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

4/21/19 Sunday 

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

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Off to take the exam!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

4/20/19 Saturday 

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

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Andy always keeps me company when I am getting ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Laughing Fits in Korean Class & Easter Celebrations at my Korean High School (04/18-04/19/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/18/19 Thursday 

This morning, for some reason, I really had an eye out for nature. Maybe because I didn’t have to sprint to the train station like I usually do?… But when I was walking there, I noticed that this one cherry blossom tree beautifully lined up with the sunrise. I took a snapshot to capture this moment. 

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(I looked at the same tree today as I was heading out—I’m writing this about three days later—and the majority of the pink petals had fallen off and only green leaves remained. It made me sad that the cherry blossoms were gone so fast. But, I also found comfort in the fact that they left behind a different kind of beauty in their wake: a green spring. As cheesy as it sounds, I related it to my experience here in Korea. I would be leaving something great and of course that is a shame, but hopefully this chapter of my life that I end will allow me to start a new one—renewal is what I’d like to think it is. Sorry for this long tangent! But future me will feel grateful that I wrote this. I know this for sure.) :”)

Also, while walking up to 하나고 this morning with Katie, I took a photo of a cherry blossom tree that perfectly lined up under the logo of the school on the side of the building. Wow, my school really is so beautiful.

School today was really uneventful. I literally just self-studied the entire day! During economics, I spent the first period reviewing grammar from the grammar book (ones we learned & a couple ones I’ve been interested about). Then during the second period, I did Quizlet. I mean, I did get lots of work done but I also spent quite a bit of time just silently dancing in my seat and mouthing words to old pop songs—I have suddenly got in the kick of listening to music!! Podcasts are out and music is in! 

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During 한국사, I switched between studying vocab words on Quizlet and memorizing my presentation for today’s class. While I was memorizing the script, the teacher came by and gave me a weird look for silently whispering something and I explained that I was memorizing. He wished me luck and told me to keep studying hard. Seeing him be so supportive really makes me want to try harder in paying attention to his class rather than doing my own work… when I get back after Midterm week, I will make sure to memorize my scripts in Economics (or on Wednesday like a good student would) so I can pay attention to his lectures. 

Instead of going the 편의점 (convenience store) route for lunch today, Katie and I decided to get 만두 with Jenna before class at this place the other students frequent but I have yet to go to! Jenna was kind enough to buy our food while she was there earlier in the afternoon and then we met up with her on her way back to the youth center we have classes at. Katie and I got into a little fight on the way to class over something really silly which made us not speak for the rest of the time that we were physically together. I also refrained from texting her that night until I really had to regarding plans for tomorrow. She texted back and seemed like she had gotten over it or forgiven me. I was still mad about it but there was no way I was gonna not forgive her—I can’t go a whole day without talking to her, no way. She is my best friend. We were both probably stressed and we just let those emotions get the best of us.

Korean class today went by so fast even though we didn’t get much done. We just kept talking and talking which made us waste time. We didn’t even get through all the words in the workbook—we had to skip three and all the idioms. We hurried along and learned one grammar point but we had no time to do any of our presentations which if I am being honest, was relieving. I was fully prepared and had it memorized.. yes, but I still did not want to present. (When do I ever though?) 

But class was also A LOT of fun as we got into this laughing fit because of Josh’s facial hair. Finally, the guy shaved his beard—we had all been pressuring him for awhile now. He came into class today and the teacher was shocked to see Josh looking so different. But it’s so true; he almost looks like a different person—he seriously gains back several years once he shaves his beard. Also, while he was in the process of doing that, he took a photo when the only hair on his face was a mustache and goatee. He literally looked crazy. He showed 민정쌤 before class started and she couldn’t stop laughing. She even took a photo of his phone! Our teacher also had such a hilarious reaction to that style. 

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Josh hates his face bare because he wants to look older even though everyone around him tells him that he looks better with no facial hair. Our teacher said that she doesn’t think he looks like an adult with the beard. She still thinks that he looks around his age. But she made a point to say that without his beard, he looks young and fresh like a high school or middle school student. Jacquelyn and I lost it at this point. Josh just sat in his chair looking dejected over being told he looks so young and says with no energy or emotion in his voice “수업 합시다” (Let’s start class). It was definitely a you-had-to-have-been-there-moment.

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After class instead of going home right away, McKenzie came with me to buy macaroons for my close group of 하나고 friends as a gift for their midterm studying and to bribe them to keep liking me… that’s a joke! I was feeling all confident all of a sudden when I was ordering so I asked the employee how many macaroons were in his smallest set and when he told me 6, I was like perfect, I’ll take it! Then, he told me that actually he only had boxes for 8, so would that be okay and because of who I am as a person, I did not decline and just spent more money on macaroons I didn’t need! (Also my favorite macaroons are still the ones from Blanc Bakery; however, the ones here were only 1,000 won each–less than one dollar–so they are better for buying in bulk.)

I spent the rest of the night studying vocabulary (in preparation for the Topik test on Sunday) and just relaxing. I ended up going to bed early for the first time in awhile. It felt good. 

4/19/19 Friday

Friday morning, Katie and I snuck around the 5th floor (the grades are separated by floors so the 5th floor is reserved for the third years and their classes and lockers) trying to find my friend 세림’s locker. We literally had nothing to go by, not even the location of her homeroom. We just walked down both of the hallways scanning the names on the lockers for hers. Luckily her name isn’t common and because I knew her last name, we were able to successfully find her locker. I wrote her a quick note and then put two macaroons (the extra ones I bought from yesterday) in a little baggy and put them in her locker. (For those avid readers, 세림 was one of my first friends at 하나고–in my AP Stats and AP Economics class the previous semester)

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Like yesterday, since all classes are basically 자습 (self-study) this week, there really wasn’t much to do. However in music class, Katie and I were given a project on 아리랑 (Arirang) to do during the two periods. We are expected to go all out and even make a poster!! Although we had no motivation to do any work, we were quite productive and were able to do all the research we needed and translate all of that into Korean. It took a lot of effort I will say! 

In Public Speaking, we just had self-study time so I literally just memorized words on Quizlet for two hours—with the occasional break to check Kakao messages and what not. (Also to check in on 서린 sitting next to me who was switching between manic episodes of sighing and sleeping)

Lunch was fun today even though we failed to get everyone to come today (there’s always someone missing because they didn’t do their homework, they have a meeting, or they have to study for some test etc…) I had to give 혜지 her macaroon early because she was doing homework in one of the 움파s (the little pods in the hallways with tables) instead of coming to lunch. 

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Also, outside of the cafeteria today, there were a group of students (They seemed to be mostly third year students from the looks of it) singing with our coordinating teacher 경훈쌤. They were also passing out hard boiled eggs with religious phrases and sayings on them around to the students. I realized that they had set this all up because it was Easter on Sunday and that meant that today was Good Friday. I assume that maybe the songs they were singing had some religious undertones to them? It was nice to see them all singing though~ It made me really happy just to see that. Our teacher was also playing the guitar!

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Translation: The Joy of Resurrection Jesus!

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But of course…because we are in Korea, lunch includes rice, too

Lunch today was really delicious! They served tomato soup, a chicken leg, eggplant Parmesan, and sticks of garlic bread (Although, the garlic bread had sugar on it which was not the move…Why is Korean garlic bread always sweet???). And of course, all our friends got to have macaroons! 

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Do not worry! I also got Katie a macaroon ❤

After lunch, Katie and I planned out what we were going to do all the following week for midterm week. We were of course going to schedule out some time to study but more importantly, we wanted to really use the time we had left in Korea to the best of our abilities and if that means playing rather than studying as much as we have been studying (and that’s a lot trust me) then so be it! This is a rough outline of our schedule: 

Monday – 

Morning: Brunch in 홍대 (At Flapjack Pantry ❤ The OG) 

Before Class: Black & White Cartoon Cafe (Study Time) 

Lunch: (if hungry) Convenience Store Ramen

———————

After Class:

Dinner: With Host Family

Tuesday – 

Morning: Mail Package (by boat) Back to America (Post Office in 홍대)

Before Class: Josh’s Cafe Near Better World (To Study)

Lunch: Katie w/ 주연쌤 and Me w/ 소영쌤 (Being treated by our Resident Directors <3)

———————-

After Class: 

Dinner: Class Dinner with Josh and Jacquelyn

Wednesday –

Morning: Wear Spring 한복 at 경복궁

Lunch: Food at 통인시장 

Afternoon: APA awards Event 

———————

Dinner: Meet up with 혜린 언니 to have Dinner and Hang Out~ 

Thursday – 

Morning: Cafe at 익선동 & Shopping

Before class: Above Continued

Lunch: Street Food (Something Easy)

————————

After Class:

Dinner: With Host Family

Friday – 

인천 Island Trip with the 대원 students!!!

(ALL DAY) 


Our economics teacher didn’t show up to class today so we ended up all having to go to the library and study there. I tried studying for the entire first period—I did like one grammar point and I studied some vocab but by break time… I got so tired. So during the second period… I just slept the entire time in the library. I had no shame (but neither did many of the other students there so it is what it is!)

After school, Katie and I were so elated at the fact that it was now the weekend and… we would be off for the next week from school!! (Because the 하나고 students would be taking midterms then) We were practically screaming while leaving the school building! (The security guards at the gate probably thought we were so weird…)

We went to a Paris Baguette near the subway station and shared a strawberry cream croissant and did our makeup (And when I say that I mean Katie did my makeup and her own!) 

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I had plans to hangout with a Korean friend in 홍대 afterwards while Katie was hanging out with some NSLI-Y friends around 마포구 as well. 

Friday night was really nice~ The weather was so nice so I really enjoyed walking around the streets of 홍대, getting more of the inside scoop of the place from a local (because although I am here AT LEAST three times a week, I still seem to go to the same old couple of places and I don’t just explore random alley ways).

We walked around the 홍익대 (Hongik University) campus too which I had never actually seen. Mostly because I had no need to go up to their campus—I don’t know any students there—but it was interesting to see that Korean colleges looked really similar to American ones. They did have a smoking room which I thought was interesting. And, one of there streets was called “와우” street (Wow street) which made my day.

There is this place in 홍대 that once had this huge playground (according to my friend) but now it’s just an open area with a brick path that has a lot of benches (and I guess sometimes performers too?) People still call it 놀이터 (playground), however. Now, many people use it as a meeting spot. Though I heard it’s not the best place to go at night because of the bars and clubs that are such a close proximity—weird people fill up that area fast (again…according to my local friend).

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For dinner we got pasta at this really small joint called Pasta Rico and we shared two plates of pasta. It was all really delicious! And the prices were not bad for pasta! My seafood tomato dish was less than $8–like would you look at that! 

We went to a 노래방 (karaoke) after that and sang several songs—really off key and we even mumbled lyrics we didn’t know but it was fun nonetheless. I have realized that I will never be good at Korean rap, no matter how much effort I put in.

We finished off the night just going to a cafe to just chill and chat. We talked a lot and besides having a friend to hang out with, our friendship is truly helping me get better at Korean no doubt. Just tonight, we discussed Korea’s convoluted and tough-to-break-into job market and competition with college entrance exams and such. (Shoutout to my Korean class for making it possible for me discuss such complicated topics! Moments like these remind me how far I have come!)

Wow did not expect to make 2,000 words…let alone almost hitting 2,500. Sorry about that! I hope you enjoyed this exceptionally long blog post anyways! Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마 

Exploring Korean High School Campus Grounds & Man-Made Waterfall (04/17/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/17/19 Wednesday 

School today was just eh… I did not really have class today… it was mostly just 자습 the whole time which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I got so much Korean studying done! I reviewed all of my recently learned grammar—and three points we have not officially learned yet—and did my workbook pages. I guess days with too much self-study make me lonely since it limits my interactions with the other students because they are also studying as well. Especially in politics class after lunch, I have three good friends in that class so you would expect it to be alright but I felt the most 답답하다 (suffocated/frustrated) in that class for some reason…

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Honestly, my school is so pretty ❤ No matter what season!~ But especially in spring~

But besides actual classes, break times were fun and lunch was really nice! We planned to meet up with our friends to eat lunch at our usual time (12:40 pm) so until that time rolled around, Katie and I walked around the school and explored the grounds. We went on the search for the cherry blossom trees on campus! We found them! The weather was incredibly nice out so we just enjoyed the breeze and chatted before lunch time. 

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Today was another 수다날 otherwise known as 수요일 다 먹는 날 which means that if you eat all of the food on your tray, you get a sticker and usually a prize or a chance to win a prize. Today’s gift was only receivable if your individual home room won by having the most stickers and the prize was highly coveted seeing that they were Ryan (the Kakao character) themed electric tooth brushes! Particularly, this is an amazing gift for high school students because it’s really cute, follows a trend, and if you know anything about Korean high schools, the students always brush their teeth at school—in the morning, after lunch, etc. 

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Also look at those strawberries!! I love fruit! Our school cafeteria feeds us so well! (American high school cafeterias can honestly not even come close…)

I could NOT finish the meal because they were serving these weird cheesy meatballs and I could not get myself to stomach it. I instead ate everything else as the soup, hash browns, and rice with an egg were all very very good. I decided to take one for the team and sacrifice my tray for everyone else that still had stuff on their plates so that they could get the sticker for their respective homerooms. 

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Once the school day was over, Katie and I changed it up with our cafe choice and headed over to 북한산 제빵소 (Bukhansan Atelier is the English name) and tried to be somewhat productive while consuming large amounts of bread that should not have been humanly possible. (I am not kidding, we split a huge baguette type thing! It was so good though… no regrets!) 

The weather was still so nice and it was my first time being back at the cafe when it wasn’t winter and we realized that the bakery has a lot of outdoor space. While walking up to the building, we noticed that the entire front side of the cafe is lined with tables. Once inside, there are open spaces that you can walk through to get to small courtyard-like space with more seating! There’s even space on the third floor to sit outside! 

We ended up sitting inside but only because we desperately needed the WiFi to do work otherwise our butts would have been on some chairs outside. We will have to come back with the only goal of relaxing. Though, at that time, there won’t be any cherry blossoms…

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Enjoy this lovely painting that was in the bathroom of the bakery/cafe. I had a laugh.

After staying at the cafe for about two hours, Katie and I embarked on an endeavor to find the waterfall nearby. There’s a bus stop called 폭포동 (Waterfall Neighborhood) and I’ve seen the waterfall before, so we decided that today would be the day we would get off at that station and explore! 

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Views while waiting for the bus~

Turns out, the waterfall is fully man-made and although I expected that (you would too if you saw it… it is really oddly placed and we are smack dab in the middle of the city. ), it was still interesting to see.

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Another disappointing factor though, was that water only came out of the waterfall twice a day for only one hour each time. One of the times was at night but the first time was from the span of noon to 1 pm. That must have been the time when I’ve seen this waterfall previously because I do have recollection of it having water flowing. I must have seen it on our way to Korean class. Katie and I decided that on a day that we leave 하나고 to have lunch (but don’t have a reason to—like we don’t have to be in 홍대 for class or anything), we will come to the waterfall for a quick sight before going off to get 분식 at the market. 

We got back on the bus to return to the subway station and I only had 400원 on my card so the machine beeped at me. We got off the bus and hadn’t been walking around for more than 30 minutes so we assumed we wouldn’t get charged more for getting on at a different stop on the same line. I ended up just throwing money in the collection bin. However, when I got on the subway to head back home on the 3rd line (after refilling my card), it charged me as a transfer and not as a new trip so I’m not sure what my card was doing—though I was happy about the situation cause I didn’t have to pay more money! 

I arrived to the apartment and no one was home when I first arrived. I closed the door to my room and change into comfier clothes while my host mom returned with Andy. She assumed no one was home but Andy was going crazy in front of the door. She opened the door about to say that no one was there and then she was shocked to see me! Andy knew that I was home! Him and his strong little nose~ 

My host mom later told me that he was going crazy before they even got in the elevator! I don’t know why but the thought of Andy getting all hyper and happy thinking about me being home made me very touched~~ I’m going to really miss this dog! 

For dinner, we went out and tried this new restaurant in the shopping center near our apartment that serves 짬뽕 (Spicy Seafood Noodles) and 탕수육 (Fried Pork). Usually when we want to eat Koreanized Chinese food, we go to 도깨비 (Goblin) in 파주 but this place was a lot better. The noodles were chewier and the broth of the soup was addicting. Plus, the 탕수육 had more of the snack-like crunch that both me and my host sister really enjoyed. Now that we have this place, we may not return to the other one. Thinking about that… is kinda bittersweet, though. 

I spent the rest of the night procrastinating on my Korean homework and my presentation. That night I wrote one on jobs that will mostly likely disappear due to the development of technology! (Robots anyone?) I stayed up till after midnight writing the script because I kept getting distracted… on the bright side, it ended up being one of the presentations I’m the most proud of! I included lots of vocabulary learned in class recently and my grammar points were pretty advanced…if I do say so myself.

That’s all for the blog post~ Although the school day was overall quite underwhelming, I really had a great day today. Made a lot of discoveries, felt closer to both my school community and my host family, and ate some pretty delicious food~ It was a good day indeed. Well, I hope you enjoyed! Do not forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts like this one!

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/16/19 Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/13/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

04/14/19 Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/11/19 Thursday

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Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

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

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

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

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On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

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

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

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

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

04/12/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walk back to the subway station~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

Sinchon Study Cafe, Express Bus Terminal Shopping, and Cherry Blossom Viewing (04/06-07/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/06/19 Saturday

Katie and I met up early Saturday morning at a study cafe in 신촌 that I found by scrolling through blog upon blog on Naver trying to find a cafe with a nice atmosphere to study at (besides the main cafe chains). Katie and I both wanted to explore more cute cafes as well but at the same time, the goal this morning was to focus more on being productive rather than the aestheticism of our chosen cafe. In the end, we ultimately decided to leave the cute cafe exploration for a later date. Also, I had never been to a proper study cafe so this would be an arguably exciting endeavor.

We came to this cafe called Meeple Cafe (I went to a board game cafe the other day which also utilized the word ‘meeple’ in the name…what is the background for this word? I am confusion.} that actually has more than one floor so it is quite large. The facility also offers multiple rooms that can be rented for study groups or meetings if reserved before hand. (Actually, apparently, as long as you order a drink that is more than $3, you can rent a small room for a couple hours for free.) I ordered 유자차 (Citron tea) and got straight to work.

After Katie and I studied for a couple hours, we were about to leave and just walk around 신촌 for a bit to enjoy the beautiful weather and the pretty cherry blossom trees until we saw a random sign for macaroons at the entrance way of the study cafe. The sign had nothing but an arrow pointing down some pretty sketchy hallway and so…of course, we followed it.

After a few twists and turns, we came across this tiny tiny little shop selling even smaller macaroons. (I guess their size matched quite well with where they were being sold.) We opened the door to enter the store and both Katie and I could barely stand in the room together at one time. Katie was so sweet and bought me a macaroon which was called ‘Elder Flower,’ do not ask me what that flavor is…it was just unique so I wanted to try it…it tasted like grape. Kind of anticlimactic but they were really cute. My eyes were satisfied.

I walked around with Katie for awhile before eating some street food (We tried those peanut/walnut shaped breads at one of the many vendors near the subway station) and dropping her off at another cafe as she was meeting someone else for a late lunch. I left to meet up with June (and eventually Kaitlyn) at the Express Bus Terminal for some shopping. My morning was productive and then my afternoon/evening was planned to be fun! It was the weekend after all.

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View from the subway as we crossed the river. Kinda gloomy outside today

I met up with June and we did the usual walk through all the shopping stalls/stores once before making selections and going back to our favorite places to buy those items. (This is the strategy we have come up with to make sure that we are sure to snag those deals and not make any mistakes in regards to multiple vendors selling the same things for varying prices.) While we were doing the first glance through everything, I hear someone call my name and I turn around to see 윤지!  One of the girls that I met at the 한미 camp with the all female Korean high school students back in December. We got pretty close at the event (she was my partner!) and we have hung out two or three times since that day–with the rest of our group too! We talked really quickly then and promised to meet up once more before Kaitlyn and I leave for America–Once the girls finish their midterms, we will meet up once again!

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Kaitlyn eventually arrived and once we fueled up on energy from bubble tea (Of course, Gongcha for the win!), we went back to shopping–searching for the best, cheap deals. I planned to go to a cherry blossom festival viewing on Sunday so I wanted to buy a spring outfit that would look good in pictures with all the cherry blossoms. I ended up buying some beige strappy shoes, three pairs of earrings, and a white floral blouse. The shops were very very crowded since it was the weekend but even though that was the case, I enjoyed being almost trampled over multiple time with both June and Kaitlyn. We also had really fun conversations which is always a must for a good shopping buddy. June and I also bought matching dresses (in two different colors) which we will be wearing together soon!

We ended up all leaving early so that we could get to our night plans or for me, head back home (It takes me almost an hour and a half to get home from the Express Bus Terminal since it is so close to 강남.) for dinner with my host family. I knew all of my siblings and my host mom would be present for our dinner and I did not not want to miss out on such a rare event (especially on the weekend!) 

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Fried Chicken and Cheese Balls? (후라이 치킨과 치즈볼) The cheese balls were kind of how I expected? I believe macaroni cheese bites are better!

I came home and had a little fashion show in my room with all my new pieces before eating fried chicken with my host family and calling it a night after I finished my remaining homework. I wanted to have a free and relaxing Sunday with no homework so I finished it all Saturday night. So would you take a look at that, my day started and ended in a good amount of productivity!

04/07/19 Sunday

On Sunday I met up with a Korean friend to attend a cherry blossom festival close to 국회의사당 (Korea National Assembly Proceeding Hall) so we got off at that station and walked around this very long road that was lined with cherry blossom trees. There were also many vendors selling cherry blossom memorabilia like hair pins, flower crowns,  and even caricatures with cherry blossom backgrounds. There were also professional photo taking zones with cherry blossom picture frames! This festival was no joke for sure.

We walked around enjoying the cherry blossoms and took some photos of ourselves before leaving and heading over to the 한강 river park to just lay out on the grass for a bit. We rented a 돗자리 (a type of picnic blanket) and spent a couple hours talking about everything and anything. At first, we went to a special store that sold tents and things but apparently, on the weekend, those things are important to reserve beforehand! There was a huge line to get inside but everything had basically already been rented.

The weather was really nice and although there were a lot of people, we were able to find a nice place to sit that was not too close to the water so that it would be too cold and we were not directly in the sun either so it was perfect! We also stopped at the convenience store on the way there to pick up some cola and kimbap just to tie us over.

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Eventually, we got too hungry and headed back to 홍대 to find something to eat. My friend had a couple of restaurants in mind so we tried a couple only to see that there were long wait times so we kept searching for a place to eat at until we finally stumbled upon a place called 국제시장 which was a barbecue place named after the Korean movie with the same name. (We–the NSLI-Y cohort and I– watched it at our spring orientation! I was excited to have understood the connection and I immediately let my friend know that very fact.) We ordered a set of different meats and a side of 김치찌개 and although there was a lot of food, we were able to finish everything. It was all very delicious!

(Also, I suck at grilling meat. I am always happier to go to barbecue places with people that enjoy taking charge of the meat grilling. Maybe it is because I am (secretly) lazy? I guess that is why I tend not to suggest to eat at these places on a regular basis in the first place. 

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We ended the night going to a 노래방. We sang some of my usual go to songs by Ailee and from the Frozen soundtrack but then we also sang some old school Korean rap songs and ballads which definitely switched things up but in a really fun way. So even though I did not know every song, I had fun learning!

I do not understand how some people will refuse to sing songs in karaoke that they do not know well. I am always like… there are lyrics for a reason! Just follow along! Even if I do not know the song in its entirety–melody too–I follow along and eventually I get it. Songs are repetitive for a reason. I just think it makes it more fun for everyone. And it always everyone to sing their favorite songs despite not everyone in the room knowing them. (It also helps prevent that awkward silence when choosing songs) We also were really feeling girl groups songs because we sang quite a few Miss A and Apink songs (This is not me complaining though! I love their songs.) I can always get down to cheery girl-group tracks.

Well, that is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed this post! Subscribe to my blog by plugging in your email to the right side of this post. Thanks for reading~ Till next time.

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/05/19 Friday

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

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Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monkey King?

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마