First Full Day of Korean High School, Voting for Homeroom Class President, and After School Street Food {03/06/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/06/19 Wednesday

Although I’ve been a whole bundle of nerves this entire week, today I woke up more nervous than I had been for the previous two days. I would have to blame it on the fact that I knew it would be a full day—all 6 periods and eating lunch at school. There was no excuse of Korean class to whisk us away to a temporary haven with the other NSLI-Y students. If this day was going to be a long one, it was was going to be a long one. But even though I was so nervous, I was also super excited to visit my new classes especially because I knew I had some friends in them. 

The morning was exceptionally cold and it would not have been bad if Katie and I had worn coats, but we were set on just wearing our school blazers as our only form of outerwear protection. On the bus, we panicked over our days and what we might find ourselves doing in each class. We also ran into Andrew taking the bus. Apparently, Katie is in a first-year class with him and I am in some advanced writing and reading class with third years. {I know this might be extremely wishful thinking but… if I had the class with 세림, I would most definitely freak!} 

The first period today was 국어 (Korean language) and I have the same teacher as I did last semester! He’s a really funny guy that can sometimes make total sense to me and other times I struggle to understand whatever he’s saying. However, I really appreciate the effort he puts in to include me in his lectures. He likes to translate {or have other students translate} random words to English to me while he’s lecturing as if that one single word will help me understand everything. {The effort is really sweet and I do love when he does it!} And he also asks me questions too! Sometimes it’s embarrassing since it is almost always in front of the whole class but I would rather be embarrassed than ignored. 

At the beginning of the class, I sat down next to these two girls {this is a first-grade class} and they seemed so excited to talk to me as they instantly asked me my name and I did the same for theirs. Though, I feel bad… I already forgot their names… I will have to pay attention next time the teacher runs through attendance so I can talk to them during break again! 

When the teacher walked into class, he saw me and greeted me and had me do a quick introduction in front of the class which is when I pulled out my 자기 소개. After I finished my one second long, very basic introduction, everyone gasped and clapped for me—surprised I could speak Korean. My teacher then told everyone that I took his class last semester and know everything really well—especially the goat story. He told them that he would tell it later during the semester. I honestly really hope he does, it would make me happy to see how much of it I can now understand and to see what I got wrong the first time. It also cracks me up that he still remembers that I ACTUALLY understood the goat story. (I will link that blog post here!)

During class today, he just talked about himself so that we could get to know him more. He told us his three favorite Korean words {자유, 여유, and some other word that had some 한자 written in it so you know I didn’t understand it.} He also explained to us the three best times to drink coffee {and if you can get these to all overlap, it will be the best cup of coffee you’ll have ever had to drink}. Before he explained, he also asked me {and a couple others in the class} if they like coffee. 

What were the three situations when coffee tastes the best? 

  1. When it is raining— the pitter-patter of the rain and the mood a gloomy day puts you in just matches well with a cup of coffee 
  2. Drinking with a loved one {He used the word lover actually which has a stronger connotation.} He painted the picture of sitting in a cozy living room with your loved one on a rainy day. 
  3. When the following day is a 쉬는 날 {rest day/off day}. He said that this one is what makes the coffee taste the best as it too knows that you have time to relax the following day. 

I like to believe that this can be applied to something that I actually like… like perhaps cake? I feel like it could also fit these criteria! But anyway, I really enjoyed this class because I was able to understand probably 70% of it? I felt some sense of accomplishment then. 

After 국어, I would normally have an exchange student lecture class but they haven’t chosen the kids yet {Though 혜지 said during lunch that she applied! It would be really cool if she got chosen! They must be picking the groups now.} so I just hung out in the meeting room with Katie as we both wrote diaries/blog posts during the class period. 

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Next on my schedule was 세계사 {world history} which was a second-year class but I literally knew no one in the class. I sat down next to these two girls and one of them offered to share her textbook with me which was really sweet; however, I gave up trying to follow along during the second period of class. I had the teacher for this class for the first time ever and he didn’t even acknowledge me when he walked in the room. He could obviously tell that there was a new student and that she was a foreign one at that… but nothing, not even a greeting. I’m not expecting him to make time for me to introduce myself to the class but… if I was a new Korean student, there is no way he would have ignored them like he did for me. 

Could I have been the bigger person and gone up to introduce myself during the break? Yes… but I did not do that. He put on a soccer game during the break which he and the other male students seemed pretty engrossed in. 

Because of this off-putting atmosphere, I really didn’t put much effort into paying attention to his class {plus I was having trouble staying awake} so for the second hour of class, I took out my workbook and did that instead: I almost finished a full chapter and a half which was good work since I had been falling behind with my workbook. 

Eventually, it was lunchtime and I knew I could count on Katie and my other friends to cheer me up! Today’s lunch on the other hand, kind of made me more depressed because we were given this weird, strange meat patty. The other students seem to enjoy it but Katie and I really do not like these type of lunches…reminds us too much of weird school lunches back in America (and Salisbury steak which I hate!) Lunch was a lot of fun~ We talked about our first impressions of our class so far (and gossiped a lot about the English teachers). Luckily, Katie and I both have a friend in our public speaking classes (혜지 and 서린 respectively). We both talked about how excited we were to have a class taught by Jason–and more excited to have more time to speak with our friends! Though I will admit… I am not looking forward to having to give speeches. I may have been a captain on speech team in high school, but I still have major stage fright or presentation anxiety if you will.

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After lunch, I had my politics and law class which I am taking with 윤세, 혜지, and 서린! I cannot believe I got lucky enough to have a class with that many built-in friends! No awkward small talk for me! The teacher of the class seemed nice but also kind of strict (He very much reminded me of my AP Gov teacher from senior year; they had the same vibe.) When he did roll call, he, of course, did not say my name (which is usual) but asked the class to let him know if their name was not called. My friends started whispering to me and told me to let him know that he did not call on me. I waved it off and told them it was okay. It kind of bothered me but it is what it is… Though it is not that hard to include my name on the class list… but that is beyond the point.

The teacher went through the syllabus and surprisingly, I understood basically everything he explained! But then he got onto the topic of our first-class assignment which was to get into groups of 5-8 to make our own political parties! (I needed a lot of explaining from 혜지 to know what we were doing because I do not know any political vocab words!) I formed a group with 혜지, 윤세, 서린 as well as these two other girls whose names I have yet to learn. We talked about our party’s name, its pledge, code of commands, and who would be voted as the president and speech giver (Is there a fancier word for that?) 

The party’s name is a play on words and means a party that will bring others up but is also the same name as a chemical polymer called Oligosaccharide in English. Our party name is 올리고당! We decided to focus our party’s goals on the environment and education–as well as one more aspect that has yet to be decided. 서린 told the other girls that I would be attending Columbia University majoring in Political Science which made them all want to vote me in as the president of the group but luckily 서린 reminded them that I would be leaving in May which might be troublesome if this project continues till past then. She also told the teacher about my future academic plans… I hope this doesn’t mean he is going to ask me political questions and ask about America’s political climate because I am not in the loop at all…because I am here…

But anyways, at the end of the period, the teacher had every single political party send up one representative to read what they had prepared for their platform and also answer impromptu questions thrown at them from the teacher. I did not understand too much if I am being honest, but it was interesting! 서린 did a really great job presenting about our party. Actually, we were the last ones to go and the bell rang in the middle of her speech. Right as the bell went off, 서린 sped up her pacing which made me laugh. Overall, I am really excited for this class and for what is to come! I hope it will be fun!

Since school was supposedly over (or so Katie and I thought), we made our way to Twosome Place to study for a bit before going home for dinner. We saw the usual male employee and chatted to him about the start of the new semester. He looked visibly sad for us when we told him that we in fact did not return to our countries during the winter break–we were here the whole time. We ordered our drinks and went upstairs to our usual table but we were not there for long…because 하나고 민정쌤 texted Katie and asked where she was because the homerooms were having class elections as we were across the street at the cafe. 서린 and 혜지 told me that they were hoping to get elected for class president but even with them telling me that, I totally did not put two and two together. 

We decided to leave all our stuff at the cafe and we ran back to school as quickly as possible to try to be a part of our homeroom elections. When I came inside the classroom, my teacher immediately gasped and apologized to me since the students had all already voted. They were just counting all the ballots as I walked in the door. Even though that was the case, I was still happy to have joined them at that point–last minute or not. Also, while I was there hanging out for that hour, I got to talk to some of the other students in the class. One girl, 혜선, helped add me to the class group chat and complemented my shampoo, saying I smell good. It was funny and also cute. In addition, at the meeting, they passed out 2019 calendars as well as their version of a yearbook that included letters written by all the third years. It may seem like something very trivial… but I felt included because of those two things. As I stood at the back of the class (at a standing desk) flipping through the booklets like everyone else, I felt like a part of the class! As for the results of the election, a kid named 우선 was voted as the president and another student–예진–got the second most votes so she became the vice president.

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(Also, the calendar included an art piece by one of the male students from one of my English mentorship classes last semester! I messaged our group chat afterward to congratulate him on the feature.)

Katie and I returned to Twosome Place feeling happy and giggling about what had gone down in our classes. We cherished that moment (and the break from studying) well before getting back on the study grind! 

On the way back home, we stopped at this vendor near the market and bought some 분식 (cheap street food) to share (떡볶이–spicy rice cakes and 오뎅–fish cakes) and enjoyed that. It was my second time eating this type of food sitting down in front of a stall so I was very happy to have the experience. Plus, I had been really craving 떡볶이 as of late. I do not know what has come over me but now all of a sudden, I really crave spicy food! I had a full dinner with my host sister after coming home and spent the rest of the night writing my presentation and preparing that. One thing kept bothering me, however. This thing was keeping me from focusing entirely on my work. And it was all because I was so genuinely happy.

I was so happy due to the fact that I knew we had no school the following day! A free Thursday before class! All the students at our host schools would be taking a national required mock test of some sort, so we were not obligated to attend school. I was so excited to sleep in and enjoy a nice carefree morning that it was hard to finish my work this night. 

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I know the application for the 2020-2021 NSLI-Y programs came out a couple days ago and so I have noticed an influx of readers of this blog–many of them being prospective applicants. I want to welcome everyone to my blog and I really hope you enjoy the blogs that I have left! I moved into my college dorm yesterday and will be beginning my freshman year at Columbia University next week! Even though life is becoming more hectic as summer break is over, I hope to keep uploading blog posts quite regularly. Till next time~ Thanks for reading!!

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Music Class, First 급식 Meal of the Semester and Knowing Nothing! (03/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/05/19 Tuesday

Today was technically the second day back at 하나고 for the new semester but it felt more like the first day as yesterday just consisted of the 입학식 (the entrance ceremony for first years) and getting things settled within our homerooms. Today was the first day that we would be following our schedules AKA going to new classes and having to make friends! 

Today was also the first day of my new waking-up-at-five-thirty-in-the-morning-school-life. I woke up this morning and the entire house was dark; I had to pour my cereal using the light from the fridge to guide me because I was afraid of turning on a light and accidentally turning on all of the lights for the house as well (irrational fear? maybe…) I left my house before 6:30 am and jogged my way over to the subway station for my 50-minute commute. It was so early! However, a positive of waking up so early was that the train is not as crowded. I also have planned my train schedule to give me about ten minutes at my transfer station (one with good wifi and benches) so I have time halfway through my commute to communicate with Katie or any other friends. Also, already I am feeling grateful for this long commute in a weird not predicted way and that is because, with this extra time I am forced to commute, I have extra time to study vocabulary on Quizlet or write blog posts. I have only been doing this for three days (while writing this at least) and I have gotten a lot done! We love using our time wisely!

Arriving at school brought an expected wave of nerves as I realized that it was, in fact, our second day of school. Unlike my high school (that had block scheduling) and would only have 2 days with the “first day of school” feeling… our schedule was different for every single day of the week meaning we would be having 5 first days practically!

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My first class today was my English Mentorship (or as it is called in Korean– 교환학생 함께하는 공간–free period with an exchange student); however, I ended up sitting in the discussion room in the library for the entire period by myself. The library teacher explained to me that since it is the beginning of the school year, the kids for the class have not been decided yet. So I believe that Katie and I can accept 자습 (self-study) time during all of our scheduled mentorship periods this week (We have more this semester! I believe three instead of two?)

My second class of the day was music with Katie!! One good thing and one bad thing in that sentence, can you guess which is which? I was so happy that 민정쌤 succeeded in getting us a class together even if it’s for a subject I know nothing about! Never took a music class in high school {well I guess… now I can say I have}. 

When we first got to the music room, all the first-year students were waiting outside. When they saw us walking towards them, they started getting loud and obnoxious probably excited and or nervous to interact with us? When we got there they were all saying hi to us in English and then Katie pulled out the “Actually we can speak Korean.” card which caused almost everyone to visibly show surprise on their face and the boys got all loud and rowdy again. They asked us some questions like where we were from {When we said Chicago they kept screaming Simon. Turns out, that’s the English name of the vice-principal who attending graduate school at UChicago.} and our age {When I told them we were 21 Korean age, they all screamed again. I immediately followed up with the fact that they can use 반말 with us and call us 언니 and 누나 if they so please. 

Once we piled in the classroom, Katie and I sat next to each other in the very back. Our music teacher seems really nice and was very enthusiastic about having us introduce our names {though she probably mispronounced Katie’s several times.} There was also this boy in the back that asked his friend to tell Katie that he wanted to be friends with her! It was the cutest and most freshman type thing I’ve ever seen. 

During class, we filled out this music pretest of sorts which I literally failed! I was able to guess some notes correctly but I knew none of the symbols for rests in music. She also played two pieces of music that we had to try and identify. There was nothing filled in for that section! Overall music class was chill. She explained the rules of the classroom, using the instruments, and practice room etiquette. At one point she warned the boys from doing any roughhousing near the ceiling speakers because they would break. She called them out; it was pretty funny. 

After that class, I had 한국사 which was supposed to be with first-year students and on the fourth floor but when I arrived at the classroom, I was greeted by no one. I will say that I am pretty happy with how I handled the situation! Rather than freaking out, I went to the next class over and asked what class it was (in hopes that maybe the one written on my schedule was wrong). Unfortunately, they were still a first-year class and not the one I was looking for (영미문학 instead) and since this was only their second day of school, they had no good advice to give me. Actually, before answering my question, they exclaimed that my Korean was good and then asked if I was an exchange student. One of the girls just told me to wait in the room until someone showed up… I did for like 5 seconds and then I walked outside to find a teacher. One teacher passed by me and greeted me and I immediately ran up to him to explain my situation. It turned out that he was actually my teacher! And I was actually taking the class with third years instead so our classroom was on the 5th floor. I followed him up there and got to walk in after the teacher which was only a little bit embarrassing… 

These two girls recognized me and called me over to sit with them which was relieving. I avoided having to panic over where I should sit for this class period at least. This teacher seemed really nice and actually acknowledged my existence which isn’t always the case for my teachers… He had me introduce myself to the class even though most of them probably know of me by now since I was with them last year. In class, we just went over the syllabus, teacher expectations, and then got started with a little bit of the class. I was able to follow along just slightly by being able to connect the dots with the random vocab words that I did understand. I think this class will be okay!

Finally, it was lunchtime and we were going to be able to eat with our friends for the first time in a while! We all met up at 12:20 pm {the time 2nd graders are allowed to start eating} but there was already such a huge line! The food we had today was so good! There was 자짱밥 (black bean rice), 해물만둣국 (seafood dumpling soup), and 탕수육 (sweet and sour pork). Unfortunately, Katie and I had to rush out of there to get to Korean class on time but nonetheless, catching up with our friends was fun. On our way out, we all ran into 규원, 주연, and 지은 {the girls from my mentorship class last year} and we talked to them on the hallway a bit! We promised to definitely have lunch together sometime next week! I miss them so much!! 

(Since the freshman students are still new to eating in the cafeteria, there are still signs up explaining how to dispose of bones and clean up your tray at the end of the period because the lines are still super long due to the first years not exactly knowing what to do.)

Korean class was… average. Nothing too exciting. I didn’t feel very good about my speaking or participation this day but I also didn’t want to cry during the breaks so that’s a plus? Actually, I did forget the word for river… I looked to Josh and tried to explain the word with “a thing bigger than a lake…” Yeah… so maybe yesterday was not my day? 

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After Korean class, I went straight home so I had an hour to kill before dinner. This precious hour was spent lying on the floor in my room so my priorities are quite clear if you ask me. My host mom went all out for dinner with a lovely assortment of 반찬 (side dishes), fish, 된장찌개 (soybean paste stew) as well as my favorite Korean dish ever: 잡채 (sweet potato glass noodles)! It was all very tasty. 

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I told them about me coming out in the school’s newspaper! {Did I mention that in yesterday’s blog post? We did an interview a while ago and we just got the paper!} Here’s a pic: 

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After dinner, I went hard at work and studied the new grammar point from today and I made a new Quizlet. I have a lot of work cut out for me tomorrow since I let myself go to bed at 11:30… but you know, you win some you lose some. 

That’s all for this blog post! I know it’s another long one~~ I just feel the need to explain every last detail right now!! Besides probably not being able to finish this monster of a post… I hope you enjoyed anyways. Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

 

First Day Back to Korean High School, 입학식 (Entrance Ceremony), and Picnic at the Park {03/04/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/04/19 Monday

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming sense of dread. The part of me that was excited for school to start yesterday must have stayed in bed because when I finally rolled out of it, all I wanted to do was stay home. I was tired and completely and utterly nervous about what the day might bring. There was no room for excitement in my stomach; there were too many giant butterflies and moths even, fluttering around in there. 

Luckily, the school day was starting an entire hour and 40 minutes later today which meant that I got to sleep an extra hour than what I will be getting for the rest of the spring semester… oh, joy. I pulled on my uniform and tried making myself presentable before scarfing down a small bowl of cereal in under 5 minutes—is there a record for how fast you can inhale cereal? 

When I got to the subway platform, the original train I was planning on taking zoomed right past me. It was at that moment that I realized it was a 서울행 train which is shorter than the other out-bound trains from my home station. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by running to the first car so, I waited for the next train. Luckily, even though it was a later train as long as I yeeted my transfer, I could still make it on time. 

Katie and I planned to meet up at 연신내역 at 8:45 so that we could chill at the Paris Baguette nearby before heading off to school. We both did some last-minute homework while enjoying some expensive fruit drinks. 

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The bus ride to 하나고 was exactly what I expected: anxiety-filled, stressful, and too short.

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Around the front of the school, there were a lot of banners and signs for the 입학식 or entrance ceremony for the first years coming into the school. Katie and I knew that we were supposed to attend… but we were not sure where to go first thing in the morning. As we walked up the stairs to the art center, we ran into my friend 선민 {We took 통합사회 (Sociology) together last year!} who told us that there were no more seats on the second floor {where all the second years seemed to be sitting} but that we could probably just sit on the stairs. Katie and I went down to the front desk outside of the auditorium and I mustered enough courage to ask the students heading it where we should sit. Again, they said 2nd floor— I should have expected that reply. 

By this time, we had texted our group of friends to ask them what to do and through these texts, we were able to find out where they were. There were no seats so we ended up sitting behind 서린 and another friend during the entire 입학식. 

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The ceremony was actually really nice. {Or well, I bet it would have been if I was able to understand all of it!} They played an introductory video that showcased 하나고 in all its glory and if I was a Korean student, I would want to come here after seeing that video. They also had each first-year homeroom class last year make a video for the new first years which was really cute! All of the editors they had were really good! I’m talking professional level stuff! My homeroom class of last year edited their video in the style of that Snapchat meme trend that involved the lyrics “You so f*cking precious when you smile” but they did not censor the f word at all which made Katie and I gasp because that would not have flown at our high schools or probably any American high school. 

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There were also some speeches from board members I would presume as well as student performances and even one by two teachers {one being our new coordinating teacher Mike}. There was also this point in the ceremony in which the Korean flag was projected on the screen and everyone stood up and placed their hands on their heart. I’ve experienced something like this before and assumed it was gonna be something similar to the pledge of allegiance but luckily there was no chant in unison so I was able to just stand there. 

Katie and I also got to hear the 하나고 song for the first time! My school called it our fight song but since 하나고 doesn’t have sports teams… would it just be their theme song? School song? They put the melody and the lyrics on the screen so we were able to sing along. I probably won’t ever get the chance to sing it again but I think it would be cool to learn it! 

The last two parts of the ceremony were introducing the freshman homeroom teachers and the students in each class themselves. They played the graduation song the entire time and called down each student one by one and gave them some type of certificate of sorts. While the students walked the stage, their ID photos flashed on the screen and a little blurb of something that they wrote for the new semester/for their class. {Things like I won’t give up, let’s challenge ourselves this year, I hope we get close, etc} 

After the ceremony ended, we had an hour before lunch and we spent that in our homerooms. Katie and I were unfortunately not able to get any of our friends in our homeroom classes so I was dreading arriving there early. I sat at a random desk in the middle of the room and hoped that I wasn’t taking anyone’s spot or that someone felt burdened to sit by me. As I was sitting, 도윤, 윤세, and 혜지 surprised me by coming into my classroom and trying to cheer me up! They are probably more nervous about a new school year than I was yet they still tried to make me feel better and make me feel comfortable because they knew how the unknown and the thought of having to give self-introductions throughout the entire week was making me want to (lowkey) die. 

Eventually, a girl named 소연 sat next to me and we chatted about our feelings for the first semester. I would be switching homeroom teachers for this new semester as 민장쌤 was now Katie’s teacher. I was really worried about having a new teacher but when she walked in, she reminded me a lot of my Korean teacher. Her smile was very bright and she looked so friendly—I felt somewhat at ease. 

Our teacher explained where everyone’s lockers were and how they would figure out amongst themselves who would get which one {at our school, they call lockers 홈베스—literally, the English word homebase} and she mentioned that mine was somewhere else. I kind of understood this but at the same time I thought she was explaining instructions for what we needed to do which only stirred panic inside me but when 소연 re-explained things to me, I realized I was overthinking things. 

We then had to fill out this sheet with a lot of information about us like name, birthday, our dream job, where we want to go to school, our hobbies, our past awards, etc. I was proud to say that I understood most of the questions and only asked 소연 to clarify a few words here or there. (And to add on, when I ask students to explain or clarify things for me–I still ask them and have them answer in Korean!)

Once homeroom was over, it was time for lunch! The line was so long and 서린 explained that it was most likely due to the fact that the first years do not know when to eat yet. {My high school back in America had different lunchtimes too but here at 하나고, your grade determines what time you eat lunch: first years = 12:30 pm, second years = 12:20 pm, and third years = 12:10 pm}. We met with our big group of friends at 12:30 and we were still in line at 39 so Katie and I made the executive decision to leave and just have lunch before {or during} Korean class. We zoomed out of the lunchroom– trying to remember what we usually did when it came to bus and train times. 

Because we didn’t have lunch, we stopped by one of our favorite traditional spots on the way to Korean class: the 호떡 stand! The lady working the stall remembered us and said that it had been a long time! It was so nice to see her again and of course, the warm, delicious 호떡 were also just as inviting as ever. {Besides the fact that I spilled the sugary insides on my hair and vest within minutes of getting the pastry.} 

Korean class today was pretty good. We got to look over our monthly exams which I didn’t do too bad on! I only got 5 wrong on the reading {about a high B} and for the writing, I did better than I expected! Also for the grammar portion that really racked my head, I only got one wrong! I even picked the right grammar point… just used it wrong. For once, getting back a test did not put me in a bad mood. 

During class we studied the new vocab {from the workbook} and only two grammar points (rather than three) because we ran out of time. The vocab words this time around were less just words but actual phrases or expressions with meanings behind them that are used in very specific situations. These are harder than normal vocab words cause it’s not just one word with a very tangible meaning but often a couple words in a phrase that has a different literal translation to what meaning it actually has. Does this make any sense? For example, 발 뻗고 자다. This literally translates to “sleeping with your feet stretched out” and it is used when something that you were worried and nervous about has passed so you can now sleep well. {Wow reading this over I realize how LITERALLY stupid I am. I just tried describing what an idiom is in a terrible manner.} Excuse me while I lay my English skills down to die because, at this rate, I will return to America not being able to speak Korean or English it seems!

We are not allowed to speak English during the breaks between each class periods so rather than face that rule and speak Korean to the other students, I decided to just stay in the classroom and text my friends–beating the system. (Should I have gone out and talked? Yes… I am disappointed too…in myself.)

After class, I met up with Katie because we planned to have a little picnic near her subway station. There was this bridge with some nice steps underneath that we have used in the past to just sit and talk while eating an assortment of 편의점 (convenience store) food. We walked around the park for a while before trying to find this little 분식점 near Katie’s apartment (which is supposedly always there on Mondays) but today… it was sadly not there! We, instead, went to Paris Baguette and had some bread for dinner–healthy I know. Actually, while we were there chatting, her three younger host sisters showed up! So I got to meet them for the first time! They were all so adorable and I presume that since Katie has talked about me to them so often, they were not shy to speak with me (according to Katie, that is out of the ordinary!)

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After our “dinner,” we went to the nearest 7-11 to buy ice cream and ate that as our picnic under the bridge. Of course, I went for the old-time favorite– carp ice cream (When will I learn the name of this ice cream?)

I got home around 8 pm or so and spent the rest of the night either laying on my bedroom floor with my host dog wondering why I had no motivation to do work or actually doing work on my desk without my phone (no distractions!) I would consider it a productive night as I did finish all that I wanted to do… but then, on the other hand, I stayed up way too late for no reason. I went to bed past midnight which was usual for me during the winter break but now… I will have to wake up at 5:45 every single weekday! I cannot be surviving on 5 hours of sleep a night… Unlike the Korean students at 하나고, I cannot fall asleep in class. 

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That is all for this blog post! This post is over 2,000 words! But I had a lot to say so no apologies here… Obviously, I just have a lot to share but soon my school blog posts will become boring and repetitive once again (like they were back in November and December) but I hope you still stick around regardless. I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

익선동: Hot Spot for Locals in Korea & Last Weekend of Winter Break {03/01-03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/01/19 Friday

Katie and I planned to hang out all day {and the subsequent night} doing something fun but new as it seems we have been getting in a winter break routine of sorts: study at a cafe and then Korean class. That is all. We wanted to do more with our last few days of winter break. The night before, I found this YouTube video on a recently popularized “hot place” in Korea for locals— 익선동 (Ikseondong). This place isn’t as touristy and modernized/globalized as much as the nearby 인사동 (Insadong). Basically, it’s a smaller neighborhood with beautiful 한옥 (Traditional Korean Houses–Hanok) architecture and a lot of aesthetic cafes and restaurants {Though the majority are on the pricy side}. I watched a lot of the cafe walk-throughs and read a lot of reviews on blogs but the ones we wanted to go to were a bit too expensive for our running-out-of-stipend-brand and or had huge lines! For instance, there was this really gorgeous flower cafe with actual flowers lining the tables and basically every inch of the place but of course, there were no seats. However, I should have expected that. We may have been the only foreigners there {literally did not see another 외국인 during the entire time we were there} but all the Koreans know about this neighborhood. Additionally, it was a Friday {And all the students have yet to go back to school} so it was only inevitable that things would be busy. 

Our first stop of the day was to try some street food. I really wanted to try the irregular shaped 호떡s (Korean Style Sweet Pancakes) because I saw them in the same YouTube video mentioned above and my friend 연우 works there on the weekends as her part-time job {only Saturdays and Sundays though.. so we could not have seen her anyway.} but with our bad luck, the place was closed until later on in the day. Instead, we got some delicious churros for $2!

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We ended up going to this cafe called Uncle Video Town which actually was on the YouTube video I watched. The interior isn’t really anything special but you are able to rent private rooms to watch movies! We didn’t do that as we were not in the mood. We just ordered some drinks {iced green tea latte— one of the best ones I’ve had in awhile} and chatted. 

We also found ourselves in trouble as we went into the many cute jewelry and clothing shops in the area. I bought a cute pair of unique earrings and a necklace at this boutique {there was a sale for paying in cash… that’s my excuse…} and Katie and I both got a clothing item from this other shop. She bought a floral lace top while I bought one of those long tulle skirts that a lot of Korean girls wear. I’m probably too short for a maxi skirt but I wanted to try the fashion trend! I was feeling a sort of way that day—trying to get out of my comfort zone! 

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After strolling around 익선동 for a while, we headed back to 홍대 and went to 놀숲 for a couple hours to just hang out and chill. I bought 김밥 from the convenience store for our dinner and we were lucky enough to get a cubby in the back to allow for us to eat our kimbap secretly. Katie also played around with my makeup while we were there. It was a fun night spent together.

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03/02/19 Saturday 

I literally have no pictures from this day besides selfies but it was still such a fun day~~ One of the best of the week hands down! Today Katie came over to my house again to hang out and most importantly, straighten and cut my hair! I haven’t cut my hair since late Spring and the ends of my hair are all dead and gross. Katie has been nagging me to cut my hair for the longest time now! So much so that all our friends know how badly she wants to cut my hair. 

Before Katie came over, I was able to Skype my friends—Kara & Grace— from back home for a little bit which was so nice! We got to catch up and I heard some tea. Most importantly, I just missed talking to them! 

We spent the first couple hours of our hang out playing Katie’s hair shop. I sat in my desk chair while Katie stood over me like a professional hairdresser to straighten all of my hair. When it was done, I was shocked once again—feeling like a completely different person. I don’t straighten my hair often at all so when I do, I always become obsessed with stroking my straight hair for a while. Once I got over myself, Katie began cutting my hair. We took a quick trip to Olive Young to buy hair cutting scissors and laid out a towel on my floor to catch all the hair. We were going all out for this trim. Katie cut about 4-5 inches maybe? Honestly, I could not really tell all that much with my straight hair but once my hair returned to its natural curly form, I could tell right away. In the shower too, I was able to notice the difference due to how different it felt to wash my hair. 

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I feel like a new person! Maybe one day I will have enough courage to cut my hair majorly but until then… this will have to do. I would be fresh and new for the upcoming school semester! 

My host sister brought Katie and I snacks from the convenience store and Katie bought bread from a nearby bakery so we enjoyed those things while watching a very depressing episode of Black Mirror. 

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By the time dinner rolled around, my host mom gave me money to have dinner with Katie outside of the house so we went out together and got food {and ice cream} which we ate at these tables set up in the mall. While we were walking with our food, this woman almost bumped into us and she exclaimed: “Oh my, I didn’t see the foreigners.” to her partner. At the time I didn’t see anything wrong with that statement and I still don’t but it did make me feel a little disappointed. There was no reason for her to point out our differences like that. A sorry would have sufficed or even just “I did not see them.” Especially since her comment was not directed towards us… It’s not a big deal but… it can get pretty tiring feeling like an outsider every single day of your life. Number one reason I could never live in Korea permanently or very long term. 

The rest of my Saturday was really chill. I watched a movie on Netflix which I haven’t done in so long~~ but it was really nice! I tried doing some work but I was getting too easily distracted. I organized my room a bit more and did a fashion show using my straight hair as the focal point of each outfit {If you think I am kidding…think again}. 

03/03/19 Sunday

Like mentioned previously, I had no plans to really spend this last weekend “living it up” if you will. I wanted to rest! So Sunday was spent chilling in my room {often in bed all day} either writing blog posts, watching YouTube, or working on my Korean homework {We got assigned another TOPIK practice test to do over the weekend.} I kept putting off the test because the number of things I couldn’t understand {especially vocab} within the reading and listening sections always overwhelm me and make me feel utterly incompetent. I tend to always do the writing first and put off everything else till the last possible second {which meant till like 1 in the morning this night…oops} But yeah if I sum it up, that was my Sunday. 

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That’s all for this blog post, I hope you enjoyed! If this one was kinda slow… I apologize! Maybe starting school will bring in some interesting content! That’s all for now! 

  • Emma 엠마

Monthly Korean Test & Post-Test Waffle Tradition (02/26/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/26/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was D-Day (Monthly Test Day!) and I clearly did not study enough the night before because my motivation was severely lacking so I met up with Katie at our cramming cafe: Holly’s Cafe. We both ordered the same coffee drink to give us that extra boost to conquer the day! At the cafe, I read over all the textbook reading passages/dialogues as well as studied more vocab. I spent the last half hour writing a new self-introduction to use for the OPI (I make a new one each time so that it can reflect the improvement I have made over the past month–aka shoving grammar points and fancy words in my introduction.)

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After 4 hours or so of cramming, we left to head back to our respective testing locations (Although 2반 takes classes at the Better World Office, 3반 goes there to take our monthly test while 2반 moves back to the youth center.) Walking back into the Better World Office after a long while felt kind of strange and awkward… 민정쌤 started talking to me (as I ran into her on the way there) but for some reason, I felt so awkward? I did not want to make a mistake while speaking with her so I began to get nervous for no reason… Maybe it was a result of test anxiety.

Eventually, the others showed up and we just silently sat in the classroom anxiously waiting for our teacher to come in. 민정쌤 also gave us a container of strawberries all the way from 부산! They were very delicious! I love strawberry season in Korea!~ 

Our teacher came in and let us know that we were starting to do our OPIs over the phone to mirror the exact situation we would find ourselves in early June when we take the post-OPI. I was terrified of this! I thought that it might go better because I would not be able to see her but you know me and change… I have a difficult time welcoming any form of it! I offered to go first for the OPI because I thought that it would be better for my nerves to go first because I would not have to write my essays with the constant worry of how my OPI would go in the back of my head.

I got into the room and when the phone rang I did a little jog in place to relieve my nerves and then I picked up the phone. I could not have done worse when it came to my OPI! I felt so ashamed afterward. I recited my self-introduction and messed up on the literal second sentence–one of the simplest sentences! Then, my teacher asked me the first question: Describe your apartment complex. I blanked. I had no idea what to say. It was only the first question and probably the easiest one at that and I could not do it. Because she was not there, I felt all my emotions overwhelming me and I even almost cried pacing back and forth in that break room. After I mentioned that there was a very large park, she asked me what one could do there and once again, I blanked. I stood there on the phone saying nothing for several seconds. My teacher even had to help me by saying the word exercise very silently which then prompted me to start the conversation again and I talked about the large fields that kids play sports in and the ahjumma exercise machines, etc. I was able to pick things back up again but I felt ashamed for having such a bad beginning. 

She also never really asked me any difficult questions… every time I hear about 2반 and even at times 1반 OPI question topics, I get jealous and feel bad about mine because my teacher never tests my limits it seems… The others get asked about climate change and even reunification (topics that would be hard for me to talk about but I have some vocabulary to explain myself–vocabulary that I studied in class!) while for me, she asks me to compare New York and Korea or what I would bring in my bag when I go on vacation. My role-play was that I ordered a camera and it arrived broke so I had a phone conversation with an employee about getting a refund which was probably the best part of my entire OPI (but it was not (really) good by any means, however).

I left the OPI feeling dejected and went and rushed through my writing section. I took one look at the grammar section and could only answer one question just with a first glance. I quickly passed over the part and began with the essays. The prompt was easy (positive and negative effects of social media) and yet I still could not figure out what to write/ how to organize the writing. I planned out everything so horribly that I had no conclusion and I only answered the last question of the prompt with about three sentences. It did not go well.

After the test, I was ready to rant to the others and use waffles to ease my worries. I met up with Katie and we took a short little walk around the forest park near exit 3. We talked about our tests before heading over to get waffles. There were some other girls already there but we wanted to just be alone so we came after they ended up finishing. We discussed our plans for hanging out this weekend (We are visiting a current Hot Place in Korea if you will (익선동) and Katie is cutting and straightening my hair at my house!) to try to lighten up the mood after our long rants. Once our waffles were quickly eaten, we sat outside of KFC and talked some more until June, Josh, and Kaitlyn finished up eating. I planned to go home together with both Josh and June tonight (as it would be our last time ever). We rode the train together and had a good time. I am truly going to miss going home with them from now on. Before, I had more time to write blog posts or do Quizlet when they did not; however, our train rides made us closer. I felt that they helped us form our friendships~ I will always be grateful for them (And I know that they will eventually come back and visit me in 고양시 soon!)

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Sorry for being so negative lately! But that is how it be sometimes! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Cooking Class, Making Kimbap, and Playing 장구 (Jangu–Traditional Korean Instrument) 02/22-23/19 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

02/22/19 Friday

Friday was our last day of “Culture Week” if you will. We would be doing two cultural activities: making kimbap (김밥) and playing Jangu (장구). We ended up taking the cooking class at the same location that I had Korean cooking club during the summer program for six weeks back in 2016. We met up at the station together (It was at this point in time that I spotted a pig cupcake in a display case at this cafe and I made the very bad decision of spending my stipend on a cupcake at 10 in the morning. No regrets though! It was delicious!) and then walked to the Food and Culture Academy. The walk was so familiar as we passed by the side street that I walked down with 수진언니 when I met up with her back in November (That blog post here~) and 통인시장 (Tongin Market).

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I was happy that we were being taught how to make kimbap (김밥–rice, veggies, and sometimes meat and egg wrapped in dried seaweed) because I never learned how to make it during 요리동아리 (cooking club). I eat 김밥 so often when I do not want to spend money on real food, so it will be nice to know how to make it when I go back to America. I can easily whip up some rolls when I am missing Korean food and this is something simple I can do for my friends and family back home. Cooking the kimbap was a lot of fun because I was able to joke around about my cooking skills with June and Josh who were at the cooking stations near me. We all struggled to roll our seaweed correctly to make sure that things would not unravel during the cutting process–which they still…kinda did. But regardless, all of our rolls ended up being delicious even if they were not the prettiest!

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We got to enjoy our kimbap rolls with some nice warm egg soup. We received some certificates too for completing the cooking course~

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After having our lunch, we made our way to have our 장구 (Jangu) playing lessons at the National Center of Traditional Korean Music. I have never been musically talented which has led me to not play any instruments throughout my life. Unless you count playing the recorder in the fourth grade. I did DO that recorder competition with the different colored strings that you would wrap around the bottom of the instrument as if they were karate belts. (Who else relates?) The teacher was really patient with us as she understood that everything we were doing was quite new! I struggled a lot trying to figure out how to hold the drumsticks correctly as well as keeping in pace with everyone else. It seemed as if I had one good run through with the music, the next one would have to be a fail to even things out. There was one point where I messed up the order of when to strike one half of the drum and I just put my hands up in defeat and stopped playing because I could not continue on with the others because I lost my spot. However, what made me more embarrassed was that when this happened… I made eye contact with the teacher! I felt ashamed for not being able to keep up. Even though I was not the best at it, I really enjoyed playing the instrument. While we were playing the music, I immediately felt rewarded hearing everyone playing together and when I did follow along matching the beat, I also felt good! I can see how doing this would also become calming once you get in the zone and just following the rhythm however you like.

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After music class, a big group of the NSLI-Yians went to a 찜질방 (sauna/public bath) to celebrate Josh and Kaitlyn’s birthday which was today! (They share the same birthday but were born in different years!) I ended up just going home to have dinner with my host family when a different plan fell through. It was nice spending a chill Friday night in. My host sisters ate 회 together and since coming to live with them, I have become more accustomed to eating raw fish! And I actually do think it is good now! 

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02/23/19 Saturday

I literally have no pictures from this day because I was not feeling well today. I woke up with a bad headache and my stomach was aching severely so I spent the whole day just laying around in bed doing no work whatsoever. I may have written some blog posts or something? But more likely than not I was just watching Youtube the whole time. At around 8 pm, I ended up meeting up with Josh. He was so kind as to come visit me and we went to a cafe near the subway station in the mall. We stayed there for about three hours trying to focus and do some work. Josh worked on workbook homework while I did Quizlet before quickly giving up and resorting to writing blog posts. 

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One funny thing that happened while we were at the cafe was that after we put our stuff down and approached the counter to order, we were being instantly stared at by the worker at the register and the owner (or higher positioned worker…) of the cafe. They were looking at us and watching us discuss what we wanted to order (in English). They seemed almost…nervous. I went up and asked for a hot green tea latte and as soon as those words left my mouth (in Korean if that was not obvious) the male worker smiled and the female worker signed in relief and remarked that she thought that she was going to have to speak in English. I did order in Korean; however, the worker continued to switch between Korean and English while taking my order. I just thought it was so funny to see them, at first, so visibly nervous to have us order and then feel so much relief when we proved them wrong–AKA show them that we could speak Korean. This area really does not get many foreigners.

Well, that is all for this post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading~ I hope the next blog post can be more interesting than this one~ Sorry, things were pretty hard to describe and I did not take a lot of photos so…. this is what you are stuck with for today :p

  • Emma 엠마

Escape Room and Karaoke in Hongdae (홍대) with Korean High School Friend {02/21/19} NSLIY Korea AY

02/21/19 Thursday

For the past couple of days, 호영 {one of the boys from my mentoring program at 하나고} and I have been Insta DMing back and forth trying to figure out a plan to hang out with Katie before going back to school. We decided on the date rather early but figuring out what we were going to to do took a little more time. We kept going back and forth saying everything was good. At one point, I brought up 노래방 because I know that he likes music and this boy had the audacity to ask me how I remembered this?? Hello? Cause we once talked regularly! It made me laugh. 

Eventually, we decided to try and do an escape room. I warned him that if it was in Korean, we might have a difficult time helping out. I looked back at my experience doing it with my host sister and it was very very difficult! The puzzles relied a lot on explanations and listening/reading Korean so I was not the most helpful. I temporarily forgot that he’s good at English so with that in mind we decided to just go for it and do an escape room. 

Before that, I met up with Katie in the morning to go to a cafe. I had a presentation in Korean class today on mass media. {I decided to do mine on the adverse effects and positive effects of social media—called SNS in Korea} so I needed to memorize it before class. Within an hour at the cafe (the other hour was spent goofing off with Katie and doing mindless scrolling on my phone), I was able to memorize the whole thing. Once that was accomplished, I left to meet up with Kaitlyn who wanted to go to Daiso to buy some essentials and then walk around the main shopping streets in search of some luggage to buy since she is moving host families. However… while we were walking around, we started to fight about something pretty trivial. I was getting really upset and was practically yelling while walking around with Kaitlyn. I got so mad that I stormed away from her at one point and returned to the youth center by myself. It was definitely not a proud moment of mine. It put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

During Korean class, we covered all the readings and dialogues in the textbook and learned three new grammar points (though like I said… I feel like it is always so rushed nowadays…) We ended up running out of time (even though we did have a four-hour class today) and so I was the only one that was able to present. My presentation ended up going well. I messed up only minor parts when it came to the memorization and my teacher did not have much to fix content/grammar wise. During the class breaks, I was busy talking with 호영 about our plans after class. It was quite stressful as we were both not being decisive and spotty center wifi did not help the situation.

After class ended, I met up with Katie and we made our way to the subway station continuously texting 호영 who was on his way. I was also chugging a bottle of Starbucks coffee that I bought from the convenience store because it took a lot out of me to try to stay awake during class today. We were both so nervous while waiting for him at the right exit. We kept texting him as he was making his way towards us and at one point we were talking about going to a cafe before heading to the escape room since our room would not be ready till 20 minutes after the time we booked it. At one point he messaged with 낫어 레스토랑? We were both confused and thought he was asking to go to some kind of restaurant. When we let him know that we were not understanding, he explained that 레스토랑 was a restaurant but with Korean pronunciation. We both died laughing at this joke because that was not the problem whatsoever. It was the word before it! 

As 호영 approached us, he waved from behind the huge crowds of Koreans and when we finally found each other–there was a little bit of an awkward silence. I told 호영 that he seemed to have gotten taller but I probably just felt that way because I have not seen him for almost three months. We decided to head to 설빙 and share some 빙수 before firing up our brain cells to hopefully be successful with our escape room game! While walking there, we found out that 호영 had only been to 홍대 one time before today which was really shocking! I mean he is Korean! And, he has lived in Seoul for a long while! The conversation went more smoothly than I expected. Katie and I are able to hold our own with our Korean skills now even though we made plenty of jokes about not understanding 호영 before meeting up with him and because he speaks English pretty well too, we were able to casually flip back and forth if needed. I do believe that speaking Korean as much as I can while here is important but also, I think that being able to code-switch is a nice skill to have too–plus, it makes everything more comfortable. 호영 treated Katie and me at 설빙 because he got some money for the new year. We ended up splitting a strawberry and chocolate brownie 빙수.

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Eventually, it was time to head to the escape room! While we were walking there, 호영 literally almost got hit by a car or motorcycle about two to three times. At one point, I had to grab his arm and pull him to the side because he was cutting it so close. We made jokes about him dying before even being able to attempt to escape a room! We chose to do the easiest room at the place and it was about 12,000 won per person which is such a good price! Most places are 20,000 won per person and in comparison to American escape rooms with prices as high as 30 dollars or more, it was such a good price.

The escape room was such a good time! We were given a maximum of 4 hints and we did use them all; however, that does not matter. We were still able to escape with about 10 minutes left on the clock! Most of the escape room was actually in English as the puzzles only included numbers and riddles in English, so honestly, it would have been easier for us being the Native English speakers in the room. It was the first time both Katie and 호영 had done an escape room (Katie and I did do a virtual one together, though) but we were so successful with our teamwork! Each of us had a little moment to shine where we were able to figure out different puzzles to help us continue along until we were finally able to escape. In one of the rooms, there was even a fake turd in a toilet! It was hilarious when we forced 호영 to pick it up cause we knew it would be a clue. All in all, this escape room was a lot of fun! When we finally made it out of the room, we were so ecstatic and couldn’t help but high five (and I might have been jumping up and down and not able to stop smiling.)

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We finished off the night by getting some sticker photos done at this place that I seem to frequent now (literally though… I am looking at all the photos I have on my vanity right now in my host family’s home… and a good amount are from there.) We then headed to a coin 노래방. We played about 8 songs including Bohemian Rhapsody, Let it Go, 보여줄게, Love is an Open Door, 사랑했지만, Just the Way You Are, and even What Does the Fox Say. The last one was completely 호영’s decision but we all enjoyed screaming the absurd sounds and lyrics in the small room. We went all out–especially me–not caring and just screaming. I may not be able to sing well but screaming is definitely my talent. And it showed! We got our highest scores from singing really loud! We did get up to 98 and 99! 

Well, that is all for this blog post! We ended up separating after getting to the subway station. 호영 rode the subway with me for a couple stops before transferring and then I made my way home to be greeted with my host mom and sisters installing a pole in our living room!! I came in and heard yelling and was greeted by them all as they stood on chairs and tables with different heights screwing in the metal pole to the ceiling. I knew my host mom was considering installing one after she started pole dancing classes but this made me want to laugh out loud. That was all for my Thursday night! I hope you enjoyed this blog post!

  • Emma 엠마

Lunch with a Better World Staff Member & Dinga Cake House in Hongdae {02/18-19/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/18/19 Monday 

Tuesday would be our February Monthly test {It seemed like it had barely been three weeks since our last test! How could it almost be the start of the March already??} and by the time Monday rolled around, I did not feel ready at all. I have had trouble keeping motivation as of late and did not study nearly as hard as I did for the previous tests. Katie and I decided to meet at Coffee Slob to study for a bit before class with some cheap drinks and cookies to accompany us. I did get some stuff done but overall, I have not been productive lately!! 

For lunch, I decided to use the time I could be spending studying… to instead go out for lunch with some of the other NSLI-Y students: Liam, June, and Alix. We ordered two pizzas for ourselves at Pizza School. One was some cream carbonara pizza {It literally had noodles on it!} while the other one was some type of spicy chicken pizza that had tons and tons of corn on it! It was literally the worst pizza we could have picked! Luckily, the others were so kind as to allow me to eat more slices from the other pizza so I wouldn’t have to suffer and pick all the corn off the pizza. 

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Alix & Liam w/ a drawing that Alix bought at a concert for him. I believe she is an idol singer.

Korean class was a huge blur… I really cannot remember what we did.. I believe it was a grammar point and vocab day so we went over the new chapter’s three grammar points and the new vocabulary from the workbook. We also took our first quiz since 설날 which consisted of three chapters from the textbook rather than the usual two. Let’s just say… I hardcore failed that quiz!!! I did so bad… it was quite embarrassing…. 

(These two photos showcase a scene during one of our breaks between class periods…I do not know what we are doing… my teacher walked passed us and gave us the weirdest face and once she fully left, we all burst into laughter. The one covered in the scarf is Kaitlyn, btw.)

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After class, I wasn’t feeling the head-straight-home thing so I decided to spend an hour with Kaitlyn and June finally trying out Dinga Cake House! The legendary place! We got there and was worried that it would be rented out, or closed, or that there would be no seats cause we have been waiting to try that place out for what seems forever now and something has always seemed to stop us! The world did not want us to go! However, we were in luck today!

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We each ordered a slice of cake around $6 which wouldn’t have been the expensive thing in the world but you were also required to order a drink along with the cake… and so the already pricy cake added up with the pricy drink. But nonetheless, for our hungry hearts (and for the cute cakes!), we all made sure to order different flavors of cake so that we could try each other’s choices. I ordered this red velvet cake with some crazy rainbow icing. But it looked like actual buttercream frosting and not that weird cream stuff {생크림 they call it in Korean} that is on almost every cake here. (As you can tell I do not like this type of frosting.) Kaitlyn got carrot cake dressed up as a hamburger with frosting while June got a caramel Biscoff cookie cake. Everything was literally so delicious! But not only was the dessert impeccable, but the cafe itself also had a really cozy and homey atmosphere which made me enjoy being there with the others. It truly felt like I had walked into an American home! It was too cute~

I came home and had dinner with my host family and spent the rest of the night trying to study and finish my homework but my motivation was severely lacking and so I slacked off quite a bit… Tomorrow is a new day!

02/19/19 Tuesday 

Tuesday would usually just be another day with Korean class but it was not an ordinary Tuesday at all. For lunch today, we got the opportunity to eat with one of the Better World staff members. This meant getting to know more of the people that work behind the scenes for all of the things that Better World does for us as well as getting free food and getting the chance to practice our Korean with a native speaker—and before we met them, a stranger at that!

Before we were scheduled to meet at the Better World office by 11:30 am, I went to a cafe for almost two hours with Kaitlyn. We went to the 달빛 cafe near Better World to get some work done but I could not get off of my phone it seemed! I was able to review some grammar and retake some notes but most of the time was spent talking to Kaitlyn too. She tried to finish some homework but her attempt was also in vain. 

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My favorite chocolate banana smoothie!

Originally, I was going to have lunch with 민정쌤 as she picked me; however, Addie witnessed an accident on the way to Better World which was quite shocking and pretty traumatizing. Because of that 민정쌤 decided it was best to stay with her so I ended up eating with the person that chose Addie for the draw. When 주연쌤 explained this to me, I, of course, understood the reasoning behind the switch and only wanted the best for Addie at that time. However, I was also upset thinking why me? I didn’t want to eat with a stranger! I felt so anxious! 주연쌤 introduced me to 혜진쌤 in the office so that when it was time to leave, I would know who to go with. 주연쌤 told her that I was good at Korean so I should not worry– it would be very comfortable she said.

We ended up going to a famous 돈까스집 (a restaurant that sells pork cutlets). 혜진쌤 had heard about it being a 맛집 (trendy eatery) and wanted to try it out. Walking to the place was a bit awkward at first. I was really nervous to speak Korean to her especially because I knew we were going to be together for such a prolonged time at lunch. As we walked, she used her umbrella to also protect me from the snow, it was a very kind gesture. (Also, yes, interesting fact: many Koreans use umbrellas when it snows.)

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At the restaurant, we ordered this fancy platter of 5 different meat cuts of 돈까스. Like there were pieces from the back meat, tenderloin, etc. There was even an order to eat them {in the most delicious way} which the waitress explained to us before we started eating. I could not follow her explanation whatsoever and when I looked over at 쌤 for some help, she also let me know that she did not know herself. We laughed about this and from then, I felt a bit more comfortable. Some of my stress was released. 

The food was really delicious. It was definitely the fanciest 돈까스 I’ve ever eaten for sure. (I am used to cheap $5 cuts) We also had some lovely 반찬 (side dishes) and such which were match appreciated and matched the meat well. But of course, the best part of the lunch was the conversations I was able to have with 혜진쌤. I thought it would be hard to talk with her but it proved to be easier than I first thought. 

We talked about the basic topics like where we were both from, our families, and of course, she asked me a lot of questions on my future university major, my interest in Korean, and how I feel life here is like. One of the things I’m most grateful for since coming to Korea is being able to feel moments that tangibly showcase {to myself mostly} that I’ve improved. This was one of those times. 

We started getting into the topic of the education system in Korea and comparing it to that of America’s. 혜진쌤 brought up the fact that our previous president Obama even said in a speech that America’s system should try to take note from Korea’s; however, she disagrees. We talked about the fact that Korea is considered to have one of the best education systems just because of high test scores which really isn’t the most valid indicator of a good education. Through this, we talked about students basically having no life when it comes to having to attend 학원 (academy) outside of school. I brought up my friend 서린 who told us that during winter break, she spends about 8 hours a day at 학원 learning math. She gets breaks… but because the other girls are so competitive and study through the breaks, she is forced to do the same. 

혜진쌤 actually has two children so we also talked about hem for a bit. She told me that she too finds Korean age confusing as her child is only about 3 years old {if you count months} but according to Korean age, she’s 5 years old. We also discussed the problems she finds with kids cafes. She said that she originally thought that they were a good environment for kids to play at (in order to have a change of pace) but after going, she finds that the order of how the kid should play limits imagination and creativity. 

We discussed the fact that if there is a manner in which you are supposed to play, it’s really not playing. If you have to schedule in playtime into your planner, it’s really not playing. {I’m using the word ‘play’ here because in the Korean language, when you want to express going out and doing something fun, hanging out with friends, etc you use the verb 놀다 which literally means to play}. I thought back to my junior year of high school {particularly my life during winter break} as that would likely most resemble the current situation of the rising third years at 하나고 (My Korean high school). During my junior year, I was studying for the SAT. A couple hours every other day or so. I took a couple practice tests but honestly, that’s more than a lot of people seemed to do. Most of them truly used winter break as a time to rest and others didn’t start studying cause they just didn’t need to. (** cough cough my twin brother -_- **cough cough) I ended up not doing well on the test and taking it a couple more times and still not using those scores ever {Ending up taking the ACT once and using that score for applications} but it was okay because I didn’t allow it to consume me. In America, our college entrance exams don’t consume our lives. They are important but not everything. And you CAN retake them. It is not a one and done deal. You can get a perfect score and get rejected from top schools. You can get a mediocre score and get accepted into a top-ranking institution or thrive at a state school—it’s not all about going to the top schools. But in Korea, it is like that. In fact, a good amount of students will repeat their third year of high school just to have another chance to take their entrance exam (수능) and hopefully get a higher score to get into their university of choice.

 It was a really interesting conversation and I heavily enjoyed being able to talk about a rather complicated topic. 

After our lunch, she wanted to recommend me a latte from a cafe near Better World because I told her I didn’t like coffee but we both bonded over the fact that we like going to cafes and being productive {studying, reading, etc}. She ended up taking me to the 달빛별빛 cafe which I was at with Kaitlyn earlier that day. Explaining that, and greeting the store owner again was fun. When we arrived, Shannon, Josh, 주연쌤, and another Better World staff member {loofy was his name maybe?} were there already chilling.

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 혜진쌤 ordered some tapioca nut lattes {I think that’s what they were} for us and we talked some more at the cafe. She told me that she heard about me from 민정쌤 the night before because 민정쌤 mentioned she had me at work but she didn’t know who that was until she met me. She told me that from now on, I have to make sure to say hi to her when I visit the office and I, of course, assured her I would. 

She kept asking me if I was hungry and we laughed about Koreans’ obsession with food. Well, it’s not really an obsession but used as an endearing action— an expression of love and care. Koreans will often always ask if you have eaten or what you have eaten upon seeing you after awhile. But even if they ask you what did you eat, sometimes (based on the tone of their question) they are not actually wondering what you ate. A simple expression of ‘yes’ will suffice. I learned this in Korean class and it literally blew my mind. And it is not just with this expression but it applies to others too: like ‘Where are you going?’

She was worried that she had me talk too much during lunch and so I didn’t eat enough. I assured her that I was good and that I would just buy convenience store snacks during the break if I got hungry. Before leaving the cafe, she bought me a basil scone which was delicious! I haven’t tasted basil flavor in so long!! It was really nice of her~ She said that I should eat it instead of spending money on 삼각김밥. (She listens well!)

After my meeting with her ended, Josh and I walked back to class together. I can’t remember much of class today besides our many discussions on tv. We discussed the adverse effects and positive effects of watching tv as well as our favorite shows to watch. Apparently, it seems that I really like watching medical shows even though I would never want to be a doctor. I exposed myself to watching countless medical documentaries on YouTube and regularly listening to podcasts and YouTube videos by doctors about health. Also, I told them that my favorite Korean drama was The Good Doctor {and I also thoroughly enjoyed the first season of the American version}. I usually feel like I do a really bad job at participating during class—using my voice. I always make sure to take notes, follow along, listen intently but taking part using my voice is another story… but today! I did well! I am proud!

I came home right away and took the train home with Josh. Honestly, I’ve been spoiled being able to go home with him and June after class. Now that they are moving after winter break (because their commutes to school would be crazy from where they live now–especially Josh), we won’t have that opportunity much longer. It’s sad because it has definitely made us closer… it’s a shame. I know for sure; I wouldn’t have gotten as close to June as I had if it weren’t for her moving to 파주시. I know it may not seem like the biggest deal but I truly value it—having people living so close. It makes me feel less lonely… I’m gonna miss it. (I am the student living in 고양시 (Not Seoul) for the entire program!)

That’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed. This week is gonna be crazy busy since it’s cultural activity week but that’s okay, I’m ready for the hectic schedule!! See you all then~

  • Emma 엠마

Last Supporter Meeting, 미소국수, Research Project Presentation, and Night Out in Hongdae with the Supporters (02/14-02/15/19) NSLI-Y AY

02/14/19 Thursday

Thursday was our very last supporter meeting before our project presentation happening the very next day. We had to have our PowerPoint slides and video done by that afternoon, so as one might guess, it was a very hectic morning at Holly’s Cafe. I stayed up really late the night before editing the video to the point where I could edit no more {because I was lacking in audio recordings from Katie} so I actually had actual coffee at the cafe—yes a surprise. No Green Tea Lattes today, no sir. 

The two hours of the meeting went by really fast as we were busy working the whole time. I was able to finish our video and although it is no professional YouTube quality video, it was good enough for us! We also put the final touches on our presentation and split up the speaking points—timing everything to make sure it was under 10 minutes. 

At the end of the meeting, 혜린언니 surprised Katie and me with little gift bags she prepared. They each included a little pig keychain {she did not know this at the time but my favorite animals are pigs!}, a mirror, and a little handwritten letter. It was the sweetest gesture and at the time I felt extremely guilty for not having anything prepared for her. But Katie and I planned to meet early the following morning to get her a gift! 

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We ended up not having the chance to get lunch together because I had to finish writing an essay for Korean class {which ended up not being due then… but the following class period…ugh} and Katie wanted to cram more for her vocab test so we promised each other to grab lunch before the presentation day! 

I have literally no recollection of Korean class today and I ended up going straight home after class too {Oh I just realized… it was Valentine’s Day this day… well, no surprise… no dates for me.} So the rest of the night was just spent having dinner with my host family and studying Korean. I also took a quick run to Artbox {bless it only being a 5-minute walk from my apartment complex} to buy 언니 a letter set. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe before meeting Katie to write everything down. 

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02/15/19 Friday

On the subway ride to 홍대, I typed out what I wanted to write to 혜린언니 out on a Google Doc and hastily wrote it all out at Holly’s. Katie and I met up with each other about an hour later and went around buying stuff for her gift. We settled on a blind box of this one naked baby angel toy called Sonny Angel {We chose it because she always is calling us her babies since she is older than us.} as well as a strawberry tart from Blanc bakery because she as always mentioning wanting to try one of their cakes but never got the chance. We didn’t buy a cake cause it looked too sweet for her, but we did think that a fruit tart would please her. 

We met up with 혜린언니 at the subway station and we all walked together to get lunch at this restaurant called 미소 국수 {smile noodles} and I had really good 만둣국수. It was nice to hang out and finally feel relieved—as if a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders—since the project was now officially over. No more due dates! Just showtime during the presentation.

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Her reaction to our gift was the cutest!~

Listening to everyone’s presentations was actually really interesting. I was excited to see what they all ended up coming up with as their final work and some of them were so creative in how they delivered the information. For example, Pansori Vs. Kpop group {Hunter, Kaitlyn, and Shannon} had this really nicely edited video with clips of performances, interviews, news shows, etc. Honestly, at first, it seemed to be a real documentary on Korean music: old and new. Also, the group that had plastic surgery {Liam & Harmony} actually had them giving their supporter a fake double eyelid surgery in the video with scrubs, medical masks, and even tools! It was so realistic and I could not stop laughing at Doctor Harmony asking Liam for the scalpel. 

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Harmony thought it was hilarious to play with my hair and put it in pigtails!!

I think that my group did such a great job on our presentation! I believe that it was really informative and was able to shed light on a topic that many aren’t really aware regarding Korean society. My edited video could not compare to Hunter’s masterpiece but hey it did the job! And I think everyone liked the images and political cartoons I included from Korean sources. I will admit that adding the English subtitles gave me more work; however, I believe it was worth it! I think that everything was able to hit harder because all the American students were able to understand. 

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I won Playdoh for answering a question right and Katie made a pretty rose out of the clay!

After all the presentation were over, the Better World staff members gave out awards for each of the groups. They said that the awards weren’t really serious… that they were funny awards. Well, I will let you decide what you think about the awards: rough patch, book worm, tried their best, etc. My group 독립여성 {Independent ladies} got the award for … beautiful face {아름다운 면상}. I mean I’m flattered they think we are pretty but… this would have been more clever with the plastic surgery group. I don’t know… I thought we would get an award that really related to our topic/effort put in…

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Besides awards, we also received our certificates of achievement {for successfully completing the research project} which consisted of us coming on stage and presenting the certificate to one other person in our group and saying a few words {we did it first and said it all in Korean}. We also had time to write out reflections and a few extra things for a booklet that would be made to include all of our presentations. 

Once the final commencement was made, we all went to have dinner together at this chicken place near the Better World office where we ate chicken and 떡볶이. A big group of girls {Katie, 혜린언니, 유빈언니, Harmony, 은하언니, Shannon} and I went to a 노래방 and then got sticker photos done. It was a lot of fun! The place we went to for the karaoke was one of those fancy buildings on the Main Street of 홍대 that you can look into and see all the people dancing and singing sound in the large plush rooms with velvet couches! It was my first time being at anything like that before. 

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After saying goodbye to everyone, 혜린언니, Katie, and I headed to the hot chocolate cafe to just chat some more before having to go home to be back in time for curfew. I figured that since I was out for the night {and since I rarely stay out till curfew on weekends}, that I was gonna stay out as long as possible! 

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~~ This was my third to last week of winter break! Oh, how time has just continued to fly on by! I hope you enjoyed this post. Till next time~ 

  • Emma 엠마

Outdoor Korean Mall, Escape Room, and Bonding With My Host Sister {02/03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/03/19 Sunday

Today I spent the day with my host sister walking around this outdoor mall area called Lafesta. Apparently, it is a really popular hangout place in Ilsan, Goyang-si. We went on a Sunday afternoon and since it was raining, there were not too many people (which was honestly better for us. Crowds are never fun!) but I realized quickly that I had been to the area before with my last host family. We walked around the area on Christmas and watched the Disney Nutcracker movie at the theater that is located there. When we first arrived, nothing looked familiar at all but as we kept walking through the street, I recognized the placement of the Artbox, the book store, and the outdoor arcade.

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With my host sister, our first stop was to get her ears pierced! We found this one little shop and waited for a little while as there was already a woman there getting her ears pierced and a couple other girls in line to go next. There were so many really pretty earrings and it took my host sister quite a bit of time to pick out the earring she wanted. She ended up getting her ears pierced in two different places: on her earlobe and then on the outside cartilage of her ear (I do not know the official name for that placement on the ear.) At the time, I kind of wanted to get my doubles pierced but piercing is not allowed on the NSLI-Y Program!

After she got her ears pierced, we continued walking around the outdoor mall and stumbled upon this little cafe that allows you to decorate phone cases. There was a large counter with a bunch of small dishes filled with gems, character molds, and other little plastic pieces that resembled cute foods, flowers, hearts, and unique designs. We got to walk around, pick what which ones we wanted to use, and then glue them onto our individual phone cases. They also gave us free drinks as they were included in the cost of making the phone which I thought was interesting, but looking back… I guess it makes sense since it was advertising itself as a phone case making cafe–so drinks were to be expected. 

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We were ready to eat by the time we finished up our cases and they dried, so we went to this one well-known restaurant that my host sister recommended. It was a seafood restaurant that was known for its good quality salmon. We ordered some salmon rice bowls (연어덮밥) and a kimchi seafood crispy pancake (해물김치전). When we ordered, they needed to make more rice which was going to take 20 minutes, so they apologized by giving us some 연어회 (raw salmon) as service. Because of the extra food and our pancake appetizer, we barely had any room left in our stomachs to eat the salmon rice bowls! When the waiter brought out the raw salmon for free because our food was going to take a long time, my host sister brought up the fact that sometimes foreigners (especially white foreigners) get special treatment and she believed that this was one of those occasions. She also gave me other general examples and one about her sister’s American friend.

After lunch, we went to finally try doing an escape room! I have never done one before (well I mean… maybe you can count the one made for children that I did with my last host family but… I will not.) and neither had my host sister, so it was a first experience for the both of us!! We ended up picking one of the hardest rooms that the place offered just because the room looked pretty (well we did not outright say that but I believe it was both of our motivations–Also, maybe we both believed that we could do well at the hard room.) The worker told us that we had three clues and we definitely used all of them and then some! We started off in a room with lots of really pretty paintings (like a gallery or exhibition or something). We were able to get halfway with a lot of tricks. We could tell what we needed to do in some way but exactly how to execute it was the issue we came across often. It was most difficult for me because I could not understand the Korean throughout the room. Most of the paintings had little descriptions that hid clues to solve the problems and I had trouble catching what was said through the recordings because my listening comprehension is horrible! The room was a lot of fun though because paintings would like pop out of the wall or doors would swing open which added to the experience. We made it to the second room but struggled so much trying to figure out how to start that the worker actually called our room to give us a hint! I could not help but laugh at the fact that he had been watching on the cameras and felt pity for us, so he gave us another hint to help us out. 

There was one point where I figured out how to solve the next step but when I tried executing this idea, nothing happened–I was wrong. My host sister went to call for a hint and it turns out I had been doing it right the whole time! I must have just made a small mistake because when we tried again, it worked and the secret door opened. That was a bit frustrating! Eventually, the hour was up and we did not make it out of the escape room. We made it to the final area but did not even get the chance to start any of the puzzles. The worker came to get us when the time was out and he showed us how to solve the remaining couple of puzzles and escape the room. Even though we did not make it out by ourselves, I think we did a pretty good job for our first time. Especially regarding me and my participation, I think I did a pretty good job for not speaking the language that literally everything in the escape room was written in (except the one lock that used the English alphabet.) There was one point where we were looking at this one sheet of paper and on it were three bolded words in Korean and I was able to point that out to my host sister! Small things like that made me feel like I was helping so that made a difference to me, in my opinion at least!

We left the place with a good attitude about what we did and a free drink in hand. We took a taxi back home and just relaxed for the rest of the night. My older host sister ended up coming home later at night from her trip to Japan so we all welcomed her back.

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Well, that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed what I have to share with you all today! Thanks for reading~ Til next time!!!

  • Emma 엠마