So… I did a little thing. While I was studying abroad in Korea with NSLI-Y for a full year (2018-2019), I filmed short video clips every single day with my tiny, almost non-functioning iPod Touch. Some of these videos were one second long but others were closer to 3-6 seconds to be honest… As the year went on, it was harder and harder to decide what exact clips to include in the video compilation.
At our end of the year graduation ceremony, we had a ‘talent segment’ or something along the lines of that and since I have no creative nor worthwhile talents, I decided to just give a short speech in Korean and then filled the rest of the time with my video! So please enjoy:
안녕하세요 여러분~ 한국에서 썼던 모든 글을 아직 안 올렸는데 오늘은 다른걸 하기로 했다. 미국에 돌아온지 2달 전에는 저와 느슬리 학생들이 우리 유학 생활에 대한 반성을 써야 하고 나서 더나은 세상 조직이 우리 생각을 수집해서 어떤 책을 만들었다. 며칠 전에 방을 봄청소하기 위해서 정리하다가 저의 책을 찾았다! 당연히 브로그 글을 읽어 보다 보면 제가 유학 동안 재미있는 추억을 만들고 고생을 껵은 것을 잘 알 것 같은데 그외에 제가 경험이 얼마나 특별한지 표현하기가 너무 어렵다. 경험이 말로 못할 만큼 특별했는데도 이 반성은 자랑스럽다. 그리고 여기까지 보시다시피 제 브로그 글의 대부분은 영어로 쓰기는 했지만 이따금 한국어를 쓰지 않다면 모든 것을 잊어버리다는 것이 당연하다. (사실 솔직히 말하면 벌써 한국어 실력이 완전히 떨어졌다ㅜㅜ 아직 잘 한척하고 있는데 강한 자신감이 필수다!) 그런데! 이 반성은 영어로 쓰여져 있다 ㅋㅋ 재미있게 읽으시길 바랍니다~
Hi Everyone~ I still haven’t uploaded all of the blog posts I wrote in Korea just yet but today I decided to do something a little different. 2 months before returning to the states (back in 2019), the NSLI-Y students and I had to write reflections on our study abroad experiences, and then Better World compiled those writings and made a sort of book. The other day I was cleaning my room for those ~spring cleaning~ vibes and while organizing, I found my copy! Of course, if you read my blogs, you can get a good sense of all the fun memories I have made and even the struggles I have faced while studying abroad but besides that, expressing just how valuable of a experience this was to me is quite difficult. Although I cannot express these feelings in any amount of words, I am proud of what I detailed in my reflection. And as you can see thus far, most of my blog posts are written in English but if I do not practice my Korean every now and then, I will definitely forget everything! (Actually if I am being honest, my Korean skills have already plummeted…I am just pretending to be good. Confidence is KEY!) But this reflection is written in English. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy reading~ Thanks!
(P.S. Added Photos to Make it Fun!)
Emma’s NSLI-Y Korea AY Program Reflection:
My Greatest Endeavor Yet
An electronic voice declares that we have reached 연서시장 before the bus abruptly comes to a stop. After catching my balance and tapping my T-Money card, I hop off the bus– my nose immediately being greeted by the smell of raw fish. The bus ride turned into the hustle and bustle of a Korean market at a moment’s notice. Shopkeepers yell out competing prices as the smell of greasy yet delicious 분식 tempts the taste buds of every passerby. Katie and I find our favorite stall and are greeted with the warm, contagious smile of the vendor. We order 떡볶이 and 튀김 and immediately begin filling up cups with 오뎅국물– a habit that can be considered second nature to us by now.
Before I studied abroad, I heard the phrase “Study Abroad Will Change Your Life” countless times. Everyone seems to mutually agree that this experience you are about to embark on will be unforgettable and life-changing… which can be kind of intimidating: trying to imagine how something can affect you to such a great extent before it has even happened. Now that the NSLI-Y program is coming to an end, I have come to the realization that this statement appeared so daunting because I viewed study abroad as one big thing; however, rather than solely one event, it is the experiences and little moments that culminated into something overarching.
Through this program, I have learned to be independent, resourceful, self-motivated, more confident, and even how to (somewhat) budget money. But excluding all of that, I am most thankful for the way that this experience has enabled me to appreciate the little things in life–and not take even everyday things for granted.
Especially when things would become too overwhelming and frustrating. There were plenty of occasions during these 9 months that left me feeling defeated and dejected. Times when my efforts to learn Korean seemed futile or when the yearning to return home became too much. Tears were shed, and at times, I even wished that I had started college right away and chosen a normal path. Nonetheless, I was able to overcome all of these things by focusing on the present, on what was happening in front of me: the things I should be grateful for.
I focused on the way my host siblings would barge into my room while I was studying hoping to steal my attention for just a few moments, the way my host mom would prepare me snacks and tea when she thought I needed an extra boost of energy, the way my friends at 하나고 would come to class early and save me seats with their textbooks to make sure that we could sit together, the way my NSLI-Y cohort could get me to erupt in laughter for seemingly stupid things, and the way my older host sister would put pieces of meat in my rice bowl to make sure that I was getting enough food to eat.
I focused on the smiles and warm welcomes of the workers from my most visited hole-in-the-wall café, 편의점, Twosome Place, and 녹차호떡 stand; the laughing fits that I would get into during lunch time with my group of high school friends that would sometimes prevent me from being able to finish all my food; the licks to my face from my host dog every single day I walked in through the door after being away for a little too long; the wonderful feeling of satisfaction after successfully utilizing a newly learned grammar point or a difficult vocab word in conversation with a Korean person; the beautiful natural and manmade scenery of places all throughout Seoul (and even a bit beyond); the after monthly-test waffle tradition that perfectly satisfied my sweet tooth while allowing me to stay salty enough to rant; the sprints to the 편의점 during class breaks to buy ice cream or whatever other snacks we were feeling that day; and the nights ending with raw, sore throats from spending too much time, talking, screaming, or singing with all my friends.
I focused on every seemingly trivial conversation, every tangent in Korean class, every cultural excursion, every by chance meeting, every major milestone, and every comfort-zone-tested moment.
And just like the final drops of 오뎅국물–straight from a plastic cup and all– I will cherish every remaining moment in Korea.
Having devoured all of our lunch, we say goodbye to the stall vendor and make our way out of the winding market back to the subway station. Soon enough I will take the subway home from 하나고 for the last time amongst many other final moments, and I know these lasts will be met with many tears; however, I find comfort that these tears do not come from a place of regret. They come from a place of utter gratefulness for being given this unforgettable and life-changing opportunity.
Woke up in our 한옥 (traditional Korean house) the morning of our last day in Gyeongju. Despite having slept on the floor and the chilly nighttime temperatures, I slept so soundly. Perhaps all the tears from the previous night helped with that since I feel like sleep after a good cry can rival anything. We all woke up rather early and got ready for another day with a planned-out agenda by Better World although 민정쌤 had said we would be having some free time after lunch to explore the area near where we slept, do some souvenir shopping, etc.
The outfit I chose for the day actually matched our 한옥 perfectly so Addie offered to take some photos of me with her professional Canon camera and I will forever cherish these photos and have changed all my profile photos!
For breakfast, we were handed out pastries from a local bakery as well as fruit pies from McDonald’s for breakfast? I was a little confused because these fruit pies are most likely filled with so much sugar and are 100% considered dessert to me but hey, it was still tasty–processed or not. It was a nice, quick breakfast on the bus!
Our first stop of the day was a historical center in which Better World had rented out a room with projector capabilities in order to have a pre-departure/re-entry orientation for heading back to America. This was a very depressing time of the trip because I would have much rather allowed myself to be distracted by new and engaging activities and not discussing our impending return to the states. We of course had to talk about the infamous W curve which illustrates the roller coaster of emotions common to the plight of an exchange student. Of course, this curve does not only apply to time in one’s host country but also when returning to one’s home community and culture.
We discussed that it would be quite normal to experience a period of adjustment in which we may feel shock or conflicting feelings about being home and having to readjust to our previous lives after having experienced so much. We talked about how isolating may feel like one of the only options after feeling like a changed person but being placed back into an environment that is the same (and yet at the same time, so different). I was sitting next to Kaitlyn during this presentation and we also mentioned how the thought of returning kind of feels like water displacement–like when you get into a tub. You might have perfectly fit in the bath before but after returning and trying to re-familiarize yourself with this old life (old bath water? Ugh this simile…), clearly, things cannot help but shift and change.
We also were handed back these little goal sheets that we had filled out at our very first orientation and the one we had over winter break. We were given a new half sheet of paper that had a little drawing of a man in an airplane. We were instructed to write the things that will be hard to leave behind, our contributions to the NSLI-Y program as a whole and what we are most looking forward to upon arriving home.
I will include a picture of what I wrote but I did want to highlight what I was looking forward to about returning to my cozy Chicago suburb because I was, in fact, homesick.
Seeing my best friends (Kara, Courtney, Brianna, Jazmin, Grace!! I have missed you guys!!!)
Hugging my mom (I could cry just thinking about it honestly. Never have I ever cherished my family more)
Pizza & Pancakes (What can I say… I am a simple girl and a foodie)
Not feeling lost, uncomfortable, misunderstood 24/7 (I try to be as positive as I can but I would be lying if I said living in Korea–as a foreigner–was a walk in the park)
College (Just like how Korea had been a long-held dream of mine, so has been attending college at my dream school in NYC!)
Thinking about these things and the countless other things that I could not write out (sorry to my brothers if they are reading this..) did help me put into perspective that all good things must come to an end so even better things can occur in the future.
The meeting was pretty serious but Kaitlyn and I still found time to goof around like when she stole my phone and started taking photos hehe compiled here for your viewing pleasure.
After our final orientation was over, it was lunchtime and we got back on the bus to return to the area around our accommodation which was close to a very popular shopping street in Gyeongju known as 황리단길 (Hwangnidan-gil or Hwangnidan Street) which is famous for the 한옥 architecture of many family homes or guest houses and very lovely cafes and boutiques to add to the atmosphere.
Luckily the weather was better today (no rain!! My rain dance this morning worked!!) but it was still quite cloudy so the sky was dark but it was still nice to be able to walk around without the hindrance of umbrellas and those icky ponchos. For lunch, we came to this restaurant that seemed to be a couple smaller buildings/private rooms all a part of this one place so we were able to be separated from the others. The restaurant was also all 한옥 structure so maybe that was why the buildings were separated as we walked through a sort of courtyard/common area of the house. The greenery in this restaurant was also insane and so so beautiful! As for the meal, we had what my first host dad would have called a 진수성찬 (Korean word for feast). I am not sure if this has been a story I changed before but this was a word my host dad taught me back in September for 추석 (Korean Harvest Holiday/Thanksgiving) and it has stuck with me ever since. Everytime I have a big meal–this word pops in my mind.
Once we were stuffed beyond our stomachs’ capacities, we got free time to walk around and explore. I mostly followed Harmony and Kaitlyn back and forth to different shops and boutiques. The window displays of every single building we passed by was so expertly curated that I wanted to go into every store! There was this one stationary store that we visited which I really had to hold myself back because I honestly could have convinced myself to buy so many things for the prospect of making my scrapbook beautiful (Yes, I scrapbook and yes I will dedicate an entire book for this year~ Stay tuned for a post about it!)
I ended up buying a couple of postcards/art print and washi tape with illustrations of the historical locations of 경주 as well as two pairs of earrings because there was a sale. Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I also took some sticker photos to commemorate this trip!
And would it really be an excursions with NSLI-Yians if there were not any group photos?
Eventually, it was time to return to the station and I ended up buying a box of 황남 빵 (Hwangnam Bread) or 경주 빵 (Gyeongju Bread) which is a speciality pastry of this city filled with red bean paste. I was intending to study Korean on the KTX ride home but… I fell asleep instead… what can I say, traveling is exhausting! I remember returning to my host family this night and showing off the souvenirs I bought before literally falling asleep through dinner. I later had a late night meal of ramen with my younger host sister as I stayed up, cramming for my Korean final tomorrow. Oh, how I love being a student.
Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading~ Next post will be quite exciting because although I am taking my final test, I will also be spending the day with my Korean class and teacher and visiting some old, familiar faces from the first time I had ever been to Korea~ 기대주세용
P.S. Also something fun for the kids in my NSLI-Y Cohort~
The rain did not let up as we ascended the mountain and continued on our path to visit Bulguksa Temple (불국사). Maybe because we were not so high up nor were we surrounded by such sigh trees and thick fog, the rain felt a lot calmer on the temple grounds. We walked around, ducking under anything to give a temporary refuge from the rain, and took lots of group photos because 민정쌤 was not going to let us get away with not taking any photos even with the weather conditions.
In front of the main hall of the temple, the two ‘hallways’ (if you can call them that) or more like open-air pathways with a overhead covering (Slowly forgetting how to sound coherent even in English…) that extended on either side of the main building had many many lanterns hanging above our heads. I believe there were so many because the Korean holiday of Buddha’s birthday was a few days earlier so usually there isn’t as much color as we saw.
One of our group photos was taken in front of the one of the twin pagodas that are considered national treasures. The specific one in these photos is called 다보탑 (Dabotap Pagoda) which is considered to be the more masculine one of the two? I am no expert in architecture and design but honestly… I do not really understand. Is it cause of the sharper angles? The shapes? Someone please explain…
We also visited the Hall of Supreme Hall of Bliss (극낙전) which is most famously known for the small golden pig statue that is resurrected in the front of the structure. I was really excited about this because as you may or may not know, my favorite animal is the pig and 2019 is actually the year of the pig! How fitting! 민정쌤 said that in Korean culture, pigs are seen as a creature that can bring good fortune and wealth and if you rub the statue (~superstition~), you too can become lucky! Do not doubt… I also rubbed the pig’s nose and behind his ears–I thought he’d like that.
After walking around and exploring for some time, we stumbled upon the souvenir store and right next to it, a traditional tea house (불국다원 전통찻집) which was halfway outdoors–not the best during this weather; however, I can only imagine how close to nature you would feel when drinking tea outside like that. I ended up ordering 냉오미자 (Cold Five Flavor Berry Tea) which is definitely one of the more traditional tea flavors, getting its name from the 5 different flavor profiles it apparently possesses. I cannot say that my tongue is skilled enough to distinguish such refined tastes but Kaitlyn (who brags about being a supertaster with more taste buds than the average person) agrees to its name.
The rain eventually came to a standstill and we got back on the bus and traveled to our accommodation so we could change out of our wet clothes and put our bags away and rest up a bit before leaving to have dinner which would be MEAT!!
For our only night in 경주, we would be staying in a traditional Korean style house (한옥) where we would also be sleeping on the floor in futon style mattress pads and blankets. The room the girls were staying in was quite big and even included a loft which Katie and I could not pass sleeping in (We love lofts! Always our first choice!) We hung up our wet clothes to dry around the room and sprawled across the floor to rest our tired, sore legs. I had gotten a hole in my poncho so I also gave it a farewell ceremony into the trash.
When dinnertime rolled around, we all walked to the restaurant we would be eating at and Better World was gracious enough to buy us all meat! And not just any old meat, meat that we would be grilling ourselves. Once again we split up into three separate groups sitting at a long table with our respective grilling units. I sat with 민정쌤, 소영쌤, Addie, Jacquelyn, and Jenna. We ate so well and stuffed our faces with as much garlic lettuce wraps filled with meat as we possibly could. It was a nice way to end the night–or we thought. After eating, we were surprised with one more thing on our agenda for the day: visiting a palace!
By the time we arrived at the palace (동궁), the night was well set in so there was no light in the sky but luckily the castle grounds were open until late and there were lots of lights to illuminate all the structures and reflect on the pool surrounding the castle (월지) and the weather was only slightly chilly. It was a nice, early summer evening and lots of people were actually out and about too. I mostly stayed with Harmony and Kaitlyn as we hopped around to the buildings throughout the area. The palace ground was not actually that big (in comparison to other ones I have been to–in Seoul too) and that is because most of it was burnt to the ground. There was also a lot of natural bamboo growing alongside the perimeter which is always a plant I enjoy seeing up close.
At the end of the night, we took a group photo and then were told to all get in to taxis to make our way back to the house we were staying at because it was now pretty far from the palace and since it was late at night and dark, walking was not allowed. The 쌤s rode with some of us but others had to get in their own taxis and tell the driver the right directions. In my car, we put Liam in charge of this and well… lets just say we did have some walking to do back but we made it–on time too! There was a slight problem with two stragglers who became seemingly lost and would not pick up 민정쌤’s calls (nor mine as I was told to call them as well). It was probably the most drama we had had all program and it was not even anything too exciting.
Once everyone had gotten back to our 한옥, the 쌤s had us all gather into the main, biggest room and randomly turned off all the lights. We were all confused at first until she started pulling out plastic candles out of her bag. They were the small tea lights (perhaps that’s the name for them?) or the tiny candles often used for vigils I think. She instructed us to all light our own candles and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room. In order to reflect on our time together and as an act of closing out our full year studying abroad in Korea. I would be shamefully lying if I said I did not cry multiple times throughout this little late night session.
We all went around the room and said whatever we were feeling and a lot of people found it very difficult to keep their emotions in check–including me. Literally, I found myself tearing up at every single person’s response and would try my best to stifle my sniffles and dry my tears but multiple times I was handed tissues from my fellow NSLI-Yians and Jacquelyn kept pointing out my inability to not be moved by the stories and sentiments being shared. When it came around to my turn to speak, I opened my mouth and all that came out was a depressing cry. I tried composing myself and basically discussed how besides for language improvement, the area I experienced the most growth in throughout this year was my confidence. I probably felt the most vulnerable in this moment but it felt nice being able to share this with the people who would probably understand my feelings the most in the entire world.
After we all shared our thoughts and said our goodbyes for the evening, I did feel a little empty. The little candle sharing session felt like an official end of a chapter and I was not ready for that. I was not ready to say goodbye. I thought I had been preparing myself to leave and I felt as ready as ever but now… I was not so sure. How can I say goodbye to all this? To all these people? To all these connections? At least this trip wasn’t over yet. We would have a great day tomorrow! That I could look forward to for sure~
And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it~ I hope this one was a bit more interesting since we were bopping around a lot of different places in 경주. Till next time~
How come it’s easier to wake up early in the morning when you are excited? I mean, I am not complaining but I always find myself practically springing up out of my bed when my neurons cannot stop firing with excitement (or nervousness for that matter) but then I’m literally the polar opposite of a morning person on every other day of a mundane week.
Today was an exciting day because it was day 1 of my graduation trip with my NSLI-Y Cohort! We were all a little bit disappointed at first because we would only be going on this trip for one night rather than going for 2박3일 (3 days and 2 nights) due to my class 3반 needing to be back Sunday night in order to take our Korean final Monday morning. And the reasoning behind our disappointment was plainly us wanting to spend more time together–especially as a group which always proves to be more difficult due to scheduling–which I find utterly wholesome. At this point of the year, we had exactly one week left in Korea and we all realized how precious each and every moment we had together truly was. (I am already tearing up just recollecting this trip!!!)
Anyways, on Saturday morning we all met up at the KTX station in 용산 which was luckily directly on my subway line so no need to transfer for me (celebrate the little victories aka having more uninterrupted naptime on the subway). There we embarked on our trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) which I had only read very little about in Korean class and from what I remembered, it was a very historical city seeing that it was the capital of the Silla Kingdom.
For breakfast, 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 prepared us all prepackaged boxed 김밥 (kimbap) in a variety of flavors: beef, tuna, etc and they bestowed the duty of carrying the box onto our lovely friend June. You may be questioning why I feel like this information is pertinent enough to be included in my telling of this trip as it seems like a very miniscule, easily overlooked detail and which, yes, it normally would be however this was not the case today. I had actually been filming us walking to the train platform and boarding the right train car for my 1 second a day video (I will make a separate post on this but it has been uploaded on Youtube already) and this clip included a blurb of June talking to me while holding the box of kimbaps BEFORE she dropped the box.
Yes, right before we got on the train, June tripped over herself or something and spilled the contents of the kimbap box on the floor. Luckily, only a few kimbaps exploded and were therefore inedible. So a major tragedy was avoided but Kaitlyn and I (the only ones behind June when this occurred) had to keep ourselves from peeing due to laughing so hard while helping pick everything up. And 민정쌤 of course also had some sassy remarks. But it all turned out okay! And definitely was not foreshadowing for a hectic trip! Not at all!
The train ride on the KTX (My first time riding it!! Next time, I will hopefully take it to Busan!!) took about 2 hours or so. I spent the majority of the time studying for my Korean final (as well as chatting with Kaitlyn, my seat buddy) which was a productive use of my time but it also made me quite anxious as I realized that I would have no time to adequately study during the trip–if I really wanted to enjoy myself with others. This made me worry about the impact this lack of time would have on my test performance. 소영쌤 saw me studying with all my colorful note-taking and praised me for still studying hard despite everything which did make me feel good. I decided to not let my anxieties ruin these final moments with the people I have grown to greatly cherish~
When we made it to the station, we exchanged our fast-moving silver power train for a classic Korean ‘party bus’ decorated with colorful fabrics and tassels and built-in karaoke mic set. For our trip, we would be having our own private bus driver take us to the sights because traveling with so many individuals could prove to be difficult and quite expensive.
Even though we had 김밥 for breakfast not too long ago, our first stop once we arrived to 경주 was to get some lunch. We came to a restaurant picked out by the 쌤s and we basically took up one entire half of the restaurant as we all sat at one long table. I sat with Harmony, Addie, and Jenna and we shared our own mini stove which kept our stew warm.
Honestly, I do not remember the name of anything we ate during that meal. There were a lot of side dishes and even this one plate of curious looking round patties of some kind. I cannot remember if they were made out of meat or vegetables… Despite the tastes not being too memorable, I know we devoured everything because we American teens can always eat and on vacation, anyone who is anyone develops a second or even third stomach. Addie, though, definitely fell into a food coma at the restaurant.
Back on the bus, I sat next to Harmony and with our full bellies, we both fell fast asleep when our heads hit the headrest. The sound of the rain’s pitter patter also did not help as its predictable rhythm lulled us, and many others, to sleep as our bus made its way through the heavily guarded forest and up a mountain towards our first historic site visit: 석굴암 석굴 (Seokguram Grotto).
Seokguram Grotto is an artificial, man-made grotto located on 토함산 (Mt. Toham) that makes up part of the temple complex of 불국사 (Bulguksa Temple) and is famous for being the home of a buddha statue. Getting up to this grotto is actually a little trek from the starting point (where the gate is and a few little shops at the entrance) as you literally do have to climb up the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit when the weather was equally as nice as the view. Instead, it was practically downpouring! I have not seen it rain so hard like that in a long time. Some of us had brought umbrellas while others were very unprepared. There were other groups of people on the mountain too and they were all wearing colorful ponchos and still hiking up to the top of the mountain. So, we did what the locals do and bought our own ponchos for the day.
Honestly, the weather kind of added to a more mystical feeling or ambience behind the hike. I tried taking some photos of the forest surrounding us and the fog was very intense. I felt like I was walking through a fairytale forest. There were also a lot of colorful lanterns hanging around and they were violently shaking around in the wind because it was not only rainy, but windy too. Umbrellas were almost ripped out of people’s hands. At the top of the mountain was a bit smaller than expected structure in which you could look into to see the famous Buddha statue. And this historical site is considered a UNESCO world heritage site (along with the accompanying temple). Being respectful, I did not take any photos of the actual structure but if you google it, you can find professional shots of what it looks like inside.
~ We did more this day but this post is already really long and the next few activities on the agenda have a lot of photos I have to go through so I am just gonna separate these posts for now. I hope you enjoyed this little rainy day travel blog post even though I feel like I literally documented nothing… But I promise the next one may be more informative with better (quality) photos as well. My phone was NOT waterproof, okay! Anyways, thanks for reading~
2nd. To. Last. Day. At. Korean. High School. I almost could not believe that time had passed by so quickly, but at the same time…hadn’t exactly done so smoothly or unnoticed. (I will reiterate sentiments along this line for probably every single post from this date forward as we count down to the impending departure date back to the states: you have been warned.)
Usually, at 하나고 the students get to wear their comfy/casual version of their uniforms to school (which consist of a jogger and matching sweater set) on the last two days of the week but because I knew it would be my final days there–and expected lots of photos to be taken–Katie and I agreed earlier that we would wear our full uniform: vest, long sleeve button down, ribbon/tie, and plaid skirt. (Of course forgoing our blazer because HELLO, May weather.) Waking up before 6 was never fun but on these final days, the alarm did not seem so menacing and the stillness of the apartment did not seem as lonely and stares from subway passengers did not seem so awkward. I guess your perception changes as routine turns into signing off.
As always, my first class for Thursdays was AP 미시경제 (AP Econ) and had a seat saved for me next to 서린 and I happily soaked in the final moments in that class. My teacher passed out a new note sheet for the day’s lecture and I of course took one despite the fact that I knew I would be zoning out today–millions of thoughts racing through my head. During the breaks or project-work time, I studied Korean. I was learning a couple advanced grammar points from our supplemental textbook because I really wanted to do well on this final and jump a level.
My next class was 한국사 and 임선생님 immediately smiled at me–with his 1,000 watt smile– when I walked into the class. I still remember him as one of the first teachers I met at this school and how kind he was and the fact that I told him his writing was hard to read on day 1…yeah, I still shudder at the thought of that. He knew that I recently spent his class working on homework or studying and he had encouraged me to continue to do so and would even occasionally come over to see what I was doing and ask about my work. I did not have anyone I was close to in this class but I felt silently supported by him with his huge grins and fervent nods.
For lunch this day, I decided to go in earlier so that I could eat with my friends were the 선배s of the school (seniors) aka the third years. This group included 세림 from AP Statistics last semester, 정민 whom I was currently taking 3학년 한국사 (3rd Year Korean History) with, and 지은 and 주연 from last semester’s English Mentorship 공강. I usually eat with my 2nd year friends or just with Katie so this was a nice change of pace to be able to truly talk with them more and say our final goodbyes too, of course. It was fun being able to goof off and talk altogether since they all happened to be a part of the same friend group which made coordinating quite easy~
We took selfies altogether because I of course would never want to forget their lovely faces! I love them so much and I do not think they will ever know how much every single of them as shaped my time here for the better (well, unless they are reading this… then 얘들아! 미국에 언제 와?? 보고 싶따아 ㅋㅋ)
After lunch, 지은 did not want me to leave yet so we went to the school store and got ice cream (well, she bought mine~~) and we linked arms and walked around the blooming campus while enjoying our cold treats before I really did need to yeet to make the bus back to 홍대. Today was the Korean final for 1반 and 2반 but something came up for my teacher so my class’ test was pushed back until after we came back from the graduation trip on the following Monday. Honestly very bittersweet because yeah…on one hand we did get more time than the other students but obviously there was no way we were going to study on our trip so I felt like it would leave me more underprepared but oh well, nothing I could do about it but my best.
I rode the bus back home alone while eating my ice cream cone which felt very against-the-rules to me because generally you should not be eating on public transportation in Korea but it was a tear-filled day so I cut msyelf slack.
Instead of heading off to take the test like all the other Nsliyians, I agreed to meet up with Josh to chat a bit and also study for our upcoming final. I first took a detour at H&M to buy a skirt I was looking at (The weather was warming up and I needed more options okay…the excuse I told myself as my suitcase would later probably overflow with clothing and other misc. doodads.) We agreed to meet at a café called Layered which apparently was all over Instagram and it was not too hard to get too following Kakao maps, it was actually quite close to the Better World office. I walked up the steps to the vintage looking home turned café and knew upon first glance why this place was so popular–it was overwhelmingly adorable. To the wall decorations, the cute colorful furniture, and the impeccably decorated pastries on different sized and shaped cake stands. I just wanted to order a little bit of everything!
Josh and I found a place inside to sit (which was a feat in and of itself) and we shared this little early gray flavored cake with frosting decorated on top to look like the breed of dog from Lady and the Tramp–Lady in specific. Is it a cocker spaniel? I am not sure about that one.
Eventually we finished the dessert and our drinks and moved out into the sun and sat on the balcony which had gorgeous views of the city all spread out around us. I was shocked that I had not stumbled upon this café sooner and actually bummed out I had not. I definitely wanted to take Katie here.
After we studied a bit, I went to meet up with Katie at our favorite waffle place–와플대학–while Josh went to go find Jenna who was in KFC with Kaitlyn and Liam. Us Three had plans to later have dinner at Noryangjin Fish market and it would be my first there! (It is arguably the most famous seafood market in all of Korea… wait I take that back..maybe only in Seoul. I know Busan is extremely famous for their coastal delicacies.) Originally, I was going to have my first taste of 산낙지 (live octopus) there but I had already checked off that bucket list item with my host family the previous weekend. Josh was disappointed that I did not wait for him which was funny to say the least. I promised him that I we could still order it again because it was not half bad.
Katie and I shared an after-Korean-test-waffle which was a tradition of ours (and the last time it was gonna see the light of day this program). Today’s waffle moment was one filled with light whipped cream and pieces of strawberries.
After I hugged Katie goodbye, Josh, Jenna, and I took the subway to Noryangjin (노량진) Fish Market. It was kind of hard to get the market because we went through this tunnel that was underground which then let us up above ground but we walked through this building that was practically empty and kind of scary to be honest and then eventually were able to figure out what building to go to and before we even entered through the doors, my nose knew we were at the right place. Even upon leaving the market, I could not get the fishy smell out of my nose, perhaps the seafood particles attached to the hairs in my nose.
The fish market was indoors if that could not have been assumed by the mention of buildings and it felt like a huge school gym with high ceilings and lots of floor space but instead of a track or a rock wall, there were stalls and stalls of bins and jars and cases of a myriad of seafood. It was very overwhelming because prices were not listed out on signs like most street food places which meant that haggling was going to be very important here. Josh warned Jenna and me that the vendors will really try to rip off foreigners when they come here since they presume they do not know how much they should be paying for the certain amount of fresh fish. He also said that one way for them to get more money out of people is to tell them that they can eat the stuff they buy at a ‘restaurant’ on the second floor so that when they are done shopping around they can go upstairs and eat their selections that are prepared for them but this, of course, comes with an extra cost that is unnecessary (if the weather is nice because then you can just eat outside.)
Josh was the real G as he talked to the vendors with such unabridged confidence and joked around with them and they surely liked how fluent he was in Korean. That also gave us brownie points and so we got some nice, dense slabs of fresh, raw salmon for a very good price. We also got to pick out our own live octopus from a case and watching the young man take it out of the water and it attaching to his hand almost immediately was really fascinating.
I am not too sure where we went after that because I was just blindly following Josh but we ended up on some sort of rooftop that had lots of outdoor picnic tables and gazebos and the most beautiful sunset view of the surrounding area. We all sat next to each other–crisscross applesauce–and enjoyed eating our fresh seafood using wooden chopsticks right out of the bag they came in. It was a really nice way to end the night and the pairing of Josh and Jenna are two that I do not spend much time with so it was fun getting to talk to them more.
Thanks for reading this blog post~ It is also a bit long and spacey since I feel like I went on tangents and maybe included too many descriptions… but I know I will not it regret later
I had just gotten back from my 수학여행 (school trip) to Jeju Island with my high school classmates the night before and was so tired that I slept about 12 hours but my host mom did not even question me not leaving my room till 11 am. Luckily, Sunday always consists of a late breakfast, or brunch if you will. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to spend my weekend having fun!! Time was passing by as quick as ever and I wanted to make sure that I was making all my last moments count. Because of the hectic schedule on our school trip, I didn’t really do a good job at making plans with anyone for the rest of the weekend but luckily Alix and June were down for some last minute, spontaneous plans after I reached out on our Kakao group chat.
We decided to go to the 고양시국제꽃바람회 (Goyangshi International Flower Festival) because I was geeking out about it earlier on during the week and bombarded our NSLI-Y group chat with all the photos of the pretty flower sculptures and photo zones. I had known about this spring tradition in my city (If it is not already known, I am one of the few NSLI-Yians that got the opportunity to live in 고양시 rather than Seoul. In fact, I was the only student on my program that lived in 고양시 for the entire 9 months!) After researching cool events for one of my Korean class presentations during the fall semester, I learned about this particular festival. I had the desire to go ever since!
The festival takes places at the 일산호수공원 (Ilsan Lake Park) and so we met up at the nearest subway station and bought our tickets down there. (There was actually a small discount for taking the subway to the festival and buying tickets underground! Yay for saving the environment! (and money!))
Before entering the festival, there seemed to be section with food trucks and mostly things relating to farming and organic fruits and vegetables. There was also a trot singer? Everything was set up in a parking lot so we walked through it, took some photos next to the big entrance sculpture, and then proceeded to actually enter the festival.
There was a stall near the ticket collecting/selling booths that sold flower festival souvenirs and 고양시 memorabilia with their white cat mascot. I caved in and had to buy something to showcase my love for 고양시!! (Don’t judge me but I feel such pride for my host city!) I ended up buying a bouquet of flower shaped soap (as a gift for my former host family) and a key chain with the city mascot holding a red heart with 고양 written across it— in English funny enough. If I have not explained this before, Goyang (고양) is one syllable short of the word 고양이 which is the Korean word for cat. So in order to use the play on words, the mascot for the city is a cat! How clever.
While Alix and June were encouraging my bad spending habits, this old man (probably around 60-70 years old) came up to us and tried handing us packets of free 물티슈 or wet wipes (directly translates to water tissues). He kept trying to shove them in our hands but we continued to duck around him and shake off the tissues. I usually do take flyers or free things that people hand out on the street but I had no room for a packet of wet wipes. I looked at the man and told him that I didn’t need the wipes in Korean. The 아주씨 literally gasped (probably because I spoke in Korean) and then in a whiny voice, similar to that of a toddler, he replied “Nooooo, you neeeed this.” The girls and I just passed by him and when we were a good distance away we started laughing so hard and repeating “필요하잖아아아!” This became an inside joke after today.
We entered the festival and walked through such a pretty area that consisted of square plots in a row that all had different themes that were expressed through sculptures made out of flowers. There were scenes of weddings, outdoor fairy gardens, tea parties, and just nature set ups. There was even a scene set up for the character Moomin that is popular in Korea. (He’s actually a Swedish character but I’m not sure of what animal…)
We also walked down to the lake and admired its beauty. I always like to marvel at these kind of parks that are in the middle of the city but are still able to give off the vibe that you are actually surrounded fully by nature. We saw duck paddle boats but were too broke to pay to ride them. One day! Maybe not during this program… but I will be back Korea!
We continued through the park and saw more of the really pretty exhibitions made completely out of flowers. At the entrance of one of the sections of the park, there was a gazebo type structure with flowers hanging from the ceiling—all different colors and types.
There were also these people in furry animal costumes walking around and they started following June and me. We were shocked and then I (with a random wave of confidence) started speaking in Korean to the stranger; I asked him “Is it not hot?” You could tell he was shocked. He started fanning himself with his arms and we could not help but laugh. He started following us around which was hilarious albeit a bit creepy since well… the face reminded me of those scary Halloween masks sold at the pop-up Halloween stores during the month of October in the states. In order to commemorate this interesting encounter, we asked for a photo and that’s where this iconic photo came from.
We continued to walk around the park and took lots and lots of photos. We used June’s phone because she had a filter provided with her camera that had a good setting—basically it just highlighted the main focus of the photo and blurred the background.
We also caved in and bought really overpriced ice cream but it was extremely hot outside (probably the hottest day since the weather started warming up) and we were hungry. The ice cream was milk flavored ice cream which is one interesting unique-to-Korea flavor. You would think you wouldn’t need a flavor of milk since you now… ice cream is mostly comprised of milk. Nevertheless, it’s delicious.
We also passed by a magician with the scariest mask on and I was okay with just going on our merry way but both June and Alix wanted to stop by. We chatting with the magician for a bit and he kept asking us questions about Korea while going through with the card trick. It was a pretty neat trick and we were all surprised at what he was able to guess. He asked if I wanted to do one more so I agreed and at the end of that trick, my remaining card said “I love you” on it. We all screamed at the cringyness of the situation. It was all too much but insanely funny. I replied with “Isn’t this relationship going a little fast?” which was met with a string of laughter from the crowd that formed to see how the magician was shocking a group of foreign girls.
After taking advantage of all the photo zones possible (Except this one set up with two hearts covered in flowers. The line for the self proclaimed best-photo-op-for-couples was winding around the food stand.), we ended the trip at the park walking around an exhibition hall of scenes set up by different organizations or even countries. It was interesting to see what flowers were native to where or what colors the countries wanted to focus on with their showcases (A lot of places used colors from their flags.) We left the park after wandering around a market set up with little tents selling flowers and flower themed gifts. Our ticket gave us a dollar off coupon for any plants and we were able to find a section with succulents that only cost one dollar—so we got them for free.
I also found this one tent that sold hand painted signs with sayings and 3D flowers made out of craft supplies. I bought one for my mother back in the states. It will be her main souvenir from Korea!
Lastly, there was this little area that had a box with a clear window which had the appearance of a magazine cover; however, the kick was that there was a giant cat head inside. There was a chair to the side that I believe might have belonged to an attendant of the photo zone that perhaps took a break? I told Alix to run in there and try on the head and she so gladly obliged (Alix is the epitome of a cat person and the whole cohort knows this.) June went in as well and they all danced around a bit. I had a good laugh and took a video clip for my 1 second a day video.
We said goodbye at the subway (but not before buying more ice cream at the 7/11… when your diet of the day mainly comprises of ice cream… it has been a good day) and that was the end of a flower-filled day. It was so fun getting to spend the day with Alix and June because I haven’t had much time otherwise to hang out with them. They were both really fun and we laughed together so often throughout the day. I caught myself smiling so often because I was genuinely happy living in the present with them.
Thanks for reading this blog post~ It has been um… more than half a year since I have last posted and 2 years since first arriving in Korea. Wow, has time flown by. I still have blog posts from the rest of May to upload so hopefully I can get those out over the next few weeks.
After our excursion to 성산일출봉, we got back on the bus and after a while (and a much needed nap), arrived to the final major location for our ~educational~ but fun school trip: an art gallery of Lee Jungseob (이중섭미술관). Lee Jungseob is a very highly praised famous Korean artist when discussing modern Korean art. Although he only lived in Jeju for a rather short period of time, the island held significance to many pieces of his artwork and so the gallery was built in his honor. Additionally, besides visiting the gallery, one can visit the house that Lee Jungseob lived in with his family and walk along a street named after the artist (이중섭거리) which houses a lot of shops selling art, handicrafts, antiques as well as lots of cafes.
I walked around the museum and mostly kept following our former coordinating teacher around (or other classmates of mine) like a lost puppy because nothing in the museum was translated in English. I did put in effort to read a good amount of things myself but I found that I enjoyed hearing about the paintings and their explanations or background from others a lot more. And, through doing that, I actually learned more because 민정쌤 was quite informed on the subject of 이중섭.
To be honest, the life of 이중섭 was nothing near a life of luxury and rather more like the epitome of the struggling, starving artist. In a way, the added pity and sorrow brought even more emotions to his works and maybe even made them more relatable?
The gallery did not just exhibit paintings but there were also just artifacts of his life including letters, drawings, and postcards he sent to his wife and family while they were separated. 이중섭 married a Japanese woman and had two sons but besides the short stay with them when they lived together in their house on Jeju, they were long distance during his entire life. Because of the enduring poverty he had to face, he sent his family to Japan and they lived there while he stayed in Korea–and sent them money when he would earn it. It pained me to look at the evidence of such sacrifice and true love between him and his wife and it made me upset to know that in the end, they were never able to truly reunite as a family before he died.
Another one of my favorite exhibits within the gallery included the drawings that 이중섭 made on scraps of metal foil from cigarette packs. Apparently, cigarettes were kept in metal tins in the past and while he could not afford actual art supplies, he was able to continue expressing himself and his struggles through scratching in drawings on the foil.
After we spent some time at both the art gallery and the artist’s home, we were given some free time to explore the lengths of 이중섭거리 and along the road there were a lot of statues that gave homage to the art and style of 이중섭.
In specific, right near the entrance of the street with the sign displaying the name, there was a statue of an Ox (His most famous paintings probably being one of a white ox) and statues of people, depicted in his rudimentary, simple style (like those seen on the metal foil sketches).
Along the street, Katie, 선민, and I met up with our coordinating teacher 민정쌤 and the other homeroom teacher on the trip with us at a cafe and they were kind enough to buy all three of us drinks. Although I do not like coffee, I felt that I needed to take them up on their generosity and so I went ahead and ordered an iced coffee like the other girls. At this specific cafe, they served different types of coffee and you ordered which type you wanted based on the notes of the drink: nutty, fruity, etc. All three of us chose different notes and wow… I could actually not finish my drink. It was so bitter! I actually did not like any of the drinks… but I am not surprised. I am not a coffee person. Tastes like I am just ingesting dirt. Sorry not sorry. But !! I was appreciative and grateful for the gesture by the teachers. It was very sweet of them!
Afterwards, it was time for dinner and as if we had not already consumed enough meat products to last us the entire trip, we were going to eat more meat! But this time we were eating grilled 삼겹살 (grilled pork belly). I ended up at a table with Katie and 선민 this time around and we had an absolute ball grilling the meat, veggies, an kimchi ourselves.
I am going to be honest..usually when I go out and eat grilled meat at restaurants, I tend to always have the other person grill the meat–both Koreans and foreigners alike. Guilty as charged.. I always allow them to take the rein and I sit back until everything is ready to be eaten. However this time, I actually tried my best to be the one to cook and pay attention and cut the meat too! Although, I was having a hard time figuring out how to properly cut the meat. Maybe I should have not tried using the scissors in my non dominant left hand. One of the workers came over to even help us–and explain how to cook the meat properly. They were properly laughing at us from afar.
The restaurant was also set up as a buffet so you would order more servings of meat by asking the staff (but, of course, you were expected to eat everything you ordered/took) and then you would go to this long table in the middle that had all the extra goodies: different types of kimchi, side dishes, rice, lettuce, rice cakes, fried chicken, kimbap, etc.
Katie and I also goofed around with our wraps by trying to feed each other wraps without using our hands? Or I guess…without wrapping everything for the other. This detailed the one that would be eating the wrap holding a lettuce piece in front of the open mouth and the other person placing the meat in the lettuce and pushing that into the mouth. How was that explanation for you? Either way, we did that and it led to some interesting videos.
Everything was delicious and we were all stuffed beyond belief. There was a nice yard outside of the restaurant so before we got back on to the bus for a very long drive back to our hotel for the night, we all tried to expend our energy (before a food coma hit once we sat on the bus) by running around and being obnoxious teens as usual. Katie and I also picked wild flowers and made bracelets and rings from them. It was cute.
Once we returned to our accommodation, we ended the night spending some much needed ~chill~ time at a cafe! We were told by our coordinating teacher that there was a really cute, aesthetic cafe near the hotel and as long as we made it back in time for curfew, we were allowed to leave the premises. The cafe was called Cafe E.P.L and I am not sure if it was because we visited really late at night on a Thursday, but there was literally no one there. Possibly one other couple sitting inside? But we literally had the entire outdoor space to ourselves–ourselves being Katie, our lunch group at 하나고 (서린, 도윤, 윤세와 혜지) and one other classmate I got to meet/talk to for the first time.
I vividly remember getting lost on the way to the cafe with the girls because we did not fully remember the directions that 민정쌤 gave us. We also tried using kakao maps to help us find our way but wifi was not adequate for this task. It was pretty dark and being a group of high school girls you might anticipate us being pretty nervous/anxious for safety but honestly we all felt fine–we were all just giggly and enjoying the thrill of being “lost.” We ended up walking in the complete wrong direction down a long main street until we eventually asked a random construction worker that was outside? And he pointed us in the other direction and we were eventually able to make it to the cafe once we found a sign.
The outdoor premises of the cafe honestly felt magical, especially since we were there at night. There were string lights hanging everywhere and tons of patio type seating. I felt like I would see fairies popping out from behind the greenery at any moment. There were lots of flowers everywhere and there was a photo zone consisting of a tent and inside, props were provided (like dried flowers, messages in a bottle, watering can, etc) to add some pizzazz to photos.
There were also these weirdly shaped cone-looking orange chairs that were structured to sit on one small surface area point on the bottom so the chairs would spin around dramatically when used. Honestly, although they were not high off of the ground at all, I literally screamed in complete fear when I first sat in the chair. Goofing off on the chairs was a lot of fun and I hope our shrieks did not annoy the cafe workers (or neighbors to the cafe) all too much.
The prices at the cafe were a tad bit overpriced but I guess that was kind of to be expected because it was the epitome of an insta-worthy cafe. We ended up ordering some drinks and shared some cake as well. Of course Katie and I had to try the oreo cookie monster cake because we are suckrs for any dessert involving chocolate and oreos and just take a look at the presentation of this slice of cake! I needed it.
And that was the end of day 2 of my school trip to 제주도! We came back to the hotel after the cafe and got ready for bed. I expected us to try to stay up even later but we were so tired from the day’s adventure that we pretty much fell asleep right away. It was probably for the best, though. We would need energy for tomorrow’s plan too!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! Thanks for reading~ My next post will be day 3…unfortunately, the final day but it will still be a fun read (and a fun walk down memory lane for me!)
Second day of our school trip to Jeju Island!!! (Literally the exclamation points do in fact represent the excitement in my head when I first woke up. I was jumping off the walls with excitement.)
We started the day off having a complimentary breakfast buffet at our hotel which was pretty similar to any other continental breakfast spread at hotels with basic things like waffles, croissants, cereal, eggs, etc but of course since savory “lunch type” foods are completely normal in Korea, there was also fish, popcorn chicken, potato wedges, kimchi, etc. We ate on the lower ground of the hotel which seemed to be reserved for large groups that were staying at the hotel (While we were staying at the hotel, there were two other schools too) and they came down to eat at the same time as well. The large windows around the perimeter of the room showed off some beautiful water views and it was the perfect cherry on top to a nice morning.
Today was our first (and only) full day in Jeju and in order to make the most of it, we had a jam-packed day filled with all sorts of activities, location changes, delicious food, and of course the accompanying long bus rides. However, to be honest, I did not mind the long bus rides as they were sectioned off periods of time when we could all regain our energy by doing what a lot of us did best–nap.
Our first bus ride brought us to the 1,000 year forest called Bijarim (천년의 숲 비자림) which considered a national monument in Korea. Apparently it is the biggest collection of nutmeg trees in the world and they are all super old. Even though the name of the forest is 1,000 years, the oldest tree in the forest is around 800 years so not quite there… but I guess eventually the name will fit. But then…if you think about it… eventually it will be even older than 1,000 years. Will a name change be necessary then?
The visit to the forest was an extremely nice way to start the morning because it got us all moving as we hiked a forest path and got to take in all that nature had to offer. The forest not only was full of trees but there was a bunch of other foliage and pretty flowers too. More importantly, the walk was a lot of fun because I had the chance to really make conversation with a lot of the girls in my group–not just my main group of friends or Katie. I was able to talk to more classmates of mine that I share time with during class but because we do not eat lunch together, I find that our conversations mainly revolve around school and never get really personal. It was nice to finally have some time to talk with some of my friends like 정윤 or 선민 or 수미. We of course also took lots of photos, especially group photos. (Is it a group excursion if there are no group photos? Better World would say so! And 하나고 follows suit.)
Another bus ride later, we found ourselves at our next destination: Seong Eup Land (성읍랜드) which is a small “amusement” park of sorts which is known for horseback riding and go karts. Horseback riding is one of the common tourist activities to partake in on Jeju–especially if it involves riding horses along the beach like in all of the cheesy, romantic Korean dramas.
I will say that the place we went to was a bit different…? We did ride horses but we were just on a track–no natural path or anything–and we were pulled along the track with our horses by a worker. The horse did get up to the speed of a gallop at one point but the majority of the ride was a slow steady pace. I believe the ride, overall, lasted 5 minutes if that. It was a bit underwhelming as I have ridden a horse through rougher, more exciting terrain but nonetheless, I had fun. I am grateful to have had the experience. For some of the girls, it was their first time riding a horse!
The majority of the location seemed to be comprised of the horse stable, horse-riding path/routes, and the go-kart track. There were also a lot of photo zones as the main building was painted entirely pink and almost every wall was made out to be an especially colorful mural with cute graphics and a lot of famous Jeju-do icons and memorabilia. There was also a little gift shop with cute knick-knacks as well as a little concession stand type area.
Of course, our friend group had to take advantage of all the wonderful backdrops for photos. I think my favorite place within the “park” included this fake pink car. It was a lot of fun being able to pose with the car and we had a lot of fun trying to take some more “serious, vogue-like” pictures but honestly, we looked kind of ridiculous but I would not change anything about these photos! I love them so much :,)
There was also a really cute mural on one of the walls that had the statement “Meeting you was good luck” in Korean which I thought was utterly adorable! Katie and I were also able to get photos with our old coordinating teacher and my previous homeroom teacher 민정쌤 (not to be confused with our NSLI-Y resident director 민정쌤). And besides all the photo taking, Katie and I ate some ice cream while some of the other girls drove some go-karts (Of course, I would much rather eat my beloved ice cream rather than risking my life in a moving vehicle–low key have a fear of driving…)
After everything, we moseyed on over to our next location for lunch and we were able to try 제주흑돼지구이 (Jeju Black Pork) which is probably the food 제주도 is most known for and may actually be one of the most famous types of meat in Korea. (Think of it as Korea’s version of Japanese Wagyu Beef? Or at least… I make that connection)
The place that we went to was very large with a lot of long picnic tables but it had a rather close-to-nature type vibe because there was a lot of natural lighting, open windows, and the bathroom was actually not connected to the restaurant–a portable potty moment. The restaurant was also all you can eat so you can bet that the girls and I ordered quite a lot of servings of meat. I cannot remember the exact count but I feel like we went through at least 4-5 servings and we had to go back and refill our lettuce and side dishes quite frequently. Everything was delicious and my mouth is watering right now just looking back and thinking about all the food that we were able to stuff our faces with.
Once we were full and napped through a food coma on the bus, we arrived at 성산일출봉 (Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak) which is an Unesco World Heritage site. Honestly, when we first got to the naturally made wonder, I assumed it was just this random mountain but it was actually created by an underwater volcano. The views around the peak were spectacular! On one side, the blue waters of the ocean were sparkling in almost a heavenly way as the sun reflected off of it and on the other side, there was a village along the grassy hill with tons of colorful buildings. At the top of the peak, everything looked so tiny and 10x cuter.
The walk up to the very top of the peak was not too difficult when it comes to difficulties of the hike as it was not too steep and the stairs were wide and there were railings at some points; however, the weather was hot and the breeze only helped so much so we were all rather sweaty by the end of it. Despite everything, the views at the top–of course–made everything worth it. Additionally, the trip upwards was a nice time to talk more with our friends and other classmates too. At one point, I was explaining the entire plot of the Nickelodeon TV show “Avatar the Last Airbender” to 선민 as we discussed our favorite series during our childhoods. I remember this conversation in specific because it was a difficult thing to talk through but I was really proud at the end with everything I was able to say–my vocabulary skills were popping off.
At the top of the peak, Katie, 선민, and 정윤, and I had this idea to take some photos–including a jumping photo. We asked this older man to take the photo for us (Now… I wonder why? We could have asked anyone else… including someone young who most likely had an Instagram.) and it would be an understatement to say that he had a little trouble taking the photo for us. They did not turn out the best but are still funny to look back on. And the collective countdown and jump while holding hands was extremely thrilling.
When we got back down to the bottom of the peak, Katie, 선민, and I treated ourselves with some unique 한라봉 아이스크림 (Hallabong Ice Cream) and bought some souvenirs for our host families and Korean classmates. Katie and I impressed the lady running one of the shops with our ability to not only speak with her in Korean but also to haggle. I ended up buying a box of chocolates and tarts with some pretty cool, unique to 제주도 flavors like 한라봉, cactus, and 제주 tangerine (감귤).
After getting back on the bus, our homeroom teacher told us that we would be going to a market the following day and we should wait to buy the majority of our souvenirs there because it would be cheaper…I wish we had known earlier! But nevertheless, I felt that we got everything at a good price so I was not upset.
This day is far from being over but I feel like this post is already extremely long and with photos…So I have made the executive decision to split this post up. I will probably include the second half of this day with my third day of the school trip (Unless, that one ends up being too long… we will see I guess!)
I hope these posts are entertaining and I am also trying my best to make them informative at least in some way. Thanks for reading and do not forget to subscribe for more posts. Till next time~
Today was the long-awaited first day (1일차) of our school trip to Jeju Island (제주도) with our fellow classmates and friends from 하나고! I have been looking forward to this trip for a myriad of reasons: taking a flight to visit a gorgeous island, being able to hang out with my 하나고 friends outside of school for an extended period of time, and finally fulfilling the dream of going on a school trip! We had a few options for where we wanted to go for our school trip (Other options included 부산, 전주, 강원도) but Katie and I both figured we would have a better chance to eventually visit these places but possibly, this could be our only chance to visit 제주도.
For those that may not know, 제주도 is an island province of South Korea that is probably the most popular tourist/vacation spot within the peninsula (for domestic trips). The island is mostly known for its gorgeous views, hiking trails, 한라산 (dormant volcano), and of course 한라봉 (a variation of orange–hallabong) and we were going to have the opportunity to experience it for free! Thank you NSLI-Y!
Anyways, on Wednesday Katie and I met up at the Paris Baguette near the subway station by our school for breakfast before we headed over to our school to depart to the airport with our classmates. What did we have for breakfast you may ask? Something nutritionally dense and healthy for two growing gals? Nope. No. Not a chance. We instead convinced ourselves that mochi ice cream would be a great idea for breakfast. Already in that #vacationmindset
We ended up leaving the school on our giant shuttle bus at around 10:30 am. But until then, we all hung out in one of the classrooms all giddy and excited for the days to come. We were all happy to be done with school–for a short amount of time at least–and to LEAVE campus. (Not only that but we were taking a plane so!!!) All the girls were also super super dressed up in spring floral and dresses and makeup and such because well, they had a reason to get all dolled up. Honestly, it was a bit strange–seeing some of my friends for the first time without their school uniforms and bare faces.
Before boarding the bus, we also took some photos as a group and they turned out really cute! Seeing everyone posing with peace signs and such made me laugh. I could not believe I was going on my first school trip! I never went on an out-of-state or even overnight trip in middle school or high school so I was very thankful to be experiencing this first with my Korean high school classmates. What a reason to be a super senior~
We got to Gimpo Airport within an hour and since we arrived around lunch time and needed to wait practically 2 hours before our flight at 1:30 pm, we were given that free time to have lunch at the airport. We were each handed out roughly $10 and were allowed to eat whatever our hearts’ desired. People tend to say that airport food is vastly overpriced and oftentimes the cheaper options are extremely unhealthy (like McDonalds, for example) but maybe it just happened to be this Korean airport; however, the food was amazing. Honestly, I think the best 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) I have ever had was this one at the airport! And I remember our lunch not only because the taste was so delicious that it will forever have a place in my heart, but I remember my 하나고 friends poking fun because the stew was especially spicy but nonetheless, I was able to eat it all while some of the others (actual KoReAns) could not stomach the spice. What can I say…매운 음식을 잘 먹는 편이에요 ㅋㅋ;) and also 김치찌개 is probably one of my favorite Korean dishes (maybe only beaten by 잡채 or 해물파전).
The flight to 제주도 was only about an hour so definitely the shortest flight I have ever been on (Even a flight from Chicago to New York is longer) and I honestly slept through the entire thing. We got to the airport and it was quite small. We left the building and were immediately greeted with slightly chillier weather (surprised?) and PALM TREES!?! The weather was gloomy but of course, the occasion was exciting regardless.
We boarded a shuttle bus (which had a cute little sign in the window with our school name–하나고등학교) and immediately headed out to our first location: 함덕해수욕장 (Hamdeok Beach).
I am not much of a beach person (meaning I am not too keen on tanning on the beach or swimming in the ocean, etc);however, I can appreciate the beauty that encompassed this beach. Although it was early May, it was not too busy at all–no large crowds. The sands were basically white and the water was so crystal clear and blue!! I have only ever been to a beach in New York and so this was something completely new for me! We had a blast walking along the beach, holding hands, and laughing about who knows what. We also, of course, took tons of photos–every place was a photo zone!
In the parking lot of the beach, there were a lot of other shuttle buses for different schools. It seems that this is a common time of the year for high schools to go on their school trip. One of the more awkward moments was when we were lined up or passing by these school groups, Katie and I received a lot of stares and whispers. However, this feeling of being an outsider was only fleeting because the presence of my friends reminded me that I did have people.
We also visited this arched bridge which had a beautiful lookout view and the waves crashing against the rocks acted as a perfect soundtrack to the day! I believe the only words coming out of my mouth at this point was “woah” because I have never been to a place like this and all I was experiencing was utter awe and gratefulness at the same time.
For dinner, we sat down at this seafood place at a long table pushed up against windows with a view of the ocean. What more could we have asked for? The meal included a lot of traditional aspects of Korean cuisine including a variety of side dishes like different types of kimchi, fish cakes, veggies, japchae, etc. Everything laid out made me feel like I was eating a huge 8-course meal! The main points of our dinner were a type of grilled fish (옥돔구이 — perhaps grilled horsehead tilefish? Translation… not sure of) and 고등어조림 (grilled mackerel stew).
We ended the night visiting 천지연폭포 (Cheonjiyeon Waterfall) and having a tour of the night views. This was probably one of the funnest parts of the trip because we were given a lot of time to just explore the trails and the souvenir shops and goof around. We also took a lot more group photos and were having a lot of fun striking some fun poses–even ones with the head homeroom teacher. And lets just say that this waterfall was a lot bigger and better than the one near our school–especially because it was natural! (No shade to 폭포동)
After our waterfall tour, we headed to our accommodation (Co-op City Hotel Harborview) and got our room keys, unpacked, and then met up in one of the conference/meeting rooms to hang out till late in the night. (We did have to be in our rooms by a certain time, however.) I ended up sharing a room with my friends 서린 and 도윤 while Katie stayed with 윤세 and 혜지.
We could not end the night without some ice cream so Katie and I bought some of our favorites from the Seven-Eleven connected to the hotel and ate those with some other snacks that the other girls prepared. The rest of the night was spent playing random games like charades and such which at times were hard to follow but we were always included–no matter how long it took to explain directions or roles. I was so very thankful to have such sweet classmates and friends!
And that was day 1 of my school trip to Jeju Island! Looking back at all of these photos, reminds me of all these very happy memories. I am so thankful to have been able to experience this amazing opportunity and I am even more excited to share this time with others. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and the next 2 days of this trip will be uploaded soon! Stay tuned for more~ Thanks for reading!