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

02/27/19 Wednesday

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



Tapioca Nut Lattes ❤

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

02/28/19 Thursday

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

  • Emma 엠마

학원 House Party, Sledding, and Vicious Live Octopus?? {01/19/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/19/19 Saturday 

Before I even met my host family, I knew about the party and the trip to go sledding planned on this day. When messaging my older host sister over Instagram, she invited me to come with if I liked to sled/had no other scheduled program activities that day. Luckily, we had nothing planned~ 

Early in the morning, you could feel the stress and worry in the air as everyone hurried to get ready and prepare for the big day ahead. Although I could feel this negative energy around me, I also could feel a ton of excitement. My two host sisters left to go pick up the kids from the 학원 to bring them back to the house to play for a bit and to have lunch. 

I was studying in my room when my host mom showed up at my door holding Andy and telling me that the kids arrived and that we should come out to greet them. She also mentioned that Andy will behave better {less to no barks} if he can enter the house with guests rather than have all the guest pile in suddenly when he’s unaware. We went down to the lobby and waited to the door until we saw a swarm of Korean elementary to middle school students coming towards us. I was shocked. I knew that it was a party but I did not imagine that there would be so many!! There had to be close to or more than 30. As they all piled into the building, many of them waved and said “hello” to me in English which was so cute. 

When we got inside the house, it was so overwhelming!! Luckily my host family’s apartment is pretty spacious for a Korean apartment but even with that, the number of kids there made it seem quite small. For about an hour or so the kids just played around—talking, on their phones, playing board games, or petting Andy. At one point, I was on Andy duty which meant I sat with the kids on the bed with Andy and watched them. It was probably less because they didn’t trust the kids handling the dog but more because many of them were scared of the dog and I was there to make the dog feel more comfortable around all the unfamiliar faces. 

For lunch, my host mom cooked up the meat medley that we bought at Emart the previous night. She just went around to the kids and passed out bowls of the meat. Bowls that included one sausage, a strip of bacon, fried shrimp, and two pieces of 삼겹살. Definitely a cholesterol raiser but very delicious nonetheless.

sled 1

After lunch, everyone put on their coats and we got ready to leave for the 눈썰매장(sledding hill). I accidentally left my wallet in my room and began to fear for my life as I realized I didn’t have my card to pay for the bus fare, but my younger host sister reassured me that it was okay… since they rented a huge bus! A party bus if you will! 

We drove off to 하피랜드 which is an amusement park in 파주시 {the city next to 고양시} and while we were driving there, we really saw the 시골!! We passed by tons of farms and fields and saw stray dogs running around. My host sister pointed out these round cylinder things that looked like huge marshmallows and told the kids sitting across from us that that was how they made marshmallows— they just cut it down into the shape that you normally see them in. None of them believed the tall tale but it was still funny to listen to.

We arrived and were greeted by two large hills covered in (real) snow for sledding. One hill was made for kids (think bunny hill) which had these circular swimming float type sleds while the bigger hill had plastic sleds (two different types). We spent about a little more than 2 hours at the sled park. I started off the day by sledding down the big hill with my older host sister and a couple of the students which was very thrilling! I am not the thrill-seeking type of person, so even just this (which many kids did fine) was a lot for me! I will also mention that steering sleds is so difficult! Part of the thrill of going down the hill was trying not to hit anyone! (Almost crashed into a mother and her child not gonna lie…)

 I honestly cannot remember the last time I really went sledding, so doing this was a lot of fun! Back home, winter does not really bring any new, fun activities for me–but this was something I never knew I could actually look forward to! However, one of the 학원 students recommended to my older host sister and me to switch our sleds for this sleeker shaped one because it went faster. We agreed to do so and really had no reservations about it but after going down that hill with that demon sled, I was done with that hill! It was a lot of fun do not get me wrong… but that sled really did make me go faster and I actually also could not stay on the sled while it was moving. Half of my body kept coming off and so my pants and arm kept getting wet from the snow. I got to the bottom and needed to take a break–and my host sister felt the same way. We decided to give the child hill a try which was a great decision since it was ten times better. I went down with my host sister while holding hands and then with a group of the students which was better since I did not have to do down by myself. The best part of it would be when our sleds would turn around and we would go down BACKWARDS! What a day!!

At 4 pm, all the students gathered back near the entrance and we returned to the bus to go back to the 학원 to drop all the kids off. From there, I visited my host sister’s 학원 for a quick bit and it was the cutest thing. All around the room where cute decorations, American memorabilia, and lots and lots of signs. I could see how this would be a really great environment to study English. 

sled 2

My Older Host Sister & Me

After we got home, we just chilled for a little bit before leaving to go to a seafood restaurant near the apartment complex/subway station which my host mom kept telling me was a 맛집 (A very delicious restaurant that is well known in the area– usually chain restaurants cannot be considered a 맛집– 맛 is taste and 집 is house (or place). For dinner, we had this large seafood soup/stew set that included a lot of seafood: crab, shrimp, clams, octopus, etc. We also ate 해물파전 (seafood savory pancake… which I have made before! During my cooking class in Korea two years ago!) as well as some spicy rice with what my sister told me was cockle? She translated the Korean word on Naver and that was what came out. I never really ate seafood in the States so I am not sure what that exactly is but… we ate it, and it was delicious! However, the highlight of the dinner was not the delicious food or the good conversation with my host family (although of course, those were all good things). The best part of the dinner made me laugh for several minutes straight… and that was the live octopus in the pot escaping through the lid and scaring my host mom so much that she screamed. I heard her cry and saw tentacles coming out of the side of the pot and I couldn’t help but laugh. Everyone in the restaurant turned to look at us as anyone would have if someone suddenly screamed in a somewhat quiet public place. A nearby waiter came by and put the octopus back in and shut the lid but my host mom was still freaking out so she switched seats with my older host sister who then held down the lid until the octopus stopped moving.

At one point, the waitress serving us finally asked my host mom about me and she told her that I can speak Korean so might as well just ask me directly. She then proceeded to ask me where I was from but she used extremely formal Korean which caught me off guard for a hot second and I was chewing tough octopus at the same time so I tried swallowing as fast as I could to tell her I was from America.

Dinner was delicious and a great end to such a busy but fun day. We came home quite early as it was only 8 pm. We just relaxed for the rest of the night which was much needed~

Thanks for reading! This is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Today officially marks halfway through my AY program… starting tomorrow, there will be more days behind us then there are in front of us which is honestly very very very bittersweet to me. I must make these last few months truly count! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Saying Goodbye to My Host Family & Winter Break Orientation {01/02/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

1/02/19 Wednesday

I woke up this morning feeling a bit out of it. I knew as I climbed down the ladder attached to my bed that it would be the last time. I looked over at my desk area and seeing all the pictures and photos gone made me suddenly very very sad. I woke up early that morning and got changed—did some last minute packing too. I also painted my nails with my host sister but did it end up as a mess! This is why I only ever get my nails professionally done—but because that’s expensive and I cannot be bothered half the time—I usually never go.

When my younger host sister woke up, she threw a huge fit because the nail kit was her gift from Santa and no one had asked permission to use it. It got heated pretty quickly as my host sister kept crying and screaming and it was really awkward for me to sit there as I was a reason for the meltdown. Not exactly how I imagined my final morning with my host family to go down. For breakfast, we all ate together around 10 am. Everyone had skipped school so that they could come with me to drop me off. Breakfast was lively and we joked around but there was definitely something different in the air.

After breakfast, I helped my host dad bring down my luggage to the car and I said goodbye to my host mom and brother as they would not be coming with. I tried holding back my tears as I said goodbye—a very difficult task. I got in the car and endured a very silent car ride. Besides a few pictures taken to show off my host sisters and my matching scarves (a scarf I received as a gift that day!), we did not really talk. When we pulled up to the hostel, we had to park a bit farther away and then take all the suitcases to the right place as my host dad found actual parking.

My host dad and sisters stayed with me in the cafe for a little bit—taking lots of pictures. We said our final goodbyes as I watched their car roll away. As they passed by, my sisters waved her hands out the window and screamed my name. When I walked back into the hostel and returned to the group of waiting NSLI-Yians, I couldn’t help but begin to cry. Kaitlyn gave me some tissues and reassured me that we’d meet again and I knew she was right.


Once everyone showed up and dropped off their bags, we all left to go find a place to eat lunch at. We ended up deciding to eat at Little Taiwan. {Kind of a running joke between Josh, Liam, Kaitlyn, and I because Liam always offers this place up as the dinner option and it never has gotten picked.} Honestly, I’m not sure what I ate… it was like country fried chicken if I had to compare it to something American. The seasoning on it was very delicious! Reminded me of my mom’s cooking…

After eating, Kaitlyn and I went to a bakery to buy macaroons for our new host families before heading to Better World for the winter break orientation.


The orientation was a lot like the other ones we have had except we focused a lot on what difficulties we have overcome and ways to try to get past or even deal with the ones that we are still currently experiencing. We started off orientation doing a type of roundtable activity with three tables: Korean class, host high school, and host family. We spent 15 min at each table with one RD and discussed our difficulties and how we were able to solve them or how they can be solved. This activity was really interesting because I was able to see that the other students also were having the same problems as me although, my school difficulties seemed a bit different compared to the other kids. Their problems were sleeping in class or having too much self-study time like… I wish!!

We also created a new Group Working Agreement or contract. We ended up choosing the word Supportive to represent our group’s goal as a whole. We ended up thinking of this as a 약속 or promise which led us to take these really ugly and cringey photos of us doing pinky promises. It was surely interesting.

During the winter break orientation, like the name suggests, we discussed winter break and our plans for it. 소영쌤 enlightened us about the times for our supporter meetings to work on our Cultural Explorers project as well as other volunteer activities and cultural activities that are sprinkled throughout the next two months. We also found out about our groups for the CEP and to no surprise, I was placed with Katie. {Like I have mentioned earlier, we may or may not have purposely chosen the same project topics.}

The last activity of the day was to look back at the boats that we filled out during arrival orientation. On the boat, we wrote our motivations on the wind, our expectations on the sail, and our fears as the base of the boat. The important part of this boat was that all three of these things must be balanced and utilized together in order to move the boat forward—progress. If you have too many fears, the boat sinks and without motivation, the boat will not be able to move forward.


We filled out new ones which ended up being a really nice exercise. I realized that some of my fears were the same while others were conquered {while new ones were added…}. My expectations changed a little bit but my motivations were still as strong as ever. It was a nice activity to take a step back and see how far we have all come during these past 3 months.

We had dinner afterward at Flapjack Pantry. Pancakes were not on the menu Better World gave us but if I had known we would be eating there… pancakes for dinner! I ended up getting a Cajun Salad which was honestly really good~ I would eat it again for sure.


After dinner, we all returned to the guest house in order to get assigned our rooms and hear information about the rest of the morning and the next day as well. {Well, actually they let us choose what rooms we wanted to be in. I wanted to be on the 4th floor again with the loft so I stayed with Addie, Katie, McKenzie, and Jacquelyn. The s were kind enough to extend curfew till 10 pm today {rather than our usual 9:30 on weekdays} and allowed us to leave the guest house to do whatever we pleased. A big group of us {Jack, Katie, Jenna, Josh, and Liam} decided to hit up this cafe called Dinga Cake House which looked so pretty. The Cafe literally looked like one of those American homes in the rich gated communities and the Christmas decorations were still up making the place look so magical! However, unfortunately for us the only seats still open were two-seaters and we had 6 people so we spent the next 20 minutes or so walking around trying to find another cafe to chill in. We ended up picking this place called 17 degrees because it looked pretty much empty and they had plenty of seats. Their tag line was “the perfect temperature for chocolate bonbons” or something like that but the place was TOO expensive. Especially considering that I would be splurging on coin-sized chocolate and not even a piece of cake or something. They had really great hot chocolate, though.


Yikes bad quality photo…

At the cafe, we just talked and laughed the whole time while enjoying our drinks. We discussed the new year and our plans while also just being weird like deciding whether everyone was either a fork, spoon, or knife or placing each other on a scale of 0– is not chaotic at all–to 10–full on Chaotic energy. It was a lot of fun.


Before heading back to the hostel, I bought this big tub of vanilla ice cream at GS25 because McKenzie mentioned wanting ice cream and I was always down for that. So after we arrived back, we all sat on the floor around Jacquelyn’s bed and ate vanilla ice cream with plastic spoons. When 민정쌤 came in to check up on us for the night, she immediately made a face when she saw what we were doing. She was just clearly jealous!!

The rest of the night we just stayed up talking. Well, particularly Katie and me. Everyone fell asleep basically by midnight but not us. We stayed up to just talk and dish out all of our emotions and expose pretty much everything personal about us. Wholesome fun. What’s a sleepover without deep talks at 2 am? Exactly!

And that was this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! I’ll keep you updated on what’s to come~ Tomorrow I meet my new host family! I’m so excited yet nervous. I could honestly start bouncing off the walls right now or puke out all my insides. Or both? Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

Namdaemun Market (남대문 시장) July 13th, 2016

Wednesdays (July 13th, 2016) are always fun since we don’t have any schedules after school. This leaves us with all of wednesday to explore Seoul and all that it has to offer. So I spent this Wednesday with Sura, Cynthia, Abigail, Ashley, and Sofia. For lunch we went to Mom’s Touch (my second time) and I shared a family pack of fried chicken with Sura and Ashley. (we had so many leftovers!)

wed 1.jpeg

After lunch, Sura and Ashley went to the Sookmyung library to pick up Cynthia and Abigail while Sofia and I went to Gongcha and bought bubble tea. (Once again I bought taro bubble tea- definitely my favorite flavor.) We actually ran into our resident director Madeline and fellow Nsliyian Peter at Gongcha. We talked to them while our drinks were being made and then we went on our way to meet up with the rest of the girls at the subway station.

We all made our way to Namdaemun Market (남대문 시장). Namdaemun translates to Great South Gate (남 is south, 대 is big or great, and 문 is door or gate). Basically it is this huge outdoor market filled with street vendors selling clothes (mostly for ahjummas), hats, shoes, souvenirs, and food! We actually came across this shop where everything in the store was only $5 which was a great price for the quality of the clothes inside. One of the funny things that happened today was that Sura went into this shoe store to buy these replica birkenstock shoes. The guy that worked there kept complimenting us on our Korean but kept making fun of Sura saying that she must not study hard. The teasing was really funny but he wasn’t being mean at all. He actually gave her a huge discount on her shoes.


The coolest part of the Market

After we hung out around the market, we said goodbye to Sofia who was going home early and the rest of us decided to head to Hongdae. (Definitely one of my favorite places in Seoul.) We walked around everywhere and visited certain parts of the area that I had not previously been to. I even went into some real stores (instead of just shopping on the streets) like Forever 21 and Bershka. Luckily, I didn’t buy anything – got to budget more wisely 😉


More snaps of the streets of Hongdae


We even came across some street performers (bad quality screenshot from a Snapchat video I took).

Cynthia and Abigail went on to do their own thing while Sura, Ashley, and I went and ate some bingsu at Sulbing! We ordered Mango Cheese Bingsu (만고치즈빙수) and it was very delicious. And since we sat by the window, we decorated our receipt and hung it up.


The receipt streamers on the wall


Our Bingsoo


Let us ignore the fact that I spelled Thank You wrong on the receipt…


Ashley being all cute


Our finished receipt! Maybe I will find it again one day? XD

That was my Wednesday! I hope you enjoyed reading my blog post. 감사합니다 (I know how to spell Thank You! XD haha I do not know what happened at the time!). 안녕

And remember! If you want to stay updated on my posts, do not forget to subscribe. All you have to do is plug in your email to the right of this blog post. (If you are on mobile, scroll all the way down to the bottom.) You will receive emails every time I upload.

  • 엠마 (Emma)



Hongdae Dog Cafe & Best Fried Chicken in Korea! (July 11th, 2016)

Monday (July 11th, 2016) was very fun and I was able to stay out later than usual because I recieved no Korean homework from my teachers (고마워요 선생님들!). Korean class was fun as usual. We reviewed the past grammar points we learned and also were taught a couple new ones. Before school Ariel and I stopped at Gongcha to pick up some bubble tea (She ordered mango and I ordered strawberry bubble tea). So during class we had bubble tea to accompany us which made staying awake and alert that much easier.

Monday was also our Korean resident director JT‘s Birthday, so my Korean Class (나무 반) prepared to sing for him when he came in for attendance and his everyday morning routine of “How is everyone feeling today?” I drew Happy Birthday for JT in Korean on the whiteboard and when he walked in, we all sang Happy Birthday.


The entire Nsliy8 family also sang to him at the Monday Meeting After School.


For lunch, Maris, Abbey, Sofia, Rhea, Mckenzie, Teresa, Angie, Jodi, and I headed over to Kimbap Heaven (김밥천국). We pushed some tables together and basically filled up the entire tiny shop. Everyone that came, ate the Cheese Donkatsu (치즈 돈까스) except for Jodi and Angie who both ordered bowls of Mandu Ramen (만두 라면). The lady at the register couldn’t stop laughing because every foreigner that went up to order wanted Donkatsu.


Donkatsu may not be Korean, but it is delicious nonetheless!~


Are you hungry yet? XD

Once we finished eating, our huge group split up and went on our separate ways. Maris, Abbey, Mckenzie, Sofia, and I went to Hongdae for some shopping. We found this one street that was full of clothes, bags, baseball hats, and shoes that were all overall pretty cheap. The shops were very tiny but then they had racks of clothes outside the shop. Most of the shops only accept cash so make sure you ask before if you are planning on using a debit card. (I experienced this first hand! haha) We walked down the entire street and then went back to start at the beginning (to make sure we wouldn’t make any rash shopping decisions XD) The overall favorite shop of our group is this one called “Princess” because it has insanely cute Korean style clothes and is still cheap enough for us Nsliyians on a travel budget.


Hongdae Street


Racks and racks of clothes


SHINee cutout at The Saem location in Hongdae


After shopping around for a bit, we all decided we wanted to go to a dog cafe. Sofia looked one up on her phone and we spent 20 minutes trying to find it. After we realized we were probably walking in the wrong direction, we went to the Hongdae Tourist Information center and asked the workers there. They showed us on the map where the cafe was and once we got that map, we were on our way. The dog cafe was actually really fun! Since all the Nsliyians we were with were beginners (except for Sofia), I was the one who had to speak Korean to the employees running the cafe. The employee at the door explained the whole paying system to us and how we needed to wear slippers to come inside.

It was $3 for admission and you have to buy a drink (the drinks are all $5). I ordered a lemonade but I couldnt even drink it because it was carbonated. Just throwing out a tip, anything on a drinks menu that ends in ade (Lemonade, Orangeade, pomegranateade) will most likely be carbonated.


The dogs at the cafe were so cute and sweet. They were really active so at times it was hard to pet them for any longer than a minute or two. All of the dogs were small which was great because I am afraid of really big dogs.


Maris and Woman’s Best Friend


The beagles were my favorite


Sofia and I with a puppy

After the dog cafe, we all were very hungry for some dinner. We ended up going to this place called Kyochon Chicken which Sofia said was the best Fried chicken place in Hongdae. (She said she read an article about it.) After eating there, I would have to agree. The chicken there was delicious and I have to say compared to all the fried chicken I have eaten on this trip, it was the best one.


The restaurant was very very dark. We ordered a Honey Chicken Box for $15 (For 5 people)

The funniest part of the night was that the employees of the restaurant kept watching us. I guess it was granted seeing that once we finished ordering our food. We pulled out our Korean textbooks and turned our table into a portable Korean Language class (Well, Sofia and I had no homework so we just helped the other girls with their work.)

After dinner, Sofia and I dropped the other girls off at the subway station and we continued to walk around Hongdae (we lived closer to Hongdae then they did so we could stay out later and still make it home before curfew). I got home around 8pm which is an hour before curfew. I still made it home before dinner. (since my host family usually eats around 8:30 to 9:00 but I passed on food since I ate so much chicken that night!)

What I Bought Today

my 1.jpg

Baseball Hat ($5)







Thanks for Reading and I hope you enjoyed this blog post!~ And remember the 2017-2018 Nsli-y program applications are due today at 4pm (Eastern Time). If you want a chance to learn a language and experience a foreign country over your summer break, make sure yo submit your application before the deadline. To everyone applying, Good Luck!

  • 엠마 (Emma)


Sinchon Water Gun Festival (물총축제) July 10th, 2016

The plan for Sunday (July 10th, 2016) was originally to go to this really cool board game cafe in Sinchon (신촌) with Sofia. However, the place must have been shut down because we walked around forever trying to find it. Eventually we gave up and ended up finding a bubble tea place called Bubble King. Sofia doesn’t like tapioca pearls so she ordered her drink without them. I ordered a taro bubble tea with tapioca pearls once again. (My favorite flavor.) I think Bubble King is one of the best places to get Bubble tea in Seoul. (Gongcha will always be number one though!)


Our Bubble Tea

While walking around Sinchon we ran into something pretty exciting- The Sinchon Water Gun Festival (also known as just the Sinchon Water Festival). We didn’t actually participate in the festival since we brought our backpacks and had nowhere to store them and they couldn’t get wet. However, just watching a dance performance by pirates was pretty cool (yes, you read that correctly.) Basically there was a fire truck and this huge pirate ship that was blasting water into the crowd. (All this was happening on the streets. You could still walk around on the sidewalks without getting wet.) Everyone was running around the streets with water guns squirting each other with water. (There were refill stations on every corner that people could use to fill up their water guns.)



The pirate ship in the middle of the street

After that, Sofia and I got really hungry so we walked around until we saw something that looked good. We decided to get Korean Barbeque because Sofia hadn’t eaten it yet.


Our rib (?) meat

We had no clue what we were doing. However, the employees were super nice and showed us how to eat everything correctly. (after staring at us doing it wrong for 10 minutes.) The meal was $10 for the both of us and we were stuffed by the end of it. It was very worth it.


While walking around Sinchon, we also found some cute wall art. I asked a random couple if they would take a picture of us and they gladly agreed! It was a pretty funny encounter because I asked them in Korean but then when the guy showed us the pictures, he asked us if we liked them in English. What a language exchange XD haha



After the excursion in Sinchon, we headed back down to the subway station in search of the KakaoTalk Store (KakaoTalk is a free Korean messaging app that all Nsliyians use).


Spotting Jonghyun in the subway was a highlight of my day haha


Apeach is my favorite KakaoTalk Character. (In second place is Ryan.)

The KakaoTalk store has really cute merchandise of all the characters. You can find notebooks, folders, stickers, dolls, mugs, toothbrushes, and even shoes.

What I Bought at The KakaoTalk Store


Muji Notebook ($4)


Tube Stickers ($2)


Frodo T-money (subway) card ($3)

Thank you for reading my blog post and I hope you enjoyed!

Reminder!!! Nsli-y Applications are due very soon! On October 27th, 2016 at 4pm Eastern time to be exact! So if you guys would like to learn another language and experience life in a foreign country, then apply to Nsli-y. I would love to help anyone who has any questions or anyone who wants me to read their essays! 안녕!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)


Going to a Korean Soccer Game at The Seoul World Cup Stadium (서울월드컵경기장) July 9th, 2016

On Saturday (July 9th 2016) I went to my youngest host brothers soccer practice for The Future of Seoul once again. I am used to going to soccer games/practices because I actually have a twin brother who plays soccer back home. However, I still found the practice very boring and it was super super hot outside! I almost fell asleep too! Luckily, I was able to talk to my host mom throughout the duration of the Soccer practice which made it more fun and definitely more memorable.


After his practice, I was introduced to friends of the family. They were all very sweet when talking to me even though they underestimated my Korean skills {I soon proved them wrong 🙂 }. It was a nice meeting and I got even happier when my host mom introduced me to them as her daughter. It really made me feel like part of the family. We went out to eat together at this really fancy Italian restaurant in this shopping center like structure underneath/next to the stadium (It is VERY confusing to explain… You might just have to check it out for yourself ^^). I ordered this olive oil pasta and even though it was Italian, it was probably the spiciest pasta I had ever eaten. You would have thought I ordered Kimchi noodles. I refilled my water cup so many times! haha

After dinner I went with my youngest host brother, his two friends, and the husbands of my host mom’s friends to the World Cup Stadium to watch a soccer game! When my host mom started talking about going to the game that was happening tonight, I got super excited. She told me that I could stay and hang out with the mothers at a cafe if I didn’t want to go. I reassured her that I really wanted to watch the game. It was a great opportunity!


Outside the Stadium



Seoul VS Ulsan (서울 VS 울산)


The soccer game started promptly at 7pm and the whole experience was very interesting. This was my first time being at a professional soccer game so I can’t really compare it to anything else in my past but I did make a lot of observations. And Korean soccer games are definitely different than professional baseball or hockey games that I have been to.



Look at how small the Ulsan section is compared to the Seoul side XD


PC: Host mom’s family friends high quality camera

One thing about Korean soccer games that I thought was very interesting was that they all seem to have memorized these fan chants. There are like 3 different ones and they shout them during certain times throughout the game. There were also songs that everyone would sing and clap along to.

There were also these annoying, loud horn type things. I believe they are called “Vuvuzelas” and they are said to have originated in South Africa and that is where their name comes from (the original creator, according to my research, is hard to pinpoint). Koreans LOVE to use them and they were constantly being blown at the game. The tv screens actually show images of the horns when they want the audience to use them.


Picture of a Vuvuzela from Google

There was also a part of the game where everyone held up their phone with the flashlight on and sang this song that was playing through the speakers. Luckily for me, the lyrics were flashing across the screen so I was able to participate with my phone and sing too!

The game was overall really fun and I am very fortunate to have been granted the opportunity to do something like that. It was also really fun to experience the game with my host brother as sometimes I find it hard to get close to him as our interests are very different. But we bonded a lot that day, especially sharing snacks! XD haha

The only downside was that no one won! The game was very action packed but it still ended in a tie 0 – 0 !!!


After the game was over, my host mom, my youngest host brother, and I visited HomePlus (the supermarket underneath/next to the stadium. I went there last weekend too!) We shopped around for the upcoming weeks groceries (I helped my host brother out and convinced my host mom to buy chocolate milk for him and I but in reality, it was all for him. I don’t like chocolate milk). My host brother and I also both ate some waffles for dessert! He ordered a waffle filled with strawberry cream while mine was vanilla cream.


It was VERY delicious!~


My host brother enjoying his waffle

We got home around midnight (past curfew omg! haha). It was all okay because I was with my host family 😉 During the car ride back home, my brother and I bonded over kpop groups. His favorite is CNBLUE. I was offended he didn’t know SHINee!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe by adding your email to the right side of this post (or all the way at the bottom of my posts if you are on mobile). 안녕!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)



Lunch Around 숙대 With Friends & Meeting My Host Grandparents (07/07/16)

Thursday (July 7th, 2016) was another day at school where we played some fun games and discussed a lot of words that I did not know. haha After class, we had an hour and 40 minutes to have lunch around 숙대 (SookDae – Combination of Sookmyung and the word for university 대학교. It is the slang all the young people use! XD). After lunch we had to go back to school for a meeting with Better World to discuss how we were adjusting with our host families and let them know if we had any issues with the family.

So, I went with Yves, Anna-Kate, Ariel (All 나무 반 classmates) to find a cool lunch place to eat. We had no idea what we wanted to eat so we just walked around until we stumbled upon a place that had pictures of really delicious looking food plastered on the windows. The funniest part about our pick was that 10 minutes later, another group of nsliyians showed up at the exact restaurant. An example that great minds think alike. haha


I had a lovely Cream Ramen with Shrimp and Vegetables

After lunch we stopped by this cafe near Sookmyung for some bubble tea. Bubble tea is an Asian specialty drink containing flavored tea and tapioca balls usually called pearls. I love bubble tea so much. Back in the states, there are no shops near me! Since I am in Korea, I am taking advantage of all the opportunities to drink, eat, and sleep bubble tea. haha 🙂


I ordered a caramel bubble tea and Yves ordered a taro bubble tea



Group Selfie! (Ariel, Yves, Anna-Kate, and Me)


The cafe was very small but cutely decorated

I ended up leaving my new umbrella at the cafe (I just bought it the day before for $4). However, the employee was super nice and he actually stuck his head out the door and yelled “우산!” (우산 is umbrella). Luckily, I knew what the word was since it was one of the first Korean words I learned (Thank you Integrated Korean Beginner 1 Textbook). I obviously rushed back and thanked him.

After a little bubble tea break, we had to go to the meeting at the school. It wasn’t all too interesting. We looked over the Nsli-y terms and conditions (the things we signed when applying) as well as solving some host family cases from previous years.

After the meeting, I went to the convenience store with Yves and we each bought two different types of pepero to share during Korean class breaks the next day. I purchased cookies and cream pepero and blueberry pocky. Korean convenience stores are literally the greatest things ever! (A separate post about that soon).


Stock Photo


Stock Photo

Dinner was one of the best dinners I have had so far. I had dinner with my entire host family (My host mom, host dad, both host siblings, and my host grandparents from my host mother’s side). We had Korean pizza and Korean fried chicken. The food tasted great (even though my pizza had a cream sauce rather than a tomato sauce) but the best part of the dinner was the conversation that I had with my host parents and host grandparents. That dinner was what I really needed to feel fully invested in the family. I had so much fun laughing with them all. Even though my host grandmother didn’t speak a lick of English, the jokes transcended the language barrier and we both shared a couple of laughs. I learned that the family has quite a few family members that live in America and English speaking countries (Australia and New Zealand). I also learned that my host dad really liked Western cowboy movies. Luckily, I had watched his favorite in my cinema class Freshman year. I was able to talk to him about it (He was a wee bit drunk which made him talk to me a lot more since he was not afraid of making mistakes in English. He talked to me more when he was drunk than any other time). The most memorable part of the night  was when my host grandmother was trying to tell me about the American actresses she knew of. She kept telling me “Marina Mondue” (I was so confused and kept looking at everyone with such a puzzled look). Finally, I got the hint that she was talking about Marilyn Monroe and when I said her name out loud, my host parents erupted in laughter. They kept telling me to repeat her name (in an American accent of course) and wouldn’t stop laughing because of the difference. It was really funny.


The pizza we ate. It was actually pretty normal according to standard Korean pizzas

Hope you enjoyed reading about my day in Korea!~ Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to come back soon for another update (it would be easier if you simply subscribed ^^).

  • Emma (엠마)

First Day of Korean Class & Visiting the National Museum of Korea and The Hangul Museum (07/05/16)

Tuesday (July 5th, 2016) was the first day of classes at Sookmyung. I was super excited to attend a real Korean class (I have only self-studied it in the past) and see where I was placed regarding my skill level. However, getting to school wasn’t exactly easy since it was raining super super hard in the morning and when I was riding the subway to school (at 용산역) the lights of the train turned off and it stopped moving for around 5 minutes. I called JT and told him that I would be late getting to school (this phone call was really awkward as the train was silent and the only one talking was me and the fact that it was in English made me stand out even more). When I finally arrived to the station, I met up with Saha and Sarah who were also late getting to school. We went out exit #10 and began to walk up the huge hill to get to school. We literally had to walk up a river. There was so much rain that the sidewalks were flooded. When we finally got up the stairs of the university, the drainage on the tiles were stopped up and so there was a huge pool of water. Of course I didn’t see it so I put both my feet into the pool of water. My sandals got so soaked! (I later took my shoes off in the classroom and set them on the air vents to air dry).

When I got to the right floor, there was a long list hanging up next to the stairwell with the four different Korean classes and all the names of who was in which class. For this years program, we were split up into 4 different classes. The first two classes were beginner classes. The only difference between the classes was that one class learned the alphabet on the first day while the other class simply reviewed it and then started learning other things. The third class was called the intermediate class (it wasn’t intermediate level but from the kids in our program, it was considered the intermediate class) and finally, the last class was the advanced class (again the students in the class weren’t advanced speakers of Korean. I would classify them as intermediate at the beginning of the summer. They were just the advanced students in comparison to everyone on the program).


우리 나무 반 (Our Tree Class)

I was pleased to find out that I was placed in the intermediate class. Our class’ name was 나무 반 which translates to tree class (it was a great fit since my classmate Yves’ Korean name is 나무). The only bad thing about my placement was that a majority of the students in my class were way more advanced than me. They could easily conjugate verbs and I still hadn’t learned future tense yet. The problem must have been that I couldn’t be placed in beginner (because I was passed that) but I wasn’t exactly at the same level everyone else in my class had been at in the beginning of the summer. The first class was spent receiving our textbooks (we had a textbook and a workbook) and of course introducing ourselves to our two teachers. It was a lot of fun and it was nowhere near being the same as my Spanish language classes back at home. For three big reasons;

(1. Everyone WANTED to be there

(2. They wanted to actually Learn and Study Korean

(3. Everyone gave their best effort


My classmates Jesse, Cynthia, and Yves (Not pictured: Sofia, Peter, Tucker, Nicole, Jodi, Casey, Ariel, Anna-Kate, and Me)

After class ended at 1pm, we only had 30 minutes for lunch because we had to be at 이촌역 (Ichon Station) at 1:40pm. For lunch I went to 김밥천국 (Kimbap Heaven) with a lot of the Nsliyians but I sat at a table with Yves and Ariel (two of my 나무 반 classmates). We ordered three rolls of Kimbap and they were around $2 each (such a good deal). We ordered 소고기 김밥 (Beef Kimbap) , 계란 김밥 (Egg Kimbap), and 누드 김밥 (Nude Kimbap. Normal Kimbap but with no seaweed wrapped around the rice).


My Egg Kimbap (We shared all the rolls though)

We took a little too long eating lunch so we ended up showing up late to the meeting spot which made our resident directors pretty mad but we apologized profusely and at least we weren’t the last ones to show up (they were over 10 minutes late. We were only a couple minutes late).

First, we went to the Hangul Museum.


It was raining as usual


Hangul Museum

We watched a few videos on King Sejong and how he was able to create Hangul, an alphabet easy enough for the common people to learn. We also watched clips of indigenous cultures from Africa and parts of Asia that adopted Hangul as their writing system in order to preserve their languages (this was very interesting to me as I had never heard of anything like that before).


Then we learned all about Korean holidays such as New Years. We learned about Hanbok (Korean Traditional Clothing) and 세배 (Korean New Year Bow).



Nyslians Tucker, Nicole, Margo, and Kyle demonstrated the 세배

세배 (romanized as sebae) is a deep formal bow that younger members of the family perform to the older members of the family to show respect. On New Years, a well-performed Sebae will result in the older family members giving gifts or money to the younger members of the family.

Then we watched a video on the King Seongdeok Bell (and how it is the best bell in the world) and a video about modern advancements Korea has made since the Korean War.

Our little presentation ended with some traditional Korean treats/desserts. We were given slices of Korean Pear, Korean rice cakes, and some fruity tea/juice.


Selfie w/ Sofia (ft Grace)

Then we headed on over to the National Museum of Korea where we were split up into two groups and had a tour guide take us around the museum and give us talks on the things that we saw. My favorite room was the ones with all the buddhist statues. I just find them very beautiful.



The details on everything were very beautiful.



After the museum, I went home on the subway right away. Some people went out but I was tired and I had to study really hard that night if I didn’t want to be behind (because my classmates were so good). I stopped at the convenience store on my way home, picked up some banana milk and I got home just in time to have dinner with my host mother and siblings. And that was my Tuesday in Korea!~


When the rain seemed to stop just so I could take this photo 🙂

Thanks for Reading! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to subscribe~ 안녕!!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)

First Day at Sookmyung Women’s University! (Placement Tests Galore!) July 4th, 2016

Monday (July 4th, 2016) was the fourth of july which is a pretty important holiday to my family. We always celebrate it with lots of family and friends and of course a barbeque. However, in Korea it was just a normal day so I just wore red shorts and a blue t-shirt (I was trying to be a bit festive). Monday was also my first day at Sookmyung Women’s University. Well, it technically wasn’t the first day of classes… we were only going to take a placement test to see what class we should get placed into.

My host mom woke up early with me and made me a lovely breakfast of toast and eggs. During the car ride on the way back from the hostel, she had asked me what I usually ate for breakfast and I told her toast and eggs. It was super nice because Koreans eat a lot of meat, fish, and vegetables for breakfast and I was glad she was going to ease me into that (though I was excited to eat a real Korean breakfast in the future).


My Breakfast

After breakfast I had to ride the subway to Sookmyung by myself for the first time ever (It was also the first time I rode the subway by myself anywhere). To get to the closest subway station to my apartment, I had to walk for around 8 minutes so it wasn’t bad at all. It was raining (drizzling) so instead of going the way my host mom took me, I ended up taking this shortcut which cut the trip in half (it was less modern looking though).




Super blurry pictures but it is SUPER hard to take good quality pictures when you are walking and trying not to be late for school.

Many of the Nsliyians I talked to didn’t really like the subway (because it was so crowded especially in the morning) but I honestly love the subway. It is so easy to learn how to use and it makes traveling anywhere so convenient. The subway made me feel so independent and I honestly loved the 35 minutes I had to spend on the subway that morning. It could get kinda awkward at times because literally all the Koreans on the train are on their phones. They are either messaging people, watching variety shows or Korean dramas, or playing apps. I never had wifi on the subway (there is wifi but you need to have an account) so I always just stare out the window. It would get really awkward when I would get stuck in the middle of people because there would be no where to look! (I also would get stares on the subway because I was so obviously a foreigner).

Anyway, the subway ride proved to very fun because at the stop right before Sookmyung Women’s University, I ran into Yves and his host mom (do you realize that meeting him on the subway had to be like a 1/100,000,000,000,000 chance of happening? haha) Yves and I got to the station at 8:35am. After waiting for everyone to show up, the RDs and some staff from Better World walked us to the university and showed us how to get there from exit #8 (my host mom showed me how to get to the school from exit #10).

At the university we took our placement test for the Korean classes. The test was mostly multiple choice but there were a few questions where you needed to write in the correct word. There were a few passages you had to read in order to answer the following questions and then the last question had you format the words into a coherent sentence. I felt pretty good about the test. All of the NSLI-Y8 kids finished the test really quickly. The Korean teachers assumed that we thought the test was too easy… boy, were they wrong. What it really meant was that most people didn’t know what they were doing so they guessed on most of the answers. We were moved to another room where we took a second placement test. I am not kidding, I guessed on every single question. I understood none of that test. It was so bad.

We then had to take a speaking/listening test which was an interview in a tiny, tiny room with one of the Korean teachers. I felt fairly good about how mine went. I was able to answer every question though I did ask her to repeat a few of the questions. My interviewer was so sweet and she encouraged me with every answer I gave her. She also would make this “hmm mm ” sound when I would give an answer. It is really hard to explain nonverbally but it was a really cute sound that made me more at ease with my Korean skills.

After our tests we were given water and a bag of snacks to eat (since the orientation of the school was running through lunch) and we sat through an orientation of the school, learned about when it was founded, the cool people that graduated from the school, and we got to meet all of the Korean language teachers.



The bag of snacks


Sofia stole my phone during the orientation and took like 200 selfies. I bet she regrets it now XD

Then we split up into 2 groups of 25 kids and toured the school. This lady showed us around the library and the study rooms in case we wanted to take advantage of those things when studying Korean in the future.

Then our RD JT took us to the nearest bank where we could exchange money and take out money from our debit cards whenever we needed to (The bank everyone used was called Shinhan Bank).

Then we had a tiny meeting to explain the plans for tomorrow. We would be going to the National Museum of Korea and the Hangul Museum after classes and lunch.


After everything was over, it was already 4pm and it was still raining. Most of the Nsliyians took a trip to Hongdae but because it was so late I decided to eat dinner near Sookmyung with a couple other girls (Sofia, Rhea, Teresa, and Mckenzie). We went to this Japanese restaurant near exit #8 and it was actually really delicious. I got an omurice (A japanese dish that consisted of an omelet over fried rice). The other girls ordered Cheese Tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork cutlet). We spent a couple hours at the restaurant just eating and talking


Teresa, Mckenzie, and Sofia


My omurice

I got home around 7pm and ate a small dinner with my host family (I was not hungry but I ate with them anyway). We ate some chicken dish I don’t know the name of.

And that was my first day at Sookmyung Women’s University (well not the first day of classes but still a first day of something). I hope you enjoyed reading and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading~ 안녕!

  • 엠마 (Emma)