children with the food they purchase with their own working money. While we were there, most of the single moms were at work or out while the kids were at 학원 or daycare (어린이집). There was one mother and daughter who popped their heads out of their doorways and said hello to us. The daughter was not feeling well so they stayed home that day. At this shelter, the maximum amount of time they can stay is one year.

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After our visit concluded, Katie and I said goodbye to 혜린언니 and went to go hang out at this book/cartoon cafe that I found on a Youtube video. The place is called 놀숲 (I guess it kind of translates to “play forest”) and you pay by the hour to stay and the drink is included in the price. Katie and I both paid for 3 hours (and a drink) which came out to be about 10 dollars per person. The place is really cute because there are cubbies with blankets and pillows and even tents up on this lofted area. Around the bookcases, there are also normal desks with comfy seats in case you want to read or study (sitting up). The place also sells snacks (like chips, candy, etc) and actual food (떡볶이, 라면, 파스타, etc) and has a PC room in the back– which I would prob never use but it is cool that this place offers so much!

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We were productive with our time for almost two hours and then we started watching a very interesting movie… we had to shut it off about 50 minutes in because it was too much for one sitting aha maybe we will finish it another day? We walked around 홍대 for a bit (Katie and I shared some of those candied strawberries. They seem to be very popular lately! I guess strawberries are in season now~). Also, something a bit strange happened. These guys stopped us both and asked if they could interview us about cultural differences between America and Korea. We concluded that they were not a part of a cult so we went for it; it was a good experience to practice Korean at least.

I came home early to have dinner with my host family and we talked about some pretty serious topics? It was pretty interesting… For example, my host sister was showing me the world map they have in the living room with stickers and writing on places that they have been to and want to go to. They have written the names of people they have met on their respective hometowns too which was really cute. After showing me everything, my older host sister even put my name up on the map! She circled Chicago and wrote my hometown–Lemont– on it and my name with a heart next to it ❤ When we were looking at the American part of the map, my host sister told me she wanted to go to the Grand Canyon but is scared to go because of the recent news. I was shocked and was like “What news?” 

Apparently, there was a Korean exchange student that went to the Grand Canyon and actually fell off. He did not die but is only alive due to life support–brain dead. He broke like almost all of his limbs and the fact that he is staying in an American hospital for an extended period of time means that his family is racking up the medical bills…. I can imagine how crazy the costs seem to Koreans because people literally go to hospitals here for the common cold (I am not kidding) and the costs for visiting a doctor are next to nothing (in comparison to American healthcare). This family needs to pay about 3,000,000,000 dollars to be able to bring their son back to South Korea from America… you can see how that is not an easy thing to do. There is also a lot of controversy about this situation in the nation because the family is trying to raise money to bring their son back home. My host sister told me that some people believe that it was the boy’s fault for taking that risk to go to such a ‘dangerous’ place.

We also talked about allergies and the deaths that have come about because of that (I know… some very strange things to bring up in a conversation during/after dinner.) My host sisters found it pretty funny that I had a lot of experiences having certain nuts for the first time here in Korea because both my mom and twin brother are allergic (very badly) to all nuts. So I was never exposed to them at home (and did not really have any desire to eat them outside).

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What was this pastry my host mom gave me? I have no idea…

After dinner, I worked on my workbook and wrote some blog posts. I gave up on doing any other studying to allow myself some time to relax and binge watch tons of Youtube videos. I had plans to visit my old host family the next day so I went to bed early to have the energy to deal with my energetic siblings!

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

01/23/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My host mom brought strawberries to my room~ ❤

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

  • Emma 엠마

Impromptu Project Meeting & Trying Donkatsu for the First Time {01/22/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/22/19 Tuesday

This week we were not having any official supporter meeting plans for working on our project but we wanted to make sure that we got the interview questions down for tomorrow so we decided to meet up at an Ediyas near Better World. Our meeting time was pretty early but not as early as our normal meeting time so I decided to still leave the house at the same time. I did not want my host mom worrying about making me breakfast. I went to study and finish my homework at a cafe. 

I went to Blanc Bakery at 9:30, bought a small blueberry muffin for less than three dollars and then spent almost 2 hours memorizing vocab words and answering questions from our debate in class today {The topic was a no-kill shelter putting down dogs here in Korea}. Katie joined me a bit before 10:30 and we worked until we had to meet our supporter at 11am. 

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With our supporter, at Ediyas, we just went through the interview questions we wrote and practiced saying them–making sure we knew what they (sorta) meant and how to pronounce every last word. We also wrote an introduction and conclusion for the interview. We only were at the cafe for about an hour, but we got a lot of work done–and had time to goof off and just talk. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom but it was outside of the cafe (in the lobby type area of the entire building) which took some courage from me to go find. (I know… that should not be a difficult thing to do but I am just the anxious type about everything!) However, when I went and typed the passcode into the lock pad the bathroom door, I could not get the door to open. Eventually, I typed in the code too many times that it started beeping so I just ran back to our table in defeat and proceeded to tell them how inadequate I am. Katie, being the amazing friend she is, took me to the bathroom and showed me how to open the door. Apparently, I was supposed to close the cover of the lock on the door before opening the door so that the code would process which makes so much sense but… when you need to do the deed, sometimes you cannot think. (That is what I will blame it on.)

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After we finished practicing, we once again separated ways. Katie came to study at the center for a bit but then I went with Shada to get lunch with Jacquelyn and Jenna while Katie walked back to Better World to study some more before class. We planned to, at first, go to this small shop called “Cheese Mania” to get grilled cheese for lunch but halfway there, I pointed out this really good 돈까스 place that Kaitlyn took Alix, Katie, and me to during the beginning of the program. With that comment, Shada exclaims “I have never had 돈까스 before.” At that moment, we knew where we would be eating. We all ordered the same thing at this restaurant: 치즈 돈까스. When we all sat down, we gave each other the eyes because the guy behind the counter in the kitchen was extremely attractive. We joked about it for a bit.

Korean class today was really slow. We spent one hour just doing reading and listening passages from the textbook while the second hour was Josh’s presentation on the influence of 유교 on Korean culture and just chatting about a variety of topics. 민정쌤 came to observe our class during the last period in which we just went over the vocab words from the new chapter. The theme was words with the prefix 맨 which means bare–mostly. For example, 맨밥 means just plain rice and 맨발 means barefoot. Our teacher was giving us an example of 맨몸 which to us looked like it was going to be just naked but the she starts her sentence with “When you fight with someone” and we were all looking so confused. She goes on to explain a situation in which you are fighting someone with no weapons–just your hands, and we all burst out laughing. We all were laughing because this whole time we thought she meant someone fighting while naked until she got to the point about having no weapons. 민정쌤 also began to laugh when she realized what we thought.

After class, I just went home right away so I ate dinner with my host mom. My older host sister was not feeling well and the younger one was not hungry so it was just us two. I told her about my interview tomorrow and how nervous I was!! I spent the rest of the night working on my workbook pages and studying some grammar. I went to bed kind of early to feel well rested for tomorrow~

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Delicious dinner made by my host mom ❤

I was going to combine today with tomorrow since I assumed this blog post would be quite short but I think I underestimated how much I would describe Korean class today… So I guess Tuesday gets its own day! Yay~ Anyway, thanks for reading this blog post~ Catch you on the next one!

  • Emma 엠마

Mid-way Project Meeting, Mint Cafe, & Practice Topik Test {01/20-21/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/20/19 Sunday

I definitely value the chill relaxing days sprinkled in between a tedious routine or busy, hectic days; however, I hate staying home all day when I’m trying to be productive. If I have no plans to study, then it’s great! But if I actually really need to get some work done, after a while I feel suffocated and cramped at home which leads me to start getting distracted over the smallest of things. Due to this lovely trait of mine, I think that going out to a cafe to study is always a good decision. Luckily for me, Josh was free on Sunday and so we met up at a nearby station of ours—풍산역—to go on a study grind! Instead of walking towards cafe village {think farmland!}, we went through the other exit and walked down streets that reminded me a lot of the Bronx. At first, we thought we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere to go but after walking a few blocks, we saw a bunch of cute, quirky cafes. They all looked pretty cool especially because they were not chain cafes {those are good but sometimes you want a unique experience!} 

We decided to go to this place called “Beans High Coffee” that had a lot of large table seating {4 seater tables} so it had the perfect environment for studying. The decorations seemed to focus on travels and lots of books. There was also a strange display of crocheted dolls? Maybe a hobby of the owners? Anyways, I ordered my usual green tea latte and the barista seemed nicer than the ones at other places. {He seemed genuine if that makes sense. Maybe cause it was obvious that this wasn’t his part-time job or anything} He told me that they closed at 6:30 today before I ordered which I thought was considerate and since I understood it, it put me in a good mood not gonna lie. Josh, the coffee snob that he is, ordered some Columbian bean roasted coffee or something of that nature. Something fancy!

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We studied there for about two and a half hours and I got a good amount of work done. There are some people that say they will come to a cafe to study with you but don’t actually end up wanting to study. Instead, they want to talk or goof off. Josh is the type that will take breaks every now and then to talk but knows when to just work. AKA He is a really good study buddy! At the cafe, I finished my writing assignment about a person I respect {I chose my mom!} and I was able to start on memorizing vocab words on Quizlet. 

When I was just about to separate from Josh, I got a text from my host mom telling me that everyone had plans tonight so I would need to grab dinner for myself; she left money in my room to do so. I ended up going to the 편의점 to buy 김밥 and snacks and then went to Olive Young to buy makeup wipes {a dinner unrelated errand}. I felt kind of free after finishing my writing assignment so I relaxed and ate my dinner for a bit before finishing memorizing my Quizlet words. 

01/21/19 Monday 

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View from my room in the morning ❤

Usually, we don’t have any schedules before Korean classes on Mondays but today was a little different: we would be having a mid-way meeting at Better World for our research project. When making my way to Better World, I exited the station from exit 3 since it was a closer walk and ended up running into Shada and Jenna. I saw them across the street and yelled their names; however, the non-green crosswalk signs kept us from meeting so that is what brought about these photos: 

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The meeting ended up starting a bit behind schedule because a couple people were late which put some people (cough cough the teachers) in a bad mood—understandable honestly. The meeting just consisted of the 쌤s checking up with us and making sure we realize that the project should already be halfway done by now. This was also an opportunity for each of the groups to present about their projects so far and get feedback for what they are doing. 

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I was so nervous to present about our project but it didn’t seem that we received too much criticism from the 쌤s. They thought that we should include that we were specifically doing a presentation on Korean single mothers {in case it wasn’t obvious to others…} but other than that, they just wanted us to finalize interview questions and such. It was easier than I thought it would be! 

After everyone presented about their topics, we went through a schedule of things to do for the upcoming meetings and then we ended for lunch. My supporter 혜린언니, Katie, and I went out for lunch at Flapjack Pantry… honestly, when are we not there? I feel like either we are eating 편의점 김밥 or you can find us eating pancakes at Flapjack Pantry. Lunch was a lot of fun~~ We didn’t have to worry about our project at this time; we were just able to relax! 

After we stuffed ourselves with carbs, we separated to go off to Korean class. While walking with 혜린언니 back to the subway station {well me to the center where my classes our held}, I talked to her all about life at 하나고. We had an especially long conversation about school uniforms as I complained about the stares and whispers I get. She told me that she also has gotten mad at her boyfriend for whispering about a foreigner before because you never know if they will understand. Though, I feel that it’s not wrong just when the foreigner can understand Korean.. it is kinda rude in general. 

Anyway, class today was really fast-paced. We ended up learning a full chapter of grammar points in one day which honestly made my head spin. They were not exactly too difficult but I felt like I needed more time to practice them so that I could use them naturally because I was still somewhat struggling when our teacher would ask me to make example sentences. In particular, there was one grammar point that we only gave like 10 or 15 minutes to. We had to rush to cover it at the end of class but … wow, I could not understand it very well. 

Another part of class was spent getting back and looking over our Topik tests. I was really pleasantly surprised… I mean technically I got like a C in both reading and listening but hey that’s honestly not that bad if you consider the fact that there are also questions on there for level 6 speakers who are considered fluent. My short writing score was not too good but the longer one was 40/50 points which made me really proud! My teacher said that I need to work on diversifying my grammar and using more advanced vocabulary, but she also did mention that my writing was the most understandable? Or like the content itself was? And I was able to convey my thoughts more coherently? Or something like that? Honestly, I was glad she could still throw in a compliment to me. 

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Though I do know I need to take more practice tests because for this one, I didn’t time myself while taking it. So it cannot really be an accurate representation of what I would have done. However, after adding up all the points, I was at level 4!!! When I was first adding up the numbers, I missed one of the tests and thought I just got 120 something points which was lower than a level 3 which made me want to cry for a quick second but then I saw that I was actually like 40 ish points above level 4 {but like 200 away from level 5…I will need to study more!} 

It would be a dream to be able to improve enough by April to get to level 5… would that ever be possible? But I am happy with level 4 I will say~ 

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After class, I met up again with Katie and we decided to go to this cafe called Mint Heim. Earlier in the program, Liam and Jacquelyn went together and since then, I’ve been wanting to go. Recently, I watched a YouTube video that showed where it was and I realized that it was so easy to get there! 

Everything at this cafe is mint themed: the drinks, the desserts, the decor, and even the building! We hung out there for a couple hours studying and just chilling—enjoying our drinks that HIGHLY resembled toothpaste. 

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Well, that is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ Till next time!!! 

  • Emma 엠마

Lunch with Supporters, Outback Steakhouse, and Improving in Korean (01/10-11/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/10/19 Thursday

On Thursday I woke up early again and ate breakfast alone as my host family tends to wake up after I leave the house for my daily activities. Like every morning, I woke up and was greeted by my host dog 앤디 who immediately started wagging his tail when he saw me and turned onto his stomach in order to be petted by me. Honestly, getting up in the morning is hard but seeing him always brightens my day.

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During the supporter/project meeting today (My instinct keeps wanting me to call our meetings supporter meetings because that is what we called them during the summer program but because of the project… that name does not seem right.), we got down to business. We assigned each member of the group a part of the research to do (For example, I was supposed to focus on statistics and policies implemented by the government.) and we fixed the project proposal to fit the suggestions that 민정쌤 made to us. It was a very productive meeting indeed!

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After the meeting, I joined a large group of NSLI-Y students and supporters to go out for lunch. We decided to go eat some baked fried chicken (Confusing… yes. But there were signs all over the place with information on how the chicken was healthier than normal fried chicken.) but when we first got to the restaurant, it had just opened and the worker did not want a large group coming in because he was working by himself. Everyone complained about it for a bit but eventually, one group left to go to a coin 노래방 while the rest of us went inside to order first. We got two orders of chicken: one spicy and one original style. However, the spicy chicken was literally the spiciest thing I have eaten in a long time! I have had 김치 less spicy than that chicken. Because of the taste, a lot of people refused to eat it so Jaquelyn and I teamed up (with plenty of water) to take on the chicken so it would not be wasted. Lunch was fun because I was able to talk with more of the NSLI-Yians I have not seen in a while (since we have not been in class) as well as the supporters I have yet to have an interaction with. Hopefully, between our supporter meetings and classes, we can have more opportunities to go out for lunch together!

Again, like the last post (I am writing this post quite a few days after this day happened), I do not remember much of the rest of the day since I have no pictures from after lunch. However, one thing that did happen was that we were emailed our feedback and grades from our December unit test. I was really nervous to look at it but I didn’t really have any expectations because I assumed I would see my lower grades on both the writing and reading test (in comparison to my previous tests) as well as the same OPI Score: Intermediate Mid 1. However, I was wrong!!! (Well, the lower scores were high key spot on…) But… I actually moved up in my OPI level! My teacher said that both my way of speaking/expressing myself (verbally and in my writing too actually) and my vocabulary has greatly expanded which made me deserving of the level change. So now, your girl is at Mid 2! I could not be any happier. This really came at a good time because I think that it was the confidence boost that I really needed. I know from now on, it is going to be extremely difficult for me to move up to Intermediate Mid 3 and these months till then will be hard but I will study hard to get there. I am not sure if I said this on here (or if I should because if I fail… I will be depressed…) but my goal by the end of the program is Advanced Low. That is 3 levels above where I am right now. Getting there in 4.5 months. Possible? Hopefully!

01/11/19 Friday

There were no program activities scheduled on Friday, so I decided to plan a fun day hanging out around Seoul with Kaitlyn. We really wanted to go and get some good pasta at Olive Garden (I thought I found one near 경복궁 when I visited there with 수진언니) but I could not find the original one where I thought it was located, so we tried following Kakao maps. This Olive Garden–although it showed up on Kakao Maps–did not exist! We walked around the right building and even checked the address but it was not there. As we started walking back to the subway station, we spotted an Outback Steakhouse. I have never been to one of these restaurants in America but I really wanted pasta–American style food in general.

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Getting creative with Korean fashion~

Everything there was so expensive! I am talking $22 meal expensive but I guess the portion size of pasta was huge and we got a side of really delicious mushroom cheese soup and some bread. And I am assuming the prices are the same back home in America too, right? The lunch with Kaitlyn was fun but also very embarrassing because I made a fool out of myself in front of the waiters. I told them we could speak Korean so that they would not speak to us in English but then this prompted the waiter to speak so quickly with us and wow, it was difficult to understand him explaining the different parts of the meal.

At the end of the meal, a different waiter came up to ask us if we wanted a take-home box or refills and it took me a good long minute to figure out what he said, which led me to stare at him blankly for a bit. And then (to continue the mess that was my Korean abilities this day) when we got up to pay at the counter, the host asked if we were ready to pay or something along the lines of that and I literally replied with “no.” I misheard him and assumed he asked me if we were paying separately so I replied with no while handing him cash to pay for the meal. He looked at me so strangely but accepted the money and we were on our way. As soon as the doors closed and we had left the restaurant, I could not help but laugh and low key scream at myself for being so stupid.

We also went to a Tous Les Jours Cafe for a bit and just chatted. We talked about the CEP projects, getting back into the swing of Korean classes, as well as the recent OPI scores. I have never been to one of the cafes that are built into a Tous Les Jours or a Paris Baguette and I have to say it was nice. Like a normal cafe, you can get drinks but then there is a large variety of sweet and savory pastries and food to munch on while there. After spending some time near 서대문역 for a bit, we returned to 홍대 in order to pick up a package for Kaitlyn at Better World. We walked around the main streets for a bit and watched some busking, did some shopping, etc.

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I came home early to eat dinner with my host family and I also hung out with our host dog for a bit. I started some of my homework but only got a few workbook pages done. I was tired from walking around the whole day and just wanted to relax for the rest of the night.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading~ I feel that this winter break is going to be really great~ I find that doing this project is the kind of academic activity I have been missing and I hope that I can truly make more strides in my Korean language learning journey during these two months. Additionally, with more free time, I hope I can do more fun things! Subscribe to my blog for more!

  • Emma 엠마