Korean Cooking Class, Making Kimbap, and Playing 장구 (Jangu–Traditional Korean Instrument) 02/22-23/19 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

02/22/19 Friday

Friday was our last day of “Culture Week” if you will. We would be doing two cultural activities: making kimbap (김밥) and playing Jangu (장구). We ended up taking the cooking class at the same location that I had Korean cooking club during the summer program for six weeks back in 2016. We met up at the station together (It was at this point in time that I spotted a pig cupcake in a display case at this cafe and I made the very bad decision of spending my stipend on a cupcake at 10 in the morning. No regrets though! It was delicious!) and then walked to the Food and Culture Academy. The walk was so familiar as we passed by the side street that I walked down with 수진언니 when I met up with her back in November (That blog post here~) and 통인시장 (Tongin Market).

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I was happy that we were being taught how to make kimbap (김밥–rice, veggies, and sometimes meat and egg wrapped in dried seaweed) because I never learned how to make it during 요리동아리 (cooking club). I eat 김밥 so often when I do not want to spend money on real food, so it will be nice to know how to make it when I go back to America. I can easily whip up some rolls when I am missing Korean food and this is something simple I can do for my friends and family back home. Cooking the kimbap was a lot of fun because I was able to joke around about my cooking skills with June and Josh who were at the cooking stations near me. We all struggled to roll our seaweed correctly to make sure that things would not unravel during the cutting process–which they still…kinda did. But regardless, all of our rolls ended up being delicious even if they were not the prettiest!

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We got to enjoy our kimbap rolls with some nice warm egg soup. We received some certificates too for completing the cooking course~

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After having our lunch, we made our way to have our 장구 (Jangu) playing lessons at the National Center of Traditional Korean Music. I have never been musically talented which has led me to not play any instruments throughout my life. Unless you count playing the recorder in the fourth grade. I did DO that recorder competition with the different colored strings that you would wrap around the bottom of the instrument as if they were karate belts. (Who else relates?) The teacher was really patient with us as she understood that everything we were doing was quite new! I struggled a lot trying to figure out how to hold the drumsticks correctly as well as keeping in pace with everyone else. It seemed as if I had one good run through with the music, the next one would have to be a fail to even things out. There was one point where I messed up the order of when to strike one half of the drum and I just put my hands up in defeat and stopped playing because I could not continue on with the others because I lost my spot. However, what made me more embarrassed was that when this happened… I made eye contact with the teacher! I felt ashamed for not being able to keep up. Even though I was not the best at it, I really enjoyed playing the instrument. While we were playing the music, I immediately felt rewarded hearing everyone playing together and when I did follow along matching the beat, I also felt good! I can see how doing this would also become calming once you get in the zone and just following the rhythm however you like.

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After music class, a big group of the NSLI-Yians went to a 찜질방 (sauna/public bath) to celebrate Josh and Kaitlyn’s birthday which was today! (They share the same birthday but were born in different years!) I ended up just going home to have dinner with my host family when a different plan fell through. It was nice spending a chill Friday night in. My host sisters ate 회 together and since coming to live with them, I have become more accustomed to eating raw fish! And I actually do think it is good now! 

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02/23/19 Saturday

I literally have no pictures from this day because I was not feeling well today. I woke up with a bad headache and my stomach was aching severely so I spent the whole day just laying around in bed doing no work whatsoever. I may have written some blog posts or something? But more likely than not I was just watching Youtube the whole time. At around 8 pm, I ended up meeting up with Josh. He was so kind as to come visit me and we went to a cafe near the subway station in the mall. We stayed there for about three hours trying to focus and do some work. Josh worked on workbook homework while I did Quizlet before quickly giving up and resorting to writing blog posts. 

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One funny thing that happened while we were at the cafe was that after we put our stuff down and approached the counter to order, we were being instantly stared at by the worker at the register and the owner (or higher positioned worker…) of the cafe. They were looking at us and watching us discuss what we wanted to order (in English). They seemed almost…nervous. I went up and asked for a hot green tea latte and as soon as those words left my mouth (in Korean if that was not obvious) the male worker smiled and the female worker signed in relief and remarked that she thought that she was going to have to speak in English. I did order in Korean; however, the worker continued to switch between Korean and English while taking my order. I just thought it was so funny to see them, at first, so visibly nervous to have us order and then feel so much relief when we proved them wrong–AKA show them that we could speak Korean. This area really does not get many foreigners.

Well, that is all for this post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading~ I hope the next blog post can be more interesting than this one~ Sorry, things were pretty hard to describe and I did not take a lot of photos so…. this is what you are stuck with for today :p

  • Emma 엠마

Day in the Life: NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year Student (Gap Year) 2018-2019 Edition

Due to the popularity of this same type of post that I made for my experiences from the Korea Summer Program (Day in the Life: Korea Summer Edition Linked Here~~~) and the immense amount of questions I have gotten from friends, family members, and prospective applicants, I have decided to once again try my hand at making a Day-in-the-Life blog post for the Academic Year NSLI-Y Program.

Disclaimer: There is NO average day on the NSLI-Y program. And with me in Korea, there were 15 other students on the program and not one of them probably had my exact same routine (or the rough schedule my more ‘average’ days seemed to follow). An average day honestly depends on your host family (their lifestyle, schedule, etc), location (some students end up being placed in 인천 or 고양시– not 서울), host school (Whether you have a more specialized host school or one that is more similar to an average Korean high school), the time of year (weather, holidays, etc), program activities (cultural excursions, obligations, etc) and also how you are feeling!! Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this blog post… and I will just get on with my average day!!^^


6:00-6:30 am – Every single weekday I woke up at 6:00-6:30am in order to get ready for the school day ahead. During the NSLI-Y AY program, I attended a Korean high school Monday-Friday (but left early on days that I had Korean class). My wake up time highly depended on how tired I was, whether or not I was wearing my full uniform that day (or the casual sweatpants that were basically pajamas), my desire to eat breakfast, and the location of my host family.

With my first host family, my host mother woke up extra early every morning to get breakfast ready for me which usually consisted of rice, some type of soup, and side dishes. (By the end of the fall semester I ended up just warming up my breakfast myself to allow her to catch some more Zs.) When I stayed with my second host family, I would usually have a bowl of cereal every morning with the occasional addition of fruit or yogurt since my host family had a later schedule.

 

6:38-6:53 am – Around this time I would be scrambling out of my house after rushing to finish my breakfast without choking (or burning my tongue…rip my love for hot soup paired with my utter lack of patience) to the subway station. To be honest, although I would have appreciated more stress-free strolls to the subway station (one thing to look forward to on the weekend), I loved the walk–or the light paced jog–in the morning because I always would wonder what the new day would bring me. Also, one plus of having to leave so early for school was that the sunrise would also greet me every morning!

 

When I lived with my first host family, I took a regular train at around 7 am with an 8-minute walk to the station. When I lived with my second host family, I took an express train at 6:42 am (if not…I would have to take a normal train at 6:27 am!!) and transfer once (at the dreaded 대곡역… war flashbacks…) with a 3-minute walk to the subway.

7:20-7:30 am – Katie and I usually met up at 7:20 every morning to take a 15-ish minute long bus ride to our high school. We liked arriving at our high school by 7:40 to 7:50 because that allowed us time to sit and chill in the hallways before homeroom. (Sometimes to rant or freak out too if we had nerves or complaints about whatever.) Though occasionally we missed our ‘early’ trains and ended up meeting at 7:30 am.

 

8 am – At our Korean high school, homeroom started at 8 am and lasted for around 10 minutes though sometimes homeroom teachers would let us head to our first class early if there were not any announcements (Unlike most Korean high schools, the students at our school would switch classrooms every period rather than having teachers come to each individual homeroom). Our teacher would usually update students on any upcoming events, or things to turn in, or information on examination periods. She also often would give pep talks to the students to encourage them to keep studying hard! Sometimes we would watch a broadcast video that was run by actual students that would show the daily meals, any special info on the school day, and even the weather. (But more often than not the projector seemed to not be working so our teacher would just do the talking.)

 

8:20-12:10 pm – The first 4 periods of Korean high school classes in the morning.

Each period lasted for 50 minutes and then there was a 10 minute passing period or 쉬는 시간 (break time/resting time). Most of the classes I took were lecture-based, usually involving students taking notes or reading straight from the textbook. (I want to make a post more specific to my experience at 하나고. When that is finally written, I will link that right here~~ This post will discuss the classes I took and go into more details on the Korean education system: or at least a side of it that I was able to partake in at my host high school.)

 

 

During break time, most students would run and buy snacks at the 매점 (or school store) or just take naps. At first, I did not understand how they could sleep for such a short amount of time but by the end of the semester, I too was also sleeping during breaks.

 

12:10-1:00 pm –  We were allotted around 50 minutes for lunch (including the ten minute passing period) However, there was kind of a hierarchy based on your school year that determined when you could go into the lunchroom. I am not sure if this was exactly monitored or simply done out of respect of the older kids, but the younger students adhered to it pretty well. Third years (seniors) were allowed to start their lunchtime first while second years had to wait till 12:20–at least–and first years were not allowed to enter the 급식실 (cafeteria) until 12:30 pm.

 

If Katie and I had Korean class (Monday, Tuesday or Thursday) we would have to leave our high school around 12:40 so that we could catch the right buses and subways to make it to class on time. If we ate with our friends, we would end up scarfing our food down fast (with little time for conversation). Or, we would just leave school right after 4th period and get lunch at the convenience store or local street market. (Also on certain special days, we would get 녹차호떡 (green tea pancakes) from our favorite street vendor.

 

 

On Wednesdays and Fridays, we were able to stay for the entire lunch period and take our time eating. Honestly, school meals often get a bad reputation but that clearly does not apply to our Korean high school because most of the time the food was delicious! (Minus a couple of times that they would serve weird meat patties and fries with a sweet glaze to pass off as a foreign meal if you will…I shudder at the memory.)

 

2:00-5:00/6:00 pm – Our Korean classes were on Monday and Tuesday from 2 pm until 5 pm and on Thursdays, we had an extra hour till 6 pm.

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If we did not have class, we would stay at school for the remaining 3-4 periods until 3 or 4 pm. (On Wednesdays, school got out an hour earlier because some weeks club meetings would be held on those days. I participated in an Economics & Business centered club called BSRA: Business Strategy Research Association.)

Sometimes after Korean high school, Katie and I would go to a nearby cafe and study together (We had our two favorites: one near my home station and the 한옥 Twosome Place across the street from our high school). We were usually very tired after the long days of Korean high school and would tend to go home right after studying. (This definitely applied more to the first semester, however.) Occasionally, we would also go out (Always bringing a change of clothes because wearing our uniforms in public was not our favorite look when not in school…)

 

I also would like to do a more detailed blog post on my Korean classes for the year program because they were a tad bit different in comparison to my summer class (So when that is published, I will link it here~~). Our class periods were 50 minutes and we had 10-minute breaks in between them. I was in 3반 (Third Class) which was the highest level class and also the smallest with only three students. (The other two being Jacquelyn & Josh). We had one teacher and used the Ehwa Korean language textbooks.

 

7:00-7:30 pm – After class ended, we were off from any obligations from the program (usually). Every other Monday we would have Bi-weekly meetings which meant meeting at the youth center to hear updates and announcements from 민정쌤 our resident director.

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If I decided to go home right away, I would usually end up getting back to my host family’s home by 7:00-7:30 and that is around the time I would have dinner with my host family. I was lucky enough to have two amazing host families that really took the time to make sure that I was able to eat dinner with the whole family (or at least with someone if there were other plans). My first host family had young children so it was a bit easier to sit down with everyone but even with my second host family, the dinners I would have with my sisters and with my host mom were always wonderful. (Both my host mothers–and even my older host sisters and first host dad–were amazing cooks! I was very spoiled and I grew to have favorite dishes from each family.)

(For example, while living with my host family, I loved 김밥 (seaweed rolls), 김치지깨 (kimchi stew), 볶음밥과 계란 (fried rice with eggs) and 잡채 (sweet potato glass noodles). With my second host family, I came to love 콩나물국밥 (bean sprout porridge?), 해물파전 (seafood pancake), 순두부지깨 (tofu stew), and 짬뽕 (spicy seafood (Chinese style) noodles.)

 

8:00-9:30 pm – If I stayed out with NSLI-Y friends or in-country friends on the weekdays, It would usually involve just grabbing a simple dinner or going to a cafe (maybe a trip to a 노래방–karaoke–to let off some steam or bottled up energy). Curfew was 9:30 pm so I would promptly always be home by then~

 

If I was not out and about exploring what Korea had to offer, I was most likely home on that study grind: working on homework, presentations, memorizing vocabulary, etc. When I was not studying, (because let us be real… I practiced self-care on the program!) I was most likely on my phone, writing my blog entries, chilling watching Disney shows with my younger siblings, playing board games, playing with Andy (my host dog), or watching Netflix or Youtube.

 

11:30 pm-12:00 am – I would say I definitely did not go to bed as late as I often did in high school because I always just felt so much more tired in Korea. (Probably cause learning another language and being immersed in said language is a lot for anyone). So I would try to get in my bed as early as I could and to be honest when I had no plans on the weekends (or no Korean class the following day)… I would even go to sleep as early as 9 pm!

(I would say this post is more of an average (week)day in my life as an AY NSLI-Y student in Korea because there really are not any average weekend days.)


Alright, that is the end of this here blog post! I hope that it was very informative and hopefully entertaining to read through. I tried to add relevant photos throughout to keep things interesting. (Some being never-before-seen photos as they have yet to debut on my blog!) I also have plans to make another version of this post for winter break because the research project and community service really shake things up then, and I think it would be interesting to talk about that as well! Our winter break followed more of the Summer program schedule I would say.

Well, I hope you enjoyed (once again!) Thanks for reading. If you have any questions for me at all, feel free to comment or email me. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Thank You! Until next time!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)

Emart Adventures & A Fancy Dinner: Sushi and Oreo Cereal (01/18/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/18/19 Friday

I had no plans for Friday but I really wanted to make it a very productive day (for both my Korean studies and for my blog) so I ended up going over to 공덕역 to hang out at a cafe with Katie. We went to a Tous Les Jours (French-inspired bakery) cafe and studied there for about 3 hours. We both bought a Garlic Naan for lunch (which was a little sweet–like most bread in Korea–but nonetheless, it was delicious.

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I also gave Katie her very very late Christmas gift (part 2) which consisted of a rainbow dream catcher, dolphin name stickers, Instagram photo printouts, and candy (Strawberry Tiramisu Kit Kats and a Cookies & Cream Hershey Bar). At the cafe, I started on my workbook work and tried catching up on blog posts (because I was several days late). I enjoyed hanging out with Katie while also getting some work done. We may not have talked a whole lot but it is just nice being in each others company when we are trying to be productive.

After going to the cafe with Katie, I made sure to be able to come home on time for dinner with my host family. My host sisters came back from their 학원 around 7 pm and then we left to go to Emart to buy some food in preparation for a party tomorrow. (My host sisters planned a party with their 학원 students. They would be coming over to play, hang out, have lunch and then they would take them all to go sledding! I would be coming with too!) Emart is basically like the Korean Costco (that was how my older sister explained it anyhow) and I agree with it. The set up of the store was like a Costco or Sam’s Club and there were plenty of free samples of things like shrimp, breaded hot dogs, fish cake soup, etc.

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At the store, we ended up buying lots and lots of meat for the kids! I am talking slabs of 삼겹살, sausages, bacon, and fried shrimp. Actually, the bacon was something that shocked me. Usually, when you order things with bacon in it in Korea, you will instead receive some kind of chopped up ham/spam situation rather than real American bacon that probably comes to mind. At this store, they had the real same-branded bacon you can find in American grocery stores but it was so expensive! Like $15 a pack! I am not sure exactly how much bacon costs in the states but I assume it is not even close to being that high… We also bought some fruit and dinner for ourselves which included sushi and raw fish. When we went by the cereal aisle to pick up some more cereal for breakfast, my older host sister asked me if I had ever eaten Oreo O’s or the Oreo cereal that is only available in Korea. I, of course, have not so we picked up quite a large box in order for me to try it out. However, I do believe that my host sisters like the sugary cereal too.

The ride back home from Emart was one of the funniest car rides of my life! We played would you rather with some hilarious questions and honestly, they were so difficult to answer at times! For example, one of the questions was “Would you rather be bald and have a pretty face (and be good at makeup) or would you rather have your hair but have an ugly face and bad skin?” It took a lot of thinking but I decided that I would have the latter and both my sisters agreed. They told me that if I were bald in Korea, I would constantly be mocked. They said that a common nickname for bald people was 타코야끼 (fried balls usually filled with octopus). There were also questions about which button you would press that tested if you were a risk taker and what kind of man we would want. (Super super tall vs. Super super short & A man who is super attractive and can’t cook vs. A man who looked like Thomas Edison (or 문재인–Koreas President) but can cook amazing foods. It was a lot of fun just hanging out with my host sisters and although the conversation seemed to not be that deep, I felt like it brought us closer.

We got home and were able to eat the sushi and raw fish that we bought for dinner. We were all hungry so the thought of food made our mouths literally water. To be honest, I haven’t gotten the chance to really have sushi besides a couple pieces here and there from buffets. This was my first time having sushi of different types of fish in one setting and let me tell you, it was really delicious!

At dinner, I also got to try the famous Oreo O’s cereal and watch my host dog Andy try a lemon for the first time. I was super surprised by his reaction because although he did step back when he first licked the lemon, he kept going back to it and even tried to bite it. It seemed that he liked the sourness!! It was the cutest thing.

I planned to do some more work after dinner but I was so tired from the day and had no motivation to do anything else. So like always, I put off homework and studying for later this weekend. Oh well! Anyways, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed~

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Application Tips

It is October. What does that mean? Well, besides the obvious (Halloween) it is also the month where NSLI-Y applications for the 2017-2018 programs are due. (October 27th to be more exact) And even though they are due very very soon, I thought I would write a post to help out anyone with any questions about the NSLI-Y application. I have already recieved a lot of questions through this blog, my instagram, and emails. Since most of the questions are very similar, I thought I could answer them all here in a blog post. This post will only be about the application. Questions about the interview, what do when accepted, OPI, packing, etc will be answered in separate posts closer to when they will be the most applicable.

The Essays

The biggest part of the NSLI-Y application is the essays. The essays are the things that will set you apart from all the other applicants. So it is very important that you make sure that the essays show exactly what you want. However, this does not mean that you lie in your essay or act like someone you aren’t. It is important that you are honest because it is very easy to see through words that don’t actually have any passion behind them. It is also important to not try to be someone else. If you can’t easily put a big word in a sentence and make it sound natural, don’t use that word just because someone else does. An SAT vocab word is not going to help you get picked. If you can’t easily put humor in your essay, then don’t force it. Be who you are. It is less about your writing style and precise word choice and more about what the essay says about you. Dont focus on using an extreme attention getter, use those words to talk about you. Do not focus on using tricks to make you sound more interesting.

Now for the Dos for the essays

  • Do sound mature and professional (only enough to still allow your own personality to shine. NSLI-Y knows their applicants are high school students, they don’t except perfection).
  • Do have adults/English teachers/Alumni read your essays (It is good to get feedback from other people that aren’t as connected to your essay as you probably are. It is also a good idea to hit up an alumni since they have been there done that).
  • Do talk about negative experiences that have shaped you positively (NSLI-Y can prove to be very hard at times. If you show to be resilient and able to problem solve, you will showcase your ability to handle any stress in a foreign country.
  • Do talk about how you will use the language in the future (NSLI-Y wants to know how you will use this opportunity. You don’t have to want to be a diplomat, be real about what you want and not what you think they want to hear).
  • Do read your essay multiple times! (it is good to step away from your essay so you can return to it with a fresh mind).

Host Family Letter

I feel like this part of the applications is where most people get the wrong idea. Many of the host family letters I have read from new applicants (and old ones that didn’t make it) have missed the true point of these letters. This letter is to showcase who you are. That is why you are prompted to write about where you are from, your hobbies, your family life, what your friends think about you, etc. It is important to focus less on making yourself look good and more on showing off your personality.

Also, there is a chance that your actual host family will read your letter. In many programs before mine, the alumni had told me that their families never read their essays. However, for my program, some of the host families went to an orientation of sorts before we arrived and the ones that went, were given the letters to read (my family told me that they read my letter). So use the letter wisely. Make it about you and your interest with the host family’s culture. It is also important that the letter is written formally. Make sure you say thank you for allowing them to open up their home to you.

Teacher Recommendation

All I can say about the teacher recommendation is that you should make sure that the teacher you pick knows you well. That they will be able to describe you and be able to talk about your good characteristics. Therefore, your teacher doesn’t have to be a language teacher. If you didn’t take a language in the past year or you simply aren’t close with a language teacher, don’t ask for their help. It is better to ask someone who can write about you then picking a language teacher because you think that is what NSLI-Y wants.

 Language Experience

Do not lie about your language experience on your application. If you have never studied the language previously, then write that. It doesn’t mean you have less passion than someone who has studied in a formal class for 2 years. NSLI-Y accepts all language levels into their program (I would probably say that the majority of people on my program had no language experience or a very limited of knowledge of only basic words/the alphabet). So be honest, it won’t hurt you.

 Final Tip & Pep Talk

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE submit your application early! Even submitting it two days before is better. It will give you less stress if your computer isn’t working or if the site is experiencing too much traffic, you won’t be left for dead on the due date.

Finally, don’t be too upset if you don’t make semifinalist status. That decision does not mean you aren’t worthy of the scholarship. This is a very competitive program and sometimes even the good ones don’t always make it. There were plenty of people on my program that didn’t make it to semi the first time applying, and then when they applied the second time, they made it all the way. So do not give up. Try again! Because you will never make it, if you don’t keep giving yourself a chance to.

Good luck to all of you applying for NSLI-Y, I wish the best for all of you~ If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post or email me at (emmap@oakstreetadvisors.com). I would love to answer any further questions!~ 안녕!!

  • Emma (엠마) Seoul Summer 2016 Alum