White Day Romance, Yeonsu Market, and Eating Lunch with Third Year Korean Friends (03/14-15/19) NSLI-Y AY

03/14/19 Thursday 

Today was a special corporate created holiday in Korea (like Valentine’s Day) called White Day. Basically, in Korean couple culture and youth culture, girls are supposed to confess to the guy they like on actual Valentine’s Day and if that said guy likes the girl back, he will return the favor exactly one month later (Guys can also just confess to girls on this day). If a couple is already dating, White Day is a day for boyfriends and girlfriends to spoil each other. Obviously, I have no love interest in Korea but I have my soulmate Katie so we planned to meet up after class on Thursday to exchange sweets {Something to make the day sweet after a rather stressful Korean class.} 

In the morning, I had economics with 서린 and we finished up our supply and demand farming game from the previous week. We decided to play it safe and mostly chose to grow 고구마 (sweet potato). Turns out, we actually won the game; we had the highest profit by the end of the game!!! The rest of the class was spent taking notes from a PowerPoint which took a lot out of me to not fall asleep during. I had to even chew a stick of gum because I was high key nodding off in class.

After economics, I had 한국사 (Korean history) with the same smiley teacher from last semester. When he walked into the room and saw me, he immediately greeted me—this felt so good~ However, I have a feeling that he is expecting me to follow along in class from now on. He handed me a notes packet and told me to share a textbook with the girl next to me and he even asked me a question in class about something in the book. {There was a fossil in the book that was supposed to look like a human face but it honestly looked like any old rock. He asked me what it looked like and I told him I had no idea which made everyone laugh but he agreed with me that it was not clear at all.} I hope I can lower his expectations of me soon so I can just do Korean class work! That would be so nice! {I also might have accidentally told him I went home for winter break which was a lie… I stayed here the whole time, clearly).

For lunch today, Katie and I ate with our third year friends (one of my English mentor-ship groups): 규원, 지은, and 주연. It was nice being able to catch up with them since it feels like ages since we were able to eat with them~ They are all studying hard and struggling through that third year student life. I feel for them~~ Though, I’m glad we are still able to keep in touch! I hope that we will continue to have lunches together~ 

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On my way to Korean class, I stopped by Blanc Bakery for some macaroons {one for me, two for Katie, and one for 근영 (He did the English mentor-ship program with me last semester and he is now leaving 하나고:/ to transfer high schools} and I also withdrew some money because I used up all my stipend officially, today, after those pastries. Unfortunately, I could not make it till Monday…sigh

I honestly cannot remember Thursday’s Korean class at all. I believe we learned three grammar points that seemed to be pretty useful—meaning I can see myself sprinkling them in to some conversations. We also got our Topik writing back and I did pretty well on it!? I counted up my score and I was only 5 points away from getting a level 5 on that particular test which was really cool to think about. It would honestly be amazing to get level 5 but for now, I’m just hoping for level 4! 

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Me annoying Josh as usual~

After class, Katie and I exchanged our goodies~ She bought me Peppero and even wrote me the cutest letter in Korean! I was so touched~~ Wanna know the way to my heart? A cute letter on cute stationary ❤ Seriously, I’m easy to please. 

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I went home early that day and had dinner with my host family. I ate with my host sisters and we had some seafood fried rice (I keep forgetting the name of the fish!) I spent the rest of the night writing my topic proposal for our individual research project which will last until the end of the program. I decided to do mental/learning disability discrimination in South Korea, focusing on Autism as it is really heavily stigmatized here. I also took a trip to the 편의점 and Artbox to buy a card for 근영 and to try the new apple cherry blossom flavored apple juice that Kaitlyn was telling me about. 

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I also succumbed to Korean trends and bought a black “long padding” coat…

3/15/19 Friday

Katie and I started our bus ride to school the right way (the only way really): with a jam out session to the song Country Roads. It is now our new theme song!!

We started off the day with music class together. We got to the room early (the first students to arrive to be exact) so Katie played a song on the piano while I roamed around the room aimlessly. The first part of class today was spent learning to define chords of music (chords made up of 3 notes I believe?) which took a lot out of me seeing that I have no background in music! Katie was of tremendous help and I quickly grasped the new concept and was able to finish the rest of the sheet by myself! Honestly, it felt good being able to complete it. Also, since I was participating in a Korean class, this accomplishment made me ten times happier. 

During the break time between classes, Katie and I went inside one of the practice rooms and she just dug out the chords for Country Roads out of thin air and we sang together while she played the piano. I’m not sure how sound proof the walls are (I speak from experience, I can always hear the male students singing when they are inside of them.), but if anyone on the outside could hear us singing… I’m sorry. That must have been painful! 

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The rest of the music class was spent learning and singing a new song called 수고했어 오늘도 which basically translates to “Today too, you worked hard/suffered because of it.” Its kinda hard to directly translate this phrase from Korean to English. The song was quite catchy and the lyrics were relate-able for any student, and honestly… any struggles.

After music class, I had English public speaking with 서린 taught by Jason—one of the now two (American) foreign teachers here at 하나고. Honestly, this morning I was dreading the class because I had no desire to do public speaking while I was here and even though I did speech team and was a captain, I don’t enjoy the activity of giving speeches. That is why, I will not be continuing that endeavor at the university level… But even though those were the thoughts I came into to class with, the period ended up being really fun. We spent the whole first period and a part of the second learning different body and hand gestures we can use in our speeches. We also went over all these different gestures and discussed the vibe they gave off. It was pretty refreshing and fun since we all had to move our desks in a circle and then stand out in front of them and do all the motions along with Jason—it was an interactive class! Honestly, it felt like we were doing warm-ups you might do in drama club. It was a lot of fun! 

Jason also talked to us about our first speech assignment: an instructional speech. We got to spend the last few minutes of class brainstorming good ideas for what to present about. Since I’m not getting a grade, I can basically do whatever I like and I want to make it fun for the other kids so I was thinking of sing something involving American culture and food! My first thought was ‘How to Make a Grilled Cheese” but it would be hard to buy/or make that many… my wallet does not have sufficient funds for that. I then thought of teaching American slang or speaking style but I’m not sure what exactly that would consist of. I also thought of doing a ‘How to pack for a picnic’ speech but I don’t have a basket for that and picnic foods like cheese and fruit are expensive here so… I still need to think more about my topic. 

Katie and I had lunch with our big group of friends and had a good time just enjoying the actual food cafeteria food today and chatting about everything. Actually, high status police men actually came to 하나고 today to do a presentation and so a bunch of really attractive looking young guys (and one girl!) with dark blue uniforms came in and almost all the girls stopped to turn their heads—they all definitely noticed the different male energy. It was really funny. 

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Since yesterday was White Day, the school set up this little event at dinner time that allowed students to get a balloon, put a wish on it, and then tie it on the balcony in front of the dorm and they would release the balloons later. Yesterday, 지은 told me that they used to always do it during lunch time so it was a shame that we were gonna miss it because we weren’t going to be here for dinner. But anyways, all the colorful balloons with messages made for a perfect backdrop for a photo! So we got all our friends together and took a group photo. 

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After lunch, Katie and I both had free time since we had our library classes. I actually had my 공강 and Katie and her mentor-ship period but because the kids haven’t been decided yet, it was a free period for both of us. I spent the first half of the period actually being productive and reviewing a grammar point but then I got so sleepy that I started nodding off while taking notes… so I ended up sleeping for the last ten minutes or so and it was a hardcore nap. I woke up low-key drooling and there was a mark on the side of my face from my coat. 

The last class of the day was Economics which is always a class that I have a difficulty staying awake in but I really think that 10 minute power nap gave me the energy to stay somewhat alert and awake. The teacher just lectured the whole time and everyone listened and added to their notes. But, we also had some fun conversations too! Our teacher, at one point, was trying to reach us about this one graph that showed how a person was willing to buy a product based on price. She used the one product that we all could get behind: ice cream and 호떡. 

She first started off by writing all the different prices of 호떡 from 500원 {less than 50 cents}—which she stated was the price of them when she was younger—all the way up to 2,500원 (a little less than $2.50$. Then she asks “Who would buy 호떡 for 500원 and I also raised my hand with most of the rest of the class and my teacher actually was surprised. She exclaimed, ‘Oh Emma is answering too!” which made me laugh. I guess she found it surprising that I was following along. We did the same activity with this famous Korean ice cream bar called 돼지바 which is basically like the strawberry shortcake (there’s also chocolate version) ice cream bar back in America except this one was both chocolate and strawberry, not just one flavor like the bars mentioned above. She asked a couple people how many they would eat if each bar was only 50 cents but most people were shy or really said they would only eat two. One of the guys said he would get 4 but I bet he could have said more! Our teacher, being the true honest gal she is, wrote that she would gladly buy 6 bars. I could get behind that, most likely. 

School ended and Katie and I set off on an adventure to eat some 분식 (snack food). We walked by the stall that we know is right by our 녹차호떡 stand but there was no one there. We didn’t really know where else to look so we mustered up the courage to walk through the market (연서시장) and get something to eat there. Our criteria was 딱볶이 and preferably a place to sit and eat. Our first walk through the mountain that was a lot of shops selling packaged 반찬 or other fresh produce and meat. We took this one random turn and then we did pass by some actual small sit down restaurants but none seemed to serve the spicy rice cakes that we had a craving for. Eventually, we tried one last time to walk though one of the alleyways and by doing so, we found the perfect place with a line even (good sign good sign)! We ordered some 떡볶이 and a variety set of 튀김. It was all so delicious! And it only came out to be less than 4 dollars! 

After eating, we went to a cafe for an hour just to chill and get some work done. I had to leave pretty quickly after we arrived cause I really wanted to make it home in time for dinner since I was going to be meeting Ellen—my older host sister’s best American friend. 

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When I got home, she was the only one there so we talked a little about her experience on NSLI-Y and her Boren scholarship and what she’s working as now. She’s so cool! A role model! As soon as my host sisters came home, we went to the 24 hour restaurant near the apartment complex and ate some 콩나물국밥 (bean sprout rice porridge/stew). Dinner was so much fun~ We talked about a bunch of things ranging from the drug scandal that a Big Bang member is a part of, travel, the drama within my NSLI-Y cohort, and some tea from when Ellen did NSLI-Y. I really liked the way her presence changed the atmosphere. She is really fun!

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That is all for this blog post~ It is quite a long one. I hope you enjoyed. I cannot believe that it has been two whole months since I last posted… College sure has been hectic and busy but I am enjoying it all the same. Hopefully, I can crank out more posts during these winter months. Until next time~

  • Emma 엠마

 

No School!! Pancake Brunch at Travel Maker in 홍대 (Hongdae) & Dinner with my Korean Teacher {03/07/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/07/19 Thursday

Today I got to sleep in till 8!! I honestly took for granted all the sleep I was able to get during winter break… mornings that usually started anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Now, I have to wake up before the sun is up; 5:45 am is too early to be awake! 

Why did I get to sleep in? Well, today was some national mock exam of some sort that I did not have to take since clearly I am not a student here {full-time student at least} so I, along with all other NSLI-Y students, did not have to come to school! In order to use our morning well, Katie and I went out for Brunch! We wanted to try something new {besides Flapjack Pantry mostly…} so we walked down these random alleys trying to see if we could find this brunch place that Katie very vaguely remembers seeing during one of our walks last week. After walking around for almost and hour, we did end up finding a brunch place but their idea of brunch seemed to focus on sandwiches? And not even good sandwiches either… it looked just like average homemade sandwiches on white bread with the crust cut off… not my thing. So we gave up and decided to go to Travel Maker! We had both been there previously but not with each other which made it feel kinda new? Plus, they recently moved locations since the last time I was there so it was like I was there for the first time ever. I ordered strawberry and banana pancakes and Katie got the same thing but in a French toast version. 

We enjoyed our time to chat together before Korean class {While we also did some last minute cramming— Katie memorizing words and me rehearsing my presentation for that day}. 

Class today was actually really good! I felt that I participated more than usual especially during the part of class when we discussed what we talked about with our host families. {Every week from now on, we will have a discussion in class about a conversation we have had with our host family and or school friends about a topic that was given to us beforehand.} Today’s discussion was on 미세 먼지 (Yellow Dust–air pollution) which I talked to my host sisters about last night at dinner and boy, did they have some strong opinions. 

Then this morning, I wrote down sentences that summarized all that they had said so when it was time for the discussion, I was able to use those sentences as an outline to talk about all that I did. I made mistakes here and there but because it was prepared, I felt confident in what I was saying!

We also went over the TOPIK tests that we took over the weekend… Luckily, my reading and listening scores went up {barely like I’m talking a couple points if that but hey… it is something}. 

The rest of the class periods were spent going over the reading passages in the chapter and we did start the grammar for today but only were able to get through 2 rather than the usual 3. Today was also presentation day but we only got through mine … I felt sorry for the others but I’m glad I got mine out of the way! 

After Korean class, I was supposed to have a little 상담 or (counseling) meeting of sorts with my teacher and so I figured we would just go to a cafe and chat but we both forgot that Thursday classes end at 6 pm meaning that we were both quite hungry. {I also wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner if I did the meeting with her}. Because of that, we decided to get dinner together instead!

I am not exactly sure where we ate but she drove me in her car and it didn’t seem to be too far of a drive from around 홍익역. At first, I thought the restaurant was a place serving Japanese food but they also had pasta and other western style foods there too–a little on the pricier side, though. My Korean teacher ended up ordering some type of Hamburg steak while I got 돈까스 (fried pork cutlet–One of my true love’s here in Korea!) But before we got our main meal, we got served soup and bread rolls! I was so surprised to see bread served like that.

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Dinner with my Korean teacher went really well. Before I warmed up, got over my nerves, and became comfortable, I felt really awkward speaking with her. Because class had just ended, I needed to try very hard to get out of the academic mindset. While eating with her, I had no reason to worry and mull over using advanced vocabulary and or grammar points. I just needed to speak and express the words that I wanted to say. 

She asked me how I was feeling in class and overall with my Korean abilities. I talked to her about the last TOPIK practice test that I took and how I kept putting it off until the last possible moment (particularly the reading and listening test). I explained that the huge amount of unknown vocab words and grammar in these sections makes me lose confidence and dislike the test taking project. However since the writing section depends only on what I know, I really enjoy completing that section. My Korean teacher reassured me that I should not be disappointed with not knowing what comes out on the TOPIK test seeing that we do not cater our current Korean class to the TOPIK exam. She said that I just need to continue studying vocabulary (like I have been doing since the beginning) to continue to raise my score.

We also talked about my bombed OPI… I told her that I was not like that when I took the OPI before starting this program. I was really nervous but there were no extreme silences or as much stuttering as there was when I did do the OPI with her over the phone. I also opened up and mentioned that when I do it in front of her, I have to stay strong because I am being watched but when I was in the break room alone, I almost started crying when I got overwhelmed with the questions being asked. 

In addition to that, I explained my issue with speaking to some students at 하나고. My issue being the fact that I will have things to say or I will feel the urge to say something but then I am too much of a chicken to act on the desire. However, during other moments, I have no problem just speaking my mind when I am surrounded with friends or in emergency situations. But also just random confidence boosts! My teacher gave me some advice after assessing that I think too much when I try to speak Korean (and she literally could not have been more right). Lastly, she suggested that I try to persuade the other students to talk to me by offering them candy. (I will be using that one…)

My teacher also talked to me about my personality and the type of a person I am. She said that out of everyone in the class, she sees herself–the most–in me. She also exposed Josh by telling me that he confessed to her that seeing me studying so hard motivates him to also put in more effort to study Korean. Whether it be because of my organized notes or my countless Quizlet sets, he honestly believes I am the hardest worker among the class. Josh is such a great friend and I am so lucky to have him in my life! She told me that she too is impressed with all that I do with my pretty notes (She asked me where I learned how to make them so nice! And why I do it. Apparently she wants to bullet journal which she thinks I would also enjoy.)

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My Lovely teacher!

We talked a lot and stuffed our faces with really good food~ She also paid for my meal which was really kind of her! I definitely could have paid for it. When we finished eating, she got up right away and booked it to the counter while I was putting on my coat. I could see what she was doing then! Overall, it was a really nice evening spent speaking with my teacher. I honestly could not ask for a better Korean language instructor. What would I do without her? I am a pretty difficult student to teach (I have some extreme lows and not so frequent highs…) but she somehow finds a way to help me through everything. I am grateful.

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Andy is such a mood

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

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

02/01/19 Friday 

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

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Shada & Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

02/02/19 Saturday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sketchy?

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

Running in to a Youtuber, Visiting a Shelter for Single Mothers in Korea, and Studying at a Comic Book Cafe (01/24-25/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/24/19 Thursday

We had no project meeting today, so the morning was free for every NSLI-Yian to spend it however they liked it. I decided to wake up early and work on my presentation for Korean class at a cafe, so I ended up at The Coffee Bean (and Tea Leaf). To be honest, I really dislike going to cafes alone; I really do prefer being able to study with friends! Though this is the case, I will say that I got a lot done at the cafe by myself! I was able to make my powerpoint for the presentation and memorize all my lines. Usually–because of a lack time–I only memorize lines well enough to recite some off the top of my head and the rest come to me after reading the first couple of words on my presentation slides. But this time, I was able to memorize it fully. I also think that it helped that I knew exactly what I was saying. I used complex grammar and advanced vocabulary but I made sure I knew how to use them rather than just writing things that would sound good to my teacher. While I was at the cafe, a YouTuber named Sissel (A model from Denmark) showed up. At first, I did not notice it was her. I was very concentrated on what I was doing, so I never looked up from my laptop. The thing that made me finally look in her direction was when I heard her open her mouth– her lovely accent gave her away! She was there meeting someone and I did not want to be rude so I did not approach her to say hi. I will say she is far prettier in person! I don’t even know why… but I was starstruck! (I later DMd her on Instagram to tell her that I saw her at the cafe and she responded telling me that she also noticed me because of my hair. It was a sweet interaction). I literally watched one of her videos the day prior, so running into her was such a coincidence.

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Anyway, after finishing up my presentation (and memorizing a new chapter of vocab words on Quizlet) I went to the center where my classes are held and grabbed some lunch from the 편의점 with Shada and Kaitlyn (That 김밥 life though…) I just chilled there and reviewed some grammar while Kaitlyn taught Shada a dance to some Jay Park. It was really funny to watch. (Though, they were actually pretty good! Especially Kaitlyn, she is actually a dancer.)

Korean class went really well today. We had four hours today so we were able to learn two grammar points and do some reading and listening passages in our textbook. The grammar points were really not that difficult and I can see myself using them frequently which makes me happy. But, I think the best part of the class was the presentations for this week. I did a really great job presenting. I did not forget anything that I was supposed to say and I kept a good pace and even did a good job with inflections and expressing emotions. At the end of my presentation, we had a short discussion on the topic: lookism. It was really interesting to hear from the teacher and what she thought about everything.

After class, I just came home right away and had dinner with my host family– black bean noodles were on the menu. I did not do too much homework because I was tired and since tomorrow was Friday, I knew there was no rush to finish anything. 

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But looooook at this! When I got out of the bathroom after taking a shower, my host dog Andy was waiting for me!! This was too adorable for me not to take a photo of! Anyway…

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01/25/19 Friday

Katie and I met up early at 홍대 with the goal of withdrawing some money because we both have officially accepted the fact that it is winter break and we will have to spend more money than our stipend no matter how much it hurts our cheap hearts. Katie met up with me a little late so we did not have time to take our usual 10 ish minute trek to the Citibank ATM. Instead, we wandered around hoping to see a non-sketchy looking ATM closer to the subway station and we did! This whole time there has been a 신한은행 (Shinhan Bank, my favorite bank might I add…sorry 하나은행… I have no experience with your ATMs so….) right by exit 3! And we had no idea! Well, next time, we will know! Now we can more easily get cash to feed our poor spending habits.

Anyway, we met up with our supporter 혜린언니 and walked to the Hmart Express near the Better World office in order to buy daily supplies for the single mothers and children we would be visiting at the shelter the very same day. We ended up buying two shampoo bottles, six adult tubes of toothpaste, 3 children tubes of toothpaste, and a couple bars of soap. After purchasing everything, we left to go have lunch at this ramen place we tried going to the other day when Josh joined us for lunch.

Luckily, this time, it was open! We all ordered the same thing and got to enjoy some really high-quality ramen while enjoying each other’s company. Katie and I have been speaking more Korean with our supporter which is always good. This lunch was a really good example of it because I noticed the times when Katie and I would switch back and forth between the two languages depending on the subject at hand. I also found myself saying some things just to be able to use recently studied grammar points so go me for putting what I learn into my daily conversations!

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We walked from the ramen shop to the shelter for single mothers which was only a 10-minute walk from exit 4 of the subway station. We originally planned to do some actual volunteering there but that is going to be rescheduled for another day and possibly a different shelter that needs more help. At this place, we were just brought into the office by one of the women that ran the shelter and we had a casual interview type conversation about single mothers in Korea and their lives. She basically restated many of the same points that our interviewee on Wednesday said but with a bit more detail on different subjects (Also, her Korean was a bit more manageable to understand I will say). One thing that she talked about more was the psychological support the women and children get at the shelter which really interested me because I also know that mental health can be a bit of a taboo and really personal topic in Korea (while it feels a bit more accepted by western countries specifically America).

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We were then given a tour of the shelter and I was a bit surprised by how nice it was. It kind of reminded me of a college dorm with a common eating area, shared bathrooms on each floor, and separate single rooms for the mothers and their children. There is a kitchen but meals are not provided at the shelter. The moms are given that space to cook for themselves and their children with the food they purchase with their own working money. While we were there, most of the single moms were at work or out while the kids were at 학원 or daycare (어린이집). There was one mother and daughter who popped their heads out of their doorways and said hello to us. The daughter was not feeling well so they stayed home that day. At this shelter, the maximum amount of time they can stay is one year.

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After our visit concluded, Katie and I said goodbye to 혜린언니 and went to go hang out at this book/cartoon cafe that I found on a Youtube video. The place is called 놀숲 (I guess it kind of translates to “play forest”) and you pay by the hour to stay and the drink is included in the price. Katie and I both paid for 3 hours (and a drink) which came out to be about 10 dollars per person. The place is really cute because there are cubbies with blankets and pillows and even tents up on this lofted area. Around the bookcases, there are also normal desks with comfy seats in case you want to read or study (sitting up). The place also sells snacks (like chips, candy, etc) and actual food (떡볶이, 라면, 파스타, etc) and has a PC room in the back– which I would prob never use but it is cool that this place offers so much!

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We were productive with our time for almost two hours and then we started watching a very interesting movie… we had to shut it off about 50 minutes in because it was too much for one sitting aha maybe we will finish it another day? We walked around 홍대 for a bit (Katie and I shared some of those candied strawberries. They seem to be very popular lately! I guess strawberries are in season now~). Also, something a bit strange happened. These guys stopped us both and asked if they could interview us about cultural differences between America and Korea. We concluded that they were not a part of a cult so we went for it; it was a good experience to practice Korean at least.

I came home early to have dinner with my host family and we talked about some pretty serious topics? It was pretty interesting… For example, my host sister was showing me the world map they have in the living room with stickers and writing on places that they have been to and want to go to. They have written the names of people they have met on their respective hometowns too which was really cute. After showing me everything, my older host sister even put my name up on the map! She circled Chicago and wrote my hometown–Lemont– on it and my name with a heart next to it ❤ When we were looking at the American part of the map, my host sister told me she wanted to go to the Grand Canyon but is scared to go because of the recent news. I was shocked and was like “What news?” 

Apparently, there was a Korean exchange student that went to the Grand Canyon and actually fell off. He did not die but is only alive due to life support–brain dead. He broke like almost all of his limbs and the fact that he is staying in an American hospital for an extended period of time means that his family is racking up the medical bills…. I can imagine how crazy the costs seem to Koreans because people literally go to hospitals here for the common cold (I am not kidding) and the costs for visiting a doctor are next to nothing (in comparison to American healthcare). This family needs to pay about 3,000,000,000 dollars to be able to bring their son back to South Korea from America… you can see how that is not an easy thing to do. There is also a lot of controversy about this situation in the nation because the family is trying to raise money to bring their son back home. My host sister told me that some people believe that it was the boy’s fault for taking that risk to go to such a ‘dangerous’ place.

We also talked about allergies and the deaths that have come about because of that (I know… some very strange things to bring up in a conversation during/after dinner.) My host sisters found it pretty funny that I had a lot of experiences having certain nuts for the first time here in Korea because both my mom and twin brother are allergic (very badly) to all nuts. So I was never exposed to them at home (and did not really have any desire to eat them outside).

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What was this pastry my host mom gave me? I have no idea…

After dinner, I worked on my workbook and wrote some blog posts. I gave up on doing any other studying to allow myself some time to relax and binge watch tons of Youtube videos. I had plans to visit my old host family the next day so I went to bed early to have the energy to deal with my energetic siblings!

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

Tour of a Korean Broadcasting Building & End of Year Orchestra and Choir Concert (12/20-12/21/18) NSLI-Y AY

12/20/18 Thursday

I would be skipping Korean class today in order to go to an SBS 방송 (translates directly to a broadcast by the Korean company SBS). I did not really know what to expect but I ended up speaking with my Korean teacher about it and she allowed me to skip class to attend. (My host siblings also went to school and then got out early so that they could also come.) The morning was simply spent studying and relaxing. My host dad also brought me this really delicious red bean bun as a snack which helped give me the energy needed to get through my workbook pages.

With my host family, we drove about 45 minutes to an SBS building (not really sure which building or station (?) as there must be multiple in 서울). We hung around on the first floor for a while until our tour guide was ready which was a bit awkward because all the security guards were staring at us. I mean I know that is their job? But it still was weird and I felt pretty uncomfortable. In the building, there was a taping of a show happening. The two men that were hosting the show were popular comedians. I recognized one as having been a member of the Hello Counselor cast: 김태균. We got to listen to that for a bit before moving on. The tour guide showed us around some of the floors in order to see rooms where things are edited, monitored, planned, etc. We got to go into one of the broadcasting rooms and played around with the equipment for a bit. I think one of the coolest parts of the tour was that we got to out onto the floor of the SBS News Studio! Seeing all the cameras and the lighting still up and the fancy news table and chairs were really interesting. I have never been in a studio before or in any area where things are filmed so it was a very cool experience.

At the end of the tour, we got to watch videos of other things that SBS is in charge of like dramas and sports and such. They had these life-size posters of popular dramas like “My Love from Another Star,” ”Heirs,” as well as ”Secret Garden.” My host dad was so surprised to hear that I had seen Secret Garden. He exclaimed that it was one of Korea’s most famous dramas, but I guess because it is quite old (I think from 2008 or 2007?) he was shocked to know that I had seen it.

After our tour ended, we picked up some groceries from the Lotte Mall across the street before heading back home for our lunch/dinner. While we were eating dinner, I also found out that our plans for the day were not over–we would also be going to watch an end of the year concert by the local 고양시 orchestra and choir (including a youth choir, too). The performance was honestly really great. The youth choir sang a lot of Christmas songs like the classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” as well as the less loved but just as widely known “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen while the orchestra played a lot of very popular songs. (I am not knowledgeable on the songs but I definitely recognized them from here and there. I think one has a title about some bumble bees possibly? Not too sure… but I enjoyed the performance a lot!)

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At night (and I am talking past midnight), I ended up calling my mom back in America because I suddenly was hit with a wave of severe homesickness (probably because being with my host family for the whole day made me miss my own family). It started off being just a call to update each other but then my mom hit me with that “What do you miss the most from America?” which ultimately led to me crying. While I was on the phone with her–crying and sniffling–I heard noise from outside my bedroom door. I am assuming that one of my host parents woke up to use the bathroom and definitely heard me crying in my bedroom… awkward…but oh well.

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12/21/18 Friday

I woke up Friday morning so happy to be on break~ I haven’t been going to school all week but today (perhaps because there was no Korean class and because the weekend was approaching–and the holidays) I just felt so good. After I woke up that morning, I filmed a quick house tour (mostly just of my room–explaining every small little knick-knack too. It was quite extra.)

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I ended up going to a cafe in 고양시 with Katie to study Korean while she worked mostly on college applications. We were there for several several hours before we left to grab lunch at a convenience store. (We love giving our wallets a break with 2 dollar lunches!)

I had gone home quite early after saying goodbye to Katie as my host dad and host mom had plans to go out and see a musical late at night. I was going to stay with my host siblings and watch a movie with them. My host mom brought back popcorn from the movie theater and made us all hot chocolate–she went all out for us. After they left, we ended up just picking out a movie from Netflix. I believe it was a Netflix Original but the name is slipping from my mind right now. It was your basic cheesy Christmas movie but it was nice to be able to watch it with my siblings. After it was over, we continued the marathon with one of the best Christmas movies of all time: Polar Express. When the hot chocolate scene came on, you know I was singing along.

Also, my older host sister showed me this app she has been using recently to practice English which involves dubbing her voice over clips from movies, tv episodes, commercials, etc. I ended up giving it a try too and dubbed my voice over a clip of Secret Garden. It actually turned out really well! I can whine in Korean pretty well!

And that was my Friday night~ I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Follow my blog for more posts about my study abroad experience in South Korea with NSLI-Y! (As I am posting this… I have less than 3 weeks left in Korea… Oh, where has the time gone? It is feeling VERY bittersweet…)

  • Emma 엠마

 

Last Orientation, Korean Fried Chicken, and a Night Out in Hongdae {09/20/18}

09/20/18

On Thursday, I woke up a little bit before 7 to get ready for the day. We would be having our last Better World Orientation at their office around 9:45 in the morning. This meant waking up earlier to be able to take a shower and get there on time.

I ate breakfast with my host sisters and we both left the house at the same time— them for school and me to talk about culture, communication, and “How my week is going.” For breakfast that morning, we had chicken soup, rice, and more side dishes including 돈까스 {fried pork cutlet}, 오징어 {squid}, 김치 (Kimchi) and 오이김치 {cucumber kimchi}.

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Breakfast! (Already started eating before snapping the picture, sorry!)

When I got to 홍대 station, Liam was waiting there for someone to walk with him, so we ended up walking to the office together. We talked about Korean class and other awkward small talk topics.

We were like the 3rd and 4th NSLIYian to arrive so we had to sit and chat for a while. 9:45 came around and someone was missing… Josh!

민정쌤 told us that in Korean {friend} culture, when someone shows up to a plan late, the other people in the group often clap when they arrive and force them to do a punishment. We decided on dancing or singing along to a song!

When Josh walked in, we all stood up and clapped while he huffed and puffed from what I presume was him being out of breath because of running to the office.

He went to the front, onto the stage, and 민정쌤 played a Black Pink song. Josh starts dancing but it looks more like Jazzercise. It seems like he was doing jumping jacks and getting his steps in for the day! Everyone had their phone pulled out, Snapchat open, to write this moment down in history.

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Our orientation consisted of talking about how different Koreans and Americans communicate. We learned about the term high and low context cultures. High context cultures depend a lot on already established context like things done, none verbal communication like facial expressions and gestures. This can cause someone to often beat around the bush and come off to be passive aggressive.

On the other hand, low context cultures say everything directly with verbal communication. These people are usually very blunt and can come off as rude. They may not be able to pick up on hidden context.

We established that Korea {as are most Asian countries} is a country that follows high context culture, while Americans {often} follow low context culture.

After that lesson, we went on to look at some host school case studies—commonly had problems— and how to solve them. They revolve around feeling lonely in class, getting yelled at for doing Korean homework, and such.

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We were supposed to have a cultural activity on Saturday together, but the rain made Better World Reschedule. They decided to show this to us through pictures on their slide show! XD

Once that was over, we were free for lunch! Better World wouldn’t be taking us out for lunch but this day was covered by the lunch stipend we received last week.

I sat by Kaitlyn during the orientation and kept telling her that I was craving fried chicken, in particular… Kyochon Fried Chicken. I told her that we should eat lunch together. At the end of the orientation, everyone was asking where others were going for lunch and Kaitlyn just said, “Emma wants Chicken.” And then it was decided. We would ALL {yup, all 16 of us} eat fried chicken. I kind of remember where the building was {but I was not gonna trust my two-year-old, rusty memory map}, so I used Kakao maps to guide our way.

It was farther than I remembered and I soon found out why; they had changed location. Everyone was complaining about being hungry or “lost” but I was like just wait, guys! I know what I am doing~

Eventually, we made it! 5 minutes till opening which was perfect because the whole restaurant was empty. We were able to sit all 16 of us at three tables in the back on the second floor.

I sat with Kaitlyn, Katie, Liam, Jacquelyn, and McKenzie. We ended up getting an order of the red original chicken {spicy} and the honey original chicken {my favorite}. It was delicious! Even more than what I remembered {probably cause I was so hungry}. I ate so much and was totally stuffed after.

After we finished eating, Katie and I tried to exchange money at the bank (Keyword: TRIED). We walked into a 신한은행 {Shinhan Bank} but realized we had no idea how to say anything relating to exchanging money in Korean. With no source of WiFi, we left real quick.

{Luckily, I learned the word to exchange in class today! I am currently writing this on the subway on my way home from class. 환전하다 means to exchange (money)}

I think Katie and I will try our luck again next week Thursday or Friday {After the 추석 holidays are over}. These two days are the last weekdays before high school starts so we will have to wait for the weekend if we don’t get it done then!

Class today wasn’t terribly bad. Yes, there were moments where I was completely lost. Yes, I filled three pages of my notebook with words I didn’t know. However, I talked more than I usually do! I gave extra information in my example sentences just for the heck of it! And, I tried my best to add to the conversation as much as possible.

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The Better World Staff gifted us some traditional Korean candy and snacks they received as 추석 presents. Here is Josh trying to eat one of them! 

After class, I decided to get dinner with some of the NSLI-Y students. It was the first time I wasn’t having dinner with my host family since the start of the program, but I texted my host mom during lunch to let her know. Jacquelyn really wanted 짜장면 (Black Bean Noodles), so she found a highly recommended place and we TRIED finding it. She pulled it up on Naver Maps, but it was still a lost cause– we trekked all over and could not find it. We then gave up and sat down at a Meat restaurant but left as soon as we sat down. We found out that each person had to order a serving of meat but a lot of people were not feeling too hungry or up for meat. We kept walking and decided to just grab some dinner at a convenience store. Honestly, I was happy; I was kind of craving 김밥 lately. We got our food and sat outside along the walkway, eating our dinner and chatting. It was actually really nice~

After eating Hunter, Harmony, June, and Alix left cause their commutes were pretty far. That left Kaitlyn, Addie, Jacquelyn, and me to hunt for some dessert. We all wanted 빙수 (Korean shaved ice dessert) originally but the place we tried first only had personal bowls— no sharing permitted. Then, the second place we went to… their story was their machine was broken! After that, our 빙수 dreams were shattered. We kept on walking, trying to get our sweet tooth craving in, and eventually discovered a tiramisu place. I wasn’t feeling cake, and I don’t think I like Tiramisu very much, so I didn’t get anything. But the cafe was really cute inside and the cakes were not on plates but in cups, instead! It was quite unique! Jacquelyn got the original flavor while Addie got earl gray. I definitely would have eaten one but I didn’t want to spend $6 on it. #savingthatstipend

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Me, Jacquelyn, Addie, and Kaitlyn!

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The fun part of my night ended like that, the rest was spent agonizing over workbook sheets, my presentation on 추석, and studying for a grammar quiz.

I went to bed at 1:30 am that night working on my presentation. I broke out my American snacks for the late night study session. I’ll have to ask my mom to send more!

Thanks for reading! Follow my blog for more like this~

  • Emma 엠마

 

Korea AY Arrival Orientation at Better World: Survival in Korea! {09/14/18}

Friday 9/14/18

I already knew that I was going to wake up very early this morning. And there were a couple reasons for that, like Jet Lag, the heat, and sheer excitement. I woke up around 5:30 am (after waking up every 30 minutes since 3 am), but luckily was not alone–everyone else in the room was also awake or beginning to stir awake. We all hung out, chatted a bit, and then got ready for breakfast. We found the laundry line on the balcony and hung up our towels. While we were out on the balcony… we also came across some stairs to the roof. Alix, June, Harmony, and I made our way onto the roof and enjoyed the cool weather and the beautiful view of Seoul.

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I studied a bit on the roof too

We had breakfast at the Guesthouse and then made our way to the Better World Office. Apparently, according to 주연쌤, one of the Korean classes will be held there while the others will be held at a youth center in 홍대. We were welcomed to Korea by the Better World staff and listened to a presentation by an embassy worker. We learned about what an embassy provides for the general public and emergency contacts we should familiarize ourselves with.

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After that, we took some more group photos (with the banner as well) and began our next session: the Korean placement test (writing section). Everyone in the room took the same three-page test which included multiple choice, fill in the blank, and choose a word from a word bank type questions. At the end of the exam, there were two short answers. You had to pick one out of the two and answer the three questions.

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I did not think the test was too hard. Honestly, the directions were the hardest part of the test. I could not understand those at all it seemed. I looked at the example to not be completely lost and am forever thankful to those. There were a few words I did not know but sometimes context clues turned out to be my life saver. Though I am very mad! I could not remember how to say to smoke cigarettes. All I could think of was 담배 and not the actual verb to go with it so my answer ended up just being 담배를 하지마세요. ㅎㅎㅎ

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Kaitlyn and I ❤

After stressing over the test (I trust NSLI-Y! Wherever they place me is fine. I should not stress… easier said than done, though), we left the office for lunch! We ate 버섯샤부샤부 (mushroom shabu shabu) at this restaurant that required us to take off our shoes before entering the eating space. I know this is pretty common in certain restaurants, but it was the first time I ate at one in Korea! I spent 6 weeks here two years ago, but never went to one. This was a great experience. We even sat on the floor with mats!

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Mushroom Shabu Shabu

Once lunch was eaten (we were all settling into a food coma), we had to take part 2 of our placement test. This was the interview portion. Each student, alphabetically, was called upstairs to speak to two Korean teachers for no more than 5 minutes. This was honestly an excruciating process because those at the end of the alphabet had to wait about an hour before they could test, which lets the nerves build up! While trying to pass the time, a large group of us played UNO. (Thank you Kaitlyn! That was such a good idea!) We played a couple rounds (just going to brag and say I never was last to get UNO). We even got 주연쌤 to play a game, and she won! The very first time playing UNO. Some people truly have skills…

Eventually, it was time for me to do an interview. I was so very very nervous but luckily 민정쌤 helped calm me down before. The Korean teachers were so sweet and asked good questions. I was able to answer and go in a direction that I knew I could handle well. I think I used a few good grammar points and vocabulary words. At the end, they asked me what my OPI score which threw me off a little. I asked around and they did not seem to ask anyone else that besides one other person. (The conspiracist in me wonders why!)

After everyone finished the test, we began the Survival in Korea session which consists of groups of students completing missions around Seoul with a supporter (Korean college student or recent graduate– around that age). I was in a group with June, Harmony, Liam, Kaitlyn, and Addie. Our supporter 성욱 took us to 동대문 for our mission. We had to practice using subway travel phrases and asking questions to strangers (and videos were recorded!). It was pretty awkward, to be honest. Some were friendly than others…

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Learning about our mission~

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Chenggyecheon Stream (청계천)

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We ate some street chicken (wait that sounds weird… we ate some street food– spicy chicken. Before we sat down, the lady running the stall kept yelling “빨리 와요! 예쁘네요!” They were trying to get us to come over… and calling us pretty seemed to be the strategy. It worked, though!

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After chicken, we did not have enough– clearly. We ate Bingsu. We ordered three and shared it amongst a pair of us. Kaitlyn and I shared a Mango Bingsu (망고빙수). While eating, June, Liam, and I practiced Korean by having a conversation. It was quite fun! Here is an excerpt from a funny moment:

저: 난 커피를 별로 안 좋아해. (I do not particularly like coffee)

준: 왜요? (why?)

저: 그냥… tastes like dirt. (it just…)

Obviously, we erupted in a burst of laughter after that.

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We returned to the guest house around 7:30 beat from all the walking around and Korean practice. It was very tiring, to say the least. I tried to stay up and play a card game with everyone, but I was just not able to. Sometimes it is okay to not socialize and get some rest instead. I hung out in Katie’s room with Kaitlyn, June, and Shada. We had a good time too— just chilling.

And that is all for Friday! Thank you for reading this blog post. Stay tuned for more! Also on the day I post this, it is 추석 in Korea! (Most Americans call it the Korean Thanksgiving…) I am spending all my time with my host family as we partake in Chuseok celebrations~ I cannot wait to experience it~

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Korea AY Pre-departure Orientation in NYC {09/10 – 09/11}

Day 1:

Wow! Looking back at PDO, I feel like it went by so fast yet so slow at the same time. The orientation seminars (as exciting as they were) dragged on; however, the remaining time in America felt like it went by way too quickly.

I woke up Monday feeling pretty dazed and confused. I had stayed up till 3:30 am the previous night watching The Fosters with my mom while stuffing my face with a pint of peanut butter marshmallow ice cream.. (Need a Netflix recommendation? I have binge-watched 2 seasons in about a week! I cannot get it enough– so much drama!) I could not shake off this nervous and anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that felt like I had a pile of bricks weighing me down from the inside out. The morning was rushed with last-minute luggage weigh-ins, goodbyes to my brothers as they headed off to school, one final walk with my dog, and a lot of teary eyes. My only friend still in my hometown came over to say goodbye and help me load the car with my 9 months worth of luggage.

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My Evee Build-A-Bear ft. my carry on

When I got to the airport, my mom helped me check in my bags at the JetBlue counter (and BOOYAH! No bags over 50 pounds! Both my bags weighed in at 42 pounds which is honestly impossible because they are definitely different weights but oh well! Better for me then!)

My mom hugged me goodbye in front of the winding, never-ending security line, and I would be lying if I did not say that I cried… A lot. Definitely received some stares.

I met up with Katie (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 Alumna) and Kaitlyn (EIL – Peace Studies 2017 Alumna) at the gate for our flight, which was delayed 2.5 hours! I hung out with the Chicago gang and we talked to fill up the time.

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Me, Katie, and Kaitlyn ❤

Eventually, we boarded the plane but because of the delays due to the bad weather in NYC, we had to wait on the runway for other planes to take off before us (or so the pilot said), but that took almost an hour so let me just say that we were very behind schedule.

Arriving at JFK was very exciting. I had been to NY countless times in the past but never used JFK–only Laguardia. So I enjoyed the new experience. After Katie, Kaitlyn, and I got our bags, we met up with some other NSLI-Y AY participants at the shuttle area. Lucky for them, their shuttle came right away while we had to wait for a bit.

The shuttle took about an hour to get to our accommodations, but we passed the time telling stories and eating Kaitlyn’s homemade cookies, Jenna’s Takis (which she pronounced so very wrong), and my brownies. We were still starving (craving real food, real sustenance), so Katie and I drafted up a message to send to our RD 민정쌤 to save us some pizza!!! 

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Blurry, low-quality photo with high-quality people! (now ft. Jenna, too)

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Equally blurry photo of NYC

We arrived at the hotel ready to eat some food! We picked up our lanyards and name tags, stipends and luggage reimbursements, as well as our NSLI-Y 10 T-shirt (one that I already own but stupidly left at home–and the one I got is one size too big).

Katie, Kaitlyn, and I scarfed down out pizza before heading out with a big group of NSLI-Yians to get some bubble tea. I believe that the place was called Shiny Tea and honestly, it was not bad at all…

We came back to the hotel, slightly damp from being rained on, and all hung out on the first floor in Jenna and June’s room. We enjoyed our drinks, passed around Kaitlyn’s cookies (again), and mostly talked. We wanted to play card games but the night just ended up being us getting to know each other. I had talked a lot to Katie and Kaitlyn (because we did live so close) and Addie (because she was a fellow NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 Alumna), but I did not talk to the others too much. I was excited to learn more about them and bond!~

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You know those people who look good in sheet masks? Yeah, I am NOT one of them haha

The night ended pretty early after room checks at 10 pm. I did sheet masks with my roomies Alix and Kaitlyn before heading to bed. We all knew what was waiting for us the next day: lots and lots of presentations.

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Day 2:

The second day of PDO began with an early wake-up call. Everyone met in the lobby of the hotel at 7:45 am dressed in business casual attire. We were told by iEarn to dress nice because later that day we were meeting a State Department worker from the ECA (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs).

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We ate breakfast at this place located in the basement of the building that houses the iEarn office. It was not exactly a breakfast buffet because the cost of the food was based on weight (I believe 53 cents per ounce) but nonetheless, there was quite a spread.

After breakfast, we all piled into this large meeting room in order to begin the presentations. I do not want to go in very much detail about them because we did (basically) the same things I wrote about in my blog post about being an alumni leader for the Korea Summer 2018 PDO. (I will link that post, if you are curious to know more details about all of our sessions, right here.)

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Walking to the iEarn office~

We made a working agreement that all of us AY students must abide by during the 9 months we are together like be accountable (for yourself and others), be open-minded, and most importantly, *communication IS key* We signed the bottom to truly make it an enforceable contract!

We went through 5 sessions: intentional language learner, model citizen ambassador, safe and savvy traveler, thoughtful and engaged host student, and open-minded and flexible cultural explorer. We did a few icebreakers about obvious traits of cultures and hidden characteristics, talked about safety and program rules as well as discussing reasonable language gains to expect by the end of the program.

We ended up actually receiving our pre-program OPI scores on a sheet with our expected ending score and a description of each language level. From my performance on the OPI back in July, I was given the score Intermediate Low, which I was totally fine with. I mean, I have not studied Korean formally (or honestly consistently) for 2 years now. I just hope I can perform that well on the placement test we take on the first full day in Korea!!

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The State Department Official Dina Suggs congratulated us on the achievement of receiving this scholarship and embarking on such an adventure. She spoke a bit about NSLI-Y goals and other scholarships/fellowships that could be great opportunities for NSLI-Y alumni.

Once presentations were over, we all headed up a few floors to the iEarn office for a very last meal in America: Chipotle! I got to sit at a table with Liam, Jack (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 alumnus), Josh (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2017 alumnus), McKenzie, Teresa (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 & NSLI-Y Korea AY 2017-2018), Minjeong (our resident director), and Ligaya (iEarn staff member) and we talked about a variety of things! I was able to get to know more about Teresa’s experience because she did attend the same Korean high school that I will be as well as talk with the other summer alumni, too.

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We also had some interesting conversations about host families… Can you tell that I am super excited to meet mine? I cannot wait! (Also later that night, I got an email from one of my host sisters. She wrote it in English, and it was very cute. She told me who in the family also enjoyed my same hobbies so that I could enjoy those things with them. The misspelled words were endearing, and I was happy to know that she could understand my letter enough to reply back.)

After Chipotle, we all left the iEarn building and walked over to the Columbia University campus. (My first time visiting my future school!!) We took some group photos before walking back to the hotel.

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Group Photo!

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Addie (NSLI-Y Seoul Summer 2016 alumna) and me

A large group of us changed out of our business casual attire into some comfy clothes and bought frozen yogurt at 16 Handles only a couple blocks away from our accommodations.

We were then feeling spontaneous! We were quirky NSLI-Y participants that took a night walk around a small park. The trails were completely dark and it even started drizzling a little bit, but the laughs and stories made it a great memory.

I ended the night chilling with my roomies and packing up all our stuff for our flight to Korea the following morning. My lovely friend Kaitlyn kept us up by talking about her job at the Field Museum where she worked with dead insects– yes, you read that right. Well, I admit that the jewel beetles looked somewhat cool but I will forever feel grossed out by bugs.

Thank you for reading this post! PDO was a success, and the entire night was filled with nerves and a lot of anticipation. Stay tuned for more posts about Korea–  more posts from when I actually arrive! (Currently on the plane while writing this! Exactly ten more hours left~)

  • Emma 엠마

2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop PT. 3 (Jan 7th, 2018)

The last day of the 2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop proved to be a very fun (yet emotional) day. I was very excited to be spending more time with the people I had been chatting with over Facebook and Instagram for many months leading up to this workshop; however, I was also very sad to think that I had to leave them only having just met them. This would also be my last time as a NSLI-Y Alumni representative as you can only renew the position for one year. I better make the most out of this year and these friendships! 😉

We started off the day eating breakfast at the hotel buffet like previously. This day I ended up sitting with my roommate Selin, Deni, Remi, and Jeremy. I got to hear more about their respective experiences and all about Remi’s adult life– he is the only alumni representative who is out of college with a career.

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Selin, Deni,  & Jeremy (Remi is MIA because he had gotten up to get a second helping.) ^^

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A filling, “healthy” breakfast with a lot of variety: scrambled eggs, Frosted Flakes cereal, fruit, chocolate muffin, and potatoes.

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I also took a picture of my girls Anjali, Paula, and Shraddha because they were looking extra cute this morning! ❤ I’m going to miss them a lot!!~

After breakfast, we got down to business and headed to a small conference room on the first floor of the hotel. At this time, we discussed what characteristics make a good speaker as well as tips for commanding a room and not letting a fear of public speaking take over one’s presentation. We did this practice activity called giving “elevator speeches.” Basically, the premise was that you should be able to introduce yourself and state your purpose/goal all while being on a quick elevator ride. This was deemed to be about a minute of speaking. (And it is a lot harder than it sounds, trust me!) I partnered up with Shraddha and we practiced giving our speeches. We both had to restart many many times but eventually we made it through. And, the jokes and laughter just added to the learning process. This was honestly the same exact thing we did last year at the representative workshop; however, I needed it again because I never ended up having to use my “elevator speech” last year. As a virtual rep who really only hosted/partook in webinars, I had all the time I needed to introduce myself and my role. So, I appreciated this repetition.

After the public speaking session, we all practiced answering common questions about NSLI-Y the “right way,” meaning the way that NSLI-Y would want us to answer. (This does not mean we would lie or not give personal experiences, we just had to make sure we did not guarantee things that the program doesn’t promise as well as remind the applicants about the true purpose of the program.) These questions included:

  • “How safe are the NSLI-Y countries?”
  • “Is previous language study required?”
  • “Will there be a lot of free time during the program?”
  • “How hard are language classes?”
  • “What type of person is NSLI-Y looking for?”

We then chose partners to hold us accountable for hosting our requirement of three events (2 in-person/virtual and 1 outreach event). I partnered up with Lila (West Coast – San Francisco) and Josh (Southwest – Dallas, TX).

After everything, it was almost 11 am. Some of the alum reps had to start calling taxis and departing to the airport for their flights back home. Luckily, my flight was not till 2:30 (and then later, it was even delayed!), so I could stay with everyone for a bit longer.

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Had to get a picture with Emily and Kate before I left!! 🙂

A group of us decided to go out and explore DC some more. Paula wanted to go and get a picture in front of the famous Department of State sign, so Paula, Dean, Deni, Nicole, and I went on a journey to the State Department. At first we were following Paula’s Google maps which got us lost… very very lost. We ending up walking so far (and in the wrong direction). Eventually Nicole and I saw some landmarks that looked familiar, and we tried to redirect the group in the right direction. Though we may all be bad at directions (in the US and Abroad), we did find the building and the sign!

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Look at us go! ❤

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Before we found the Department of State, we stumbled upon the United States Diplomacy Center. It was quite a chic building!

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The Sun was in my eyes! haha During our walk, I got to hear A LOT of stories about Harvard from Deni and Nicole.

 

Eventually, we had to make our way back to the hotel. Paula and I would be going back on the same flight while Nicole stayed till Monday for some presentations. Deni’s flight got delayed by quite a few hours but Dean was out with us later than he was supposed to be. Emily kept messaging us asking if Dean had left yet and though we reassured her, Dean was still scrambling to get an Uber. He eventually had to cancel cause the Uber passed our location! He expressed his anger on the Facebook group later when he was charged a cancellation fee. XD

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Dean calling his Uber. (Yes he walked all the way to the State Department on crutches.)

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Crossing the street trying to get a taxi

When Paula and I got back to the hotel, we had to say our final goodbyes~ I was not ready to leave everyone!

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My faves Jeremy and Nicole~ ❤

At the airport, Paula and I grabbed lunch and we talked some more. Before we knew it, we were back at O’Hare International Airport. On the plane ride home, I was feeling really grateful that I got the chance to renew as a rep as well as visit DC once more. I love the city so much!~ ❤ NSLI-Y has granted me so many opportunities as an alumni, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!!!

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O’Hare decorated for Christmas!

That is all for this blog post (and this series about the 2018 Alumni Representative Workshop!). I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope that this post can inspire NSLI-Y alumni (or future NSLI-Y alumni) to apply to be an alum rep! You will not regret it! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out~ I will be hosting my first event as an alum rep late this month. I am so excited for it! I will definitely write a blog post about it~ Stay tuned! 고마워요! 다음에 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop Pt. 2 (Jan 6th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분!

On our full day of the Alumni Rep Workshop (01/06/18), we would be having a majority of the presentations American Councils planned for us as well as learning about our planning expectations and requirements. (A lot of things would be repeated from last year, but I needed to hear more about in-person planning as I did not really pay attention to that aspect last year–because it wasn’t my role.)

We had breakfast at the hotel starting from 7:30 am until 8:30 am. I got up an hour earlier to take a shower and get dressed and my roommate Selin and I headed down for breakfast at 7:45 am. During breakfast, I sat with Jacquelyn, Shraddha, and Selin and was able to hear more about their experiences with NSLI-Y and their daily life in wherever they lived in America. The breakfast was really delicious! I usually never eat breakfast (and if I do it is a granola bar), so the spread for breakfast seemed so glamorous and luxurious! There were chefs who would make you a personal omelette with whatever you wanted!

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My roommate Selin and Shraddha at breakfast

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I took advantage of this breakfast by getting a lot of things: waffles, southern style potatoes, bacon, eggs, fruit, and a chocolate muffin

After breakfast, we walked to American Councils (except for Dean who took a couple people with him in an Uber because of his injury. If only AC knew that he crutched all the way to the Lincoln memorial the previous night… haha). When we first made it back to the American Councils Office,  we did some icebreakers to learn more about each other. We all made two circles (an inner and an outer) to talk about some highlights of our NSLI-Y experience, goals for the alumni rep role, etc.

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Walking to American Councils Saturday morning~

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Nicole ❤

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Ready for a long day of presentations!~

Then, like last year, we had presentations on our virtual presence on social media, in-person event planning, planning logistics, different types of events, and we were introduced to some resources we can access from the US Government.

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Like last year, American Councils gave out prizes to the reps that could answer some NSLI-Y/Alumni Association “trivia” questions. Shraddha and I both picked out some pretty cool merchandise. Can’t wait to use my thermos!!!

One difference between this year and last year was that American Councils had some of the alumni representatives (renewed and new) give presentations on the different types of events. First, we skyped past NSLI-Y Alum rep for Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic Region) Andy Nguyen! Ahhhh it was so great to see him again. Before the video was set up completely, Nicole and I chatted with him for a bit telling him how much we miss him. He did a presentation on all of his events (which were EXTREMELY successful) and his tips for planning events and getting a good turn-out.

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Andy about to present to us

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haha PC: Nicole’s Snapchat // I do not remember what I was looking out but this is hilarious!

Then some of the other alumni reps presented about their experience with one of the types of events (+ tips and advice). For example, I had a presentation on my experience having a virtual Serve event. (I hosted a webinar with Youth Service America for Global Youth Service Day in April.) Jeremy (Virtual Engagement) presented about virtual events, Rahul (Virtual Engagement) presented about Outreach events, Jacquelyn (Midwest- Louisville, KY) presented about Learn events, etc.

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Deni presenting about his Grow (in-person in Boston) alum events from last year.

After what seemed like an endless amount of hours spent on presentations and note-taking, we had lunch!

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My lunch consisted of a roast beef sandwich, salsa sun chips, and a brownie cookie.

After lunch, we got into small groups to plan out some events for the year. (As an alum rep, we are required to organize and host at least three events: two in-person or virtual events and one outreach event.) Since I will be attending university in NYC next fall, I will have to host all my events before I move. Josh was in the same situation as me, so we focused on planning all our desired events during the late winter, spring, and summer months. I am really excited to meet and hang out more with the NSLI-Y Chicago alumni!~

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My small group for the event-planning activity!! I worked with Paula (Northeast — NYC), Josh (Southwest — Dallas), and Rowan (West Coast — LA).

Also, before today’s segment of the workshop, we were told to take a survey to asses our leadership style. After adding up all my points, I had more or less a leadership style known as East–Vision. We got into groups based on our leadership style (I was placed with Rowan, Lila, and Justin), and wrote out a poster on tips we would give others to work with us.

Main Points of the East-Vision Leadership

  • Visionary who sees the big picture
  • Likes to experiment and explore
  • Looks for overarching themes and ideas
  • Generative and creative thinker; able to think outside the box
  • very idea-oriented; focuses on future thought

Then, we were getting ready to end the workshop activities for the day. Brian gave a debriefing and told us all the housekeeping rules for the night. We got reimbursed for transportation to get to the airport (to and back) from yesterday, and we also took some time to take photos in front of the iconic American Councils wall (It was in the room we stayed in last year!)

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They decorated for Christmas!~ So adorable!!! 🙂

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Front: Paula, Me, Jacquelyn, and Shraddha              Back: Jeremy, Dean, and Nicole

With Old Friends!~

With New Friends!~

American Councils would be taking us out to dinner at Bangkok Joe’s in Georgetown. We would also be given time to walk around Georgetown and experience Georgetown Glow (An outdoor light exhibit). We all walked back to the hotel, got changed and dressed for dinner (For me, this meant putting on more layers. It was so cold!). We took taxis to the same restaurant we ate at last year.

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I ordered General Tso’s Stir-fried Lomein with Fried Shrimp

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Alumni Representative Dinner! (Left to Right: Josh, Justin, Jacquelyn, Dean, Selin, Deni, and Caroline)

After dinner, we split off with Brian to find the Georgetown Glow exhibits and just hang out in Georgetown. (Many of us, including me, wanted to stop by Georgetown Cupcake and then sit down and chill in a fun cafe.) The light exhibits were not close at all. The first one was right in front of the restaurant and Washington Harbor, but the other ones were scattered all around.

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When I first saw it, I thought they just wrapped some pretty, glow-in-the-dark ribbon around the trees. XD

The second light exhibit consisted of light up floor “tiles” on the ground. When you step on them, they change from their normally blue color to either a purplish-pink color or a reddish-yellow color. It was a lot of fun to run around on them!

The third one was more of a trek away– and up a hill! And though it was very very cold, I got to talk to Nicole, Shraddha, and Jeremy more. I talked to Nicole about her first semester at Harvard, Shraddha’s experience helping out at a refugee center, and Jeremy and I bonded over our NSLI-Y Korea summer experiences.

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This gave me Olympics and Sonic the Hedgehog Vibes. Anyone else? No? ….

After walking for awhile, we made it to Georgetown Cupcake! I, and a couple other reps in the group, stopped by to buy cupcakes. The line was so long! I was surprised… but I still waited in line! XD I ended up getting a Happy New Year cupcake (chocolate) and a gluten-free peanut butter cupcake (chocolate).

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❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

We then walked over to the cafe right across the street to hang out, eat our cupcakes, and some of the reps ordered coffee or hot chocolate. We lost track of time, and I had to remind Brian what time it was. (We were late to the meeting spot but… it was worth it! haha)

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Cafe Aesthetic!~ ❤

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All the alumni reps took over the second floor! haha XD

We arrived back at the hotel, in taxis, around 8:30 pm. We messaged back and forth on our group chat to figure out whose room we should hang out in, but we decided to just all hang out in the lounge area on the first floor of the hotel (close to where we ate breakfast in the morning). A lot of the reps were doing homework or writing essays for some programs so there was a multitude of laptops out. (I had mine, but it took me about half an hour to get it connected to the internet. Thanks to Anjali for helping me figure it out!)

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The qualityyyyy (Jeremy, Deni, and I)

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I stayed up till 2 in the morning talking with the alumni reps! Till 1 am, Jeremy, Dean, and I talked about our NSLI-Y Korea Summer experiences. It was super interesting to hear about Dean’s experience because his was the most recent and he had gone to Jeonju (전주) instead of Seoul (서울). They took Korean classes at a high school instead of a university like Jeremy and I had. (Additionally, he was quite popular at his school. The girls were head over heels for him! XD)

Then From 1 to 2 am, Dean, Justin, Lila, and I just talked about who knows what. We moved from the tables to some couches and got into some deep stuff. (Except when Dean starts telling us what our animal selves would be– apparently I am a golden retriever and Lila is a turtle… weird haha) So a mix of deep stuff and stuff that you can only talk about when it is two in the morning.

And that was the second day of the Alumni Representative Workshop! Usually, (well at least last year) I combined the second and third day of the workshop together; however, this post is getting so extremely long! This post is already getting up to 1,700 words!!! I had a ton of fun getting to know the reps more and learning more about what I can do as the Chicago Representative this year. I am so excited!! Hopefully, I can post a (rather short) blog post about the third day sometime soon~ Hope you enjoyed! 고마워요 여러분! 다음에 봐요!~ 🙂 Do not forget to subscribe!!!~

  • Emma 엠마