Taking the TOPIK (Korean Proficiency Test) in South Korea {04/21/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

4/21/19 Sunday 

Topik Test Day! All of our effort at studying Korean throughout this program would be put to the test today (quite literally). We were taking the test at a university outside of 서울 so I had to travel two hours (including transfer time) to get to the testing location! Luckily, I was able to get a seat after about twenty minutes from my departure station so from there, it was smooth sailing for me. I spent the subway ride cramming for the test and worrying intensely–nothing new to see here.

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Off to take the exam!

Honestly every time I thought about the test, I felt like throwing up. I had taken so many practice/mock tests and studied so many vocabulary words up until this point… I did not want all my effort to be in vain. I did not want to disappoint the expectations of my resident directors, of my Korean language teacher, and almost importantly myself. I wanted to be able to take this test and be proud of not only my effort in regards to preparation but also my results…for once?

민정쌤 actually accompanied us to the school because of the fact that it was outside of 서울. She said that she wanted to get us a testing center within the boundaries of our program rules (so 서울, 고양시 and 인천) but when she logged in to register us all, the seats ran out in seconds. The only place she could register all 10 of us (the ten 2반 and 3반 students taking the Topik 2 test) was at this particular university. We had a short bus ride from the subway and before we knew it, we were at the school—actually needing to wait 20 minutes outside of the doors because they would not open until 11:50 am. 

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Entering a random school for the first time and following signs to my testing room brought back some stressful memories from taking standardized tests in high school. I was the first one in my classroom and I walked around for a bit trying to figure out if I should walk in or not. Then I tried looking for my seat by reading off the name tags on the desks rather than the giant sheet of paper on the board. Luckily, a nice guy told me what to do so I could quickly get to my seat rather than walk each and every row until I found to my seat (I happened to be the very second chair all the way at the end of the classroom so if I had done that, it would have taken me so long.) 

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I got to my seat at 12 but the test didn’t start till 1 pm. It was a lot of directions being explained, testing the audio for the speakers, and passing out test papers. There were some differences with the test (in comparison to most American standardized tests) which really surprised me.

First of all, for American standardized tests, pencils are always used (specifically #2 pencils) but they actually passed out special pens for us to use during the tests. They were not ball point pens; they more closely resembled sharpies than anything else. One side had a thicker point for filling in the bubbles for the multiple choice sections (reading and listening) while the other side had a thinner point for the writing section.

The issue I had with the pens was that you were allowed to bring your own white out (the tape kind) to use if you made a mistake because clearly, you can not really erase sharpie. However, if you didn’t have any 수정테이프 (correcting tape) with you, you had to raise your hand to ask one of the test proctors to bring you one of the 5 that they had at the front of the room. This proved to be really annoying because I would want to just quickly erase my mistakes and keep going but I had to wait to get the proctor to notice me in order to give me the corrector before I could keep on going with the test.

Specifically with the writing test, I couldn’t just skip my mistake and keep going because you have to write in grid paper and they will take off points for doing the spacing wrong. And for one question on the listening portion, I ended up missing the recording because it was one of the ones that only play once and I was too busy asking for the tape for my last question that I couldn’t focus on what I was supposed to doing at the moment. Very very frustrating.

Besides that though, I will say that I think I did pretty well on the test. At least, I did the best that I could have done. There were plenty of times that I finished reading a paragraph and was able to understand it basically perfectly and was able to pick out the right answer right away—this was quite motivating. I was surprised that I was able to understand readings about why people can’t sleep well on space stations and why people, in fact, have an eye that they use more (just like we have a hand we are more comfortable using). Also, when words that we learned recently came out in the readings or in the answer choices, I would become suddenly happier. Seriously, I’d be sitting there concentrating through a passage and then a word would come up that I studied from a Quizlet set the day before and the biggest smile would appear on my face instantly.

 There was one moment where I literally almost scared the test proctor. I was at the point in the test where they leave certain spots blank in the reading so that you can create an answer choice that fits into that blank space. For this one particular question, all of the answer choices were proverbs. I believe I only knew two out of the four that were given; however, after reading the passage, it was clear which one was right. I literally started flailing my hands around and smiling like an idiot because not only did I recognize the proverb and remembered the meaning but I knew it was the right answer. While I was doing my little freak out dance because of that one proverb, I made eye contact with one of the test proctors and at first she looked confused but then she tried to stop herself from laughing. It was honestly hilarious! 

What was that proverb you ask? Here it is 발을 벗어나고 간다. It basically means to get out there and help—put in effort somewhere. 

During the break between the two tests, Katie, Addie, and I just chatted in the hallway while eating this bread I bought from the bakery. We ranted about the test for a bit. I’m so glad they got put in my room; I would have gone crazy if I had no human interaction during the entire testing period. 

I was a little disappointed in my Topik writings though… to be honest. The short writing was alright but the long one… I understood the question perfectly fine but I didn’t know what to say. Actually, I couldn’t even think of what I would say in English. I don’t think that I expressed myself well enough and I didn’t even reach 700 characters… it was kind of disappointing. 

Regardless, I let go of basically all my feelings at the end of the test once we all had a rant session outside of the school building. I kind of wanted to let off some steam with the other students afterwards but my host mom was expecting me home and I also was really tired. So straight after the test, I took the 2 hour long train ride back home. (But not without a hitch.. I got in a train going in the wrong direction at my transfer stop… how long have I been in Korea? And I’m still getting on the wrong train? Who am I?)

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Cherry blossoms are falling :,) but here comes green spring~

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I came home and did literally nothing!! I knew I was going to a cafe the following day with Katie to study so I decided to make the smart decision (sarcasmmmm) to not do any of my homework this day. My host sisters also already ate dinner by the time I got home so I ended up just eating 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes) and some 감자칩 (potato chips) in my room by myself—while watching a movie. It was still very nice though~ My host sister cooked for me, so I couldn’t have asked for a better dinner! 

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I cannot believe that I almost only have exactly a month left in Korea… I DO NOT want to think about it!!! (And yet I am speaking it into the universe now…welp, oops) But the next several blog posts are going to be so entertaining because it is 중간고사 기간 (midterm week) at 하나고 so Katie and I will not be required to attend high school throughout the week; therefore, I have lots of free time to relax, play around, and explore!! Hopefully, it will be more interesting content? In case the school days feel repetitive and boring? Writing them becomes tedious at times for sure… Anyway, till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/11/19 Thursday

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Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

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

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

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

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On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

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

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

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

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

04/12/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walk back to the subway station~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

Running on Four Hours of Sleep, Two Bottles of Coffee, and into the Wrong Classroom (03/20-21/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/20/19 Wednesday 

It’s been awhile yet again since this day actually happened (almost two weeks to be exact..) so what I did in my actual classes at 하나고 this day are but a faded distant memory. During lunch, Katie and I ate with 혜지 and 윤세 and today happened to be an unofficial “eat-all-your-food-and-get-a-fun-snack-or-prize day” so if you ended up eating the majority of your food, you got a pack of green grape gummies which were delicious~ 

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I had politics for the last period of the day and was dreading the boring lecture of which I could only (barely) understand every 5 words or so. Luckily, I was literally saved by the bell—or to be more exact, the fire alarm. 하나고 was having their fire drill for the new school year which involved getting everyone out of the building and onto the soccer field which only proved 2 things to me: 1. The school is so small that they were able to fit everyone on that tiny field and 2. If there was a real fire, we would be too close to the possible fire zone. (In a real situation I would hope they actually leave the camps.)

But anyways the drill was actually fun. Because of it, I got to talk to a few more of my classmates and somewhat bond with them?!? We talked about fire drills in Korea and getting ready for school in the morning (They were shocked to hear that I have to wake up before 6 am to come to school.) Everyone was curious about what club I will be doing and where I take Korean classes so we talked about that as well. It was nice feeling like I was a part of the conversation (actually contributing meaningfully) rather than feeling like I’m on the outside of one. I do not feel this way with my close friends but with the general school population, it can be quite different…

We finished up the last period of class after the fire drill with a debate on the mandatory military service for Korean men. Did I really follow along well? No… did I sneak Korean homework under my notes? Yes… 

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Before we left school, 도윤 ran up to me and deliveries a plastic bag of snacks to me from my 마니또 (My homeroom is currently playing the game! Like Secret Santa but more like Secret Angel). Unfortunately she, too, didn’t know who it was so I was stuck having nothing to go off by. Though, I appreciated the snacks of chips and chocolate! 

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After school, Katie and I went to Paris Baguette for a bit and just chilled—enjoying some macaroons and bread. I ended up changing into real clothes at the subway bathroom and met a Korean friend for dinner. 

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We had been language exchange partners for the past month (Though, to be honest, it was not really a language exchange seeing that I only ever spoke in Korean.) and we finally decided to meet up. I have done this before during my summer program with HelloTalk friends so do not worry, I was being safe!

We went to a fried chicken place that took us quite a bit of time to find as we got lost… and it was also heavily raining which was unfortunate. But the food was good! And although I had so much anxiety about being able to hold a conversation for so long over dinner with a stranger, I did well–it was fun.

We ended the night with some ice cream and a movie.

3/21/19 Thursday 

Wednesday was a really late night for me… I got home late from my plans and I still had to do homework and write a presentation for the following Korean class so I stayed up really late to finish everything. (I ended up writing some of my presentation on the train and memorizing it in school/on the way to 홍대 for class.) 

Katie and I took a trip to the convenience store near the school to buy some coffee to wake ourselves up. Since I also could not eat breakfast, I ended up eating some Greek yogurt there too. what happened after this.. left me scarred for the rest of the day.

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We ended up getting to school late because the stoplight took forever to change so we were stuck waiting across the street for what seemed like forever. When we got to school, we went to the right floor but failed to make our way to the right hallway. I ran into the first classroom on the left and Katie ran passed me as her class was a couple rooms down… when I entered the class, I did not recognize anyone and I saw my world history teacher at the front of the class. I was confused but then saw 지연 and ran to her. At that moment, I realized I had entered the wrong classroom and suddenly everyone’s stares turned into lasers and I could feel my face getting hot. I said bye to 지연 and then ran out of the room to see Katie waiting a bit away from the door laughing—she had looked at the room number before entering, noticing that it was the wrong room. We both sprinted to the other hallway (already late might I add) and passed by some teachers and frantically bowed. They laughed. They definitely knew we were late. I was so embarrassed! I explained my morning to 소연 and she told me a similar story about her finding a math class during her first year here. It was nice to share this with her and have her try to make me feel better–bonding over our shared embarrassing experiences.

Today’s 한국사 class was definitely something… something I didn’t except. Let me break it down, last semester I had one of my two current 한국사 teachers (I am taking Korean history this semester with two teachers–one class with first years and the other is with third years). When I first joined his class (back in October), I told him that his writing on the board was hard to read and he already knew that me trying to keep up with what was said in class {I was at Intermediate Low at this point the semester} was practically impossible so he gave me permission to study Korean during class and that is what I did.

Every single class period (once a week) I would usually do workbook pages or review grammar. When I had his class for the first time yesterday, he told me that he was ready to have me learn along with the rest of the students. He gave me a thick packet of notes and told the student next to me to share their book with me. I realized right then and there that this 한국사 class was not going to be like last semester… but even though I had this expectation in my mind for class today, I had not expected that he was going to actually interact with me during class. While he was lecturing, he kept asking me questions about random things (often times comparing things to America). I was shocked the first time he did and with every name call, I would get so anxious that I would mishear or not understand his questions at all. Let me add that he did this to no one else. I was the only one to answer any questions throughout the class period.

Not only that but when we opened the textbook, he asked me if my Korean skills improved and I replied with a not confident maybe (though I do know that I’ve gotten better) and then he proceeds to ask me if I can read the textbook. I look at the passages and say that I, of course, can (though I also could have last year too…) I felt queasy a lot of a sudden because I realized where this question was going: He. Asked. Me. To. Read. Aloud. To. The. Class. 

I was the only student to read and I read several lines and honestly not that well—I accidentally said 15 instead of 50 when I was trying to translate a number. Yikes. After I read the first line, everyone started to clap for me which I will admit, felt nice. During break, I ran out to rant to Katie who conveniently had her class right next to me and my teacher came out and greeted Katie as well. He asked me if reading in class was okay and I said that it was fine despite it giving me an anxiety attack every time. 

However, I’m glad he’s making me try. I realized that I can understand so much more when I actually try and focus. All the history terms flew over my head but I was able to understand some of the fun stories and descriptions of things. At one point he was asking the class which person out of three individuals that were somehow—in a roundabout way—related to Korea, would be the best president and be considered a Korean by definition. The person that was the right answer was actually a Chinese man who moved to Korea when he was young rather than a Korean person by blood but had only been to Korea on vacation. Honestly, I agree with the answer but I was surprised to see that because bloodlines and the Korean heritage seem so important here. Despite me being a nervous wreck during the entirety of class, it was enjoyable. I’m glad that he includes me rather than ignores me. That part is nice.

After Korean class on Thursday, I went to Blanc Bakery and bought some macaroons for my homeroom 마니또. I got this random boy in my homeroom and I would be lying if I told you right now that I know his face/could recognize him among the boys in my homeroom. I came home right after that and had dinner with my host sisters and Ellen at home. We had 떡볶이 and then some really good chocolate cake! Ellen picked up this cake from Twosome on her way home from her plans today. I spent the next couple hours sitting at the kitchen table with them talking about everything and anything—one thing that kept surfacing was love.

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Ellen told us about an ‘office romance’ she had with a guy at her work but she was completely blind to the fact that he liked her but after hearing the stories she described to us, my host sister and I knew that she was being ridiculous—it was so obvious! For one thing, he invited her to hang out on Valentines Day while he had a girlfriend (who was long-distance or something like that! She offered an excuse by saying that maybe he forgot what day it was and we hardcore laughed. No man with a girlfriend could EVER forget Valentines Day enough to invite another girl to do something with them… it’s all good now because Ellen has found a cute guy that lives close to her so she’s set. 

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That is all for this blog post! I do not know why… but I found it entertaining to reread! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Hiking 심학산 With my Host Family & Eating Acorn Pancakes and Noodles (03/17-19/19) NSLI-Y AY

03/17/19 Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty relaxed—just how I like it. For the first several hours of the day, I stayed in my room attempting to complete my TOPIK practice test and do whatever else was assigned to me for that weekend. I was able to finish the listening portion but for the rest, I kept getting too distracted to do real work.

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Eventually 3:30 pm rolled around and my host family and I left to go hiking!! We even got to take Andy along on the adventure. We drove about 20 minutes out to this mountain and temple in 파주시. Also, Ellen, my host sister’s friend (They also hosted her once upon a blue moon through the NSLI-Y program) came with us.

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We didn’t spend too much time up on the mountain because no one really was physically inclined to go up any higher once we made it to our first look out point. We took some pictures and mostly enjoyed how happy Andy was to run up and down and all around the mountain.

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While we were climbing the mountain, we also bumped into a wild or stray Shiba Inu? My host mom guessed that he belonged to the temple—we saw a cat too. It looked healthy and well groomed so I bet she’s right. The dog was incredibly cute but literally wanted nothing to do with humans. It would cower and move away whenever a human got too close to it. However, it absolutely loved Andy and they ran around together while climbing the mountain. Actually, they got so close that the little dog followed us down to our car in the parking lot! If only we could have taken him home too!! 

We decided to take a late lunch at a restaurant near the mountain that was famous for making their food using acorns. Acorns are plentiful in America and yet I’ve never even heard of food being made out of them before so I was excited to have it for the first time. We honestly had a 진수성찬 (a large feast) spread out on the table: 도토리쟁반국수 (acorn noodles), 도토리전 (acorn pancakes), 수수부꾸미 (red bean wraps?),  and 도토리 사골 들깨 수제비 (Some kind of acorn soup paste?). It was a much needed meal for a morning of hard work—both studying Korean and hiking! 

Also, we found this small little store on the side of the road selling 누룽지 which my host mom explained as “crunchy rice.” From my understanding, it is the scorched rice at the bottom of the rice cooker which is often eaten in the form of a savory snack or with soup/stews. We bought a HUGE pack to last us throughout the rest of the winter. Basically, think rice chip!

03/18/19 Monday

This is why I hate falling behind in blogs… I forget what I did.. especially if I don’t take many photos to jog my memory… School was most entirely a blur. I stayed up really late to finish my TOPIK practice test (reading and writing portion) so Katie and I grabbed some coffee at the convenience store closest to the school before heading to our homerooms. The kids are allowed to have coffee in school but it’s not sold in their school store, so Katie and I felt like we were sneaking in some contraband into the school once again… so we tried our best to chug the drinks in a corner of the hallway before classes started.

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Katie and I ended up skipping lunch at 하나고 for the day because she needed to memorize her presentation, so we grabbed a 편의점 lunch and ate at the youth center. In other exciting news, I got to finally try the popular Korean ice cream 돼지바 (Literally–pig bar) that my Economics teacher brought up in class the other day. Harmony went with us and together we bought them for about a $1 each. We concluded that they pretty much taste just like those pink strawberry shortcake bars back in America except the outside is covered in chocolate flavoring rather than all strawberry and vanilla. (I do not think I am being biased but America’s bar wins hands down.) 

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Korean class was also a blur so I really have nothing to add to that… I couldn’t finish my writing assignment because of the fact that I procrastinated with my practice tests so I was feeling out of it during class. 

After class I went to Better World with a group of students to pick up our stipend. I also had a package waiting for me!! Earlier this month I ordered some jeans online cause I lost one pair (idk where it went…) and my two pairs of jeans (not black) have a hole forming in them or they are too big for me, so I had my mom ship them to me. She also included some hot chocolate and snacks in the box as well. 

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03/19/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was an exciting day because Katie and I would be meeting some of our English mentorship students for the first time! I had my first period with three second year girls, most of which I knew already as we did have classes together. It was nice seeing familiar faces! There was 수빈 (co-President of the school), 은서 (She is in my 정치와 법 class) and then I met 지연 for the first time. We spent the hour talking about ourselves—getting to know each other with icebreakers—and then we talked about our favorite foods and famous foods in our respective countries. I had a Google Doc of American and Cuban food from when I discussed food with 호영, 건우, and 근영 so I showed them that. We also talked about one day (possibly) leaving the school during our meeting time and getting 분식 and bubble tea! I really hope that can happen~ 

The rest of my day at school was another mentorship program period and my 한국사 class with the third years so I spent that time doing Korean class work. We ended up (once again) not staying at 하나고 for lunch because most of our friends wanted to wait till 12:40 to eat and that was around the time we needed to leave the school to make it to class on time. Instead of rushing to eat our food (after getting through the long lunch line too) we opted for some 분식 at the same place we adventured to find the past week. We ordered the same thing (떡볶이 and 튀김) and stuffed our faces until our stomachs were about to explode. And the lunch was cheap! About $2 per person~ No wonder this stuff can get addicting.

Once again, too much time has passed so class is honestly a distant, foggy memory for me right now. During one of the breaks, however, I got to watch Harmony, June, and Kaitlyn practice their dance. (They formed a dance crew with people from their class as well as Liam from 2반 and a supporter from the research project days.) They are practicing a cover dance by Lisa from BlackPink to perform maybe? One day? I am hoping at our closing ceremony! 

I came home right after Korean class and went out to eat with my host family and Ellen. We decided to try out the new meat grilling restaurant that was built in the space of the abandoned 설빙. The building was empty since I moved in with the family and within probably the last two weeks, that restaurant was finally put in its place with a total outside makeover. (Quite literally though, the outside was somewhat remodeled to look like an old, traditional 한옥.) It officially opened on Sunday so we were one of the several customers trying it out in hopes of finding a new 맛집! The place had a pretty nice interior and the atmosphere was family friendly. The cutest part were the paper cups we received for water. Each cup had its own little character drawing of a food item. I do not know if it was planned (or if we got lucky) but we each got a different character!

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We ended up eating a couple orders of meat, a platter of cheese (It was grilled and then eaten with the meat… my host mom made sure to give the last two pieces to me and Ellen because… American, that is why.) and we also had 쫄면 which is a type of cold, chewy spicy noodles. Honestly, I do not understand the difference between those noodles and spicy 비빔냉면? The way we ate it at this restaurant was way overly spicy. I’m good at handling most spices so I still finished my portion and ate what my host mom continued to give me without tapping into the other water supply on the table but the same can not be said about the other girls at the table—even my Korean host sisters. Also while we were eating dinner, I told my host family about the joke my 국어 teacher said in class. At the time, I understood that he was telling the kids not to sleep in class but I didn’t get the reference to the noodle. The joke is 쫄면 졸리면 안돼요. Funny right? No but I was happy to be able to connect it somewhere. 

That’s all for this blog post~~ I would rather not make three day combined posts nor have the organization of this post to be so jumbled but this what I have for you at last! I hope you enjoyed anyway the post anyway~

  • Emma 엠마 

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

03/14/19 Thursday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me annoying Josh as usual~

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

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

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

3/15/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

School President Assembly, Korean Politics Project, and Cafe Study Date {03/13/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

03/13/19 Wednesday

My first class of the day was 국어 and I was able to get a seat next to the two first year girls I met during the last class. If I remember correctly, their names are 이언 and 민지. Today the teacher said some things that I was somewhat able to understand but then there were other times that I literally was able to follow along with absolutely nothing. At the end of class, he asked me if I knew the definition of one of the words but I was so lost. I watched him explain what it was but the whole time I had thought he was talking about that certain type of rope exercise equipment at the gym that seems to be only used by famous people or literal personal trainers. I later found out that the thing turned out to be some old tool used for laundry (called Dadeumi — 다듬이). Wow, was I wrong! This whole time! 

After 국어, I had my English mentor ship period which just ended up being a free period because the kids have not been chosen yet. I spent the whole time finishing up a blog post and being unproductive on Instagram. {This was kind of justified by me because I would be having 세계사 (world history) for the next two hours and I was pretty sure I could just do work during that class which is basically what I did! At the beginning of class when the teacher passed out the notes sheets, he also passed one to me and said, ”Please receive this.” At that gesture, I felt kind of compelled to try in the first half of class but after about 20 minutes, I gave up on that endeavor and just took out my workbook and did that during class {with the occasional break every so often to try to see if I could understand anything on the board}.

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Me feeling dead during my free period…

Katie and I ended up eating early today with 혜지 because she was having a counseling session with her homeroom teacher at 12:30 and if she didn’t early, she would have had no time to eat lunch. She was feeling really guilty about eating that early since it is time reserved for third year students only but since we came to eat with her, she felt better about it. Lunch today was nice, the line was short and the lunch room wasn’t as loud as usual—we were able to hear everyone talking. Plus, the food was pretty good! There was a nice pasta dish and these fried potatoes that were basically hash browns. 

After eating lunch, we had 40 minutes to kill before class which was such a nice feeling to have~ Katie and I got to do something that we have been meaning to do for awhile—explore the 하나고 campus. We walked around the several courtyards and even went up this back path behind the track to find some exercise equipment {the ones that are famous for being used only really by 아줌마s–older Korean women. We goofed around on those machines for a bit and walked around the track several times before making it back to have our last class of the day. 

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My last class was Politics and Law which we spent half the class reading from the book {I was really not able to follow along… though during break, 다은 explained one thing on the note sheet to me which was about people being submissive to their bosses even though they have different opinions. I think it might have been an example of political efficacy. I also asked her about the student election and she explained that to me. I also know now that 기호—which was written on all of the posters—means number and that 후보 means candidate.} and the other half was spent in our political party groups. We spent the hour finalizing our party’s platform and our pledge/slogan. I was literally barely any help as I didn’t even have the vocab to understand much of what they were discussing. We also have a debate next class about refusal to complete the mandatory military service and an alternate system that could be created. I feel like I should maybe prepare something? Or at least a comparison with America in case I am expected to participate… Anyways, I felt pretty useless in that class today. 

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Here is one of the posters from one of the potential candidates! He created his poster to the likeness of the hit Korean drama Sky Castle! Soo cool!

Although Katie and I would usually go to a cafe after school on Wednesdays to study {if there were no club meetings}, today was playing out a little different. We ended up making our way to the art center to watch speeches from the students running for school president. We had to split up and sit with our homerooms which was a headache in itself cause I have no friends yet…

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The speeches were all done by first year students except the last two which were groups of 2 second year students {boy and girl}. A lot of them had really good ideas for ways to improve the school for the students that included a space for eating outside {surprised they don’t have this yet…}, a stationary store with more options than the convenience store, better speakers for the school announcements, door stoppers, and even healing events. Although it was hard for me to stay awake during all of the speeches, it was still really entertaining at times {Especially the high quality edited videos! These kids have talent!}. After the event at the art center, Katie and I left to spend some time at the Twosome across the street to study. I went out of my comfort zone today and got a strawberry and peach frappe which was more like a smoothie than anything but it was nonetheless delicious. The color of the drink reminded me of a tomato smoothie {not my favorite thing in the world…} so every time I saw the color, my brain would quickly think of tomatoes before I would remember that it was not. 

We planned to also get 떡볶이 at one of the street food stalls on the way home but it ended up being closed that day so we had the next best thing: 호떡. 

When I got home, I ate dinner with my younger host sister and my host mom as my other sister was hanging out with her American friend Ellen {She did NSLI-Y too—AY & Summer} since it was her birthday. We had a 진수성찬 as my host sister put it seeing that we had so much 반찬 and big dishes of 잡채, 해물파전, and some seafood that we eat so often (and yet I can remember the name!_ I think that this meal made me realize that I must change my favorite Korean food. It is no longer 잡채. Rather, it is actually now 해물파전! So delicious !! 

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For the rest of the night I researched and wrote my proposal for my individual research project which is going to focus on mental disabilities in Korea, specifically Autism as it is heavily stigmatized here. I think it’s going to be an interesting topic to learn about~~ I just hope I can find some good information on it! 

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With my host dog Andy~~~

Well that’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마 

 

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

03/12/19 Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shada and our free gummies!

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

03/11/19 Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

 

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

03/01/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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03/02/19 Saturday 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03/03/19 Sunday

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

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

  • Emma 엠마