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

Productive Cafe Date, Feeling Sick, and Age Gaps in Korea (04/10/19) NSLI-Y AY

04/10/19 Wednesday

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Views from my transfer station 대곡역 which is mostly outside. It makes me truly feel like I am outside of Seoul since its surroundings look pretty rural. But look, some flowers started blooming~ Although the morning is still very chilly. I have a love-hate relationship with this station; however, the scenery is nice.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I knew I had come down with something and it wasn’t just a cold. My throat ached badly and when I opened my mouth to cough, the sheer raspiness in my voice surprised me. I could still breath out of my nose perfectly fine but my head also throbbed. I placed my hand against my forehead and could feel unusual warmth. I decided to just carry on with the day regardless (I do not get sick often and have not skipped school for sickness in a long time so my initial game plan was to ignore it.) and threw on my 생활복 and didn’t even do my hair or put on any makeup (something that’s pretty rare now—though in high school, I never wore makeup.) 

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Wow, catch this awkward sick-day selfie. Look at those dArK CiRcLeS!!

Wednesday’s day of school was literally a blur. Maybe because I was sick? But trying to look back on this day… I come up with nothing. However, I guess it could have also just been an uneventful school day. I had 국어 in the morning which I basically just day dreamed throughout the entire thing because I wasn’t feeling well. At one point, the teacher was explaining some concept involving fire and paper so he came to my desk (I was sitting in the back) and took my paper and tried throwing it up in the air. While demonstrating, he dropped his marker and paper on the floor so it ended up being kind of awkward—especially because I still had no idea what he was trying to show me. I had to muffle my nervous laughter.

Another time, he asked me what 벚꽃 (cherry blossoms) were in English and after I told him, he proceeds to point out the flower on our paper but he realized that I was “looking”at the wrong side of the paper so he flipped the side for me. That was a bit embarrassing to be honest… 

During my study period with Katie… I literally stole her coat and then slept for almost the entire period. It was pretty nice. 

During my two hours of 세계사, I worked on my Korean workbook pages and then did a Topik reading test. 

We ate lunch with our friends but I was not really impressed by the meal. Mostly because the rice contained corn kernels and I could barely eat around it so I gave up eating it halfway through lunch. (I hate corn more than any other food in this world…) I was also really sick at this point in the day so I barely said a word during lunch. I just brought spoonfuls up to my mouth and chewed. Katie was also very tired so she didn’t say much either.

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We had Japanese Omurice (오모라이스) which is just an empty omelette draped over rice usually accompanied by a savory/sweet sauce.

My last class of the day was politics and we just listened to lectures for the two hours, so I worked on my Topik writing test which left me finished with my last Topik test! (Actually this is a lie; we will probably get one more before the date of the actual test.) 

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After school today we had our second club meeting; however, since midterms are coming up, we ended up self-studying during the period—or at least for the greater part of the hour. At first we goofed off about the club hoodies that we are making and the ugly logo of the club but after awhile, everyone was able to settle down in their own desk and do some work. I made a Quizlet for the newest chapter for Korean class! 

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Gloomy weather after school

After school, even though I felt like death, I decided to go to Twosome Place with Katie because I worried that if I went home, I would just sleep and not do any actual work. I wanted to prevent this or at least lessen the consequences by doing most of my work before I got home. 

And I was successful, despite the random dance breaks to Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Let it Go, I was able to write my entire presentation on a Korean historical figure: I choose the Korean independence movement leader 유관순 열사. Also Katie told the employees at the cafe that I hurt my foot (which is why she ordered a hot chocolate for me) and so when we left the cafe after our study date, she asked me how I hurt my foot. I explained to her that I wore new shoes (left out the part about the fact that they were heels) and walked around for hours so I hurt my feet. She laughed and said “Oh I assumed you hurt it badly.” We laughed and left but if only she could see my toe! It is no tiny blister! No, it is not! 

(I don’t think I wrote about it earlier but one of my blisters—from wearing uncomfortable heels while walking for hours on Sunday—on my foot popped and the skin ripped off so I have an area on my pinky toe (makes it ten times worse) about the size of a quarter that’s all red and raw as my first layer of skin literally peeled up. It hurts a lot and even if I put band-aids on it, it hurts really badly–especially, when I wear my sneakers and walk around so I currently have a limp while I walk. I also have been using it as an excuse to use the elevator in the school more often cause stairs… are not my favorite right now.)

Anyway, I came home after studying at the cafe and had dinner with my host sisters. We ate at home but we had this huge feast made up of grilled meats, two different kinds of noodles and a pot of steamed egg. During dinner today, we had an interesting conversation about age difference in Korea. In America, we have a common phrase that “Age is but a number” but in Korea, it is so much more than that so I was curious to know  how it relates to relationships. From what my host sisters told me, too big of age gaps are not common but they really aren’t a big deal as long as the two people are close enough in age that they are a part of the same “generation” if you will. When it comes to friendships, it’s a bit different because if there’s a very large age gap, sometimes it can feel like you aren’t true friends but simply a person that’s just older than you (like an 언니 or 오빠). She did tell me that there’s a very negative image towards guys in their late 20s dating girls in their early twenties/in college. 

My older host sister explained that this is seen as really sleazy to most people and they actually view the guy as a bad person. (Example, if a 26 year old was dating a 21 year old in college.) They also said that he would probably take advantage of her because she doesn’t know better but more importantly, it’s a real red flag if he can’t find anyone in his own circle of acquaintances and has to resort to shooting his shot in a bigger pool with younger girls. They did mention that this the other way around (a way older woman with a younger guy) has no negative connotations. 

She also made sure to tell me that I need to be careful with Korean men especially because I’m a foreigner—she said no one too old!! And if I find someone, especially someone that old, she will have to have dinner with him and make sure that his intentions are pure. It was really cute~ At that moment, I felt what is what I assume it feels like to have an older sister~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I am on the grind writing out these blog posts so quickly this week. I am really trying to catch up (only 5 days behind now!) Let’s get this! Thanks for reading, anyway! Insert your email to the right of this post to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마

Winter Break Research Project Orientation & First Meeting {01/07-08/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/07/19 Monday

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The walk to the train station (in the morning~)

Monday morning, before our orientation for the Cultural Explorers Project {the name of our winter break project}, Katie and I went to a cafe near Better World to work on our Winter Break work. We went to a cafe called 별빛 (or something or other) which I’ve been to on several occasions with Josh during break times in between Korean class sections. I wanted to go there because it’s adorable, the atmosphere is cute, and they have rainbow cake! Something I’ve been wanting to try~ So with my usual order of a green tea latte, Katie and I shared a slice of rainbow cake.

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At the cafe, I started the longer 쓰기 that made up the writing portion of my practice Topik test. It was about the importance of communication and finding a good method for maintaining relationships, etc. I got more than halfway through it so it was a productive cafe date.

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Eventually, lunchtime rolled around but we stayed there and ended up not really eating lunch so throughout the orientation, we snacked on the prepared crackers and treats from Better World. Arriving at the presentation room was quite awkward at first, we all stared at the Korean college students and were scared to interact with them so the room was divided in half: one side of the room being NSLI-Y students and the other side was made up of the supporters. This awkward tension was definitely predicted by the Better World Staff as we started the orientation off with some bonding activities. The first thing we did was walk around the room with pieces of paper and gave them to others in order for them to draw our face; however, the catch was that they could only draw one part. For example, Shada drew my hair and then Jack did a whack job drawing my eyes! Luckily, June saved the day and fixed my eyes which was highly appreciated– my drawing actually kinda turned out nice.

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아프로디테 같다 (like Aphrodite) my favorite comment

The next thing we did was walk around and write our first impressions on each others paper. I tried my best to get to talk to the supporters because I wanted to meet them as well as practice my Korean by writing their impressions in Korean. We shared some of them in front of the whole group and 주연쌤 started making fun of something one of the male supporters had on their paper which was what I wrote! I wrote that he seemed to like to travel and she was like How would you know that? I was like his aura!!! Apparently, she did not get the same vibe as me.

We did a few more bonding activities like tongue twisters and getting into groups to copy pictures of people using their bodies to create certain shapes? Hard to explain…. Eventually, we found out which supporter was in our group through a very cheesy introduction center and lots of drum rolls. Katie and I were paired with a female college student named 혜린. She seems so kind and is very adorable! At first, we were all pretty shy together and since Katie and I are so close (and we show it too…) she must have felt a bit awkward. However, as the orientation continued, we seemed to get more comfortable with each other (By the end of this project, I hope we can stay close! Which means… periodically hang out until we go back to America!) Our supporter is an English major so her English is really good. She started speaking to us only in English because she assumed we knew no Korean and since the topic is pretty difficult to communicate in my limited Korean skills, Katie and I responded to her mostly in English. Hopefully, (more hoping) we can use our time together to practice Korean more, too!

After getting in a group with our supporters, we did a few more bonding activities like playing charades (Our theme was sports and we actually won! We answered the most questions correctly… unfortunately, we did not win a prize, though.) as well as making shapes with ribbon while being blindfolded. Yeah, it was as confusing as it sounds. Once the fun icebreakers were finished, we got to work. We all split off into our groups and created a group contract or 약속 that we need to follow during these two months. Our group included going to pretty cafes every meeting, having fun, and putting in our best effort. We also presented to the other groups the topic we are planning on focusing on for this research project which is the quality of life of single mothers in South Korea (especially due to the surrounding stigma). We came up with the group name 독닙여성 which translates to independent women because that is what we are!

Eventually, we all finished up with the mandatory activities and it was time to all have lunch together. We ended up eating 만두전골 at the same restaurant we ate at during the beginning of the program which was really nice. I recognized the food and the area we sat in which brought back the good memories. However, it also reminded me of how much time has passed which brought up some bittersweet emotions to the table. I sat with Katie, 혜린언니, Addie, Jenna, Josh, and Addie & Jenna’s supporter. We just chatted during dinner in a mixture of Korean and English about our majors, our Korean class, favorite foods, etc. It was a nice dinner with delicious food and good company~

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Rather than going home right away, I decided to stay out with a couple more people to enjoy the rest of the night (as well as take advantage of the late curfew). I ended up going to 설빙 and shared a 망고 and 인절미 빙수 with 유빈, June, Kaitlyn, and Josh. Mckenzie and Katie also tagged along to hang out with everyone too. Our little hangout was fun and I got to meet Alix & Jacks supporter 유빈 who was really nice! Kaitlyn, 유빈, and I took photo booth pictures at the machine in the 설빙 and although the pictures were low key not cute, I will forever treasure them! Especially the first picture because josh tried fitting into the booth which did not turn out well but half of his face in the photo really makes it perfect.

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1/08/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was not a super exciting day. Katie and I would be having our first CEP meeting at Blanc Bakery (honestly my favorite place in 홍대 it seems) with our supporter 혜린. I was excited to finally get to start our project because we have only been talking about it for so long, but then again, I was nervous because I knew it was going to be a lot of work and with everything else going on… it would be a struggle!

During this meeting, we munched on pastries while filling out our project proposal which outlines our topic and what we wanted to do for our project and the presentation the next month. 민정쌤 came to hear our ideas but let me just say… that the consultation did not go well. I think it was a mix of us still not having finished our project proposal and knowing the exact details of what we wanted to do and the fact that this topic is both difficult and sensitive to others which caused us to have a pretty tense discussion with 민정쌤. We were feeling anxious and stressed because things did not seem to be going well and after 민정쌤 left our group, we felt a bit dejected about all that we had done. We did our best to finish up for the day and make plans for the next meeting. 혜린언니 and I left Katie at the cafe because she wanted to keep doing homework while we left to go get lunch separately. I ended up grabbing 김밥 from the 편의점 and just ate at CYC while waiting for Korean class to start.

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However, as class time was approaching, I was all confused as to why my teacher hadn’t shown up yet. Then, Kaitlyn informs us that our teacher was going to be an hour late so would be having class from 3-6 pm rather than 2-5pm like normal. We were all really confused because both our teacher and Better World said absolutely NOTHING to us! We were a bit salty because we could all have gone and had a nice lunch together if we had known earlier. We called 소야쌤 and she seemed to have simply forgotten to tell us.

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Grilled Cheese Selfie! #cheesy

In order to pass the newfound time, I went with Josh and Jacquelyn to this tiny little grilled cheese shop owned by a Russian Expat living here in Korea. The prices were very low! Only $2 for a normal grilled cheese! I already had 김밥, so I didn’t get anything… but I know I will be back!

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed. Sorry for the abrupt end to the second day but I ran out of photos from then to jog my memory and since I am writing this post almost two weeks after it happened (because I just have not had the chance to keep up to date with my writing) I have forgotten what I did the rest of the day–including the happenings in Korean class. I cannot remember anything from it… I am going to try really hard from now one to be good about writing! Keeping these logs of my days are really important to me so you heard it here first, keep me accountable? Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마