Reflecting on Studying Abroad in South Korea for a Year // NSLIY Korea AY 2018-2019

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. 

END

Insadong Art Exhibition (인사동 전시회), Eating Okonomiyaki For the First Time, & Sushi Buffet (05/21/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/21/19 Tuesday

My host family usually wakes up late and has breakfast around 11 am but I really wanted to get a start on my day so I ended up having a quick bowl of cereal early in the morning before heading out for my plans. Even though I did not get the chance to eat breakfast with them today, I knew I would make it home in time to have dinner with them and spend the evening together.

I took the subway to 인사동 and because it was rather early on a weekday, the subway leaving my station was practically empty and so I actually got to sit for the almost hour long journey and write some blog posts because I was behind by almost a whole week. This was a very mundane thing if you consider it on a grander scale but it despite it being a trivial thing about my day, it made me feel so happy and grateful. Just here romanticizing my life!

I had plans to go to this exhibition in 인사동 called “Witch Garden” with a friend because it had been trending on Instagram as a lot of Korean instagrammers and influencers had been posting about it. I had gotten to the station a lot earlier than I was expecting so I had to wait around for a bit before my friend arrived. One thing I have learned about Korea is that places do NOT open early–especially cafes.

So not only were all the tourist-y stores and such not open, it was very difficult for me to find a cafe that I could wait out another hour but eventually I stumbled upon a place I found on MangoPlate and was there right on the hour, right when it opened.

For “Witch Garden”, rather than being an exhibition of art installments or spotlighted pieces, it was more like an interactive experience with lots of photo zones. At this particular place, there were dark rooms with certain lights and images illuminated on the walls, real potted plants and flowers decorated in statuesque structures, walls full of flowers, murals of quotable sayings, etc etc. Some of the rooms were more questionable than others…there was one area that had fake bats hanging from the ceiling? I guess considering the name of the exhibition, witches being associated with bats makes sense but I…was just a little confused because it felt really Halloweeny to me and well, it was May.

But there were a lot of other rooms that I thought were super fun like a mirror room where you would walk through the middle and see like 7 other reflections of yourself as well as this wall that was basically lined with long, shiny glorified streamers but it was fun to walk through it! I kind of felt like a celebrity when I did so.

Overall, this was a fun way to spend an hour or so. I believe the entrance fee was around 10,000 Won (about ten dollars) and although you could not spend a whole afternoon there since it was pretty quick-paced and the only real reason to attend is to have a little photoshoot, it was definitely worth it to me. 

After taking way too many photos of myself (Has Korea turned me into a narcissist?), my friend and I decided to walk around the 한옥 (Traditional Korean House) Village nearby and we actually passed by a professional photoshoot and they told me that it was probably for a wedding and they were taking photos in the traditional Korean dress as weddings nowadays use both traditional clothing as well as the modern, western white wedding dress. We walked around and took (more) photos and talked a lot. The weather was so nice this day so spending time outside for a longer duration was actually tolerable–and not sweaty. Even though Koreans may not sweat nor smell bad, your girl is American and does! And depends on deodorant!

For lunch, we took the subway back to the 신촌 area because my friend knew that area better and we found it quite difficult to decide what to eat because I was being indecisive and not helpful. We ended up choosing this Izakaya place which (I believe) is a Japanese restaurant that borders on being a pub? Or maybe a bar and grill type place? For the meal, we had okonomiyaki which I had never tried before and it was explained to me as the “Japanese version” of a pancake. Let’s just say I was shocked after making assumptions based on what I was told.

Turns out, okonomiyaki is like a mix of flour, egg, and shredded cabbage that is grilled/cooked on a griddle like a normal pancake but it is less carby I guess than a traditional pancake. We added some bacon and cheese on it for a fun twist. It was pretty good I would say…but I probably would not order it again. Maybe the experience would be different in Japan.

I also had a bad taste in my mouth afterwards for a little bit because of the staff at this particular restaurant. I was paying for dinner for both my friend and I because they had covered for us the last time we hung out and so when we went up to the counter to pay, I handed the host my debit card, not cash. I handed the male host my American debit card–a clearly foreign card with an American bank. And as I handed it to him, I explained that I was paying for our meal. The host proceeds to ask my friend how we found the meal (in Korean) and decides to hand my friend back my card and receipt–to my friend!!! I know this seems like a silly little thing to nitpick and I agree in a sense but I was just very confused by the host’s actions. I did speak Korean to him so he should not have thought that I would not have understood but even if he did decide to continue thinking that, he could have at least given back the card with my name on it back to me? I was a little pressed about this at the moment not gonna lie and the minute we left the restaurant, I started ranting to my friend wondering if this was because I was a foreigner/a woman but I don’t know. Just a weird, annoying moment. 

Came home by the evening time and went out to dinner with my host mom and my two host sisters. We went to this all-you-can-eat sushi buffet that was on the basement level of the mall connected to our apartment complex and the subway station. My host mom kept emphasizing how delicious this place was and ~expensive~ so she said she had been ‘fasting’ all day to prepare her stomach. With that, we had a game plan: stuff our faces!

The best part of the buffet was definitely the sushi bar because there was so much variety and there was none of the fake sushi crap *cough cough california rolls! Cream cheese rolls! **cough cough but actual quality pieces of sliced fish laid upon fresh rice. Delicious!

There were a lot of cooked foods too like pasta and other Korean dishes. There was even a section where you could cook your own ramen which my older host sister took advantage of which I thought was kind of funny. The idea of going to a buffet but still deciding to eat instant noodles.

The most ~peculiar~ thing at the buffet was a bowl of sweet potato salad that had rainbow colored sprinkles as a topping? I was very confused… This was a dessert? Is this normal? I might have been scared…just kidding.

Sprinkles!?!? Interesting…

Ended the night taking Andy on a walk with 언니 and just chatted with everyone in the living room until I got too tired to keep my eyes open. I was really trying to treasure the final moments with my host family–especially when it comes to our conversations. 

Emma, STOP being so sentimental !! It is

JUST

SAD!

Well, that is all for this blog post! Thanks for reading~ Only a couple of blog posts left from my year in Korea… Can we believe that? I cannot… wow. I cry.

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Final, Chinese Food in Korea, Tapgol Park (탑골 공원), and Jogyesa Temple (조계사) 05/20/19 (NSLI-Y AY)

05/20/19 Monday

:,( Sad Face

It is my last week in South Korea :,(

I would be lying if I said time has gone by so fast because it definitely felt like 9 months but I still cannot believe that I arrived here back in September and now I am going back in just a few days… wowowowow 

Bright and early this Monday morning I awoke to the prospect of taking my Korean final!! I woke up quite early after a long night of studying and continued to study. I decided that grammar would be 헛수고 so instead, I quickly went through the bajillion and one Quizlet sets I have made over the many months–focusing on the ones for our last two textbooks as well as the random ones I made for Topik preparation (I really wanted to show off to my teacher in hopes that my improvement would be noticeable uwu) 

Though I was actually quite confident about this test. There is something to say about having an ‘end’ or ‘end goal’ so even though I am stressed about this final performance, at least it will be the last time! Also, looking back, I care so much about what my teacher thinks about me because I do truly care about her impression of me and I want her to see me taking my studies seriously–I am not just playing around! But I am so much harder on myself than anyone else! And I would literally have to ignore all the months of hard work if I was to say that I have not improved enough. To think that I was barely intermediate when I first arrived and now I can write essays and give presentations, and have conversations on such complex topics. I am proud of myself and I know my teacher is too! I was the underdog of my class~

Anyways, before arriving at the BetterWorld office to take our final test, Josh and I headed to Josh’s Cafe (this cafe will forever be known by this nickname) to pick up some pick-me-ups! Josh opted for coffee while I bought a basil scone.

The test actually went rather smoothly! I felt really good about the writing portion as it was sort of a reflection of our time in Korea which was definitely something I had thought about a lot and I think this was the best OPI I’ve had this whole year! Not just because I would logically be more advanced at this point but because I had more confidence in myself. The reading portion of the exam was a bit tougher to be honest and I did have to rush the ending and did not exactly get to read every single question… There were parts that I was completely lost on but I tried to not have that stump me and frustrate me before time was up. 

After we took our Korean final, we all decided to go out and celebrate the end of the program and classes together. My Korean teacher had planned out a little agenda for our date and what that first consisted of was getting lunch as three hours had now passed and we were all famished. Our teacher took us to one of her favorite Koreanized Chinese restaurants that was a little walk away from the office. It was on the second floor of a rather hidden-away building so I cannot imagine that many people just stumble upon it since the signage too was rather obscure. Though the restaurant was definitely quite full when we walked in so maybe this place was a local secret! If only I could remember what it was called…

For food, I had no idea what anything was on the menu as Chinese food in America is nothing like Chinese food in Korea which I bet is also nothing like actual Chinese food in China so our teacher ended up ordering all her favorites that she knew were good at this particular spot. We ate some sort of pork (?) dish, fried eggplant dish, a shrimp porridge/stew, and dumplings and I really had not eaten anything like any of the dishes in such a long time and everything tasted so delicious–especially the eggplant! (Salivating just at the thought of it!)

Once we finished stuffing our faces so that our bellies were just as full as our minds (minds filled with… knowledge! lol), we went along with our teacher to the 종로구 (Jongno District) from 홍대 which was not too far of a subway ride. We first walked around the less tourist-y neighborhoods as the alleyways had a lot of unique character. Our teacher was showing us all the small shops and stalls and told us that this part of historic Seoul has not changed as much as other places that have raced to modernize especially for tourism.

I took a couple of photos of some of the shops because I found them quite interesting to look at and one of the places we visited was a very small used bookstore. It mostly had Korean books with a few sparse copies of classics in English or Chinese. One of the books that I picked up was basically a guide for how women can be good wives to their husbands… Yup.

From here we walked to Tapgol Park (탑골 공원) which is a small, public park in the area which is famous for a couple historical monuments like this one traditional, colorful pavilion as well as a 10 story buddhist pagoda–which is actually enclosed in a glass structure to protect it. It kind of gives the traditional monument a modern twist on it. We walked around the park with our teacher closely following behind and taking tons of photos of us as a group. An interesting thing I noticed was that the park was mostly full of elderly. Like, there was a group of older men and women sitting in the shade of the pavilion and around the rest of the park too.

Afterwards, we walked from the park to the neighborhood 익선동 which I have been to a couple other times because it was an up and coming area on Instagram due to the architecture in the area is either 한옥 or styles reminiscent of them so photo zones are plentiful. Plus, cute cafes!!!

We walked around the narrow, winding streets of 익선동 and found a cute 호떡 stand that served the pastry commonly eaten in wintertime with ice-cream–a summertime treat, then!) So, we all ordered them and were happy to see that they were shaped like hearts! I gasped! They were delicious and the pairing of the hot honey/sugar flavors with the plain vanilla ice cream was a match made in heaven. On our walk, our teacher also showed us where she used to live as a child but now, her childhood home has been turned into an aesthetic café.

There was also an exhibition for the newest Samsung and for some reason, we went inside and explored all the new functions of the phone (even though our teacher was the only one with any Samsung products at the time.)

Our last stop of the day was walking towards the 인사동 area until we reached one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Seoul: 조계사 (Jogyesa Temple). Our teacher actually considers herself a practicing Buddhist so it was cool being able to ask her questions and look at the temple through her eyes. Also, because I was with her, I felt comfortable following her into the building after taking off our shoes and watching her bow. On the outside, the temple was very beautiful and I could not get over all of the rainbow colored lanterns that made me not want to ever look away.

Eventually Jacquelyn and Josh left us at the temple after saying goodbyes (until the graduation ceremony of course) while I decided to walk with my teacher back to the subway together as we were going to be riding the same line as she also lives near me. Our walk back was actually one of my favorite memories with my Korean teacher (besides our cafe dates) because it felt just so wholesome and we talked about so many subjects and I just felt freer to be myself since I was just with her and no one else.

My teacher took this photo of me. She pointed out this artistic statue of sorts out and said that I should run up to it and pose!~

Today was such a great day with my classmates and my Korean teacher. It made me realize how grateful I am to have had them as a part of my support system while in Korea. I am so happy to have had my 3반 classmates and my Korean teacher ❤ They will always mean a lot to me!

There is a bit more to this day because I had evening plans but since this post is so long already, I am going to continue it in another blog post~ I hope you enjoyed reading this one and until next time~ Thanks!

  • Emma 엠마

Yeonnamdong Cafe and Waffles, & Live Octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market (05/16/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/16/19 Thursday

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 don’t (,: – Future Emma

See You next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Celebrating Teacher’s Day in Korea, Class Election, and Saying a Final Goodbye to My Supporter (05/15/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/15/19 Wednesday

Today was actually Teacher’s Day in Korea–a holiday that celebrates amazing teachers and all that they do for their students! There is a nationally recognized teacher’s appreciation holiday in the states too but most people do not actually take it too seriously. At my high school sometimes there would be banners up in the lunch room or perhaps over the school announcements, but even I was guilty of really not doing much in celebration of my teachers.

When I walked into my homeroom class this morning, I was met with all the desks pushed to one side of the room and the lights being off. There was one single desk in the middle of the room with a chocolate cake on top. The homeroom class was planning on surprising our teacher with the cake when she came in to lead homeroom for the day. However, when the start of homeroom came around by the indication of the school bell, our teacher never showed up… and she was usually never late. A group of students, including me, brought the cake and tried to find her in her office. She was there!! Apparently she was feeling too shy to come to class because she knew everyone would pull something like this. I thought that this was kind of sweet–her not wanting to be the center of attention even though everyone was so grateful for her! And I felt the same way too, she did not treat me differently for being an exchange student. She never spoke to me in English and she even wanted me to do everything that her students were required to like having a counseling meeting and giving her my class schedule. It made me feel like truly a part of the class. 

When I returned to homeroom, I was surprised to see another cake on the single desk in the middle of the room which all the kids said was for me. They had also prepared a cake for me and once again someone was able to light up the many candles all around the cake and I got to blow out the candles. We also all took a class picture together before first period started. It was too early in the morning to eat the cake so they told me to just save it until lunch and eat it with my friends so I did just that.

For lunch, we were eating a special meal which was even served with dessert: a cupcake with a pretty carnation (the flower usually given to teachers on Teacher’s Day). The big part of the meal was 쌀국수 which is basically just noodle soup with beef. As a possible garnish, they had a side table with bowls of 고수 otherwise known as cilantro in English. Apparently, a lot of Koreans despise it!! So it was at a separate table with a sign that said “This is the cilantro you put on top of the soup to eat. Cilantro to taste” or something along the lines of that. I have found that translating these to English statements is rather difficult. I was talking to 서린 about this because she was the only one from our friend group that took any for her soup. She explained that most Koreans have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. I found that really interesting because I can eat it just fine. It is hard to imagine eating something as normal as an herb and then tasting soap.

After lunch, I grabbed the blueberry cake gifted to me by my class and shared it with all of my friends. Luckily, 혜지, 서린, and 윤세 were all in my next class (law and politics) so we were able to eat all together and bring the leftovers to our class. We still had a slice or two left in the hallway so I just ran into the room and asked if anyone wanted cake and shared the final bit.

Today’s politics class was quite fun because we were having the election of our political parties. Each of the party’s presidents went up to the podium at the front of the class and gave their platforms/campaign presentations. Our president, 윤세, did a wonderful job giving her prepared speech and she was also joined by our campaign manager 서린 who did a really good job winning the audience over. She knew exactly what to say to make our president look good. Also, while 윤세 was giving her speech, the other members of our party (including me), shouted our “fan chants” if you will which really just included our party name and various cheers. Our political party was 올리당 which is word play on 정당 (political party) so we would scream 올리다 올리다 올리당!

I am proud to say that our party won the election. :,)

The school day ended a bit earlier as usual (since it was Wednesday) but instead of going home early or attending club meetings, there was an event for Teacher’s Day in the performing arts center. 

The event consisted of prepared videos and slides of the students expressing their gratitude for their teachers. There were even clips filled by alumni of the school and recent graduates which I thought was extremely sweet. Every single teacher in the school got their own slide with comments written by students for them–Even the cafeteria ladies and the janitorial staff. When a slide appeared for the front fate security staff, I almost lost it. I greeted them every morning and every afternoon when leaving and coming from school and even though I never said more than one word to them, their smiles were really appreciated. I took a lot of pictures of the presentation; I mostly took photos for all of my teachers but especially my favorites. I would like to remember what they look like even after several years. 

They even included slides and comments for the forgeign teachers which made my heart swell. Of course, I clapped even louder for them!!

With my 국어 선생님 and ofc Katie (AKA Keet) ㅋㅋㅋ He wanted to join in on the selfie!

After the event ended, Katie and I planned to meet our supporter 혜린언니 at 연신내 for dinner but while we were walking to the station after getting off of the bus a stop early, we took a photo of the legendary 하나 은행 (Hana Bank) in our school uniforms. That was a check off the bucket list! (In case it was not clear, 하나고 was founded by 하나은행)

For dinner we went to this cheaper place that for one set price, you could have all-you-could-eat 떡볶이 (Korean spicy rice cakes) and an immense amount of extras and sides including ramen, vegetables, fish cakes, cheese, sausage, etc. The menu was kind of elaborate with cooking instructions as you had to do everything yourself: pick out the type and shape of rice cakes, the sauce, what level of spiciness you wanted, and then of course all the extras to go into the soup. It was a struggle at first but our 언니 did an amazing job–it was delicious!

Afterwards, we walked to a nearby Holly’s Café and chatted over some warm drinks until it was time to go. This would be our very last meeting together which was hard to even imagine. We had gotten so close over the past several months that separating now… was soul crushing. We gave our supporter a letter and hugged for what seemed like forever. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye but I know that this was not goodbye forever. I know we will meet again so I found comfort in that.

Well, that is all for this blog post. It was a long one! Congratulations if you got this far, I hope you enjoyed reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Music Class Project, Favorite Cafe Owner, and Eating Intestines for the First Time (05/10/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/10/19 Friday

In music class today, we were just given the entire period to finish our projects that we started a couple weeks ago. Katie and I had already finished writing out what we wanted on our poster and simply added decorative touches to the page during the first period of class. Katie traced this really pretty image of women in 한복 dancing around in a circle from Google and colored everything in using colored pencils. I didn’t really help her with this (Though I did trace the writing I did with the poster in a darker marker since we agreed I had the nicer handwriting) because I had a different task: writing a goodbye letter to the café owner of the 한옥 Twosome Place across the street from our high school.

We practically visited that café every single week we were in school to study. The café owners were always so kind so us. They came to know that we were exchange students and always asked us questions about life at 하나고! They even remembered our orders!! After multiple visits ordering the same thing (green tea latte for me), the owner would ask me if that’s what I wanted before I could even open my mouth to order. They (Her and her husband) also always complimented our Korean even when we only said basic phrases—it was a nice ego boost from time to time. Today we had plans to visit the café after school and because it was quite possibly the last time we would visit (Next week is our final week at 하나고…), we needed to give them a letter and say goodbye today! Luckily, I was very productive with the letter writing and even impressed myself with how many (advanced)  grammar points I used, so I finished with time to spare. 

Reading this over…omg the spelling mistakes and the misuse of some of the grammar points..I cringe!! Maybe I changed things before writing it in the letter.

Katie and I spent the break time in one of the practice rooms (singing our anthem Country Road as per usual) and then completely goofed off second period after the poster and letter were complete. I drew Katie a little gift on her hand with some of the markers! 

Second to last Public Speaking class was so bittersweet. Who would have thought this class would become my favorite?? I love all my classmates and the extra time with 서린 is always fun! (Plus, Jason is such a great teacher. I really miss the American style of teaching while being here.)

Katie and I actually ate at school today! I’ve realized that we’ve been doing less and less of that lately just because of time. We’d rather eat out/on the way to class than alone in the lunch room if our friends aren’t available to eat… but today we got to eat with the whole big squad! And the food today was pretty good too: a chicken leg, waffle fries, fresh strawberries, and some weird cream soup. I enjoyed the meal—especially the fruit. I hid the leftovers in my pocket for later!

During 공강 I finished writing out the cafe owner’s letter onto and actual piece of paper and making it look pretty with stickers. AP 미시경제 just proved to be another lecture and I studied Korean instead of taking notes/paying attention. I did get a chance to talk to 서린 more (when she was not napping during break). She gave me some really cute heart-shaped mints! I think she was using them to try to keep herself awake!

After school ended, Katie and I went over to Twosome Place. We ordered our usual drinks and went to the second floor and changed clothes, did our makeup, etc. We both had Friday night plans after we separated once our café date was done so we decided to get ready there instead of the school bathroom. (It’s extremely weird putting on everyday/street clothes and hurrying out of the building when all the other students are dressed in their uniforms… we already stick out enough!) 

The café owner brought our drinks up to the second floor. (This café has those beepers that let you know when your order is ready to be picked up but it seemed that they always preferred to bring our order up to us.) So we drank those before working up the courage to give our letter to the café owner. We let them both know how much we appreciated their kind hospitality during the past 9 months and that when (not if) we return to Korea, we will make sure to come back to this café. We also asked the female manager to take a photo with us for memory sake. She was so against taking the photo at first but we were able to convince her!! Aren’t these such cute shots?

After the sad goodbye, I made my way over to 홍대 to meet a friend that I met off of a language exchange app. We didn’t have many plans for how to spend he night besides karaoke and exactly what we were going to have for dinner: intestines. Last time we met up, they brought up that they ate intestines with their sister and I was intrigued from there on out. I remember during the beginning of the program (and throughout winter break to be honest) how often Liam and Josh would ask me to go eat intestines with them. We’d be looking for something to eat and we’d always seem to pass a place selling intestines and they would go crazy. I was really against it earlier but I suddenly had the urge to try it! Maybe because it was the end of the program? That could be it.

We went to this place that apparently is well known in 홍대. A lot of Koreans go after work and eat intestines as it supposedly pairs well with alcohol—Korea’s version of bar food perhaps? The worker basically cooked the food for us and then I watched my friend eat every different type of intestine first before consuming it myself (Yes, there were several different parts of intestines and each part had a different flavor and texture.) I thought that most of it tasted fine but sometimes the texture was just off-putting. It was similar to straight up eating the fat off of meat or bacon, for example. I do not think I would have it again myself but it definitely wasn’t bad–and really not that gross. You just have to eat it without having any thoughts about what exactly you are eating.

We finished the night off watching a movie and then that was it. A nice ending to a pretty great week. I cannot believe that next week is my last week of high school… where does the time go?

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (Jejudo School Trip) Day 2-Part 2: 이중섭미술관, 삼겹살 맛집과 카페에서 밤 이야기 (05/02/20) NSLI-Y Korea AY

Thursday (05/02/20) – Part 2!

Bus Ride Selfie

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!)

  • Emma 엠마

Outside Class (야외수업), Travel Maker Brunch in Hongdae, and Korean Monthly Exam (04/30/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/30/19 Tuesday

Since Katie and I stayed up really late the previous night studying, we were both practically dead in the morning. We even went to the convenience store to buy coffee before school started because I knew that there was no way I would be able to sit awake during my classes today without some assistance from caffeine.

Morning selfie before we have to be in our homerooms

During first period, I had my English conversation class with three 2nd year students and instead of having any conversation on intellectual topics, we rather planned what we would be do in two weeks time when meeting up in 홍대 to hang out! The girls were going to be able to get permission to leave school to hang with me for a couple hours, so we spent our hour in the library picking where to eat and deciding what we could do to fill up the time. 수빈 recommended this really good (and cheap) chicken place that she had been to in 부산 (it was a chain) so were going to eat there and then most likely go to 노래방 (karaoke) and make perfume or macaroons or something crafty–we wanted to do something hands on! It was a lot of fun planning out our day!

My 한국사 (Korean History) teacher switched things up for today’s class and allowed us to have class outside which we call 야외수업! We left the classroom and walked down this really nice, scenic path past the 한옥 (Korean traditional house) museum and neighborhood almost towards the nearby Buddhist temple.

On our way there, we passed by these birds fighting on the sidewalk and one of the birds became injured and was struggling to flap its wings while it was down on the ground. A lot of the girls were scared of it although it was harmless so they kept shrieking every time it gained enough momentum to get a little bit off the ground. It was really sad to see it in so much pain, struggling to survive and get back up. One of the students called someone (maybe some type of Animal control?) so when we did walk back to the school, that bird was gone.

The teacher talked to us a little bit about the history of the area before letting us go free and visit either the Twosome Place Cafe or the convenience store. (He turned a blind eye away from those students who were buying ramen to stockpile reserves in the dorm.) During the entire duration of our outdoor class, I hung out and chatted with my friend 정민. She actually is close friends with my other third year friends (세림, 지은, and 지연) but this was the first class I was able to have with her.

She was so sweet with me that she even bought me a drink from the cafe–an iced chocolate (basically just the cold version of the hot chocolate). We talked all about our school lives and a bit about our past. Apparently, 정민 spent some time in America when she was young because her aunt lives in the US. That was interesting to hear about.

After Katie and I finished our second exchange student conversation class of the day before lunch time, we immediately booked it off of school grounds to try to get to 홍대 as fast as we possibly could. All the other NSLI-Y students had no school today so they planned to all go out for a traditional American brunch at a famous place in 홍대 called Travel Maker.

Katie and I were able to make it to the restaurant just around the time that everyone else was receiving their food. We were able to just sneak into the booths they were already at and order some pancakes. Luckily, even though we did have school, we were able to make in enough time to eat with everyone for a little while. After we finished eating, we wanted to take a group photo so I (with some random confidence) ran up to a complete stranger walking in the park across the street and asked them to take a photo for us. I was glad that we were able to put this little brunch date together!

Blueberry Pancakes ❤ My favorite food = pancakes

Afterward, we all had to go and take our monthly tests for April… what a downer to a great first half of the day. I walked to the Better World Office with Josh and Jacquelyn and we passed by his cafe that day and there was a really cute sign out front. It made me smile.

Translation: Difficult days also pass by. Waiting for a happy tomorrow.

Our test this month was extremely difficult. We expected it, though. Our teacher warned us about it. The passages in this test seemed a lot more complicated than the ones in past tests and they were so much longer too! I barely had enough time to read through all of the reading passages and answer all the questions. I had to pick my best guess for a couple questions. I was also super tired from staying up late studying (and the coffee in the morning already wore off), so I started nodding off during the test too which is never good! After we all finished the reading test, we made a stop at the closest convenience store during break time to pick up some pick-me-ups including coffee and gummy geckos.

Usually my blog posts about the unit/monthly tests tend to be a bit more negative because more often than not I feel mildly incompetent after taking each and every test. Luckily, because I am writing this so much later, I do not have those negative thoughts floating around in my head. Looking back at this test and my OPI, I feel like I did pretty well. Comparing it to my march speaking test which involved me crying while on the phone with my teacher, this one went a lot smoother. She actually asked me to describe the movie plot of one of my favorite movies so I went on and described the basic plot of Hello Ghost which involves suicide and ghosts and although the subject matter was heavy, I was able to explain it all better than I originally assumed I would be able to. (Actually, I feel like that answer was probably one of the biggest reasons for why I was able to move up a level that month.) The writing test for this month was writing about our individual projects and I felt prepared to discuss my topic, but I still struggled with vocabulary. Even though I had to substitute some desired words for ones that I did know, I felt that I explained everything I wanted to discuss in my paper quite well.

After the monthly test, Josh and I walked to 와플대학 to meet some of the other NSLI-Y students (Alix, Hunter, Katie, etc) for our after-test-tradition of waffles. I had dinner plans with a friend after the test so I ended up not ordering my own and just stealing some bites from Katie. We talked about our tests and ranted for a bit before I left for 신촌.

In 신촌 we went to a meat restaurant and had barbecue for dinner while chatting about a lot of different topics. I learned that the tape and arrows on the roads and alleyways pointing to certain restaurants were a part of events that the university students hold. Apparently like a fundraiser type thing? Or they are ways to try to raise membership for clubs and such. When we first got to the restaurant, we watched some female students putting the yellow tape on the road and as it got darker, we noticed people directing others to follow the tape to the final destination. 

Yonsei at Night

After eating we walked around the 연세 campus which was honestly the first time I really was able to walk around a large majority of the campus. Previously, I had only walked up the large drive (lawn maybe is a better term?) with Addie and Jessica on two separate occasions. My friend was not a student there or anything but we still walked around the different buildings anyways.

We ended the night just chilling at a cafe to talk. Cafe Pascucci was the name of the cafe and it was my first time there! We just got our drinks and relaxed on one of the sofa seats on the second floor and talked until I had to go because of curfew. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful days leading up to the test day.

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

  • Emma 엠마

Kakao Friends Cafe and Japanese Dinner with my Host Sister (04/29/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

Author’s Note: Unfortunately, the last month of my NSLI-Y program was very very hectic. I was unable to dedicate time to write daily blog posts let alone upload already edited posts. Because of this, I am now writing these posts nearly a month later (already back at home in America). Many of these next few posts are going to be quite short and brief because I forgot a lot of what happened… I now only have photos to jog my memory of the days’ activities. It is unfortunate that posts cannot be as detailed as my previous ones but I will still continue to write them regardless! I do still want to document my exchange year via this blog. This is enough of a blurb from me! Let us get on with the actual blog post content:

4/29/19 Monday

My politics and law class was a total blur but my advanced English class was a lot of fun today. Throughout this semester, we have been analyzing different types of writing as well as good traits in writing that the students should try to follow within their own writings. In class today we were wrapping up the argumentative essay portion of the class by reading one final argumentative essay on punishing children physically (ie. spanking). Before reading that piece, we went around the room and talked about our unpopular opinions. It was really interesting to see what all the students had to say. Our teacher Andrew started the conversation off with the fact that he does not understand sweet and salty combinations like fries and milkshakes (Not a Korean thing but a combination that is legendary nonetheless!) or salted caramel, for example. Some of the students brought up their dislike towards fishing, dogs, cherry blossom hype (not over-hyped but I digress), superhero movies, chocolate, and so on. 서연 chose me to share my unpopular opinion and I talked about the fact that I believe that naps do not work. I always feel way more tired after taking naps and so I feel like they are honestly a waste. The 하나고 students (who are constantly sleeping during breaks–or during class for that matter) quickly came to attack me and told me that power naps (less than 20 minutes) were truly great. I will stick to my unpopular opinion!

After school, Katie and I went to 연서시장 (the market near the closest subway station to 하나고) to have some 떡볶이 (Ddeokbokki- spicy rice cakes) and 튀김 (assorted fried foods) for lunch. We did not know it then but it ended up being the last time we ever had lunch at that market. When we got there to order, the lady in charge of the front immediately smiled at us as she recognized us from the previous times we have visited. The employees are always the same. This time, she did not even explain the fact that the food would be brought out to us or that we could fill up cups with 오뎅국물–because she knew that we were already aware of what we are doing. We are market pros! 

Today’s Korean class was the final class before our April monthly test. We did not learn any new grammar points but instead tried to quickly finish up the reading and listening dialogues for the last chapter we were working on because recently, we have been going on too many tangents during class.

After class, I was not in the mood to go home right away so I decided to shop around with Kaitlyn as she wanted to get a head start on finishing a list of things she needed to buy before leaving Korea. Originally, we planned to just visit those roadshop beauty stores and then get bubble tea at Gongcha but then randomly I convinced Kaitlyn to go to the Kakao Friends Store Cafe with me because I had yet to visit it. Actually, it was my first time ever walking into the store. I had not gotten the chance to go in during the past 8 months. (And the last time I was in Korea, there was no store in 홍대. I had only been to the pop-up one in the 신촌 subway station!)

Anyways, I caved in and bought an overpriced chocolate cupcake just because it had Ryan–my favorite Kakao character–’s face on it while Kaitlyn ordered some milk ice cream, milk flavored ice cream… I know a bit strange because well isn’t ice cream usually made with milk?

Kaitlyn and I just chatted for a bit and I enjoyed catching up with her. We used to hang out a lot more and do more cafe dates in the past but for some reason those became lesser and lesser. I was happy to start hanging out with her more! I really do love Kaitlyn ❤ 

I came home to find out that my eldest host sister and host mom had plans for the night so I would just be having dinner with my younger host sister. We decided to go out to eat for the night (which took a while to decide because we are both very very indecisive) at some Japanese restaurant. The dinner was actually really great because we got the chance to talk more (just us) and it was definitely less awkward than the first few times we hung out when I first moved in with this family. The food was delicious too! I had a bowl of udon noodles (thick wheat flour noodles) with donkatsu (pork cutlet).

For the rest of the night, I just hardcore studied for my Korean test because I really wanted to show some improvement during this month. 

Also LOOK! I am on a flyer for host family outreach! (Upper left corner–my host sisters and me)

Well, that is all for this blog post! I love that I said that these upcoming posts would not be detailed and then I explain everything with the utmost detail. It is weird. I cannot remember the entire outline of the day but my brain tends to remember certain parts of my day very vividly–no matter how insignificant those moments are. Anyways, till next time~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/27/19 Saturday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The name of the cafe was 오늘의 위로

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

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

Lazy Dinner = Ramen

4/28/19 Sunday

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

앤디야~ 왤케 귀여워??

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마