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

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. 

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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.) 

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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?)

topik 6

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. 

seoul forest 5

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

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…

school grounds 3

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. 

school grounds 4

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. 

school grounds 5

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. 

school grounds 9

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…

school grounds 11

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

Almost Passing Out, Skipping School, & Conducting an Interview in Korean (04/11-04/12/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/11/19 Thursday

sick day 14

Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

I woke up Thursday morning not feeling better at all but I didn’t really think much of it; I just carried on with my morning. I took the train to school as usual but today as I was riding the train, I got light headed and hot all of a sudden. I was standing next to the door, so I was able to lean against the door and put my face down on the pole but the feeling would not go away—it only got worse so I ended up literally collapsing on the ground to sit on the floor of the train with my head buried in my lap trying to find darkness and silence so that my head would give me a break.

I sat on the ground for a bit until my head got clear again and we arrived at my transfer stop. I walked to the line I would normally transfer to but missed my usual train because I wobbled over to the correct platform rather my than doing my usual half jog/half walk to make it to the train on time. I sat on the farthest bench from the escalators and called 민정쌤–almost on the verge of tears–explaining to her my situation. I really did not think that I had it in me to go to school but I could not form those words in my mouth to tell her just that. I just kept breathing heavily and fighting back my tears. I was really relieved when she told me that I could rest a bit on the bench and then go home instead of going to school, which is exactly what I did. I told her I had enough energy to take the train back home and so after literally laying on the bench for around 10 minutes, I headed back home. I arrived back at my host family’s apartment around 7:30 am and immediately hopped back into bed. My host family was still not awake yet so I did not even know if they realized that I came home. I was too tired to contact them or write a note.

I stayed in bed till literally 11 am! So on top of sleeping from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am (7 hours–more than I usually get on an average school day), I slept an extra 3 hours which was so nice~ It was definitely what I needed to help get me over this fever. I decided that I was still able to attend Korean class, so I ended up leaving the house and heading to 홍대 an hour early so I could go to the 약국 (pharmacy) with 소영쌤 (not for my fever though… she did not even know that I did not go to school… I wanted to get bandages for my foot!).

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On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

Korean class was tough because I was not in the right mindset or state of health to be focusing on learning Korean. My head hurt the entire time and I kept coughing to the point that it seemed that I would hack up a lung. We were supposed to give our presentations today but because I did not go to school (and I instead spent my morning sleeping in), I ended up not memorizing my speech which is a first for me! I have never given a speech without memorizing the script beforehand. I was able to convince my teacher to let me give the presentation on Monday instead, however. She definitely took pity on me. (Oh, she also gave us these really delicious squeezy jelly fruit drinks that she ordered by bulk online from Japan. I know that the amount of real fruit in those drinks were minimum to none but nonetheless, I really enjoyed them–and pretended that they were healing me.

After Korean class, I went with Mckenzie to the 편의점 (convenience store) to buy snacks for me (Hey… gotta feed a cold right?) and then Blanc Bakery so I could buy a macaroon for my host sister (On Saturday, she is taking the Korean version of the GED exam. I thought I would buy her something to give her extra energy on the day of her exam.) When we went to the convenience store, the usual really friendly old man was there and he gave Mckenzie and me free chocolate bars! When he put it in our hands, I got so happy– and not only because all chocolate is great–but because free chocolate is especially so!!!)

I came home and my host family bought me 죽 (porridge) for dinner and throughout the entire meal time, they kept asking me how I was feeling. It was sweet to see how worried they were about me (Probably a bit more worried than they usually would be because we always talked about how strong my immune system is. I mean, I have been with this host family for almost 4 whole months now and this is the first time I have gotten sick.)

I spent the rest of the night just resting in bed, watching Netflix and random Youtube videos. I also did translate interview questions from English to Korean for my field learning project that I would be going on tomorrow morning (yup, I was skipping school–again!) It was a chill Thursday night~

04/12/19 Friday

On Friday, I got to sleep in a whole extra hour till 7 am because I was not going to school!! (At least for the first half of the day) I would instead be visiting the Seoul Welfare Foundation in order to conduct an interview about being disabled (and the societal perception of disabilities–specifically mental disabilities) in Korea with one of the lawyers there who often undertakes court cases on discrimination against disabled individuals.

So I ended up arriving at 공덕역 about an hour early even though the walk to the center was only supposed to take 15 minutes but I was really paranoid about being late or getting lost and therefore to prevent that, I showed up an hour early. At the subway station, I ended up passing by a Paris Baguette and so I bought Katie a macaroon (I feel bad that she has had to go to school by herself two days in a row now~) and then I used Kakao maps to figure out where I needed to go for my interview.

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I used this feature on the app that allows you to use a street view camera so I was literally able to find landmarks to figure out how to get to the building while I was still in the subway station (since I did not have service to be able to use the app while I was on my walk.) Although Maps said that it would take 15 minutes to walk there, I made it in about 5 and so I sat outside waiting for 10 am to roll around which felt like it took forever. Outside of the building was a pretty pagoda and lots of cherry blossoms so I had some nice scenery (plus the weather was amazing) to keep me company. 

(Me freaking out in the elevator as the floor levels increase and I get closer and closer to getting off at my destination… I was so nervous! *panic panic*)

I got up to the 10th floor of the building and waited around for a minute before mustering up the courage to ask a random employee about my interview. This one lady came out to meet me and we talked together for about 20 minutes while waiting for the actual lady I was supposed to interview to show up (She suddenly got called into an important meeting and had to be late meeting me.) She was actually really interesting to talk to and apparently she lived in New York for most of her 20s (She attended college there) so it was nice talking about that with her. She apparently also knows the president of KUMPA, so when I mentioned my last research project being on 미혼모 (unwed single mothers) in Korea, she had a lot to say–especially about the adoption side of things.

The interview actually went a lot smoother than I had expected. The lady which kept me company until the other woman arrived ended up staying for my interview too. They were able to understand most of my interview questions (except one that I literally had to rephrase and then say a word in English… oof) and I was able to understand the main points of all of their answers. To be honest it was really difficult to take notes on what they were saying because I had to focus enough on the Korean to be able to comprehend it in my brain in English and then I had to shorthand that information into notes on my computer–oftentimes while they were still talking. I learned a lot through the interview and their answers are going to help me with my final project for sure. When I said goodbye to them, they wished me good luck on my project and my Korean studies and they also gave me a box of stationary (handmade wooden stationary like colored pencils, rulers, etc–very nice quality!) as a parting gift. I felt bad for not preparing a gift…but I ended up not getting any money for that in my stipend for this field trip. When I finally left the building and made it down the hill, I was feeling so refreshed! Health wise, my head felt clear for the first time in a long while and I was ready to go back to school and continue the day. Did this feeling of success truly change my mood?

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Walk back to the subway station~

I got to school and met up with Katie at our lockers. I changed into my 생활복 (walking into school with actual clothes on was a whole different experience… the stares!!!) and we went off to have lunch with our friends. Today’s lunch menu was very very filling and we even got a melon slice for dessert! And because I was feeling better, I was able to goof off with our friends and enjoy some fun conversations. 

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When you see that you need gloves to eat the meal for lunch, you know it is going to be delicious! We love messily eating meat in this cafeteria 😛

After lunch, I was productive for the rest of the school day as I did Korean homework during my free study period and I had self-study time all during my AP economics class. I reviewed all the grammar that we learned in class on Thursday and I even started learning a new point that could come in handy for my Topik writings. 

Katie had plans to visit a cherry blossom festival with Josh after school today, so I ended up just going home right away. It was my first time going straight home from school on a Friday in such a long time! I got home and it was only 5 pm so I relaxed in my room (Watched a recently released new teen romance movie–A Perfect Date–on Netflix) until my host sisters came home and we went to a barbecue place near our apartment to eat meat for dinner. My host mom told me that if I really wanted to get better quickly, I had to eat meat! And I was okay with that!

Throughout our entire dinner, my host mom and both of my sisters were grilling meat and then placing it in my bowl–I could feel the warmth in this gesture. This was definitely what the Koreans call 정 for sure. The food was all delicious but I will have to admit that the 된장찌개 was ten times better than the grilled meat we ate–no tea, no shade. 

For the rest of the night, I just rested and studied Korean. My host sister kept telling me that I should not got out this weekend but… I did already make plans for early Saturday afternoon so oh well… It is okay, besides that… I will rest fully this weekend! I will fully heal this weekend!

That is all for this post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time.. Do not forget to subscribe~

  • Emma 엠마

Productive Cafe Date, Feeling Sick, and Age Gaps in Korea (04/10/19) NSLI-Y AY

04/10/19 Wednesday

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Views from my transfer station 대곡역 which is mostly outside. It makes me truly feel like I am outside of Seoul since its surroundings look pretty rural. But look, some flowers started blooming~ Although the morning is still very chilly. I have a love-hate relationship with this station; however, the scenery is nice.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I knew I had come down with something and it wasn’t just a cold. My throat ached badly and when I opened my mouth to cough, the sheer raspiness in my voice surprised me. I could still breath out of my nose perfectly fine but my head also throbbed. I placed my hand against my forehead and could feel unusual warmth. I decided to just carry on with the day regardless (I do not get sick often and have not skipped school for sickness in a long time so my initial game plan was to ignore it.) and threw on my 생활복 and didn’t even do my hair or put on any makeup (something that’s pretty rare now—though in high school, I never wore makeup.) 

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Wow, catch this awkward sick-day selfie. Look at those dArK CiRcLeS!!

Wednesday’s day of school was literally a blur. Maybe because I was sick? But trying to look back on this day… I come up with nothing. However, I guess it could have also just been an uneventful school day. I had 국어 in the morning which I basically just day dreamed throughout the entire thing because I wasn’t feeling well. At one point, the teacher was explaining some concept involving fire and paper so he came to my desk (I was sitting in the back) and took my paper and tried throwing it up in the air. While demonstrating, he dropped his marker and paper on the floor so it ended up being kind of awkward—especially because I still had no idea what he was trying to show me. I had to muffle my nervous laughter.

Another time, he asked me what 벚꽃 (cherry blossoms) were in English and after I told him, he proceeds to point out the flower on our paper but he realized that I was “looking”at the wrong side of the paper so he flipped the side for me. That was a bit embarrassing to be honest… 

During my study period with Katie… I literally stole her coat and then slept for almost the entire period. It was pretty nice. 

During my two hours of 세계사, I worked on my Korean workbook pages and then did a Topik reading test. 

We ate lunch with our friends but I was not really impressed by the meal. Mostly because the rice contained corn kernels and I could barely eat around it so I gave up eating it halfway through lunch. (I hate corn more than any other food in this world…) I was also really sick at this point in the day so I barely said a word during lunch. I just brought spoonfuls up to my mouth and chewed. Katie was also very tired so she didn’t say much either.

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We had Japanese Omurice (오모라이스) which is just an empty omelette draped over rice usually accompanied by a savory/sweet sauce.

My last class of the day was politics and we just listened to lectures for the two hours, so I worked on my Topik writing test which left me finished with my last Topik test! (Actually this is a lie; we will probably get one more before the date of the actual test.) 

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After school today we had our second club meeting; however, since midterms are coming up, we ended up self-studying during the period—or at least for the greater part of the hour. At first we goofed off about the club hoodies that we are making and the ugly logo of the club but after awhile, everyone was able to settle down in their own desk and do some work. I made a Quizlet for the newest chapter for Korean class! 

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Gloomy weather after school

After school, even though I felt like death, I decided to go to Twosome Place with Katie because I worried that if I went home, I would just sleep and not do any actual work. I wanted to prevent this or at least lessen the consequences by doing most of my work before I got home. 

And I was successful, despite the random dance breaks to Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Let it Go, I was able to write my entire presentation on a Korean historical figure: I choose the Korean independence movement leader 유관순 열사. Also Katie told the employees at the cafe that I hurt my foot (which is why she ordered a hot chocolate for me) and so when we left the cafe after our study date, she asked me how I hurt my foot. I explained to her that I wore new shoes (left out the part about the fact that they were heels) and walked around for hours so I hurt my feet. She laughed and said “Oh I assumed you hurt it badly.” We laughed and left but if only she could see my toe! It is no tiny blister! No, it is not! 

(I don’t think I wrote about it earlier but one of my blisters—from wearing uncomfortable heels while walking for hours on Sunday—on my foot popped and the skin ripped off so I have an area on my pinky toe (makes it ten times worse) about the size of a quarter that’s all red and raw as my first layer of skin literally peeled up. It hurts a lot and even if I put band-aids on it, it hurts really badly–especially, when I wear my sneakers and walk around so I currently have a limp while I walk. I also have been using it as an excuse to use the elevator in the school more often cause stairs… are not my favorite right now.)

Anyway, I came home after studying at the cafe and had dinner with my host sisters. We ate at home but we had this huge feast made up of grilled meats, two different kinds of noodles and a pot of steamed egg. During dinner today, we had an interesting conversation about age difference in Korea. In America, we have a common phrase that “Age is but a number” but in Korea, it is so much more than that so I was curious to know  how it relates to relationships. From what my host sisters told me, too big of age gaps are not common but they really aren’t a big deal as long as the two people are close enough in age that they are a part of the same “generation” if you will. When it comes to friendships, it’s a bit different because if there’s a very large age gap, sometimes it can feel like you aren’t true friends but simply a person that’s just older than you (like an 언니 or 오빠). She did tell me that there’s a very negative image towards guys in their late 20s dating girls in their early twenties/in college. 

My older host sister explained that this is seen as really sleazy to most people and they actually view the guy as a bad person. (Example, if a 26 year old was dating a 21 year old in college.) They also said that he would probably take advantage of her because she doesn’t know better but more importantly, it’s a real red flag if he can’t find anyone in his own circle of acquaintances and has to resort to shooting his shot in a bigger pool with younger girls. They did mention that this the other way around (a way older woman with a younger guy) has no negative connotations. 

She also made sure to tell me that I need to be careful with Korean men especially because I’m a foreigner—she said no one too old!! And if I find someone, especially someone that old, she will have to have dinner with him and make sure that his intentions are pure. It was really cute~ At that moment, I felt what is what I assume it feels like to have an older sister~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I am on the grind writing out these blog posts so quickly this week. I am really trying to catch up (only 5 days behind now!) Let’s get this! Thanks for reading, anyway! Insert your email to the right of this post to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/08/19 Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Enjoy this cute photo of Liam & Josh

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

04/09/19 Tuesday

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

Moving on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

First Sauna (찜질방) Experience in South Korea–Getting Fully Naked in Front of Strangers (04/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/05/19 Friday

When I met up with Katie at the subway station this morning, she pulled out her notebook and I saw a bunch of scribbled music notes on the pages with their corresponding letter notes. I was confused as to why she was showing me this until the fact that it was Friday and that we had music class today came to me. Katie (the bright ray of sunshine that she is) took it upon herself to make a song for us on her subway ride so that we would have something to show the music teacher when she came around to check our progress on the music assignment. I was so thankful for this because as soon as class started, the teacher came to us and asked to see our song. We had to hurry up and log everything that she had written into the computer because we never got around to buying a USB for the class. And although everything was rushed, our song actually sounded pretty cute! We were proud to showcase it to the music teacher.

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Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

After music class, I had public speaking and we just spent the entire class doing voice exercises to practice intonation, voice, volume, speed, pauses, etc. But before the class started, Jason told me that some students scored me 11s (out of a scale of 10) on the peer evaluation sheet for the speeches last class. I was shook by this seeing that I really did no preparation for it, and I definitely did make mistakes. I guess it is a pro of being a native English speaker in a public speaking class taught in English for non-native speakers!

He also read a sheet of paper that the male Japanese student left for everyone during his last class with us last week. At the end of every single speech, he left comments (all encouraging!) for the speakers. He complimented things like their flow, their pronunciation, the content of the speech, etc. He even said that if the boys whose English is not that good had more confidence, they could really control the room because they are so funny. I was just really touched that he thought to do that before he left–especially to tell Jason to read these comments aloud to everyone. Such a sweet gesture! I was definitely emotionally touched.

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Main dish: delicious curry!!! (And golden kiwi jello! I have never eaten golden kiwis in America…)

Katie and I ate with our big group of friends and we all goofed off happily at the thought that it was Friday and that the school day was almost over which would mean the weekend had arrived! We also discussed some of our plans for the school trip coming up in May which included outfit coordination? But 서린 is set on a color like yellow and I think she is delusional?? Why would we do yellow when we can pick a color that is easier for everyone to wear? (and buy since many of the girls were looking to buying new clothes for the trip.) Why yellow when we can wear colors such as pink, blue, white? We will continue this conversation again at a later date.

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Economics Class was actually kind of fun today because we did this auction activity that involved buying values (things like living for a long time, finding an honest significant other, having a good relationship with your parents, etc). It was fun when the groups would fight and when prices for values would only continue to increase to unbelievable prices. I could not participate much within my group so I just sat by and watched them figure out all that they wanted to do and gave some input here and there.

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On the board, our teacher wrote all the names of each team. In Korean, team names tend to end in 조 (translation: group/team) and everyone in my class tried to make creative team names based on that word. For example, my team was called 타조 (which also means ostrich!) One of the group of guys chose their team name to be “오빠이거사조” which is a play on the phrase 사줘 (or buy for me) but in a cuter way with how it is pronounced–애교 style if you will. So there team name was “buy this for me” with the term of endearment 오빠 which can be used for one’s boyfriend or just an older male figure/brother.

After school, Katie and I went to Twosome Place to get some studying done before heading to a 찜질방! At the beginning of our program, we would always come to Twosome on Fridays and try out new flavors of cake and just chill (and study of course) so it was nice being able to do the same today. Lately we have been running around with other plans on Friday nights and I have missed just being able to relax. But I guess as time is running out, we have to make the most of our free days! (Especially days with extended curfew hours such as Fridays)

We ordered a whole menu of strawberry items at the cafe it seemed. Katie ordered her recent favorite: 딸기 라떼 (Strawberry Latte) BUT it is now what you expect. I would have thought it would be strawberry flavored milk with coffee or something of the sort–something with coffee! But actually, it literally is always just a glass of milk with chunks of strawberry in it that you mix in. I ordered a strawberry peach frappe (which again… was not what I was expecting). It ended up really just being a smoothie. To pair with our drinks, we ordered a chocolate cake with full strawberries on it. We love strawberry season in Korea! At the cafe, we were productive but we also just goofed around and talked. It had been a stressful week for sure!

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We took the subway to 용산 찜질방 (Dragon Hill Spa) which is probably one of the most popular Korean spas/saunas in Korea. I remember during my summer program, many of the students had their first experiences there. I was really excited to go with Katie and since she had been there already, she would be able to show me the ropes so I would not be making any dumb foreigner mistakes hopefully.

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Did I mention this place is open 24 hours? Some people do end up sleeping here since you only need to pay the entrance fee and a bit more depending on how long you plan on staying. Could you imagine staying  a whole day here? That would be an interesting challenge!

The path towards the building itself looked as if it were straight out of a cringey tourism commercial with lots of lights, greenery, bamboo shoots, and a cobblestone path that I almost tripped over several times. For the entrance fee, it was about 12 dollars and then we were given a wristband that we could use as payment for extra features inside the building like food or massages and then would pay those fees on our way out. We put our shoes in our own little cubbies (like being back in first grade) and then headed to the changing room to get naked and hop into the shower room.

I definitely thought that I would be more hesitant about getting naked but once we walked into the room and I saw a myriad of body shapes and sizes and ages, I immediately became somewhat relaxed. Before coming, I worried about my body image insecurities hindering me from feeling comfortable during everything. I also expected their to be a wave of shame that may exude from some people like what you see in gym commercials (like for Planet Fitness, for example) I think seeing everyone being so carefree in their body made me feel okay about it–at least long enough for me to get out of my clothes and get to the shower room. 

I have never been confident in my body–ever. I have always had a fully fair share of insecurities and although I looked away plenty of times when I saw parts of my body that I really disliked in the reflection of the water or the mirrors around the room (particularly mirrors placed awkwardly like the ones on the ceiling of the jet tubs… that one made me feel very uncomfortable), over time I began to feel more comfortable. Not confident by any means, but at least I got to a point where I almost forgot that I was even naked–in front of strangers. South Korea has really done a number on my own self-image (in both a positive and negative way… maybe I can expand on this in a future blog post!)

Seeing other people being comfortable eventually helped me not focus on what my body looked like but rather the state that it was in (cleanliness, healing etc). Katie and I took our showers, scrubbed dead skin off of each other, and then climbed into the hot baths which were so refreshing. I had not been in a pool since the summertime (back in America) so it was nice being able to swim around again. After we got all cleaned up, we changed into the after-bath clothes they provide you at the sauna and then brushed out our hair and such.

We spent the next couple of hours just sitting around the main room and then the women’s only resting room just talking and relaxing on our phones. There were a couple smaller rooms with extremely high temperatures and really low temperatures and we tried each of them only for a couple of minutes. After having showered, we had no plans of getting all sweaty once again. The sauna, of course, also sold food like marinated/smoked hard boiled eggs (yes, the famous eggs you can see in Korean dramas!), ramen, snacks, and fermented rice drinks. Katie and I ended up sharing banana milk because… banana milk truly fits any occasion! Katie also used the fancy arm-bracelet-paying system to buy Dippin Dots. 

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Monkey King?

It definitely was not a very energetic Friday night but the peacefulness of everything was exactly what I wanted for an energy replenishing day. I had plans all weekend too so I needed this time to rest! It was a really good night~ And I could not have been happier to experience my first 찜질방 with Katie!

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Back at home after the night in (a sauna). Ready for bed but first, a cheeky selfie

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed reading! Would you ever dare get fully naked in front of strangers? I feel like this is an iconic experience to have in Korea but I have met my fair share of people who vow to never do it, which is totally understandable. I probably would not have ended up going during my year here if it was not for Katie. Although it was awkward, I had a great time and I highly recommend it! Do not forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts about my travels in Korea! Thank you~

  • Emma 엠마

 

Escape Room & Cake Cafe with 혜린언니 and Katie (04/04/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/04/19 Thursday

The school day was a blurrrr (If I tried to figure out the most commonly written phrases from my blog, I bet one of them would be calling school or Korean class a “blur.” Along with things like “it was so delicious” and “I had so much fun.”) so I believe that I just tried to pay attention during the lectures at first and then when I got too bored, I took out my own Korean stuff and worked on those things. (I definitely remember trying to memorize my Korean class speech during 한국사.)

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Me and one of the Japanese exchange students!

At one point during class, my 한국사 teacher told me that after meeting the Japanese exchange students, he realized how good I was at Korean because they all literally came with no knowledge (not really even basic knowledge) of the Korean language because they did not take it in school nor did they self study it–like me. He laughed about this, finding his thoughts amusing, and then asked the class if there were any Japanese students present right then and there to hear what he had to say. When he found relief in the fact that there were none, he then made another joke about the fact that even if they were there, they would not have understood what he said. I felt happy that the teacher could see that I am putting in effort to speak Korean but then I felt bad for the Japanese students. They were not here to learn the language, but to just participate in an exchange and that exchange was mostly for culture. It made me think about the other NSLI-Y students who came with a very low level of Korean abilities and if teachers treated them like that at first… I would have been very disappointed.

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One of my classmates in 한국사 gave me this Japanese jelly snack ❤

Anyway, Katie and I left school early before lunch (I needed to memorize my presentation which did not give me time to have lunch at school today) and went to Korean class. Once again, class was a blur. I did present about my favorite Korean expressions which included an expression for laughing (that should ONLY be used between friends) 실실 쪼개다 and 답답하다 which is an expression to use when you feel suffocated and frustrated. 

After class, Katie and I met up with our supporter 혜린 언니 to have a fun night together in 홍대! Since classes on Thursdays end at 6 making it pretty late already (and we had our escape room time reserved for 7 pm) we ended up going to 7-11 for dinner instead of having a full meal…. And by dinner I meant that Katie and I ate ice cream!

We did an escape room at Mystery Room Escape that was themed after this novelist who committed suicide because he failed his book and the point of the escape room was that you were supposed to be trapped with him in his novel. The escape room was all in Korean and if we did not have our supporter with us, I am not confident that we would have even been able to make it past the first room. But besides the added difficulty because of the language barrier, we were all able to work together quite well to solve the puzzles. It was really rewarding to see how we were all able to figure out our own small things that contributed to helping us get farther and farther through the room.

Even though I think we did really well at first, we did get stumped at the last puzzle of the first room which involved placing these phrases in a certain order on the wall according to what was written in a note left by the author. We kept messing up the order and even just started putting random things in order because we could not figure out how to solve the puzzle. This wasted a lot of our time. Eventually, we did actually make it through the door but then we got stuck on the second to last puzzle of the escape room! We were supposed to place one of the items we got out of the drawer in this whole which would show us something that we desperately needed to solve the puzzle but we were just holding the item the entire time, twirling it around without even thinking that we needed to do something with it. When the clock’s time ran out and we heard the deafening alarm that might as well been a voice recorder saying “loser” over and over again to rub in the fact that we could not succeed in our faces. 

When the employee came in and shoved the item in the hole, I wanted to scream. The room lit up, a video started being displayed, and the major KEY for the solving of the puzzle appeared! We all wanted to scream! The guy gave us a chance to solve the puzzle again and when we did, we felt even worse for having messed up doing it ourselves. We left the room and proceeded to get our stuff from our lockers (walking past the group that came in before us while they took their celebratory escape photo was almost torturous) and the other employee came up to us and asked if we succeeded in escaping. I sadly told him no and his eyes immediately widened, you could tell that he was shocked. Yup, you heard it here folks, we could not even escape from the easiest room!! (I may seem very salty but… okay, I am. But we just laugh about it now. Our wounds have healed…)

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We were actually the only ones in the cafe which was really nice! We had the whole place to ourselves! It was cozy and peaceful~ Come here at low-peak time!

After our failed attempt at doing an escape room, we left to chill at a cafe together and just update each other on our lives. We have not seen each other for more than a month! We went from seeing each other multiple times a week for two months and then no in-person contact for a solid month! Katie and I really grew to miss our supporter! I took the girls to this cafe called Caffe Yam which I found from a Youtube video and was hoping that I remembered enough of the way so that we could stumble upon it again. I really hoped that we would be able to order some really adorable sugary drinks (I really wanted to go for the pictures… was not expecting much from the taste).

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We ended up staying at the cafe for only a little bit more than an hour–just chatting and enjoying our unicorn drinks and rainbow cake (literally the cutest things ever!). 혜린언니 was literally our big sister and proceeded to scold us and be happy for us all at the same time as we told her what we had been up to recently. Chatting with her reminds me of how lucky we were to be placed in a group project with her~ And I know wherever we end up in the future, we will always have 언니 to talk to and support us through all of our endeavors.

Well, that is all for this blog post, I hope you enjoyed! Have you ever done an escape room in a foreign country? How was your experience? I actually still have not done one back home in America… but the ones in Korea were just so much fun (and cheaper too…) Until Next time! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

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

03/29/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

03/30/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Tiger Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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Andy seemed to be exhausted too hehe

03/31/19 Sunday 

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

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

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

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

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The Cutest!!!

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

  • Emma 엠마