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

04/05/19 Friday

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

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Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monkey King?

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

04/04/19 Thursday

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

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Me and one of the Japanese exchange students!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting a Traditional Tea House (찻집) and Funny Phone Cases (04/02-04/03/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/02/19 Tuesday

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This week I am sporting my school uniform tie! Hehe

School. School. School. School. During my morning English mentorship, the girls and I discussed our respective school cultures and rules and even though I heard most if not all of the things they talked about already, I still enjoyed hearing from them—especially when they talked about the aspects they liked. For example, 수빈 dances for her 1인2기 and so I got to watch one of her videos with a choreographed dance she did to Arianna Grande’s song 7 Rings! It was really really good! They were most excited to hear about prom and school dances from my perspective. (A lot of 하나고 students (and Koreans in general? seem to call Prom “Prom Party” which is interesting because I feel like most American movies just say prom so where they got the added party from beats me…)

During music class, Katie and I just goofed off while trying to work on our music assignment. (I say we but she was the one doing all the work on the song…) Either way, we were not doing what we were supposed to be doing fully. 

During 한국사, I just worked on my Korean homework and only paid enough attention in class to be able to fill out the note sheet along with the rest of the students. But I didn’t even try to learn any of the material that he went over during class. 

Honestly when it comes to my second English mentorship class of the day, I can’t even remember what we talked about. The only thing I remember was this one incident that will forever be recorded because of the photos in my camera roll. One of the girls in my group—서영—has a phone case of some famous rapper in Korea. But his face is plastered on the case in a certain way that if you put the case up to your face, it almost looks as if you are the person. She was demonstrating this to me while 기준 walks into the room and I was able to capture this photo of his face being absolutely confused. (I later sent this photo in our 동아리 group chat for the laughs) 

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But what did my group talk about? Beats me… 

For lunch… Katie and I once again yeeted out of 하나고 early and went to 연서시장 to get 분식 for lunch. Now that we are pros at ordering here, we have the whole system down and I bet we impress the Koreans that see us *flashes a sly smile.* Also, the same workers are always there so hopefully they will start to recognize us (if they haven’t already). I know we will start making this place a regular 단골집. Too bad we didn’t find this place before now… before the end if the program became so close…

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Never said the market looked the fanciest… but the food was always delicious!

Since I am like a week and a couple days behind on writing blog posts, I don’t remember what we did in Korean class at all.. Didn’t do anything out of the ordinary after class, just went home right afterward. 

For dinner, my host sisters and I went out to the 24 hour restaurant near the apartment and got some 콩나물국밥 (Bean sprout rice porridge) and 야채파전 (Korean vegetable and onion savory pancake). I updated them on all the drama that I knew was happening on the NSLI-Y program.

We also talked about random topics like bitcoin and stocks? My host sister and I discussed how hard it is to make money selling bitcoin and how her boyfriend is doing it. She also kept saying that it was a shame that her family did not invest in stocks or anything of that sort. I told them that at my high school, all the students hypothetically buy and sell stock in this stock market game as a way to sort of dip students’ toes into the territory that is investment (During our required Personal Finance Class). She thought that this class was very useful and wished Korean high schools could be more inclusive to ideas that are beyond plain old test preparation. We walked over and picked up some 죽 (porridge) for my host mom–who is currently sick– and then went home.

04/03/19 Wednesday

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Today was the last day that the Japanese exchange students would be at 하나고 so in the morning during homeroom, we watched a short little video that included clips of every single exchange student giving thanks to the student body for allowing them to make such good memories during the short two weeks as well as clips from the student helpers (the students that were decent enough at Japanese to help host the students like 서린). It was a really cute little sentimental video and it definitely made me think about my last day at 하나고. Right now I cannot even imagine it but my calendar and the world knows that I literally only have a little bit more than a month left here. 

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One of my classmates gave me this HUGE golden pig gummy (Because it is the Year of the Pig, there are so many cute pig-themed memorabilia. On the wrapper it roughly says “Dream a pig dream” because Koreans believe dreaming about pigs is lucky. In specific, golden pig dreams mean money!! 

The school day itself was mediocre. There ended up being no seats at the front of the class for 국어 again so I ended up just sitting in the back and nodding off (not trying very hard to pay attention to what the teacher was saying). During 세계사 I just did my writing homework and finished up my workbook pages so that I could spend the rest of the night focusing on my presentation for Thursday’s Korean class. And even though I have three good friends in my politics class, lately we just spend the periods having discussions and then a lecture, so I just kept to myself and did Korean homework. (Wednesdays are actually great because I can be so productive during my classes!)

Katie and I ate lunch with our friends today. Today’s lunch menu was foreign food which consisted of spaghetti, really sweet fries (I am talking potatoes covered in a sticky, sweet sauce), and some chicken wings. Usually Katie and I am disappointed by the meals that are not Korean but this one was okay. I did miss eating pasta and the chicken was really good. (I do still prefer normal fries, however.)

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Wednesdays after school usually comprise of Katie and me going to a cafe near our school (usually Twosome Place) and studying but this week I made plans with Jessica (NSLI-Y Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current Yonsei full-time student) to go to a cafe together back in 홍대 to just chill and catch up. She had plans with a language exchange partner later in the night (for dinner) so we just planned to hang for a couple hours at a tea shop that she recommended. 

To save time, I did not even change out of my school uniform! Jessica took me to this really cute tea shop that she first stumbled upon when she was going on a date and has come back often because the interior is really pretty and they offer a very large variety of tea served in really pretty cups and tea pots. I ended up ordering a cup of my favorite tea: 유자차 (Citron Tea) and we also shared a side menu item of green tea rice cakes which we dipped in this sweet honey like sauce. It was very delicious! The lady of the place was really nice to us and complimented our Korean which of course brought a smile to our faces.

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Jessica 언니 ㅎㅎㅎ

The two hours passed really quickly as we just chatted away. I updated her on the start of my new semester and the newfound stresses over test scores and my lack of Korean improvement (and related lack of motivation to study more to fix the issue…) I also talked to her about boy issues. She opened up to me about her recent breakup and how she was trying to date around to find someone new. She literally is living inside of a romantic drama as her love life is very complicated! But I wish her the best with the current boy she is chasing. It seems that he will treat her better than the last one. We finished up our tea talk and headed for our respective plans– mine being a nice dinner with my host family (and studying into the night).

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Andy ❤

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Do not forget to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마

Quater Squad: Pizza & Board Game Night in Hongdae (04/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/01/19 Monday

Today was technically April Fool’s Day but I didn’t realize this fact until halfway through the school day. I mean I didn’t pay much attention to this holiday back in the states either so it’s not too surprising. 

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Sunrise during my morning commute to High School ❤ Just trying to appreciate the little things~

School was the same basic routine. I had politics as my first class and we just did presentations the whole time (which meant work time for me) and then my second class was English (a bit more enjoyable because I can actually participate.) Because it was April Fool’s Day, a lot of teachers were allowing their classes to go outside especially since the weather was nice but Andrew was not having that. He had gotten a hair cut over the weekend and gave the excuse that his hair stylist banned him from doing such activities (AKA being outside?) as it would mess up his new hairdo. It was a pretty stupid excuse but funny nonetheless since it came out of Andrew’s mouth—you couldn’t help but laugh. Of course, however, his excuse was followed with some groans. I empathized with the other third years, it was hard focusing while watching other students run around outside enjoying the spring weather.

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Dry Erase Board with scribbles begging Andrew to let us go outside for class

Katie and I decided to skip out on lunch at 하나고 today so that I could also come to Better World early to pick up my stipend before Korean class. Katie was busy memorizing her presentation on the way to class so we went to the convenience store to pick up lunch and then went our separate ways. I ran into Jenna, Shada, and Kaitlyn at the convenience store too so we walked back to the youth center together which was nice because I did not want to be alone on that walk today. 

Korean class was nothing new… as the feeling of disappoint is something I’m getting used to as of late (wow, Emma… could you be any more depressing?) We got our monthly tests back in Korean class today and… I did so bad. I already knew I bombed my speaking test which negatively impacted my writing score as well but who would have thought I also would have done worse than normal on my reading test too! It definitely put me in a bad mood for the rest of class… (In case you missed it… here is the blog post about this particular test.)

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This was a momentous occasion! Josh finally cracking his own hard boiled eggs! (Usually I would end taking the shell off of them for him during our break time because he would always do it so wrong! Mess everywhere!) So of course, I needed to record this moment.

However, there was one shining thing that I was able to look forward to at the end of class: Quater Squad hangout! I’m pretty sure I explained the origins of our name in my first original post so if you care that much to know, refer to this post here. Kaitlyn, Liam, Josh, and I met up to have dinner together and because we were just given some fresh stipend money that afternoon, we were feeling rich—even though we were the exact opposite— and so we were ready to have a fun night!

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Quater Squad!!!

We planned to follow tradition and get pizza but since class ended at 5 pm (before we would meet up on Thursdays when class ends at 6 pm), we decided to go to a board game cafe for an hour. Actually this was an extremely spontaneous decision. First, we were just going to walk around and waste time that way but after turning down some random side streets here and there, we came across “Yellow Meeple” Board Game Cafe and the name alone was enough to pull us in. 

We spent an hour there playing a round of RummiKub and then Jenga. It was funny because Kaitlyn beat us all at the first game (she was the self-asserted Rummikub queen) but was so quick to get out at Jenga even though it seemed that Liam was trying to knock down the tower on purpose looking at all the risk moves he was pulling. Honestly, I forget how fun playing board games can be, especially when the people you are playing with are not extremely competitive and instead just enjoy the playfulness of the act. I have been playing so many board games lately! Three cafes in the last three days! Also the place we went to had actual apple juice! Like I’m not talking the sugary filled apple juice drink (the only one available at most 편의점s), but actual apple juice!! The bottle itself was cute and the cafe provided everyone with heart shaped straws which made everything taste better? It’s like how using cute stationary makes studying more fun; the same can be said about utensils! 

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After the board game cafe, we returned to the pizza place only to see that there was a little bit of a wait so we decided to keep walking around the area and explore the many pretty cafes nearby until we got a call from the restaurant. (Also, note that we were all wearing our different school uniforms and probably were an interesting sight on a Monday night. But, I was having too much fun to even mind the fact that I was wearing my school uniform in public–usually a small insecurity of mine) We wanted to hang out at a cafe after dinner to talk so we made sure to scout out which ones looked good enough to come back to.

For dinner we ordered the legendary Quater pizza with our four sections being macaroni, meat lovers, bacon & cheese, and truffle & arugula maybe? I can’t remember but it was some leafy pizza. We also ordered a side of onion rings and ‘bacon steak’ which ended up literally just being thickly cut bacon pieces. The boys seemed to be the tiniest but disappointed. The onion rings were so good, though! Unlike traditional onion rings which are made by frying the literal onion in ring shapes, these onions were mashed first and then fried in an onion ring shape. This made them easier to eat because there were no moments where you would only take one bite and take the whole onion out of the ring batter because of its shape and tough-to-chew level of difficulty. 

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After stuffing our faces with food (Also big thankful shout out to Liam for paying for the entirety of the pizza! What a hero! Who is he?!?!), we went back down the narrow alleyways around the pizza shop and found a cafe to nestle in and chat at for the next hour or so. (Kaitlyn had to be back at the station promptly within an hour because of her sucky commute—trains every hour only.) Everyone decided to order milk tea but I stayed true to my roots and ordered a green tea latte.

With the boys, we just talked about a whole handful of things. Our relationships with the other NSLI-Y students, fights between ourselves, our thoughts on language improvement, our motivations, and even how we were feeling about the end of the program being so soon. At one point I remember telling Liam and Josh (Kaitlyn had left at this point) that living in Korea for a year has felt like a dream—like my life in America had just taken a pause. Everyone else’s lives continued while I’m living in a space time continuum in Seoul. But what I don’t fully realize is that when I get home, I will be a different person for sure. I will have changed. I will be put back in the same environment but I will be different and that is going to be strange. (I mean soon I’ll be in a new environment once again when college begins.) 

I don’t know… the talk about going home made me really sad. A big part of me is ready to go home. I miss my family and my friends and I miss so many things I took for granted but at the same time… I’m gonna miss all my memories here, my freedom here, my friends here. This country has also started feeling like it belongs to me to. Even though, there are constant reminders that even if I moved here permanently, that would never be the case. As cheesy as it sounds, I have never felt the truth in the expression about a certain location keeping a piece of your heart ring more true than with my experience in South Korea. (Though, of course, New York is a close second!) 

That’s enough for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~ Till next time! If you like posts about traveling or just want to hear more about my experience studying abroad in South Korea, do not forget to follow my blog~ Thanks!

  • Emma 엠마 

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

03/29/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

03/30/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Tiger Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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Andy seemed to be exhausted too hehe

03/31/19 Sunday 

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

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

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

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

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The Cutest!!!

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

Having (another) Mental Breakdown in Korean Class & Eating my Feelings with Heart-Shaped Korean Street Food (03/28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/28/19 Thursday 

Today was our March monthly exam so of course I was a nervous ball of energy the whole day as I worried about how I would do on this test. Today’s classes were pretty chill (just AP 미시경제학 and 힌국사) so I prepared for our monthly exam during those couple of hours—reading over the reading passages in the book, preparing OPI possible answers, and finishing my review of all the newly learned grammar points. 

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During 한국사 however, the teacher would still try to include me in the conversation. In the beginning of the class he told me that he was going to go really fast today so he apologized and said I could work on other things—and that’s what I was doing. At one point, I got really frustrated at myself because I did something wrong and I showed it on my face and he literally stopped class to apologize! He then asked me if I had the book to which I replied no and that’s when he realized I was doing self-study. It was a pretty awkward interaction (and in front of the whole class so that made it better…) At one point he told the class this 속담 or proverb about the roots of plants (the color being the main point of the proverb) and tried to explain it to me. At the time, I’m pretty sure I was able to grasp the general meaning but now I have no idea. Though, the really nice first year next to me wrote it out on a post it note just for me! That was a really kind gesture. 

school 9

Katie and I skipped lunch at 하나고 and just went straight to the cafe next to the youth center and ordered drinks. It was cram time! I had to leave a bit early to walk over to Better World to be able to take the monthly test. 

What can I say about the monthly test? How about that I pretty much bombed it?? Not only that, but my OPI ended up with me leaning against the wall and on the floor sobbing like a child! Wow, it must be nice to have a stable emotional state like mine. 

We took the reading test first which I just wasn’t feeling. There were several questions that made me scratch my head in confusion and I had to end up guessing. I was really upset because when she said there were only two minutes left, I had almost a handful of questions that still needed answers. I was able to read everything in the allotted time but when it came to comprehending everything and being able to answer the questions… that was another thing entirely. 

Then we started the writing and speaking portion of the test and I volunteered to go first which might have been my mistake? We were doing the test over the phone again which I thought would be okay because I did just do objectively well on the OPIC and that was over the computer—not even with a real person. Boy, was I wrong. I started off the call strong with my 자기 소개 and my teacher started right off the bat with questions describing the current place I live which I prepared for and was able to talk quite naturally and coherently about the topic.

At one point I tripped up and she corrected me which I think made me become nervous. She continued to ask me questions but I kept doubting my answers and being unsure of myself which prevented me from thinking about how I could have answered the questions and instead made me focus on the mistakes I was making or the fact that what I was saying was too simple (like lack of advanced grammar or vocab) or my extremely shaky voice. At one point (I actually can’t even remember the question), I started crying. I couldn’t think of anything good to say so I started crying and my teacher kept trying to calm me down and I was able to for a couple more minutes but then she asked me a question about the economy and the relation between America and Korea which just made me burst into tears as I paced around the room for a minute trying to think of what to say. My teacher told me to calm down and that it was alright but I just kept crying and sobbing “I am sorry” into the telephone microphone. Before she ended the call, she told me to calm down for a minute before returning to the writing portion of the exam. 

Once I knew she hung up, I cried on the floor of that meeting room. I was so mad at myself for being like that. Why couldn’t I just take the exam like everyone else? No one has broke down in front of their teacher as much as I have like this (if at all to be honest). I guess I’m not cut out for this type of program. I’m too weak… I wished I could taken the OPI well. Do-over? But I knew there was no time. I began to resent my actions which only made me cry more. I ran into the classroom crying while handing off Jacquelyn’s phone to josh before running out into the hallway to cry in peace. 주연쌤 saw me and ran after me to comfort me. 

I told her that I literally just failed my speaking test because no words could come out of my mouth. She gave me the biggest and warmest hug I’ve had in a long time and let me just cry into her shoulder for a couple minutes as she patted and traced circles on my back. She cupped my face with her hands and told me that we all have bad language days and just because I had one on a rather important day (compared to most others) doesn’t make me a bad student or bad at Korean. She also brought up my OPIC score and how I am doing well. I smiled and wiped my tears but her encouragement only worked halfway. I understand that everyone has those days (Like Hannah Montanan said, nobody’s perfect!) but why do those days seem to happen so frequently with me? Why do I always feel so judged? And crumble under pressure? Some people don’t seem to have those days… 

After I calmed down in the bathroom (after a few more hushed sobs), I returned to the classroom to finish my writing test: however, I didn’t have as much time as usual because I spent so much time crying in the hallway so I was not able to finish my writing. I didn’t even make it to the minimum—600 characters. I felt humiliated and mad at myself for allowing my bad speaking test affect another part of my performance. 

Once we finished the test, our teacher proceeded to have us finish the rest of the last chapter in the textbook rather than allow us time to breathe and relax. I was not in the slightest mood to take risks with Korean and participate in class so I sat there with teary eyes for the entire last half hour of class. I kept thinking about having waffles after class with the other NSLI-Y students and ranting about how we did. I needed time to breathe. The room was increasingly feeling more stuffy. I did not want to be at the Better World Office any longer.

But instead as I was trying to escape the office with josh (bless him for trying his best to always comfort me), my teacher called me into the room and asked if it was okay that I skipped waffles and went to a cafe with her instead. This was a tradition that I loved and was a bit upset that I was missing out on one of the last times to partake in it but I took my teacher’s genuinely sweet offer and got tea with her. We walked together to a cafe near Better World and talked about my test. She wanted to get down to the bottom of why I had a literal mental breakdown during the class. I tried to explain my thoughts but as I foreshadowed earlier, my Korean skills were not their best today… 

I tried to explain my fear of disappointing myself and others and how mistakes really kill my confidence faster than anything else. I also talked about the fact that being alone in that room enables my body to freak out like that. We talked for a bit and she tried her best to comfort me but I still couldn’t help but feel incompetent. We had to cut our meeting short because my teacher forgot that she had a meeting with 민정쌤 so she had to hurry on over to the cafe next to the youth center for that. She walked with me until then and we had good conversation on our walk. I felt like I was able to be more open to her because of that meeting but I didn’t feel better about what I did this day at all… 

Josh and Katie were still waiting for me at the waffle place so I sat with them until Katie finished the last bits of her waffle. Josh and I had dinner plans with Kaitlyn that night so I decided it wasn’t worth it to eat a waffle if I wasn’t going to have it with everyone else as we simultaneously complained. 

Kaitlyn, Josh and I ended up eating at this 분식점 that we always pass while walking around 홍대. We shared some 떡볶이, 순대, 튀김, and 오뎅. It was all really cheap and it ended up only being less than 5,000 Won per person.

Also, because we were clearly not done with all that greasy, unhealthy food, we went to eat 호떡 at this one famous spot that I have been meaning to try out for the longest time! (서울호떡 is the name of the place!) Why this particular place? Because they had the cutest slightly pink colored, heart shaped 호떡! And wow… was it delicious. It was 2,500 Won which is a bit more expensive than the ones I am used to eating (cheap ones on the side streets of 신촌 or the 녹차 ones near 연서시장) but it was worth it! For the picture and the actual taste of the pastry. The filling was amazing!

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Thanks for cheering me up guys ❤

Afterwards, Josh came with me to buy ingredients to make S’mores for my public speaking classmates as a part of my speech on ‘How to Make S’mores.” We went to a foreign specialty snacks store in hopes of finding actual graham crackers but no luck… although we used Korean branded crackers and chocolate (Hershey’s was more expensive man… I’m on a budget.), we did buy American marshmallows! 

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And that was my Thursday! 

Wow, what a long blog post this was… and a lot of it was me rambling about my emotions. Honestly after reading over this post (while editing), I became depressed. All of my feelings of inadequacy and failure came rushing back to me because this day is one of those that would be difficult to forget–one of the hardest of my entire time in Korea. For me, there was such a difference between feeling these emotions during the beginning of my journey (maybe because I still had that ‘I-am-a-novice-excuse’) and towards the end. I began questioning why I was still feeling these types of emotions. I debated whether or not to include those parts because of how personal they are…but honestly, this was the REAL me. This was a REAL experience on my exchange. I do not want this blog to just be the highlights of my study abroad experience–as traveling and living in a foreign country is not all rainbows and sunshine and glitter. I hope this can bring some reassurance to those that are also going through a hard time. You are not alone; you are never alone.

Thanks for reading. I apologize for yet another long tangent ending off a blog post. I hope you stick around for the next one~ Till then!

  • Emma 엠마 

Surprise Birthday Party & First Club Meeting of the Semester! (03/27/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/27/19 Wednesday

The morning commute to school was a bit different today just because I had to carry a full size cake onto the train. I’ve carried birthday presents to 하나고 before but nothing quite like this. Because of my efforts to stuff the cake in a bag (so the cake box shape wouldn’t be obvious—and  the logo on the front), I ended up missing my usual train but making a later express train that got me to 연신내역 at my usual time. And because the express started out at 문신, there really weren’t many people on it so it was very comfortable. I’ll have to ride that train from now on. It gives me 14 extra minutes in the morning! How did I not know about this earlier?

Classes today were the same old same old. In 국어, there were no seats at the front of the class so I ended up sitting in the back next to some random male students and when the teacher walked in, he actually asked me why I wasn’t sitting in the front! I was shook by this immediate exclamation and my red face probably showed it. Because I was in the back, I realized that he did not single me out as much— probably because he knew I wasn’t paying as much attention as I usually do when I am in the center and at the front of the class. He told me I should come earlier so that I can get a seat at the front of the class. 🙂

Random Class 11

Uncle Sam wants YOU to return your library books!

I had a study period today too which was spent uploading a blog post and then working on some pages from my workbook. 세계사 was my class before lunch and because I have officially designated that class as 자습 시간, I literally just spent the whole time studying Korean. 

Katie and I stuck around 하나고 for lunch today (surprising, I know right…) and so we got to eat with all our friends. And the lunch today was honestly my favorite we have had thus far into the semester. We ate 보쌈 with huge lettuce leaves and even had pear slices for dessert. It was the best!

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After lunch, even though we were all stuffed by the really delicious lunch, we all met up at one of the lounge areas on the fourth floor in order for Katie and me to surprise 혜지 and 도윤 with their birthday cake. I bought plates and forks but forgot to buy a plastic knife (jokes on me… we found a plastic cutting knife inside the box after we finished eating…) so we just literally took the cake off the platter and put it on our plates using the forks. It was honestly really fun. 

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We hurriedly ate the cake in less than 10 minutes and then ran off to get to our next class. 혜지 did not want to take the left over cake so she handed it off to another student who ended up just sitting down and eating the cake in our classroom with some of the other girls. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight—I laughed so hard my sides were hurting. 

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우리 혜지야~ ❤

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Last class of the day was 정치와 법 and the majority of it was discussions and then we switched to lectures for the second class. I was not in the mood to pay attention and 윤세 forgot her note sheets so I gave her mine while I just did some Korean studying. 

Once school ended, it was off to our club meetings. The first club meeting of the semester! I was back with Bisera (the economics club). At first after class, 다은 and 기준 were going to take me to the meeting but I talked with a Katie a bit before separating for our respective clubs so I went by myself. I ended up running into 동철 on the staircase so we chatted for a bit and walked to the club meeting together. Apparently third years don’t really participate in their clubs (because the school would rather have them be studying for their exam in the fall–수능) but they do all tend to come to the first meeting so I got to see a lot of familiar faces: 주호 and 준호 in specific (and like I mentioned previously—동철.) We had everyone sit in a circle and I of course sat next to 지현~ We had the 3rd years and the new 1st years introduce themselves (I also did a 자기 소개 along with the Japanese exchange students that were joining us for that meeting only.) 

Besides just talking and chatting, we spent the majority of the first hour of the meeting picking out colors for our sweatshirt hoodie. I was really excited for this because I definitely want to buy one! I hope they choose a cute color~~ (Got my hopes up a bit too high… everyone ended up voting on dark concrete gray…ugh)

I had to leave before the second hour of the club started so that I could have adequate time to study for our monthly test the following day so I rushed home to pick up my books. But before I left, this teacher came into our room to do attendance and he sees me and asks “Is she really a member?” And then after everyone says “yes” in unison, he goes “Since when?” Many of the students answered back with “Originally” or “Since last year” in my defense which really touched me! I cannot wait for the next meeting! 

Lately at school, I am feeling a lot better. Last semester was kind of rough because things were so new and I felt lonely constantly but now that I have a secure group of friends and have more of a sturdy grasp on the Korean language, I feel like I am almost a part of this school :,) I know it may sound dumb but feeling like you stick out 24/7 can be frustrating. I just want to feel like I belong… In the moments that I forget that I am a foreigner and that I am different, I feel the most happy. Even if those moments are short or in frequent. They truly make up for the rest. To more days like today!

  • Emma 엠마

Starting our English Mentorship Program & Cafe Study Date (03/25-26/2019)

AN: I am writing all of these blog posts almost two weeks after they happened so most of them will just be the bare bones of what I did during the day and a few random really clear and detailed moments. I am kinda upset that I have been slacking on blog posts but hopefully I can catch up more!

03/25/19 Monday

Random Class 12

LoL This sign was on the back of the door of some bathroom stall. It is about not flushing the toilet after you use it

My morning started off with my lovely Politics and Law class which was just consisted of debates for two hours…at first I tried to actually pay attention but then it all became too much and I ended up taking out my workbook and doing that secretly. The teacher might have noticed? But then again, I was not in the mood to feel guilty for doing other work during class. The Korean students were not missing out on much by me not listening to them.

My second (and last) class of the day was English with the third years. Today Andrew was counseling with them about their argumentative essay topics while the rest of the students were put into groups and discussed a chapter out of the book they are reading: They Say I Say. I was put into a group with one girl and guy but I can only remember the guys name– 인규 (I only remember his because I kept saying 인구 at first which is not his name. It instead means population). Because I was in their group, I actually made them talk with me and communicate in order to answer the questions. They were actually both students that never participate in class (or at least not on the days that I am in class with them) so I was half expecting their English to not be very good, but I was wrong. They both spoke very well. I apologized for making them do work because the other groups were practically silent the whole time–not discussing anything– while we were going down the entire list of questions together. It was also just fun chatting with them. From 인규, I learned about the grading system here at 하나고. Like at American schools, teachers do get evaluated by their students’ test scores, class grades, and with random observers that come in during class time but one difference is that at 하나고, the students also get to grade the teacher. They get to anonymously fill out a report on all their teachers and these reports do affect the teachers (income and and what classes they teach, etc). I found this to be really interesting but also somewhat problematic? Wouldn’t the students be quite subjective with their answers and hurt the teacher just because they gave them a bad grade or something? I could imagine that being a case that would occur… Maybe Koreans respect the institution of education or their teachers enough to not partake in any “foul play” if you will–in regards to their evaluations.

I also showed 인규 and the girl my Korean textbook as they were really excited to see how their language would be taught as a foreign language to others. 인규 actually plans on majoring in Korean because he really has pride for the language; he thinks it is very beautiful. Though, he is not quite sure yet on if he wants to study in order to teach a subject like 국어 in the future or if he wants to teach Korean to foreigners.

Random Class 1

Bus Stop Views

I cannot remember what happened during Korean class (yay for writing these posts so late!) but afterwards we had our Bi-weekly meeting which we talked about when our templestay reflections were due as well checking up on our field trip plans for the individual research projects. I believe I will try to interview some employees at a special education school near Gangnam. Now I just have work that out and set up an interview date!

Also, I forgot why Shada and Jenna were being punished by 민정쌤 but they were the only two students that had forgotten to send her something so she made them stand in front of the room during the meeting and in traditional classroom punishment style–they had to raise their arms above their heads. It may not seem like this punishment would be bad but… your arms DO get tired! It is intense.

Random Class 4

Yup… not sure why I have this random photo of Liam and Jacq from our meeting

03/26/19 Tuesday

I was excited to get up early this morning and go to school (what a shocking turn of events!) because I knew that my English mentorship program was starting today! Like last semester, I had it during my first period class, and I would also have another period of it later in the day right before lunch period. 

For my first mentorship 공강, I was with three second year girls: 은서, 수빈, and 지연. This was my first time meeting 지연 but both 은서 and 수빈 were in my politics class so I knew them well. (수빈 was also elected to be the school’s president alongside another second year. He’s in my Economics class) For our first meeting, we just talked about yourselves and did some icebreakers because we really hadn’t had the chance to speak to each other that much before our meeting. They were all at a good enough level of English that conversation was easy. After our long introductions, we started to talk about the topic of the meeting which was food. We started out with Korean food and talked about all the most delicious and famous ones out there. We also discussed what was good around 연신내역 and concluded that we had to make a trip there altogether to eat meat and get some bubble tea! I brought out the google doc that I made last year (for my 공강 with 호영, 근영, and 건우) that had photos of all different kinds of American foods like Thanksgiving foods, biscuits & gravy, Chicago deep dish pizza to things on the sweeter side like funnel cake and S’mores. I also introduced them to Cuban food! (Since that is mostly what I eat at home anyways)

Music class was not the most fun since we spent the whole period making a song on this one computer program. Since I know nothing about music, this assignment was put all on Katie so bless her for 1. Being good at music and 2. Being chill with me literally doing nothing.

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Afterwards, I had my 한국사 class with the third years. I talked a bit to the girl next to me and the usual candy given to the students by the teacher made me enjoy the class more than I would otherwise. I was going to focus during the class content this time but I gave up halfway through and started doing Korean class homework. 

The last class I had for the day before lunch was another English mentorship. In my group I had two second year girls: 세연 (who happens to have been in both my homeroom last year and my current homeroom) and 서영 who is in my AP Economics class! We started off by introducing ourselves and doing some small ice breakers but then we moved to playing games rather than actually having conversations in English. We played “I am Grounded” (in English) which I was very very bad at. I had to play a couple rounds to regain my rhythm and to remember the point of the game. I was not the worst player though! Out of Katie’s two students (first years 민화 and 재훈) 재훈 was terrible. We would give out punishments which involved bending over on the table and then being slapped by everyone else on the back. This punishment was dealt to 재훈 so many times! I felt so bad!

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After playing a few rounds of that, I taught everyone this elephant game that I played in ASL (American Sign Language) often during my senior year of high school. Basically someone stands in the middle of the circle and points to one person. That person has to quickly form an elephant nose with their hands and the two people next to them have to create ears with their hands. Usually you have a big group and you keep going around until the last person not disqualified is standing (you get kicked out for missing your job, being too slow, or making a weird shape) but we only had 6 people so we just kept switching being the person in the middle. It was definitely so much fun!

Katie and I had lunch at school and I am disappointed to admit that they have been serving such good lunches lately probably due to the fact that the Japanese exchange students are visiting. Today we had some really delicious chicken legs and even had a dessert of two cream puffs!

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Korean class was a blur…. I have no idea what we did.. It has been way too long. We were trying to hurry up and finish our last chapter in the fourth textbook of the Ewha University Series so the class was really fast paced for sure. (Though, of course, we did go off on tangents and talk about random things like we always do.)

After class on Tuesday, I had plans to go to a cafe with Shada to study so we ended up heading over to our long time favorite Blanc Bakery (So we could have bread for dinner and so I could buy cake for 혜지 and 도윤…long story short… Katie and I found out at lunch today that it was 혜지s birthday and that 도윤s was Saturday!! No one told us anything!) We bought some tasty savory pastries and studied for about two and half hours–I studied Korean while Shada focused on her online high school math class. I also caught up Shada with how I am doing as of late (and she did the same with me). We have not gotten the chance to just talk lately and I really miss hanging out with her! Shada is the sweetest and is a lot of fun to hang out with so I hope we can continue to hang out more for the rest of the program.

Before I bought the expensive slices of cake, Shada told me about this place that sells full (small but still bigger than a slice) cakes for only 10,000 won (less than $10!) I ended up buying a 10 dollar banana and chocolate cake! I was so excited for the girls to see it tomorrow (and enjoy it!) Of course they would much rather enjoy a full birthday cake than just a slice or two of cakes.

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Look! New flavor: Cherry Blossom!!! Will try them later 😛

I got home a little bit later than usual and chilled at home–did some Korean class work for good measure…

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading! And also quick note because I have received some confused comments about the timing of my posts. So yes, in accordance to the dates of my blogs, these posts were all written last year. I am not writing these posts now. I wrote all of these blog posts like my own diary in separate Google Docs while I was studying abroad in Korea and then as I have had time (whilst in Korea and as I have been home), I have been editing them (for clarity! My English increasingly worsened while I was in Korea), adding photos, and then posting them. I hope this makes more sense! I definitely could not remember this much stuff in this much detail if I was writing them all present day. Anyways, tangent aside.. Have a great day!

  • Emma 엠마

TempleStay in South Korea (2 Days & 1 Night) (3/23-24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/23/19 Saturday 

Katie and I woke up around 8:30 am today to start getting ready to spend the weekend outside of our homes. She ended up basically not packing any clothes so she borrowed a T-shirt, some sweatpants, and even socks from me. (Which, while writing this, have still not been returned to me… Katie!!!!) We had to meet the rest of the NSLI-Y program at the subway station around 12 so we needed up heading to a bakery in the shopping mall next to my train station for some starchy breakfast. I didn’t end up taking a photos of the bread we ended up sharing but here are some really cute croque monsieurs (Shoutout to Kaitlyn for sharing my first one with me a while ago and bestowing upon me knowledge of such a great French carb!) that have heart cut outs in the bread! 

Apparently when we got to the station, it was raining really hard and only one NSLI-Yian brought an umbrella so 민정쌤 ran out to the closest convenience store and bought us all rain ponchos. All the students were wearing rainbow colored plastic coats that highly resembled gummy bears… you could say we came in an assorted batch of colors and flavors. What made this really funny was that when we made our way outside once the final student was accounted for, it was basically not raining at all—if anything it was just a light drizzle. But hey, at least we looked ridiculous all together! 

We took this one tiny bus where we all almost didn’t even have room to stand let alone breath but after a quick ten minutes, we arrived at the temple: 길상사. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the program because they were locked up during the duration of our stay so the photos that I took last up until this point. (Though I will scatter them throughout this blog post so photos are not only concentrated on one part.) Plus, there was a professional photographer that took photos of us, so I have those shots as well! 

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On the walk there, we passed a famous statue of Korean comfort women from the Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The community (?) dressed the women up warmly for the cold winter weather with hats and scarves.

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The first order of business was giving up our most worldly possessions (cell phones and wallets) and then we went and changed into our Buddhist attire which consisted of these really baggy sweatpants type bottoms and then a corduroy vest that went over whatever top we were already wearing. 

During the beginning of the templestay, we met the main workers and volunteers for the day and the monk that would be taking us through our journey of experiencing Buddhism. We started off learning about the rules of the temple aka the rules we also must abide by while we are here. Most of them were common knowledge like being respectful, peaceful, no phones, etc but others were new to me. I knew that many Buddhists didn’t eat meat (so we would be eating vegetarian all weekend) but I didn’t know that you were required to finish everything that you put on your plate. Also, during the duration of the stay, we were supposed to try our best to be silent but that didn’t last very long…

We were doing the program along with another group of foreigners (a couple European exchange students from SNU) and then several other native Koreans; although, foreigners definitely outnumbered the Koreans. 

It was at this time that we also learned how to properly bow like a Buddhist would in a temple and also how to create the 합창 pose– which is just the post of putting your hands in a prayer-like formation.

The first activity of the day was to take a tour of the temple grounds. We provided our own interpreter aka 소영쌤 for our programming but for the tour part, we switched her out with one the of the volunteers whose English was fluent and almost 100% natural. She was definitely thankful about that because earlier the Monk was being quite a savage to her when she couldn’t quite translate everything (Especially when Josh would shout things out from the crowd to help her out). The volunteer actually attended 대원외교 and so he bonded over that with the rest of the NSLI-Y kids attending that school. 

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One of the more interesting parts of the tour was when we found out that this temple actually started out as a high class restaurant/ alcohol joint for rich men and politicians. There were also usually female performers to entertain the men that came to drink. The lady that ran the place was very rich as the place brought in a lot of revenue but she ended up giving it to one of the monks at the temple, after begging them for years to take the location.

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This unique characteristic is why some of the buildings and the makeup of grounds is not exactly representation of most Buddhist temples. When 소영쌤 was translating this fact earlier, she called the place a high-class bar. Everyone was a bit confused so when we actually got to see where people would drink (and where the females would change), the volunteer rephrased the explanation of the place so we wouldn’t be confused. (So, in conclusion, the place was not as seedy as a normal bar.)

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We walked around a bit more to see the rooms in which the monks sleep in and mediate in and the main temple where the monks (and visitors to the place) can go and pray. We also were showed two statues that our tour guide really made sure to emphasize that they symbolized religious harmony. One of them was donated by a rich white Christian to the temple while the other depicted Mary. 

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After our tour, we learned how to mediate like a monk. This involved a demonstration of hand positions and breathing techniques and then all of us trying out meditation for ourselves. The monk walked around us carrying this large wild stick (Don’t you love my descriptions?) and showed us how he would hit people if they fell asleep during mediation time. He ended up showing off the stick’s power (it sounded like it hurt badly but apparently it was not that hard) on Alix, Jacquelyn (good foreshadowing) and 민정쌤. I am going to be honest, it was really difficult for me not to fall asleep while sitting there. I was tired and toasty from wearing so many layers and so I definitely felt myself nodding off at times. (Luckily, he never caught me) Although I will say even when I wasn’t fighting with sleep, I couldn’t mediate very well.. I kept the thinking of other things—my mind was racing with thoughts about everything and anything. I wouldn’t be a good monk for sure. 

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Picture of me meditating…or was I dozing off at this point?

Eventually dinner time rolled around and it was time for us to experience Buddhist food—very simple ingredients, no meat, not much seasoning, and very healthy. In Buddhism there are actually a lot of different words for things that differ from plain-spoken Korean. For example, meal time is called 공약. And like I mentioned previously, the food you take is all the food that you need to eat! Monks do NOT waste food. 

Unfortunately, since there was no cameras or phones allowed, I can’t exactly remember what we were given to eat… what I can remember was that there was soup, different types of 김치 and vegetable 반찬, batter covered mushrooms and other root vegetables, rice, watermelon, and traditional rice cakes. Every single person had to wash their own plate and silverware at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, we had an evening Buddhist service in which we got to bow along with the monks at the temple as they had their nightly pray session. We were given pamphlets to follow along with what they were chanting but regardless of the fact that I can read Korean, I was confused at what page to be looking at. Either way, we all got to participate by bowing along with the monks.

We also did walking meditation after this which although it was very cold, I really enjoyed just mindlessly walking around the temple grounds. Compared to sitting meditation, I was able to let loose of more my thoughts during this exercise—maybe because I wasn’t as tired and because I had just eaten and was in a very calm and satisfied mood. 

We got the chance to talk with a different monk and ask him all his questions during a tea time session. We were given plum tea and a bunch of 약과 and assorted nuts. I was able to understand a lot more of what the monk said (before the volunteer translated) which made me quite proud. I could not imagine how I much I would have understood after only being here for a little while (say back during first semester).

We finished off the night with a movie documentary on a famous monk: 법정스님. It was interesting seeing how he lived his life as a monk. One thing that I thought was interesting was that he was highly judged by his parents. They had paid so much money for him to get a college education (not an easy feat now and not an easy feat then either) and he decided to leave the academic world behind and become a monk. But because of this tension, he did not help his family at all once he started earning money from the royalties off of his bestselling books. He had some ask for help but he basically cut them off completely. Instead, he would donate a lot of money to students who were struggling to pay for their college tuition and were near having to drop out. 

We all got ready ready for bed and slept on mats on top of the heated floor. I was expecting it to be rather uncomfortable but honestly, it was one of the best rests I have had in awhile. I think that sleeping on the floor is really good every once in awhile! I definitely do not mind it. I fell asleep right away and the next thing I knew… it was three in the morning.

3/24/19 Sunday

The lights slowly turned on and a bell began to sound. I looked around the room and watched everyone stir awake. No one had their phones so we could not tell that it was 3 in the morning but our bodies definitely were aware of this fact. We got up, changed, washed up a little, and then headed out for the early morning Buddhist service in the temple. Like the evening service, we got our own mats at the side of the temples and were given pamphlets to follow along with the monks. We finished off the service with another round of walking meditation around the temple grounds. This one, in comparison to the last, was actually very relaxing for me. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was the morning and I was too tired to think of anything else but I was able to just watch my feet while I walked and forget about the world around me. It was very nice.

The next program on our schedule had been highly anticipated since the beginning. We would be doing 108 prostrations or bows. This involved bowing in the right way that was taught to us during the temple etiquette presentation and with every time we came down to the floor, we strung a brown bead (handmade, completely unique bead! You cannot find them/buy them anywhere else. You can only obtain them by doing a templestay!) on a string that would later become a necklace. We were told that with every bead strung onto the string, we were saying goodbye to a temptation, something bad in our lives, worries, etc. I found this activity very peaceful and I actually enjoyed being able to count out everything that had been consuming my mind recently. I metaphorically imagined myself saying goodbye to all my worries: not reaching my desired Korean level, confidence issues, not making friends in college, struggling with grades in college, homesickness, trust issues, my friends moving on without me in their lives, not being able to find true love, negative body image, missing out on a dream job of mine, etc. (Was that information too intimate? Oh well…)

It felt good feeling like I was releasing them into something else. I also figured that the 108 bows would be more tiresome than they were. I felt wobbly by the end (my legs) for sure but I did not really break a sweat. By the end of the activity, I was able to look at my necklace, and its 108 beads, with pride. I had done that. I had made this with my own hands and it definitely was not easy. When I got home, I hung it on my vanity mirror and I cannot help but smile when I look at it every day.

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The finished product!~

We had breakfast after which consisted of 죽 (porridge), 잡체, spicy tofu, salad, lots of 반찬, and apples. It was all very clean tasting~ The next activity of the day was community work. For this part of the morning, we returned to the temple that we prayed at earlier and “cleaned” the mats that you kneel on while bowing. This process involved taking the mats out of the temple (assembly line style) and patting/smacking the dust off of them outside and then placing them back into stacks inside the temple against the wall. 

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Smiling faces after accomplishing the task!

To work off some of the breakfast, we did temple yoga next which was not exactly like my yoga classes in high school; this yoga was definitely centered more on stretching and breathing. It  was a nice final session to end this program before we wrote our reflections and got ready to leave the temple. 

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Last Photo of our TempleStay experience!

Katie and I went back to my house together so that she could pick up her bags. We ate lunch together at the shopping mall near my apartment– at 홍익 돈까스 to be exact, sharing 돈까스 and tomato pasta.

We also dropped by a cafe where I bought Katie bread for getting into UCLA!!! Congratulations Katie! ❤ We hung out there to study and chat for a bit before we both returned to our respective homes for dinner.

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This bread’s name was 남편보다 더 달콤한 빵 (Sweeter than your husband bread)

My host mom was not feeling well and my sisters were out so I ended up eating dinner by myself in my room that night while I was studying. It was a very chill Sunday night. Although I did no actual work or studying during the templestay, it was still quite draining yet rejuvenating at the same time. Probably one of the biggest examples of something contradicting itself but hey that is how the world works sometimes!

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That is all for this blog post! It is a very long one… more than 2,500 words yikes! If you got through all of it then… thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I really had an amazing experience doing the templestay. I am so glad that we were able to get approved by Better World as it truly was such a unique and eye-opening experience. Especially because a lot of Buddhist values can be seen in aspects of the Korean culture even to this day! 여러분 기회가 있으시면 꼭 템플스테이를 해보세용~ Alright BYE!

  • 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