Filming 1 Second Video Everyday While Studying Abroad in South Korea // NSLIY Korea AY

Hi Everyone~

So… I did a little thing. While I was studying abroad in Korea with NSLI-Y for a full year (2018-2019), I filmed short video clips every single day with my tiny, almost non-functioning iPod Touch. Some of these videos were one second long but others were closer to 3-6 seconds to be honest… As the year went on, it was harder and harder to decide what exact clips to include in the video compilation.

At our end of the year graduation ceremony, we had a ‘talent segment’ or something along the lines of that and since I have no creative nor worthwhile talents, I decided to just give a short speech in Korean and then filled the rest of the time with my video! So please enjoy:

https://youtu.be/ivxH7JuJa6c

  • Emma 엠마

Saying Goodbye to My Host Family, Stockpiling Korean Snacks, & Friendship Rings (05/22-23/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/22/19 Wednesday

Fully slept in this morning for the first time in awhile and I was not mad about it at all and when I did finally wake up, I was greeted by Andy, my host dog, who was laying–sprawled across the floor–in front of my door. He is a medium dog at best but he is so long and lanky! I had breakfast with my host family and spent a lot of time afterwards just chatting with my sisters and snacking on fresh fruit that my host mom cut up for us as she always asks us if we want fruit after every meal. 

We also went grocery shopping and my host sister bought lots of famous Korean snacks and such so that I could bring things home in my suitcase for my family to try (and for me to eat and relish in how available and affordable Korean snacks are…obviously.. In Korea!) One of the fun facts that my host sister told me when I moved in was that the famous Oreo cereal (Oreo O’s) is a product of Korean and can ONLY be purchased in Korea. This WAS the case maybe even a year ago but globalization works its magic and now you can buy this cereal in America too–my brother sent me a photo of it at our local grocery store a few months back. But, anyways, she was excited for me to bring it back home! She also gifted me honey butter chips and almonds which is a type of seasoning (the term?) that absolutely went crazy in Korea to the point where it was hard to find at some places like convenience stores. And, of course, Ramen too. I actually do not (and did not) even eat ramen that much in Korea but I knew my brothers would love the spicy soup and that it would be a comfort for me when I do get home. So yeah… now I need to find space in my suitcase for all these snacks!!!

After spending the earlier part of the day bopping around at home and *attempting* to pack up my room (wow, did I accumulate so much stuff!!!), I made plans to meet up with Katie at 홍대 and then from there we went to the express bus terminal together. We did not do anything too crazy, just hanging out and chatting. We found an international snack store and realized that our favorite coconut jelly drink (Mogu Mogu) has so many more flavors so we did end up buying some. 

I came home before dinner time and my older host sister kept asking me what I wanted for dinner and I was not exactly being helpful in making any plans because honestly, I am not picky and easy to please so genuinely anything would be fine. She started throwing out ideas like our favorite seafood restaurant near our apartment or getting 콩나물국밥 at the now termed ‘아저씨 식당’ but then with the mention of said restaurant, my host sister brought up another meal that she believes to be one primarily eaten/loved by older Korean men (아저씨들) and that was 아구찜 which from what I gather it is basically braised angler fish? And angler fish for those who do not know (because I for sure had no idea) is like a giant mouthed scary looking deep sea fish. Or at least, that is what I think after googling the fish. Do yourself a favor and just Google (or Naver for my Korean readers) ‘Angler Fish.’ I am, of course, down for anything so I was like “Sure, let’s go!!” 

My host mom couldn’t join us this time so instead, my older host sister drove me and my other host sister to a restaurant so that we could try 아구찜. This dish was really really tasty! It was quite spicy and the fish was paired with lots and lots of bean sprouts which is definitely up my host sisters’ alley and I have grown to love bean sprouts too because of them. We also ordered fried rice. It was a nice wholesome dinner and we had fun conversation on my last thoughts on ‘Culture Shock’ moments in Korea. The wait staff at the restaurant were also really kind and made a point to talk to me.

On our way home, we had some issues leaving the parking lot because of the parking ticket/garage machine malfunctioning? Or my host sister just experiencing a brain fart. My younger sister kept yelling and laughing as we sat waiting for the arm to raise. It was so funny.

And that was how we ended the night~

05/23/19 Thursday

Wrote my host family a letter ❤
Black Bean Noodles for Breakfast

I was literally leaving my host family’s home (after living with them for the past 5 months) tomorrow and was not prepared at all quite yet. I needed to PACK. I had two checked luggages, a carry on, and a backpack (personal item for the plane) to pack. I was very worried about having too much stuff and having overweight luggage which 민정쌤 warned would be expensive at the airport. 

Besides packing the day away, I did make some last-minute plans with my host family from the fall semester. I wanted to make sure to see them one last time so I planned to meet up with everyone at a Twosome Place cafe kind of at the center shopping street at their subway street. I had walked the main street several times (mostly going to Daiso) but had never noticed the one alley that had a Twosome Place! Or else I probably would have studied there sometimes. 

I got there earlier than my host family and I was just very aware of my presence and how I was alone… and I forgot how prominent stares are in 고양시 in comparison to Seoul which made me feel more self-conscious. To look like I had a purpose being there, I ordered a drink first and made my way to some nice seating on the second floor.

When my host mom arrived with the kids, she began scolding me for ordering ahead of time as she wanted to treat me. So to make up for it, she had me and the kids pick out some dessert: cake and 빙수 (Korean shaved ice — Bingsu). Hanging out with everyone in the cafe was such a trip down memory lane with the hecticness of being in a family with children to be honest. Always someone vying for your attention and being loud and just general kid shenanigans. One of my host sisters also brought a friend to the cafe so that added a layer to their excitement and she was very curious to talk to me and kept acting (forcibly) shocked when I would reply to something she said in Korean. I gave my host family a letter I had written to them and some macaroons for the kids which they promptly fought over who would read the letter first/aloud and which flavors they could call first dibs on. It was so cute.

My host sisters also surprised me with matching gold rings with a little ruby gemstone in the middle. They said they were 우정반지 (friendship rings) and a pair of clip-on earrings which caused some arguing between the girls since one of them had said I had my ears pierced and the other had said I did not. I reassured them that I could still wear them despite the fact (And I have since then, of course! One of my most worn pairs of earrings to this day!)

They stuck one of their hair clips into my hair and stated that I had now become one of them. We took lots and lots of selfies together–especially showing off our rings–and my host brother got pretty jealous and had to photobomb us so that is why these extremely adorable photos have come into existence. 

At the end of our meeting, I was lowkey in tears. I could not believe that this was our final goodbye and I had no idea when would be the next time I would get to see my host family again. Would it be next summer? Would it be in several years? I have no idea how my plan and college years will go by so who knows what is in store for me. But what I do know is that I am going to be very proactive in maintaining this relationship because this family means so much to me and I would never want to let that go. I cherish this family so much and will forever be grateful to them for positively coloring my time here in Korea. And I really hope they know that too.

Honestly, so excited to be able to meet up with them again, especially when the kids are older. I hope they do not forget me ❤

On my way home, I stopped by a bakery outside one of the exits of my home subway station (saying that is kind of weird reading it over… but I wrote it so naturally…It had come to feel that way) and picked up a nice cake for my host family as a gift which obviously cannot thank them for all that they have done for me but it is a gesture~ We all ate dinner together and ate the cake which was extremely bittersweet seeing that it was my last few moments with all of them together as my older host sister was driving me to a hostel the next morning and unfortunately, they cannot attend my graduation ceremony.

That is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed this pretty random couple of days. Doing less but appreciating more. Kind of hard to document that in comparison to just uploading photos experiences if that makes sense. Anyways, thank you~

  • Emma 엠마 

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

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

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

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

Emma’s NSLI-Y Korea AY Program Reflection:

My Greatest Endeavor Yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

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

05/15/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Nepalese Restaurant & Photo Studio & Black Milk Tea & Live Octopus & Pet Pig, OH MY! (05/11/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/11/19 Saturday

Today was set out to be an exciting day from the start. I would be meeting 지연, 수빈, and 은서 from one of my English mentorship classes from 하나고 in 홍대 for a fun-filled morning/early afternoon. We had been planning this day for the last couple of weeks and I was so excited to finally be able to hang out with them outside of school. The 하나고 students cannot just decide to leave the school when they please–even on the weekends. They have to acquire permission from their homeroom teachers so depending on who you have, some students have a more difficult time leaving the school. I knew of some students who even had to lie about where they were going (Like using church/religious services as an excuse to go to the mall or extending the time a volunteering activity would last in order to get to the movies before having to get back). I was very grateful that we were going to have the opportunity to hang out (and not in an academic setting). I felt like we could be more free and comfortable with each other? And since this was not their allotted time to speak/practice English, we were able to just comfortably speak in Korean to each other. You may think that since English is my native language that I would ALWAYS be more comfortable in speaking English but I find that when other people are comfortable with me, I would rather speak in the same language. So with native Korean speakers, I prefer to speak Korean…even if I do not know how to express myself as well as I would in English. I find that we can all be more comfortable and less awkward.

In the morning, I beat the girls to the meeting spot outside of one of the station exists so I waited until they all arrived. ¾ of us were wearing a similar color of pink which was funny to say the least. It looked as if we coordinated but it was definitely just a coincidence! (Though, of course, 수빈 was wearing all black and more of a street style.)

커플룩 ㅋㅋㅋ

We started the morning off with going to a 노래방 (karaoke room). The place was just opening up when we got there (since most people do not go in the morning/afternoon) so we had to wait in the hallway until they finally prepared a room for us. Usually, you would think that singing in front of newer friends for the first time would be a bit awkward and embarrassing but I was comfortable with all of them so I sang my heart out. (Although… it was super unfair that they were all good at singing. And 지연’s rapping skills popped when we sang the new BTS song.) 

After karaoke, we went over to the photo studio to figure out how long our wait would be so that we could go out for lunch before taking the photos. The place that we went to is quite famous in Korea (토담쓰담 스튜디오) and their pictures can be found all over Instagram. I really love that taking photos professionally is still a part of the modern-day culture here because the same can’t be said about America. Here, it’s common for friends to do photo shoots together and even more common for families and couples to do the same. The photo studio’s walls were nicely lined with hundreds upon hundreds of photos from other shoots–a lot of them were humorous too. Like groups of best friends wearing silly costumes, family photos with funny faces, and even a wedding photo where the groom was the one wearing a veil and holding a bouquet of flowers! We were told to return in an hour or so; therefore, we decided it was as good a time as ever to go have lunch. We originally planned to go to this chicken restaurant that 수빈 was raving about during our last mentorship class together but although we were able to find the location of the place, it seemed closed as there was no one there and all the lights were off…

We ended up wandering around for a bit before deciding to stop and eat at some unique place–something that the girls would definitely not be able to eat at the cafeteria. We opted for a Nepalese restaurant. The interior decorations inside were beautiful and the owners seemed to be in fact from Nepal (or perhaps India as it was a fusion place). We ended up all ordering cups of Mango lassi (cold beverage that is basically a smoothie of mangoes and yogurt!) and chicken, curry, and naan bread to share. It was all so very delicious and not too pricey either (well, for foreign food).

We took a bit longer eating than planned so we had to rush back to the photo studio to not miss our appointment time. As soon as we got there, we were directed to the back and began our photo shoot. It was a lot of fun being able to be silly by using props but we also listened to the photographer that instructed us on how to take cute photos with flowers and such. It was awkward at times, especially when he would give my friends directions for me and then he would be shocked when I would do them immediately after because I understood his request perfectly fine. Besides that, the photos all came out really nicely and I loved the traditional black and white shots the best. Unlike the studio I went with Katie and 서린 back during winter break, we were not given all our photos. We picked the ones we wanted to print and that was it.

After the grueling work that is being a model (just kidding we are far from that level!), we ventured over to a café that was famous for selling black sugar bubble tea which became a hot trend in Korea as of late. The new shop Black Tiger that opened up in 홍대 never does not have a line. And, the line usually wraps around the store and a bit further down the street. It is literally crazy. We went to a smaller café but unfortunately, they were out of the bubble tea until an hour later. Instead, we all ordered black sugar bubble ice cream which honestly might have been better due to the scorching hot weather (Okay, definitely an exaggeration since it was not even summer weather yet.)

We also walked around the streets of 홍대 for a bit so that the girls could buy a cake for a friend’s birthday as well as other street foods that they have been deprived of. I took them to this store (It is one of my secret finds…) that sells macaroons for $1-2 which was a major hit with the girls.

My friends and I said our goodbyes in the early afternoon as they returned to school and I went home to do some studying and get a head start on my work due Monday. For dinner, my host sisters wanted to go out to eat at our favorite seafood restaurant near the apartment but this was no normal dinner. At this dinner, I got to try 산낙지 (live octopus) for the first time ever! Not only that, but my younger sister also had never tried it previously so we had our first time on the same day! Honestly, I thought the octopus would have more of a fishy taste and also a more gelatinous, chewy texture but it really was not bad at all. With the spicy sauce, it tasted pretty good. You just have to get over the part that the tentacles are moving around on your plate while you are trying to eat it. And if you are not good at using chopsticks…well, those little crawlers will truly test your skills because they will suction onto the plate so that it is harder to grasp. I found that my best method was to kind of scoop them up with my chopsticks off the edge of the plate. When I first put it in my mouth, my sister warned that I had to chew a lot…so that I would not choke to death. I chewed that bad boy for a good minute before finally, with my aching jaw, I swallowed it. But again, not bad.

This dinner was also hilarious because along with the delicious 해물파전 (seafood green onion savory ‘pancake’) we had some seafood stew that also had a full live octopus in it (not just the tentacles and it was pink–the head and body at least) but we had the stew on this mini gas stove on our table so eventually it would cook the octopus and all the other seafood that was also in the pot. But at one point, our smart octopus decided to hatch an escape plan and its tentacles began making their way out of the pot and its lid by squeezing itself flat until the tentacles made enough pressure to actually lift the lid and it was oozing out of the pot on the side facing my host mom and she literally screamed!!! She screamed and pulled her hands to her face and pushed back her chair which scratched the floor like nails on a chalkboard. Everyone around the restaurant looked at us and one of the waitresses ran over to us to tend to our runaway food. It was so funny that me and my host sisters could not stop laughing the rest of dinner, our host mom’s shrill voice echoing in my head–at least.

That night, Katie was having a bad day so she wanted to come up to talk with me so she rode the train all the way from her home up to visit me. We went to the convenience store attached to the apartment complex and purchased some snacks (Kinder eggs are a thing again!?) before just chatting under a gazebo in the apartment complex for a little bit before she had to leave to make curfew. Honestly, it was nice that she came all the way to 고양시 to visit me, I was wholeheartedly touched. And honestly, it was just nice to chill and hang outside in the cool weather and goof off. I remember sitting there, in the moment, talking and holding hands with Katie and just wishing that we could stay in that moment forever–with no worries or anxieties from the everyday stressors and the impending goodbyes we would have to face. We got our toys out of the kinder egg and placed them on the ledge of the gazebo and left them there. I wonder if someone found them.

Another funny moment that occurred that night was that Katie and I saw a PIG! It was not exactly a mini pig but the size was much closer to a skinny hog (do you like my pig-describing skills? lol) and it was on a leash being walked on the path back to the lobby of my apartment. The next night at dinner I asked my host mom and sisters about it and they said that it must have a rare sighting of the pet pig that lives a few floor below us. My host sisters admitted to never having seen it before but my host mom showed me photos that she had snuck from her one and only encounter. In Korea, big dogs like huskies and golden retrievers are so rare to see that this pig totally blew my mind but I was all here for it. I still remember my reaction upon seeing it–a mix of wonder and disbelief and I literally stuttered while trying to point it out in the dark to Katie who, at first, thought it was just a fat dog.

Well, and with that, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed! Quite a long post this one haha 2000+ words! What a packed day~ And a fun one at that. Today was great. Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

Goyangshi International Flower Festival // 고양국제꽃박람회 (05/04/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/04/19 Saturday

I had just gotten back from my 수학여행 (school trip) to Jeju Island with my high school classmates the night before and was so tired that I slept about 12 hours but my host mom did not even question me not leaving my room till 11 am. Luckily, Sunday always consists of a late breakfast, or brunch if you will. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to spend my weekend having fun!! Time was passing by as quick as ever and I wanted to make sure that I was making all my last moments count. Because of the hectic schedule on our school trip, I didn’t really do a good job at making plans with anyone for the rest of the weekend but luckily Alix and June were down for some last minute, spontaneous plans after I reached out on our Kakao group chat.

We decided to go to the 고양시국제꽃바람회 (Goyangshi International Flower Festival) because I was geeking out about it earlier on during the week and bombarded our NSLI-Y group chat with all the photos of the pretty flower sculptures and photo zones. I had known about this spring tradition in my city (If it is not already known, I am one of the few NSLI-Yians that got the opportunity to live in 고양시 rather than Seoul. In fact, I was the only student on my program that lived in 고양시 for the entire 9 months!) After researching cool events for one of my Korean class presentations during the fall semester, I learned about this particular festival. I had the desire to go ever since! 

The festival takes places at the 일산호수공원 (Ilsan Lake Park) and so we met up at the nearest subway station and bought our tickets down there. (There was actually a small discount for taking the subway to the festival and buying tickets underground! Yay for saving the environment! (and money!)) 

Before entering the festival, there seemed to be section with food trucks and mostly things relating to farming and organic fruits and vegetables. There was also a trot singer? Everything was set up in a parking lot so we walked through it, took some photos next to the big entrance sculpture, and then proceeded to actually enter the festival. 

There was a stall near the ticket collecting/selling booths that sold flower festival souvenirs and 고양시 memorabilia with their white cat mascot. I caved in and had to buy something to showcase my love for 고양시!! (Don’t judge me but I feel such pride for my host city!) I ended up buying a bouquet of flower shaped soap (as a gift for my former host family) and a key chain with the city mascot holding a red heart with 고양 written across it— in English funny enough. If I have not explained this before, Goyang (고양) is one syllable short of the word 고양이 which is the Korean word for cat. So in order to use the play on words, the mascot for the city is a cat! How clever.

While Alix and June were encouraging my bad spending habits, this old man (probably around 60-70 years old) came up to us and tried handing us packets of free 물티슈 or wet wipes (directly translates to water tissues). He kept trying to shove them in our hands but we continued to duck around him and shake off the tissues. I usually do take flyers or free things that people hand out on the street but I had no room for a packet of wet wipes. I looked at the man and told him that I didn’t need the wipes in Korean. The 아주씨 literally gasped (probably because I spoke in Korean) and then in a whiny voice, similar to that of a toddler, he replied “Nooooo, you neeeed this.” The girls and I just passed by him and when we were a good distance away we started laughing so hard and repeating “필요하잖아아아!” This became an inside joke after today. 

We entered the festival and walked through such a pretty area that consisted of square plots in a row that all had different themes that were expressed through sculptures made out of flowers. There were scenes of weddings, outdoor fairy gardens, tea parties, and just nature set ups. There was even a scene set up for the character Moomin that is popular in Korea. (He’s actually a Swedish character but I’m not sure of what animal…) 

We also walked down to the lake and admired its beauty. I always like to marvel at these kind of parks that are in the middle of the city but are still able to give off the vibe that you are actually surrounded fully by nature. We saw duck paddle boats but were too broke to pay to ride them. One day! Maybe not during this program… but I will be back Korea! 

We continued through the park and saw more of the really pretty exhibitions made completely out of flowers. At the entrance of one of the sections of the park, there was a gazebo type structure with flowers hanging from the ceiling—all different colors and types.

There were also these people in furry animal costumes walking around and they started following June and me. We were shocked and then I (with a random wave of confidence) started speaking in Korean to the stranger; I asked him “Is it not hot?” You could tell he was shocked. He started fanning himself with his arms and we could not help but laugh. He started following us around which was hilarious albeit a bit creepy since well… the face reminded me of those scary Halloween masks sold at the pop-up Halloween stores during the month of October in the states. In order to commemorate this interesting encounter, we asked for a photo and that’s where this iconic photo came from. 

I mean look at those beady eyessss lol

We continued to walk around the park and took lots and lots of photos. We used June’s phone because she had a filter provided with her camera that had a good setting—basically it just highlighted the main focus of the photo and blurred the background.

We also caved in and bought really overpriced ice cream but it was extremely hot outside (probably the hottest day since the weather started warming up) and we were hungry. The ice cream was milk flavored ice cream which is one interesting unique-to-Korea flavor. You would think you wouldn’t need a flavor of milk since you now… ice cream is mostly comprised of milk. Nevertheless, it’s delicious.

We also passed by a magician with the scariest mask on and I was okay with just going on our merry way but both June and Alix wanted to stop by. We chatting with the magician for a bit and he kept asking us questions about Korea while going through with the card trick. It was a pretty neat trick and we were all surprised at what he was able to guess. He asked if I wanted to do one more so I agreed and at the end of that trick, my remaining card said “I love you” on it. We all screamed at the cringyness of the situation. It was all too much but insanely funny. I replied with “Isn’t this relationship going a little fast?” which was met with a string of laughter from the crowd that formed to see how the magician was shocking a group of foreign girls.

After taking advantage of all the photo zones possible (Except this one set up with two hearts covered in flowers. The line for the self proclaimed best-photo-op-for-couples was winding around the food stand.), we ended the trip at the park walking around an exhibition hall of scenes set up by different organizations or even countries. It was interesting to see what flowers were native to where or what colors the countries wanted to focus on with their showcases (A lot of places used colors from their flags.) We left the park after wandering around a market set up with little tents selling flowers and flower themed gifts. Our ticket gave us a dollar off coupon for any plants and we were able to find a section with succulents that only cost one dollar—so we got them for free.

I also found this one tent that sold hand painted signs with sayings and 3D flowers made out of craft supplies. I bought one for my mother back in the states. It will be her main souvenir from Korea! 

Lastly, there was this little area that had a box with a clear window which had the appearance of a magazine cover; however, the kick was that there was a giant cat head inside. There was a chair to the side that I believe might have belonged to an attendant of the photo zone that perhaps took a break? I told Alix to run in there and try on the head and she so gladly obliged (Alix is the epitome of a cat person and the whole cohort knows this.) June went in as well and they all danced around a bit. I had a good laugh and took a video clip for my 1 second a day video.

We said goodbye at the subway (but not before buying more ice cream at the 7/11… when your diet of the day mainly comprises of ice cream… it has been a good day) and that was the end of a flower-filled day. It was so fun getting to spend the day with Alix and June because I haven’t had much time otherwise to hang out with them. They were both really fun and we laughed together so often throughout the day. I caught myself smiling so often because I was genuinely happy living in the present with them. 

I got a Melona Bar (melon-flavored) and June got an ice cream with shark packaging? I think the inside was strawberry-flavored.

Thanks for reading this blog post~ It has been um… more than half a year since I have last posted and 2 years since first arriving in Korea. Wow, has time flown by. I still have blog posts from the rest of May to upload so hopefully I can get those out over the next few weeks.

  • 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

강화도 {Ganghwa Island), Barbeque Camp, Puppy Cafe, and Embarrassing Myself at Olive Young {02/16/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/16/19 Saturday 

Saturday was a really fun day spent with my both my host sisters and my host dog Andy! Earlier in the week, we planned to visit 혜리예술마을 (Heyri Art Village) together but because they predicted there would be very large crowds, we decided to visit one of the beaches on 강화도 (Ganghwa Island) instead and then have lunch and go to a cafe out there. (We would be visiting establishments that allowed dogs so Andy could also play with us all day!) 

강화도 is an island of 인천 and it took us a little less than an hour and a half to arrive at the beach. It was kind of a cold day, so we got all bundled up with scarves and gloves and such to be able to hang out on the beach. This was my first time ever going to a beach during the winter season and I can say that there is a completely different vibe when you go during this time of the year. Obviously, the activities you do are different (no swimming now… unless you want frostbite…you do you) but I honestly really liked the fact that there were not that many people there. Also, the colors of everything are less vibrant and the water looks more serene in the winter… I am not too sure but I feel like I prefer the beach in the winter! 

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Look at this precious photo of my host dog Andy! My sis is a great photographer!!!

My older host sister brought her film camera to the beach so we spent a lot of time taking photos (of us too but mostly Andy because he is the star–always stealing the spotlight!). While we were walking along the beach, we noticed that there was this huge group of young people running around being chased by seagulls. There was a flock of seagulls hovering over all their heads–going crazy–and particularly following this one guy. I was shocked because I have never seen those birds be so active… besides stalking beach blankets to steal food crumbs. As we came closer, I realized that they were all going crazy because the one guy had a bag of shrimp chips and they were literally feeding the birds. They were throwing the chips in the air and watching the birds swoop down and eat the snacks. At one point, this shorter, heavier set guy grabbed the bag and tried just holding up a chip in his hand like the other guy was doing but none of the birds were coming to eat the chip. He then started whining and exclaiming that his arms were too short for the birds; they could not see the snacks. It was absolutely hilarious. 

After we ran around with Andy for a while (He even ran into the ocean, got his paws all muddy, and then would run back to us and jump on our coats. It was bad for my host sisters who had black long padding on… the paw prints were very visible!)

After taking lots of pictures, we left for lunch! We drove out to this restaurant called Barbeque Camp which has been opened since 2003. It was literally in the 시골 of 강화도! While we were driving to the location, we passed by a farm with a bunch of cows! We stopped the car in front of their feeding area and tried to communicate with them through our best impressions of cow noises–calls? However you would describe them

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The restaurant had an outside portion that was really set up as a camp with picnic tables and such. It looked so comfy and cozy. Unfortunately, it was too cold to sit outside but I can only imagine how nice it would be to eat there during the springtime. We ended up eating two different types of meat and also stuffing our faces with ramen. Also, we got to enjoy some pretty expensive and high-quality barbecued meat; however, my host sisters seemed to enjoy the cup ramen more so ended up ordering another cup! They are easy to please!

After lunch, we returned to the beach once again to allow Andy to play some more. (And to take more photos as well of course!) We went to the other side of the beach this time and walked along all the rocks. It was really nice~ Plus, the weather warmed up a bit so my fingers were no longer in danger of freezing off.

Once we had seen and done what we wanted to, we went to our next and final destination: a cafe for dogs! It was not a puppy cafe where you can play with dogs after ordering a drink, this was a place made for customers to bring their dogs. The place has water and treats for the dogs and plenty of open space in a yard outside and a rooftop garden for dogs to run around and play. It was extremely nice! We ordered some hot drinks and then explored the cafe and took more photos of Andy–the model for the day.

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On the way back to 고양시, I was so fatigued that I slept the entire car ride. It was a very nice nap! Coming back home, we just all chilled and relaxed after that tiring but extremely fun day! 

However, for me, it was not smooth sailing from there. I had to end the night by embarrassing myself! Never going to the Olive Young next to my train station ever again!! {That will probably be a lie but for now… I don’t think I can show my face there!} 

So I went on a little errand run to Olive Young to buy some hair conditioner cause your girl has really long curly hair and it needs moisture constantly. When I came back home and attempted to open the new bottle so that I could take a shower, the nozzle would not pop up. I kept twisting it and twisting it and nothing would unlock so no conditioner would come out. I even brought it to my older host sister so that she could try unleashing it… but no look! Nothing would come out… 

She told me to go back and exchange it since I still had the receipt but I was not going to do that. I told her I could just open the cap every time and squirt out the conditioner that way. She was not having this and kept telling me to go or she would come with me and return it for a new one. This would be ten times more embarrassing— foreigner having to come back with a Korean to return a broken product. I studied this! I had all the knowledge behind me and the correct vocabulary to be able to do the exchange. 

So I quickly declined her offer and said I could go by myself. I went to the Olive Young Counter and explained the situation. The worker literally took the bottle and worked some mysterious magic that unlocked the nozzle with only a couple twists. I was in shock and getting red in the face. I could not believe my luck. I immediately started apologizing and ran out of that store as quickly as possible. 

I returned home and told my host sister everything and took a shower with the conditioner whose origins will never ever leave my memory… 

Well, with all that being said, that is the end of this blog post. I was going to combine this weekend with this post but I underestimated exactly how much I had to say for this day. {Also probably shouldn’t have rambled on so long about conditioner seeing that probably no one cares} But regardless, I hope you enjoyed this blog post! 

  • Emma 엠마

Gangnam Cafe, Indian Food Birthday Dinner, & Having a Friend Over (02/08-10/19) NSLI-Y Korea

02/08/19 Friday

I did not have any big, exciting plans for Friday. I texted some of the students on NSLI-Y too see if anyone was free and wanted to hang out (I did not want to stay home on a Friday–at least not all day). Harmony invited me to come over to Gangnam so she could show me around but we ended up actually going to this really cute cafe nearby rather than roaming the streets. This cafe was called Emma & Lia which peaked my interests when she first told me about it because I mean… look at the name! 

The cafe had a baked goods section so instead of ordering the overpriced drinks, we indulged in some overpriced food. Harmony bought a sandwich for lunch while we shared this croissant-like pastry that was shaped in a dome. I also had this chocolate pastry which was literally a chocolate cake that was filled with straight-up chocolate–like a lava cake I would say! It was all very delicious! We hurried and finished our food before actually starting our work. We stayed at the cafe for a couple hours working on our CEP research project as well as class homework (lots of grammar review!) This was the first time I had hung out with Harmony–just the two us. We have been together in other group activities before but hanging out at the cafe was good for us to just talk and get to know each other better.

Harmony had community service at the youth center this night so we ended up riding the subway up together which was nice seeing that it took me out about an hour and 20 minutes to get back to my home station. Because she came with me for half the journey, I only had to take the train by myself for 40 minutes. (Oh the struggles of living so far…)

I came home and ate dinner with my host sisters and we had some really fun and interesting conversations. I really enjoy just sitting at the kitchen table together and talking. We discussed our types for guys which were interesting. Once again, my older host sister brought up the Would You Rather question about dating a hot guy with some lacking personality or Edison with perfect traits except his looks… of course, I laughed enough to avoid answering this question.

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02/09/19 Saturday

On Saturday, my favorite person on the NSLI-Y Program (Katie <3) came to visit me at 탄현역 and she even came to my host family’s house! When she first came, I showed her a tour around the three-story mall type building connected to the station. (Again how do I describe this?? From now on, I will call it a mall!) We eventually decided to go to a bakery so that we could eat some delicious bread while studying. Besides the Twosome Cafe outside and the one travel-themed cafe I went to with Josh, I have not been to many of the cute cafes or bakeries in the mall, so I was happy to try a new one with Katie. (Mostly because I am too anxious to explore by myself all too much!) One of the small, sweet bread loaves that we ended up sharing was called “남편보다 더 달콤하다” (or sweeter than your husband). Fitting.

We studied at the bakery for a couple hours before heading back to the apartment. Katie met my host mom and younger sister and of course ANDY! We immediately headed into my room and just laid on my bed together and chatted for the rest of the afternoon. Andy is such a player (a play puppy if you will) and wanted to get close to Katie right away–never leaving her side.

It was nice hanging out with her in my room because it reminded me of just hanging out casually with my friends at my house back in the states– just chatting. I have not had that since coming to Korea so I really appreciated this moment with her~

After Katie left, I just worked on Korean homework for the rest of the night and ate dinner at home. It was a very chill and relaxing Saturday night. 

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02/10/19 Sunday

Sunday is usually my do-all-your-Korean-homework-last-minute-and-also-relax-and-prepare-your-mind-for-classes-starting-back-up-on-Monday day but I actually had plans today at night! Today was Jenna’s 19th birthday, so she planned a little get together with all the NSLI-Y girls to go to an Indian restaurant. We almost got all of the girls to go but unfortunately, Shannon and Mckenzie ended up not coming.

Anyway, in the morning after breakfast, I got to try this new fruit called Hallabong (한라봉) which is a type of fruit under the umbrella that is mandarin oranges named after a mountain from 제주도 (Jeju-do). The fruit itself tasted just like a tangerine except for the fact that the size was bigger. (It also looks incredibly cute! I mean look at the shape and the cute little leaf~ I love it!) 

After breakfast, I got ready for the day (or should I say for the night?) which included buying a gift for Jenna. I decided to finally visit the Artbox on the lower level of the mall connected to my subway station. I had avoided going in for so long because I love anything cute… and I especially love cute stationery so for me to go to Artbox with those traits in mind… it is always a bad idea. Some people cannot leave Target without buying things they do not need AKA leaving with their cart full although they only came with a shopping list of three items. I cannot leave Artbox without cute but insanely useless or unnecessary items.

This Artbox was the biggest one I have ever been to! It was definitely at least three times as big as the one in 홍대. There was even a space for taking photos with the characters that act as mascots for Artbox. I ended up buying a pack of colored pens, a couple of mechanical pencils, and a card and a bag for Jenna. I ended up reading the price of the pencils wrong so pencils that I thought cost less than 2 dollars… ended up being 4 dollars and 50 cents each! I love stationery but I am not crazy! I love Jenna but I was not planning to break the bank with her gift.

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Eventually, I left my house and rode the train for about an hour to meet up with the rest of the girls to have a nice dinner. When we arrived at the Indian restaurant, there was literally no one there besides the family running the restaurant. We got to sit at this really long table all together while we ate which was nice since we were not separated into groups which usually happens when we hang in large numbers. I ended up getting Chicken Makhani (I think that is the spelling?) with some garlic naan which was delicious! After dinner, we went to Baskin Robbins to grab some dessert and talk more.

I was tired by the end of the night–especially knowing that I still had homework to complete once I arrived home; however, I had a lot of fun so I would not have changed anything about the night! I enjoyed being able to hang out with all the girls and although we all have our own busy schedules, it was nice to come together for one dinner like this. I hope we can do something like this again.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed this combined post of my weekend! Thanks for reading and until next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Outdoor Korean Mall, Escape Room, and Bonding With My Host Sister {02/03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/03/19 Sunday

Today I spent the day with my host sister walking around this outdoor mall area called Lafesta. Apparently, it is a really popular hangout place in Ilsan, Goyang-si. We went on a Sunday afternoon and since it was raining, there were not too many people (which was honestly better for us. Crowds are never fun!) but I realized quickly that I had been to the area before with my last host family. We walked around the area on Christmas and watched the Disney Nutcracker movie at the theater that is located there. When we first arrived, nothing looked familiar at all but as we kept walking through the street, I recognized the placement of the Artbox, the book store, and the outdoor arcade.

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With my host sister, our first stop was to get her ears pierced! We found this one little shop and waited for a little while as there was already a woman there getting her ears pierced and a couple other girls in line to go next. There were so many really pretty earrings and it took my host sister quite a bit of time to pick out the earring she wanted. She ended up getting her ears pierced in two different places: on her earlobe and then on the outside cartilage of her ear (I do not know the official name for that placement on the ear.) At the time, I kind of wanted to get my doubles pierced but piercing is not allowed on the NSLI-Y Program!

After she got her ears pierced, we continued walking around the outdoor mall and stumbled upon this little cafe that allows you to decorate phone cases. There was a large counter with a bunch of small dishes filled with gems, character molds, and other little plastic pieces that resembled cute foods, flowers, hearts, and unique designs. We got to walk around, pick what which ones we wanted to use, and then glue them onto our individual phone cases. They also gave us free drinks as they were included in the cost of making the phone which I thought was interesting, but looking back… I guess it makes sense since it was advertising itself as a phone case making cafe–so drinks were to be expected. 

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We were ready to eat by the time we finished up our cases and they dried, so we went to this one well-known restaurant that my host sister recommended. It was a seafood restaurant that was known for its good quality salmon. We ordered some salmon rice bowls (연어덮밥) and a kimchi seafood crispy pancake (해물김치전). When we ordered, they needed to make more rice which was going to take 20 minutes, so they apologized by giving us some 연어회 (raw salmon) as service. Because of the extra food and our pancake appetizer, we barely had any room left in our stomachs to eat the salmon rice bowls! When the waiter brought out the raw salmon for free because our food was going to take a long time, my host sister brought up the fact that sometimes foreigners (especially white foreigners) get special treatment and she believed that this was one of those occasions. She also gave me other general examples and one about her sister’s American friend.

After lunch, we went to finally try doing an escape room! I have never done one before (well I mean… maybe you can count the one made for children that I did with my last host family but… I will not.) and neither had my host sister, so it was a first experience for the both of us!! We ended up picking one of the hardest rooms that the place offered just because the room looked pretty (well we did not outright say that but I believe it was both of our motivations–Also, maybe we both believed that we could do well at the hard room.) The worker told us that we had three clues and we definitely used all of them and then some! We started off in a room with lots of really pretty paintings (like a gallery or exhibition or something). We were able to get halfway with a lot of tricks. We could tell what we needed to do in some way but exactly how to execute it was the issue we came across often. It was most difficult for me because I could not understand the Korean throughout the room. Most of the paintings had little descriptions that hid clues to solve the problems and I had trouble catching what was said through the recordings because my listening comprehension is horrible! The room was a lot of fun though because paintings would like pop out of the wall or doors would swing open which added to the experience. We made it to the second room but struggled so much trying to figure out how to start that the worker actually called our room to give us a hint! I could not help but laugh at the fact that he had been watching on the cameras and felt pity for us, so he gave us another hint to help us out. 

There was one point where I figured out how to solve the next step but when I tried executing this idea, nothing happened–I was wrong. My host sister went to call for a hint and it turns out I had been doing it right the whole time! I must have just made a small mistake because when we tried again, it worked and the secret door opened. That was a bit frustrating! Eventually, the hour was up and we did not make it out of the escape room. We made it to the final area but did not even get the chance to start any of the puzzles. The worker came to get us when the time was out and he showed us how to solve the remaining couple of puzzles and escape the room. Even though we did not make it out by ourselves, I think we did a pretty good job for our first time. Especially regarding me and my participation, I think I did a pretty good job for not speaking the language that literally everything in the escape room was written in (except the one lock that used the English alphabet.) There was one point where we were looking at this one sheet of paper and on it were three bolded words in Korean and I was able to point that out to my host sister! Small things like that made me feel like I was helping so that made a difference to me, in my opinion at least!

We left the place with a good attitude about what we did and a free drink in hand. We took a taxi back home and just relaxed for the rest of the night. My older host sister ended up coming home later at night from her trip to Japan so we all welcomed her back.

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Well, that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed what I have to share with you all today! Thanks for reading~ Til next time!!!

  • Emma 엠마