Pancake Brunch Tradition in Hongdae & Josh’s Cafe (04/22/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/22/19 Monday

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Morning walks with springtime flowers >>>>>>

Katie and I kicked off our midterm break in the same way that we kicked off our winter break… with brunch! Specifically, brunch at Flapjack Pantry–our favorite place to get American-style breakfast in 홍대. (Travel Maker is a close second, though. This was a highly contested debate within our NSLI-Y cohort) We stuffed our faces with pancakes of course!! No surprise there~

The weather was so nice this day~~ It was supposed to be the warmest day of the week and it definitely felt like summer rather than spring. Katie and I had a lot of fun just talking while enjoying our scrumptious food—happy to not have woken up at 6 am that morning for school…just that high school student life! We also ordered a side of fries which I understand is not a typical pairing with breakfast foods but we were craving a FULL American experience this morning. 

After we had brunch, we went off to find a cafe to work at because we needed to do some homework. The both of us left things until the last minute… We were gonna go to this “Insta-worthy” cafe at first but alas, they are closed on Mondays! So instead of that, we went to our trusted cafe near Better World—Josh’s Cafe. (I wish I could remember the actual name…but the name included stars or moons? It will come back to me eventually.)

Earlier, when we passed by the cafe, the owner waved at us as she saw us out the window. When we returned to study there after brunch, she said “우우 다시 왔어” (ooo You came again!) as we walked through the door. I felt as welcomed as ever~~ 

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I ordered a chocolate banana smoothie and when the owner brought out our drinks, there were two little cute pieces of strawberries right on top of mine~ She told me that she prepared them just for me. It was such a sweet gesture!

We studied there for almost two hours and I was able to really get productive, even when Addie and Josh came by which disturbed the peace for a bit (Not throwing shade but it’s the truth! When people are around you not working, it makes you not want to work either). I was able finish my witting assignment on the reasons behind the  increase of international/interracial marriages as well as problems that arise for those types of couples AND re-memorized my speech on technology (even though I ended up not needed to since we did NOT any presentations give them on Monday.)

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In class today we discussed the term “millennials” in Korean and how Korean society has split up generations and their respective names.

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Also, we discussed our current packing crisis since we will need to start preparing for returning home and our teacher recommended that we donate some clothes! She told us about used clothes bins around the city and I will have to look into that! I have some clothes I want to leave behind/no longer fit.

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Since Katie and I had a large brunch, we ended up not eating lunch which was fine with me at the time but eventually after Korean class, I was feeling extra hungry. We had our bi-weekly meeting after class so all the NSLI-Y students met up at the center for that. To my surprise, Katie bought me ice cream! She came through the door holding some cookie sandwich ice cream and I was so touched~~ I was hungry so she really has good sense! 

 

After class, I walked around the main shopping street of 홍대 with Kaitlyn for a little less than 30 minutes because she wanted to kill time before her train. I ended up buying a new wallet during that time… reason #217 that I can’t go down that street: I will buy something. It’s kind of a necessary though; my current one is falling apart. Literally. 

I got home just in time for dinner and when my sisters arrived home, they asked me what I wanted to eat. Usually, I say something along the lines of “상관 없어” (I do not have a preference/I do not mind) or “아무것나 괜찮아” (anything is good) because I do not want to give them any more work. I will literally eat anything they prepare for me. However, this time I actually chose out of the options they offered. So we had chicken for dinner! 

My host mom had to leave mid-meal because of some work thing so it was just me and my host sisters eating dinner together. And, it was a lot of fun! I ended up staying at the kitchen table/chilling in the living room for almost two hours after we ate because we were just having that much fun talking! Honestly, I love my host sisters so much because we always have great conversations. They aren’t afraid to talk about any topic with me and I love that! (And I do not mean in just a personal/intimate sense–with what is discussed–but they also do not shy away from certain topics (or words even) just because of the language barrier. For them, our relationship has no barrier–it is simply a hurdle. And that can be hard to find, especially in regards to relationships with locals. When I speak with them, I feel normal–just like a human. Basically, not as a foreigner.)

First, they told me about this recent scandal with a famous clothing brand on Instagram. Apparently, someone messaged the owner about the holes on some shirt being too small for the buttons and the owner rudely replied (in a fake nice manner) telling the customer to just cut the holes bigger with a knife. That customer posted the DMs online on some forum and it went viral in Korea. Tons of other people started exposing that online store and they lost a lot of their followers on Instagram.

Stemming from that, we started talking about scandals with how people respond to certain situations, so I brought up the scandal with some American college professor or other who sent an email to someone asking for the Chinese students of that particular university (they were possibly international students?) to not be allowed to speak Chinese on campus with others around. Her round-about ridiculous reasoning being that they would do better connecting to the community or getting internships or something of the sort if they refrained from speaking Chinese. My sisters asked me what happened to the teacher and I’m pretty sure she was fired because the school did not want to give an image of an institution that doesn’t promote or accept diversity. 

We also talked about funny subway stories in which I mentioned the time that I saw a carry-on fall off the shelf above the seats right onto a woman standing there. My sisters were freaking out when I was telling this story because they couldn’t believe someone could be so dumb as to place their bag up there—especially seeing that it was one of those rolling carry-on bags with the hard plastic shell covers. Their screams of disbelief kept getting louder and louder as they added each description word to the suitcase: wheels? Plastic? Hard?

They also told me the old way that people would confess to random strangers on the subway. And that would be by telling the person that they like that they would be getting off at the next stop. Hoping that if they were interested, they would follow them off at that stop. My younger host sister told me of the time that she witnessed it happen to a girl that was standing next to her on the train. When the guy told her that statement, she bluntly replied that she would not be getting off at the next station. That would be so embarrassing! It was a public confession at that!! But hey, kudos to him for being brave enough to shoot his shot in that manner–and in public.

We also talked about turnoffs with guys and one that we brought up was a guy that uses social media a lot and takes a lot of selfies. My host sisters think that kind of behavior is okay for girls to do (even though they do not do it) but for guys, they find it distasteful. It was interesting to hear that perspective because I think that a lot of Korean guys could fit into that box? Social Media is such a BIG thing here and I have observed that social media habits are quite different for both genders in Korea but especially in comparison to the habits of the same genders in the United States (or at least, within the circles I know on social media). Maybe I should write a post about this subject! I feel like it could be interesting to more deeply analyze this topic.

After hanging out in the living room chatting for a bit, I returned to my room to finish up my homework for the next day. I also had to pack because I was going to mail a package at the post office the following day. I needed to go through what I was gonna send now (and wouldn’t receive for 2-3 months as I would be sending it by boat) and what was gonna come with me back to the states in my suitcase. 

That’s all for this blog post then~ Thanks for reading!! I hope you enjoyed!! Please subscribe if you enjoy this content!^^ Bye!

  • Emma 엠마 

Taking the TOPIK (Korean Proficiency Test) in South Korea {04/21/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

4/21/19 Sunday 

Topik Test Day! All of our effort at studying Korean throughout this program would be put to the test today (quite literally). We were taking the test at a university outside of 서울 so I had to travel two hours (including transfer time) to get to the testing location! Luckily, I was able to get a seat after about twenty minutes from my departure station so from there, it was smooth sailing for me. I spent the subway ride cramming for the test and worrying intensely–nothing new to see here.

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Off to take the exam!

Honestly every time I thought about the test, I felt like throwing up. I had taken so many practice/mock tests and studied so many vocabulary words up until this point… I did not want all my effort to be in vain. I did not want to disappoint the expectations of my resident directors, of my Korean language teacher, and almost importantly myself. I wanted to be able to take this test and be proud of not only my effort in regards to preparation but also my results…for once?

민정쌤 actually accompanied us to the school because of the fact that it was outside of 서울. She said that she wanted to get us a testing center within the boundaries of our program rules (so 서울, 고양시 and 인천) but when she logged in to register us all, the seats ran out in seconds. The only place she could register all 10 of us (the ten 2반 and 3반 students taking the Topik 2 test) was at this particular university. We had a short bus ride from the subway and before we knew it, we were at the school—actually needing to wait 20 minutes outside of the doors because they would not open until 11:50 am. 

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Entering a random school for the first time and following signs to my testing room brought back some stressful memories from taking standardized tests in high school. I was the first one in my classroom and I walked around for a bit trying to figure out if I should walk in or not. Then I tried looking for my seat by reading off the name tags on the desks rather than the giant sheet of paper on the board. Luckily, a nice guy told me what to do so I could quickly get to my seat rather than walk each and every row until I found to my seat (I happened to be the very second chair all the way at the end of the classroom so if I had done that, it would have taken me so long.) 

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I got to my seat at 12 but the test didn’t start till 1 pm. It was a lot of directions being explained, testing the audio for the speakers, and passing out test papers. There were some differences with the test (in comparison to most American standardized tests) which really surprised me.

First of all, for American standardized tests, pencils are always used (specifically #2 pencils) but they actually passed out special pens for us to use during the tests. They were not ball point pens; they more closely resembled sharpies than anything else. One side had a thicker point for filling in the bubbles for the multiple choice sections (reading and listening) while the other side had a thinner point for the writing section.

The issue I had with the pens was that you were allowed to bring your own white out (the tape kind) to use if you made a mistake because clearly, you can not really erase sharpie. However, if you didn’t have any 수정테이프 (correcting tape) with you, you had to raise your hand to ask one of the test proctors to bring you one of the 5 that they had at the front of the room. This proved to be really annoying because I would want to just quickly erase my mistakes and keep going but I had to wait to get the proctor to notice me in order to give me the corrector before I could keep on going with the test.

Specifically with the writing test, I couldn’t just skip my mistake and keep going because you have to write in grid paper and they will take off points for doing the spacing wrong. And for one question on the listening portion, I ended up missing the recording because it was one of the ones that only play once and I was too busy asking for the tape for my last question that I couldn’t focus on what I was supposed to doing at the moment. Very very frustrating.

Besides that though, I will say that I think I did pretty well on the test. At least, I did the best that I could have done. There were plenty of times that I finished reading a paragraph and was able to understand it basically perfectly and was able to pick out the right answer right away—this was quite motivating. I was surprised that I was able to understand readings about why people can’t sleep well on space stations and why people, in fact, have an eye that they use more (just like we have a hand we are more comfortable using). Also, when words that we learned recently came out in the readings or in the answer choices, I would become suddenly happier. Seriously, I’d be sitting there concentrating through a passage and then a word would come up that I studied from a Quizlet set the day before and the biggest smile would appear on my face instantly.

 There was one moment where I literally almost scared the test proctor. I was at the point in the test where they leave certain spots blank in the reading so that you can create an answer choice that fits into that blank space. For this one particular question, all of the answer choices were proverbs. I believe I only knew two out of the four that were given; however, after reading the passage, it was clear which one was right. I literally started flailing my hands around and smiling like an idiot because not only did I recognize the proverb and remembered the meaning but I knew it was the right answer. While I was doing my little freak out dance because of that one proverb, I made eye contact with one of the test proctors and at first she looked confused but then she tried to stop herself from laughing. It was honestly hilarious! 

What was that proverb you ask? Here it is 발을 벗어나고 간다. It basically means to get out there and help—put in effort somewhere. 

During the break between the two tests, Katie, Addie, and I just chatted in the hallway while eating this bread I bought from the bakery. We ranted about the test for a bit. I’m so glad they got put in my room; I would have gone crazy if I had no human interaction during the entire testing period. 

I was a little disappointed in my Topik writings though… to be honest. The short writing was alright but the long one… I understood the question perfectly fine but I didn’t know what to say. Actually, I couldn’t even think of what I would say in English. I don’t think that I expressed myself well enough and I didn’t even reach 700 characters… it was kind of disappointing. 

Regardless, I let go of basically all my feelings at the end of the test once we all had a rant session outside of the school building. I kind of wanted to let off some steam with the other students afterwards but my host mom was expecting me home and I also was really tired. So straight after the test, I took the 2 hour long train ride back home. (But not without a hitch.. I got in a train going in the wrong direction at my transfer stop… how long have I been in Korea? And I’m still getting on the wrong train? Who am I?)

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Cherry blossoms are falling :,) but here comes green spring~

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I came home and did literally nothing!! I knew I was going to a cafe the following day with Katie to study so I decided to make the smart decision (sarcasmmmm) to not do any of my homework this day. My host sisters also already ate dinner by the time I got home so I ended up just eating 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes) and some 감자칩 (potato chips) in my room by myself—while watching a movie. It was still very nice though~ My host sister cooked for me, so I couldn’t have asked for a better dinner! 

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I cannot believe that I almost only have exactly a month left in Korea… I DO NOT want to think about it!!! (And yet I am speaking it into the universe now…welp, oops) But the next several blog posts are going to be so entertaining because it is 중간고사 기간 (midterm week) at 하나고 so Katie and I will not be required to attend high school throughout the week; therefore, I have lots of free time to relax, play around, and explore!! Hopefully, it will be more interesting content? In case the school days feel repetitive and boring? Writing them becomes tedious at times for sure… Anyway, till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

The Weather Has Warmed Up in Korea! Picnic at Seoul Forest {04/20/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

4/20/19 Saturday 

Saturday was in fact the day before the Topik test (Korean proficiency test) so I was aware of the fact that I wanted to (and probably needed to) study a bit more before taking it (looking over grammar and studying more vocabulary etc) and despite this realization, I decided to still go out and have some fun with Katie and Josh during the afternoon (But who can blame me for taking advantage of the beautiful weather?)

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Andy always keeps me company when I am getting ready

I got to wake up late today and sleep in because Katie and I mutually decided that we needed to better our sleep schedules so we ultimately decided against getting up and meeting early. I was able to have a relaxing morning, chilling in and lazing around my room and got to eat breakfast with my host family. (I usually leave the house before them on weekends–and during the school week–so we do not often get to have breakfast together besides for Sundays.) We ate 순두부찌개 (Tofu Stew), 오뎅 (Fishcake), and some 반찬 (Various Side Dishes) along with rice of course! It was a nice morning because I got to chat a lot with my host mom and host sister and hear about a recent scandal in Korea! 

Apparently there are (the past conjugation ‘were’ should be placed there now but…) about two main milk brands in Korea that compete against each other. However, my host sister told me that most people even switch off with which one they buy—it’s not a big deal. Most people tend not to be too loyal to a brand for milk. But recently, a lot came out about one of the brands and since then, their sales have dropped dramatically because people refuse to buy their products. She told me the actual figures for this decrease but I cannot reliably do any calculations above 100,000 in Korean… you lose me once there are 6 zeroes. But from her expression and her tone of voice, I could tell that whatever she said had a pretty significant difference. Apparently at the company, there were a lot of sexual discrimination cases against female workers and one person in particular talked about everything that went on there while she was working (she has since left the company) and posted it on an online forum. Not only that, but the granddaughter of the CEO of the company was involved in the Burning Sun controversy (scandal involving Big Bang’s 승리 and drugs and prostitutes at his many clubs) so those two things combined have made people stop buying their milk as a boycott—including our older host sister. I might not have added too much to the conversation but being able to practically understand all that my host sister said made me really proud! 

I met up with Katie at her station at around 12:30 pm and we took the train together to 서울숲 (Seoul Forest) to get there by 1 pm. Katie bought bread from a bakery near her house and I bought us some 김밥 and drinks from a convenience store right outside of the exit. I didn’t look up how to get into the park but I figured I’d be able to do it with whatever was left of my memory from visiting three years ago—I felt like it was still pretty clear in my mind. 

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I successfully got us to the right place and we ended up finding a seat on these raised planks of wood near the entrance (meant for picnics) and we camped out there and ate our food until Josh arrived. We talked about a lot of stuff including our worries about going to college and leaving Korea all behind. It got pretty emotional at times and then next think you know, I was cracking a hard boiled egg on Josh’s head!

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He first actually handed it to Katie and asked her to open it because he can’t (He really can’t though! He always wastes so much of the egg white when he opens it by himself. I assist him during Korean class) but then she looks at him and goes “Dude How Would I Know How to Do That?” He asked the girl that doesn’t eat eggs to open an egg??? 

After finishing up our food, we left to find the deer corral as well as just take in the beautiful scenery that the forest had to offer. It is truly crazy how big the park is and how it can make you feel like you are not in the middle of a city.

But apparently, they have stopped allowing you to feed deer? When I went before with Sofia, we were able to buy deer food and feed the deer through the fence.

This time there was a sign on the feed vending machine saying that in order to not spread infectious diseases, you could no longer feed the deer. This was pretty unfortunate but we just decided to keep walking about and chatting. We did end up going inside the animal/plant conservatory! There was also an event going on so there were photo zones set up throughout the place for that very purpose. 

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We ended our trip there with some ice cream from the small convenience store and enjoyed that on some benches. After josh left for church, Katie and I walked around the area a bit more—ran into a festival—and found a cafe to sit in and do some actual homework for a little more than an hour (I spent the whole time learning vocab words on Quizlet.) 

I got home right in time for dinner so I ended up eating 냉면 (for me, it was 물냉면) with my younger host sister and mother. We ate and talked a bit at the table afterwards. 

I spent the rest of the night doing Quizlet sets and reading over example sentences of practically every grammar point I’ve learned this year. Luckily, Topik has no speaking portion so I’m just gonna hope that the readings and audio recordings and writing topics aren’t too difficult! 

That’s all for this blog post! It’s gone on long enough~ Thanks for reading! I hope this was entertaining enough… Till next time~ 

  • Emma 엠마

Just An Average Day in the Life of a Korean High School Exchange Student (04/16/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/16/19 Tuesday

My days were really off today (in my mind I mean). While chatting with Katie in the morning, I kept telling her that I was dreading going to 국어 and that Wednesdays were always so long… when it was in fact Tuesday. And then, I kept talking about Topik being on Saturday even though it is on Sunday! You would think that being back in school (and having so many deadlines from Better World to keep track of), I would be better about knowing the date and such but clearly, that is not the case. 

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During my usual English mentorship class today, I just self-studied in the library as midterms are approaching. The actual 하나고 students need to study for those!

Actually half way through the period, two of the girls from my group—은서 and 지연—came into the room apologizing to me as they thought I was waiting for them since they never outright cancelled the meeting with me. It was really sweet to see them thinking about me! 

In music class, our teacher explained to us this project that we will be doing. We were supposed to start it last week but the teacher was absent the whole week because of the flu, so we were starting it late. But this in the end had a positive, we were not going to have to present anything! The other students were put into random groups and then allowed to pick their topics from a list (a list that she created from topics that we included in our survey about music from the first day of class back in March) based on the number of their group (also chosen randomly). Because Katie and I were in two different sections of this music class, the teacher told us that we can just work as partners and she picked our topic for us: Arirang.

I honestly find it really heartwarming that she always thinks about what we will be doing in class. Like the other day, she gave us chords to work with for our song because she thought that we might have been having trouble. The fact that she prepares stuff outside of class for us rather than forgetting we are a part of the class (and even with small things like calling our names for attendance)… most teachers don’t do even that. It feels good to be included. 

During 한국사, our teacher lectured the whole time but that did not stop me from just doing my own Korean work in class. Before class started, I noticed that 동철 was still in the class, getting ready to leave. I wanted to say hi but I worried that he might be busy so I just sat down. He actually ended up coming over to me and asking how I was and we quickly talked about midterms, third year life, and so on. At one point, he pointed out his good friend (Both 동철 and his friend took AP world history with me last year) and asked him why he wasn’t sitting next to me. He pointed out that I had no one sitting next to me on one side, so he could just plop his stuff down on that desk. His friend was laughing along but you could tell he felt really awkward and uncomfortable. Then 동철 continues on and tells me to just go move over to him. It was funny that he wanted to make me feel more included within the class but I was not about to sit next to someone who clearly wasn’t up for the interaction. It was a nice gesture, though. 

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Today was also the 5th year anniversary of the 세월호 침몰 사고 (Sewol Ferry Incident) in which a ferry carrying mostly high school students on their school trips sank–killing many. In Korea to this day, this is a sore subject and is seemingly continuously present in the collective Korean psyche. To represent this event, many people wear a yellow ribbon. (Translation of the banner: “The 5th Spring, We Will Not Forget”)

Katie and I had another mentorship class before lunch so we just did some self-studying in the special room on the third floor—it’s for meetings I believe? But there are couches! And less fitting… a BMI scale? Students kept coming into the room to use it… I originally planned on sleeping during that period but instead I went hard on the study grind. 

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For lunch, we decided to actually just eat at 하나고 early for once. This entire second semester, we have not eaten at the school cafeteria (without our group of friends) at all—not even one time under our belt. Today we just went for it and honestly, it was not bad at all. In fact, it was quite nice because there was no line and lots and lots of seats. It was also quieter and easier to talk because there were less students. 

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Of course, stopped by to get 녹차호떡 on our way to Korean class. (Gotta get our fixings in before the weather gets too warm and they stop being sold–since it is more commonly eaten during cold weather),:

Korean class today was really entertaining. We learned two new grammar points but besides that, we talked a lot about new-age technology and the advancements that humans have made. One of the readings we looked over was about new inventions involving technology that can be commonly found in the home—making people’s lives easier. One of these inventions included refrigerators with touch screens or smart screens. At first, I thought this was extra but then I realized how handy it could be… until I read the description for it in the excerpt. It literally said that “by using the smart screen on the door, you can check where the items in your fridge are placed.” I immediately called this out to my teacher. 윤아 tried defending the idea saying that you could see what was inside (or how much you had) without opening the door and though I find that somewhat valid, that’s not what the article said. It literally said you can check where the items themselves are placed. We all started erupting in laughter as I kept questioning “Why can’t you just open the door of the fridge?” 

Our teacher gave the argument that finding things in the fridge can be difficult and then josh retorts back “Not if the fridge is organized.” He then goes through his own American fridge’s organizational state–meat drawer and all. This made me laugh so hard that tears almost left my eyes. Koreans already often have another fridge for their 김치 and 반찬! They also need a fancy fridge with a screen? Our teacher asked us if our host family’s fridges are organized and we all looked at each before simultaneously saying no. We all laughed at this point and our teacher kept saying that that was why—Koreans don’t really organize their refrigerators like Americans apparently. It was a funny conversation. 

We also read a blurb of an article predicting that there would be humans marrying robots in the near future and our teacher goes “Probably from Japan! That’s a very fun country…” and then she goes on to bring up the anime girlfriend pillows. It was pretty funny. 

After class, I wasn’t in the mood to go home. In fact, I was in the complete opposite mood. I wanted to go to a 노래방 (once again) and sing some old Justin Bieber songs like Baby, One Time, One Less Lonely Girl, etc. (But only for a short period at a coin 노래방, I wanted to be home for dinner.) 

So June took Kaitlyn and I to her favorite place and we spent about half an hour there. We sang a whole slew of oldies that included Miley Cyrus’ The Climb, Demi Lovato’s Heart Attack, Taylor Swift’s Our Song and of course we sang Let it Go—the crowd favorite. 

I went home after that and I was told by my host mom that I would be eating alone tonight because my host sisters were so hungry that they already ate ramen at the 학원. She asked me what I wanted to eat and gave me three options that included 물냉면 so of course I went for that—one of my all time favorites. Eventually, my host sisters came home and they didn’t just bring themselves. They also brought back cartons upon cartons of strawberries (I’m talking at least 10) and three jars of Nutella. 

They had a cooking class at the 학원 today and the students got to eat fruit crepes. She showed me the pictures and wow did they look delicious! But it also looked like a lot of work. Nonetheless, the strawberries were delicious with the Nutella. I could have eaten that forever for sure. 

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

  • Emma 엠마 

Han River Park Picnic & Cherry Blossom Viewing (04/13-04/14/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/13/19 Saturday

So although the doctor ordered me to rest all weekend (and when I say doctor I mean my host family and myself), I was the one that organized this big picnic with the majority of the NSLI-Yians so how could I miss my own event??? I thought that this would be a fun activity in order to not only to hang out (because we haven’t all done that in awhile—I think the last time was Tacos after the OPIC) but also to celebrate Shada and Shannon’s birthday! So I planned a little 한강 picnic from 11 am to 3 pm-ish at the 여의나루 river park. 

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Katie surprised me with a macaroon at the subway station!! ❤ :,)

I was planning on taking lots of pictures in front of the remaining cherry blossom trees (literally there were like 3 left—no joke… the rain washed them all away…) so June and I decided to both wear our matching dresses to the picnic. We got some really cute couple photos out of it! 

We got to the park pretty early so although there was a good amount of people already there, it definitely got more crowded as it became later in the afternoon. 윤아 brought a picnic blanket and I brought two (actually they were 가희’s birthday gifts… from back in Feb…) but because we were also having 11 people in total coming, we had to rent two 돗자리 as well. Because I had done it on Sunday, I was confident that I would be able to do it again. Katie and I found a nice lady and when I asked for two of them, she of course was shocked at my abilities and then complimented my Korean. (한국어를 잘하시네요~~~) She explained that we would pay four dollars up front and then receive two dollars back when we return the blankets and I was able to understand every bit of it which made me proud. (Not that it was insanely hard Korean or anything…still.. little accomplishments)

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It is VERY difficult to fit everyone in one single selfie!

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Once we got our spot and the picnic blankets all laid out, it was time to figure out the most important thing of the day: picnic food. While making our way out of the subway station, 윤아 grabbed one fried chicken flyer from an 아줌마 and then all the other ones around us spotted that and started throwing flyers at her. It was honestly one of the most hilarious things I had seen that week. 윤아 kept shrieking as they kept piling on the flyers. She had so many in her arms that she could barely see before she rearranged them.

We planned to order fried chicken and pizza but needed to use three phones for the order because we wanted to use coupons for free side menu items with our pizza but of course they had a one-order-one-coupon policy so I was stuck ordering one of the pizzas. I was so nervous about ordering it that I was shaking! I listened to 윤아 order first and then I left the group and ordered by myself using my program phone. Even though I was really nervous about it, everything turned out perfectly fine! I was able to successfully order the pepperoni pizza and use the coupon for free chicken. I almost started freaking out when he asked me where to drop it off at but after thinking for one more second I understood what he said and replied ‘delivery zone 2’ with not too much hesitation (or fear in my voice). 

picnic 2

Jumping over the small stream to get to our FOOD!!!

After waiting an hour, all our food arrived and we picked it up at the designated zones. Delivery is on a whole other level here in Korea. All the nearby places will deliver to basically any part of the huge river park and there are special places along the stretch of it that are designated for food pick up.

The food potions were definitely kind of small compared to how many people there were so we ate all of the food very very quickly. Even though we were a little hungry afterwards, we were able to curb that by eating some ice cream for dessert from the 편의점 (convenience store). We spent the rest of the time together just chilling, talking, even played a game of spoon that left Katie with an injured pinky finger. 

When it got close to 3 pm, we cleaned up our area and left to take some group pictures before separating for the rest of the day. I ended up buying a $5 flower shaped cotton candy because I was feeling in the mood to waste my remaining money (stipend was on Monday and I would not be able to leave my house for the rest of the weekend) and so I chose to do that on cotton candy. Shada came with me and the vendor actually messed up the first one so he gave it to us for free, so Shada also got some cotton candy of her own.

picnic 12

The cotton candy actually looked really pretty and I could tell it was a flower but only from looking at it from an overhead angle. From the side… it looked pretty strange so in pictures… I don’t even know if I can say what I think it looks like. But I will give the guy some credit, it looked really cute from above!

 

picnic 11

Also June showed off her amazing singing voice!! She was so good!

After parting ways, I just went straight home from the long day and just rested/did homework for the rest of the day. Nothing too special. 

04/14/19 Sunday

I literally have no pictures from this day… oh well. I slept in till late and ate breakfast with my host family which included 미역국 (seaweed soup) and 김치전 (savory kimchi pancake). I lounged around in the morning until Katie told me that she would come to my station so that we could go to a cafe together—we planned to be productive and study (and write blog posts) but also Katie wanted to gossip. I needed to hear about what she got up to on Saturday cause everyone else went out and had fun after the picnic. 

We went to our usual Breadworks Bakery and bought some bread to snack on while we worked. We were there for probably almost 4 full hours and although we were there for a very extended amount of time, I can not really say much about all the work we got done…I did write quite a few blog posts though and am slowly catching up! (Actually after this post, I’m only like two days behind which I can deal with!) 

After Katie left around 4 pm, I went back home and had a very late lunch/early dinner with my host family before continuing studying. 

picnic 18

When Andy falls asleep while you are busy studying!!!

We had our program reflection due that night as well and because I’m a perfectionist (while also being a procrastinator), I did not go to sleep till 2:30 am because that is when I finished my reflection. Not the best plan by any means… did I forget that you should sleep to stay healthy and get over sickness??? 

But that was my Sunday! Thanks for reading this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed it~

  • Emma 엠마 

Almost Passing Out, Skipping School, & Conducting an Interview in Korean (04/11-04/12/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/11/19 Thursday

sick day 14

Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

I woke up Thursday morning not feeling better at all but I didn’t really think much of it; I just carried on with my morning. I took the train to school as usual but today as I was riding the train, I got light headed and hot all of a sudden. I was standing next to the door, so I was able to lean against the door and put my face down on the pole but the feeling would not go away—it only got worse so I ended up literally collapsing on the ground to sit on the floor of the train with my head buried in my lap trying to find darkness and silence so that my head would give me a break.

I sat on the ground for a bit until my head got clear again and we arrived at my transfer stop. I walked to the line I would normally transfer to but missed my usual train because I wobbled over to the correct platform rather my than doing my usual half jog/half walk to make it to the train on time. I sat on the farthest bench from the escalators and called 민정쌤–almost on the verge of tears–explaining to her my situation. I really did not think that I had it in me to go to school but I could not form those words in my mouth to tell her just that. I just kept breathing heavily and fighting back my tears. I was really relieved when she told me that I could rest a bit on the bench and then go home instead of going to school, which is exactly what I did. I told her I had enough energy to take the train back home and so after literally laying on the bench for around 10 minutes, I headed back home. I arrived back at my host family’s apartment around 7:30 am and immediately hopped back into bed. My host family was still not awake yet so I did not even know if they realized that I came home. I was too tired to contact them or write a note.

I stayed in bed till literally 11 am! So on top of sleeping from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am (7 hours–more than I usually get on an average school day), I slept an extra 3 hours which was so nice~ It was definitely what I needed to help get me over this fever. I decided that I was still able to attend Korean class, so I ended up leaving the house and heading to 홍대 an hour early so I could go to the 약국 (pharmacy) with 소영쌤 (not for my fever though… she did not even know that I did not go to school… I wanted to get bandages for my foot!).

sick day 1

On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

Korean class was tough because I was not in the right mindset or state of health to be focusing on learning Korean. My head hurt the entire time and I kept coughing to the point that it seemed that I would hack up a lung. We were supposed to give our presentations today but because I did not go to school (and I instead spent my morning sleeping in), I ended up not memorizing my speech which is a first for me! I have never given a speech without memorizing the script beforehand. I was able to convince my teacher to let me give the presentation on Monday instead, however. She definitely took pity on me. (Oh, she also gave us these really delicious squeezy jelly fruit drinks that she ordered by bulk online from Japan. I know that the amount of real fruit in those drinks were minimum to none but nonetheless, I really enjoyed them–and pretended that they were healing me.

After Korean class, I went with Mckenzie to the 편의점 (convenience store) to buy snacks for me (Hey… gotta feed a cold right?) and then Blanc Bakery so I could buy a macaroon for my host sister (On Saturday, she is taking the Korean version of the GED exam. I thought I would buy her something to give her extra energy on the day of her exam.) When we went to the convenience store, the usual really friendly old man was there and he gave Mckenzie and me free chocolate bars! When he put it in our hands, I got so happy– and not only because all chocolate is great–but because free chocolate is especially so!!!)

I came home and my host family bought me 죽 (porridge) for dinner and throughout the entire meal time, they kept asking me how I was feeling. It was sweet to see how worried they were about me (Probably a bit more worried than they usually would be because we always talked about how strong my immune system is. I mean, I have been with this host family for almost 4 whole months now and this is the first time I have gotten sick.)

I spent the rest of the night just resting in bed, watching Netflix and random Youtube videos. I also did translate interview questions from English to Korean for my field learning project that I would be going on tomorrow morning (yup, I was skipping school–again!) It was a chill Thursday night~

04/12/19 Friday

On Friday, I got to sleep in a whole extra hour till 7 am because I was not going to school!! (At least for the first half of the day) I would instead be visiting the Seoul Welfare Foundation in order to conduct an interview about being disabled (and the societal perception of disabilities–specifically mental disabilities) in Korea with one of the lawyers there who often undertakes court cases on discrimination against disabled individuals.

So I ended up arriving at 공덕역 about an hour early even though the walk to the center was only supposed to take 15 minutes but I was really paranoid about being late or getting lost and therefore to prevent that, I showed up an hour early. At the subway station, I ended up passing by a Paris Baguette and so I bought Katie a macaroon (I feel bad that she has had to go to school by herself two days in a row now~) and then I used Kakao maps to figure out where I needed to go for my interview.

sick day 5

I used this feature on the app that allows you to use a street view camera so I was literally able to find landmarks to figure out how to get to the building while I was still in the subway station (since I did not have service to be able to use the app while I was on my walk.) Although Maps said that it would take 15 minutes to walk there, I made it in about 5 and so I sat outside waiting for 10 am to roll around which felt like it took forever. Outside of the building was a pretty pagoda and lots of cherry blossoms so I had some nice scenery (plus the weather was amazing) to keep me company. 

(Me freaking out in the elevator as the floor levels increase and I get closer and closer to getting off at my destination… I was so nervous! *panic panic*)

I got up to the 10th floor of the building and waited around for a minute before mustering up the courage to ask a random employee about my interview. This one lady came out to meet me and we talked together for about 20 minutes while waiting for the actual lady I was supposed to interview to show up (She suddenly got called into an important meeting and had to be late meeting me.) She was actually really interesting to talk to and apparently she lived in New York for most of her 20s (She attended college there) so it was nice talking about that with her. She apparently also knows the president of KUMPA, so when I mentioned my last research project being on 미혼모 (unwed single mothers) in Korea, she had a lot to say–especially about the adoption side of things.

The interview actually went a lot smoother than I had expected. The lady which kept me company until the other woman arrived ended up staying for my interview too. They were able to understand most of my interview questions (except one that I literally had to rephrase and then say a word in English… oof) and I was able to understand the main points of all of their answers. To be honest it was really difficult to take notes on what they were saying because I had to focus enough on the Korean to be able to comprehend it in my brain in English and then I had to shorthand that information into notes on my computer–oftentimes while they were still talking. I learned a lot through the interview and their answers are going to help me with my final project for sure. When I said goodbye to them, they wished me good luck on my project and my Korean studies and they also gave me a box of stationary (handmade wooden stationary like colored pencils, rulers, etc–very nice quality!) as a parting gift. I felt bad for not preparing a gift…but I ended up not getting any money for that in my stipend for this field trip. When I finally left the building and made it down the hill, I was feeling so refreshed! Health wise, my head felt clear for the first time in a long while and I was ready to go back to school and continue the day. Did this feeling of success truly change my mood?

sick day 10

Walk back to the subway station~

I got to school and met up with Katie at our lockers. I changed into my 생활복 (walking into school with actual clothes on was a whole different experience… the stares!!!) and we went off to have lunch with our friends. Today’s lunch menu was very very filling and we even got a melon slice for dessert! And because I was feeling better, I was able to goof off with our friends and enjoy some fun conversations. 

sick day 11

When you see that you need gloves to eat the meal for lunch, you know it is going to be delicious! We love messily eating meat in this cafeteria 😛

After lunch, I was productive for the rest of the school day as I did Korean homework during my free study period and I had self-study time all during my AP economics class. I reviewed all the grammar that we learned in class on Thursday and I even started learning a new point that could come in handy for my Topik writings. 

Katie had plans to visit a cherry blossom festival with Josh after school today, so I ended up just going home right away. It was my first time going straight home from school on a Friday in such a long time! I got home and it was only 5 pm so I relaxed in my room (Watched a recently released new teen romance movie–A Perfect Date–on Netflix) until my host sisters came home and we went to a barbecue place near our apartment to eat meat for dinner. My host mom told me that if I really wanted to get better quickly, I had to eat meat! And I was okay with that!

Throughout our entire dinner, my host mom and both of my sisters were grilling meat and then placing it in my bowl–I could feel the warmth in this gesture. This was definitely what the Koreans call 정 for sure. The food was all delicious but I will have to admit that the 된장찌개 was ten times better than the grilled meat we ate–no tea, no shade. 

For the rest of the night, I just rested and studied Korean. My host sister kept telling me that I should not got out this weekend but… I did already make plans for early Saturday afternoon so oh well… It is okay, besides that… I will rest fully this weekend! I will fully heal this weekend!

That is all for this post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time.. Do not forget to subscribe~

  • Emma 엠마

After School Express Bus Terminal Shopping with Friends (04/08-04/09/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/08/19 Monday

Our politics teacher literally showed up 30 minutes late to class today! We also had to switch classrooms after waiting in the wrong one for 20 minutes (a random teacher came into our room and told us to move classrooms and that our teacher would be with us shortly). I was really surprised to see that the teacher being late was not treated as a big deal… we did not even have a substitute teacher to watch us during that time for anything. That would never happen in an American high school…or at least… good ones? There always had to be an adult in the room; students were not trusted.

april 6

Quick shout out to Korean high school’s school stores and their amazingness! Literally a 7/11 on premises. Shelves and shelves of snacks and drinks and there are freezer sections for frozen food and ice cream.

april 5

Today I tried this carrot juice… and it was… very carrot-like. I mean, I expected it! Mostly bought it for the packaging–love this bunny guy~

During English class, we went through common mistakes that Andrew saw in the students’ argumentative essay rough drafts and then read an example essay on the issue of punishing children with physical punishments like spanking. It was an interesting read and I agreed with a lot of it. As learned from my Hispanic mother, fear can be a good way to discipline but it is not the most effective way. 

The 한옥마을 surrounding the school is now decorated with these rainbow colored lanterns and I believe they may have been put up for Buddha’s Birthday which is next month. I know it is a little bit of a ways away but maybe they wanted to get ready for it a bit earlier to celebrate for longer? (This is my reasoning for it at least!) We were originally planning on eating with our friends at the cafeteria today but they could not eat early enough so we ended up having a 편의점 lunch instead so we would not be late to Korean class.

We had a quiz today in Korean class… and I did not realize that we were having one until about an hour before class started so even though I was able to cram some vocabulary on the train ride to 홍대 from school, I still ended up doing really bad on the quiz… I got a C… a high 70 percent on the quiz. I got all of the questions in the grammar section correct but my lack of knowledge on the vocab section really hurt me. And it was not even at the fault of me not knowing the vocab! I knew the vocab but if I did not understand the contents of the example sentence, I could not pick the right word to fit in the blank… I was really disappointed to see all the red marks on my paper…

After class, we had a bi-weekly meeting where 민정쌤 told us all the due dates for the current week. Our field learning reflections were due on Wednesday (though mine was not due till Sunday because I was not going to be doing my project interview until Friday morning) and then we had our program reflections (rough draft #1) due Sunday night. 

april 10

Liam made a joke after 민정쌤 asked us when the reflection draft due date was (to make sure we were paying attention and did not need further clarification) which consisted of him replying with “tomorrow.” 민정쌤 took the joke and ran with it. She retorted back with “Alright then for Liam, it will be due tomorrow!” and proceeded to write his new deadline on the board. We all could not help but erupt in laughter as his face drew blush.

april 4

Enjoy this cute photo of Liam & Josh

I went home right after the bi-weekly meeting and ate dinner with my host family. I did Korean homework as well as some Topik practice tests (not a full test… I was only able to complete a listening test). I tried my best to be productive but my urges to sleep early took over! It was an early night.

04/09/19 Tuesday

School today followed the normal routine basically. I had my English mentorship class in the morning and we talked about globalization (세계화 in Korean). We discussed ways in which American culture has influenced Korea and ways that Korean culture has influenced America (skin care, fashion, new music show called the masked singer, etc) I also talked to them about cultural appropriation after we watched the new Blank Pink music video that includes Lisa wearing dreadlocks in one scene. It was interesting to hear what they thought about it because they all just saw her wearing the hairstyle as being influenced by hip hop and nothing else; however, many people in America would not see it as such a harmless move. Especially seeing that Lisa is not an average person but an idol in a group making a profit culturally appropriating black culture (even though that may not be the main intent.) Korea, of course, does not have the same deep history regarding this subject as America which makes its perspective quite unique. Although this is the case, this does not mean that such things do not occur or cannot occur in Korea or by Koreans. Ignorance like malicious intentions can also be used as fuel for the fire…

Moving on!

Our music teacher did not show up today so Katie and I just studied in the library. (Another example of what I was saying earlier! If the teacher is absent… thus far based on my experiences, we have yet to have a substitute teacher).

한국사 was just another lecture as expected so it wasn’t too interesting in that regard but it ended up being a lot of fun because of the third year I sat next to—민지. When I sat down next to her, she immediately started talking to me like she knew me for years but at the same time didn’t as she asked me many many questions. I asked her how she felt about the mock exam day tomorrow and she had totally forgotten it was next day! We talked about both English & Korean language learning and I showed her my current workbook (level 5). We also brought 민우 into the conversation who was sitting in front of us (He was in one of Katie’s mentorship groups last semester and was in my economics class last year.) We kept talking throughout the class period which was really nice~ Usually, I end up keeping to myself during this class, so this was a nice change. She even gave me the candy that the teacher gave her because she didn’t like any of the flavors! I hope I can sit next to her again. I definitely enjoyed the class more since she was there to keep me company. 

My last class of the day was my second English mentorship class. For today’s discussion, we talked about school culture so like with the other girls last week, I talked a lot about prom and showed them all pictures. We also talked a lot about couple culture and the “no dating” rule at 하나고. The girls told me that even if the teachers just see a boy and a girl alone somewhere secretive (even if they aren’t even touching or anything of the sort), they will call out the students and might even tell their parents. They said that the only good times for couples to meet are right before room check and snack time. But the teachers at 하나고 literally have no chill when it comes to enforcing the no dating rule. 서영 told me that the teachers go the extent of even looking at the seating reservations at the library! If they see that a boy and a girl are constantly signing up for seats next to each other for a period of time, they call them out on it!! Like who even first thought of checking up on that?? It’s really intense…

Today’s lunch menu was 삼겹살 (pork belly) and Katie and I wanted to eat it so much that we did consider eating at the school by ourselves and then heading to Korean class. That was how badly we wanted to eat it! But when we got to the cafeteria, the line was literally so long and we needed to leave for Korean class so we ended up just eating at the 편의점 again like the barbarians we are. 

I literally remember nothing from Korean class today… we learned a grammar point and crammed the vocab words from the workbook. Korean class is starting to feel very difficult once again… I don’t know why but this book seemed to really leap in difficulty from the level of the last one. I’m understanding less of the readings in it, the vocab is all really complex, and the grammar can only be used in very specific situations; therefore, I don’t find learning them as applicable as the previous grammar points (which I mean is a given seeing that my level should be getting higher as well…) 

After Korean class, a big group of us NSLI-Y girls decided to go shopping at the Express Bus Terminal just for fun! We usually do not often have “big” group outings like this after the school day but today we were feeling spontaneous. Originally, it was just going to be me and Katie but then as we told the plans to the other girls, more and more of them decided to tag along!

april 9

Basic photo of the scenery of crossing the river! But also…can you see the slight gap in the subway car doors?

Now that the weather was getting warmer, we wanted to ditch our heavy sweaters and pick some up cute, cheap spring clothes! So Shada, Alix, Harmony, Jenna, Katie, and I went to go shopping! I gave myself a budget and I’m proud to say that I was able to almost stick with it perfectly… it could have been worse! I’m happy with everything I got! 

We ended up eating some 분식 (street food/snack food) at this small place inside the shopping area. I have eaten at a small cafe in that area with Kaitlyn but I never got a chance to try out the actual restaurants. The food was so cheap! I would definitely eat there next time too. I got a set (made for one person) for about $5 that came with 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 김마리 (fried seaweed), and 오뎅 (fish cake). I couldn’t finish everything cause there was so much food! I definitely could have shared with someone and been satisfied (or shared with someone and also gotten something off the side menu.)

Katie and I ended up leaving the other girls to continue shopping at about 7:45 pm because we wanted to get a head start on studying. She ended up taking the longer way home so that we could stay together as long as possible~ Since we were getting on the 경의중앙 line at an unpopular station (and the fact that it was Tuesday night probably helped), we got to have seats! The whole time! Once she got off at 공덕역, I was able to sleep all the way up to my home station. 

That’s all for this blog post!! I hope you enjoyed~~ I cannot believe time is going by so fast… it’s really scary! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마 

First Sauna (찜질방) Experience in South Korea–Getting Fully Naked in Front of Strangers (04/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/05/19 Friday

When I met up with Katie at the subway station this morning, she pulled out her notebook and I saw a bunch of scribbled music notes on the pages with their corresponding letter notes. I was confused as to why she was showing me this until the fact that it was Friday and that we had music class today came to me. Katie (the bright ray of sunshine that she is) took it upon herself to make a song for us on her subway ride so that we would have something to show the music teacher when she came around to check our progress on the music assignment. I was so thankful for this because as soon as class started, the teacher came to us and asked to see our song. We had to hurry up and log everything that she had written into the computer because we never got around to buying a USB for the class. And although everything was rushed, our song actually sounded pretty cute! We were proud to showcase it to the music teacher.

korean sauna 1

Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

After music class, I had public speaking and we just spent the entire class doing voice exercises to practice intonation, voice, volume, speed, pauses, etc. But before the class started, Jason told me that some students scored me 11s (out of a scale of 10) on the peer evaluation sheet for the speeches last class. I was shook by this seeing that I really did no preparation for it, and I definitely did make mistakes. I guess it is a pro of being a native English speaker in a public speaking class taught in English for non-native speakers!

He also read a sheet of paper that the male Japanese student left for everyone during his last class with us last week. At the end of every single speech, he left comments (all encouraging!) for the speakers. He complimented things like their flow, their pronunciation, the content of the speech, etc. He even said that if the boys whose English is not that good had more confidence, they could really control the room because they are so funny. I was just really touched that he thought to do that before he left–especially to tell Jason to read these comments aloud to everyone. Such a sweet gesture! I was definitely emotionally touched.

korean sauna 18

Main dish: delicious curry!!! (And golden kiwi jello! I have never eaten golden kiwis in America…)

Katie and I ate with our big group of friends and we all goofed off happily at the thought that it was Friday and that the school day was almost over which would mean the weekend had arrived! We also discussed some of our plans for the school trip coming up in May which included outfit coordination? But 서린 is set on a color like yellow and I think she is delusional?? Why would we do yellow when we can pick a color that is easier for everyone to wear? (and buy since many of the girls were looking to buying new clothes for the trip.) Why yellow when we can wear colors such as pink, blue, white? We will continue this conversation again at a later date.

korean sauna 4

Economics Class was actually kind of fun today because we did this auction activity that involved buying values (things like living for a long time, finding an honest significant other, having a good relationship with your parents, etc). It was fun when the groups would fight and when prices for values would only continue to increase to unbelievable prices. I could not participate much within my group so I just sat by and watched them figure out all that they wanted to do and gave some input here and there.

korean sauna 5

On the board, our teacher wrote all the names of each team. In Korean, team names tend to end in 조 (translation: group/team) and everyone in my class tried to make creative team names based on that word. For example, my team was called 타조 (which also means ostrich!) One of the group of guys chose their team name to be “오빠이거사조” which is a play on the phrase 사줘 (or buy for me) but in a cuter way with how it is pronounced–애교 style if you will. So there team name was “buy this for me” with the term of endearment 오빠 which can be used for one’s boyfriend or just an older male figure/brother.

After school, Katie and I went to Twosome Place to get some studying done before heading to a 찜질방! At the beginning of our program, we would always come to Twosome on Fridays and try out new flavors of cake and just chill (and study of course) so it was nice being able to do the same today. Lately we have been running around with other plans on Friday nights and I have missed just being able to relax. But I guess as time is running out, we have to make the most of our free days! (Especially days with extended curfew hours such as Fridays)

We ordered a whole menu of strawberry items at the cafe it seemed. Katie ordered her recent favorite: 딸기 라떼 (Strawberry Latte) BUT it is now what you expect. I would have thought it would be strawberry flavored milk with coffee or something of the sort–something with coffee! But actually, it literally is always just a glass of milk with chunks of strawberry in it that you mix in. I ordered a strawberry peach frappe (which again… was not what I was expecting). It ended up really just being a smoothie. To pair with our drinks, we ordered a chocolate cake with full strawberries on it. We love strawberry season in Korea! At the cafe, we were productive but we also just goofed around and talked. It had been a stressful week for sure!

korean sauna 9

We took the subway to 용산 찜질방 (Dragon Hill Spa) which is probably one of the most popular Korean spas/saunas in Korea. I remember during my summer program, many of the students had their first experiences there. I was really excited to go with Katie and since she had been there already, she would be able to show me the ropes so I would not be making any dumb foreigner mistakes hopefully.

korean sauna 16

Did I mention this place is open 24 hours? Some people do end up sleeping here since you only need to pay the entrance fee and a bit more depending on how long you plan on staying. Could you imagine staying  a whole day here? That would be an interesting challenge!

The path towards the building itself looked as if it were straight out of a cringey tourism commercial with lots of lights, greenery, bamboo shoots, and a cobblestone path that I almost tripped over several times. For the entrance fee, it was about 12 dollars and then we were given a wristband that we could use as payment for extra features inside the building like food or massages and then would pay those fees on our way out. We put our shoes in our own little cubbies (like being back in first grade) and then headed to the changing room to get naked and hop into the shower room.

I definitely thought that I would be more hesitant about getting naked but once we walked into the room and I saw a myriad of body shapes and sizes and ages, I immediately became somewhat relaxed. Before coming, I worried about my body image insecurities hindering me from feeling comfortable during everything. I also expected their to be a wave of shame that may exude from some people like what you see in gym commercials (like for Planet Fitness, for example) I think seeing everyone being so carefree in their body made me feel okay about it–at least long enough for me to get out of my clothes and get to the shower room. 

I have never been confident in my body–ever. I have always had a fully fair share of insecurities and although I looked away plenty of times when I saw parts of my body that I really disliked in the reflection of the water or the mirrors around the room (particularly mirrors placed awkwardly like the ones on the ceiling of the jet tubs… that one made me feel very uncomfortable), over time I began to feel more comfortable. Not confident by any means, but at least I got to a point where I almost forgot that I was even naked–in front of strangers. South Korea has really done a number on my own self-image (in both a positive and negative way… maybe I can expand on this in a future blog post!)

Seeing other people being comfortable eventually helped me not focus on what my body looked like but rather the state that it was in (cleanliness, healing etc). Katie and I took our showers, scrubbed dead skin off of each other, and then climbed into the hot baths which were so refreshing. I had not been in a pool since the summertime (back in America) so it was nice being able to swim around again. After we got all cleaned up, we changed into the after-bath clothes they provide you at the sauna and then brushed out our hair and such.

We spent the next couple of hours just sitting around the main room and then the women’s only resting room just talking and relaxing on our phones. There were a couple smaller rooms with extremely high temperatures and really low temperatures and we tried each of them only for a couple of minutes. After having showered, we had no plans of getting all sweaty once again. The sauna, of course, also sold food like marinated/smoked hard boiled eggs (yes, the famous eggs you can see in Korean dramas!), ramen, snacks, and fermented rice drinks. Katie and I ended up sharing banana milk because… banana milk truly fits any occasion! Katie also used the fancy arm-bracelet-paying system to buy Dippin Dots. 

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Monkey King?

It definitely was not a very energetic Friday night but the peacefulness of everything was exactly what I wanted for an energy replenishing day. I had plans all weekend too so I needed this time to rest! It was a really good night~ And I could not have been happier to experience my first 찜질방 with Katie!

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Back at home after the night in (a sauna). Ready for bed but first, a cheeky selfie

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed reading! Would you ever dare get fully naked in front of strangers? I feel like this is an iconic experience to have in Korea but I have met my fair share of people who vow to never do it, which is totally understandable. I probably would not have ended up going during my year here if it was not for Katie. Although it was awkward, I had a great time and I highly recommend it! Do not forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts about my travels in Korea! Thank you~

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

04/04/19 Thursday

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

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Me and one of the Japanese exchange students!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting a Traditional Tea House (찻집) and Funny Phone Cases (04/02-04/03/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/02/19 Tuesday

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This week I am sporting my school uniform tie! Hehe

School. School. School. School. During my morning English mentorship, the girls and I discussed our respective school cultures and rules and even though I heard most if not all of the things they talked about already, I still enjoyed hearing from them—especially when they talked about the aspects they liked. For example, 수빈 dances for her 1인2기 and so I got to watch one of her videos with a choreographed dance she did to Arianna Grande’s song 7 Rings! It was really really good! They were most excited to hear about prom and school dances from my perspective. (A lot of 하나고 students (and Koreans in general? seem to call Prom “Prom Party” which is interesting because I feel like most American movies just say prom so where they got the added party from beats me…)

During music class, Katie and I just goofed off while trying to work on our music assignment. (I say we but she was the one doing all the work on the song…) Either way, we were not doing what we were supposed to be doing fully. 

During 한국사, I just worked on my Korean homework and only paid enough attention in class to be able to fill out the note sheet along with the rest of the students. But I didn’t even try to learn any of the material that he went over during class. 

Honestly when it comes to my second English mentorship class of the day, I can’t even remember what we talked about. The only thing I remember was this one incident that will forever be recorded because of the photos in my camera roll. One of the girls in my group—서영—has a phone case of some famous rapper in Korea. But his face is plastered on the case in a certain way that if you put the case up to your face, it almost looks as if you are the person. She was demonstrating this to me while 기준 walks into the room and I was able to capture this photo of his face being absolutely confused. (I later sent this photo in our 동아리 group chat for the laughs) 

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But what did my group talk about? Beats me… 

For lunch… Katie and I once again yeeted out of 하나고 early and went to 연서시장 to get 분식 for lunch. Now that we are pros at ordering here, we have the whole system down and I bet we impress the Koreans that see us *flashes a sly smile.* Also, the same workers are always there so hopefully they will start to recognize us (if they haven’t already). I know we will start making this place a regular 단골집. Too bad we didn’t find this place before now… before the end if the program became so close…

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Never said the market looked the fanciest… but the food was always delicious!

Since I am like a week and a couple days behind on writing blog posts, I don’t remember what we did in Korean class at all.. Didn’t do anything out of the ordinary after class, just went home right afterward. 

For dinner, my host sisters and I went out to the 24 hour restaurant near the apartment and got some 콩나물국밥 (Bean sprout rice porridge) and 야채파전 (Korean vegetable and onion savory pancake). I updated them on all the drama that I knew was happening on the NSLI-Y program.

We also talked about random topics like bitcoin and stocks? My host sister and I discussed how hard it is to make money selling bitcoin and how her boyfriend is doing it. She also kept saying that it was a shame that her family did not invest in stocks or anything of that sort. I told them that at my high school, all the students hypothetically buy and sell stock in this stock market game as a way to sort of dip students’ toes into the territory that is investment (During our required Personal Finance Class). She thought that this class was very useful and wished Korean high schools could be more inclusive to ideas that are beyond plain old test preparation. We walked over and picked up some 죽 (porridge) for my host mom–who is currently sick– and then went home.

04/03/19 Wednesday

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Today was the last day that the Japanese exchange students would be at 하나고 so in the morning during homeroom, we watched a short little video that included clips of every single exchange student giving thanks to the student body for allowing them to make such good memories during the short two weeks as well as clips from the student helpers (the students that were decent enough at Japanese to help host the students like 서린). It was a really cute little sentimental video and it definitely made me think about my last day at 하나고. Right now I cannot even imagine it but my calendar and the world knows that I literally only have a little bit more than a month left here. 

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One of my classmates gave me this HUGE golden pig gummy (Because it is the Year of the Pig, there are so many cute pig-themed memorabilia. On the wrapper it roughly says “Dream a pig dream” because Koreans believe dreaming about pigs is lucky. In specific, golden pig dreams mean money!! 

The school day itself was mediocre. There ended up being no seats at the front of the class for 국어 again so I ended up just sitting in the back and nodding off (not trying very hard to pay attention to what the teacher was saying). During 세계사 I just did my writing homework and finished up my workbook pages so that I could spend the rest of the night focusing on my presentation for Thursday’s Korean class. And even though I have three good friends in my politics class, lately we just spend the periods having discussions and then a lecture, so I just kept to myself and did Korean homework. (Wednesdays are actually great because I can be so productive during my classes!)

Katie and I ate lunch with our friends today. Today’s lunch menu was foreign food which consisted of spaghetti, really sweet fries (I am talking potatoes covered in a sticky, sweet sauce), and some chicken wings. Usually Katie and I am disappointed by the meals that are not Korean but this one was okay. I did miss eating pasta and the chicken was really good. (I do still prefer normal fries, however.)

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Wednesdays after school usually comprise of Katie and me going to a cafe near our school (usually Twosome Place) and studying but this week I made plans with Jessica (NSLI-Y Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current Yonsei full-time student) to go to a cafe together back in 홍대 to just chill and catch up. She had plans with a language exchange partner later in the night (for dinner) so we just planned to hang for a couple hours at a tea shop that she recommended. 

To save time, I did not even change out of my school uniform! Jessica took me to this really cute tea shop that she first stumbled upon when she was going on a date and has come back often because the interior is really pretty and they offer a very large variety of tea served in really pretty cups and tea pots. I ended up ordering a cup of my favorite tea: 유자차 (Citron Tea) and we also shared a side menu item of green tea rice cakes which we dipped in this sweet honey like sauce. It was very delicious! The lady of the place was really nice to us and complimented our Korean which of course brought a smile to our faces.

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Jessica 언니 ㅎㅎㅎ

The two hours passed really quickly as we just chatted away. I updated her on the start of my new semester and the newfound stresses over test scores and my lack of Korean improvement (and related lack of motivation to study more to fix the issue…) I also talked to her about boy issues. She opened up to me about her recent breakup and how she was trying to date around to find someone new. She literally is living inside of a romantic drama as her love life is very complicated! But I wish her the best with the current boy she is chasing. It seems that he will treat her better than the last one. We finished up our tea talk and headed for our respective plans– mine being a nice dinner with my host family (and studying into the night).

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Andy ❤

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Do not forget to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마