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

안녕하세요 여러분~ 한국에서 썼던 모든 글을 아직 안 올렸는데 오늘은 다른걸 하기로 했다. 미국에 돌아온지 2달 전에는 저와 느슬리 학생들이 우리 유학 생활에 대한 반성을 써야 하고 나서 더나은 세상 조직이 우리 생각을 수집해서 어떤 책을 만들었다. 며칠 전에 방을 봄청소하기 위해서 정리하다가 저의 책을 찾았다! 당연히 브로그 글을 읽어 보다 보면 제가 유학 동안 재미있는 추억을 만들고 고생을 껵은 것을 잘 알 것 같은데 그외에 제가 경험이 얼마나 특별한지 표현하기가 너무 어렵다. 경험이 말로 못할 만큼 특별했는데도 이 반성은 자랑스럽다. 그리고 여기까지 보시다시피 제 브로그 글의 대부분은 영어로 쓰기는 했지만 이따금 한국어를 쓰지 않다면 모든 것을 잊어버리다는 것이 당연하다. (사실 솔직히 말하면 벌써 한국어 실력이 완전히 떨어졌다ㅜㅜ 아직 잘 한척하고 있는데 강한 자신감이 필수다!) 그런데! 이 반성은 영어로 쓰여져 있다 ㅋㅋ 재미있게 읽으시길 바랍니다~

Hi Everyone~ I still haven’t uploaded all of the blog posts I wrote in Korea just yet but today I decided to do something a little different. 2 months before returning to the states (back in 2019), the NSLI-Y students and I had to write reflections on our study abroad experiences, and then Better World compiled those writings and made a sort of book. The other day I was cleaning my room for those ~spring cleaning~ vibes and while organizing, I found my copy! Of course, if you read my blogs, you can get a good sense of all the fun memories I have made and even the struggles I have faced while studying abroad but besides that, expressing just how valuable of a experience this was to me is quite difficult. Although I cannot express these feelings in any amount of words, I am proud of what I detailed in my reflection. And as you can see thus far, most of my blog posts are written in English but if I do not practice my Korean every now and then, I will definitely forget everything! (Actually if I am being honest, my Korean skills have already plummeted…I am just pretending to be good. Confidence is KEY!) But this reflection is written in English. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy reading~ Thanks!

(P.S. Added Photos to Make it Fun!)

Emma’s NSLI-Y Korea AY Program Reflection:

My Greatest Endeavor Yet

An electronic voice declares that we have reached 연서시장 before the bus abruptly comes to a stop. After catching my balance and tapping my T-Money card, I hop off the bus– my nose immediately being greeted by the smell of raw fish. The bus ride turned into the hustle and bustle of a Korean market at a moment’s notice. Shopkeepers yell out competing prices as the smell of greasy yet delicious 분식 tempts the taste buds of every passerby. Katie and I find our favorite stall and are greeted with the warm, contagious smile of the vendor. We order 떡볶이 and 튀김 and immediately begin filling up cups with 오뎅국물– a habit that can be considered second nature to us by now.

Before I studied abroad, I heard the phrase “Study Abroad Will Change Your Life” countless times. Everyone seems to mutually agree that this experience you are about to embark on will be unforgettable and life-changing… which can be kind of intimidating: trying to imagine how something can affect you to such a great extent before it has even happened. Now that the NSLI-Y program is coming to an end, I have come to the realization that this statement appeared so daunting because I viewed study abroad as one big thing; however, rather than solely one event, it is the experiences and little moments that culminated into something overarching.

Through this program, I have learned to be independent, resourceful, self-motivated, more confident, and even how to (somewhat) budget money. But excluding all of that, I am most thankful for the way that this experience has enabled me to appreciate the little things in life–and not take even everyday things for granted.

Especially when things would become too overwhelming and frustrating. There were plenty of occasions during these 9 months that left me feeling defeated and dejected. Times when my efforts to learn Korean seemed futile or when the yearning to return home became too much. Tears were shed, and at times, I even wished that I had started college right away and chosen a normal path. Nonetheless, I was able to overcome all of these things by focusing on the present, on what was happening in front of me: the things I should be grateful for. 

I focused on the way my host siblings would barge into my room while I was studying hoping to steal my attention for just a few moments, the way my host mom would prepare me snacks and tea when she thought I needed an extra boost of energy, the way my friends at 하나고 would come to class early and save me seats with their textbooks to make sure that we could sit together, the way my NSLI-Y cohort could get me to erupt in laughter for seemingly stupid things, and the way my older host sister would put pieces of meat in my rice bowl to make sure that I was getting enough food to eat.

I focused on the smiles and warm welcomes of the workers from my most visited hole-in-the-wall café, 편의점, Twosome Place, and 녹차호떡 stand; the laughing fits that I would get into during lunch time with my group of high school friends that would sometimes prevent me from being able to finish all my food; the licks to my face from my host dog every single day I walked in through the door after being away for a little too long; the wonderful feeling of satisfaction after successfully utilizing a newly learned grammar point or a difficult vocab word in conversation with a Korean person; the beautiful natural and manmade scenery of places all throughout Seoul (and even a bit beyond); the after monthly-test waffle tradition that perfectly satisfied my sweet tooth while allowing me to stay salty enough to rant; the sprints to the 편의점 during class breaks to buy ice cream or whatever other snacks we were feeling that day; and the nights ending with raw, sore throats from spending too much time, talking, screaming, or singing with all my friends.

I focused on every seemingly trivial conversation, every tangent in Korean class, every cultural excursion, every by chance meeting, every major milestone, and every comfort-zone-tested moment. 

And just like the final drops of 오뎅국물–straight from a plastic cup and all– I will cherish every remaining moment in Korea. 

Having devoured all of our lunch, we say goodbye to the stall vendor and make our way out of the winding market back to the subway station. Soon enough I will take the subway home from 하나고 for the last time amongst many other final moments, and I know these lasts will be met with many tears; however, I find comfort that these tears do not come from a place of regret. They come from a place of utter gratefulness for being given this unforgettable and life-changing opportunity. 

END

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

05/21/19 Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprinkles!?!? Interesting…

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

Emma, STOP being so sentimental !! It is

JUST

SAD!

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

  • Emma 엠마

Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Day 2: Traditional Korean Feast (진수성찬) & Exploring Gyeongju Hanok (한옥) 05/19/19 (NSLIY Korea AY)

05/19/19 Sunday

Woke up in our 한옥 (traditional Korean house) the morning of our last day in Gyeongju. Despite having slept on the floor and the chilly nighttime temperatures, I slept so soundly. Perhaps all the tears from the previous night helped with that since I feel like sleep after a good cry can rival anything. We all woke up rather early and got ready for another day with a planned-out agenda by Better World although 민정쌤 had said we would be having some free time after lunch to explore the area near where we slept, do some souvenir shopping, etc. 

The outfit I chose for the day actually matched our 한옥 perfectly so Addie offered to take some photos of me with her professional Canon camera and I will forever cherish these photos and have changed all my profile photos!

For breakfast, we were handed out pastries from a local bakery as well as fruit pies from McDonald’s for breakfast? I was a little confused because these fruit pies are most likely filled with so much sugar and are 100% considered dessert to me but hey, it was still tasty–processed or not. It was a nice, quick breakfast on the bus!

Our first stop of the day was a historical center in which Better World had rented out a room with projector capabilities in order to have a pre-departure/re-entry orientation for heading back to America. This was a very depressing time of the trip because I would have much rather allowed myself to be distracted by new and engaging activities and not discussing our impending return to the states. We of course had to talk about the infamous W curve which illustrates the roller coaster of emotions common to the plight of an exchange student. Of course, this curve does not only apply to time in one’s host country but also when returning to one’s home community and culture.

Credit: From GW’s Study Abroad Page

We discussed that it would be quite normal to experience a period of adjustment in which we may feel shock or conflicting feelings about being home and having to readjust to our previous lives after having experienced so much. We talked about how isolating may feel like one of the only options after feeling like a changed person but being placed back into an environment that is the same (and yet at the same time, so different). I was sitting next to Kaitlyn during this presentation and we also mentioned how the thought of returning kind of feels like water displacement–like when you get into a tub. You might have perfectly fit in the bath before but after returning and trying to re-familiarize yourself with this old life (old bath water? Ugh this simile…), clearly, things cannot help but shift and change.

We also were handed back these little goal sheets that we had filled out at our very first orientation and the one we had over winter break. We were given a new half sheet of paper that had a little drawing of a man in an airplane. We were instructed to write the things that will be hard to leave behind, our contributions to the NSLI-Y program as a whole and what we are most looking forward to upon arriving home.

Wow my handwriting…is kind of atrocious..

I will include a picture of what I wrote but I did want to highlight what I was looking forward to about returning to my cozy Chicago suburb because I was, in fact, homesick.

  • Seeing my best friends (Kara, Courtney, Brianna, Jazmin, Grace!! I have missed you guys!!!)
  • Hugging my mom (I could cry just thinking about it honestly. Never have I ever cherished my family more)
  • Pizza & Pancakes (What can I say… I am a simple girl and a foodie)
  • Not feeling lost, uncomfortable, misunderstood 24/7 (I try to be as positive as I can but I would be lying if I said living in Korea–as a foreigner–was a walk in the park)
  • College (Just like how Korea had been a long-held dream of mine, so has been attending college at my dream school in NYC!)

Thinking about these things and the countless other things that I could not write out (sorry to my brothers if they are reading this..) did help me put into perspective that all good things must come to an end so even better things can occur in the future.

The meeting was pretty serious but Kaitlyn and I still found time to goof around like when she stole my phone and started taking photos hehe compiled here for your viewing pleasure.

After our final orientation was over, it was lunchtime and we got back on the bus to return to the area around our accommodation which was close to a very popular shopping street in Gyeongju known as 황리단길 (Hwangnidan-gil or Hwangnidan Street) which is famous for the 한옥 architecture of many family homes or guest houses and very lovely cafes and boutiques to add to the atmosphere. 

Luckily the weather was better today (no rain!! My rain dance this morning worked!!) but it was still quite cloudy so the sky was dark but it was still nice to be able to walk around without the hindrance of umbrellas and those icky ponchos. For lunch, we came to this restaurant that seemed to be a couple smaller buildings/private rooms all a part of this one place so we were able to be separated from the others. The restaurant was also all 한옥 structure so maybe that was why the buildings were separated as we walked through a sort of courtyard/common area of the house. The greenery in this restaurant was also insane and so so beautiful! As for the meal, we had what my first host dad would have called a 진수성찬 (Korean word for feast). I am not sure if this has been a story I changed before but this was a word my host dad taught me back in September for 추석 (Korean Harvest Holiday/Thanksgiving) and it has stuck with me ever since. Everytime I have a big meal–this word pops in my mind.

Once we were stuffed beyond our stomachs’ capacities, we got free time to walk around and explore. I mostly followed Harmony and Kaitlyn back and forth to different shops and boutiques. The window displays of every single building we passed by was so expertly curated that I wanted to go into every store! There was this one stationary store that we visited which I really had to hold myself back because I honestly could have convinced myself to buy so many things for the prospect of making my scrapbook beautiful (Yes, I scrapbook and yes I will dedicate an entire book for this year~ Stay tuned for a post about it!)

I ended up buying a couple of postcards/art print and washi tape with illustrations of the historical locations of 경주 as well as two pairs of earrings because there was a sale. Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I also took some sticker photos to commemorate this trip!

The girls made it on my cork board ❤

And would it really be an excursions with NSLI-Yians if there were not any group photos?

Eventually, it was time to return to the station and I ended up buying a box of 황남 빵 (Hwangnam Bread) or 경주 빵 (Gyeongju Bread) which is a speciality pastry of this city filled with red bean paste. I was intending to study Korean on the KTX ride home but… I fell asleep instead… what can I say, traveling is exhausting! I remember returning to my host family this night and showing off the souvenirs I bought before literally falling asleep through dinner. I later had a late night meal of ramen with my younger host sister as I stayed up, cramming for my Korean final tomorrow. Oh, how I love being a student.

Wish me luck! 

Thanks for reading~ Next post will be quite exciting because although I am taking my final test, I will also be spending the day with my Korean class and teacher and visiting some old, familiar faces from the first time I had ever been to Korea~ 기대주세용 

  • Emma 엠마

P.S. Also something fun for the kids in my NSLI-Y Cohort~

Enjoy this picture of 울 사랑하는 민정쌤~

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

05/16/19 Thursday

2nd. To. Last. Day. At. Korean. High School. I almost could not believe that time had passed by so quickly, but at the same time…hadn’t exactly done so smoothly or unnoticed. (I will reiterate sentiments along this line for probably every single post from this date forward as we count down to the impending departure date back to the states: you have been warned.)

Usually, at 하나고 the students get to wear their comfy/casual version of their uniforms to school (which consist of a jogger and matching sweater set) on the last two days of the week but because I knew it would be my final days there–and expected lots of photos to be taken–Katie and I agreed earlier that we would wear our full uniform: vest, long sleeve button down, ribbon/tie, and plaid skirt. (Of course forgoing our blazer because HELLO, May weather.) Waking up before 6 was never fun but on these final days, the alarm did not seem so menacing and the stillness of the apartment did not seem as lonely and stares from subway passengers did not seem so awkward. I guess your perception changes as routine turns into signing off.

As always, my first class for Thursdays was AP 미시경제 (AP Econ) and had a seat saved for me next to 서린 and I happily soaked in the final moments in that class. My teacher passed out a new note sheet for the day’s lecture and I of course took one despite the fact that I knew I would be zoning out today–millions of thoughts racing through my head. During the breaks or project-work time, I studied Korean. I was learning a couple advanced grammar points from our supplemental textbook because I really wanted to do well on this final and jump a level. 

My next class was 한국사 and 임선생님 immediately smiled at me–with his 1,000 watt smile– when I walked into the class. I still remember him as one of the first teachers I met at this school and how kind he was and the fact that I told him his writing was hard to read on day 1…yeah, I still shudder at the thought of that. He knew that I recently spent his class working on homework or studying and he had encouraged me to continue to do so and would even occasionally come over to see what I was doing and ask about my work. I did not have anyone I was close to in this class but I felt silently supported by him with his huge grins and fervent nods. 

For lunch this day, I decided to go in earlier so that I could eat with my friends were the 선배s of the school (seniors) aka the third years. This group included 세림 from AP Statistics last semester, 정민 whom I was currently taking 3학년 한국사 (3rd Year Korean History) with, and 지은 and 주연 from last semester’s English Mentorship 공강. I usually eat with my 2nd year friends or just with Katie so this was a nice change of pace to be able to truly talk with them more and say our final goodbyes too, of course. It was fun being able to goof off and talk altogether since they all happened to be a part of the same friend group which made coordinating quite easy~

We took selfies altogether because I of course would never want to forget their lovely faces! I love them so much and I do not think they will ever know how much every single of them as shaped my time here for the better (well, unless they are reading this… then 얘들아! 미국에 언제 와??  보고 싶따아 ㅋㅋ)

After lunch, 지은 did not want me to leave yet so we went to the school store and got ice cream (well, she bought mine~~) and we linked arms and walked around the blooming campus while enjoying our cold treats before I really did need to yeet to make the bus back to 홍대. Today was the Korean final for 1반 and 2반 but something came up for my teacher so my class’ test was pushed back until after we came back from the graduation trip on the following Monday. Honestly very bittersweet because yeah…on one hand we did get more time than the other students but obviously there was no way we were going to study on our trip so I felt like it would leave me more underprepared but oh well, nothing I could do about it but my best.

I rode the bus back home alone while eating my ice cream cone which felt very against-the-rules to me because generally you should not be eating on public transportation in Korea but it was a tear-filled day so I cut msyelf slack. 

Instead of heading off to take the test like all the other Nsliyians, I agreed to meet up with Josh to chat a bit and also study for our upcoming final. I first took a detour at H&M to buy a skirt I was looking at (The weather was warming up and I needed more options okay…the excuse I told myself as my suitcase would later probably overflow with clothing and other misc. doodads.) We agreed to meet at a café called Layered which apparently was all over Instagram and it was not too hard to get too following Kakao maps, it was actually quite close to the Better World office. I walked up the steps to the vintage looking home turned café and knew upon first glance why this place was so popular–it was overwhelmingly adorable. To the wall decorations, the cute colorful furniture, and the impeccably decorated pastries on different sized and shaped cake stands. I just wanted to order a little bit of everything!

Josh and I found a place inside to sit (which was a feat in and of itself) and we shared this little early gray flavored cake with frosting decorated on top to look like the breed of dog from Lady and the Tramp–Lady in specific. Is it a cocker spaniel? I am not sure about that one.

Eventually we finished the dessert and our drinks and moved out into the sun and sat on the balcony which had gorgeous views of the city all spread out around us. I was shocked that I had not stumbled upon this café sooner and actually bummed out I had not. I definitely wanted to take Katie here.

After we studied a bit, I went to meet up with Katie at our favorite waffle place–와플대학–while Josh went to go find Jenna who was in KFC with Kaitlyn and Liam. Us Three had plans to later have dinner at Noryangjin Fish market and it would be my first there! (It is arguably the most famous seafood market in all of Korea… wait I take that back..maybe only in Seoul. I know Busan is extremely famous for their coastal delicacies.) Originally, I was going to have my first taste of 산낙지 (live octopus) there but I had already checked off that bucket list item with my host family the previous weekend. Josh was disappointed that I did not wait for him which was funny to say the least. I promised him that I we could still order it again because it was not half bad.

Katie and I shared an after-Korean-test-waffle which was a tradition of ours (and the last time it was gonna see the light of day this program). Today’s waffle moment was one filled with light whipped cream and pieces of strawberries.

After I hugged Katie goodbye, Josh, Jenna, and I took the subway to Noryangjin (노량진) Fish Market. It was kind of hard to get the market because we went through this tunnel that was underground which then let us up above ground but we walked through this building that was practically empty and kind of scary to be honest and then eventually were able to figure out what building to go to and before we even entered through the doors, my nose knew we were at the right place. Even upon leaving the market, I could not get the fishy smell out of my nose, perhaps the seafood particles attached to the hairs in my nose. 

The fish market was indoors if that could not have been assumed by the mention of buildings and it felt like a huge school gym with high ceilings and lots of floor space but instead of a track or a rock wall, there were stalls and stalls of bins and jars and cases of a myriad of seafood. It was very overwhelming because prices were not listed out on signs like most street food places which meant that haggling was going to be very important here. Josh warned Jenna and me that the vendors will really try to rip off foreigners when they come here since they presume they do not know how much they should be paying for the certain amount of fresh fish. He also said that one way for them to get more money out of people is to tell them that they can eat the stuff they buy at a ‘restaurant’ on the second floor so that when they are done shopping around they can go upstairs and eat their selections that are prepared for them but this, of course, comes with an extra cost that is unnecessary (if the weather is nice because then you can just eat outside.)

Josh was the real G as he talked to the vendors with such unabridged confidence and joked around with them and they surely liked how fluent he was in Korean. That also gave us brownie points and so we got some nice, dense slabs of fresh, raw salmon for a very good price. We also got to pick out our own live octopus from a case and watching the young man take it out of the water and it attaching to his hand almost immediately was really fascinating.

I am not too sure where we went after that because I was just blindly following Josh but we ended up on some sort of rooftop that had lots of outdoor picnic tables and gazebos and the most beautiful sunset view of the surrounding area. We all sat next to each other–crisscross applesauce–and enjoyed eating our fresh seafood using wooden chopsticks right out of the bag they came in. It was a really nice way to end the night and the pairing of Josh and Jenna are two that I do not spend much time with so it was fun getting to talk to them more.

Thanks for reading this blog post~ It is also a bit long and spacey since I feel like I went on tangents and maybe included too many descriptions… but I know I will not it regret later

 I don’t (,: – Future Emma

See You next time~

  • Emma 엠마

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

05/15/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

Thursday (05/02/20) – Part 2!

Bus Ride Selfie

After our excursion to 성산일출봉, we got back on the bus and after a while (and a much needed nap), arrived to the final major location for our ~educational~ but fun school trip: an art gallery of Lee Jungseob (이중섭미술관). Lee Jungseob is a very highly praised famous Korean artist when discussing modern Korean art. Although he only lived in Jeju for a rather short period of time, the island held significance to many pieces of his artwork and so the gallery was built in his honor. Additionally, besides visiting the gallery, one can visit the house that Lee Jungseob lived in with his family and walk along a street named after the artist (이중섭거리) which houses a lot of shops selling art, handicrafts, antiques as well as lots of cafes.

I walked around the museum and mostly kept following our former coordinating teacher around (or other classmates of mine) like a lost puppy because nothing in the museum was translated in English. I did put in effort to read a good amount of things myself but I found that I enjoyed hearing about the paintings and their explanations or background from others a lot more. And, through doing that, I actually learned more because 민정쌤 was quite informed on the subject of 이중섭.

To be honest, the life of 이중섭 was nothing near a life of luxury and rather more like the epitome of the struggling, starving artist. In a way, the added pity and sorrow brought even more emotions to his works and maybe even made them more relatable?

The gallery did not just exhibit paintings but there were also just artifacts of his life including letters, drawings, and postcards he sent to his wife and family while they were separated. 이중섭 married a Japanese woman and had two sons but besides the short stay with them when they lived together in their house on Jeju, they were long distance during his entire life. Because of the enduring poverty he had to face, he sent his family to Japan and they lived there while he stayed in Korea–and sent them money when he would earn it. It pained me to look at the evidence of such sacrifice and true love between him and his wife and it made me upset to know that in the end, they were never able to truly reunite as a family before he died. 

Another one of my favorite exhibits within the gallery included the drawings that 이중섭 made on scraps of metal foil from cigarette packs. Apparently, cigarettes were kept in metal tins in the past and while he could not afford actual art supplies, he was able to continue expressing himself and his struggles through scratching in drawings on the foil. 

After we spent some time at both the art gallery and the artist’s home, we were given some free time to explore the lengths of 이중섭거리 and along the road there were a lot of statues that gave homage to the art and style of 이중섭.

In specific, right near the entrance of the street with the sign displaying the name, there was a statue of an Ox (His most famous paintings probably being one of a white ox) and statues of people, depicted in his rudimentary, simple style (like those seen on the metal foil sketches).

Along the street, Katie, 선민, and I met up with our coordinating teacher 민정쌤 and the other homeroom teacher on the trip with us at a cafe and they were kind enough to buy all three of us drinks. Although I do not like coffee, I felt that I needed to take them up on their generosity and so I went ahead and ordered an iced coffee like the other girls. At this specific cafe, they served different types of coffee and you ordered which type you wanted based on the notes of the drink: nutty, fruity, etc. All three of us chose different notes and wow… I could actually not finish my drink. It was so bitter! I actually did not like any of the drinks… but I am not surprised. I am not a coffee person. Tastes like I am just ingesting dirt. Sorry not sorry. But !! I was appreciative and grateful for the gesture by the teachers. It was very sweet of them!

Afterwards, it was time for dinner and as if we had not already consumed enough meat products to last us the entire trip, we were going to eat more meat! But this time we were eating grilled 삼겹살 (grilled pork belly). I ended up at a table with Katie and 선민 this time around and we had an absolute ball grilling the meat, veggies, an kimchi ourselves. 

I am going to be honest..usually when I go out and eat grilled meat at restaurants, I tend to always have the other person grill the meat–both Koreans and foreigners alike. Guilty as charged.. I always allow them to take the rein and I sit back until everything is ready to be eaten. However this time, I actually tried my best to be the one to cook and pay attention and cut the meat too! Although, I was having a hard time figuring out how to properly cut the meat. Maybe I should have not tried using the scissors in my non dominant left hand. One of the workers came over to even help us–and explain how to cook the meat properly. They were properly laughing at us from afar. 

The restaurant was also set up as a buffet so you would order more servings of meat by asking the staff (but, of course, you were expected to eat everything you ordered/took) and then you would go to this long table in the middle that had all the extra goodies: different types of kimchi, side dishes, rice, lettuce, rice cakes, fried chicken, kimbap, etc. 

Katie and I also goofed around with our wraps by trying to feed each other wraps without using our hands? Or I guess…without wrapping everything for the other. This detailed the one that would be eating the wrap holding a lettuce piece in front of the open mouth and the other person placing the meat in the lettuce and pushing that into the mouth. How was that explanation for you? Either way, we did that and it led to some interesting videos. 

Everything was delicious and we were all stuffed beyond belief. There was a nice yard outside of the restaurant so before we got back on to the bus for a very long drive back to our hotel for the night, we all tried to expend our energy (before a food coma hit once we sat on the bus) by running around and being obnoxious teens as usual. Katie and I also picked wild flowers and made bracelets and rings from them. It was cute.

Once we returned to our accommodation, we ended the night spending some much needed ~chill~ time at a cafe! We were told by our coordinating teacher that there was a really cute, aesthetic cafe near the hotel and as long as we made it back in time for curfew, we were allowed to leave the premises. The cafe was called Cafe E.P.L and I am not sure if it was because we visited really late at night on a Thursday, but there was literally no one there. Possibly one other couple sitting inside? But we literally had the entire outdoor space to ourselves–ourselves being Katie, our lunch group at 하나고 (서린, 도윤, 윤세와 혜지) and one other classmate I got to meet/talk to for the first time. 

I vividly remember getting lost on the way to the cafe with the girls because we did not fully remember the directions that 민정쌤 gave us. We also tried using kakao maps to help us find our way but wifi was not adequate for this task. It was pretty dark and being a group of high school girls you might anticipate us being pretty nervous/anxious for safety but honestly we all felt fine–we were all just giggly and enjoying the thrill of being “lost.” We ended up walking in the complete wrong direction down a long main street until we eventually asked a random construction worker that was outside? And he pointed us in the other direction and we were eventually able to make it to the cafe once we found a sign.

The outdoor premises of the cafe honestly felt magical, especially since we were there at night. There were string lights hanging everywhere and tons of patio type seating. I felt like I would see fairies popping out from behind the greenery at any moment. There were lots of flowers everywhere and there was a photo zone consisting of a tent and inside, props were provided (like dried flowers, messages in a bottle, watering can, etc) to add some pizzazz to photos.

There were also these weirdly shaped cone-looking orange chairs that were structured to sit on one small surface area point on the bottom so the chairs would spin around dramatically when used. Honestly, although they were not high off of the ground at all, I literally screamed in complete fear when I first sat in the chair. Goofing off on the chairs was a lot of fun and I hope our shrieks did not annoy the cafe workers (or neighbors to the cafe) all too much.

The prices at the cafe were a tad bit overpriced but I guess that was kind of to be expected because it was the epitome of an insta-worthy cafe. We ended up ordering some drinks and shared some cake as well. Of course Katie and I had to try the oreo cookie monster cake because we are suckrs for any dessert involving chocolate and oreos and just take a look at the presentation of this slice of cake! I needed it. 

And that was the end of day 2 of my school trip to 제주도! We came back to the hotel after the cafe and got ready for bed. I expected us to try to stay up even later but we were so tired from the day’s adventure that we pretty much fell asleep right away. It was probably for the best, though. We would need energy for tomorrow’s plan too!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! Thanks for reading~ My next post will be day 3…unfortunately, the final day but it will still be a fun read (and a fun walk down memory lane for me!)

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (School Trip to Jeju Island) Day 1: 함덕해수욕장과 천지연폭포 (05/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/01/19 Wednesday

Today was the long-awaited first day (1일차) of our school trip to Jeju Island (제주도) with our fellow classmates and friends from 하나고! I have been looking forward to this trip for a myriad of reasons: taking a flight to visit a gorgeous island, being able to hang out with my 하나고 friends outside of school for an extended period of time, and finally fulfilling the dream of going on a school trip! We had a few options for where we wanted to go for our school trip (Other options included 부산, 전주, 강원도) but Katie and I both figured we would have a better chance to eventually visit these places but possibly, this could be our only chance to visit 제주도. 

For those that may not know, 제주도 is an island province of South Korea that is probably the most popular tourist/vacation spot within the peninsula (for domestic trips). The island is mostly known for its gorgeous views, hiking trails, 한라산 (dormant volcano), and of course 한라봉 (a variation of orange–hallabong) and we were going to have the opportunity to experience it for free! Thank you NSLI-Y!

Anyways, on Wednesday Katie and I met up at the Paris Baguette near the subway station by our school for breakfast before we headed over to our school to depart to the airport with our classmates. What did we have for breakfast you may ask? Something nutritionally dense and healthy for two growing gals? Nope. No. Not a chance. We instead convinced ourselves that mochi ice cream would be a great idea for breakfast. Already in that #vacationmindset

We ended up leaving the school on our giant shuttle bus at around 10:30 am. But until then, we all hung out in one of the classrooms all giddy and excited for the days to come. We were all happy to be done with school–for a short amount of time at least–and to LEAVE campus. (Not only that but we were taking a plane so!!!) All the girls were also super super dressed up in spring floral and dresses and makeup and such because well, they had a reason to get all dolled up. Honestly, it was a bit strange–seeing some of my friends for the first time without their school uniforms and bare faces.

Before boarding the bus, we also took some photos as a group and they turned out really cute! Seeing everyone posing with peace signs and such made me laugh. I could not believe I was going on my first school trip! I never went on an out-of-state or even overnight trip in middle school or high school so I was very thankful to be experiencing this first with my Korean high school classmates. What a reason to be a super senior~

We got to Gimpo Airport within an hour and since we arrived around lunch time and needed to wait practically 2 hours before our flight at 1:30 pm, we were given that free time to have lunch at the airport. We were each handed out roughly $10 and were allowed to eat whatever our hearts’ desired. People tend to say that airport food is vastly overpriced and oftentimes the cheaper options are extremely unhealthy (like McDonalds, for example) but maybe it just happened to be this Korean airport; however, the food was amazing. Honestly, I think the best 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) I have ever had was this one at the airport! And I remember our lunch not only because the taste was so delicious that it will forever have a place in my heart, but I remember my 하나고 friends poking fun because the stew was especially spicy but nonetheless, I was able to eat it all while some of the others (actual KoReAns) could not stomach the spice. What can I say…매운 음식을 잘 먹는 편이에요 ㅋㅋ;) and also 김치찌개 is probably one of my favorite Korean dishes (maybe only beaten by 잡채 or 해물파전).

The flight to 제주도 was only about an hour so definitely the shortest flight I have ever been on (Even a flight from Chicago to New York is longer) and I honestly slept through the entire thing. We got to the airport and it was quite small. We left the building and were immediately greeted with slightly chillier weather (surprised?) and PALM TREES!?! The weather was gloomy but of course, the occasion was exciting regardless.

We boarded a shuttle bus (which had a cute little sign in the window with our school name–하나고등학교) and immediately headed out to our first location: 함덕해수욕장 (Hamdeok Beach).

I am not much of a beach person (meaning I am not too keen on tanning on the beach or swimming in the ocean, etc);however, I can appreciate the beauty that encompassed this beach. Although it was early May, it was not too busy at all–no large crowds. The sands were basically white and the water was so crystal clear and blue!! I have only ever been to a beach in New York and so this was something completely new for me! We had a blast walking along the beach, holding hands, and laughing about who knows what. We also, of course, took tons of photos–every place was a photo zone!

In the parking lot of the beach, there were a lot of other shuttle buses for different schools. It seems that this is a common time of the year for high schools to go on their school trip. One of the more awkward moments was when we were lined up or passing by these school groups, Katie and I received a lot of stares and whispers. However, this feeling of being an outsider was only fleeting because the presence of my friends reminded me that I did have people.

We also visited this arched bridge which had a beautiful lookout view and the waves crashing against the rocks acted as a perfect soundtrack to the day! I believe the only words coming out of my mouth at this point was “woah” because I have never been to a place like this and all I was experiencing was utter awe and gratefulness at the same time.

For dinner, we sat down at this seafood place at a long table pushed up against windows with a view of the ocean. What more could we have asked for? The meal included a lot of traditional aspects of Korean cuisine including a variety of side dishes like different types of kimchi, fish cakes, veggies, japchae, etc. Everything laid out made me feel like I was eating a huge 8-course meal! The main points of our dinner were a type of grilled fish (옥돔구이 — perhaps grilled horsehead tilefish? Translation… not sure of) and 고등어조림 (grilled mackerel stew).

We ended the night visiting 천지연폭포 (Cheonjiyeon Waterfall) and having a tour of the night views. This was probably one of the funnest parts of the trip because we were given a lot of time to just explore the trails and the souvenir shops and goof around. We also took a lot more group photos and were having a lot of fun striking some fun poses–even ones with the head homeroom teacher. And lets just say that this waterfall was a lot bigger and better than the one near our school–especially because it was natural! (No shade to 폭포동)

After our waterfall tour, we headed to our accommodation (Co-op City Hotel Harborview) and got our room keys, unpacked, and then met up in one of the conference/meeting rooms to hang out till late in the night. (We did have to be in our rooms by a certain time, however.) I ended up sharing a room with my friends 서린 and 도윤 while Katie stayed with 윤세 and 혜지. 

Matching NSLI-Y Shirts~

We could not end the night without some ice cream so Katie and I bought some of our favorites from the Seven-Eleven connected to the hotel and ate those with some other snacks that the other girls prepared. The rest of the night was spent playing random games like charades and such which at times were hard to follow but we were always included–no matter how long it took to explain directions or roles. I was so very thankful to have such sweet classmates and friends!

And that was day 1 of my school trip to Jeju Island! Looking back at all of these photos, reminds me of all these very happy memories. I am so thankful to have been able to experience this amazing opportunity and I am even more excited to share this time with others. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and the next 2 days of this trip will be uploaded soon! Stay tuned for more~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

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

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

4/29/19 Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/22/19 Monday

brunch 10

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~~ 

brunch 3

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.)

brunch 4

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

brunch 6

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