Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Day 2: Traditional Korean Feast (진수성찬) & Exploring Gyeongju Hanok (한옥) 05/19/19 (NSLIY Korea AY)

05/19/19 Sunday

Woke up in our 한옥 (traditional Korean house) the morning of our last day in Gyeongju. Despite having slept on the floor and the chilly nighttime temperatures, I slept so soundly. Perhaps all the tears from the previous night helped with that since I feel like sleep after a good cry can rival anything. We all woke up rather early and got ready for another day with a planned-out agenda by Better World although 민정쌤 had said we would be having some free time after lunch to explore the area near where we slept, do some souvenir shopping, etc. 

The outfit I chose for the day actually matched our 한옥 perfectly so Addie offered to take some photos of me with her professional Canon camera and I will forever cherish these photos and have changed all my profile photos!

For breakfast, we were handed out pastries from a local bakery as well as fruit pies from McDonald’s for breakfast? I was a little confused because these fruit pies are most likely filled with so much sugar and are 100% considered dessert to me but hey, it was still tasty–processed or not. It was a nice, quick breakfast on the bus!

Our first stop of the day was a historical center in which Better World had rented out a room with projector capabilities in order to have a pre-departure/re-entry orientation for heading back to America. This was a very depressing time of the trip because I would have much rather allowed myself to be distracted by new and engaging activities and not discussing our impending return to the states. We of course had to talk about the infamous W curve which illustrates the roller coaster of emotions common to the plight of an exchange student. Of course, this curve does not only apply to time in one’s host country but also when returning to one’s home community and culture.

Credit: From GW’s Study Abroad Page

We discussed that it would be quite normal to experience a period of adjustment in which we may feel shock or conflicting feelings about being home and having to readjust to our previous lives after having experienced so much. We talked about how isolating may feel like one of the only options after feeling like a changed person but being placed back into an environment that is the same (and yet at the same time, so different). I was sitting next to Kaitlyn during this presentation and we also mentioned how the thought of returning kind of feels like water displacement–like when you get into a tub. You might have perfectly fit in the bath before but after returning and trying to re-familiarize yourself with this old life (old bath water? Ugh this simile…), clearly, things cannot help but shift and change.

We also were handed back these little goal sheets that we had filled out at our very first orientation and the one we had over winter break. We were given a new half sheet of paper that had a little drawing of a man in an airplane. We were instructed to write the things that will be hard to leave behind, our contributions to the NSLI-Y program as a whole and what we are most looking forward to upon arriving home.

Wow my handwriting…is kind of atrocious..

I will include a picture of what I wrote but I did want to highlight what I was looking forward to about returning to my cozy Chicago suburb because I was, in fact, homesick.

  • Seeing my best friends (Kara, Courtney, Brianna, Jazmin, Grace!! I have missed you guys!!!)
  • Hugging my mom (I could cry just thinking about it honestly. Never have I ever cherished my family more)
  • Pizza & Pancakes (What can I say… I am a simple girl and a foodie)
  • Not feeling lost, uncomfortable, misunderstood 24/7 (I try to be as positive as I can but I would be lying if I said living in Korea–as a foreigner–was a walk in the park)
  • College (Just like how Korea had been a long-held dream of mine, so has been attending college at my dream school in NYC!)

Thinking about these things and the countless other things that I could not write out (sorry to my brothers if they are reading this..) did help me put into perspective that all good things must come to an end so even better things can occur in the future.

The meeting was pretty serious but Kaitlyn and I still found time to goof around like when she stole my phone and started taking photos hehe compiled here for your viewing pleasure.

After our final orientation was over, it was lunchtime and we got back on the bus to return to the area around our accommodation which was close to a very popular shopping street in Gyeongju known as 황리단길 (Hwangnidan-gil or Hwangnidan Street) which is famous for the 한옥 architecture of many family homes or guest houses and very lovely cafes and boutiques to add to the atmosphere. 

Luckily the weather was better today (no rain!! My rain dance this morning worked!!) but it was still quite cloudy so the sky was dark but it was still nice to be able to walk around without the hindrance of umbrellas and those icky ponchos. For lunch, we came to this restaurant that seemed to be a couple smaller buildings/private rooms all a part of this one place so we were able to be separated from the others. The restaurant was also all 한옥 structure so maybe that was why the buildings were separated as we walked through a sort of courtyard/common area of the house. The greenery in this restaurant was also insane and so so beautiful! As for the meal, we had what my first host dad would have called a 진수성찬 (Korean word for feast). I am not sure if this has been a story I changed before but this was a word my host dad taught me back in September for 추석 (Korean Harvest Holiday/Thanksgiving) and it has stuck with me ever since. Everytime I have a big meal–this word pops in my mind.

Once we were stuffed beyond our stomachs’ capacities, we got free time to walk around and explore. I mostly followed Harmony and Kaitlyn back and forth to different shops and boutiques. The window displays of every single building we passed by was so expertly curated that I wanted to go into every store! There was this one stationary store that we visited which I really had to hold myself back because I honestly could have convinced myself to buy so many things for the prospect of making my scrapbook beautiful (Yes, I scrapbook and yes I will dedicate an entire book for this year~ Stay tuned for a post about it!)

I ended up buying a couple of postcards/art print and washi tape with illustrations of the historical locations of 경주 as well as two pairs of earrings because there was a sale. Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I also took some sticker photos to commemorate this trip!

The girls made it on my cork board ❤

And would it really be an excursions with NSLI-Yians if there were not any group photos?

Eventually, it was time to return to the station and I ended up buying a box of 황남 빵 (Hwangnam Bread) or 경주 빵 (Gyeongju Bread) which is a speciality pastry of this city filled with red bean paste. I was intending to study Korean on the KTX ride home but… I fell asleep instead… what can I say, traveling is exhausting! I remember returning to my host family this night and showing off the souvenirs I bought before literally falling asleep through dinner. I later had a late night meal of ramen with my younger host sister as I stayed up, cramming for my Korean final tomorrow. Oh, how I love being a student.

Wish me luck! 

Thanks for reading~ Next post will be quite exciting because although I am taking my final test, I will also be spending the day with my Korean class and teacher and visiting some old, familiar faces from the first time I had ever been to Korea~ 기대주세용 

  • Emma 엠마

P.S. Also something fun for the kids in my NSLI-Y Cohort~

Enjoy this picture of 울 사랑하는 민정쌤~

Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Pt.2: Rainy Day Visit to Bulguksa Temple (불국사), Traditional Tea House (전통찻집), and Donggung Palace (동궁) 05/18/2019 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

05/18/2019 Saturday

The rain did not let up as we ascended the mountain and continued on our path to visit Bulguksa Temple (불국사). Maybe because we were not so high up nor were we surrounded by such sigh trees and thick fog, the rain felt a lot calmer on the temple grounds. We walked around, ducking under anything to give a temporary refuge from the rain, and took lots of group photos because 민정쌤 was not going to let us get away with not taking any photos even with the weather conditions.

In front of the main hall of the temple, the two ‘hallways’ (if you can call them that) or more like open-air pathways with a overhead covering (Slowly forgetting how to sound coherent even in English…) that extended on either side of the main building had many many lanterns hanging above our heads. I believe there were so many because the Korean holiday of Buddha’s birthday was a few days earlier so usually there isn’t as much color as we saw.

One of our group photos was taken in front of the one of the twin pagodas that are considered national treasures. The specific one in these photos is called 다보탑 (Dabotap Pagoda) which is considered to be the more masculine one of the two? I am no expert in architecture and design but honestly… I do not really understand. Is it cause of the sharper angles? The shapes? Someone please explain…

We also visited the Hall of Supreme Hall of Bliss (극낙전) which is most famously known for the small golden pig statue that is resurrected in the front of the structure. I was really excited about this because as you may or may not know, my favorite animal is the pig and 2019 is actually the year of the pig! How fitting! 민정쌤 said that in Korean culture, pigs are seen as a creature that can bring good fortune and wealth and if you rub the statue (~superstition~), you too can become lucky! Do not doubt… I also rubbed the pig’s nose and behind his ears–I thought he’d like that.

After walking around and exploring for some time, we stumbled upon the souvenir store and right next to it, a traditional tea house (불국다원 전통찻집) which was halfway outdoors–not the best during this weather; however, I can only imagine how close to nature you would feel when drinking tea outside like that. I ended up ordering 냉오미자 (Cold Five Flavor Berry Tea) which is definitely one of the more traditional tea flavors, getting its name from the 5 different flavor profiles it apparently possesses. I cannot say that my tongue is skilled enough to distinguish such refined tastes but Kaitlyn (who brags about being a supertaster with more taste buds than the average person) agrees to its name.

The rain eventually came to a standstill and we got back on the bus and traveled to our accommodation so we could change out of our wet clothes and put our bags away and rest up a bit before leaving to have dinner which would be MEAT!!

For our only night in 경주, we would be staying in a traditional Korean style house (한옥) where we would also be sleeping on the floor in futon style mattress pads and blankets. The room the girls were staying in was quite big and even included a loft which Katie and I could not pass sleeping in (We love lofts! Always our first choice!) We hung up our wet clothes to dry around the room and sprawled across the floor to rest our tired, sore legs. I had gotten a hole in my poncho so I also gave it a farewell ceremony into the trash. 

When dinnertime rolled around, we all walked to the restaurant we would be eating at and Better World was gracious enough to buy us all meat! And not just any old meat, meat that we would be grilling ourselves. Once again we split up into three separate groups sitting at a long table with our respective grilling units. I sat with 민정쌤, 소영쌤, Addie, Jacquelyn, and Jenna. We ate so well and stuffed our faces with as much garlic lettuce wraps filled with meat as we possibly could. It was a nice way to end the night–or we thought. After eating, we were surprised with one more thing on our agenda for the day: visiting a palace!

By the time we arrived at the palace (동궁), the night was well set in so there was no light in the sky but luckily the castle grounds were open until late and there were lots of lights to illuminate all the structures and reflect on the pool surrounding the castle (월지) and the weather was only slightly chilly. It was a nice, early summer evening and lots of people were actually out and about too. I mostly stayed with Harmony and Kaitlyn as we hopped around to the buildings throughout the area. The palace ground was not actually that big (in comparison to other ones I have been to–in Seoul too) and that is because most of it was burnt to the ground. There was also a lot of natural bamboo growing alongside the perimeter which is always a plant I enjoy seeing up close.

At the end of the night, we took a group photo and then were told to all get in to taxis to make our way back to the house we were staying at because it was now pretty far from the palace and since it was late at night and dark, walking was not allowed. The 쌤s rode with some of us but others had to get in their own taxis and tell the driver the right directions. In my car, we put Liam in charge of this and well… lets just say we did have some walking to do back but we made it–on time too! There was a slight problem with two stragglers who became seemingly lost and would not pick up 민정쌤’s calls (nor mine as I was told to call them as well). It was probably the most drama we had had all program and it was not even anything too exciting.

Once everyone had gotten back to our 한옥, the 쌤s had us all gather into the main, biggest room and randomly turned off all the lights. We were all confused at first until she started pulling out plastic candles out of her bag. They were the small tea lights (perhaps that’s the name for them?) or the tiny candles often used for vigils I think. She instructed us to all light our own candles and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room. In order to reflect on our time together and as an act of closing out our full year studying abroad in Korea. I would be shamefully lying if I said I did not cry multiple times throughout this little late night session.

We all went around the room and said whatever we were feeling and a lot of people found it very difficult to keep their emotions in check–including me. Literally, I found myself tearing up at every single person’s response and would try my best to stifle my sniffles and dry my tears but multiple times I was handed tissues from my fellow NSLI-Yians and Jacquelyn kept pointing out my inability to not be moved by the stories and sentiments being shared. When it came around to my turn to speak, I opened my mouth and all that came out was a depressing cry. I tried composing myself and basically discussed how besides for language improvement, the area I experienced the most growth in throughout this year was my confidence. I probably felt the most vulnerable in this moment but it felt nice being able to share this with the people who would probably understand my feelings the most in the entire world.

After we all shared our thoughts and said our goodbyes for the evening, I did feel a little empty. The little candle sharing session felt like an official end of a chapter and I was not ready for that. I was not ready to say goodbye. I thought I had been preparing myself to leave and I felt as ready as ever but now… I was not so sure. How can I say goodbye to all this? To all these people? To all these connections? At least this trip wasn’t over yet. We would have a great day tomorrow! That I could look forward to for sure~

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it~ I hope this one was a bit more interesting since we were bopping around a lot of different places in 경주. Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Music Class Project, Favorite Cafe Owner, and Eating Intestines for the First Time (05/10/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/10/19 Friday

In music class today, we were just given the entire period to finish our projects that we started a couple weeks ago. Katie and I had already finished writing out what we wanted on our poster and simply added decorative touches to the page during the first period of class. Katie traced this really pretty image of women in 한복 dancing around in a circle from Google and colored everything in using colored pencils. I didn’t really help her with this (Though I did trace the writing I did with the poster in a darker marker since we agreed I had the nicer handwriting) because I had a different task: writing a goodbye letter to the café owner of the 한옥 Twosome Place across the street from our high school.

We practically visited that café every single week we were in school to study. The café owners were always so kind so us. They came to know that we were exchange students and always asked us questions about life at 하나고! They even remembered our orders!! After multiple visits ordering the same thing (green tea latte for me), the owner would ask me if that’s what I wanted before I could even open my mouth to order. They (Her and her husband) also always complimented our Korean even when we only said basic phrases—it was a nice ego boost from time to time. Today we had plans to visit the café after school and because it was quite possibly the last time we would visit (Next week is our final week at 하나고…), we needed to give them a letter and say goodbye today! Luckily, I was very productive with the letter writing and even impressed myself with how many (advanced)  grammar points I used, so I finished with time to spare. 

Reading this over…omg the spelling mistakes and the misuse of some of the grammar points..I cringe!! Maybe I changed things before writing it in the letter.

Katie and I spent the break time in one of the practice rooms (singing our anthem Country Road as per usual) and then completely goofed off second period after the poster and letter were complete. I drew Katie a little gift on her hand with some of the markers! 

Second to last Public Speaking class was so bittersweet. Who would have thought this class would become my favorite?? I love all my classmates and the extra time with 서린 is always fun! (Plus, Jason is such a great teacher. I really miss the American style of teaching while being here.)

Katie and I actually ate at school today! I’ve realized that we’ve been doing less and less of that lately just because of time. We’d rather eat out/on the way to class than alone in the lunch room if our friends aren’t available to eat… but today we got to eat with the whole big squad! And the food today was pretty good too: a chicken leg, waffle fries, fresh strawberries, and some weird cream soup. I enjoyed the meal—especially the fruit. I hid the leftovers in my pocket for later!

During 공강 I finished writing out the cafe owner’s letter onto and actual piece of paper and making it look pretty with stickers. AP 미시경제 just proved to be another lecture and I studied Korean instead of taking notes/paying attention. I did get a chance to talk to 서린 more (when she was not napping during break). She gave me some really cute heart-shaped mints! I think she was using them to try to keep herself awake!

After school ended, Katie and I went over to Twosome Place. We ordered our usual drinks and went to the second floor and changed clothes, did our makeup, etc. We both had Friday night plans after we separated once our café date was done so we decided to get ready there instead of the school bathroom. (It’s extremely weird putting on everyday/street clothes and hurrying out of the building when all the other students are dressed in their uniforms… we already stick out enough!) 

The café owner brought our drinks up to the second floor. (This café has those beepers that let you know when your order is ready to be picked up but it seemed that they always preferred to bring our order up to us.) So we drank those before working up the courage to give our letter to the café owner. We let them both know how much we appreciated their kind hospitality during the past 9 months and that when (not if) we return to Korea, we will make sure to come back to this café. We also asked the female manager to take a photo with us for memory sake. She was so against taking the photo at first but we were able to convince her!! Aren’t these such cute shots?

After the sad goodbye, I made my way over to 홍대 to meet a friend that I met off of a language exchange app. We didn’t have many plans for how to spend he night besides karaoke and exactly what we were going to have for dinner: intestines. Last time we met up, they brought up that they ate intestines with their sister and I was intrigued from there on out. I remember during the beginning of the program (and throughout winter break to be honest) how often Liam and Josh would ask me to go eat intestines with them. We’d be looking for something to eat and we’d always seem to pass a place selling intestines and they would go crazy. I was really against it earlier but I suddenly had the urge to try it! Maybe because it was the end of the program? That could be it.

We went to this place that apparently is well known in 홍대. A lot of Koreans go after work and eat intestines as it supposedly pairs well with alcohol—Korea’s version of bar food perhaps? The worker basically cooked the food for us and then I watched my friend eat every different type of intestine first before consuming it myself (Yes, there were several different parts of intestines and each part had a different flavor and texture.) I thought that most of it tasted fine but sometimes the texture was just off-putting. It was similar to straight up eating the fat off of meat or bacon, for example. I do not think I would have it again myself but it definitely wasn’t bad–and really not that gross. You just have to eat it without having any thoughts about what exactly you are eating.

We finished the night off watching a movie and then that was it. A nice ending to a pretty great week. I cannot believe that next week is my last week of high school… where does the time go?

  • Emma 엠마

Exploring a Hanok Village & Insadong Souvenir Shopping {05/08-09/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

5/08/19 Wednesday

I feel horrible but this day might win the record for having the shortest explanation because I have barely any pictures from it and it’s been so long… I forgot what I did!! 

After school on this day, Katie needed to go home early for some reason so we couldn’t have our usual study date at our favorite Twosome Cafe. However, instead of going home right away, we did spend some time exploring the 한옥마을 (Hanok Village) across the street from our high school. We enter the village quite frequently to buy coffee or snacks at the convenience store or to visit our cafe but we have not really spent any time just walking around and enjoying the scenery. So today, we decided to do just that. We picked up some ice cream from the convenience store and took a walk. It was so nice to walk through the streets and appreciate the gorgeous architecture that makes up 한옥s. The buildings themselves seemed to be mostly be private residences while some were made into cafes, tea houses, or small clothing boutiques. We found this one bridge that really made me feel like I was being transported back in time as we kept making our way closer and closer to the center of the neighborhood. It was so quiet and peaceful. Less touristy than other 한옥 villages which was perfect! 

5/09/19 Thursday

The only really memorable class of today was my AP Econ class because instead of our normal lecture, we played a hands on game with a group of students! So the game was basically utilized to talk about wages within the market and supply-and-demand. Every group was randomly handed a job relating to the production of bananas. My group was given the “lowest job” which was a banana farmer. The others included the plantation owner, the transporter, the grocery store manager, etc. We all had to agree on how much each job should get paid. It was pretty interesting but since we were given the obvious choice for the job that would get the least amount of pay… we were stuck being severely underpaid!! At the end of the game, our teacher handed us all chocolate coins to symbolize how much money we would earn at the end of the hour and we only got 2 coins… (We did get more at the end though! So that every student could have one to eat, of course!)

Katie and I decided to not eat lunch at school today because we did have Korean class so we left right after our fourth period and made our way to 홍대. We stopped to get some green tea 호떡 on the way over. 

For lunch, we changed things up a bit and surprise, did not eat convenience store food!! We went to McDonald’s!! We shared some chicken tenders and intended to eat some French fries with vanilla ice cream but !!! McDonald’s ice cream machine was broken!! Who would have thought!! McDonald’s is not any better in Korea when it comes to their ice cream machine … yikes. 

We left McDonald’s with our fries and treated ourselves to convenience store ice cream. There is an ice cream sale happening all of May that if you get at least three ice creams, they all cost the same!! It’s such a good deal!! I also shook things up today with my ice cream selection and got a Melona Bar instead of my usual red bean fish ice cream.

Korean class today was something. I haven’t laughed so much in class like today in a while. I wasn’t stressed or feeling negative today at all. I truly enjoyed class and participated a whole lot!! Today, we also learned more about my Korean teacher when it comes to her past love life. Our teacher went around and asked us if were dating anyone because recently she had become intrigued by any possible love interests within the NSLI-Y program and when she came around to asking Jacquelyn, Jacquelyn had an answer that we were not expecting: she did in fact have a boyfriend, and a Korean one at that! Our teacher’s soul practically jumped out of her body as she rejoiced at this information. She then immediately deflated after Jacquelyn told her that she was gonna breakup with him before the end of the program because long distance never works. Our teacher went on a whole rant to express her disapproval!! She talked about how a good amount of Koreans are in long distance relationships because of the military (It is mandatory for all Korean men to serve in the military for about 2 years) and so they are innately good at it? (Maybe I understood this part…wrong?) She also brought up the fact that her first relationship was long distance (and that she had her first kiss pretty late in comparison to most because of that fact). She kept telling Jacquelyn that she could make their love last! It was quite heartwarming to witness our teacher being so enthusiastic about this topic. And in order to make this part of class truly educational, we of course had to learn the vernacular for long distance relationships and even the shorthand slang for it as well.

After class, Alix and I went to 인사동 to start buying souvenirs for our friends and family back home. We changed out of our uniforms at the youth center (Because no way we were gonna be dressed as school girls at the most touristy place in Korea practically) and did some shopping along the Main Street. We wanted to go to the poop cafe (yes, this kind of establishment DOES exist in Korea! You can eat stew out of heated toilet bowls and chocolate ice cream shaped like you-know-what) but we didn’t get to 인사동 until after 6 and unfortunately, we were too late. To make up for it, we did get poop shaped chocolate stuffed bread. It was just as delicious as expected. 

We walked around the shops filled with items mostly designed by independent artists. We went into this one cat store that Alix fell in love with at first sight. In their window display, they even had keychains of fake cat poo! It was pretty ridiculous. We each ended up buying a Korean book at this bookstore we also visited; I bought the Korean version of Peter Pan. The illustrations were absolutely gorgeous and I was able to understand he majority of the first page which made me take the leap to purchase it. (The amount of books I am buying in Korean for my future studies… is A LOT! I may need to send them to the states in their own box because they may be too heavy in my suitcase.

While walking around, we stumbled upon this store selling traditional Korean masks like the ones we saw being used for the mask dance in 안동 (That blog post linked here). There was even a wall with a variety of smaller sized masks that can be worn as a necklace (or used as decoration). They were also a really good price (Maybe about $5 each if I can remember correctly?) considering that they were handmade! The coolest part was that above each mask, the type of “character” it represented was also written. Alix and I were able to pick out the ones we saw in the dance like the fool character, the monk, and the maiden. I ended up buying two as gifts for some of my high school teachers (the ones that wrote me recommendations for college and NSLI-Y). 

We also bought some dragon beard candy (traditional malt candy that was eaten by the king). These candies can last for a long time if they are frozen so they act as perfect souvenirs. The night ended with some delicious food at a cozy restaurant off of the main road. It was on the cheaper side which was permitted a sigh of relief from our wallets. I enjoyed a nice bowl of 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) which was on the spicier side—exactly how I like it!

Walking through 인사동 at night might even be prettier than walking through it during the day! Looking up at the sky and seeing the outlines of dark trees and the multicolored lights lighting up the path is something right out of a piece of artwork. We also got to stop for a bit and watch a jazz performance by some foreigners! 

Well, that is all for this blog post! Sorry for the abrupt ending but let’s be honest, I probably just came home and studied for a bit or went to bed right away seeing that the next day was Friday. I hope you enjoyed~ I can’t believe these posts will be coming to an end soon… a little more than two weeks left of the program!

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/24/19 Wednesday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at us ❤

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

As expected… the group photo! 역시 그룹 사진을 찍었죸ㅋㅋ

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

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

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

❤ 우리 사랑하는 소영쌤과 주연쌤 ❤
벚꽃아이스크림

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/22/19 Monday

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Morning walks with springtime flowers >>>>>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brunch 5

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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

4/21/19 Sunday 

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

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Off to take the exam!

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

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

topik 4

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

topik 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

topik 7

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

4/20/19 Saturday 

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

seoul forest 14

Andy always keeps me company when I am getting ready

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

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

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

seoul forest 1

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

seoul forest 2

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

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

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

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

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seoul forest 7

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/18/19 Thursday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/19/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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Translation: The Joy of Resurrection Jesus!

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

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

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Do not worry! I also got Katie a macaroon ❤

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

Monday – 

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

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

Lunch: (if hungry) Convenience Store Ramen

———————

After Class:

Dinner: With Host Family

Tuesday – 

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

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

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

———————-

After Class: 

Dinner: Class Dinner with Josh and Jacquelyn

Wednesday –

Morning: Wear Spring 한복 at 경복궁

Lunch: Food at 통인시장 

Afternoon: APA awards Event 

———————

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

Thursday – 

Morning: Cafe at 익선동 & Shopping

Before class: Above Continued

Lunch: Street Food (Something Easy)

————————

After Class:

Dinner: With Host Family

Friday – 

인천 Island Trip with the 대원 students!!!

(ALL DAY) 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/17/19 Wednesday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Views while waiting for the bus~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마