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

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

05/21/19 Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprinkles!?!? Interesting…

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

Emma, STOP being so sentimental !! It is

JUST

SAD!

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

  • Emma 엠마

NSLIY Summer 2016 Alumni Meetup (with RDs!) and Spilling the Tea at Instagram Cafes in Seoul (05/20/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/20/19 Monday

Refer to ~this blog post~ for what I did during the first half of the day which includes me taking my final for Korean class and exploring some more historical places in Seoul with my Korean classmates and teacher!

Once I said goodbye to my Korean teacher, I got back off at 홍익역 (홍대 — Hongdae)

EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKK! Shrieking was all I could even think about doing as I thought about the epic reunion that was about to commence on the streets of 홍대. The other week or so I reached out to Jessica once again (NSLI-Y Korea Summer ‘16 Alumna) because we have been cafe buddies since I have been back to Korea since she knows all the best places and is basically like my big sister in Korea! But the last time we had tea together, we mentioned organizing a meeting with our former NSLI-Y summer resident directors because conveniently they are both in Korea at the same time again! Madeline (our American RD) is pursuing a graduate degree at 이화여대 (Ewha Women’s University) and is in her final year of that program while JT (our Korean RD) is well… living in Korea! Though he did spend some time abroad, backpacking around Europe, after he was with NSLI-Y for our program and the following academic year program.

We planned to meet up for dinner together and possibly a cafe afterwards to chat and I was so nervous and excited at the same time to see everyone again after… How many years? Almost 3 full years! Granted I had seen Jessica the previous month and Madeline back in December with Katie but !!! All of us back together felt more like we were getting ready to film a crossover or a reunion episode of a TV show with all of the most loved cast members!! (Sorry to the rest of NSLI-Y8 😛 lol)

Before meeting up with them though, I actually had a quick errand to run which consisted of me meeting up with 혜린언니 my supporter during our winter break research project. Katie and I had met up with her and had our ~farewell~ (for now) dinner about a week or so ago and had given her letters but she did not have anything prepared for us yet and said that we had to make sure to see her one more time so that she could give us something.

That something was two handwritten cards that Katie and I were not allowed to open until we had arrived back in the States (Which, QUICK UPDATE: proved to be a bit of a disaster since she wrote in pencil which sort of rubbed off in areas making the letter hard to read. It must have been from the heat of being in a suitcase or the altitude or something?) I took another quick selfie with her and promised to get the letter safely back to Katie ❤

Then, I end up meeting up with Jessica, Madeline, and JT in front of 3번출구 of 홍익역. You would think that having planned this meetup, Jessica and I would have also decided where we would be having dinner at but… we did NOT think that far ahead so as we exchanged hellos and “long time no seeeeees” and in the midst of explaining what we have been doing and catching up, we were also throwing out ideas of where to eat. I do not really remember why we decided on eating Taiwanese food but that was what we ultimately landed on and I had a place in mind that I went to a few months before during our spring semester orientation. I think everyone had also been before? I guess that makes sense since it was located on a pretty central street of 홍대.

For dinner we ended up sharing a nice bowl of noodles, fried chicken (or was it a pork cutlet?) but more importantly, just chatting with everyone was the highlight of the night. JT enlightened us on his current endeavors and how he is currently working at a company/organization that is focused on expanding the waste management system in Seoul with more efficient waste baskets in public areas which honestly sounds like something the general population would greatly benefit from!! Literally, I feel like it is almost an impossible task to find a garbage/recycling can in and around even the most populated places. They are so spread out! I feel like I always have some kind of wrapper or empty water bottle in my backpack at all times. 

We talked a lot about schooling too because Madeline, Jessica, and I were all students–albeit at different stages of our education. They were all really curious about my own experience at Korean high school which was fun to detail especially since I was out of the situation and did not have to respond to some things with nervous, awkward laughter. (Actually! I think it would be really cool to write a blog post comparing my experience at my American public school and my private Korean school)

Of course, we ALSO reminisced on our shared NSLI-Y experience. It was fun talking about how often I would (with my partner in crime Sofia) annoy our RDs on purpose by running to them during our break times between classes to chat or sing–Yes, we made a song for them… And unfortunately, JT did not forget my chicken girl experience which involved me walking into a glass door–straight facts! We talked about others on the program that they have had the chance to meet up with since then and some of the names surprised me because I had not gotten to know them that much and had not expected them to return to be honest. They alsooooo shared some tea about the punishments that they had to give out (on our program and the others they led). 

After dinner, Madeline had to leave because she had plans but Jessica, JT, and I decided to stick around for a bit longer (I still had time before curfew and JT kept making fun of me for having a curfew hehe he was like, “Not much has changed huh?” but he was very serious about me making sure to stick to my curfew. He even pulled out his phone to check the subway lines to make sure that I was not bluffing which was funny. Nothing much has changed for him either! Still acting like a resident director!)

Jessica took us to The Alley which was a trending café at the time for their instagrammable bubble teas that had distinct layers before you shook the drinks. We got our drinks and sat outside at one of the patio seats at the storefront and enjoyed the cooler summer night.

It was a really enjoyable night seeing them all again and everything felt so nostalgic! To think that each and every one of them had a part in me having such an amazing time in Korea the first time that I wanted to come back! Full circle!! This may sound extremely cheesy but I generally am feeling this way right now… maybe it is the exhaustion talking… wow, only a couple days left in Korea now…

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Thanks for reading~ Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Vietnamese Food in Sinchon and Parent’s Day in Korea (05/06-07/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/06/19 Monday

A/N: I am writing about these days quite a bit after they actually happened and my lack of pictures and a photographic memory means that this won’t be the most detailed blog, unfortunately. It’s more of a bummer for me than for you all, though.

Because I had no school today, I was finally able to spend time with my host family during a weekday for breakfast. My host mom made these deliciously healthy omelets and although my younger host sister complained, I found them tasty. I left after breakfast and met up with Katie and Jenna at 이대. We wanted to go out for lunch together and help refrain each other from buying any clothes that we see on the way. We walked around the 이대 area for a little bit and nothing really stood out to us for lunch. Eventually Jenna recommended us a couple places near 연세대 so we made the short trek to the area around that university instead.

Katie brought us Macaroons! ❤

Jenna took us to this Vietnamese place called (Emoi?) which she had been the day previous with her church friends. She promised that the food was so good that she didn’t mind coming with us again. We all ordered the cheapest pho dish on the menu (of course, stipend does not stretch that much!) and some fried roll to share. The service was fast and everything was delicious! The portion was huge so I couldn’t even finish all of my noodles even though I tried my very best. 

After eating, we went over to a cafe in order to get some work done and apparently every other college student in the area had the same idea. We passed by our first choice (Twosome) and there were literally no seats for us. We turned down a few alleys until we stumbled upon a place that was almost hidden and took the last big 4-seater-table. 

Katie and I were still on a 제주도 high so we decided to order a 한라봉 latte because it sounded fancy and I thought it would take us back. I should have taken a guess after seeing the several hundred strawberry lattes that Katie has ordered that this fruity drink would not be an actual latte but alas I was fooled. (spoiler alert: strawberry lattes are just cups of milk with pieces of strawberry in it). So that is what we got: a cup of milk with 한라봉. I was able to be pretty productive for around 2 hours so it was not a waste by any means. Plus, it was nice hanging out with the girls. Especially Jenna, I haven’t really hung out with her that often. 

My host family had eaten by the time I came home so I just had instant black bean noodles and some strawberries to end the night before tucking in to more homework.

5/07/19 Tuesday

Back to School! I don’t remember much of this day… in the morning I had my English conversation period with the three second year girls. Instead of speaking in English about a certain topic chosen beforehand, we ended up just planning out what we would be doing when we met up on Saturday in 홍대. We planned to make perfume or jewelry at this one place that 수빈 found on some list on Naver and we decided to eat at this pretty cheap chicken place—again due to another recommendation from 수빈. (She is definitely the one that plans within the friend group) We also would go to a 노래방 (Karaoke) and buy any street foods that the girls were craving. It looked like it was going to be a really fun day. Jam packed into only 3 hours—the girls had to be back at the school—but fun nonetheless. 

In music class Katie and I finished researching and writing out info for our presentation. We would not have to present them aloud to the class because the entire class was behind (Our teacher did not show up for a class period) so we would just be hanging up our posters in the hallway outside of the classroom. 한국사 (Korean History) was another lecture that I didn’t understand well (Though I also didn’t try hard to pay attention today.. I wanted to do my Korean homework instead…) 

My last class of the day was another English conversation class and the two girls and I just spent the whole time talking about how our class trips went. They all went to different places (강화도 and 부산). And let me just say they got away with a lot! 😉 I will not detail anything else because…a girls gotta have their secrets!

After school was of course Korean class but I don’t remember anything that we did. Since today was Parent’s day, I asked my teacher what to get my host mom and she told me that the most iconic gift for parents is the flower carnation. I realized that she was spot on when I left the center and saw that there were now flower carts on many of the street corners selling little bouquets of carnations. Kaitlyn and I ended up buying just one single carnation flower for our host parents (BIG shoutout to us for being able to use the counter for flowers when asking how much one single flower would cost!) 

After that, June, Kaitlyn, and I went to 노래방. I have been telling everyone that I needed a buddy to go with me as I really needed to sing some old Justin Bieber songs and so we did just that. Do not ask me why I was in the mood to sing such songs… I was just ready to be hit with a wave of nostalgia from middle school. Also, you would have to be lying if you disagreed with and said that Baby is not an iconic karaoke song. Like, come on. And, to top it all off, we were able to snag a score of 100 on Never Say Never by Justin Bieber. We truly sang our little hearts out. 

I went home after the hour of karaoke and had dinner with my host family. My host mom was on the phone for business when I tried to give her the carnation I bought her for Parent’s Day and so I awkwardly stood outside her bedroom door until my younger host sister noticed. They all started shouting at my host mom when I explained to them what the flower was for because they were so touched by my action. They had not even gotten anything for their mother so it was a surprise to see me following tradition for this holiday. My host mom was very grateful for the small act of kindness I showed her and she even set a photo of my carnation as her profile picture on Kakao Talk (The true Medal of Honor).

Well that is all I have for this blog post~~ It is kind of a bit everywhere because I had to combine so many days but it’s my fault for falling behind on writing!! Don’t get your hopes up though… my next post will probably also be a combination of a couple days with photos being few and far between. I’m sorry!! I’m hoping to up the quality of these posts soon but hey, that is life sometimes! I’m having a blast in Korea and the times are busy and hectic so my blog is taking a back seat. Hope you all understand ^^ Thanks for reading !!

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (School Trip to Jeju Island) Day 2: 승마체험, 성산일출봉과 흑돼지 먹기 (05/02/20) NSLIY Korea AY

Thursday (05/02/20)

Second day of our school trip to Jeju Island!!! (Literally the exclamation points do in fact represent the excitement in my head when I first woke up. I was jumping off the walls with excitement.)

We started the day off having a complimentary breakfast buffet at our hotel which was pretty similar to any other continental breakfast spread at hotels with basic things like waffles, croissants, cereal, eggs, etc but of course since savory “lunch type” foods are completely normal in Korea, there was also fish, popcorn chicken, potato wedges, kimchi, etc. We ate on the lower ground of the hotel which seemed to be reserved for large groups that were staying at the hotel (While we were staying at the hotel, there were two other schools too) and they came down to eat at the same time as well. The large windows around the perimeter of the room showed off some beautiful water views and it was the perfect cherry on top to a nice morning.

Today was our first (and only) full day in Jeju and in order to make the most of it, we had a jam-packed day filled with all sorts of activities, location changes, delicious food, and of course the accompanying long bus rides. However, to be honest, I did not mind the long bus rides as they were sectioned off periods of time when we could all regain our energy by doing what a lot of us did best–nap. 

Our first bus ride brought us to the 1,000 year forest called Bijarim (천년의 숲 비자림) which considered a national monument in Korea. Apparently it is the biggest collection of nutmeg trees in the world and they are all super old. Even though the name of the forest is 1,000 years, the oldest tree in the forest is around 800 years so not quite there… but I guess eventually the name will fit. But then…if you think about it… eventually it will be even older than 1,000 years. Will a name change be necessary then?

The visit to the forest was an extremely nice way to start the morning because it got us all moving as we hiked a forest path and got to take in all that nature had to offer. The forest not only was full of trees but there was a bunch of other foliage and pretty flowers too. More importantly, the walk was a lot of fun because I had the chance to really make conversation with a lot of the girls in my group–not just my main group of friends or Katie. I was able to talk to more classmates of mine that I share time with during class but because we do not eat lunch together, I find that our conversations mainly revolve around school and never get really personal. It was nice to finally have some time to talk with some of my friends like 정윤 or 선민 or 수미. We of course also took lots of photos, especially group photos. (Is it a group excursion if there are no group photos? Better World would say so! And 하나고 follows suit.)

Another bus ride later, we found ourselves at our next destination: Seong Eup Land (성읍랜드) which is a small “amusement” park of sorts which is known for horseback riding and go karts. Horseback riding is one of the common tourist activities to partake in on Jeju–especially if it involves riding horses along the beach like in all of the cheesy, romantic Korean dramas.

I will say that the place we went to was a bit different…? We did ride horses but we were just on a track–no natural path or anything–and we were pulled along the track with our horses by a worker. The horse did get up to the speed of a gallop at one point but the majority of the ride was a slow steady pace. I believe the ride, overall, lasted 5 minutes if that. It was a bit underwhelming as I have ridden a horse through rougher, more exciting terrain but nonetheless, I had fun. I am grateful to have had the experience. For some of the girls, it was their first time riding a horse!

The majority of the location seemed to be comprised of the horse stable, horse-riding path/routes, and the go-kart track. There were also a lot of photo zones as the main building was painted entirely pink and almost every wall was made out to be an especially colorful mural with cute graphics and a lot of famous Jeju-do icons and memorabilia. There was also a little gift shop with cute knick-knacks as well as a little concession stand type area.

Of course, our friend group had to take advantage of all the wonderful backdrops for photos. I think my favorite place within the “park” included this fake pink car. It was a lot of fun being able to pose with the car and we had a lot of fun trying to take some more “serious, vogue-like” pictures but honestly, we looked kind of ridiculous but I would not change anything about these photos! I love them so much :,) 

There was also a really cute mural on one of the walls that had the statement “Meeting you was good luck” in Korean which I thought was utterly adorable! Katie and I were also able to get photos with our old coordinating teacher and my previous homeroom teacher 민정쌤 (not to be confused with our NSLI-Y resident director 민정쌤). And besides all the photo taking, Katie and I ate some ice cream while some of the other girls drove some go-karts (Of course, I would much rather eat my beloved ice cream rather than risking my life in a moving vehicle–low key have a fear of driving…)

After everything, we moseyed on over to our next location for lunch and we were able to try 제주흑돼지구이 (Jeju Black Pork) which is probably the food 제주도 is most known for and may actually be one of the most famous types of meat in Korea. (Think of it as Korea’s version of Japanese Wagyu Beef? Or at least… I make that connection)

DEVOURED that food! Waiting for more >;P

The place that we went to was very large with a lot of long picnic tables but it had a rather close-to-nature type vibe because there was a lot of natural lighting, open windows, and the bathroom was actually not connected to the restaurant–a portable potty moment. The restaurant was also all you can eat so you can bet that the girls and I ordered quite a lot of servings of meat. I cannot remember the exact count but I feel like we went through at least 4-5 servings and we had to go back and refill our lettuce and side dishes quite frequently. Everything was delicious and my mouth is watering right now just looking back and thinking about all the food that we were able to stuff our faces with. 

Once we were full and napped through a food coma on the bus, we arrived at 성산일출봉 (Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak) which is an Unesco World Heritage site. Honestly, when we first got to the naturally made wonder, I assumed it was just this random mountain but it was actually created by an underwater volcano. The views around the peak were spectacular! On one side, the blue waters of the ocean were sparkling in almost a heavenly way as the sun reflected off of it and on the other side, there was a village along the grassy hill with tons of colorful buildings. At the top of the peak, everything looked so tiny and 10x cuter. 

The walk up to the very top of the peak was not too difficult when it comes to difficulties of the hike as it was not too steep and the stairs were wide and there were railings at some points; however, the weather was hot and the breeze only helped so much so we were all rather sweaty by the end of it. Despite everything, the views at the top–of course–made everything worth it. Additionally, the trip upwards was a nice time to talk more with our friends and other classmates too. At one point, I was explaining the entire plot of the Nickelodeon TV show “Avatar the Last Airbender” to 선민 as we discussed our favorite series during our childhoods. I remember this conversation in specific because it was a difficult thing to talk through but I was really proud at the end with everything I was able to say–my vocabulary skills were popping off.

At the top of the peak, Katie, 선민, and 정윤, and I had this idea to take some photos–including a jumping photo. We asked this older man to take the photo for us (Now… I wonder why? We could have asked anyone else… including someone young who most likely had an Instagram.) and it would be an understatement to say that he had a little trouble taking the photo for us. They did not turn out the best but are still funny to look back on. And the collective countdown and jump while holding hands was extremely thrilling. 

When we got back down to the bottom of the peak, Katie, 선민, and I treated ourselves with some unique 한라봉 아이스크림 (Hallabong Ice Cream) and bought some souvenirs for our host families and Korean classmates. Katie and I impressed the lady running one of the shops with our ability to not only speak with her in Korean but also to haggle. I ended up buying a box of chocolates and tarts with some pretty cool, unique to 제주도 flavors like 한라봉, cactus, and 제주 tangerine (감귤).

After getting back on the bus, our homeroom teacher told us that we would be going to a market the following day and we should wait to buy the majority of our souvenirs there because it would be cheaper…I wish we had known earlier! But nevertheless, I felt that we got everything at a good price so I was not upset.


This day is far from being over but I feel like this post is already extremely long and with photos…So I have made the executive decision to split this post up. I will probably include the second half of this day with my third day of the school trip (Unless, that one ends up being too long… we will see I guess!)

I hope these posts are entertaining and I am also trying my best to make them informative at least in some way. Thanks for reading and do not forget to subscribe for more posts. Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Outside Class (야외수업), Travel Maker Brunch in Hongdae, and Korean Monthly Exam (04/30/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/30/19 Tuesday

Since Katie and I stayed up really late the previous night studying, we were both practically dead in the morning. We even went to the convenience store to buy coffee before school started because I knew that there was no way I would be able to sit awake during my classes today without some assistance from caffeine.

Morning selfie before we have to be in our homerooms

During first period, I had my English conversation class with three 2nd year students and instead of having any conversation on intellectual topics, we rather planned what we would be do in two weeks time when meeting up in 홍대 to hang out! The girls were going to be able to get permission to leave school to hang with me for a couple hours, so we spent our hour in the library picking where to eat and deciding what we could do to fill up the time. 수빈 recommended this really good (and cheap) chicken place that she had been to in 부산 (it was a chain) so were going to eat there and then most likely go to 노래방 (karaoke) and make perfume or macaroons or something crafty–we wanted to do something hands on! It was a lot of fun planning out our day!

My 한국사 (Korean History) teacher switched things up for today’s class and allowed us to have class outside which we call 야외수업! We left the classroom and walked down this really nice, scenic path past the 한옥 (Korean traditional house) museum and neighborhood almost towards the nearby Buddhist temple.

On our way there, we passed by these birds fighting on the sidewalk and one of the birds became injured and was struggling to flap its wings while it was down on the ground. A lot of the girls were scared of it although it was harmless so they kept shrieking every time it gained enough momentum to get a little bit off the ground. It was really sad to see it in so much pain, struggling to survive and get back up. One of the students called someone (maybe some type of Animal control?) so when we did walk back to the school, that bird was gone.

The teacher talked to us a little bit about the history of the area before letting us go free and visit either the Twosome Place Cafe or the convenience store. (He turned a blind eye away from those students who were buying ramen to stockpile reserves in the dorm.) During the entire duration of our outdoor class, I hung out and chatted with my friend 정민. She actually is close friends with my other third year friends (세림, 지은, and 지연) but this was the first class I was able to have with her.

She was so sweet with me that she even bought me a drink from the cafe–an iced chocolate (basically just the cold version of the hot chocolate). We talked all about our school lives and a bit about our past. Apparently, 정민 spent some time in America when she was young because her aunt lives in the US. That was interesting to hear about.

After Katie and I finished our second exchange student conversation class of the day before lunch time, we immediately booked it off of school grounds to try to get to 홍대 as fast as we possibly could. All the other NSLI-Y students had no school today so they planned to all go out for a traditional American brunch at a famous place in 홍대 called Travel Maker.

Katie and I were able to make it to the restaurant just around the time that everyone else was receiving their food. We were able to just sneak into the booths they were already at and order some pancakes. Luckily, even though we did have school, we were able to make in enough time to eat with everyone for a little while. After we finished eating, we wanted to take a group photo so I (with some random confidence) ran up to a complete stranger walking in the park across the street and asked them to take a photo for us. I was glad that we were able to put this little brunch date together!

Blueberry Pancakes ❤ My favorite food = pancakes

Afterward, we all had to go and take our monthly tests for April… what a downer to a great first half of the day. I walked to the Better World Office with Josh and Jacquelyn and we passed by his cafe that day and there was a really cute sign out front. It made me smile.

Translation: Difficult days also pass by. Waiting for a happy tomorrow.

Our test this month was extremely difficult. We expected it, though. Our teacher warned us about it. The passages in this test seemed a lot more complicated than the ones in past tests and they were so much longer too! I barely had enough time to read through all of the reading passages and answer all the questions. I had to pick my best guess for a couple questions. I was also super tired from staying up late studying (and the coffee in the morning already wore off), so I started nodding off during the test too which is never good! After we all finished the reading test, we made a stop at the closest convenience store during break time to pick up some pick-me-ups including coffee and gummy geckos.

Usually my blog posts about the unit/monthly tests tend to be a bit more negative because more often than not I feel mildly incompetent after taking each and every test. Luckily, because I am writing this so much later, I do not have those negative thoughts floating around in my head. Looking back at this test and my OPI, I feel like I did pretty well. Comparing it to my march speaking test which involved me crying while on the phone with my teacher, this one went a lot smoother. She actually asked me to describe the movie plot of one of my favorite movies so I went on and described the basic plot of Hello Ghost which involves suicide and ghosts and although the subject matter was heavy, I was able to explain it all better than I originally assumed I would be able to. (Actually, I feel like that answer was probably one of the biggest reasons for why I was able to move up a level that month.) The writing test for this month was writing about our individual projects and I felt prepared to discuss my topic, but I still struggled with vocabulary. Even though I had to substitute some desired words for ones that I did know, I felt that I explained everything I wanted to discuss in my paper quite well.

After the monthly test, Josh and I walked to 와플대학 to meet some of the other NSLI-Y students (Alix, Hunter, Katie, etc) for our after-test-tradition of waffles. I had dinner plans with a friend after the test so I ended up not ordering my own and just stealing some bites from Katie. We talked about our tests and ranted for a bit before I left for 신촌.

In 신촌 we went to a meat restaurant and had barbecue for dinner while chatting about a lot of different topics. I learned that the tape and arrows on the roads and alleyways pointing to certain restaurants were a part of events that the university students hold. Apparently like a fundraiser type thing? Or they are ways to try to raise membership for clubs and such. When we first got to the restaurant, we watched some female students putting the yellow tape on the road and as it got darker, we noticed people directing others to follow the tape to the final destination. 

Yonsei at Night

After eating we walked around the 연세 campus which was honestly the first time I really was able to walk around a large majority of the campus. Previously, I had only walked up the large drive (lawn maybe is a better term?) with Addie and Jessica on two separate occasions. My friend was not a student there or anything but we still walked around the different buildings anyways.

We ended the night just chilling at a cafe to talk. Cafe Pascucci was the name of the cafe and it was my first time there! We just got our drinks and relaxed on one of the sofa seats on the second floor and talked until I had to go because of curfew. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful days leading up to the test day.

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

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

4/29/19 Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Asia Philanthropy Awards & Hanging Out with Korean Friend in 서촌 (04/24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/24/19 Wednesday 

My school uniform had to go and mess up my plans for this morning. I was originally planning on going to 경복궁 with Katie this morning to wear pastel colored premium 한복 (Korean traditional dress) and take photos but my uniform (or the lack of one) stopped me from following through on that plan. After 경복궁, we had to meet at 을지로입구역 at 12:05 pm to attend a mandatory NSLI-Y obligation, so we were only going to be walking around the palace grounds for about an hour and a half.

I woke up at 7 am and got ready by 8 am because it takes me about an hour to get to 경복궁 from where I currently live (west side of 고양시). While getting ready, I proceed to pack my bag with my school uniform (We had to wear our high school uniforms to the event– It was mandatory), only to realize that everything was in the wash.

Because I was not attending school this week, I put all of my uniform in my hamper to be washed without even considering the fact that it would not be dry in time for Wednesday. I started to freak out but I assumed I could just dress formally–in a dress– and then wear my school blazer (the one part of my school uniform, besides my bow or tie, that was not in the wash). I texted 소영쌤 about the situation and assumed that it was already solved and that this would be the end of that but… unfortunately, I was wrong. I was on the train–about 30 minutes from my house– and 소영쌤 tells me that I need to wear my uniform no matter what. Even if it is just my skirt and blazer but with a different top. But she stressed that I needed my skirt.

So I had to turn around to get home and wait an hour until my host mom woke up so that I could ask her to get my uniform (because it was hanging up to dry on the balcony attached to her room). My vest and dress shirt were soaked so I ditched those and just wore my wet skirt to appease 소영쌤 and the other 쌤s. I was back on the train before I knew it on the way to the ceremony…low key wishing that I did have the chance to go to 경복궁 with Katie.

I ended up getting to the meeting location about 20 minutes early and so did Alice so we ended up just walking around the area nearby. It reminded me of the main shopping streets of 명동 but way less touristy. It was definitely a place I could see a lot of college students going. Alix and I stumbled upon an earring shop with a lot of sales so we looked around and both bought something. (Since coming to Korea, I have fallen in love with earrings! I used to wear the same earrings every single day for basically all of high school.)

Eventually, we all met up with each other and made our way to the banquet hall that would be holding the APA: Asian Philanthropy Awards. (Did I mention earlier that this was what we would be doing?) Our group included all of the 대원외고 students, Katie and me, and the couple of others who wanted to skip school to attend this event: Hunter, Alix, June, and Jacquelyn. 

We ate some 김밥 that they prepared for us for lunch and then we pretty much sat there for the next hour. Jacquelyn was the only one really doing stuff as she had to practice for her co-host position. (She translated what the host said into English throughout the award ceremony. She was given a script before the event.)

Look at us ❤

About an hour before the start of the awards, June and I were delegated the task of standing in front of the second set of elevators (and the bathroom) to direct people coming off of the elevators to the check-in as well as direct people looking for the bathroom in the right direction. So we stood near the doors awkwardly yet boldly telling people where to go with Korean phrases we practiced with each other several times before we got the first chance to use them. Some people were really impressed with us and I really appreciated the people that would still greet us and ask us questions in Korean, it was validating. There were plenty of people that tried to shake our hands and only greeted us with “Hello” did it for us, but I tried my best to not take the comfortable route and go along with the ‘foreigner’ treatment. (plus I speak Korean so !! it was strange to suddenly switch to English.)

As expected… the group photo! 역시 그룹 사진을 찍었죸ㅋㅋ

The awards started at 2 pm and you best know that I raided the dessert and refreshment table before it began—one plastic cup filled with butter cookies and chocolate wafers. The people winning awards were from all around Asia including a Vietnamese Non-Profit Organization, a Japanese businessman, and an Indian man who won philanthropist of the year. There was also an award that went out to this high school student for developing music therapy programs at her school and others in the nearby area. She actually goes to an international school here in Korea and speaks perfect English! 

They even had a performance! This group did a lively tap dance routine!

Once the award ceremony was over, Katie, Mackenzie, and I convinced 주연쌤 and 소영쌤 to have individual meetings with us so we could talk about our stresses and how we are feeling about the end of the program being so soon. (This involved convincing them not to return to the Better World Office after the event).

❤ 우리 사랑하는 소영쌤과 주연쌤 ❤
벚꽃아이스크림

They said yes and so we went to a cafe and all had ice cream! Most of us tried their seasonal flavor of cherry blossom but honestly the flavor was really weak, which actually turned out to be a good thing since the after taste was reminiscent of cherry kid’s cough medicine. But still, I ate all of it and felt very grateful to 주연쌤 for buying it all for us! ❤

After that, Katie and I made our way to the 서촌 area near 경복궁 (made it here eventually ;”) in order to meet our supporter 혜린언니 for dinner and a cafe date! She had finished midterms that day (and had stayed up all night to study), so she ended up falling asleep right before we met up and woke up right at our meeting time. We waited about half an hour for her to arrive and she could not stop apologizing to us! But we wholeheartedly understood! We had no problem waiting for one of our favorite people! 

Two of my favorite things in this one photo: 혜린언니 & 떡볶이! hehe

For dinner, we decided to go to 통인시장 but by the time we got there, pretty much every stall was closed or starting to close so our options were very limited. We found this one small place that had some indoor seating near the exit of the market and we shared some 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 순대 (blood sausage), and 튀김 (fried veggies like sweet potato and seaweed). 혜린언니 did not think the food tasted that good and wished we could have ate something better but Katie and I kept reassuring her that we enjoyed the meal! And regardless of the taste, we were not here for the food but for her! It really touches me that she cares so much about us. How did we get so lucky to have been basically placed with the best supporter?

We went to a cute cafe after dinner and shared a lava cake and a strawberry and blueberry late which were way too expensive but nonetheless very delicious! We spent the next couple of hours just talking and laughing the night away. The previous times we have met, we talked in a lot of mixed English and Korean but this time it was almost all in Korean! I could not believe how much we have improved to talk about all that we did! A lot of dating talk went down? Comparing relationships in America and Korea. It was quite fun. We also high key talked about people and things they do that annoy us– AKA pet peeves!

I really enjoyed this night with 혜린언니 and Katie and my heart truly aches when I think about our last meeting before we return to America (because this will not be our last!) I am going to miss her so much! It has been great having an older sister that I am so close with! Luckily, I know she will always be here for me to hang out whenever I do return. For that, I am grateful!

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/22/19 Monday

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Morning walks with springtime flowers >>>>>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

brunch 4

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

brunch 6

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

brunch 5

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마