Being Late to School, After Class Karaoke, and Korean Food Market (04/15/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/15/19 Monday

I started my Monday morning off on the complete wrong side of the bed. I woke up to the sound of my program phone ringing rather than my alarm, and when I alarmingly got up to answer my phone—hoping that it wasn’t loud enough to wake up my host family—I noticed that it was Katie calling me. I answered the phone and I could hear the worry in her voice. I looked at my phone at that moment and saw that the time written across the screen was in fact 7:25 am. I almost swore in that moment and refrained myself and quickly explained to Katie that in my tired daze last night, I accidentally set my alarm for 6 pm rather than 6 am.

I looked at the time and figured out that I could take a train at 7:47 am and make it to the train station by 8:30 meaning that I could get to school around 8:45 am if the buses decided to play their route to my favor today. This would make me only 45 min late to the school day—and only 25 min late to first period in theory. 

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Documenting my lateness with a hurried selfie to my Snapchat streaks

I texted 민정쌤 about my situation and all morning I worried about what kind of scolding I would get. I made it to school around the time that I expected myself to but when I finally found my first class (The teacher decided to switch classrooms for some reason?), my teacher was lecturing at the front of the class and because I did not want to interrupt her, I hid in the bathroom until the first break—so only for like 20 minutes. (Hiding from my problems? Possibly… yes…)

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When the bell finally rang and I was free from hiding in one of the bathroom stalls, I went to class and very awkwardly greeted the teacher. Because my luck is just so great, I entered the room and there were no open desks—not. one. Single. Desk. So I was not only late to class (and everyone noticed), but I also had to go two doors down to our old classroom and move a desk from that room all the way to ours. The desks are very loud and drag on the floor and my desk would not go through the door smoothly so I definitely made a small scene pushing my desk into the room. 

The teacher didn’t really acknowledge my presence—or the previous lack of—so I just kept to myself during her remaining lecture. I didn’t do any self study but I also didn’t take notes while she was talking. I just existed in my seat. 

My last class of the day was English and while I walked with Katie to our next period, I ran into my homeroom teacher who had no idea that I was not coming to school. (민정쌤 never read my messages about being late to school… by the time I messaged her telling her that I had arrived, she still hadn’t seen it. I never contacted our 하나고 coordinating teacher (because I was in such a rush) and so my homeroom teacher had no idea. I felt bad for not messaging her earlier (I did tell her when I arrived… half an hour later) and she definitely scolded me during that quick hallway interaction. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Katie went to the 편의점 before school and bought me food for breakfast: yogurt, a granola bar, and coffee. She knew I would not have had the time to eat breakfast so she prepared everything for me. I was incredibly touched by such a kind gesture! I don’t deserve a best friend like her! 

English class today was actually really really fun. We spent the first period of class just talking about unpopular opinions. We all wrote three down in our notebook at the start of class and then we went around the room and each shared one. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s weird unpopular opinions. Andrew had some really interesting ones like the fact that he thinks that anything that combines both salty and sweet (salted caramel/chocolate was his example) is disgusting. This blew my mind because it could not be more wrong like hello, one of the best food combinations is French fries and milkshakes for a reason! He also thinks that besides in pie, fruit should not be heated up or cooked (This I agree with. We said this against the case of pineapple pizza.) and that cherry blossoms are overrated—like popcorn (This I completely and utterly disagree with!) 

Katie and I left 하나고 early so we wouldn’t have to eat alone (surprise surprise) and so I could memorize my speech for today’s Korean class and pick up stipend at Better World.

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Took a photo of this junkyard for cars (all of a sudden… forgetting the English name…) because we learned this word in Korean class the other week and I was happy to spot it in public!

Korean class today was a lot of fun. We learned one new grammar point today that is actually really similar to one we already learned and if you asked to me to explain to you the difference… I would not be able to do that just yet. The point is not in our grammar book and Internet forums were not helpful at all!! So that was a bit frustrating. Other than that, we learned a lot of fun words.

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We started a unit on science and technology and futuristic things. We talked about endangered animals for a bit which was quite difficult seeing that our animal vocabulary is a bit lacking.. we started naming animals that were extinct from the ice age which led 윤아 to start describing Sid the dumb sloth from the Ice Age movie but our teacher wasn’t getting it. She proceeded to draw her rendition of him on the board… it was pretty hilarious. Please, take in this masterpiece for all it is worth: 

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After class, I went with Katie to a coin 노래방 so we could sing some songs because during our cafe date on Wednesday from the previous week, I basically danced to old Taylor Swift songs in my seat while working on my presentation. I really wanted to sing Love Story with an actual microphone and in a private space so I could scream my lungs out. We sang Taylor Swift, Let it Go, Avril Lavigne, Les Miserables, and we ended it all with Ailee’s 보여줄게—the classic. 

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We sang our hearts out and worked up quite an appetite so we went to Katie’s home station and ate 분식 for dinner: 떡볶이 and  튀김. 윤아 also came out of her apartment (both their host families live in the same complex!) and joined us for some food before having dinner with her host mom. It was fun just chilling with the girls—talking—under a gazebo type thing while chowing down on rice cakes and fried sweet potato. 

I came home afterward and finished my homework before I let myself fully go and put on another Netflix movie. (Not proud of this one… I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic…) And that was my night! 

Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my day~~ Whether it was a mess or not! Well, until next time! 

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/06/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/07/19 Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

파주시 Eats & Cafe, 야외수업 (Outside Class), and Homeroom Teacher 상담 (3/22/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/22/19 Friday

Today was a really fun day. Thinking back on it now (about two weeks later), I can’t help but smile—especially looking at all the pictures I took from this day. I was genuinely happy during so many moments throughout the day. I can’t help but feel thankful for days like today. 

The Japanese exchange students arrived at 하나고 yesterday so everyone was still buzzing about the new students. There were about 12 students maybe? Half boys and half girls—representing about 6 schools or so among the students. In my homeroom, we watched a video introduction of them and Japanese culture which was really well edited. Though I will admit… it made me kinda sad to see how much effort the students at 하나고 put into it and how much they prepared for the Japanese students while Katie and I were left to our own devices to either sink or swim when we first arrived here. 

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One of the Japanese students in my public speaking class gave me this delicious Japanese chocolate! Best thing I have ever eaten, perhaps?!?!

Music class was the first period of the day and after we got through all the boring things about music theory, we got to sing ‘What I’ve Been Looking For’ from Disney’s High School Musical!! Honestly, I didn’t watch high school musical till the year prior when my friend group let me know that I could not finish my high school career without seeing the movie. The fact that it was an American song and something somewhat familiar made my heart skip a beat. 

For once, Katie and I felt like we knew something better than the Korean students which was nice. Singing the song was so much fun and my smile never left my face during the duration of the song. Even during break, we went into a practice room with some of the other girls in the class and practiced the song (along with random things like Justin Bieber.) It was the best music class yet. 

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Public speaking was my next class and we spent the entire class doing tongue twisters. It was truly a lot of fun. I think I have come to realize a hidden talent of mine: how fast I can say the Peter Picks a Peck of Pickled Peppers tongue twister! 

During lunch, I had to do a 상담 with my homeroom teacher so we ended up taking a short little walk to the Twosome Place Cafe near school and sitting down together to chat (while also enjoying some drinks and a cheesecake). We ended up talking about a lot of subjects: life at 하나고, making friends, 마니또, Korean class, plans with Katie, our upcoming 반모임, the templestay I will be doing this weekend! We spoke in all Korean and it was nice having time to say more to my teacher than the hurried ‘good morning’ when she is either rushing to start homeroom class or rushing to end it. 

Also the main female employee at the cafe was there and when she met my home room teacher, she kept complimenting my Korean and telling her that I come here often and that she’s always shocked by what I say. She also guessed my order before I said anything (My order being a green tea latte or a strawberry & peach frappuccino) which shows how observant she is! But also… that she likes me enough to remember my order!^^

We got back to the lunch room 10 minutes before the end of the lunch period so I ended up not being able to eat lunch… so my lunch ended up being the rest of the cheesecake that we did not finish at the cafe. It wasn’t a big deal though— I wasn’t complaining. It was my favorite flavor: raspberry cheesecake.

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After lunch I had a free study period with Katie (which is where I ate my cake!) and then it was Economics. Before our teacher came in, we (the other students and I) decorated the board with lots of pictures basically begging our teacher to allow us to go outside for class today: something known as 야외 수업. When she came into the classroom and saw all that we did, she was adamantly against letting us go outside. After a first period of actually working hard, we were able to convince her to let us roam free for the last period of the day. 

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That day, I hung out with the girls in my Economics class and the girls from the class next door (people like 소연, 서영, 예원, and of course 서린 and her Japanese exchange student friend Kana. We played some Korean games like I am grounded (I finally know how to play although I really suck at it!) as well as this flower blooming game that is very similar to the American game called Red Light Green Light. At one point, one of the math teachers came and joined us in playing the game too! (The math teacher that all the girls shriek over when he passes them in the hallway… Everyone thinks he is so attractive. The image of squealing high school girls live on here at 하나고.)

We took lots of selfies and just enjoyed the really nice weather. (We didn’t realize that it was actually going to get really cold that weekend and the week to follow…) 

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What do you call these poses? Just a bit concerned 😛

After school that day, Katie and I went back to my home station of 탄현역 to go to a cafe near my apartment. We studied for an hour or so there (Trying to get some work done since we knew we would be hanging out and having fun tonight—and there would be no work time at the temple—so we needed to be productive… though that was easier said than done.) 

For dinner, my host family, Ellen, and Katie and I went to the Chinese restaurant that was the first place I ate out with my host family: 도깨비 탕수육 (Goblin Sweet & Sour Pork) out in 파주시 (Paju-Shi). We had some delicious 탕수육 and 짬뽕. Dinner was a lot of fun! Katie and I were able to talk to my host sisters and Ellen about our days and life in general and since we are so close in age, it was fun feeling like we were actually friends! We talked about Katie’s current boy issues and just life lessons. 

After dinner, we also went to this really pretty cafe that looked like a regal furniture store that also sold handmade accessories like jewelry and purses! And it did sell all of those things… but the main purpose was a cafe! I got this really huge and yummy strawberry smoothie (it was also really expensive) and we all shared a massive plate of waffles and ice cream. Sitting all together and chatting was exactly how I wanted to spend this Friday night~~ It was such a special day. I will always remember this! 

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(I will also put Katie on blast and expose her for breaking the handle of the bathroom door. She went to turn the knob… and it just fell straight off!)

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We got home from the cafe and went on a little walk around my apartment complex. We bought some kinder eggs at the convenience store and ate those, built the little action figures, and talked for more than an hour–luckily it was not that cold this evening.

While we were sitting under the gazebo, we dished out everything that had been happening recently: ranting, complaining, and simply updating. While we were sitting there, a man walked by with this medium-sized pig on a leash. I stared at it for a second and blinked a couple times before I started silently shrieking and pointing at the animal. I was so shook! I had known there was a pig living in our apartment complex (because I had seen pictures taken by my host mom) but I was still not ready to see it! Here, big dog breeds are pretty rare so to see a pig… my jaw dropped to the floor.

Katie ended up sleeping over at my house because her host family would be going on a trip during the weekend and she could not go because of our required templestay programming so we were able to convince Better World to let her stay with me! For a sleepover! Katie finally got the taste of spending a night in a real bed which she hadn’t experienced for an entire 6 months. (She was also quite thankful because my bed is super comfy! I ended up sleeping on the floor, but it was also really comfortable.) 

We didn’t stay up too late talking or anything of that sort. We knew we needed to sleep because of the 3 am wake up call on Sunday (as per templestay routine) so we were good and went to bed by midnight. 

That’s all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I have not uploaded a blog post in so long… it has to be almost half a year now huh? It was not my intention, but I ran out of storage space. It was not until now that I was able to upgrade my WordPress site. Now I have my own domain!! Isn’t it so snazzy??? Till next time (and it will be sooner rather than later)

  • Emma 엠마

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

03/14/19 Thursday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me annoying Josh as usual~

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

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

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

3/15/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

Korean Classmate’s Birthday and 편의점 아주씨 Makes My Day! {03/12/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

03/12/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was 윤세’s birthday so Katie and I had to casually bring her giant gift into the school without looking too suspicious. While we were trying to accomplish this, we saw Jason쌤 arrive at the front gate of school right before us. We attempted to sneak past him and even walked up the stairs slower than usual so that he would get to his floor on the elevator before us. We saw him walking to his office and thought we made it but then while we were speed-walking to our lockers, we heard a loud voice say, “Hey, you two!” We stopped in our tracks. We turned around slowly to see Jason쌤 walking towards us. We told him that we were not purposely trying to avoid him but that we had some “illegal contraband” in our possession (aka ramen the most sought after outside food at 하나고). It was our little secret that he was now aware of our situation. We were trying to avoid any adult figures…Okay, spy game over. Jason쌤 was cool and laughed at us for trying to be so sneaky about it (“Like they would punish the American students” he said) but in the end, we WERE successful in getting the gift to our lockers without many head turns.

My first class of the day was my English mentorship class but students have still not been chosen yet so I spent the morning just writing a birthday card to 윤세. Second class of the day was music with Katie which ended up being a lot of fun liked I had hoped. During the part of class when the teacher gives instructions, I was completely lost since I cannot read music at all and could not relate the new Korean vocabulary to my existing knowledge of music since I literally have none. I guess the funny thing is now I will only be able to read music and describe it with Korean terms. When the teacher passed out a worksheet for us to fill out, I looked at Katie with such a pouty face because it felt terrible having to participate but not know what to do. Katie, being the doll that she is, helped teach me music intervals and the order of the notes with the letters of the alphabet. I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I was able to get questions right without Katie’s direct assistance. Look mom, not only am I learning Korean on this program, I will come back a music prodigy as well!! (This is major sarcasm for those that cannot tell I am joking).

한국사 was my third period and rather than pull out my Korean homework, I decided to try by best at understanding what was being taught in class. I have this class with third years and was inspired to actually give listening a shot. I really could not understand much but there were words here and there that I was able to pick up which helped me feel like I was somewhat following along. There was one part about education during the Joseon Dynasty that I understood which made me feel proud for the rest of the class–yup, just by understanding one sentence! Fourth period was another English mentorship class which was spent with me sitting on the ground on my knees (There were no free chairs in the discussion room and the librarian had trouble acquiring a chair for me for the longest time…)trying to finish my workbook as fast as humanly possible. I also went a bit crazy adding the words I did not know from the workbook into my Quizlets and ended up with two 100 word Quizlets to memorize for that class period since we were having a quiz in class that very same day! That fact totally slipped my mind until I started completing my workbook so I somehow {somewhat successfully} studied 200 words from lunch till arriving to 홍대. (Though I will say that I had studied both sets {back when they had like 70 words} earlier that week so it wasn’t like all 200 were new words to me.)

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Our 한국사 teacher also always gives each of his students a piece of hard candy halfway through the class period to boost motivation (and keep students from falling asleep…) Such a kind and sweet gesture!

When lunchtime rolled around, we found 윤세 and 혜지 and gave 윤세 her gift but we decided to skeet out of lunch then because the line was unbelievably long. Rather than eat at the cafeteria, we went to the convenience store in the 한옥마을 and ate some kimbap there {We also ate some 호떡 to add some more healthy food to our already nutritious meal…}. We HAD to stop by our favorite 호떡 stand and get some of that goodness! {Dude I’m not kidding… when winter ends and 호떡 is no more… what are Katie and I going to do???} 

Class today wasn’t the most productive… usually on these days, we would have studied three grammar points but last class we did not finish the book work so that bled onto this class. We also spent a lot of time talking about lots of different topics unrelated to what we are currently learning. Although I really enjoy these discussions, I do not participate as much as I should {which I know is my own fault} and so I end up just siting there quiet, shaking my head the whole time and taking notes. It’s not the most helpful to me. 

Our teacher came in late today so we had to start our quiz without her. She actually gave me a folder yesterday with the quizzes inside and told me to bring it to class. I guess this was why, she knew she would be late to class. Although my tactic of cramming 200 words the hour or two before class is definitely not a long term strategy of mine, I did do just fine on the vocab section! I only got .5 points off for not using past tense in one of my answers for a grammar point. Yes!!! I haven’t had a quiz grade this high in awhile… 

We also had a discussion on food combinations that we talked to our friends at school about. There were the expected popular ones like 치맥 {chicken and beer} and seaweed and rice but then there were rather interesting ones like pickles with pizza, jam on grilled cheese, and the worst one: 김치 and ice cream/cake. 

During one of the Korean class breaks, I went to the 편의점 with Shada to buy some snacks. The usual 아주씨 that works there greeted us when we came inside. For the first time since coming to Korea, he told me the price of my items in Korean rather than English! This may seem like the smallest thing ever but I was so happy. Also, after Shada bought her stuff, he gave us a free snack— vitamin (candy) gummies. He was so sweet! 

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Shada and our free gummies!

After class we had our OPIC orientation. The OPIC is basically an OPI but over the computer so there is no real person speaking with you {but it only measures speaking language abilities}. On Saturday, we will be taking it as a way to familiarize ourselves with the post program OPI and to see where we stand according to that measurement right now. 1반’s teacher held the orientation cause she is well informed about the program and explained how to do everything during the test as well as what we should answer for our answers. {Since it is a computer test, there is no person to gauge what things they should talk about with you from your previous answers so there is a survey with topics you choose and those become what you will get asked about during the test.} At one point we were practicing and on the second example question, Shada just throws the mic to me basically and says that Emma will answer. I was so nervous and mad that she did that to me because there was no part of me that wanted to speak Korean in front of everyone. The question was easy—it was was about your experience traveling and what you packed in your bag. I didn’t answer it badly… but I did use the wrong tense. (I answered in future tense when I should of conjugated it in the past tense.) 

Once the orientation was done, I was still figuring out whether or not to return to 하나고 to do a 면접 with my economics club from last year because 지현 had asked me to. However it was after 6 when we finished the orientation and I wouldn’t have been able to get to the school till 7:30 and the thought of having to make two 40 minute commutes overwhelmed me so I ended up going straight home {and having a convenience store dinner cause I told my host mom I would be eating at school.} 

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My new favorite drink! It is an apple and cherry blossom juice from Minute Maid ❤ It is everything!

Well, that’s all for this blog post! I did some work and then I definitely did NOT stay up till midnight (for no reason) to just watch the movie the Last Song on Netflix… yup… Till next time! 

  • Emma 엠마

 

자기 소개 Gone Right?? And Birthday Present Shopping! {03/11/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/11/19 Monday

It was the start of a new week–my first full week at 하나고 {seeing that last week, we didn’t go to classes on Monday and I did not go to school in its entirety on Thursday}. Katie and I were as nervous as ever about the new day but we tried to keep those negative emotions out and focus on overcoming our worries. 

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My first class of the day was 정치와 법 {Politics & Law} which is the class I have with 서린, 혜지, and 윤세 so I was not worried about the seating situation for that class at all. I mean, I had three chances to sit next to a friend! I had this class on Wednesday as well but the class is taught by two teachers {One teacher for two hours on Mondays and the other one teaches for two hours on Wednesdays}. So today would be my first time being taught by this particular teacher. 

When she walked into the room, you could see the worry across her face once she caught a look at me. She walked over to 혜지 and 서린 next to me and asked them “Is she an Exchange Student? Does she speak Korean?” and other questions such as those. I was sitting there feeling like I might as well have been invisible since she wasn’t directing any of the questions about me TO ME even though I was able to understand everything. I know she was probably doing that so that I wouldn’t feel bad if I couldn’t understand her but it didn’t make me feel any more acknowledged… 

Once it was established that I could speak Korean, we moved on to the teacher explaining the class structure to all of us. She had certain students stand in front of the class and do some type of low-key {but very stressful!} interview like 자기 소개 (self-introduction) in front of the whole class. She started picking students randomly and they would just have to go up to the front of the class, stand behind the podium, and answer questions about why they chose to take this class, their interests in politics, etc. 

By the time break time rolled around, we still had not finished. I began to worry that she might actually call on me to do one! And my worries became reality as I was the first one to be called on at the start of the second period. She didn’t know my name so she just said from the back of the room “How about our exchange student now.” In my mind I was like “yeah, let’s hear from them” before I realized that that person was in fact… me. 

I was shaking when I went up to the podium. This class had a lot more students than most of my other classes and having them all stare at me was so nerve wracking. Maybe if I was 서린 and easy going enough to feel comfortable in front of people I would not have been so on edge, but I wanted to prove something to myself too—that I can actually speak Korean. 

I went up there and did my usual opening line that ended up resulting in literally everyone in the class clapping for me. To which the teacher exclaimed “Oh you must be popular.” This made me quietly laugh as I couldn’t possibly be any farther from popular at this school. I ended up explaining my future career goals and the fact that I took a politics class in high school in America. While I was explaining this, I was able to smoothly speak without many hesitations—besides natural pauses—and I even used some good new grammar {things that I definitely didn’t know last semester}. While I was speaking and said a particular part of one of my sentences, practically everyone gasped. At first this startled me but then it actually gave me the much needed confidence to keep on going. She asked me questions about how I got interested in Korean, how long I’ve been here, and if I’ve studied before coming.

After I told her my best friend in middle school was Korean, she asked me if we were close and everyone including me laughed because I literally said my best friend {in Korean it literally translates to close friend}. This was a nice moment because I was actually laughing along with my classmates for once. What a new development! 

 At one point, she asked me (more or less with this directly translated): Since coming here, how has it been? For a moment I froze, she used a grammar point I learned but she said it in the shortened more casual way which threw me for a loop for a second. However, I quickly calmed myself down and thought of the question again. I realized I did know what she asked so I just went with it. 

I told her that life in Korea is not only fun but also rewarding which led her to ask what about it was rewarding. This stopped me in my tracks cause I needed to think quickly on my feet to be able to answer. I started speaking, without really thinking too seriously about it, and talked about the fact that in America, as long as I studied hard, I would be able to understand everything but in Korea because I can’t speak Korean (well yet) there are a lot of difficulties. However, when I am able to overcome those things and get good results, I feel like everything is worth it. After I said this sentence, everyone clapped for me but I knew it was genuine. It was not the in-genuine way people act impressed or shocked when you say a simple sentence like “Hello my name is…” or something of that nature.

After that class, I had some advanced English writing class with Andrew쌤 which I was worried I would know no one in. It was a third year class but I only know a select group of second years (last year) since my homeroom and most of my classes were with first years. When I walked in, I double checked my room with one of the girls (because my schedule loves to be wrong as of late…) and she asked me if I knew anyone in the class to which I responded no, of course. She then, with some hesitation, told me I could sit next to her then. But right as I was sitting down, 서연 {from 영미문학} came in  and I was so happy to see such a familiar face. The girl saw that we knew each inter after we shrieked about missing each other which then caused the girl I had just met to tell 서연 to sit next to me instead. Actually, I often did not sit next to her in my English class last year because her desk was often in the back with no empty seat nearby so I would sit next to 지원 and her friends or with 예성. I was excited to be able to get closer with her now. 

Class was typical. We did some free write in the beginning about what core class should not be mandatory {I talked about my experience in high school so I went with physics}. We also went through steps of the writing process which was honestly a nice refresher since I haven’t written an essay in such a long time! 

Katie had a presentation in Korean class today and had yet to memorize the whole thing so we ended up skipping lunch at 하나고 and going to the 편의점 instead right by Better World for some delicious 김밥. 

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In Korean class today, we really didn’t get much stuff done… we finished the one grammar point we had started the previous class but besides that, we spent most of the the time talking. Today’s topics included age of consent, abortion, chastity, and age differences in relationships in Korea. It was an interesting discussion to listen to but since I didn’t really participate, it was kind of hard for me to feel like it was helping me improve in anyway… I do not know why I am like this… I can understand everything and yet I do not contribute my own thoughts or ideas.

After class, we had our first bi-weekly meeting since December at which we talked about the OPIC coming up and lots of due dates for our individual project. So many things are coming up! It’s quite overwhelming! Not only did I have the meeting, but I also had my monthly goal meeting with 주연쎔 afterward so I ended up staying with her and talking till almost 7 pm! Literally! We started our meeting at 5:30 but we didn’t end the meeting until 6:50-ish. 

This is not me complaining! I enjoyed our conversation so much! She asked me about basic things like host family life and school life and how I am feeling about Korean class. We also went over my OPI and she talked about the comments regarding me being really nervous about the fact that it was over the phone. I also told her about the fact that I was asked the most basic question about describing the area around my apartment complex but because I skipped around with textbooks (especially since I wasn’t taught with 이화 books) I didn’t know how to do it. Besides that, she said that I was good at sharing my opinion even when I don’t know the topic too well and that I didn’t make many simple mistakes… the latter one threw me for a loop because I felt like my teacher said the opposite? 

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Regardless, we talked a lot about language learning—plateau, setbacks, losing English, confidence, and those rewarding moments. 주연쌤 is such a nice person to talk to and she gives the best hugs! After our meeting ended, it was too late to go home for dinner with my host family, so I just spent the rest of the night with Katie figuring out a birthday gift for our friend 윤세! We got a text from 서린 while we were at the cafe letting us know that it was her birthday the following day, so we had to put something together really quick. We ended up buying her a cute little beige and pink hippo stuffed animal (So that she could have something tangible to remember us by~ She can put it on her bed in her dorm!) as well as some ramen (since they cannot buy it at school) and a real slice of cake! We figured that a birthday (at least to us) is not complete without some cake and we were not quite sure how birthdays work here… we wanted to be certain that she was getting something sweet to celebrate the day!

I took the giant present back home and literally came home and sprawled out on my bed wanting to do no work for the rest of the night. Somehow I found motivation, pushed through my urges to spend hours mindlessly scrolling on social media, and studied some vocab and worked on my workbook for a bit. I ended up being successful at getting to bed at 11 too! 6.5 hours of sleep! What a concept! Well anyways, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading. 

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

03/07/19 Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Lovely teacher!

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

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Andy is such a mood

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

 

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

NSLI-Y Spring Orientation: Free Gifts, Classic Korean Movie, & Hostel in Hongdae (02/27-28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/27/19 Wednesday

Wednesday marked the first day of the spring semester and simultaneously the beginning of our last few days of freedom before school started back up again on Monday. Since I was not moving host families this time, I did not have to show up to the Better World office until 1:45 pm. So, instead, I met up with Katie beforehand and we went to the cafe that has been deemed Josh’s cafe (by me). We were greeted very warmly by the baristas and they asked us if we were doing another lunch with the workers today. The younger worker also asked me if my hair was natural or a perm which made me laugh. I always forget that most (Korean) people, when they see my hair, assume it’s a perm because natural curly hair isn’t that common here. Katie and I both ordered the same drinks and when the owner brought them out to us, she also asked us if we needed notebooks. We told her that we really didn’t need any. She replied that she had these extra notebooks and wanted to give them as a gift to us because we were so pretty. This was the cutest thing so we immediately told her that actually, we did need notebooks! 

 

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Tapioca Nut Lattes ❤

We did work at the cafe for a couple hours. I say work but I was mostly just doing blog posts—no actual Korean studying was done. When we gave her our empty cups and left to buy some bread for lunch, she praised us for being such hard workers and studying so much! We laughed at this remark and explained that we were really not working that hard. 

We met up with Alix on the way to our favorite cheap bakery and then bought some basil cheese bread. This place on the way to Better World sells these little small specialty loaves for about $3 each. I know… I know you can get a whole loaf of normal bread for less than that but these are the perfect price for a small thing of bread when you are feeling the carb craving. Plus, they had special flavors!! You can not easily find basil-flavored things in Korea!

Walking up to the 7th floor and into the showcase room is honestly starting to feel so familiar as we have been there so often during these past two months. When I walked into the room, I noticed a sleeping man in a makeshift bed and I literally almost screamed because I was so shocked to see the figure. After a minute of staring, I realized that it was indeed Josh! 

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Apparently, Josh stayed up veryyy late the previous night packing because he is switching host families.

Unlike our last few meetings or orientations, I didn’t take quite as many photos this time so I am trying to piece together what we did with my memory to the best of my abilities. I believe we started out the day discussing host families as about half the group was switching for the spring semester. Our first activity was to get into groups and use our own problems to create host family case studies that we saw plenty of during the beginning of the program. I was in a group with Shada, Harmony, and June and we ended up writing about a NSLI-Y student named Nelly who had been going out a lot with friends to distract her from bad news that she received from back in America which made her host family think that she didn’t want to spend time with them. We solved this problem with the answer to almost all misunderstandings: communication! 

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After discussing host families for a bit, we brought up the elephant in the room… the impending sense of doom we were all feeling about going back to high school. 민정쌤 flashed up on the board all of our new homeroom assignments and where we needed to be on the first day of school which immediately made me feel anxious. I cannot believe that winter break is already over! It was very long I do admit… but it also felt like it just zoomed on by… 

We got into groups based on where we go to school {so you can probably guess who was my partner…} and we discussed our feelings about going back. Let’s just say that besides our happiness for being able to see our friends again, we were not ready to go back to 하나고 whatsoever. 

Our next session was information on the OPI and TOPIK which we will be taking in April {We are also taking an online version of the OPI in mid-March. 주연쎔 explained to us a bit more about the OPI which I thought I had known plenty about but I guess I was pretty wrong. Apparently, the text examiner uses the first 5 minutes of the test to prob you with questions to see what level you are at which means that your self-introduction actually does have a lot of weight on your exam!}

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Let me explain this in a bit more detail. Say you have given your self-introduction and have answered a couple of the questions that were asked in the beginning, at that point, the examiner decided that you are an intermediate speaker. From then on, no matter what you say, you will be placed at the intermediate level. From then on, the interviewer will ask you questions ranging from an intermediate-low level to an intermediate-high level to see where they should place you. If they make a mistake at the beginning about your level, they will continue to go with it because saying that they were wrong is difficult as that involves canceling the test right there and having to administer a new one as it was an examiner error. What complications does this have? Well, for example, this could mean that even if you are at an intermediate-high level but make the proctor think you are advanced which then causes him to probe you with advanced questions which you couldn’t handle, you would be stuck with an advanced score. If they didn’t cancel your test, you would be given Advanced Low even if that’s not where you belong. At the time of explanation, I felt that this method was kind of strange? I wonder if mistakes are made often… probably not, though. 

The rest of the sessions included talking about our independent research project and a few of the other activities planned for the rest of the year. {I would like to point out that my constant nagging has granted my cohort the opportunity to do a temple stay! And an overnight one at that!} We also talked about the newly implemented lunch and dinner dates with the 쌤s starting in the spring semester. From now on we can go out for lunch or dinner (one on one) with food being paid for by Better World. The only catch is that we have to only speak Korean with the teachers! It will be a great way to practice some Korean~ I’m excited. 

Finally, orientation was over and we all went out for dinner at the first restaurant we ever ate at as a big group! This time around, we ate 부대찌개 which I talked about in one of my posts from a little while ago {click here to read about the origins of this Korean stew}. It wasn’t as good as the one I had in 파주시 but the broth was excellent!  

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After dinner, everyone went out around 홍대 to hang out but I left my program phone at home which 민정쌤 needed the following day for OPIK registration so I had to spend almost an hour and a half on public transport to go back home to fetch my phone. By the time I came back, it was already 9 {our curfew was extended till 10} and so I just walked the 홍대 streets with Katie for a little bit. We tried going down some unfamiliar streets in case we stumbled upon something new which was kind of exciting. I liked seeing that there was still so much of this part of the city that I have yet to explore!

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On our way back to the guest house, we stopped at a convenience store and bought some ice cream and Oreos to share with the other girls in our room {McKenzie and Jacquelyn}. 

I stayed up very late this night doing nothing. Scrolled through Instagram and texted friends for hours~ Also chatted with Katie for a bit later in the night when she returned to the room from hanging out with some of the other students. It was a relaxing evening.

02/28/19 Thursday

Orientation today was really not an orientation? We bought bread from Paris Baguette the night before and so we quietly ate bread in our rooms for breakfast while getting ready. After breakfast, all that was planned for us was to watch a Korean movie. {The 쌤s also prepared popcorn!! It was like watching a real movie!} We watched the Korean movie 국제시장 {Directly translates to the international market but its English title is actually Ode to My Father}. 

It was such a good movie! I cried several times because of how emotional this movie was! It pulled on every single one of my heartstrings—strumming them all with no consideration for my overstimulated eye ducts! The story took place during the Korean War and illustrated the life of one family who was torn apart by the devastating war. The main character was the eldest son of a family that lost their father/husband while trying to seek refuge from North Korea to South Korea. The movie tells his story through a lot of flashbacks from different parts of his life. The story follows a man who had to make lots of sacrifices and do the absolute most for his family’s wellbeing—often negating his own health and or desires. The part that made the movie the saddest or what really drove it home for me was the message of the gap between generations. The main character {an old man with grandchildren in present day} is continually misunderstood by his family members for being irrationally angry or unnecessarily attached to their small shop in the market. The final scene really got me… and besides the plot and content being extremely well done, the filming itself was great. I took a half-semester of cinema studies during my freshman year of high school so I feel utterly qualified when I watch movies to pick up on the different camera angles and such. Honestly, this might beat out Hello Ghost for my favorite Korean movie! 

After the movie, we went to have lunch all together before some of the NSLI-Yians would leave to meet their new host families. We ate 된장찌개 (Soybean Paste Stew) and 오징어볶음 (Stir-Fried Squid).

 

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Once lunch was all finished up and greetings were said, Katie and I decided to go to a cafe for a couple hours or so to do work or just chill and chat. We ended up going to a Twosome Place cafe with a rooftop that we had never seen before! Turns out…there was a reason for that! It was just built! Today was actually the opening day! 

The cafe still smelled a little like paint {especially on the 2nd floor} but the environment was chic and all the tables had very comfortable chairs. I spent the time researching a popular neighborhood in Seoul that Katie and I planned to go to the following day {익선동} and then editing a blog post and publishing it that very same afternoon {mostly for Katie’s sake as she wanted to read another one.} This whole time, Katie was playing the new Club Penguin because it is back online! 

 

I ate dinner with my host family and just relaxed the rest of the night. I was excited for the last weekend before school because I planned on spending it well. I was also thankful to have this time with a host family I was comfortable with. I thought about how the first day of school would be if I also had to deal with switching my host family… 

Thanks for reading this blog post! It’s kind of on the longer side but I didn’t think that it needed to be split it up. Plus, it is nice to have orientation be all on one post! I hope you enjoyed! 

  • Emma 엠마