After School Express Bus Terminal Shopping with Friends (04/08-04/09/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/08/19 Monday

Our politics teacher literally showed up 30 minutes late to class today! We also had to switch classrooms after waiting in the wrong one for 20 minutes (a random teacher came into our room and told us to move classrooms and that our teacher would be with us shortly). I was really surprised to see that the teacher being late was not treated as a big deal… we did not even have a substitute teacher to watch us during that time for anything. That would never happen in an American high school…or at least… good ones? There always had to be an adult in the room; students were not trusted.

april 6

Quick shout out to Korean high school’s school stores and their amazingness! Literally a 7/11 on premises. Shelves and shelves of snacks and drinks and there are freezer sections for frozen food and ice cream.

april 5

Today I tried this carrot juice… and it was… very carrot-like. I mean, I expected it! Mostly bought it for the packaging–love this bunny guy~

During English class, we went through common mistakes that Andrew saw in the students’ argumentative essay rough drafts and then read an example essay on the issue of punishing children with physical punishments like spanking. It was an interesting read and I agreed with a lot of it. As learned from my Hispanic mother, fear can be a good way to discipline but it is not the most effective way. 

The 한옥마을 surrounding the school is now decorated with these rainbow colored lanterns and I believe they may have been put up for Buddha’s Birthday which is next month. I know it is a little bit of a ways away but maybe they wanted to get ready for it a bit earlier to celebrate for longer? (This is my reasoning for it at least!) We were originally planning on eating with our friends at the cafeteria today but they could not eat early enough so we ended up having a 편의점 lunch instead so we would not be late to Korean class.

We had a quiz today in Korean class… and I did not realize that we were having one until about an hour before class started so even though I was able to cram some vocabulary on the train ride to 홍대 from school, I still ended up doing really bad on the quiz… I got a C… a high 70 percent on the quiz. I got all of the questions in the grammar section correct but my lack of knowledge on the vocab section really hurt me. And it was not even at the fault of me not knowing the vocab! I knew the vocab but if I did not understand the contents of the example sentence, I could not pick the right word to fit in the blank… I was really disappointed to see all the red marks on my paper…

After class, we had a bi-weekly meeting where 민정쌤 told us all the due dates for the current week. Our field learning reflections were due on Wednesday (though mine was not due till Sunday because I was not going to be doing my project interview until Friday morning) and then we had our program reflections (rough draft #1) due Sunday night. 

april 10

Liam made a joke after 민정쌤 asked us when the reflection draft due date was (to make sure we were paying attention and did not need further clarification) which consisted of him replying with “tomorrow.” 민정쌤 took the joke and ran with it. She retorted back with “Alright then for Liam, it will be due tomorrow!” and proceeded to write his new deadline on the board. We all could not help but erupt in laughter as his face drew blush.

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Enjoy this cute photo of Liam & Josh

I went home right after the bi-weekly meeting and ate dinner with my host family. I did Korean homework as well as some Topik practice tests (not a full test… I was only able to complete a listening test). I tried my best to be productive but my urges to sleep early took over! It was an early night.

04/09/19 Tuesday

School today followed the normal routine basically. I had my English mentorship class in the morning and we talked about globalization (세계화 in Korean). We discussed ways in which American culture has influenced Korea and ways that Korean culture has influenced America (skin care, fashion, new music show called the masked singer, etc) I also talked to them about cultural appropriation after we watched the new Blank Pink music video that includes Lisa wearing dreadlocks in one scene. It was interesting to hear what they thought about it because they all just saw her wearing the hairstyle as being influenced by hip hop and nothing else; however, many people in America would not see it as such a harmless move. Especially seeing that Lisa is not an average person but an idol in a group making a profit culturally appropriating black culture (even though that may not be the main intent.) Korea, of course, does not have the same deep history regarding this subject as America which makes its perspective quite unique. Although this is the case, this does not mean that such things do not occur or cannot occur in Korea or by Koreans. Ignorance like malicious intentions can also be used as fuel for the fire…

Moving on!

Our music teacher did not show up today so Katie and I just studied in the library. (Another example of what I was saying earlier! If the teacher is absent… thus far based on my experiences, we have yet to have a substitute teacher).

한국사 was just another lecture as expected so it wasn’t too interesting in that regard but it ended up being a lot of fun because of the third year I sat next to—민지. When I sat down next to her, she immediately started talking to me like she knew me for years but at the same time didn’t as she asked me many many questions. I asked her how she felt about the mock exam day tomorrow and she had totally forgotten it was next day! We talked about both English & Korean language learning and I showed her my current workbook (level 5). We also brought 민우 into the conversation who was sitting in front of us (He was in one of Katie’s mentorship groups last semester and was in my economics class last year.) We kept talking throughout the class period which was really nice~ Usually, I end up keeping to myself during this class, so this was a nice change. She even gave me the candy that the teacher gave her because she didn’t like any of the flavors! I hope I can sit next to her again. I definitely enjoyed the class more since she was there to keep me company. 

My last class of the day was my second English mentorship class. For today’s discussion, we talked about school culture so like with the other girls last week, I talked a lot about prom and showed them all pictures. We also talked a lot about couple culture and the “no dating” rule at 하나고. The girls told me that even if the teachers just see a boy and a girl alone somewhere secretive (even if they aren’t even touching or anything of the sort), they will call out the students and might even tell their parents. They said that the only good times for couples to meet are right before room check and snack time. But the teachers at 하나고 literally have no chill when it comes to enforcing the no dating rule. 서영 told me that the teachers go the extent of even looking at the seating reservations at the library! If they see that a boy and a girl are constantly signing up for seats next to each other for a period of time, they call them out on it!! Like who even first thought of checking up on that?? It’s really intense…

Today’s lunch menu was 삼겹살 (pork belly) and Katie and I wanted to eat it so much that we did consider eating at the school by ourselves and then heading to Korean class. That was how badly we wanted to eat it! But when we got to the cafeteria, the line was literally so long and we needed to leave for Korean class so we ended up just eating at the 편의점 again like the barbarians we are. 

I literally remember nothing from Korean class today… we learned a grammar point and crammed the vocab words from the workbook. Korean class is starting to feel very difficult once again… I don’t know why but this book seemed to really leap in difficulty from the level of the last one. I’m understanding less of the readings in it, the vocab is all really complex, and the grammar can only be used in very specific situations; therefore, I don’t find learning them as applicable as the previous grammar points (which I mean is a given seeing that my level should be getting higher as well…) 

After Korean class, a big group of us NSLI-Y girls decided to go shopping at the Express Bus Terminal just for fun! We usually do not often have “big” group outings like this after the school day but today we were feeling spontaneous. Originally, it was just going to be me and Katie but then as we told the plans to the other girls, more and more of them decided to tag along!

april 9

Basic photo of the scenery of crossing the river! But also…can you see the slight gap in the subway car doors?

Now that the weather was getting warmer, we wanted to ditch our heavy sweaters and pick some up cute, cheap spring clothes! So Shada, Alix, Harmony, Jenna, Katie, and I went to go shopping! I gave myself a budget and I’m proud to say that I was able to almost stick with it perfectly… it could have been worse! I’m happy with everything I got! 

We ended up eating some 분식 (street food/snack food) at this small place inside the shopping area. I have eaten at a small cafe in that area with Kaitlyn but I never got a chance to try out the actual restaurants. The food was so cheap! I would definitely eat there next time too. I got a set (made for one person) for about $5 that came with 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 김마리 (fried seaweed), and 오뎅 (fish cake). I couldn’t finish everything cause there was so much food! I definitely could have shared with someone and been satisfied (or shared with someone and also gotten something off the side menu.)

Katie and I ended up leaving the other girls to continue shopping at about 7:45 pm because we wanted to get a head start on studying. She ended up taking the longer way home so that we could stay together as long as possible~ Since we were getting on the 경의중앙 line at an unpopular station (and the fact that it was Tuesday night probably helped), we got to have seats! The whole time! Once she got off at 공덕역, I was able to sleep all the way up to my home station. 

That’s all for this blog post!! I hope you enjoyed~~ I cannot believe time is going by so fast… it’s really scary! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/06/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/07/19 Sunday

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

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

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

국제시장 1

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Quater Squad: Pizza & Board Game Night in Hongdae (04/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/01/19 Monday

Today was technically April Fool’s Day but I didn’t realize this fact until halfway through the school day. I mean I didn’t pay much attention to this holiday back in the states either so it’s not too surprising. 

Quater Squad 1

Sunrise during my morning commute to High School ❤ Just trying to appreciate the little things~

School was the same basic routine. I had politics as my first class and we just did presentations the whole time (which meant work time for me) and then my second class was English (a bit more enjoyable because I can actually participate.) Because it was April Fool’s Day, a lot of teachers were allowing their classes to go outside especially since the weather was nice but Andrew was not having that. He had gotten a hair cut over the weekend and gave the excuse that his hair stylist banned him from doing such activities (AKA being outside?) as it would mess up his new hairdo. It was a pretty stupid excuse but funny nonetheless since it came out of Andrew’s mouth—you couldn’t help but laugh. Of course, however, his excuse was followed with some groans. I empathized with the other third years, it was hard focusing while watching other students run around outside enjoying the spring weather.

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Dry Erase Board with scribbles begging Andrew to let us go outside for class

Katie and I decided to skip out on lunch at 하나고 today so that I could also come to Better World early to pick up my stipend before Korean class. Katie was busy memorizing her presentation on the way to class so we went to the convenience store to pick up lunch and then went our separate ways. I ran into Jenna, Shada, and Kaitlyn at the convenience store too so we walked back to the youth center together which was nice because I did not want to be alone on that walk today. 

Korean class was nothing new… as the feeling of disappoint is something I’m getting used to as of late (wow, Emma… could you be any more depressing?) We got our monthly tests back in Korean class today and… I did so bad. I already knew I bombed my speaking test which negatively impacted my writing score as well but who would have thought I also would have done worse than normal on my reading test too! It definitely put me in a bad mood for the rest of class… (In case you missed it… here is the blog post about this particular test.)

Quater Squad 4

This was a momentous occasion! Josh finally cracking his own hard boiled eggs! (Usually I would end taking the shell off of them for him during our break time because he would always do it so wrong! Mess everywhere!) So of course, I needed to record this moment.

However, there was one shining thing that I was able to look forward to at the end of class: Quater Squad hangout! I’m pretty sure I explained the origins of our name in my first original post so if you care that much to know, refer to this post here. Kaitlyn, Liam, Josh, and I met up to have dinner together and because we were just given some fresh stipend money that afternoon, we were feeling rich—even though we were the exact opposite— and so we were ready to have a fun night!

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Quater Squad!!!

We planned to follow tradition and get pizza but since class ended at 5 pm (before we would meet up on Thursdays when class ends at 6 pm), we decided to go to a board game cafe for an hour. Actually this was an extremely spontaneous decision. First, we were just going to walk around and waste time that way but after turning down some random side streets here and there, we came across “Yellow Meeple” Board Game Cafe and the name alone was enough to pull us in. 

We spent an hour there playing a round of RummiKub and then Jenga. It was funny because Kaitlyn beat us all at the first game (she was the self-asserted Rummikub queen) but was so quick to get out at Jenga even though it seemed that Liam was trying to knock down the tower on purpose looking at all the risk moves he was pulling. Honestly, I forget how fun playing board games can be, especially when the people you are playing with are not extremely competitive and instead just enjoy the playfulness of the act. I have been playing so many board games lately! Three cafes in the last three days! Also the place we went to had actual apple juice! Like I’m not talking the sugary filled apple juice drink (the only one available at most 편의점s), but actual apple juice!! The bottle itself was cute and the cafe provided everyone with heart shaped straws which made everything taste better? It’s like how using cute stationary makes studying more fun; the same can be said about utensils! 

Quater Squad 7

After the board game cafe, we returned to the pizza place only to see that there was a little bit of a wait so we decided to keep walking around the area and explore the many pretty cafes nearby until we got a call from the restaurant. (Also, note that we were all wearing our different school uniforms and probably were an interesting sight on a Monday night. But, I was having too much fun to even mind the fact that I was wearing my school uniform in public–usually a small insecurity of mine) We wanted to hang out at a cafe after dinner to talk so we made sure to scout out which ones looked good enough to come back to.

For dinner we ordered the legendary Quater pizza with our four sections being macaroni, meat lovers, bacon & cheese, and truffle & arugula maybe? I can’t remember but it was some leafy pizza. We also ordered a side of onion rings and ‘bacon steak’ which ended up literally just being thickly cut bacon pieces. The boys seemed to be the tiniest but disappointed. The onion rings were so good, though! Unlike traditional onion rings which are made by frying the literal onion in ring shapes, these onions were mashed first and then fried in an onion ring shape. This made them easier to eat because there were no moments where you would only take one bite and take the whole onion out of the ring batter because of its shape and tough-to-chew level of difficulty. 

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After stuffing our faces with food (Also big thankful shout out to Liam for paying for the entirety of the pizza! What a hero! Who is he?!?!), we went back down the narrow alleyways around the pizza shop and found a cafe to nestle in and chat at for the next hour or so. (Kaitlyn had to be back at the station promptly within an hour because of her sucky commute—trains every hour only.) Everyone decided to order milk tea but I stayed true to my roots and ordered a green tea latte.

With the boys, we just talked about a whole handful of things. Our relationships with the other NSLI-Y students, fights between ourselves, our thoughts on language improvement, our motivations, and even how we were feeling about the end of the program being so soon. At one point I remember telling Liam and Josh (Kaitlyn had left at this point) that living in Korea for a year has felt like a dream—like my life in America had just taken a pause. Everyone else’s lives continued while I’m living in a space time continuum in Seoul. But what I don’t fully realize is that when I get home, I will be a different person for sure. I will have changed. I will be put back in the same environment but I will be different and that is going to be strange. (I mean soon I’ll be in a new environment once again when college begins.) 

I don’t know… the talk about going home made me really sad. A big part of me is ready to go home. I miss my family and my friends and I miss so many things I took for granted but at the same time… I’m gonna miss all my memories here, my freedom here, my friends here. This country has also started feeling like it belongs to me to. Even though, there are constant reminders that even if I moved here permanently, that would never be the case. As cheesy as it sounds, I have never felt the truth in the expression about a certain location keeping a piece of your heart ring more true than with my experience in South Korea. (Though, of course, New York is a close second!) 

That’s enough for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~ Till next time! If you like posts about traveling or just want to hear more about my experience studying abroad in South Korea, do not forget to follow my blog~ Thanks!

  • Emma 엠마 

Introducing American S’mores to Korean High School Students!!! (03/29-03/31/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/29/19 Friday

Katie didn’t come to school on Friday because she went to the hospital for her cold and so I ended up going to  school by myself for the second time this week. I didn’t hold it against her or anything. I was just sad because I like spending the mornings with her. 

S'mores 14

School today is literally a blur to me. This could possible be because it’s almost been two weeks since the day occurred or because it was so boring and uneventful that most of the day’s moments are no longer a part of my memory. I’m assuming it most likely was the latter reason. Although this is the case, there was one part of the day that I enjoyed wholeheartedly and thus, even now, remember quite well! And that was my public speaking class! 

During this class period, we were all giving our How To speeches on whatever topic we prepared. I was placed at the bottom of the list which I was fine with because I really had no interest in presenting… but it also worked in the favor of Jason because he had extra, unplanned time for the class and didn’t know how to spend it. So I was able to use it up with a quality American snack! 

But before that, all the Korean students did their presentations and they all did really well!! I was impressed by their abilities to control the English language so eloquently. We had presentations on how to get a good amount of sleep, how to find happiness, how to become more flexible, how to secretly eat 라면 in the school dormitories, and a flight simulation speech by our very own 서린. 

Right before 예찬 did his speech, these two recent 하나고 graduates came into the classroom to talk to Jason. This is when I learned about the April Fool’s Day tradition that some Korean high schools have (Some 하나고 students told me it was just their school but I later found out that 대원외고 also does it so there are probably other schools that follow suit.) This tradition involves the recent graduates coming back school to visit their teachers (sometimes dressed up in their 교복 or school uniforms) and interrupting classes/ taking the students out for 야외 수업 (outside class). In Korea, because of the 선배/후배 (senior/junior) culture in schools, the alumni feel connected to every batch or class of students and so they come back and give the students a break from the stress of oncoming midterms by bothering their past teachers. (April Fool’s Day was actually Monday but apparently everyone knew to come on the Friday before.)

Anyways, I was the last one to give my presentation and because I was too lazy to write and memorize a speech, I just gave one on the spot—a nod to my glory days as an impromptu speaker on my high school’s speech team (I am kidding… what glory days?)

I talked about s’mores, where they came from, their ingredients, and the best way to make them: golden brown (fight me if you burn them to a crisp and then eat them). Then 서린, 현수, and I handed out the plates and ingredients to each of the kids and we headed down to the 매점 (school convenience store) to use the microwave and make s’mores. 

 

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Although they were not the real deal, they were still so dang tasty!! A lot of the kids seemed to enjoy it though there were the handful that thought it was too sweet (a given if you are feeding Koreans a snack that is basically all sugar). Even the Japanese exchange students seemed to really enjoy the treat! 

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After public speaking, I had lunch with Katie and all our friends and we also gave s’mores to 혜지 and 윤세 after we ate. The weather was so nice that we sat outside on one of the benches in the courtyard area and just appreciated the few minutes we had left before the start of our next class. 

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Economics was just a lecture as usual. Our teacher told as a few funny stories too but I can’t remember them now… during the second half of class, three of her prior students came in (two that attend 서울대) so we spent time just listening to them talk about college life and what they did at 하나고. They seemed to enjoy seeing which students in the class were doing the same 동아리 or 1인2기. 

After school on Friday, Katie had dinner plans with Josh so we went to the Paris Baguette near the station for a little bit as she got ready for that while I just chilled before going home early. It was a Friday night but I had no plans. I decided to just go home (take a nap) and do a lot of my homework because I knew I had a busy weekend in front of me. I was planning on spending every day of the weekend with a local Korean friend! I was excited for my plans (and also the amount of Korean practice I would be able to get!)

03/30/19 Saturday

So it’s a known fact that my phone can be pretty useless at times. It loses its charge so quickly and when I plug it into a charger, it can go from a red battery (less than 20%) to 80% in seconds. But, today it was really not working. I would try to open it and the phone would just keep taking screenshots of my lock screen so this weekend I only ended up taking one photo while hanging out with Katie and some photos of my host dog Andy.

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I met up with Katie early in the morning to go to 놀숲 to do some work. We were not the most productive (to the extent that Katie ended up doing my makeup rather than doing any conducive studying) but I was able to upload a blog and finish my workbook so some progress was made! Since we arrived there early, we got to snag one of the special tents in this loft area of the cafe which were really cozy~ It was more secluded and the tent-style structure made me feel like were children in our own little fort. We just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company mostly. Eventually our three hours ran out so we cafe hopped on over to Slob Coffee and I literally only ordered a cookie and did a little bit more work with Katie there before leaving for other plans. 

I met up with a Korean friend in 홍대 (of course, no surprise there) and we went to a board game cafe. I have been to my fair share of board game cafes and this one was nothing special. Drinks were okay and the seating was kind of crowded. I have been to much nicer ones in and near 홍대 (Like 옐로우미플). ) But it was pretty cheap and on the main walking streets of 홍대 so sometimes convenience trumps all!

We had dinner together (which was some kind of beef? that we had grilled: Korean barbecue style) The restaurant we ate at had a little bit of a line wrapping around the front door area so, according to my friend, we could tell that it was a 맛집 (Popular restaurant known to have delicious food). One cultural note, Koreans will wait in line for almost anything. So when there is a line formed outside of a restaurant, it is important to take note and return during a less busy time! Because it has clearly received a mark of approval by large amount of people. I found this quite interesting when first in Korea because I know for me, I would much rather go somewhere else than wait more than 30 minutes for rumored-to-be-delicious food…no matter how nice the Instagram photos look.

I also remember around this point in the year, there was a trend for 흑당 버블티 (Black sugar bubble tea) which had just came to Korea through cafes such as Tiger Sugar and Blind Alley. On the main streets of 홍대, you would see lines formed (while it was pretty warm outside too!) that took up the entire stretch of the street–almost to the intersection. I will just say that I never had the bubble tea while it was a huge craze. I waited out a month and a half practically before I got my first taste. (No regrets, though)

Tiger Sugar

Image From Google: Taiwanese Black Sugar Bubble Tea Trend in Korea

Back to the restaurant, a charming feature about it was that every SINGLE time a customer walked in or walked out of the establishment, all of the staff members would scream ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ depending on the situation. (I would have added in Harmony but it was very much not in unison… staff were all starting the greeting at different times and so it was truly a mismatch of sing-song voices). It was cute and I could not help but silently giggle every time. Maybe cause it slightly somewhat reminded me of the U.S.?

Another cultural note, it is not uncommon for someone to ask if it is okay to go and eat meat (in particular when going to grill meat) because of the 고기 냄새 (meat smell). Apparently, Koreans are cautious about eating grilled meat at times because the small can stay in clothes/hair. So my Korean friend would always ask me this–without fail–and I would respond that I never can notice a penetrating smell and Korean barbecue is always a go for me!

Afterwards, I convinced my friend to go to 노래방 (karaoke) with me because he couldn’t stop exclaiming how bad he was at singing; therefore, they did not enjoy singing karaoke—especially with people they didn’t know as well. I of course wanted to change this due to my love of belting out ballads despite my utter lack of any vocalization skills. I took him to a coin 노래방 where we sang a couple of songs. I did my usual ballads (Ailee, Lee Hi, etc) and Frozen soundtrack songs and we also sang some old school ballads and rap songs that he was in the mood for. It was surprisingly really fun! Interestingly, we did definitely have different styles of song choice for karaoke. It took him a bit to warm up; I had to keep reminding him to sing along with me, but it was fun in the end!~

At the end of the night we just went to a cafe, chilled, talked and ate some ice cream together before going home for the night. Today was a pretty packed day!

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Andy seemed to be exhausted too hehe

03/31/19 Sunday 

I also met up with another Korean friend on this day! I ended up leaving my comfort zone and (surprise!) traveled to a neighborhood other than 홍대…but it was not too far seeing that we only went to 신촌. We first met at the subway station and then headed over to the movie theater to watch the movie ‘Us’ (American movie from the same director as ‘Get Out’). The movie was a thriller based around the idea of doppelgangers. It was pretty intense and creepy! The acting was what really did it for me though. I enjoyed the movie—it definitely made me jump— but I will say Get Out was still better.

Afterwards, We went to a board game cafe (I am really honing in on my skills!) and played RummiKube and DaVinci Code as well as this Korean slapping game? I cannot recall the name of the card game but it involves slapping the table (usually with a bell) when adding up points. When we first got to the board game cafe, it seemed as if everyone was playing that game. Bells were ringing left and right constantly. I guess my reflexes are just horrible because I could not win. We ended up rewarding wishes to the the winner of each round to be able to choose punishments for the other. I believe I ended up winning 3 games out of 12… and none of my three were for that odd slapping game.

For lunch, we went to this hole-in-the-wall restaurant where we sat at a counter and were able to watch our food being made and plated. I had spicy 보쌈 with lettuce and rice which was delicious! Honestly, it’s becoming one of my favorite Korean foods to be honest. I thank 하나고 school lunches for first introducing me to such a lovely dish.

I came home after a long day of playing and did homework for the rest of the night. It was definitely a long weekend but well spent I will say. I was behind on work but it was nothing that I could not handle with the support of my host dog. Andy stayed with me the whole time! He is the best cheerleader~

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The Cutest!!!

Thanks for reading this rather long blog post! I hope my annoying rambles were not too long… I just write what I think…what can I say! Do not forget to follow my blog for more content!

  • Emma 엠마

 

Having (another) Mental Breakdown in Korean Class & Eating my Feelings with Heart-Shaped Korean Street Food (03/28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/28/19 Thursday 

Today was our March monthly exam so of course I was a nervous ball of energy the whole day as I worried about how I would do on this test. Today’s classes were pretty chill (just AP 미시경제학 and 힌국사) so I prepared for our monthly exam during those couple of hours—reading over the reading passages in the book, preparing OPI possible answers, and finishing my review of all the newly learned grammar points. 

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During 한국사 however, the teacher would still try to include me in the conversation. In the beginning of the class he told me that he was going to go really fast today so he apologized and said I could work on other things—and that’s what I was doing. At one point, I got really frustrated at myself because I did something wrong and I showed it on my face and he literally stopped class to apologize! He then asked me if I had the book to which I replied no and that’s when he realized I was doing self-study. It was a pretty awkward interaction (and in front of the whole class so that made it better…) At one point he told the class this 속담 or proverb about the roots of plants (the color being the main point of the proverb) and tried to explain it to me. At the time, I’m pretty sure I was able to grasp the general meaning but now I have no idea. Though, the really nice first year next to me wrote it out on a post it note just for me! That was a really kind gesture. 

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Katie and I skipped lunch at 하나고 and just went straight to the cafe next to the youth center and ordered drinks. It was cram time! I had to leave a bit early to walk over to Better World to be able to take the monthly test. 

What can I say about the monthly test? How about that I pretty much bombed it?? Not only that, but my OPI ended up with me leaning against the wall and on the floor sobbing like a child! Wow, it must be nice to have a stable emotional state like mine. 

We took the reading test first which I just wasn’t feeling. There were several questions that made me scratch my head in confusion and I had to end up guessing. I was really upset because when she said there were only two minutes left, I had almost a handful of questions that still needed answers. I was able to read everything in the allotted time but when it came to comprehending everything and being able to answer the questions… that was another thing entirely. 

Then we started the writing and speaking portion of the test and I volunteered to go first which might have been my mistake? We were doing the test over the phone again which I thought would be okay because I did just do objectively well on the OPIC and that was over the computer—not even with a real person. Boy, was I wrong. I started off the call strong with my 자기 소개 and my teacher started right off the bat with questions describing the current place I live which I prepared for and was able to talk quite naturally and coherently about the topic.

At one point I tripped up and she corrected me which I think made me become nervous. She continued to ask me questions but I kept doubting my answers and being unsure of myself which prevented me from thinking about how I could have answered the questions and instead made me focus on the mistakes I was making or the fact that what I was saying was too simple (like lack of advanced grammar or vocab) or my extremely shaky voice. At one point (I actually can’t even remember the question), I started crying. I couldn’t think of anything good to say so I started crying and my teacher kept trying to calm me down and I was able to for a couple more minutes but then she asked me a question about the economy and the relation between America and Korea which just made me burst into tears as I paced around the room for a minute trying to think of what to say. My teacher told me to calm down and that it was alright but I just kept crying and sobbing “I am sorry” into the telephone microphone. Before she ended the call, she told me to calm down for a minute before returning to the writing portion of the exam. 

Once I knew she hung up, I cried on the floor of that meeting room. I was so mad at myself for being like that. Why couldn’t I just take the exam like everyone else? No one has broke down in front of their teacher as much as I have like this (if at all to be honest). I guess I’m not cut out for this type of program. I’m too weak… I wished I could taken the OPI well. Do-over? But I knew there was no time. I began to resent my actions which only made me cry more. I ran into the classroom crying while handing off Jacquelyn’s phone to josh before running out into the hallway to cry in peace. 주연쌤 saw me and ran after me to comfort me. 

I told her that I literally just failed my speaking test because no words could come out of my mouth. She gave me the biggest and warmest hug I’ve had in a long time and let me just cry into her shoulder for a couple minutes as she patted and traced circles on my back. She cupped my face with her hands and told me that we all have bad language days and just because I had one on a rather important day (compared to most others) doesn’t make me a bad student or bad at Korean. She also brought up my OPIC score and how I am doing well. I smiled and wiped my tears but her encouragement only worked halfway. I understand that everyone has those days (Like Hannah Montanan said, nobody’s perfect!) but why do those days seem to happen so frequently with me? Why do I always feel so judged? And crumble under pressure? Some people don’t seem to have those days… 

After I calmed down in the bathroom (after a few more hushed sobs), I returned to the classroom to finish my writing test: however, I didn’t have as much time as usual because I spent so much time crying in the hallway so I was not able to finish my writing. I didn’t even make it to the minimum—600 characters. I felt humiliated and mad at myself for allowing my bad speaking test affect another part of my performance. 

Once we finished the test, our teacher proceeded to have us finish the rest of the last chapter in the textbook rather than allow us time to breathe and relax. I was not in the slightest mood to take risks with Korean and participate in class so I sat there with teary eyes for the entire last half hour of class. I kept thinking about having waffles after class with the other NSLI-Y students and ranting about how we did. I needed time to breathe. The room was increasingly feeling more stuffy. I did not want to be at the Better World Office any longer.

But instead as I was trying to escape the office with josh (bless him for trying his best to always comfort me), my teacher called me into the room and asked if it was okay that I skipped waffles and went to a cafe with her instead. This was a tradition that I loved and was a bit upset that I was missing out on one of the last times to partake in it but I took my teacher’s genuinely sweet offer and got tea with her. We walked together to a cafe near Better World and talked about my test. She wanted to get down to the bottom of why I had a literal mental breakdown during the class. I tried to explain my thoughts but as I foreshadowed earlier, my Korean skills were not their best today… 

I tried to explain my fear of disappointing myself and others and how mistakes really kill my confidence faster than anything else. I also talked about the fact that being alone in that room enables my body to freak out like that. We talked for a bit and she tried her best to comfort me but I still couldn’t help but feel incompetent. We had to cut our meeting short because my teacher forgot that she had a meeting with 민정쌤 so she had to hurry on over to the cafe next to the youth center for that. She walked with me until then and we had good conversation on our walk. I felt like I was able to be more open to her because of that meeting but I didn’t feel better about what I did this day at all… 

Josh and Katie were still waiting for me at the waffle place so I sat with them until Katie finished the last bits of her waffle. Josh and I had dinner plans with Kaitlyn that night so I decided it wasn’t worth it to eat a waffle if I wasn’t going to have it with everyone else as we simultaneously complained. 

Kaitlyn, Josh and I ended up eating at this 분식점 that we always pass while walking around 홍대. We shared some 떡볶이, 순대, 튀김, and 오뎅. It was all really cheap and it ended up only being less than 5,000 Won per person.

Also, because we were clearly not done with all that greasy, unhealthy food, we went to eat 호떡 at this one famous spot that I have been meaning to try out for the longest time! (서울호떡 is the name of the place!) Why this particular place? Because they had the cutest slightly pink colored, heart shaped 호떡! And wow… was it delicious. It was 2,500 Won which is a bit more expensive than the ones I am used to eating (cheap ones on the side streets of 신촌 or the 녹차 ones near 연서시장) but it was worth it! For the picture and the actual taste of the pastry. The filling was amazing!

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Thanks for cheering me up guys ❤

Afterwards, Josh came with me to buy ingredients to make S’mores for my public speaking classmates as a part of my speech on ‘How to Make S’mores.” We went to a foreign specialty snacks store in hopes of finding actual graham crackers but no luck… although we used Korean branded crackers and chocolate (Hershey’s was more expensive man… I’m on a budget.), we did buy American marshmallows! 

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And that was my Thursday! 

Wow, what a long blog post this was… and a lot of it was me rambling about my emotions. Honestly after reading over this post (while editing), I became depressed. All of my feelings of inadequacy and failure came rushing back to me because this day is one of those that would be difficult to forget–one of the hardest of my entire time in Korea. For me, there was such a difference between feeling these emotions during the beginning of my journey (maybe because I still had that ‘I-am-a-novice-excuse’) and towards the end. I began questioning why I was still feeling these types of emotions. I debated whether or not to include those parts because of how personal they are…but honestly, this was the REAL me. This was a REAL experience on my exchange. I do not want this blog to just be the highlights of my study abroad experience–as traveling and living in a foreign country is not all rainbows and sunshine and glitter. I hope this can bring some reassurance to those that are also going through a hard time. You are not alone; you are never alone.

Thanks for reading. I apologize for yet another long tangent ending off a blog post. I hope you stick around for the next one~ Till then!

  • Emma 엠마 

TempleStay in South Korea (2 Days & 1 Night) (3/23-24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/23/19 Saturday 

Katie and I woke up around 8:30 am today to start getting ready to spend the weekend outside of our homes. She ended up basically not packing any clothes so she borrowed a T-shirt, some sweatpants, and even socks from me. (Which, while writing this, have still not been returned to me… Katie!!!!) We had to meet the rest of the NSLI-Y program at the subway station around 12 so we needed up heading to a bakery in the shopping mall next to my train station for some starchy breakfast. I didn’t end up taking a photos of the bread we ended up sharing but here are some really cute croque monsieurs (Shoutout to Kaitlyn for sharing my first one with me a while ago and bestowing upon me knowledge of such a great French carb!) that have heart cut outs in the bread! 

Apparently when we got to the station, it was raining really hard and only one NSLI-Yian brought an umbrella so 민정쌤 ran out to the closest convenience store and bought us all rain ponchos. All the students were wearing rainbow colored plastic coats that highly resembled gummy bears… you could say we came in an assorted batch of colors and flavors. What made this really funny was that when we made our way outside once the final student was accounted for, it was basically not raining at all—if anything it was just a light drizzle. But hey, at least we looked ridiculous all together! 

We took this one tiny bus where we all almost didn’t even have room to stand let alone breath but after a quick ten minutes, we arrived at the temple: 길상사. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the program because they were locked up during the duration of our stay so the photos that I took last up until this point. (Though I will scatter them throughout this blog post so photos are not only concentrated on one part.) Plus, there was a professional photographer that took photos of us, so I have those shots as well! 

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On the walk there, we passed a famous statue of Korean comfort women from the Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The community (?) dressed the women up warmly for the cold winter weather with hats and scarves.

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The first order of business was giving up our most worldly possessions (cell phones and wallets) and then we went and changed into our Buddhist attire which consisted of these really baggy sweatpants type bottoms and then a corduroy vest that went over whatever top we were already wearing. 

During the beginning of the templestay, we met the main workers and volunteers for the day and the monk that would be taking us through our journey of experiencing Buddhism. We started off learning about the rules of the temple aka the rules we also must abide by while we are here. Most of them were common knowledge like being respectful, peaceful, no phones, etc but others were new to me. I knew that many Buddhists didn’t eat meat (so we would be eating vegetarian all weekend) but I didn’t know that you were required to finish everything that you put on your plate. Also, during the duration of the stay, we were supposed to try our best to be silent but that didn’t last very long…

We were doing the program along with another group of foreigners (a couple European exchange students from SNU) and then several other native Koreans; although, foreigners definitely outnumbered the Koreans. 

It was at this time that we also learned how to properly bow like a Buddhist would in a temple and also how to create the 합창 pose– which is just the post of putting your hands in a prayer-like formation.

The first activity of the day was to take a tour of the temple grounds. We provided our own interpreter aka 소영쌤 for our programming but for the tour part, we switched her out with one the of the volunteers whose English was fluent and almost 100% natural. She was definitely thankful about that because earlier the Monk was being quite a savage to her when she couldn’t quite translate everything (Especially when Josh would shout things out from the crowd to help her out). The volunteer actually attended 대원외교 and so he bonded over that with the rest of the NSLI-Y kids attending that school. 

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One of the more interesting parts of the tour was when we found out that this temple actually started out as a high class restaurant/ alcohol joint for rich men and politicians. There were also usually female performers to entertain the men that came to drink. The lady that ran the place was very rich as the place brought in a lot of revenue but she ended up giving it to one of the monks at the temple, after begging them for years to take the location.

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This unique characteristic is why some of the buildings and the makeup of grounds is not exactly representation of most Buddhist temples. When 소영쌤 was translating this fact earlier, she called the place a high-class bar. Everyone was a bit confused so when we actually got to see where people would drink (and where the females would change), the volunteer rephrased the explanation of the place so we wouldn’t be confused. (So, in conclusion, the place was not as seedy as a normal bar.)

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We walked around a bit more to see the rooms in which the monks sleep in and mediate in and the main temple where the monks (and visitors to the place) can go and pray. We also were showed two statues that our tour guide really made sure to emphasize that they symbolized religious harmony. One of them was donated by a rich white Christian to the temple while the other depicted Mary. 

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After our tour, we learned how to mediate like a monk. This involved a demonstration of hand positions and breathing techniques and then all of us trying out meditation for ourselves. The monk walked around us carrying this large wild stick (Don’t you love my descriptions?) and showed us how he would hit people if they fell asleep during mediation time. He ended up showing off the stick’s power (it sounded like it hurt badly but apparently it was not that hard) on Alix, Jacquelyn (good foreshadowing) and 민정쌤. I am going to be honest, it was really difficult for me not to fall asleep while sitting there. I was tired and toasty from wearing so many layers and so I definitely felt myself nodding off at times. (Luckily, he never caught me) Although I will say even when I wasn’t fighting with sleep, I couldn’t mediate very well.. I kept the thinking of other things—my mind was racing with thoughts about everything and anything. I wouldn’t be a good monk for sure. 

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Picture of me meditating…or was I dozing off at this point?

Eventually dinner time rolled around and it was time for us to experience Buddhist food—very simple ingredients, no meat, not much seasoning, and very healthy. In Buddhism there are actually a lot of different words for things that differ from plain-spoken Korean. For example, meal time is called 공약. And like I mentioned previously, the food you take is all the food that you need to eat! Monks do NOT waste food. 

Unfortunately, since there was no cameras or phones allowed, I can’t exactly remember what we were given to eat… what I can remember was that there was soup, different types of 김치 and vegetable 반찬, batter covered mushrooms and other root vegetables, rice, watermelon, and traditional rice cakes. Every single person had to wash their own plate and silverware at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, we had an evening Buddhist service in which we got to bow along with the monks at the temple as they had their nightly pray session. We were given pamphlets to follow along with what they were chanting but regardless of the fact that I can read Korean, I was confused at what page to be looking at. Either way, we all got to participate by bowing along with the monks.

We also did walking meditation after this which although it was very cold, I really enjoyed just mindlessly walking around the temple grounds. Compared to sitting meditation, I was able to let loose of more my thoughts during this exercise—maybe because I wasn’t as tired and because I had just eaten and was in a very calm and satisfied mood. 

We got the chance to talk with a different monk and ask him all his questions during a tea time session. We were given plum tea and a bunch of 약과 and assorted nuts. I was able to understand a lot more of what the monk said (before the volunteer translated) which made me quite proud. I could not imagine how I much I would have understood after only being here for a little while (say back during first semester).

We finished off the night with a movie documentary on a famous monk: 법정스님. It was interesting seeing how he lived his life as a monk. One thing that I thought was interesting was that he was highly judged by his parents. They had paid so much money for him to get a college education (not an easy feat now and not an easy feat then either) and he decided to leave the academic world behind and become a monk. But because of this tension, he did not help his family at all once he started earning money from the royalties off of his bestselling books. He had some ask for help but he basically cut them off completely. Instead, he would donate a lot of money to students who were struggling to pay for their college tuition and were near having to drop out. 

We all got ready ready for bed and slept on mats on top of the heated floor. I was expecting it to be rather uncomfortable but honestly, it was one of the best rests I have had in awhile. I think that sleeping on the floor is really good every once in awhile! I definitely do not mind it. I fell asleep right away and the next thing I knew… it was three in the morning.

3/24/19 Sunday

The lights slowly turned on and a bell began to sound. I looked around the room and watched everyone stir awake. No one had their phones so we could not tell that it was 3 in the morning but our bodies definitely were aware of this fact. We got up, changed, washed up a little, and then headed out for the early morning Buddhist service in the temple. Like the evening service, we got our own mats at the side of the temples and were given pamphlets to follow along with the monks. We finished off the service with another round of walking meditation around the temple grounds. This one, in comparison to the last, was actually very relaxing for me. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was the morning and I was too tired to think of anything else but I was able to just watch my feet while I walked and forget about the world around me. It was very nice.

The next program on our schedule had been highly anticipated since the beginning. We would be doing 108 prostrations or bows. This involved bowing in the right way that was taught to us during the temple etiquette presentation and with every time we came down to the floor, we strung a brown bead (handmade, completely unique bead! You cannot find them/buy them anywhere else. You can only obtain them by doing a templestay!) on a string that would later become a necklace. We were told that with every bead strung onto the string, we were saying goodbye to a temptation, something bad in our lives, worries, etc. I found this activity very peaceful and I actually enjoyed being able to count out everything that had been consuming my mind recently. I metaphorically imagined myself saying goodbye to all my worries: not reaching my desired Korean level, confidence issues, not making friends in college, struggling with grades in college, homesickness, trust issues, my friends moving on without me in their lives, not being able to find true love, negative body image, missing out on a dream job of mine, etc. (Was that information too intimate? Oh well…)

It felt good feeling like I was releasing them into something else. I also figured that the 108 bows would be more tiresome than they were. I felt wobbly by the end (my legs) for sure but I did not really break a sweat. By the end of the activity, I was able to look at my necklace, and its 108 beads, with pride. I had done that. I had made this with my own hands and it definitely was not easy. When I got home, I hung it on my vanity mirror and I cannot help but smile when I look at it every day.

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The finished product!~

We had breakfast after which consisted of 죽 (porridge), 잡체, spicy tofu, salad, lots of 반찬, and apples. It was all very clean tasting~ The next activity of the day was community work. For this part of the morning, we returned to the temple that we prayed at earlier and “cleaned” the mats that you kneel on while bowing. This process involved taking the mats out of the temple (assembly line style) and patting/smacking the dust off of them outside and then placing them back into stacks inside the temple against the wall. 

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Smiling faces after accomplishing the task!

To work off some of the breakfast, we did temple yoga next which was not exactly like my yoga classes in high school; this yoga was definitely centered more on stretching and breathing. It  was a nice final session to end this program before we wrote our reflections and got ready to leave the temple. 

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Last Photo of our TempleStay experience!

Katie and I went back to my house together so that she could pick up her bags. We ate lunch together at the shopping mall near my apartment– at 홍익 돈까스 to be exact, sharing 돈까스 and tomato pasta.

We also dropped by a cafe where I bought Katie bread for getting into UCLA!!! Congratulations Katie! ❤ We hung out there to study and chat for a bit before we both returned to our respective homes for dinner.

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This bread’s name was 남편보다 더 달콤한 빵 (Sweeter than your husband bread)

My host mom was not feeling well and my sisters were out so I ended up eating dinner by myself in my room that night while I was studying. It was a very chill Sunday night. Although I did no actual work or studying during the templestay, it was still quite draining yet rejuvenating at the same time. Probably one of the biggest examples of something contradicting itself but hey that is how the world works sometimes!

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That is all for this blog post! It is a very long one… more than 2,500 words yikes! If you got through all of it then… thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I really had an amazing experience doing the templestay. I am so glad that we were able to get approved by Better World as it truly was such a unique and eye-opening experience. Especially because a lot of Buddhist values can be seen in aspects of the Korean culture even to this day! 여러분 기회가 있으시면 꼭 템플스테이를 해보세용~ Alright BYE!

  • Emma 엠마

Hiking 심학산 With my Host Family & Eating Acorn Pancakes and Noodles (03/17-19/19) NSLI-Y AY

03/17/19 Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty relaxed—just how I like it. For the first several hours of the day, I stayed in my room attempting to complete my TOPIK practice test and do whatever else was assigned to me for that weekend. I was able to finish the listening portion but for the rest, I kept getting too distracted to do real work.

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Eventually 3:30 pm rolled around and my host family and I left to go hiking!! We even got to take Andy along on the adventure. We drove about 20 minutes out to this mountain and temple in 파주시. Also, Ellen, my host sister’s friend (They also hosted her once upon a blue moon through the NSLI-Y program) came with us.

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We didn’t spend too much time up on the mountain because no one really was physically inclined to go up any higher once we made it to our first look out point. We took some pictures and mostly enjoyed how happy Andy was to run up and down and all around the mountain.

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While we were climbing the mountain, we also bumped into a wild or stray Shiba Inu? My host mom guessed that he belonged to the temple—we saw a cat too. It looked healthy and well groomed so I bet she’s right. The dog was incredibly cute but literally wanted nothing to do with humans. It would cower and move away whenever a human got too close to it. However, it absolutely loved Andy and they ran around together while climbing the mountain. Actually, they got so close that the little dog followed us down to our car in the parking lot! If only we could have taken him home too!! 

We decided to take a late lunch at a restaurant near the mountain that was famous for making their food using acorns. Acorns are plentiful in America and yet I’ve never even heard of food being made out of them before so I was excited to have it for the first time. We honestly had a 진수성찬 (a large feast) spread out on the table: 도토리쟁반국수 (acorn noodles), 도토리전 (acorn pancakes), 수수부꾸미 (red bean wraps?),  and 도토리 사골 들깨 수제비 (Some kind of acorn soup paste?). It was a much needed meal for a morning of hard work—both studying Korean and hiking! 

Also, we found this small little store on the side of the road selling 누룽지 which my host mom explained as “crunchy rice.” From my understanding, it is the scorched rice at the bottom of the rice cooker which is often eaten in the form of a savory snack or with soup/stews. We bought a HUGE pack to last us throughout the rest of the winter. Basically, think rice chip!

03/18/19 Monday

This is why I hate falling behind in blogs… I forget what I did.. especially if I don’t take many photos to jog my memory… School was most entirely a blur. I stayed up really late to finish my TOPIK practice test (reading and writing portion) so Katie and I grabbed some coffee at the convenience store closest to the school before heading to our homerooms. The kids are allowed to have coffee in school but it’s not sold in their school store, so Katie and I felt like we were sneaking in some contraband into the school once again… so we tried our best to chug the drinks in a corner of the hallway before classes started.

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Katie and I ended up skipping lunch at 하나고 for the day because she needed to memorize her presentation, so we grabbed a 편의점 lunch and ate at the youth center. In other exciting news, I got to finally try the popular Korean ice cream 돼지바 (Literally–pig bar) that my Economics teacher brought up in class the other day. Harmony went with us and together we bought them for about a $1 each. We concluded that they pretty much taste just like those pink strawberry shortcake bars back in America except the outside is covered in chocolate flavoring rather than all strawberry and vanilla. (I do not think I am being biased but America’s bar wins hands down.) 

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Korean class was also a blur so I really have nothing to add to that… I couldn’t finish my writing assignment because of the fact that I procrastinated with my practice tests so I was feeling out of it during class. 

After class I went to Better World with a group of students to pick up our stipend. I also had a package waiting for me!! Earlier this month I ordered some jeans online cause I lost one pair (idk where it went…) and my two pairs of jeans (not black) have a hole forming in them or they are too big for me, so I had my mom ship them to me. She also included some hot chocolate and snacks in the box as well. 

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03/19/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was an exciting day because Katie and I would be meeting some of our English mentorship students for the first time! I had my first period with three second year girls, most of which I knew already as we did have classes together. It was nice seeing familiar faces! There was 수빈 (co-President of the school), 은서 (She is in my 정치와 법 class) and then I met 지연 for the first time. We spent the hour talking about ourselves—getting to know each other with icebreakers—and then we talked about our favorite foods and famous foods in our respective countries. I had a Google Doc of American and Cuban food from when I discussed food with 호영, 건우, and 근영 so I showed them that. We also talked about one day (possibly) leaving the school during our meeting time and getting 분식 and bubble tea! I really hope that can happen~ 

The rest of my day at school was another mentorship program period and my 한국사 class with the third years so I spent that time doing Korean class work. We ended up (once again) not staying at 하나고 for lunch because most of our friends wanted to wait till 12:40 to eat and that was around the time we needed to leave the school to make it to class on time. Instead of rushing to eat our food (after getting through the long lunch line too) we opted for some 분식 at the same place we adventured to find the past week. We ordered the same thing (떡볶이 and 튀김) and stuffed our faces until our stomachs were about to explode. And the lunch was cheap! About $2 per person~ No wonder this stuff can get addicting.

Once again, too much time has passed so class is honestly a distant, foggy memory for me right now. During one of the breaks, however, I got to watch Harmony, June, and Kaitlyn practice their dance. (They formed a dance crew with people from their class as well as Liam from 2반 and a supporter from the research project days.) They are practicing a cover dance by Lisa from BlackPink to perform maybe? One day? I am hoping at our closing ceremony! 

I came home right after Korean class and went out to eat with my host family and Ellen. We decided to try out the new meat grilling restaurant that was built in the space of the abandoned 설빙. The building was empty since I moved in with the family and within probably the last two weeks, that restaurant was finally put in its place with a total outside makeover. (Quite literally though, the outside was somewhat remodeled to look like an old, traditional 한옥.) It officially opened on Sunday so we were one of the several customers trying it out in hopes of finding a new 맛집! The place had a pretty nice interior and the atmosphere was family friendly. The cutest part were the paper cups we received for water. Each cup had its own little character drawing of a food item. I do not know if it was planned (or if we got lucky) but we each got a different character!

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We ended up eating a couple orders of meat, a platter of cheese (It was grilled and then eaten with the meat… my host mom made sure to give the last two pieces to me and Ellen because… American, that is why.) and we also had 쫄면 which is a type of cold, chewy spicy noodles. Honestly, I do not understand the difference between those noodles and spicy 비빔냉면? The way we ate it at this restaurant was way overly spicy. I’m good at handling most spices so I still finished my portion and ate what my host mom continued to give me without tapping into the other water supply on the table but the same can not be said about the other girls at the table—even my Korean host sisters. Also while we were eating dinner, I told my host family about the joke my 국어 teacher said in class. At the time, I understood that he was telling the kids not to sleep in class but I didn’t get the reference to the noodle. The joke is 쫄면 졸리면 안돼요. Funny right? No but I was happy to be able to connect it somewhere. 

That’s all for this blog post~~ I would rather not make three day combined posts nor have the organization of this post to be so jumbled but this what I have for you at last! I hope you enjoyed anyway the post anyway~

  • Emma 엠마