Productive Cafe Date, Feeling Sick, and Age Gaps in Korea (04/10/19) NSLI-Y AY

04/10/19 Wednesday

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Views from my transfer station 대곡역 which is mostly outside. It makes me truly feel like I am outside of Seoul since its surroundings look pretty rural. But look, some flowers started blooming~ Although the morning is still very chilly. I have a love-hate relationship with this station; however, the scenery is nice.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I knew I had come down with something and it wasn’t just a cold. My throat ached badly and when I opened my mouth to cough, the sheer raspiness in my voice surprised me. I could still breath out of my nose perfectly fine but my head also throbbed. I placed my hand against my forehead and could feel unusual warmth. I decided to just carry on with the day regardless (I do not get sick often and have not skipped school for sickness in a long time so my initial game plan was to ignore it.) and threw on my 생활복 and didn’t even do my hair or put on any makeup (something that’s pretty rare now—though in high school, I never wore makeup.) 

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Wow, catch this awkward sick-day selfie. Look at those dArK CiRcLeS!!

Wednesday’s day of school was literally a blur. Maybe because I was sick? But trying to look back on this day… I come up with nothing. However, I guess it could have also just been an uneventful school day. I had 국어 in the morning which I basically just day dreamed throughout the entire thing because I wasn’t feeling well. At one point, the teacher was explaining some concept involving fire and paper so he came to my desk (I was sitting in the back) and took my paper and tried throwing it up in the air. While demonstrating, he dropped his marker and paper on the floor so it ended up being kind of awkward—especially because I still had no idea what he was trying to show me. I had to muffle my nervous laughter.

Another time, he asked me what 벚꽃 (cherry blossoms) were in English and after I told him, he proceeds to point out the flower on our paper but he realized that I was “looking”at the wrong side of the paper so he flipped the side for me. That was a bit embarrassing to be honest… 

During my study period with Katie… I literally stole her coat and then slept for almost the entire period. It was pretty nice. 

During my two hours of 세계사, I worked on my Korean workbook pages and then did a Topik reading test. 

We ate lunch with our friends but I was not really impressed by the meal. Mostly because the rice contained corn kernels and I could barely eat around it so I gave up eating it halfway through lunch. (I hate corn more than any other food in this world…) I was also really sick at this point in the day so I barely said a word during lunch. I just brought spoonfuls up to my mouth and chewed. Katie was also very tired so she didn’t say much either.

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We had Japanese Omurice (오모라이스) which is just an empty omelette draped over rice usually accompanied by a savory/sweet sauce.

My last class of the day was politics and we just listened to lectures for the two hours, so I worked on my Topik writing test which left me finished with my last Topik test! (Actually this is a lie; we will probably get one more before the date of the actual test.) 

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After school today we had our second club meeting; however, since midterms are coming up, we ended up self-studying during the period—or at least for the greater part of the hour. At first we goofed off about the club hoodies that we are making and the ugly logo of the club but after awhile, everyone was able to settle down in their own desk and do some work. I made a Quizlet for the newest chapter for Korean class! 

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Gloomy weather after school

After school, even though I felt like death, I decided to go to Twosome Place with Katie because I worried that if I went home, I would just sleep and not do any actual work. I wanted to prevent this or at least lessen the consequences by doing most of my work before I got home. 

And I was successful, despite the random dance breaks to Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Let it Go, I was able to write my entire presentation on a Korean historical figure: I choose the Korean independence movement leader 유관순 열사. Also Katie told the employees at the cafe that I hurt my foot (which is why she ordered a hot chocolate for me) and so when we left the cafe after our study date, she asked me how I hurt my foot. I explained to her that I wore new shoes (left out the part about the fact that they were heels) and walked around for hours so I hurt my feet. She laughed and said “Oh I assumed you hurt it badly.” We laughed and left but if only she could see my toe! It is no tiny blister! No, it is not! 

(I don’t think I wrote about it earlier but one of my blisters—from wearing uncomfortable heels while walking for hours on Sunday—on my foot popped and the skin ripped off so I have an area on my pinky toe (makes it ten times worse) about the size of a quarter that’s all red and raw as my first layer of skin literally peeled up. It hurts a lot and even if I put band-aids on it, it hurts really badly–especially, when I wear my sneakers and walk around so I currently have a limp while I walk. I also have been using it as an excuse to use the elevator in the school more often cause stairs… are not my favorite right now.)

Anyway, I came home after studying at the cafe and had dinner with my host sisters. We ate at home but we had this huge feast made up of grilled meats, two different kinds of noodles and a pot of steamed egg. During dinner today, we had an interesting conversation about age difference in Korea. In America, we have a common phrase that “Age is but a number” but in Korea, it is so much more than that so I was curious to know  how it relates to relationships. From what my host sisters told me, too big of age gaps are not common but they really aren’t a big deal as long as the two people are close enough in age that they are a part of the same “generation” if you will. When it comes to friendships, it’s a bit different because if there’s a very large age gap, sometimes it can feel like you aren’t true friends but simply a person that’s just older than you (like an 언니 or 오빠). She did tell me that there’s a very negative image towards guys in their late 20s dating girls in their early twenties/in college. 

My older host sister explained that this is seen as really sleazy to most people and they actually view the guy as a bad person. (Example, if a 26 year old was dating a 21 year old in college.) They also said that he would probably take advantage of her because she doesn’t know better but more importantly, it’s a real red flag if he can’t find anyone in his own circle of acquaintances and has to resort to shooting his shot in a bigger pool with younger girls. They did mention that this the other way around (a way older woman with a younger guy) has no negative connotations. 

She also made sure to tell me that I need to be careful with Korean men especially because I’m a foreigner—she said no one too old!! And if I find someone, especially someone that old, she will have to have dinner with him and make sure that his intentions are pure. It was really cute~ At that moment, I felt what is what I assume it feels like to have an older sister~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I am on the grind writing out these blog posts so quickly this week. I am really trying to catch up (only 5 days behind now!) Let’s get this! Thanks for reading, anyway! Insert your email to the right of this post to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마

Surprise Birthday Party & First Club Meeting of the Semester! (03/27/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/27/19 Wednesday

The morning commute to school was a bit different today just because I had to carry a full size cake onto the train. I’ve carried birthday presents to 하나고 before but nothing quite like this. Because of my efforts to stuff the cake in a bag (so the cake box shape wouldn’t be obvious—and  the logo on the front), I ended up missing my usual train but making a later express train that got me to 연신내역 at my usual time. And because the express started out at 문신, there really weren’t many people on it so it was very comfortable. I’ll have to ride that train from now on. It gives me 14 extra minutes in the morning! How did I not know about this earlier?

Classes today were the same old same old. In 국어, there were no seats at the front of the class so I ended up sitting in the back next to some random male students and when the teacher walked in, he actually asked me why I wasn’t sitting in the front! I was shook by this immediate exclamation and my red face probably showed it. Because I was in the back, I realized that he did not single me out as much— probably because he knew I wasn’t paying as much attention as I usually do when I am in the center and at the front of the class. He told me I should come earlier so that I can get a seat at the front of the class. 🙂

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Uncle Sam wants YOU to return your library books!

I had a study period today too which was spent uploading a blog post and then working on some pages from my workbook. 세계사 was my class before lunch and because I have officially designated that class as 자습 시간, I literally just spent the whole time studying Korean. 

Katie and I stuck around 하나고 for lunch today (surprising, I know right…) and so we got to eat with all our friends. And the lunch today was honestly my favorite we have had thus far into the semester. We ate 보쌈 with huge lettuce leaves and even had pear slices for dessert. It was the best!

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After lunch, even though we were all stuffed by the really delicious lunch, we all met up at one of the lounge areas on the fourth floor in order for Katie and me to surprise 혜지 and 도윤 with their birthday cake. I bought plates and forks but forgot to buy a plastic knife (jokes on me… we found a plastic cutting knife inside the box after we finished eating…) so we just literally took the cake off the platter and put it on our plates using the forks. It was honestly really fun. 

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We hurriedly ate the cake in less than 10 minutes and then ran off to get to our next class. 혜지 did not want to take the left over cake so she handed it off to another student who ended up just sitting down and eating the cake in our classroom with some of the other girls. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight—I laughed so hard my sides were hurting. 

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우리 혜지야~ ❤

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Last class of the day was 정치와 법 and the majority of it was discussions and then we switched to lectures for the second class. I was not in the mood to pay attention and 윤세 forgot her note sheets so I gave her mine while I just did some Korean studying. 

Once school ended, it was off to our club meetings. The first club meeting of the semester! I was back with Bisera (the economics club). At first after class, 다은 and 기준 were going to take me to the meeting but I talked with a Katie a bit before separating for our respective clubs so I went by myself. I ended up running into 동철 on the staircase so we chatted for a bit and walked to the club meeting together. Apparently third years don’t really participate in their clubs (because the school would rather have them be studying for their exam in the fall–수능) but they do all tend to come to the first meeting so I got to see a lot of familiar faces: 주호 and 준호 in specific (and like I mentioned previously—동철.) We had everyone sit in a circle and I of course sat next to 지현~ We had the 3rd years and the new 1st years introduce themselves (I also did a 자기 소개 along with the Japanese exchange students that were joining us for that meeting only.) 

Besides just talking and chatting, we spent the majority of the first hour of the meeting picking out colors for our sweatshirt hoodie. I was really excited for this because I definitely want to buy one! I hope they choose a cute color~~ (Got my hopes up a bit too high… everyone ended up voting on dark concrete gray…ugh)

I had to leave before the second hour of the club started so that I could have adequate time to study for our monthly test the following day so I rushed home to pick up my books. But before I left, this teacher came into our room to do attendance and he sees me and asks “Is she really a member?” And then after everyone says “yes” in unison, he goes “Since when?” Many of the students answered back with “Originally” or “Since last year” in my defense which really touched me! I cannot wait for the next meeting! 

Lately at school, I am feeling a lot better. Last semester was kind of rough because things were so new and I felt lonely constantly but now that I have a secure group of friends and have more of a sturdy grasp on the Korean language, I feel like I am almost a part of this school :,) I know it may sound dumb but feeling like you stick out 24/7 can be frustrating. I just want to feel like I belong… In the moments that I forget that I am a foreigner and that I am different, I feel the most happy. Even if those moments are short or in frequent. They truly make up for the rest. To more days like today!

  • Emma 엠마

자기 소개 Gone Right?? And Birthday Present Shopping! {03/11/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/11/19 Monday

It was the start of a new week–my first full week at 하나고 {seeing that last week, we didn’t go to classes on Monday and I did not go to school in its entirety on Thursday}. Katie and I were as nervous as ever about the new day but we tried to keep those negative emotions out and focus on overcoming our worries. 

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My first class of the day was 정치와 법 {Politics & Law} which is the class I have with 서린, 혜지, and 윤세 so I was not worried about the seating situation for that class at all. I mean, I had three chances to sit next to a friend! I had this class on Wednesday as well but the class is taught by two teachers {One teacher for two hours on Mondays and the other one teaches for two hours on Wednesdays}. So today would be my first time being taught by this particular teacher. 

When she walked into the room, you could see the worry across her face once she caught a look at me. She walked over to 혜지 and 서린 next to me and asked them “Is she an Exchange Student? Does she speak Korean?” and other questions such as those. I was sitting there feeling like I might as well have been invisible since she wasn’t directing any of the questions about me TO ME even though I was able to understand everything. I know she was probably doing that so that I wouldn’t feel bad if I couldn’t understand her but it didn’t make me feel any more acknowledged… 

Once it was established that I could speak Korean, we moved on to the teacher explaining the class structure to all of us. She had certain students stand in front of the class and do some type of low-key {but very stressful!} interview like 자기 소개 (self-introduction) in front of the whole class. She started picking students randomly and they would just have to go up to the front of the class, stand behind the podium, and answer questions about why they chose to take this class, their interests in politics, etc. 

By the time break time rolled around, we still had not finished. I began to worry that she might actually call on me to do one! And my worries became reality as I was the first one to be called on at the start of the second period. She didn’t know my name so she just said from the back of the room “How about our exchange student now.” In my mind I was like “yeah, let’s hear from them” before I realized that that person was in fact… me. 

I was shaking when I went up to the podium. This class had a lot more students than most of my other classes and having them all stare at me was so nerve wracking. Maybe if I was 서린 and easy going enough to feel comfortable in front of people I would not have been so on edge, but I wanted to prove something to myself too—that I can actually speak Korean. 

I went up there and did my usual opening line that ended up resulting in literally everyone in the class clapping for me. To which the teacher exclaimed “Oh you must be popular.” This made me quietly laugh as I couldn’t possibly be any farther from popular at this school. I ended up explaining my future career goals and the fact that I took a politics class in high school in America. While I was explaining this, I was able to smoothly speak without many hesitations—besides natural pauses—and I even used some good new grammar {things that I definitely didn’t know last semester}. While I was speaking and said a particular part of one of my sentences, practically everyone gasped. At first this startled me but then it actually gave me the much needed confidence to keep on going. She asked me questions about how I got interested in Korean, how long I’ve been here, and if I’ve studied before coming.

After I told her my best friend in middle school was Korean, she asked me if we were close and everyone including me laughed because I literally said my best friend {in Korean it literally translates to close friend}. This was a nice moment because I was actually laughing along with my classmates for once. What a new development! 

 At one point, she asked me (more or less with this directly translated): Since coming here, how has it been? For a moment I froze, she used a grammar point I learned but she said it in the shortened more casual way which threw me for a loop for a second. However, I quickly calmed myself down and thought of the question again. I realized I did know what she asked so I just went with it. 

I told her that life in Korea is not only fun but also rewarding which led her to ask what about it was rewarding. This stopped me in my tracks cause I needed to think quickly on my feet to be able to answer. I started speaking, without really thinking too seriously about it, and talked about the fact that in America, as long as I studied hard, I would be able to understand everything but in Korea because I can’t speak Korean (well yet) there are a lot of difficulties. However, when I am able to overcome those things and get good results, I feel like everything is worth it. After I said this sentence, everyone clapped for me but I knew it was genuine. It was not the in-genuine way people act impressed or shocked when you say a simple sentence like “Hello my name is…” or something of that nature.

After that class, I had some advanced English writing class with Andrew쌤 which I was worried I would know no one in. It was a third year class but I only know a select group of second years (last year) since my homeroom and most of my classes were with first years. When I walked in, I double checked my room with one of the girls (because my schedule loves to be wrong as of late…) and she asked me if I knew anyone in the class to which I responded no, of course. She then, with some hesitation, told me I could sit next to her then. But right as I was sitting down, 서연 {from 영미문학} came in  and I was so happy to see such a familiar face. The girl saw that we knew each inter after we shrieked about missing each other which then caused the girl I had just met to tell 서연 to sit next to me instead. Actually, I often did not sit next to her in my English class last year because her desk was often in the back with no empty seat nearby so I would sit next to 지원 and her friends or with 예성. I was excited to be able to get closer with her now. 

Class was typical. We did some free write in the beginning about what core class should not be mandatory {I talked about my experience in high school so I went with physics}. We also went through steps of the writing process which was honestly a nice refresher since I haven’t written an essay in such a long time! 

Katie had a presentation in Korean class today and had yet to memorize the whole thing so we ended up skipping lunch at 하나고 and going to the 편의점 instead right by Better World for some delicious 김밥. 

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In Korean class today, we really didn’t get much stuff done… we finished the one grammar point we had started the previous class but besides that, we spent most of the the time talking. Today’s topics included age of consent, abortion, chastity, and age differences in relationships in Korea. It was an interesting discussion to listen to but since I didn’t really participate, it was kind of hard for me to feel like it was helping me improve in anyway… I do not know why I am like this… I can understand everything and yet I do not contribute my own thoughts or ideas.

After class, we had our first bi-weekly meeting since December at which we talked about the OPIC coming up and lots of due dates for our individual project. So many things are coming up! It’s quite overwhelming! Not only did I have the meeting, but I also had my monthly goal meeting with 주연쎔 afterward so I ended up staying with her and talking till almost 7 pm! Literally! We started our meeting at 5:30 but we didn’t end the meeting until 6:50-ish. 

This is not me complaining! I enjoyed our conversation so much! She asked me about basic things like host family life and school life and how I am feeling about Korean class. We also went over my OPI and she talked about the comments regarding me being really nervous about the fact that it was over the phone. I also told her about the fact that I was asked the most basic question about describing the area around my apartment complex but because I skipped around with textbooks (especially since I wasn’t taught with 이화 books) I didn’t know how to do it. Besides that, she said that I was good at sharing my opinion even when I don’t know the topic too well and that I didn’t make many simple mistakes… the latter one threw me for a loop because I felt like my teacher said the opposite? 

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Regardless, we talked a lot about language learning—plateau, setbacks, losing English, confidence, and those rewarding moments. 주연쌤 is such a nice person to talk to and she gives the best hugs! After our meeting ended, it was too late to go home for dinner with my host family, so I just spent the rest of the night with Katie figuring out a birthday gift for our friend 윤세! We got a text from 서린 while we were at the cafe letting us know that it was her birthday the following day, so we had to put something together really quick. We ended up buying her a cute little beige and pink hippo stuffed animal (So that she could have something tangible to remember us by~ She can put it on her bed in her dorm!) as well as some ramen (since they cannot buy it at school) and a real slice of cake! We figured that a birthday (at least to us) is not complete without some cake and we were not quite sure how birthdays work here… we wanted to be certain that she was getting something sweet to celebrate the day!

I took the giant present back home and literally came home and sprawled out on my bed wanting to do no work for the rest of the night. Somehow I found motivation, pushed through my urges to spend hours mindlessly scrolling on social media, and studied some vocab and worked on my workbook for a bit. I ended up being successful at getting to bed at 11 too! 6.5 hours of sleep! What a concept! Well anyways, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading. 

  • Emma 엠마

 

Escape Room and Karaoke in Hongdae (홍대) with Korean High School Friend {02/21/19} NSLIY Korea AY

02/21/19 Thursday

For the past couple of days, 호영 {one of the boys from my mentoring program at 하나고} and I have been Insta DMing back and forth trying to figure out a plan to hang out with Katie before going back to school. We decided on the date rather early but figuring out what we were going to to do took a little more time. We kept going back and forth saying everything was good. At one point, I brought up 노래방 because I know that he likes music and this boy had the audacity to ask me how I remembered this?? Hello? Cause we once talked regularly! It made me laugh. 

Eventually, we decided to try and do an escape room. I warned him that if it was in Korean, we might have a difficult time helping out. I looked back at my experience doing it with my host sister and it was very very difficult! The puzzles relied a lot on explanations and listening/reading Korean so I was not the most helpful. I temporarily forgot that he’s good at English so with that in mind we decided to just go for it and do an escape room. 

Before that, I met up with Katie in the morning to go to a cafe. I had a presentation in Korean class today on mass media. {I decided to do mine on the adverse effects and positive effects of social media—called SNS in Korea} so I needed to memorize it before class. Within an hour at the cafe (the other hour was spent goofing off with Katie and doing mindless scrolling on my phone), I was able to memorize the whole thing. Once that was accomplished, I left to meet up with Kaitlyn who wanted to go to Daiso to buy some essentials and then walk around the main shopping streets in search of some luggage to buy since she is moving host families. However… while we were walking around, we started to fight about something pretty trivial. I was getting really upset and was practically yelling while walking around with Kaitlyn. I got so mad that I stormed away from her at one point and returned to the youth center by myself. It was definitely not a proud moment of mine. It put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

During Korean class, we covered all the readings and dialogues in the textbook and learned three new grammar points (though like I said… I feel like it is always so rushed nowadays…) We ended up running out of time (even though we did have a four-hour class today) and so I was the only one that was able to present. My presentation ended up going well. I messed up only minor parts when it came to the memorization and my teacher did not have much to fix content/grammar wise. During the class breaks, I was busy talking with 호영 about our plans after class. It was quite stressful as we were both not being decisive and spotty center wifi did not help the situation.

After class ended, I met up with Katie and we made our way to the subway station continuously texting 호영 who was on his way. I was also chugging a bottle of Starbucks coffee that I bought from the convenience store because it took a lot out of me to try to stay awake during class today. We were both so nervous while waiting for him at the right exit. We kept texting him as he was making his way towards us and at one point we were talking about going to a cafe before heading to the escape room since our room would not be ready till 20 minutes after the time we booked it. At one point he messaged with 낫어 레스토랑? We were both confused and thought he was asking to go to some kind of restaurant. When we let him know that we were not understanding, he explained that 레스토랑 was a restaurant but with Korean pronunciation. We both died laughing at this joke because that was not the problem whatsoever. It was the word before it! 

As 호영 approached us, he waved from behind the huge crowds of Koreans and when we finally found each other–there was a little bit of an awkward silence. I told 호영 that he seemed to have gotten taller but I probably just felt that way because I have not seen him for almost three months. We decided to head to 설빙 and share some 빙수 before firing up our brain cells to hopefully be successful with our escape room game! While walking there, we found out that 호영 had only been to 홍대 one time before today which was really shocking! I mean he is Korean! And, he has lived in Seoul for a long while! The conversation went more smoothly than I expected. Katie and I are able to hold our own with our Korean skills now even though we made plenty of jokes about not understanding 호영 before meeting up with him and because he speaks English pretty well too, we were able to casually flip back and forth if needed. I do believe that speaking Korean as much as I can while here is important but also, I think that being able to code-switch is a nice skill to have too–plus, it makes everything more comfortable. 호영 treated Katie and me at 설빙 because he got some money for the new year. We ended up splitting a strawberry and chocolate brownie 빙수.

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Eventually, it was time to head to the escape room! While we were walking there, 호영 literally almost got hit by a car or motorcycle about two to three times. At one point, I had to grab his arm and pull him to the side because he was cutting it so close. We made jokes about him dying before even being able to attempt to escape a room! We chose to do the easiest room at the place and it was about 12,000 won per person which is such a good price! Most places are 20,000 won per person and in comparison to American escape rooms with prices as high as 30 dollars or more, it was such a good price.

The escape room was such a good time! We were given a maximum of 4 hints and we did use them all; however, that does not matter. We were still able to escape with about 10 minutes left on the clock! Most of the escape room was actually in English as the puzzles only included numbers and riddles in English, so honestly, it would have been easier for us being the Native English speakers in the room. It was the first time both Katie and 호영 had done an escape room (Katie and I did do a virtual one together, though) but we were so successful with our teamwork! Each of us had a little moment to shine where we were able to figure out different puzzles to help us continue along until we were finally able to escape. In one of the rooms, there was even a fake turd in a toilet! It was hilarious when we forced 호영 to pick it up cause we knew it would be a clue. All in all, this escape room was a lot of fun! When we finally made it out of the room, we were so ecstatic and couldn’t help but high five (and I might have been jumping up and down and not able to stop smiling.)

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We finished off the night by getting some sticker photos done at this place that I seem to frequent now (literally though… I am looking at all the photos I have on my vanity right now in my host family’s home… and a good amount are from there.) We then headed to a coin 노래방. We played about 8 songs including Bohemian Rhapsody, Let it Go, 보여줄게, Love is an Open Door, 사랑했지만, Just the Way You Are, and even What Does the Fox Say. The last one was completely 호영’s decision but we all enjoyed screaming the absurd sounds and lyrics in the small room. We went all out–especially me–not caring and just screaming. I may not be able to sing well but screaming is definitely my talent. And it showed! We got our highest scores from singing really loud! We did get up to 98 and 99! 

Well, that is all for this blog post! We ended up separating after getting to the subway station. 호영 rode the subway with me for a couple stops before transferring and then I made my way home to be greeted with my host mom and sisters installing a pole in our living room!! I came in and heard yelling and was greeted by them all as they stood on chairs and tables with different heights screwing in the metal pole to the ceiling. I knew my host mom was considering installing one after she started pole dancing classes but this made me want to laugh out loud. That was all for my Thursday night! I hope you enjoyed this blog post!

  • Emma 엠마

연탄 {Coal} Community Service, Korean Movie Theater, & 잊지마 식당 {02/01-02/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/01/19 Friday 

Friday was our second big community service activity as one cohort. This activity consisted of delivering cylinders of coal to mostly poor elderly homes that did not have electric heating. They counted on the coal to heat their houses during the winter. We were brought to the area surrounding 영등포시장 (yeong-deung-po market) which is known for having a large elderly population. We met the man in charge of the community service activity and he prepared us by explaining directions and handing out materials that we would need: gloves, aprons, etc. 

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Shada & Me

2 hours were designated for this activity but because we were so productive, we ended up finishing in 1.5 hours! For the first “shift” or “session” if you will, I was in a group of 4 with Shada, Jenna, and June and we moved a stack of the coal to a little storage area near the side of a house. The other 12 students did a separate house and that had a farther distance between the coal drop off and the destination which is why they needed more people for the assembly line.

After we finished those two houses, we moved onto the last one which involved carrying the coal through a narrow alleyway. All 16 of us did this one but rather than doing an assembly line, we just had each individual take a cylinder of coal to the storage area while the boys stacked them with help of the director or leader of the service activity. It was difficult labor as the coal came with a lot of powder and sometimes the dust was too much. Additionally, the cylinders were quite heavy. Moving them from one place to another wasn’t too hard but when I had to pick them up from off the floor to hand them to the next person {2 each} my back started hurting. 

But before we knew it, we had finished! It was a nice little rewarding experience. We didn’t get to meet any of the people we were actually helping which was kind of disappointing. I think it would have been better if we got to see the people that would be using the coal.

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We also got to take home keychains that were mini coal blocks with faces on them!

After the community service, a big group of us decided to go to the market and have lunch there. It was literally huge! Much larger than 통인시징 (Tongin Market) but then again that’s probably why it has its own station! Katie, Alix, and I got these really delicious huge 호떡 (Korean pancakes sold as street food)! They were of the thicker variety of the pastry known as 찰호떡. They were a dollar each and 100% worth it. In fact, I was pretty full from just eating that!! We kept walking around and we ran into Shada who showed us this really good place to buy 만두 for cheap {only 2천원 = a little less than 2 dollars}. That was my lunch~ Because my commute was over an hour-long due to me having to wait 20 minutes at 공덕역 {The next train didn’t go all way to my train station so I had to wait for the following one}, I ended up eating my dumplings while sitting on a bench inside the station. But honestly, it was really good so I didn’t mind the interesting circumstances. 

I came home from community service and relaxed for a bit—watching YouTube, writing blog posts, etc. Eventually, I even fell asleep and took a nap for a couple hours. My host mom and host sister had dinner during that time so when I woke up, I ate some 돈까스 that they brought back for me. And my night basically ended like that! 

02/02/19 Saturday 

Lately, I’ve been coming home early on both Friday and Saturday night just because I don’t make all day plans. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but sometimes 9 pm rolls around and I’m lying in my bed thinking “I could be out and about playing right now!” This could be because I’m bored or because my feelings of loneliness tend to skyrocket when I’m alone in my room at night. For the first time in a while, I made some plans for all day Saturday with some pretty cool people: Shannon, Josh, and Harmony. 

Our day mostly revolved around seeing the movie Unbreakable from that director M. Night Shyamalan. The night before we had tried ordering the tickets online {to make sure we got seats next to each other because literally the theater we found was the ONLY theater in Seoul playing this movie and there was only one showtime!} but because of our lack of Korean credit cards or Korean bank accounts in general, this attempt failed. Instead, we planned to go to the movie theater several hours before the movie started and reserve our seats ourselves. 

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So Harmony, Shannon, and I met up at 충무로역 at around 1 pm and tried to find our way to the theater using Harmony’s map. Actually, the theater ended up being almost right next to the station but we passed it as we were too busy talking about the abundance of pet stores in the area rather than looking for our destination. We turned down some random street and ended up seeing the theater from the back. When we got to the theater we texted Josh to see if he still had plans to come and he was like the “moment of truth” which was so unclear. we were just standing in the theater being anxious and trying to figure out what to do with our boy Josh. He ended up telling us that yes he would come so we went up to the electronic self-checkout machine to order our tickets. We were determined to figure out how to buy the tickets without talking to any alive tellers—and we did! Plugging in our information and payment was a bit confusing but we managed. It honestly felt so good to have done it by ourselves {never changing the language to English}. It was definitely nothing besides a really simple accomplishment but in this household, we appreciate all.

After buying the movie tickets, Harmony, Shannon, and I went and had lunch at Popeyes which I had been craving for quite a while now. I really wanted their chicken tenders! Now, the Korean Popeyes does not have my favorite Cajun rice but the recipe for the biscuits was not that far off from the ones back in America; they were just a bit sweeter {but that is to be expected when it comes to bread in Korea.}

We hung out at this cafe called People’s Cafe {which also has a logo that resembles 나쁜여자 (bad woman) bar in 홍대 (Hongdae) which made us all laugh (Disclaimer: I have not been but it is an iconic landmark so it became an inside joke! Do not come for me Better World!) Besides the interesting choice of outside signage, the place was nice. Not too busy, WiFi was good, and the drinks were actually pretty cheap! Josh met up with us eventually and we went to see Unbreakable at the theater. 

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The movie itself was interesting and it kept me entertained for the duration of it because of its absurdity and the many surprises. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No. But the experience was one! We decided to sneak in snacks from the Emart right next to the theater like everyone does in America which was a great decision on our part! (Do Koreans do this too? Or were we really foreigners overstepping our boundaries?)

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Sketchy?

After the movie, Harmony left to go home for dinner while Josh, Shannon, and I decided to eat dinner out because, by the time we got home to our families, it would be passed dinner time anyway. We walked down this long sketchy alleyway of really traditional ma&pa Korean restaurants that really made me anxious. I guess it was just the dim lighting and the quiet empty atmosphere that really freaked me out. We ended up stumbling upon this 24 hour operated restaurant called 잊지마 식당 {Don’t Forget Restaurant is how you would directly translate it.} 

We ordered three portions of meat and 김치찌개 and ate all of it. However, although the food was very delicious, that was not what made this eating experience unforgettable… it was the lady serving us. In all honesty, I couldn’t really understand her Korean, but Josh had no trouble answering all her questions so he just went on with talking with her. After all our food came out, she prepared to show me how to make a lettuce wrap with the meat and the 반찬 with all our food. I was confused as to why she was doing this {mostly because we knew what to do} but it was a nice gesture by nature. Then, she took the lettuce wrap and fed it to me by putting it in my mouth for me. I was shook and had to try hard not to laugh or I would have choked on my lettuce wrap. She did the same thing to Shannon so I was not alone! 

We had a nice dinner and then separated with Shannon. Josh and I spent another hour and a half at a cafe—I wrote a blog post while he worked on some scholarships. And that was all for my night! It was a lot of fun~ I feel like I haven’t gone out and done things outside of my comfort zone {getting movie tickets and eating at that type of restaurant} or out of routine {going somewhere that’s not Hongdae and hanging out with people other than Katie}. It was a nice change of pace! 

That’s all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed~ 

  • Emma 엠마

 

Monthly Korean Test, Waffle Tradition, and Package from Home! (01/31/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/31/19 Thursday

Today was our monthly test for Korean so you can probably guess what I was doing earlier in the morning: did you guess studying at a cafe? Extra points if you said with Katie!! 

Katie and I met up at Holly’s Cafe at around 9:30 am to study before our big tests. We both were studying as if this was the most important test yet but during our short breaks, we also reassured ourselves that this doesn’t have to be our month… we reassured ourselves that February could! We would get all the bread then !! 

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Drinking a Cafe Mocha (Test days were coffee days for me)

Anyway, at the cafe, I read all the reading passages from both the textbook and workbook as well as writing out a rough sketch/outline for my 자기 소개 (self-introduction) for the OPI. It’s a question that is always asked and I try to always switch up what I say to show off different grammar points and to give my teacher fresh new topics to talk about. 

This past month, my class {3반 with Jacquelyn & Josh} has been having class at the youth center rather than the Better World office—where we had classes from Sept-Dec. The Better World staff members wanted to get the chance to see some other NSLI-Y faces more so they switched our class with 2반 for winter break. {There were talks about having 3반 have their turn there for the spring semester but I talked to 민정쌤 about it and I’m more positive that the current class will stay or we will go back.} Anyways, what a long ramble away from the point I was getting at!! For the monthly test, 2반 and 1반 were switching teachers during the OPI portion due to a disagreement with how students were scored last time as it involved moving students down a level. To make that easier on everyone, those two classes would be taking their tests at the youth center and 3반 returned to Better World. 

I ate a quick 편의점 lunch with some of the other girls before making my way to Better World—I walked by myself with some headphones in. I had made the walk this winter break with Katie to get brunch at flapjack pantry or to get to Better World for our orientation but it felt weird going there again knowing that I would be returning for a Korean purpose (The test!). {Does that make any sense?} 

I ran into 민정쌤 on the way actually and that 5-minute long by chance meet up improved my mood as previous to the encounter, I was practically shaking—not from the cold, but the fact that I would be taking my unit test! 

When we all arrived at the familiar room, my teacher explained the monthly test process once again and we immediately started on our reading test. 

Honestly, when I flipped the last page and was brought back to the cover of the test, I was relieved and happy. It felt like an easy test. Yes, there were questions that I, of course, did not understand whatsoever and I felt really iffy about answering certain questions but overall, I felt good. 

Then came the writing and speaking portion. Our teacher decided that we would do Rock Paper Scissors to decide who would go first for the OPI because no one was sacrificing themselves. I technically hadn’t gone first yet but if I didn’t have to, I wasn’t going to! Unfortunately, however, I lost!! I would be doing first. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost start crying because I did not want to go first. My teacher even exclaimed, “Emma it almost looks like you are going to cry.” Little did she know… Why was I being so emotional? For such a trivial concern? I could not tell you…

But honestly, going first wasn’t that bad. I shuffled into the room angrily and let out an exasperated sigh but getting it over with was nice. I didn’t have to wait with the anticipation so that my nerves had time to build up. 

The writing section was okay. It went very very quickly. I didn’t feel the best about it because I knew I didn’t utilize advanced vocab terms or grammar but oh well what is done is done. 

After class, Josh joined me in walking to an after monthly test tradition: waffles! We went to 와플 대학 and met up with Katie, Alix, Hunter, and Shannon to eat waffles but because the walk was so far and our teacher let us out late {she decided to finish the textbook with us that day so we learned 2 new grammar points during the last hour… everyone had to leave as soon as we got there. Katie stayed with us, though~ 

Another thing that happened by surprise today… was that a package from my friend Kara arrived!! When 주연쌤 handed it to me, I was beyond ecstatic!! I got home and happily opened it. She sent me the cutest pig ornament, a book I’ve been meaning to read, and some good old American candy! Oh, and the most heartfelt letter~ Ahh I definitely cried!! 

Also, last week 주연쌤 went to America for a partners workshop with American Councils and she met Emily Matts and Brian Leopold who both said hi to me! Apparently, at the end of the workshop, they had a session on what alumni reps have done and both Jacquelyn and me were included. I was so proud that my legacy could live on to them~~ 주연쌤 said that she believes it’s the first time an AY participant had been an alum rep so she was very proud of the both of us. 

Anyways, that was my Thursday~ I came home and just literally spent the rest of the night in my room exhausted. Although the days leading up to the monthly exams are so stressful, the weekend afterward is always the best because we have no work to do!!! {Even though this time my teacher gave us another practice Topik test to do… but that is break homework rather than actual homework… I’ll tell that to myself to make me feel better!} 

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Also meanwhile… It snowed like three times in Korea during the winter… while it was negative 50 in Chicago!

I was going to add this post to tomorrow’s post because I figured it would be short and boring but instead, it’s long and boring! Stay tuned for the next post that will hopefully be more interesting: delivering coal community service activity and a trip to a traditional market! 

Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

Impromptu Project Meeting & Trying Donkatsu for the First Time {01/22/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/22/19 Tuesday

This week we were not having any official supporter meeting plans for working on our project but we wanted to make sure that we got the interview questions down for tomorrow so we decided to meet up at an Ediyas near Better World. Our meeting time was pretty early but not as early as our normal meeting time so I decided to still leave the house at the same time. I did not want my host mom worrying about making me breakfast. I went to study and finish my homework at a cafe. 

I went to Blanc Bakery at 9:30, bought a small blueberry muffin for less than three dollars and then spent almost 2 hours memorizing vocab words and answering questions from our debate in class today {The topic was a no-kill shelter putting down dogs here in Korea}. Katie joined me a bit before 10:30 and we worked until we had to meet our supporter at 11am. 

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With our supporter, at Ediyas, we just went through the interview questions we wrote and practiced saying them–making sure we knew what they (sorta) meant and how to pronounce every last word. We also wrote an introduction and conclusion for the interview. We only were at the cafe for about an hour, but we got a lot of work done–and had time to goof off and just talk. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom but it was outside of the cafe (in the lobby type area of the entire building) which took some courage from me to go find. (I know… that should not be a difficult thing to do but I am just the anxious type about everything!) However, when I went and typed the passcode into the lock pad the bathroom door, I could not get the door to open. Eventually, I typed in the code too many times that it started beeping so I just ran back to our table in defeat and proceeded to tell them how inadequate I am. Katie, being the amazing friend she is, took me to the bathroom and showed me how to open the door. Apparently, I was supposed to close the cover of the lock on the door before opening the door so that the code would process which makes so much sense but… when you need to do the deed, sometimes you cannot think. (That is what I will blame it on.)

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After we finished practicing, we once again separated ways. Katie came to study at the center for a bit but then I went with Shada to get lunch with Jacquelyn and Jenna while Katie walked back to Better World to study some more before class. We planned to, at first, go to this small shop called “Cheese Mania” to get grilled cheese for lunch but halfway there, I pointed out this really good 돈까스 place that Kaitlyn took Alix, Katie, and me to during the beginning of the program. With that comment, Shada exclaims “I have never had 돈까스 before.” At that moment, we knew where we would be eating. We all ordered the same thing at this restaurant: 치즈 돈까스. When we all sat down, we gave each other the eyes because the guy behind the counter in the kitchen was extremely attractive. We joked about it for a bit.

Korean class today was really slow. We spent one hour just doing reading and listening passages from the textbook while the second hour was Josh’s presentation on the influence of 유교 on Korean culture and just chatting about a variety of topics. 민정쌤 came to observe our class during the last period in which we just went over the vocab words from the new chapter. The theme was words with the prefix 맨 which means bare–mostly. For example, 맨밥 means just plain rice and 맨발 means barefoot. Our teacher was giving us an example of 맨몸 which to us looked like it was going to be just naked but the she starts her sentence with “When you fight with someone” and we were all looking so confused. She goes on to explain a situation in which you are fighting someone with no weapons–just your hands, and we all burst out laughing. We all were laughing because this whole time we thought she meant someone fighting while naked until she got to the point about having no weapons. 민정쌤 also began to laugh when she realized what we thought.

After class, I just went home right away so I ate dinner with my host mom. My older host sister was not feeling well and the younger one was not hungry so it was just us two. I told her about my interview tomorrow and how nervous I was!! I spent the rest of the night working on my workbook pages and studying some grammar. I went to bed kind of early to feel well rested for tomorrow~

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Delicious dinner made by my host mom ❤

I was going to combine today with tomorrow since I assumed this blog post would be quite short but I think I underestimated how much I would describe Korean class today… So I guess Tuesday gets its own day! Yay~ Anyway, thanks for reading this blog post~ Catch you on the next one!

  • Emma 엠마

Mid-way Project Meeting, Mint Cafe, & Practice Topik Test {01/20-21/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/20/19 Sunday

I definitely value the chill relaxing days sprinkled in between a tedious routine or busy, hectic days; however, I hate staying home all day when I’m trying to be productive. If I have no plans to study, then it’s great! But if I actually really need to get some work done, after a while I feel suffocated and cramped at home which leads me to start getting distracted over the smallest of things. Due to this lovely trait of mine, I think that going out to a cafe to study is always a good decision. Luckily for me, Josh was free on Sunday and so we met up at a nearby station of ours—풍산역—to go on a study grind! Instead of walking towards cafe village {think farmland!}, we went through the other exit and walked down streets that reminded me a lot of the Bronx. At first, we thought we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere to go but after walking a few blocks, we saw a bunch of cute, quirky cafes. They all looked pretty cool especially because they were not chain cafes {those are good but sometimes you want a unique experience!} 

We decided to go to this place called “Beans High Coffee” that had a lot of large table seating {4 seater tables} so it had the perfect environment for studying. The decorations seemed to focus on travels and lots of books. There was also a strange display of crocheted dolls? Maybe a hobby of the owners? Anyways, I ordered my usual green tea latte and the barista seemed nicer than the ones at other places. {He seemed genuine if that makes sense. Maybe cause it was obvious that this wasn’t his part-time job or anything} He told me that they closed at 6:30 today before I ordered which I thought was considerate and since I understood it, it put me in a good mood not gonna lie. Josh, the coffee snob that he is, ordered some Columbian bean roasted coffee or something of that nature. Something fancy!

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We studied there for about two and a half hours and I got a good amount of work done. There are some people that say they will come to a cafe to study with you but don’t actually end up wanting to study. Instead, they want to talk or goof off. Josh is the type that will take breaks every now and then to talk but knows when to just work. AKA He is a really good study buddy! At the cafe, I finished my writing assignment about a person I respect {I chose my mom!} and I was able to start on memorizing vocab words on Quizlet. 

When I was just about to separate from Josh, I got a text from my host mom telling me that everyone had plans tonight so I would need to grab dinner for myself; she left money in my room to do so. I ended up going to the 편의점 to buy 김밥 and snacks and then went to Olive Young to buy makeup wipes {a dinner unrelated errand}. I felt kind of free after finishing my writing assignment so I relaxed and ate my dinner for a bit before finishing memorizing my Quizlet words. 

01/21/19 Monday 

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View from my room in the morning ❤

Usually, we don’t have any schedules before Korean classes on Mondays but today was a little different: we would be having a mid-way meeting at Better World for our research project. When making my way to Better World, I exited the station from exit 3 since it was a closer walk and ended up running into Shada and Jenna. I saw them across the street and yelled their names; however, the non-green crosswalk signs kept us from meeting so that is what brought about these photos: 

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The meeting ended up starting a bit behind schedule because a couple people were late which put some people (cough cough the teachers) in a bad mood—understandable honestly. The meeting just consisted of the 쌤s checking up with us and making sure we realize that the project should already be halfway done by now. This was also an opportunity for each of the groups to present about their projects so far and get feedback for what they are doing. 

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I was so nervous to present about our project but it didn’t seem that we received too much criticism from the 쌤s. They thought that we should include that we were specifically doing a presentation on Korean single mothers {in case it wasn’t obvious to others…} but other than that, they just wanted us to finalize interview questions and such. It was easier than I thought it would be! 

After everyone presented about their topics, we went through a schedule of things to do for the upcoming meetings and then we ended for lunch. My supporter 혜린언니, Katie, and I went out for lunch at Flapjack Pantry… honestly, when are we not there? I feel like either we are eating 편의점 김밥 or you can find us eating pancakes at Flapjack Pantry. Lunch was a lot of fun~~ We didn’t have to worry about our project at this time; we were just able to relax! 

After we stuffed ourselves with carbs, we separated to go off to Korean class. While walking with 혜린언니 back to the subway station {well me to the center where my classes our held}, I talked to her all about life at 하나고. We had an especially long conversation about school uniforms as I complained about the stares and whispers I get. She told me that she also has gotten mad at her boyfriend for whispering about a foreigner before because you never know if they will understand. Though, I feel that it’s not wrong just when the foreigner can understand Korean.. it is kinda rude in general. 

Anyway, class today was really fast-paced. We ended up learning a full chapter of grammar points in one day which honestly made my head spin. They were not exactly too difficult but I felt like I needed more time to practice them so that I could use them naturally because I was still somewhat struggling when our teacher would ask me to make example sentences. In particular, there was one grammar point that we only gave like 10 or 15 minutes to. We had to rush to cover it at the end of class but … wow, I could not understand it very well. 

Another part of class was spent getting back and looking over our Topik tests. I was really pleasantly surprised… I mean technically I got like a C in both reading and listening but hey that’s honestly not that bad if you consider the fact that there are also questions on there for level 6 speakers who are considered fluent. My short writing score was not too good but the longer one was 40/50 points which made me really proud! My teacher said that I need to work on diversifying my grammar and using more advanced vocabulary, but she also did mention that my writing was the most understandable? Or like the content itself was? And I was able to convey my thoughts more coherently? Or something like that? Honestly, I was glad she could still throw in a compliment to me. 

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Though I do know I need to take more practice tests because for this one, I didn’t time myself while taking it. So it cannot really be an accurate representation of what I would have done. However, after adding up all the points, I was at level 4!!! When I was first adding up the numbers, I missed one of the tests and thought I just got 120 something points which was lower than a level 3 which made me want to cry for a quick second but then I saw that I was actually like 40 ish points above level 4 {but like 200 away from level 5…I will need to study more!} 

It would be a dream to be able to improve enough by April to get to level 5… would that ever be possible? But I am happy with level 4 I will say~ 

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After class, I met up again with Katie and we decided to go to this cafe called Mint Heim. Earlier in the program, Liam and Jacquelyn went together and since then, I’ve been wanting to go. Recently, I watched a YouTube video that showed where it was and I realized that it was so easy to get there! 

Everything at this cafe is mint themed: the drinks, the desserts, the decor, and even the building! We hung out there for a couple hours studying and just chilling—enjoying our drinks that HIGHLY resembled toothpaste. 

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Well, that is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ Till next time!!! 

  • Emma 엠마

학원 House Party, Sledding, and Vicious Live Octopus?? {01/19/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/19/19 Saturday 

Before I even met my host family, I knew about the party and the trip to go sledding planned on this day. When messaging my older host sister over Instagram, she invited me to come with if I liked to sled/had no other scheduled program activities that day. Luckily, we had nothing planned~ 

Early in the morning, you could feel the stress and worry in the air as everyone hurried to get ready and prepare for the big day ahead. Although I could feel this negative energy around me, I also could feel a ton of excitement. My two host sisters left to go pick up the kids from the 학원 to bring them back to the house to play for a bit and to have lunch. 

I was studying in my room when my host mom showed up at my door holding Andy and telling me that the kids arrived and that we should come out to greet them. She also mentioned that Andy will behave better {less to no barks} if he can enter the house with guests rather than have all the guest pile in suddenly when he’s unaware. We went down to the lobby and waited to the door until we saw a swarm of Korean elementary to middle school students coming towards us. I was shocked. I knew that it was a party but I did not imagine that there would be so many!! There had to be close to or more than 30. As they all piled into the building, many of them waved and said “hello” to me in English which was so cute. 

When we got inside the house, it was so overwhelming!! Luckily my host family’s apartment is pretty spacious for a Korean apartment but even with that, the number of kids there made it seem quite small. For about an hour or so the kids just played around—talking, on their phones, playing board games, or petting Andy. At one point, I was on Andy duty which meant I sat with the kids on the bed with Andy and watched them. It was probably less because they didn’t trust the kids handling the dog but more because many of them were scared of the dog and I was there to make the dog feel more comfortable around all the unfamiliar faces. 

For lunch, my host mom cooked up the meat medley that we bought at Emart the previous night. She just went around to the kids and passed out bowls of the meat. Bowls that included one sausage, a strip of bacon, fried shrimp, and two pieces of 삼겹살. Definitely a cholesterol raiser but very delicious nonetheless.

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After lunch, everyone put on their coats and we got ready to leave for the 눈썰매장(sledding hill). I accidentally left my wallet in my room and began to fear for my life as I realized I didn’t have my card to pay for the bus fare, but my younger host sister reassured me that it was okay… since they rented a huge bus! A party bus if you will! 

We drove off to 하피랜드 which is an amusement park in 파주시 {the city next to 고양시} and while we were driving there, we really saw the 시골!! We passed by tons of farms and fields and saw stray dogs running around. My host sister pointed out these round cylinder things that looked like huge marshmallows and told the kids sitting across from us that that was how they made marshmallows— they just cut it down into the shape that you normally see them in. None of them believed the tall tale but it was still funny to listen to.

We arrived and were greeted by two large hills covered in (real) snow for sledding. One hill was made for kids (think bunny hill) which had these circular swimming float type sleds while the bigger hill had plastic sleds (two different types). We spent about a little more than 2 hours at the sled park. I started off the day by sledding down the big hill with my older host sister and a couple of the students which was very thrilling! I am not the thrill-seeking type of person, so even just this (which many kids did fine) was a lot for me! I will also mention that steering sleds is so difficult! Part of the thrill of going down the hill was trying not to hit anyone! (Almost crashed into a mother and her child not gonna lie…)

 I honestly cannot remember the last time I really went sledding, so doing this was a lot of fun! Back home, winter does not really bring any new, fun activities for me–but this was something I never knew I could actually look forward to! However, one of the 학원 students recommended to my older host sister and me to switch our sleds for this sleeker shaped one because it went faster. We agreed to do so and really had no reservations about it but after going down that hill with that demon sled, I was done with that hill! It was a lot of fun do not get me wrong… but that sled really did make me go faster and I actually also could not stay on the sled while it was moving. Half of my body kept coming off and so my pants and arm kept getting wet from the snow. I got to the bottom and needed to take a break–and my host sister felt the same way. We decided to give the child hill a try which was a great decision since it was ten times better. I went down with my host sister while holding hands and then with a group of the students which was better since I did not have to do down by myself. The best part of it would be when our sleds would turn around and we would go down BACKWARDS! What a day!!

At 4 pm, all the students gathered back near the entrance and we returned to the bus to go back to the 학원 to drop all the kids off. From there, I visited my host sister’s 학원 for a quick bit and it was the cutest thing. All around the room where cute decorations, American memorabilia, and lots and lots of signs. I could see how this would be a really great environment to study English. 

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My Older Host Sister & Me

After we got home, we just chilled for a little bit before leaving to go to a seafood restaurant near the apartment complex/subway station which my host mom kept telling me was a 맛집 (A very delicious restaurant that is well known in the area– usually chain restaurants cannot be considered a 맛집– 맛 is taste and 집 is house (or place). For dinner, we had this large seafood soup/stew set that included a lot of seafood: crab, shrimp, clams, octopus, etc. We also ate 해물파전 (seafood savory pancake… which I have made before! During my cooking class in Korea two years ago!) as well as some spicy rice with what my sister told me was cockle? She translated the Korean word on Naver and that was what came out. I never really ate seafood in the States so I am not sure what that exactly is but… we ate it, and it was delicious! However, the highlight of the dinner was not the delicious food or the good conversation with my host family (although of course, those were all good things). The best part of the dinner made me laugh for several minutes straight… and that was the live octopus in the pot escaping through the lid and scaring my host mom so much that she screamed. I heard her cry and saw tentacles coming out of the side of the pot and I couldn’t help but laugh. Everyone in the restaurant turned to look at us as anyone would have if someone suddenly screamed in a somewhat quiet public place. A nearby waiter came by and put the octopus back in and shut the lid but my host mom was still freaking out so she switched seats with my older host sister who then held down the lid until the octopus stopped moving.

At one point, the waitress serving us finally asked my host mom about me and she told her that I can speak Korean so might as well just ask me directly. She then proceeded to ask me where I was from but she used extremely formal Korean which caught me off guard for a hot second and I was chewing tough octopus at the same time so I tried swallowing as fast as I could to tell her I was from America.

Dinner was delicious and a great end to such a busy but fun day. We came home quite early as it was only 8 pm. We just relaxed for the rest of the night which was much needed~

Thanks for reading! This is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Today officially marks halfway through my AY program… starting tomorrow, there will be more days behind us then there are in front of us which is honestly very very very bittersweet to me. I must make these last few months truly count! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Lunch with Supporters, Outback Steakhouse, and Improving in Korean (01/10-11/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/10/19 Thursday

On Thursday I woke up early again and ate breakfast alone as my host family tends to wake up after I leave the house for my daily activities. Like every morning, I woke up and was greeted by my host dog 앤디 who immediately started wagging his tail when he saw me and turned onto his stomach in order to be petted by me. Honestly, getting up in the morning is hard but seeing him always brightens my day.

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During the supporter/project meeting today (My instinct keeps wanting me to call our meetings supporter meetings because that is what we called them during the summer program but because of the project… that name does not seem right.), we got down to business. We assigned each member of the group a part of the research to do (For example, I was supposed to focus on statistics and policies implemented by the government.) and we fixed the project proposal to fit the suggestions that 민정쌤 made to us. It was a very productive meeting indeed!

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After the meeting, I joined a large group of NSLI-Y students and supporters to go out for lunch. We decided to go eat some baked fried chicken (Confusing… yes. But there were signs all over the place with information on how the chicken was healthier than normal fried chicken.) but when we first got to the restaurant, it had just opened and the worker did not want a large group coming in because he was working by himself. Everyone complained about it for a bit but eventually, one group left to go to a coin 노래방 while the rest of us went inside to order first. We got two orders of chicken: one spicy and one original style. However, the spicy chicken was literally the spiciest thing I have eaten in a long time! I have had 김치 less spicy than that chicken. Because of the taste, a lot of people refused to eat it so Jaquelyn and I teamed up (with plenty of water) to take on the chicken so it would not be wasted. Lunch was fun because I was able to talk with more of the NSLI-Yians I have not seen in a while (since we have not been in class) as well as the supporters I have yet to have an interaction with. Hopefully, between our supporter meetings and classes, we can have more opportunities to go out for lunch together!

Again, like the last post (I am writing this post quite a few days after this day happened), I do not remember much of the rest of the day since I have no pictures from after lunch. However, one thing that did happen was that we were emailed our feedback and grades from our December unit test. I was really nervous to look at it but I didn’t really have any expectations because I assumed I would see my lower grades on both the writing and reading test (in comparison to my previous tests) as well as the same OPI Score: Intermediate Mid 1. However, I was wrong!!! (Well, the lower scores were high key spot on…) But… I actually moved up in my OPI level! My teacher said that both my way of speaking/expressing myself (verbally and in my writing too actually) and my vocabulary has greatly expanded which made me deserving of the level change. So now, your girl is at Mid 2! I could not be any happier. This really came at a good time because I think that it was the confidence boost that I really needed. I know from now on, it is going to be extremely difficult for me to move up to Intermediate Mid 3 and these months till then will be hard but I will study hard to get there. I am not sure if I said this on here (or if I should because if I fail… I will be depressed…) but my goal by the end of the program is Advanced Low. That is 3 levels above where I am right now. Getting there in 4.5 months. Possible? Hopefully!

01/11/19 Friday

There were no program activities scheduled on Friday, so I decided to plan a fun day hanging out around Seoul with Kaitlyn. We really wanted to go and get some good pasta at Olive Garden (I thought I found one near 경복궁 when I visited there with 수진언니) but I could not find the original one where I thought it was located, so we tried following Kakao maps. This Olive Garden–although it showed up on Kakao Maps–did not exist! We walked around the right building and even checked the address but it was not there. As we started walking back to the subway station, we spotted an Outback Steakhouse. I have never been to one of these restaurants in America but I really wanted pasta–American style food in general.

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Getting creative with Korean fashion~

Everything there was so expensive! I am talking $22 meal expensive but I guess the portion size of pasta was huge and we got a side of really delicious mushroom cheese soup and some bread. And I am assuming the prices are the same back home in America too, right? The lunch with Kaitlyn was fun but also very embarrassing because I made a fool out of myself in front of the waiters. I told them we could speak Korean so that they would not speak to us in English but then this prompted the waiter to speak so quickly with us and wow, it was difficult to understand him explaining the different parts of the meal.

At the end of the meal, a different waiter came up to ask us if we wanted a take-home box or refills and it took me a good long minute to figure out what he said, which led me to stare at him blankly for a bit. And then (to continue the mess that was my Korean abilities this day) when we got up to pay at the counter, the host asked if we were ready to pay or something along the lines of that and I literally replied with “no.” I misheard him and assumed he asked me if we were paying separately so I replied with no while handing him cash to pay for the meal. He looked at me so strangely but accepted the money and we were on our way. As soon as the doors closed and we had left the restaurant, I could not help but laugh and low key scream at myself for being so stupid.

We also went to a Tous Les Jours Cafe for a bit and just chatted. We talked about the CEP projects, getting back into the swing of Korean classes, as well as the recent OPI scores. I have never been to one of the cafes that are built into a Tous Les Jours or a Paris Baguette and I have to say it was nice. Like a normal cafe, you can get drinks but then there is a large variety of sweet and savory pastries and food to munch on while there. After spending some time near 서대문역 for a bit, we returned to 홍대 in order to pick up a package for Kaitlyn at Better World. We walked around the main streets for a bit and watched some busking, did some shopping, etc.

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I came home early to eat dinner with my host family and I also hung out with our host dog for a bit. I started some of my homework but only got a few workbook pages done. I was tired from walking around the whole day and just wanted to relax for the rest of the night.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading~ I feel that this winter break is going to be really great~ I find that doing this project is the kind of academic activity I have been missing and I hope that I can truly make more strides in my Korean language learning journey during these two months. Additionally, with more free time, I hope I can do more fun things! Subscribe to my blog for more!

  • Emma 엠마