제주도 수학여행 (School Trip to Jeju Island) Day 1: 함덕해수욕장과 천지연폭포 (05/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/01/19 Wednesday

Today was the long-awaited first day (1일차) of our school trip to Jeju Island (제주도) with our fellow classmates and friends from 하나고! I have been looking forward to this trip for a myriad of reasons: taking a flight to visit a gorgeous island, being able to hang out with my 하나고 friends outside of school for an extended period of time, and finally fulfilling the dream of going on a school trip! We had a few options for where we wanted to go for our school trip (Other options included 부산, 전주, 강원도) but Katie and I both figured we would have a better chance to eventually visit these places but possibly, this could be our only chance to visit 제주도. 

For those that may not know, 제주도 is an island province of South Korea that is probably the most popular tourist/vacation spot within the peninsula (for domestic trips). The island is mostly known for its gorgeous views, hiking trails, 한라산 (dormant volcano), and of course 한라봉 (a variation of orange–hallabong) and we were going to have the opportunity to experience it for free! Thank you NSLI-Y!

Anyways, on Wednesday Katie and I met up at the Paris Baguette near the subway station by our school for breakfast before we headed over to our school to depart to the airport with our classmates. What did we have for breakfast you may ask? Something nutritionally dense and healthy for two growing gals? Nope. No. Not a chance. We instead convinced ourselves that mochi ice cream would be a great idea for breakfast. Already in that #vacationmindset

We ended up leaving the school on our giant shuttle bus at around 10:30 am. But until then, we all hung out in one of the classrooms all giddy and excited for the days to come. We were all happy to be done with school–for a short amount of time at least–and to LEAVE campus. (Not only that but we were taking a plane so!!!) All the girls were also super super dressed up in spring floral and dresses and makeup and such because well, they had a reason to get all dolled up. Honestly, it was a bit strange–seeing some of my friends for the first time without their school uniforms and bare faces.

Before boarding the bus, we also took some photos as a group and they turned out really cute! Seeing everyone posing with peace signs and such made me laugh. I could not believe I was going on my first school trip! I never went on an out-of-state or even overnight trip in middle school or high school so I was very thankful to be experiencing this first with my Korean high school classmates. What a reason to be a super senior~

We got to Gimpo Airport within an hour and since we arrived around lunch time and needed to wait practically 2 hours before our flight at 1:30 pm, we were given that free time to have lunch at the airport. We were each handed out roughly $10 and were allowed to eat whatever our hearts’ desired. People tend to say that airport food is vastly overpriced and oftentimes the cheaper options are extremely unhealthy (like McDonalds, for example) but maybe it just happened to be this Korean airport; however, the food was amazing. Honestly, I think the best 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) I have ever had was this one at the airport! And I remember our lunch not only because the taste was so delicious that it will forever have a place in my heart, but I remember my 하나고 friends poking fun because the stew was especially spicy but nonetheless, I was able to eat it all while some of the others (actual KoReAns) could not stomach the spice. What can I say…매운 음식을 잘 먹는 편이에요 ㅋㅋ;) and also 김치찌개 is probably one of my favorite Korean dishes (maybe only beaten by 잡채 or 해물파전).

The flight to 제주도 was only about an hour so definitely the shortest flight I have ever been on (Even a flight from Chicago to New York is longer) and I honestly slept through the entire thing. We got to the airport and it was quite small. We left the building and were immediately greeted with slightly chillier weather (surprised?) and PALM TREES!?! The weather was gloomy but of course, the occasion was exciting regardless.

We boarded a shuttle bus (which had a cute little sign in the window with our school name–하나고등학교) and immediately headed out to our first location: 함덕해수욕장 (Hamdeok Beach).

I am not much of a beach person (meaning I am not too keen on tanning on the beach or swimming in the ocean, etc);however, I can appreciate the beauty that encompassed this beach. Although it was early May, it was not too busy at all–no large crowds. The sands were basically white and the water was so crystal clear and blue!! I have only ever been to a beach in New York and so this was something completely new for me! We had a blast walking along the beach, holding hands, and laughing about who knows what. We also, of course, took tons of photos–every place was a photo zone!

In the parking lot of the beach, there were a lot of other shuttle buses for different schools. It seems that this is a common time of the year for high schools to go on their school trip. One of the more awkward moments was when we were lined up or passing by these school groups, Katie and I received a lot of stares and whispers. However, this feeling of being an outsider was only fleeting because the presence of my friends reminded me that I did have people.

We also visited this arched bridge which had a beautiful lookout view and the waves crashing against the rocks acted as a perfect soundtrack to the day! I believe the only words coming out of my mouth at this point was “woah” because I have never been to a place like this and all I was experiencing was utter awe and gratefulness at the same time.

For dinner, we sat down at this seafood place at a long table pushed up against windows with a view of the ocean. What more could we have asked for? The meal included a lot of traditional aspects of Korean cuisine including a variety of side dishes like different types of kimchi, fish cakes, veggies, japchae, etc. Everything laid out made me feel like I was eating a huge 8-course meal! The main points of our dinner were a type of grilled fish (옥돔구이 — perhaps grilled horsehead tilefish? Translation… not sure of) and 고등어조림 (grilled mackerel stew).

We ended the night visiting 천지연폭포 (Cheonjiyeon Waterfall) and having a tour of the night views. This was probably one of the funnest parts of the trip because we were given a lot of time to just explore the trails and the souvenir shops and goof around. We also took a lot more group photos and were having a lot of fun striking some fun poses–even ones with the head homeroom teacher. And lets just say that this waterfall was a lot bigger and better than the one near our school–especially because it was natural! (No shade to 폭포동)

After our waterfall tour, we headed to our accommodation (Co-op City Hotel Harborview) and got our room keys, unpacked, and then met up in one of the conference/meeting rooms to hang out till late in the night. (We did have to be in our rooms by a certain time, however.) I ended up sharing a room with my friends 서린 and 도윤 while Katie stayed with 윤세 and 혜지. 

Matching NSLI-Y Shirts~

We could not end the night without some ice cream so Katie and I bought some of our favorites from the Seven-Eleven connected to the hotel and ate those with some other snacks that the other girls prepared. The rest of the night was spent playing random games like charades and such which at times were hard to follow but we were always included–no matter how long it took to explain directions or roles. I was so very thankful to have such sweet classmates and friends!

And that was day 1 of my school trip to Jeju Island! Looking back at all of these photos, reminds me of all these very happy memories. I am so thankful to have been able to experience this amazing opportunity and I am even more excited to share this time with others. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and the next 2 days of this trip will be uploaded soon! Stay tuned for more~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

Outside Class (야외수업), Travel Maker Brunch in Hongdae, and Korean Monthly Exam (04/30/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/30/19 Tuesday

Since Katie and I stayed up really late the previous night studying, we were both practically dead in the morning. We even went to the convenience store to buy coffee before school started because I knew that there was no way I would be able to sit awake during my classes today without some assistance from caffeine.

Morning selfie before we have to be in our homerooms

During first period, I had my English conversation class with three 2nd year students and instead of having any conversation on intellectual topics, we rather planned what we would be do in two weeks time when meeting up in 홍대 to hang out! The girls were going to be able to get permission to leave school to hang with me for a couple hours, so we spent our hour in the library picking where to eat and deciding what we could do to fill up the time. 수빈 recommended this really good (and cheap) chicken place that she had been to in 부산 (it was a chain) so were going to eat there and then most likely go to 노래방 (karaoke) and make perfume or macaroons or something crafty–we wanted to do something hands on! It was a lot of fun planning out our day!

My 한국사 (Korean History) teacher switched things up for today’s class and allowed us to have class outside which we call 야외수업! We left the classroom and walked down this really nice, scenic path past the 한옥 (Korean traditional house) museum and neighborhood almost towards the nearby Buddhist temple.

On our way there, we passed by these birds fighting on the sidewalk and one of the birds became injured and was struggling to flap its wings while it was down on the ground. A lot of the girls were scared of it although it was harmless so they kept shrieking every time it gained enough momentum to get a little bit off the ground. It was really sad to see it in so much pain, struggling to survive and get back up. One of the students called someone (maybe some type of Animal control?) so when we did walk back to the school, that bird was gone.

The teacher talked to us a little bit about the history of the area before letting us go free and visit either the Twosome Place Cafe or the convenience store. (He turned a blind eye away from those students who were buying ramen to stockpile reserves in the dorm.) During the entire duration of our outdoor class, I hung out and chatted with my friend 정민. She actually is close friends with my other third year friends (세림, 지은, and 지연) but this was the first class I was able to have with her.

She was so sweet with me that she even bought me a drink from the cafe–an iced chocolate (basically just the cold version of the hot chocolate). We talked all about our school lives and a bit about our past. Apparently, 정민 spent some time in America when she was young because her aunt lives in the US. That was interesting to hear about.

After Katie and I finished our second exchange student conversation class of the day before lunch time, we immediately booked it off of school grounds to try to get to 홍대 as fast as we possibly could. All the other NSLI-Y students had no school today so they planned to all go out for a traditional American brunch at a famous place in 홍대 called Travel Maker.

Katie and I were able to make it to the restaurant just around the time that everyone else was receiving their food. We were able to just sneak into the booths they were already at and order some pancakes. Luckily, even though we did have school, we were able to make in enough time to eat with everyone for a little while. After we finished eating, we wanted to take a group photo so I (with some random confidence) ran up to a complete stranger walking in the park across the street and asked them to take a photo for us. I was glad that we were able to put this little brunch date together!

Blueberry Pancakes ❤ My favorite food = pancakes

Afterward, we all had to go and take our monthly tests for April… what a downer to a great first half of the day. I walked to the Better World Office with Josh and Jacquelyn and we passed by his cafe that day and there was a really cute sign out front. It made me smile.

Translation: Difficult days also pass by. Waiting for a happy tomorrow.

Our test this month was extremely difficult. We expected it, though. Our teacher warned us about it. The passages in this test seemed a lot more complicated than the ones in past tests and they were so much longer too! I barely had enough time to read through all of the reading passages and answer all the questions. I had to pick my best guess for a couple questions. I was also super tired from staying up late studying (and the coffee in the morning already wore off), so I started nodding off during the test too which is never good! After we all finished the reading test, we made a stop at the closest convenience store during break time to pick up some pick-me-ups including coffee and gummy geckos.

Usually my blog posts about the unit/monthly tests tend to be a bit more negative because more often than not I feel mildly incompetent after taking each and every test. Luckily, because I am writing this so much later, I do not have those negative thoughts floating around in my head. Looking back at this test and my OPI, I feel like I did pretty well. Comparing it to my march speaking test which involved me crying while on the phone with my teacher, this one went a lot smoother. She actually asked me to describe the movie plot of one of my favorite movies so I went on and described the basic plot of Hello Ghost which involves suicide and ghosts and although the subject matter was heavy, I was able to explain it all better than I originally assumed I would be able to. (Actually, I feel like that answer was probably one of the biggest reasons for why I was able to move up a level that month.) The writing test for this month was writing about our individual projects and I felt prepared to discuss my topic, but I still struggled with vocabulary. Even though I had to substitute some desired words for ones that I did know, I felt that I explained everything I wanted to discuss in my paper quite well.

After the monthly test, Josh and I walked to 와플대학 to meet some of the other NSLI-Y students (Alix, Hunter, Katie, etc) for our after-test-tradition of waffles. I had dinner plans with a friend after the test so I ended up not ordering my own and just stealing some bites from Katie. We talked about our tests and ranted for a bit before I left for 신촌.

In 신촌 we went to a meat restaurant and had barbecue for dinner while chatting about a lot of different topics. I learned that the tape and arrows on the roads and alleyways pointing to certain restaurants were a part of events that the university students hold. Apparently like a fundraiser type thing? Or they are ways to try to raise membership for clubs and such. When we first got to the restaurant, we watched some female students putting the yellow tape on the road and as it got darker, we noticed people directing others to follow the tape to the final destination. 

Yonsei at Night

After eating we walked around the 연세 campus which was honestly the first time I really was able to walk around a large majority of the campus. Previously, I had only walked up the large drive (lawn maybe is a better term?) with Addie and Jessica on two separate occasions. My friend was not a student there or anything but we still walked around the different buildings anyways.

We ended the night just chilling at a cafe to talk. Cafe Pascucci was the name of the cafe and it was my first time there! We just got our drinks and relaxed on one of the sofa seats on the second floor and talked until I had to go because of curfew. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful days leading up to the test day.

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/11/19 Thursday

sick day 14

Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

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

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

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

sick day 1

On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

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

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

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

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

04/12/19 Friday

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

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

sick day 5

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

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

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

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

sick day 10

Walk back to the subway station~

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

sick day 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/08/19 Monday

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

april 6

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

april 5

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

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

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

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

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

april 10

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

april 4

Enjoy this cute photo of Liam & Josh

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

04/09/19 Tuesday

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

Moving on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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

04/05/19 Friday

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

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Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monkey King?

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마