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

02/27/19 Wednesday

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

 

IMG_2349

Tapioca Nut Lattes ❤

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

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

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

IMG_2397

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

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

IMG_8819

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

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

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

IMG_2401

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

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

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

IMG_2404

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

IMG_2406

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

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

02/28/19 Thursday

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

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

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

 

IMG_2415

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

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

 

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Chinese Dragon Lights at Soldier Field in Chicago {April 27th, 2018}

The Dragon Lights was an exhibition of Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, demonstrations, as well as popular products, handicrafts, and food. I found out that this exhibit was coming to Chicago after being bombarded with SnapChat messages from my fellow StarTalk Chinese classmate, and we immediately decided we had to go!

The Dragon Lights exhibited numerous displays of Chinese lanterns: pandas, koi fishes, dragons, bears, Chinese warriors, families, gates, etc. They were very beautiful and intricate! I had never seen anything like them before! I really can’t do much explaining in this post so please, simply, enjoy these photos:

drag 6

drag 17

Spot the difference!

drag 8

drag 9

drag 12

These dragons were constructed with tiny jars filled with colored liquids!

drag 15

There were also cultural performances scheduled throughout each day; however, it was raining while we were there, so they had to cancel some of the performances. Though, we were able to watch two very interesting showcases. I believe the ones we missed were martial art performances.

p6

Peacock Dance (Chinese Folk Dance)

p2

The dancer was very thin, but she had such defined back and arm muscles! So talented~ (And she must have been so cold being rained on…)

Besides walking around and catching up with my friend Becca, I think the best part of the exhibition were the stalls with Chinese handicrafts and products. Becca and I pulled out our Chinese skills (if we can even say skills) to talk to the vendors.

It started raining a lot more and it got super cold at the end of the night, so we left early to indulge in Chinese food. The best ending to a great day.

Website of the Dragon Lights: http://dragonlightschicago.com/

  • The Dragon Lights exhibition lasted from March 30th to May 6th

Thanks for reading this post! It is quite late (the last month of senior is crazy, okay!) but better late than never? I have also been really sick these past two days (which is why I was able to write up this post XD) but my next post will be about my second NSLI-Y event! I organized a bubble tea social with a group of alumni as well as the Midwest DIR. Stay tuned!~

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Alumni Dinner Event (Chinatown, Chicago – March 29th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분! 你好 朋友们!

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to host an alumni dinner in Chinatown, Chicago (my first in-person event) as part of my role as this year’s Chicago (Great Lakes Region) NSLI-Y Alumni Representative! I had been planning this event for about a month or so and when the date finally came, I was so nervous! I really wanted to make a good impression on the other alumni by organizing a successful first event~~

CNY Event 9

Behind the Scenes: Preparation

I took over NSLI-Y’s Snapchat in order to document the event (Follow NSLI-Y on Snapchat: @nsliforyouth) and it was a lot of fun taking photos of the alumni! Plus, their introductory videos were very cute! We had some shy alums but I was glad that they were open to group photos~~

CNY Event 2

We started off the dinner event by introducing ourselves. It was interesting to see that we had a variety of alumni eating with us. We had two college graduates, one current university senior, and then two seniors in high school (including me). It was fun hearing about what they had done after their NSLI-Y programs: studying abroad, traveling, interning with the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, working for the Department of State, taking NSLI-Y (target) language classes, and even taking up new languages.

CNY Event 8

(Left to Right): Diana {Morocco Summer 2017}, Angela {China Summer 2011}, Teri {Egypt Summer 2010}, Me {Korea Summer 2016}, and Elizabeth {Morocco Summer 2014}.

We discussed Chinese New Year (even though this event is quite a late celebration) and its traditions. We allowed Angela to take the floor and share her experience studying in China. Though this was an event for the Chinese New Year, we still discussed all of our experiences and because the majority of the alumni present were Arabic alumni, I got to hear a lot about the Morocco and Egypt programs.

Till this event, I had not personally talked to any alumni that had participated in the NSLI-Y Egypt programs, so it was very interesting to hear from Teri. Let’s just say that programs have changed so much in comparison to the stories she told…

We talked about our language learning journeys, our host families, and issues of race and identity on program. Our discussions were quite in-depth and stimulating.

CNY Event 7

Of course, we also ate plenty of food (too much to be exact!)

CNY Event 3

CNY Event 4

We feasted on a lot of delicious Chinese foods: Beef Fried Rice, Mongolian Beef, Beef & Broccoli, Orange Chicken, General Tso Chicken, Mapo Tofu, and Vegetable Chow Mein.

CNY Event 5

Teri, Angela, and Diana enjoying the course!~

CNY Event 1

Elizabeth the Model ❤

CNY Event 6

Snapchat saw it first!

This event was a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting these alumni and hearing their stories (while sharing mine as well). I hope that I can hold a few more events so I can connect with as many Chicago alumni as possible! Though we had a few cancellations right before this event, I am proud of the turnout~

To all the NSLI-Y alumni out there, make sure to join your regional alumni Facebook pages! This is where you will be notified about events in your area.

Thank you for reading this blog post!~ I hope you enjoyed~ 😉 Don’t forget to subscribe for future posts about events I host as Chicago’s NSLI-Y alum rep as well as other posts about language learning, travel, etc. 다음애 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion Celebrating Chinese New Year (Feb 17th, 2018)

February 17th, 2018

你好!My Startalk Chinese class came back together today in order to celebrate Chinese New Year~ I carpooled with my friend Becca, and we were both super excited to see our classmates again. The director of the Startalk program planned this reunion at a Chinese Restaurant about 30 minutes from where I live. And, wow, it was so crowded. There were so many families and couples there. The line was out the door! I guess this place is a crowd favorite for ringing in the New Year!~

new year 3

10/10 I would definitely recommend!

Becca and I were the first people to arrive so we met 胡老師 and her husband at the front of the restaurant until they could clear a table for us.

We started off the afternoon with a little test. Our director gave us four slips of paper and we were told to write down four characters to then be placed in a box. The director would pull random slips out throughout the lunch, and the winners would receive small prizes: candies and pastries. Then, before we started eating, 胡老師 taught us how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

新年快樂
Xīn-nián-kuài-lè
new year 18

Becca, Citlali, Adrienne, and I

new year 17

Citlali, Adrienne, Elaina, Bruce, and Magalie

new year 19

我的朋友!

We also learned a lot about Chinese New Year. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 16th which officially begins the year of the dog! (My zodiac sign is a rabbit~) Many people ring in the new year by cleaning their entire house and by decorating it with lanterns, calligraphy, and posters with poetic verses. Homes are filled with a lot of red! And on New Year’s Eve, families have reunion dinners– kind of like the one we were all having together!

new year 14

Such delicious food!!!

new year 10

For dessert, we had these pastries with filling that was made partially from egg yolks

new year 6

After eating, we played a couple of more games to try to earn points for prizes. We were taught the characters for Happy New Year and then we were given them, shuffled, and had to put the characters in order the fastest. We also played this game that involved our director holding up a piece of paper with a number (in Chinese characters of course) and then we had to quickly write a sentence in Chinese with the same number of characters. It was intense!

new year 7

Prizes for winning the games!

new year 8

Our director gave us training chopsticks shaped like ninjas. XD She told us that her 20 year old son can’t even use chopsticks! Fortunately, I do not need them, but they are adorable!

Lastly, 胡老師 talked to us about red envelopes during Chinese New Year. They are red packets filled with money given to kids, family members, friends, and coworkers to wish them a good new year and lots of luck. It is custom that once you get married, you should start giving out red envelopes. Our director all gave us “symbolic” red envelopes each holding one dollar. She explained to us that the tradition started off with small amounts of money but now, the custom has become more costly for the givers. (Especially when it comes to family members having to give money to the children in the family.)

new year 5

1. Accept the envelope with both hands 2. Give a greeting and express thanks 3. DON’T open the envelope in front of the giver!

At the end of the reunion, we took some group photos together and the individuals with the most points were able to choose a prize. There were so many prizes: Chinese coin purses, t-shirts, Chinese candy, chopstick sets, etc. I picked out this gorgeous set with 4 chopsticks and 4 chopstick rests~

image1

The Startalk Director (and my Chinese professor) with Becca and me~ ❤

And that was all for our reunion! It was a lot of fun being able to see all my classmates again (and eat some really delicious foods). Today has really motivated me to get back into my Chinese studies! It was nice being able to use it with everybody. Currently, I’m hoping to be a student helper alongside my director during this summer’s Startalk program! (Because I am too old to actually partake in it once again) I also found out that Lewis University’s Startalk is adding Russian this summer! How cool is that?!?! We will see how my summer plans work out 😉 Thank you for reading! 謝謝!再見!

  • Emma (敏娜)

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival

你好!This post is a little late… about four months after the Mid-Autumn Festival to be exact. But, I am finally getting around to making this post after collecting all my photos as well as researching more about this Chinese holiday.

startalk.JPG

So this past summer (2017) I participated in a Startalk program to learn Traditional Chinese. I spent about 5 hours every weekday at a local university learning how to speak, read, and write Chinese for 4 weeks. Startalk’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens speaking critical languages, and it is funded by the National Security Agency (NSA). This summer was a blast, and I made a lot of really good friends from different high schools all around me. In order to keep us engaged with Chinese and to allow our classes to “stay” together, the director of my local Chinese Startalk program planned a reunion for the students. We would be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival– eating delicious food, learning about the holiday, refreshing our Chinese skills, and just hanging out with friends we haven’t seen in awhile.

mid autumn festival.jpeg

PC: Examine China

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival that gets its name from (you guessed it!) the fact that it is usually in the middle of autumn. (The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese calendar.) The Chinese celebrate this festival by having dinner with family, playing with lanterns, flying lanterns, worshiping the moon, and more. And of course, food is plentiful!

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and had our reunion on October 7th, 2017 (Saturday). This date, inconveniently, was the same day I took my SAT Subject tests. Therefore, I was a little late to the festivities because I had to deal with SAT Spanish and SAT Literature and when I did get to Lewis University, my classmates were playing games to refresh our memories on Chinese and practice new words and phrases.

reunion 2

So happy to see everyone again!!! ❤

reunion 3

Before I arrived, my classmates had eaten these flaky, sweet pastries. I later learned that these pastries were Taiwanese Sun Cakes, and they were very delicious!~

To practice out Chinese, we played this game that was very similar to Charades. We were given slips of paper (2 or 3 each) which had vocabulary words written on them. We had to get up in front of everyone and act out the word without any sounds. If someone guessed it, then both the guesser and the actor would get a point. (Points were important because there were “prizes” to be given out!) It was a lot of fun and Bruce acting out “Mother” will always be my favorite thing! XD

After games, we had our Mid-Autumn Festival feast! (Which was what everyone was looking forward to~)

reunion 5

They got SOOO much food catered! It was crazy to see so much food for not that many Chinese students. (Lucky for the director, high school students know how to eat XD)

reunion 6

Not every student was able to make it :/ However it was still very nice to catch up with everyone (and talk to those who I did not have a chance to during the summer).

reunion 7

Reunion photo with Class 2’s teacher (My class’s teacher was busy :/) and the director of the program (and my professor for my online Chinese course at Lewis).

After dinner we learned about (and obviously ate) Mooncakes which are traditional Chinese pastries eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are usually circular or square in shape with a pastry exterior and a sweet filling. There are many things that are used in the filling for the Mooncakes: Lotus seed paste, fruits, red bean, nuts, dates, etc. Mooncakes are very popular and are often offered as gifts to family, coworkers, and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

reunion 4

The Mooncakes were purchased in gift boxes because of how often they are given as gifts.

reunion 9

Mooncakes often have really intricate details on the outside!

Our director purchased two types of Mooncakes: The first having pineapple filling and the second having a filling made out of dates. Mooncakes can be considered an acquired taste. Some of my classmates were not fond of the taste or texture or both. However, I found them really tasty! (Even though I had never even eaten dates before this day!)

reunion 14

Becca trying to be funny! XD  我爱她 ❤ ❤

After we stuffed ourselves with all the Chinese food we could get our hands on, it was time to start wrapping up the reunion. Throughout the day we were accumulating points if we had won any of the games in order to pick prizes at the end. (Those with the most points got to pick first and then so on down the line.) Unfortunately, because I was the last student to show up (As if the SAT Subject Tests were not bad enough! haha jk…), I had the lowest amount of points which meant I was to pick last. I received an American candy bar XD It was still greatly appreciated, however. (Though I definitely had enough to eat already!) But there were some really great prizes: Chinese textbooks, Chinese books, Chinese music CD’s, Taiwanese scarfs, and notebooks.

The biggest prize of all (at least for me) was the fact that the director of Startalk needed to get rid of all the leftover food so we were allowed to take home as much as we liked. So, of course, I made myself a nice plate for dinner.

reunion 15

Sam getting his Ziploc bag for leftovers ready!

reunion 18

Bruce bringing home a whole box of leftovers! #goals

reunion 17

My dinner for the night XD 谢谢老师!~ ❤

And that was my Startalk’s class reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival! It was a lot of fun to come back together since we had not seen each other for almost an entire 3 months. Additionally, I was talking to my Chinese professor a couple weeks ago, and she is trying to have another reunion in February for Chinese New Year!~ I am excited to see what she plans for that! (This reunion happened today: February 17th) I will write a blog about that soon!~ 谢谢!再见~

  • Emma 敏娜