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

04/17/19 Wednesday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Views while waiting for the bus~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Chinese Dragon Lights at Soldier Field in Chicago {April 27th, 2018}

The Dragon Lights was an exhibition of Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, demonstrations, as well as popular products, handicrafts, and food. I found out that this exhibit was coming to Chicago after being bombarded with SnapChat messages from my fellow StarTalk Chinese classmate, and we immediately decided we had to go!

The Dragon Lights exhibited numerous displays of Chinese lanterns: pandas, koi fishes, dragons, bears, Chinese warriors, families, gates, etc. They were very beautiful and intricate! I had never seen anything like them before! I really can’t do much explaining in this post so please, simply, enjoy these photos:

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Spot the difference!

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These dragons were constructed with tiny jars filled with colored liquids!

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There were also cultural performances scheduled throughout each day; however, it was raining while we were there, so they had to cancel some of the performances. Though, we were able to watch two very interesting showcases. I believe the ones we missed were martial art performances.

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Peacock Dance (Chinese Folk Dance)

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The dancer was very thin, but she had such defined back and arm muscles! So talented~ (And she must have been so cold being rained on…)

Besides walking around and catching up with my friend Becca, I think the best part of the exhibition were the stalls with Chinese handicrafts and products. Becca and I pulled out our Chinese skills (if we can even say skills) to talk to the vendors.

It started raining a lot more and it got super cold at the end of the night, so we left early to indulge in Chinese food. The best ending to a great day.

Website of the Dragon Lights: http://dragonlightschicago.com/

  • The Dragon Lights exhibition lasted from March 30th to May 6th

Thanks for reading this post! It is quite late (the last month of senior is crazy, okay!) but better late than never? I have also been really sick these past two days (which is why I was able to write up this post XD) but my next post will be about my second NSLI-Y event! I organized a bubble tea social with a group of alumni as well as the Midwest DIR. Stay tuned!~

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Alumni Dinner Event (Chinatown, Chicago – March 29th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분! 你好 朋友们!

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to host an alumni dinner in Chinatown, Chicago (my first in-person event) as part of my role as this year’s Chicago (Great Lakes Region) NSLI-Y Alumni Representative! I had been planning this event for about a month or so and when the date finally came, I was so nervous! I really wanted to make a good impression on the other alumni by organizing a successful first event~~

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Behind the Scenes: Preparation

I took over NSLI-Y’s Snapchat in order to document the event (Follow NSLI-Y on Snapchat: @nsliforyouth) and it was a lot of fun taking photos of the alumni! Plus, their introductory videos were very cute! We had some shy alums but I was glad that they were open to group photos~~

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We started off the dinner event by introducing ourselves. It was interesting to see that we had a variety of alumni eating with us. We had two college graduates, one current university senior, and then two seniors in high school (including me). It was fun hearing about what they had done after their NSLI-Y programs: studying abroad, traveling, interning with the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, working for the Department of State, taking NSLI-Y (target) language classes, and even taking up new languages.

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(Left to Right): Diana {Morocco Summer 2017}, Angela {China Summer 2011}, Teri {Egypt Summer 2010}, Me {Korea Summer 2016}, and Elizabeth {Morocco Summer 2014}.

We discussed Chinese New Year (even though this event is quite a late celebration) and its traditions. We allowed Angela to take the floor and share her experience studying in China. Though this was an event for the Chinese New Year, we still discussed all of our experiences and because the majority of the alumni present were Arabic alumni, I got to hear a lot about the Morocco and Egypt programs.

Till this event, I had not personally talked to any alumni that had participated in the NSLI-Y Egypt programs, so it was very interesting to hear from Teri. Let’s just say that programs have changed so much in comparison to the stories she told…

We talked about our language learning journeys, our host families, and issues of race and identity on program. Our discussions were quite in-depth and stimulating.

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Of course, we also ate plenty of food (too much to be exact!)

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We feasted on a lot of delicious Chinese foods: Beef Fried Rice, Mongolian Beef, Beef & Broccoli, Orange Chicken, General Tso Chicken, Mapo Tofu, and Vegetable Chow Mein.

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Teri, Angela, and Diana enjoying the course!~

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Elizabeth the Model ❤

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Snapchat saw it first!

This event was a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting these alumni and hearing their stories (while sharing mine as well). I hope that I can hold a few more events so I can connect with as many Chicago alumni as possible! Though we had a few cancellations right before this event, I am proud of the turnout~

To all the NSLI-Y alumni out there, make sure to join your regional alumni Facebook pages! This is where you will be notified about events in your area.

Thank you for reading this blog post!~ I hope you enjoyed~ 😉 Don’t forget to subscribe for future posts about events I host as Chicago’s NSLI-Y alum rep as well as other posts about language learning, travel, etc. 다음애 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion Celebrating Chinese New Year (Feb 17th, 2018)

February 17th, 2018

你好!My Startalk Chinese class came back together today in order to celebrate Chinese New Year~ I carpooled with my friend Becca, and we were both super excited to see our classmates again. The director of the Startalk program planned this reunion at a Chinese Restaurant about 30 minutes from where I live. And, wow, it was so crowded. There were so many families and couples there. The line was out the door! I guess this place is a crowd favorite for ringing in the New Year!~

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10/10 I would definitely recommend!

Becca and I were the first people to arrive so we met 胡老師 and her husband at the front of the restaurant until they could clear a table for us.

We started off the afternoon with a little test. Our director gave us four slips of paper and we were told to write down four characters to then be placed in a box. The director would pull random slips out throughout the lunch, and the winners would receive small prizes: candies and pastries. Then, before we started eating, 胡老師 taught us how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

新年快樂
Xīn-nián-kuài-lè
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Becca, Citlali, Adrienne, and I

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Citlali, Adrienne, Elaina, Bruce, and Magalie

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我的朋友!

We also learned a lot about Chinese New Year. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 16th which officially begins the year of the dog! (My zodiac sign is a rabbit~) Many people ring in the new year by cleaning their entire house and by decorating it with lanterns, calligraphy, and posters with poetic verses. Homes are filled with a lot of red! And on New Year’s Eve, families have reunion dinners– kind of like the one we were all having together!

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Such delicious food!!!

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For dessert, we had these pastries with filling that was made partially from egg yolks

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After eating, we played a couple of more games to try to earn points for prizes. We were taught the characters for Happy New Year and then we were given them, shuffled, and had to put the characters in order the fastest. We also played this game that involved our director holding up a piece of paper with a number (in Chinese characters of course) and then we had to quickly write a sentence in Chinese with the same number of characters. It was intense!

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Prizes for winning the games!

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Our director gave us training chopsticks shaped like ninjas. XD She told us that her 20 year old son can’t even use chopsticks! Fortunately, I do not need them, but they are adorable!

Lastly, 胡老師 talked to us about red envelopes during Chinese New Year. They are red packets filled with money given to kids, family members, friends, and coworkers to wish them a good new year and lots of luck. It is custom that once you get married, you should start giving out red envelopes. Our director all gave us “symbolic” red envelopes each holding one dollar. She explained to us that the tradition started off with small amounts of money but now, the custom has become more costly for the givers. (Especially when it comes to family members having to give money to the children in the family.)

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1. Accept the envelope with both hands 2. Give a greeting and express thanks 3. DON’T open the envelope in front of the giver!

At the end of the reunion, we took some group photos together and the individuals with the most points were able to choose a prize. There were so many prizes: Chinese coin purses, t-shirts, Chinese candy, chopstick sets, etc. I picked out this gorgeous set with 4 chopsticks and 4 chopstick rests~

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The Startalk Director (and my Chinese professor) with Becca and me~ ❤

And that was all for our reunion! It was a lot of fun being able to see all my classmates again (and eat some really delicious foods). Today has really motivated me to get back into my Chinese studies! It was nice being able to use it with everybody. Currently, I’m hoping to be a student helper alongside my director during this summer’s Startalk program! (Because I am too old to actually partake in it once again) I also found out that Lewis University’s Startalk is adding Russian this summer! How cool is that?!?! We will see how my summer plans work out 😉 Thank you for reading! 謝謝!再見!

  • Emma (敏娜)

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival

你好!This post is a little late… about four months after the Mid-Autumn Festival to be exact. But, I am finally getting around to making this post after collecting all my photos as well as researching more about this Chinese holiday.

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So this past summer (2017) I participated in a Startalk program to learn Traditional Chinese. I spent about 5 hours every weekday at a local university learning how to speak, read, and write Chinese for 4 weeks. Startalk’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens speaking critical languages, and it is funded by the National Security Agency (NSA). This summer was a blast, and I made a lot of really good friends from different high schools all around me. In order to keep us engaged with Chinese and to allow our classes to “stay” together, the director of my local Chinese Startalk program planned a reunion for the students. We would be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival– eating delicious food, learning about the holiday, refreshing our Chinese skills, and just hanging out with friends we haven’t seen in awhile.

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PC: Examine China

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival that gets its name from (you guessed it!) the fact that it is usually in the middle of autumn. (The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese calendar.) The Chinese celebrate this festival by having dinner with family, playing with lanterns, flying lanterns, worshiping the moon, and more. And of course, food is plentiful!

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and had our reunion on October 7th, 2017 (Saturday). This date, inconveniently, was the same day I took my SAT Subject tests. Therefore, I was a little late to the festivities because I had to deal with SAT Spanish and SAT Literature and when I did get to Lewis University, my classmates were playing games to refresh our memories on Chinese and practice new words and phrases.

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So happy to see everyone again!!! ❤

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Before I arrived, my classmates had eaten these flaky, sweet pastries. I later learned that these pastries were Taiwanese Sun Cakes, and they were very delicious!~

To practice out Chinese, we played this game that was very similar to Charades. We were given slips of paper (2 or 3 each) which had vocabulary words written on them. We had to get up in front of everyone and act out the word without any sounds. If someone guessed it, then both the guesser and the actor would get a point. (Points were important because there were “prizes” to be given out!) It was a lot of fun and Bruce acting out “Mother” will always be my favorite thing! XD

After games, we had our Mid-Autumn Festival feast! (Which was what everyone was looking forward to~)

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They got SOOO much food catered! It was crazy to see so much food for not that many Chinese students. (Lucky for the director, high school students know how to eat XD)

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Not every student was able to make it :/ However it was still very nice to catch up with everyone (and talk to those who I did not have a chance to during the summer).

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Reunion photo with Class 2’s teacher (My class’s teacher was busy :/) and the director of the program (and my professor for my online Chinese course at Lewis).

After dinner we learned about (and obviously ate) Mooncakes which are traditional Chinese pastries eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are usually circular or square in shape with a pastry exterior and a sweet filling. There are many things that are used in the filling for the Mooncakes: Lotus seed paste, fruits, red bean, nuts, dates, etc. Mooncakes are very popular and are often offered as gifts to family, coworkers, and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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The Mooncakes were purchased in gift boxes because of how often they are given as gifts.

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Mooncakes often have really intricate details on the outside!

Our director purchased two types of Mooncakes: The first having pineapple filling and the second having a filling made out of dates. Mooncakes can be considered an acquired taste. Some of my classmates were not fond of the taste or texture or both. However, I found them really tasty! (Even though I had never even eaten dates before this day!)

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Becca trying to be funny! XD  我爱她 ❤ ❤

After we stuffed ourselves with all the Chinese food we could get our hands on, it was time to start wrapping up the reunion. Throughout the day we were accumulating points if we had won any of the games in order to pick prizes at the end. (Those with the most points got to pick first and then so on down the line.) Unfortunately, because I was the last student to show up (As if the SAT Subject Tests were not bad enough! haha jk…), I had the lowest amount of points which meant I was to pick last. I received an American candy bar XD It was still greatly appreciated, however. (Though I definitely had enough to eat already!) But there were some really great prizes: Chinese textbooks, Chinese books, Chinese music CD’s, Taiwanese scarfs, and notebooks.

The biggest prize of all (at least for me) was the fact that the director of Startalk needed to get rid of all the leftover food so we were allowed to take home as much as we liked. So, of course, I made myself a nice plate for dinner.

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Sam getting his Ziploc bag for leftovers ready!

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Bruce bringing home a whole box of leftovers! #goals

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My dinner for the night XD 谢谢老师!~ ❤

And that was my Startalk’s class reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival! It was a lot of fun to come back together since we had not seen each other for almost an entire 3 months. Additionally, I was talking to my Chinese professor a couple weeks ago, and she is trying to have another reunion in February for Chinese New Year!~ I am excited to see what she plans for that! (This reunion happened today: February 17th) I will write a blog about that soon!~ 谢谢!再见~

  • Emma 敏娜