Saying Goodbye to My Host Family, Stockpiling Korean Snacks, & Friendship Rings (05/22-23/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/22/19 Wednesday

Fully slept in this morning for the first time in awhile and I was not mad about it at all and when I did finally wake up, I was greeted by Andy, my host dog, who was laying–sprawled across the floor–in front of my door. He is a medium dog at best but he is so long and lanky! I had breakfast with my host family and spent a lot of time afterwards just chatting with my sisters and snacking on fresh fruit that my host mom cut up for us as she always asks us if we want fruit after every meal. 

We also went grocery shopping and my host sister bought lots of famous Korean snacks and such so that I could bring things home in my suitcase for my family to try (and for me to eat and relish in how available and affordable Korean snacks are…obviously.. In Korea!) One of the fun facts that my host sister told me when I moved in was that the famous Oreo cereal (Oreo O’s) is a product of Korean and can ONLY be purchased in Korea. This WAS the case maybe even a year ago but globalization works its magic and now you can buy this cereal in America too–my brother sent me a photo of it at our local grocery store a few months back. But, anyways, she was excited for me to bring it back home! She also gifted me honey butter chips and almonds which is a type of seasoning (the term?) that absolutely went crazy in Korea to the point where it was hard to find at some places like convenience stores. And, of course, Ramen too. I actually do not (and did not) even eat ramen that much in Korea but I knew my brothers would love the spicy soup and that it would be a comfort for me when I do get home. So yeah… now I need to find space in my suitcase for all these snacks!!!

After spending the earlier part of the day bopping around at home and *attempting* to pack up my room (wow, did I accumulate so much stuff!!!), I made plans to meet up with Katie at 홍대 and then from there we went to the express bus terminal together. We did not do anything too crazy, just hanging out and chatting. We found an international snack store and realized that our favorite coconut jelly drink (Mogu Mogu) has so many more flavors so we did end up buying some. 

I came home before dinner time and my older host sister kept asking me what I wanted for dinner and I was not exactly being helpful in making any plans because honestly, I am not picky and easy to please so genuinely anything would be fine. She started throwing out ideas like our favorite seafood restaurant near our apartment or getting 콩나물국밥 at the now termed ‘아저씨 식당’ but then with the mention of said restaurant, my host sister brought up another meal that she believes to be one primarily eaten/loved by older Korean men (아저씨들) and that was 아구찜 which from what I gather it is basically braised angler fish? And angler fish for those who do not know (because I for sure had no idea) is like a giant mouthed scary looking deep sea fish. Or at least, that is what I think after googling the fish. Do yourself a favor and just Google (or Naver for my Korean readers) ‘Angler Fish.’ I am, of course, down for anything so I was like “Sure, let’s go!!” 

My host mom couldn’t join us this time so instead, my older host sister drove me and my other host sister to a restaurant so that we could try 아구찜. This dish was really really tasty! It was quite spicy and the fish was paired with lots and lots of bean sprouts which is definitely up my host sisters’ alley and I have grown to love bean sprouts too because of them. We also ordered fried rice. It was a nice wholesome dinner and we had fun conversation on my last thoughts on ‘Culture Shock’ moments in Korea. The wait staff at the restaurant were also really kind and made a point to talk to me.

On our way home, we had some issues leaving the parking lot because of the parking ticket/garage machine malfunctioning? Or my host sister just experiencing a brain fart. My younger sister kept yelling and laughing as we sat waiting for the arm to raise. It was so funny.

And that was how we ended the night~

05/23/19 Thursday

Wrote my host family a letter ❤
Black Bean Noodles for Breakfast

I was literally leaving my host family’s home (after living with them for the past 5 months) tomorrow and was not prepared at all quite yet. I needed to PACK. I had two checked luggages, a carry on, and a backpack (personal item for the plane) to pack. I was very worried about having too much stuff and having overweight luggage which 민정쌤 warned would be expensive at the airport. 

Besides packing the day away, I did make some last-minute plans with my host family from the fall semester. I wanted to make sure to see them one last time so I planned to meet up with everyone at a Twosome Place cafe kind of at the center shopping street at their subway street. I had walked the main street several times (mostly going to Daiso) but had never noticed the one alley that had a Twosome Place! Or else I probably would have studied there sometimes. 

I got there earlier than my host family and I was just very aware of my presence and how I was alone… and I forgot how prominent stares are in 고양시 in comparison to Seoul which made me feel more self-conscious. To look like I had a purpose being there, I ordered a drink first and made my way to some nice seating on the second floor.

When my host mom arrived with the kids, she began scolding me for ordering ahead of time as she wanted to treat me. So to make up for it, she had me and the kids pick out some dessert: cake and 빙수 (Korean shaved ice — Bingsu). Hanging out with everyone in the cafe was such a trip down memory lane with the hecticness of being in a family with children to be honest. Always someone vying for your attention and being loud and just general kid shenanigans. One of my host sisters also brought a friend to the cafe so that added a layer to their excitement and she was very curious to talk to me and kept acting (forcibly) shocked when I would reply to something she said in Korean. I gave my host family a letter I had written to them and some macaroons for the kids which they promptly fought over who would read the letter first/aloud and which flavors they could call first dibs on. It was so cute.

My host sisters also surprised me with matching gold rings with a little ruby gemstone in the middle. They said they were 우정반지 (friendship rings) and a pair of clip-on earrings which caused some arguing between the girls since one of them had said I had my ears pierced and the other had said I did not. I reassured them that I could still wear them despite the fact (And I have since then, of course! One of my most worn pairs of earrings to this day!)

They stuck one of their hair clips into my hair and stated that I had now become one of them. We took lots and lots of selfies together–especially showing off our rings–and my host brother got pretty jealous and had to photobomb us so that is why these extremely adorable photos have come into existence. 

At the end of our meeting, I was lowkey in tears. I could not believe that this was our final goodbye and I had no idea when would be the next time I would get to see my host family again. Would it be next summer? Would it be in several years? I have no idea how my plan and college years will go by so who knows what is in store for me. But what I do know is that I am going to be very proactive in maintaining this relationship because this family means so much to me and I would never want to let that go. I cherish this family so much and will forever be grateful to them for positively coloring my time here in Korea. And I really hope they know that too.

Honestly, so excited to be able to meet up with them again, especially when the kids are older. I hope they do not forget me ❤

On my way home, I stopped by a bakery outside one of the exits of my home subway station (saying that is kind of weird reading it over… but I wrote it so naturally…It had come to feel that way) and picked up a nice cake for my host family as a gift which obviously cannot thank them for all that they have done for me but it is a gesture~ We all ate dinner together and ate the cake which was extremely bittersweet seeing that it was my last few moments with all of them together as my older host sister was driving me to a hostel the next morning and unfortunately, they cannot attend my graduation ceremony.

That is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed this pretty random couple of days. Doing less but appreciating more. Kind of hard to document that in comparison to just uploading photos experiences if that makes sense. Anyways, thank you~

  • Emma 엠마 

Reflecting on Studying Abroad in South Korea for a Year // NSLIY Korea AY 2018-2019

안녕하세요 여러분~ 한국에서 썼던 모든 글을 아직 안 올렸는데 오늘은 다른걸 하기로 했다. 미국에 돌아온지 2달 전에는 저와 느슬리 학생들이 우리 유학 생활에 대한 반성을 써야 하고 나서 더나은 세상 조직이 우리 생각을 수집해서 어떤 책을 만들었다. 며칠 전에 방을 봄청소하기 위해서 정리하다가 저의 책을 찾았다! 당연히 브로그 글을 읽어 보다 보면 제가 유학 동안 재미있는 추억을 만들고 고생을 껵은 것을 잘 알 것 같은데 그외에 제가 경험이 얼마나 특별한지 표현하기가 너무 어렵다. 경험이 말로 못할 만큼 특별했는데도 이 반성은 자랑스럽다. 그리고 여기까지 보시다시피 제 브로그 글의 대부분은 영어로 쓰기는 했지만 이따금 한국어를 쓰지 않다면 모든 것을 잊어버리다는 것이 당연하다. (사실 솔직히 말하면 벌써 한국어 실력이 완전히 떨어졌다ㅜㅜ 아직 잘 한척하고 있는데 강한 자신감이 필수다!) 그런데! 이 반성은 영어로 쓰여져 있다 ㅋㅋ 재미있게 읽으시길 바랍니다~

Hi Everyone~ I still haven’t uploaded all of the blog posts I wrote in Korea just yet but today I decided to do something a little different. 2 months before returning to the states (back in 2019), the NSLI-Y students and I had to write reflections on our study abroad experiences, and then Better World compiled those writings and made a sort of book. The other day I was cleaning my room for those ~spring cleaning~ vibes and while organizing, I found my copy! Of course, if you read my blogs, you can get a good sense of all the fun memories I have made and even the struggles I have faced while studying abroad but besides that, expressing just how valuable of a experience this was to me is quite difficult. Although I cannot express these feelings in any amount of words, I am proud of what I detailed in my reflection. And as you can see thus far, most of my blog posts are written in English but if I do not practice my Korean every now and then, I will definitely forget everything! (Actually if I am being honest, my Korean skills have already plummeted…I am just pretending to be good. Confidence is KEY!) But this reflection is written in English. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy reading~ Thanks!

(P.S. Added Photos to Make it Fun!)

Emma’s NSLI-Y Korea AY Program Reflection:

My Greatest Endeavor Yet

An electronic voice declares that we have reached 연서시장 before the bus abruptly comes to a stop. After catching my balance and tapping my T-Money card, I hop off the bus– my nose immediately being greeted by the smell of raw fish. The bus ride turned into the hustle and bustle of a Korean market at a moment’s notice. Shopkeepers yell out competing prices as the smell of greasy yet delicious 분식 tempts the taste buds of every passerby. Katie and I find our favorite stall and are greeted with the warm, contagious smile of the vendor. We order 떡볶이 and 튀김 and immediately begin filling up cups with 오뎅국물– a habit that can be considered second nature to us by now.

Before I studied abroad, I heard the phrase “Study Abroad Will Change Your Life” countless times. Everyone seems to mutually agree that this experience you are about to embark on will be unforgettable and life-changing… which can be kind of intimidating: trying to imagine how something can affect you to such a great extent before it has even happened. Now that the NSLI-Y program is coming to an end, I have come to the realization that this statement appeared so daunting because I viewed study abroad as one big thing; however, rather than solely one event, it is the experiences and little moments that culminated into something overarching.

Through this program, I have learned to be independent, resourceful, self-motivated, more confident, and even how to (somewhat) budget money. But excluding all of that, I am most thankful for the way that this experience has enabled me to appreciate the little things in life–and not take even everyday things for granted.

Especially when things would become too overwhelming and frustrating. There were plenty of occasions during these 9 months that left me feeling defeated and dejected. Times when my efforts to learn Korean seemed futile or when the yearning to return home became too much. Tears were shed, and at times, I even wished that I had started college right away and chosen a normal path. Nonetheless, I was able to overcome all of these things by focusing on the present, on what was happening in front of me: the things I should be grateful for. 

I focused on the way my host siblings would barge into my room while I was studying hoping to steal my attention for just a few moments, the way my host mom would prepare me snacks and tea when she thought I needed an extra boost of energy, the way my friends at 하나고 would come to class early and save me seats with their textbooks to make sure that we could sit together, the way my NSLI-Y cohort could get me to erupt in laughter for seemingly stupid things, and the way my older host sister would put pieces of meat in my rice bowl to make sure that I was getting enough food to eat.

I focused on the smiles and warm welcomes of the workers from my most visited hole-in-the-wall café, 편의점, Twosome Place, and 녹차호떡 stand; the laughing fits that I would get into during lunch time with my group of high school friends that would sometimes prevent me from being able to finish all my food; the licks to my face from my host dog every single day I walked in through the door after being away for a little too long; the wonderful feeling of satisfaction after successfully utilizing a newly learned grammar point or a difficult vocab word in conversation with a Korean person; the beautiful natural and manmade scenery of places all throughout Seoul (and even a bit beyond); the after monthly-test waffle tradition that perfectly satisfied my sweet tooth while allowing me to stay salty enough to rant; the sprints to the 편의점 during class breaks to buy ice cream or whatever other snacks we were feeling that day; and the nights ending with raw, sore throats from spending too much time, talking, screaming, or singing with all my friends.

I focused on every seemingly trivial conversation, every tangent in Korean class, every cultural excursion, every by chance meeting, every major milestone, and every comfort-zone-tested moment. 

And just like the final drops of 오뎅국물–straight from a plastic cup and all– I will cherish every remaining moment in Korea. 

Having devoured all of our lunch, we say goodbye to the stall vendor and make our way out of the winding market back to the subway station. Soon enough I will take the subway home from 하나고 for the last time amongst many other final moments, and I know these lasts will be met with many tears; however, I find comfort that these tears do not come from a place of regret. They come from a place of utter gratefulness for being given this unforgettable and life-changing opportunity. 

END

Insadong Art Exhibition (인사동 전시회), Eating Okonomiyaki For the First Time, & Sushi Buffet (05/21/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/21/19 Tuesday

My host family usually wakes up late and has breakfast around 11 am but I really wanted to get a start on my day so I ended up having a quick bowl of cereal early in the morning before heading out for my plans. Even though I did not get the chance to eat breakfast with them today, I knew I would make it home in time to have dinner with them and spend the evening together.

I took the subway to 인사동 and because it was rather early on a weekday, the subway leaving my station was practically empty and so I actually got to sit for the almost hour long journey and write some blog posts because I was behind by almost a whole week. This was a very mundane thing if you consider it on a grander scale but it despite it being a trivial thing about my day, it made me feel so happy and grateful. Just here romanticizing my life!

I had plans to go to this exhibition in 인사동 called “Witch Garden” with a friend because it had been trending on Instagram as a lot of Korean instagrammers and influencers had been posting about it. I had gotten to the station a lot earlier than I was expecting so I had to wait around for a bit before my friend arrived. One thing I have learned about Korea is that places do NOT open early–especially cafes.

So not only were all the tourist-y stores and such not open, it was very difficult for me to find a cafe that I could wait out another hour but eventually I stumbled upon a place I found on MangoPlate and was there right on the hour, right when it opened.

For “Witch Garden”, rather than being an exhibition of art installments or spotlighted pieces, it was more like an interactive experience with lots of photo zones. At this particular place, there were dark rooms with certain lights and images illuminated on the walls, real potted plants and flowers decorated in statuesque structures, walls full of flowers, murals of quotable sayings, etc etc. Some of the rooms were more questionable than others…there was one area that had fake bats hanging from the ceiling? I guess considering the name of the exhibition, witches being associated with bats makes sense but I…was just a little confused because it felt really Halloweeny to me and well, it was May.

But there were a lot of other rooms that I thought were super fun like a mirror room where you would walk through the middle and see like 7 other reflections of yourself as well as this wall that was basically lined with long, shiny glorified streamers but it was fun to walk through it! I kind of felt like a celebrity when I did so.

Overall, this was a fun way to spend an hour or so. I believe the entrance fee was around 10,000 Won (about ten dollars) and although you could not spend a whole afternoon there since it was pretty quick-paced and the only real reason to attend is to have a little photoshoot, it was definitely worth it to me. 

After taking way too many photos of myself (Has Korea turned me into a narcissist?), my friend and I decided to walk around the 한옥 (Traditional Korean House) Village nearby and we actually passed by a professional photoshoot and they told me that it was probably for a wedding and they were taking photos in the traditional Korean dress as weddings nowadays use both traditional clothing as well as the modern, western white wedding dress. We walked around and took (more) photos and talked a lot. The weather was so nice this day so spending time outside for a longer duration was actually tolerable–and not sweaty. Even though Koreans may not sweat nor smell bad, your girl is American and does! And depends on deodorant!

For lunch, we took the subway back to the 신촌 area because my friend knew that area better and we found it quite difficult to decide what to eat because I was being indecisive and not helpful. We ended up choosing this Izakaya place which (I believe) is a Japanese restaurant that borders on being a pub? Or maybe a bar and grill type place? For the meal, we had okonomiyaki which I had never tried before and it was explained to me as the “Japanese version” of a pancake. Let’s just say I was shocked after making assumptions based on what I was told.

Turns out, okonomiyaki is like a mix of flour, egg, and shredded cabbage that is grilled/cooked on a griddle like a normal pancake but it is less carby I guess than a traditional pancake. We added some bacon and cheese on it for a fun twist. It was pretty good I would say…but I probably would not order it again. Maybe the experience would be different in Japan.

I also had a bad taste in my mouth afterwards for a little bit because of the staff at this particular restaurant. I was paying for dinner for both my friend and I because they had covered for us the last time we hung out and so when we went up to the counter to pay, I handed the host my debit card, not cash. I handed the male host my American debit card–a clearly foreign card with an American bank. And as I handed it to him, I explained that I was paying for our meal. The host proceeds to ask my friend how we found the meal (in Korean) and decides to hand my friend back my card and receipt–to my friend!!! I know this seems like a silly little thing to nitpick and I agree in a sense but I was just very confused by the host’s actions. I did speak Korean to him so he should not have thought that I would not have understood but even if he did decide to continue thinking that, he could have at least given back the card with my name on it back to me? I was a little pressed about this at the moment not gonna lie and the minute we left the restaurant, I started ranting to my friend wondering if this was because I was a foreigner/a woman but I don’t know. Just a weird, annoying moment. 

Came home by the evening time and went out to dinner with my host mom and my two host sisters. We went to this all-you-can-eat sushi buffet that was on the basement level of the mall connected to our apartment complex and the subway station. My host mom kept emphasizing how delicious this place was and ~expensive~ so she said she had been ‘fasting’ all day to prepare her stomach. With that, we had a game plan: stuff our faces!

The best part of the buffet was definitely the sushi bar because there was so much variety and there was none of the fake sushi crap *cough cough california rolls! Cream cheese rolls! **cough cough but actual quality pieces of sliced fish laid upon fresh rice. Delicious!

There were a lot of cooked foods too like pasta and other Korean dishes. There was even a section where you could cook your own ramen which my older host sister took advantage of which I thought was kind of funny. The idea of going to a buffet but still deciding to eat instant noodles.

The most ~peculiar~ thing at the buffet was a bowl of sweet potato salad that had rainbow colored sprinkles as a topping? I was very confused… This was a dessert? Is this normal? I might have been scared…just kidding.

Sprinkles!?!? Interesting…

Ended the night taking Andy on a walk with 언니 and just chatted with everyone in the living room until I got too tired to keep my eyes open. I was really trying to treasure the final moments with my host family–especially when it comes to our conversations. 

Emma, STOP being so sentimental !! It is

JUST

SAD!

Well, that is all for this blog post! Thanks for reading~ Only a couple of blog posts left from my year in Korea… Can we believe that? I cannot… wow. I cry.

  • Emma 엠마

NSLIY Summer 2016 Alumni Meetup (with RDs!) and Spilling the Tea at Instagram Cafes in Seoul (05/20/19) NSLIY Korea AY

05/20/19 Monday

Refer to ~this blog post~ for what I did during the first half of the day which includes me taking my final for Korean class and exploring some more historical places in Seoul with my Korean classmates and teacher!

Once I said goodbye to my Korean teacher, I got back off at 홍익역 (홍대 — Hongdae)

EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKK! Shrieking was all I could even think about doing as I thought about the epic reunion that was about to commence on the streets of 홍대. The other week or so I reached out to Jessica once again (NSLI-Y Korea Summer ‘16 Alumna) because we have been cafe buddies since I have been back to Korea since she knows all the best places and is basically like my big sister in Korea! But the last time we had tea together, we mentioned organizing a meeting with our former NSLI-Y summer resident directors because conveniently they are both in Korea at the same time again! Madeline (our American RD) is pursuing a graduate degree at 이화여대 (Ewha Women’s University) and is in her final year of that program while JT (our Korean RD) is well… living in Korea! Though he did spend some time abroad, backpacking around Europe, after he was with NSLI-Y for our program and the following academic year program.

We planned to meet up for dinner together and possibly a cafe afterwards to chat and I was so nervous and excited at the same time to see everyone again after… How many years? Almost 3 full years! Granted I had seen Jessica the previous month and Madeline back in December with Katie but !!! All of us back together felt more like we were getting ready to film a crossover or a reunion episode of a TV show with all of the most loved cast members!! (Sorry to the rest of NSLI-Y8 😛 lol)

Before meeting up with them though, I actually had a quick errand to run which consisted of me meeting up with 혜린언니 my supporter during our winter break research project. Katie and I had met up with her and had our ~farewell~ (for now) dinner about a week or so ago and had given her letters but she did not have anything prepared for us yet and said that we had to make sure to see her one more time so that she could give us something.

That something was two handwritten cards that Katie and I were not allowed to open until we had arrived back in the States (Which, QUICK UPDATE: proved to be a bit of a disaster since she wrote in pencil which sort of rubbed off in areas making the letter hard to read. It must have been from the heat of being in a suitcase or the altitude or something?) I took another quick selfie with her and promised to get the letter safely back to Katie ❤

Then, I end up meeting up with Jessica, Madeline, and JT in front of 3번출구 of 홍익역. You would think that having planned this meetup, Jessica and I would have also decided where we would be having dinner at but… we did NOT think that far ahead so as we exchanged hellos and “long time no seeeeees” and in the midst of explaining what we have been doing and catching up, we were also throwing out ideas of where to eat. I do not really remember why we decided on eating Taiwanese food but that was what we ultimately landed on and I had a place in mind that I went to a few months before during our spring semester orientation. I think everyone had also been before? I guess that makes sense since it was located on a pretty central street of 홍대.

For dinner we ended up sharing a nice bowl of noodles, fried chicken (or was it a pork cutlet?) but more importantly, just chatting with everyone was the highlight of the night. JT enlightened us on his current endeavors and how he is currently working at a company/organization that is focused on expanding the waste management system in Seoul with more efficient waste baskets in public areas which honestly sounds like something the general population would greatly benefit from!! Literally, I feel like it is almost an impossible task to find a garbage/recycling can in and around even the most populated places. They are so spread out! I feel like I always have some kind of wrapper or empty water bottle in my backpack at all times. 

We talked a lot about schooling too because Madeline, Jessica, and I were all students–albeit at different stages of our education. They were all really curious about my own experience at Korean high school which was fun to detail especially since I was out of the situation and did not have to respond to some things with nervous, awkward laughter. (Actually! I think it would be really cool to write a blog post comparing my experience at my American public school and my private Korean school)

Of course, we ALSO reminisced on our shared NSLI-Y experience. It was fun talking about how often I would (with my partner in crime Sofia) annoy our RDs on purpose by running to them during our break times between classes to chat or sing–Yes, we made a song for them… And unfortunately, JT did not forget my chicken girl experience which involved me walking into a glass door–straight facts! We talked about others on the program that they have had the chance to meet up with since then and some of the names surprised me because I had not gotten to know them that much and had not expected them to return to be honest. They alsooooo shared some tea about the punishments that they had to give out (on our program and the others they led). 

After dinner, Madeline had to leave because she had plans but Jessica, JT, and I decided to stick around for a bit longer (I still had time before curfew and JT kept making fun of me for having a curfew hehe he was like, “Not much has changed huh?” but he was very serious about me making sure to stick to my curfew. He even pulled out his phone to check the subway lines to make sure that I was not bluffing which was funny. Nothing much has changed for him either! Still acting like a resident director!)

Jessica took us to The Alley which was a trending café at the time for their instagrammable bubble teas that had distinct layers before you shook the drinks. We got our drinks and sat outside at one of the patio seats at the storefront and enjoyed the cooler summer night.

It was a really enjoyable night seeing them all again and everything felt so nostalgic! To think that each and every one of them had a part in me having such an amazing time in Korea the first time that I wanted to come back! Full circle!! This may sound extremely cheesy but I generally am feeling this way right now… maybe it is the exhaustion talking… wow, only a couple days left in Korea now…

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Thanks for reading~ Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Pt 1: Rainy Visit to (석굴암 석굴) Seokguram Grotto (05/18/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/18/19 Saturday

How come it’s easier to wake up early in the morning when you are excited? I mean, I am not complaining but I always find myself practically springing up out of my bed when my neurons cannot stop firing with excitement (or nervousness for that matter) but then I’m literally the polar opposite of a morning person on every other day of a mundane week.

Today was an exciting day because it was day 1 of my graduation trip with my NSLI-Y Cohort! We were all a little bit disappointed at first because we would only be going on this trip for one night rather than going for 2박3일 (3 days and 2 nights) due to my class 3반 needing to be back Sunday night in order to take our Korean final Monday morning. And the reasoning behind our disappointment was plainly us wanting to spend more time together–especially as a group which always proves to be more difficult due to scheduling–which I find utterly wholesome. At this point of the year, we had exactly one week left in Korea and we all realized how precious each and every moment we had together truly was. (I am already tearing up just recollecting this trip!!!)

Anyways, on Saturday morning we all met up at the KTX station in 용산 which was luckily directly on my subway line so no need to transfer for me (celebrate the little victories aka having more uninterrupted naptime on the subway). There we embarked on our trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) which I had only read very little about in Korean class and from what I remembered, it was a very historical city seeing that it was the capital of the Silla Kingdom.

For breakfast, 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 prepared us all prepackaged boxed 김밥 (kimbap) in a variety of flavors: beef, tuna, etc and they bestowed the duty of carrying the box onto our lovely friend June. You may be questioning why I feel like this information is pertinent enough to be included in my telling of this trip as it seems like a very miniscule, easily overlooked detail and which, yes, it normally would be however this was not the case today. I had actually been filming us walking to the train platform and boarding the right train car for my 1 second a day video (I will make a separate post on this but it has been uploaded on Youtube already) and this clip included a blurb of June talking to me while holding the box of kimbaps BEFORE she dropped the box.

Seconds before disaster!! 😛

Yes, right before we got on the train, June tripped over herself or something and spilled the contents of the kimbap box on the floor. Luckily, only a few kimbaps exploded and were therefore inedible. So a major tragedy was avoided but Kaitlyn and I (the only ones behind June when this occurred) had to keep ourselves from peeing due to laughing so hard while helping pick everything up. And 민정쌤 of course also had some sassy remarks. But it all turned out okay! And definitely was not foreshadowing for a hectic trip! Not at all!

The train ride on the KTX (My first time riding it!! Next time, I will hopefully take it to Busan!!) took about 2 hours or so. I spent the majority of the time studying for my Korean final (as well as chatting with Kaitlyn, my seat buddy) which was a productive use of my time but it also made me quite anxious as I realized that I would have no time to adequately study during the trip–if I really wanted to enjoy myself with others. This made me worry about the impact this lack of time would have on my test performance. 소영쌤 saw me studying with all my colorful note-taking and praised me for still studying hard despite everything which did make me feel good. I decided to not let my anxieties ruin these final moments with the people I have grown to greatly cherish~

When we made it to the station, we exchanged our fast-moving silver power train for a classic Korean ‘party bus’ decorated with colorful fabrics and tassels and built-in karaoke mic set. For our trip, we would be having our own private bus driver take us to the sights because traveling with so many individuals could prove to be difficult and quite expensive.

Clouds foreshadowing some bad weather ahead…

Even though we had 김밥 for breakfast not too long ago, our first stop once we arrived to 경주 was to get some lunch. We came to a restaurant picked out by the 쌤s and we basically took up one entire half of the restaurant as we all sat at one long table. I sat with Harmony, Addie, and Jenna and we shared our own mini stove which kept our stew warm.

Honestly, I do not remember the name of anything we ate during that meal. There were a lot of side dishes and even this one plate of curious looking round patties of some kind. I cannot remember if they were made out of meat or vegetables… Despite the tastes not being too memorable, I know we devoured everything because we American teens can always eat and on vacation, anyone who is anyone develops a second or even third stomach. Addie, though, definitely fell into a food coma at the restaurant.

Addie down for the count!

 Back on the bus, I sat next to Harmony and with our full bellies, we both fell fast asleep when our heads hit the headrest. The sound of the rain’s pitter patter also did not help as its predictable rhythm lulled us, and many others, to sleep as our bus made its way through the heavily guarded forest and up a mountain towards our first historic site visit: 석굴암 석굴 (Seokguram Grotto).

Seokguram Grotto is an artificial, man-made grotto located on 토함산 (Mt. Toham) that makes up part of the temple complex of 불국사 (Bulguksa Temple) and is famous for being the home of a buddha statue. Getting up to this grotto is actually a little trek from the starting point (where the gate is and a few little shops at the entrance) as you literally do have to climb up the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit when the weather was equally as nice as the view. Instead, it was practically downpouring! I have not seen it rain so hard like that in a long time. Some of us had brought umbrellas while others were very unprepared. There were other groups of people on the mountain too and they were all wearing colorful ponchos and still hiking up to the top of the mountain. So, we did what the locals do and bought our own ponchos for the day.

Honestly, the weather kind of added to a more mystical feeling or ambience behind the hike. I tried taking some photos of the forest surrounding us and the fog was very intense. I felt like I was walking through a fairytale forest. There were also a lot of colorful lanterns hanging around and they were violently shaking around in the wind because it was not only rainy, but windy too. Umbrellas were almost ripped out of people’s hands. At the top of the mountain was a bit smaller than expected structure in which you could look into to see the famous Buddha statue. And this historical site is considered a UNESCO world heritage site (along with the accompanying temple). Being respectful, I did not take any photos of the actual structure but if you google it, you can find professional shots of what it looks like inside. 

~ We did more this day but this post is already really long and the next few activities on the agenda have a lot of photos I have to go through so I am just gonna separate these posts for now. I hope you enjoyed this little rainy day travel blog post even though I feel like I literally documented nothing… But I promise the next one may be more informative with better (quality) photos as well. My phone was NOT waterproof, okay! Anyways, thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Nepalese Restaurant & Photo Studio & Black Milk Tea & Live Octopus & Pet Pig, OH MY! (05/11/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/11/19 Saturday

Today was set out to be an exciting day from the start. I would be meeting 지연, 수빈, and 은서 from one of my English mentorship classes from 하나고 in 홍대 for a fun-filled morning/early afternoon. We had been planning this day for the last couple of weeks and I was so excited to finally be able to hang out with them outside of school. The 하나고 students cannot just decide to leave the school when they please–even on the weekends. They have to acquire permission from their homeroom teachers so depending on who you have, some students have a more difficult time leaving the school. I knew of some students who even had to lie about where they were going (Like using church/religious services as an excuse to go to the mall or extending the time a volunteering activity would last in order to get to the movies before having to get back). I was very grateful that we were going to have the opportunity to hang out (and not in an academic setting). I felt like we could be more free and comfortable with each other? And since this was not their allotted time to speak/practice English, we were able to just comfortably speak in Korean to each other. You may think that since English is my native language that I would ALWAYS be more comfortable in speaking English but I find that when other people are comfortable with me, I would rather speak in the same language. So with native Korean speakers, I prefer to speak Korean…even if I do not know how to express myself as well as I would in English. I find that we can all be more comfortable and less awkward.

In the morning, I beat the girls to the meeting spot outside of one of the station exists so I waited until they all arrived. ¾ of us were wearing a similar color of pink which was funny to say the least. It looked as if we coordinated but it was definitely just a coincidence! (Though, of course, 수빈 was wearing all black and more of a street style.)

커플룩 ㅋㅋㅋ

We started the morning off with going to a 노래방 (karaoke room). The place was just opening up when we got there (since most people do not go in the morning/afternoon) so we had to wait in the hallway until they finally prepared a room for us. Usually, you would think that singing in front of newer friends for the first time would be a bit awkward and embarrassing but I was comfortable with all of them so I sang my heart out. (Although… it was super unfair that they were all good at singing. And 지연’s rapping skills popped when we sang the new BTS song.) 

After karaoke, we went over to the photo studio to figure out how long our wait would be so that we could go out for lunch before taking the photos. The place that we went to is quite famous in Korea (토담쓰담 스튜디오) and their pictures can be found all over Instagram. I really love that taking photos professionally is still a part of the modern-day culture here because the same can’t be said about America. Here, it’s common for friends to do photo shoots together and even more common for families and couples to do the same. The photo studio’s walls were nicely lined with hundreds upon hundreds of photos from other shoots–a lot of them were humorous too. Like groups of best friends wearing silly costumes, family photos with funny faces, and even a wedding photo where the groom was the one wearing a veil and holding a bouquet of flowers! We were told to return in an hour or so; therefore, we decided it was as good a time as ever to go have lunch. We originally planned to go to this chicken restaurant that 수빈 was raving about during our last mentorship class together but although we were able to find the location of the place, it seemed closed as there was no one there and all the lights were off…

We ended up wandering around for a bit before deciding to stop and eat at some unique place–something that the girls would definitely not be able to eat at the cafeteria. We opted for a Nepalese restaurant. The interior decorations inside were beautiful and the owners seemed to be in fact from Nepal (or perhaps India as it was a fusion place). We ended up all ordering cups of Mango lassi (cold beverage that is basically a smoothie of mangoes and yogurt!) and chicken, curry, and naan bread to share. It was all so very delicious and not too pricey either (well, for foreign food).

We took a bit longer eating than planned so we had to rush back to the photo studio to not miss our appointment time. As soon as we got there, we were directed to the back and began our photo shoot. It was a lot of fun being able to be silly by using props but we also listened to the photographer that instructed us on how to take cute photos with flowers and such. It was awkward at times, especially when he would give my friends directions for me and then he would be shocked when I would do them immediately after because I understood his request perfectly fine. Besides that, the photos all came out really nicely and I loved the traditional black and white shots the best. Unlike the studio I went with Katie and 서린 back during winter break, we were not given all our photos. We picked the ones we wanted to print and that was it.

After the grueling work that is being a model (just kidding we are far from that level!), we ventured over to a café that was famous for selling black sugar bubble tea which became a hot trend in Korea as of late. The new shop Black Tiger that opened up in 홍대 never does not have a line. And, the line usually wraps around the store and a bit further down the street. It is literally crazy. We went to a smaller café but unfortunately, they were out of the bubble tea until an hour later. Instead, we all ordered black sugar bubble ice cream which honestly might have been better due to the scorching hot weather (Okay, definitely an exaggeration since it was not even summer weather yet.)

We also walked around the streets of 홍대 for a bit so that the girls could buy a cake for a friend’s birthday as well as other street foods that they have been deprived of. I took them to this store (It is one of my secret finds…) that sells macaroons for $1-2 which was a major hit with the girls.

My friends and I said our goodbyes in the early afternoon as they returned to school and I went home to do some studying and get a head start on my work due Monday. For dinner, my host sisters wanted to go out to eat at our favorite seafood restaurant near the apartment but this was no normal dinner. At this dinner, I got to try 산낙지 (live octopus) for the first time ever! Not only that, but my younger sister also had never tried it previously so we had our first time on the same day! Honestly, I thought the octopus would have more of a fishy taste and also a more gelatinous, chewy texture but it really was not bad at all. With the spicy sauce, it tasted pretty good. You just have to get over the part that the tentacles are moving around on your plate while you are trying to eat it. And if you are not good at using chopsticks…well, those little crawlers will truly test your skills because they will suction onto the plate so that it is harder to grasp. I found that my best method was to kind of scoop them up with my chopsticks off the edge of the plate. When I first put it in my mouth, my sister warned that I had to chew a lot…so that I would not choke to death. I chewed that bad boy for a good minute before finally, with my aching jaw, I swallowed it. But again, not bad.

This dinner was also hilarious because along with the delicious 해물파전 (seafood green onion savory ‘pancake’) we had some seafood stew that also had a full live octopus in it (not just the tentacles and it was pink–the head and body at least) but we had the stew on this mini gas stove on our table so eventually it would cook the octopus and all the other seafood that was also in the pot. But at one point, our smart octopus decided to hatch an escape plan and its tentacles began making their way out of the pot and its lid by squeezing itself flat until the tentacles made enough pressure to actually lift the lid and it was oozing out of the pot on the side facing my host mom and she literally screamed!!! She screamed and pulled her hands to her face and pushed back her chair which scratched the floor like nails on a chalkboard. Everyone around the restaurant looked at us and one of the waitresses ran over to us to tend to our runaway food. It was so funny that me and my host sisters could not stop laughing the rest of dinner, our host mom’s shrill voice echoing in my head–at least.

That night, Katie was having a bad day so she wanted to come up to talk with me so she rode the train all the way from her home up to visit me. We went to the convenience store attached to the apartment complex and purchased some snacks (Kinder eggs are a thing again!?) before just chatting under a gazebo in the apartment complex for a little bit before she had to leave to make curfew. Honestly, it was nice that she came all the way to 고양시 to visit me, I was wholeheartedly touched. And honestly, it was just nice to chill and hang outside in the cool weather and goof off. I remember sitting there, in the moment, talking and holding hands with Katie and just wishing that we could stay in that moment forever–with no worries or anxieties from the everyday stressors and the impending goodbyes we would have to face. We got our toys out of the kinder egg and placed them on the ledge of the gazebo and left them there. I wonder if someone found them.

Another funny moment that occurred that night was that Katie and I saw a PIG! It was not exactly a mini pig but the size was much closer to a skinny hog (do you like my pig-describing skills? lol) and it was on a leash being walked on the path back to the lobby of my apartment. The next night at dinner I asked my host mom and sisters about it and they said that it must have a rare sighting of the pet pig that lives a few floor below us. My host sisters admitted to never having seen it before but my host mom showed me photos that she had snuck from her one and only encounter. In Korea, big dogs like huskies and golden retrievers are so rare to see that this pig totally blew my mind but I was all here for it. I still remember my reaction upon seeing it–a mix of wonder and disbelief and I literally stuttered while trying to point it out in the dark to Katie who, at first, thought it was just a fat dog.

Well, and with that, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed! Quite a long post this one haha 2000+ words! What a packed day~ And a fun one at that. Today was great. Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (Jejudo School Trip) Day 2-Part 2: 이중섭미술관, 삼겹살 맛집과 카페에서 밤 이야기 (05/02/20) NSLI-Y Korea AY

Thursday (05/02/20) – Part 2!

Bus Ride Selfie

After our excursion to 성산일출봉, we got back on the bus and after a while (and a much needed nap), arrived to the final major location for our ~educational~ but fun school trip: an art gallery of Lee Jungseob (이중섭미술관). Lee Jungseob is a very highly praised famous Korean artist when discussing modern Korean art. Although he only lived in Jeju for a rather short period of time, the island held significance to many pieces of his artwork and so the gallery was built in his honor. Additionally, besides visiting the gallery, one can visit the house that Lee Jungseob lived in with his family and walk along a street named after the artist (이중섭거리) which houses a lot of shops selling art, handicrafts, antiques as well as lots of cafes.

I walked around the museum and mostly kept following our former coordinating teacher around (or other classmates of mine) like a lost puppy because nothing in the museum was translated in English. I did put in effort to read a good amount of things myself but I found that I enjoyed hearing about the paintings and their explanations or background from others a lot more. And, through doing that, I actually learned more because 민정쌤 was quite informed on the subject of 이중섭.

To be honest, the life of 이중섭 was nothing near a life of luxury and rather more like the epitome of the struggling, starving artist. In a way, the added pity and sorrow brought even more emotions to his works and maybe even made them more relatable?

The gallery did not just exhibit paintings but there were also just artifacts of his life including letters, drawings, and postcards he sent to his wife and family while they were separated. 이중섭 married a Japanese woman and had two sons but besides the short stay with them when they lived together in their house on Jeju, they were long distance during his entire life. Because of the enduring poverty he had to face, he sent his family to Japan and they lived there while he stayed in Korea–and sent them money when he would earn it. It pained me to look at the evidence of such sacrifice and true love between him and his wife and it made me upset to know that in the end, they were never able to truly reunite as a family before he died. 

Another one of my favorite exhibits within the gallery included the drawings that 이중섭 made on scraps of metal foil from cigarette packs. Apparently, cigarettes were kept in metal tins in the past and while he could not afford actual art supplies, he was able to continue expressing himself and his struggles through scratching in drawings on the foil. 

After we spent some time at both the art gallery and the artist’s home, we were given some free time to explore the lengths of 이중섭거리 and along the road there were a lot of statues that gave homage to the art and style of 이중섭.

In specific, right near the entrance of the street with the sign displaying the name, there was a statue of an Ox (His most famous paintings probably being one of a white ox) and statues of people, depicted in his rudimentary, simple style (like those seen on the metal foil sketches).

Along the street, Katie, 선민, and I met up with our coordinating teacher 민정쌤 and the other homeroom teacher on the trip with us at a cafe and they were kind enough to buy all three of us drinks. Although I do not like coffee, I felt that I needed to take them up on their generosity and so I went ahead and ordered an iced coffee like the other girls. At this specific cafe, they served different types of coffee and you ordered which type you wanted based on the notes of the drink: nutty, fruity, etc. All three of us chose different notes and wow… I could actually not finish my drink. It was so bitter! I actually did not like any of the drinks… but I am not surprised. I am not a coffee person. Tastes like I am just ingesting dirt. Sorry not sorry. But !! I was appreciative and grateful for the gesture by the teachers. It was very sweet of them!

Afterwards, it was time for dinner and as if we had not already consumed enough meat products to last us the entire trip, we were going to eat more meat! But this time we were eating grilled 삼겹살 (grilled pork belly). I ended up at a table with Katie and 선민 this time around and we had an absolute ball grilling the meat, veggies, an kimchi ourselves. 

I am going to be honest..usually when I go out and eat grilled meat at restaurants, I tend to always have the other person grill the meat–both Koreans and foreigners alike. Guilty as charged.. I always allow them to take the rein and I sit back until everything is ready to be eaten. However this time, I actually tried my best to be the one to cook and pay attention and cut the meat too! Although, I was having a hard time figuring out how to properly cut the meat. Maybe I should have not tried using the scissors in my non dominant left hand. One of the workers came over to even help us–and explain how to cook the meat properly. They were properly laughing at us from afar. 

The restaurant was also set up as a buffet so you would order more servings of meat by asking the staff (but, of course, you were expected to eat everything you ordered/took) and then you would go to this long table in the middle that had all the extra goodies: different types of kimchi, side dishes, rice, lettuce, rice cakes, fried chicken, kimbap, etc. 

Katie and I also goofed around with our wraps by trying to feed each other wraps without using our hands? Or I guess…without wrapping everything for the other. This detailed the one that would be eating the wrap holding a lettuce piece in front of the open mouth and the other person placing the meat in the lettuce and pushing that into the mouth. How was that explanation for you? Either way, we did that and it led to some interesting videos. 

Everything was delicious and we were all stuffed beyond belief. There was a nice yard outside of the restaurant so before we got back on to the bus for a very long drive back to our hotel for the night, we all tried to expend our energy (before a food coma hit once we sat on the bus) by running around and being obnoxious teens as usual. Katie and I also picked wild flowers and made bracelets and rings from them. It was cute.

Once we returned to our accommodation, we ended the night spending some much needed ~chill~ time at a cafe! We were told by our coordinating teacher that there was a really cute, aesthetic cafe near the hotel and as long as we made it back in time for curfew, we were allowed to leave the premises. The cafe was called Cafe E.P.L and I am not sure if it was because we visited really late at night on a Thursday, but there was literally no one there. Possibly one other couple sitting inside? But we literally had the entire outdoor space to ourselves–ourselves being Katie, our lunch group at 하나고 (서린, 도윤, 윤세와 혜지) and one other classmate I got to meet/talk to for the first time. 

I vividly remember getting lost on the way to the cafe with the girls because we did not fully remember the directions that 민정쌤 gave us. We also tried using kakao maps to help us find our way but wifi was not adequate for this task. It was pretty dark and being a group of high school girls you might anticipate us being pretty nervous/anxious for safety but honestly we all felt fine–we were all just giggly and enjoying the thrill of being “lost.” We ended up walking in the complete wrong direction down a long main street until we eventually asked a random construction worker that was outside? And he pointed us in the other direction and we were eventually able to make it to the cafe once we found a sign.

The outdoor premises of the cafe honestly felt magical, especially since we were there at night. There were string lights hanging everywhere and tons of patio type seating. I felt like I would see fairies popping out from behind the greenery at any moment. There were lots of flowers everywhere and there was a photo zone consisting of a tent and inside, props were provided (like dried flowers, messages in a bottle, watering can, etc) to add some pizzazz to photos.

There were also these weirdly shaped cone-looking orange chairs that were structured to sit on one small surface area point on the bottom so the chairs would spin around dramatically when used. Honestly, although they were not high off of the ground at all, I literally screamed in complete fear when I first sat in the chair. Goofing off on the chairs was a lot of fun and I hope our shrieks did not annoy the cafe workers (or neighbors to the cafe) all too much.

The prices at the cafe were a tad bit overpriced but I guess that was kind of to be expected because it was the epitome of an insta-worthy cafe. We ended up ordering some drinks and shared some cake as well. Of course Katie and I had to try the oreo cookie monster cake because we are suckrs for any dessert involving chocolate and oreos and just take a look at the presentation of this slice of cake! I needed it. 

And that was the end of day 2 of my school trip to 제주도! We came back to the hotel after the cafe and got ready for bed. I expected us to try to stay up even later but we were so tired from the day’s adventure that we pretty much fell asleep right away. It was probably for the best, though. We would need energy for tomorrow’s plan too!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! Thanks for reading~ My next post will be day 3…unfortunately, the final day but it will still be a fun read (and a fun walk down memory lane for me!)

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (School Trip to Jeju Island) Day 2: 승마체험, 성산일출봉과 흑돼지 먹기 (05/02/20) NSLIY Korea AY

Thursday (05/02/20)

Second day of our school trip to Jeju Island!!! (Literally the exclamation points do in fact represent the excitement in my head when I first woke up. I was jumping off the walls with excitement.)

We started the day off having a complimentary breakfast buffet at our hotel which was pretty similar to any other continental breakfast spread at hotels with basic things like waffles, croissants, cereal, eggs, etc but of course since savory “lunch type” foods are completely normal in Korea, there was also fish, popcorn chicken, potato wedges, kimchi, etc. We ate on the lower ground of the hotel which seemed to be reserved for large groups that were staying at the hotel (While we were staying at the hotel, there were two other schools too) and they came down to eat at the same time as well. The large windows around the perimeter of the room showed off some beautiful water views and it was the perfect cherry on top to a nice morning.

Today was our first (and only) full day in Jeju and in order to make the most of it, we had a jam-packed day filled with all sorts of activities, location changes, delicious food, and of course the accompanying long bus rides. However, to be honest, I did not mind the long bus rides as they were sectioned off periods of time when we could all regain our energy by doing what a lot of us did best–nap. 

Our first bus ride brought us to the 1,000 year forest called Bijarim (천년의 숲 비자림) which considered a national monument in Korea. Apparently it is the biggest collection of nutmeg trees in the world and they are all super old. Even though the name of the forest is 1,000 years, the oldest tree in the forest is around 800 years so not quite there… but I guess eventually the name will fit. But then…if you think about it… eventually it will be even older than 1,000 years. Will a name change be necessary then?

The visit to the forest was an extremely nice way to start the morning because it got us all moving as we hiked a forest path and got to take in all that nature had to offer. The forest not only was full of trees but there was a bunch of other foliage and pretty flowers too. More importantly, the walk was a lot of fun because I had the chance to really make conversation with a lot of the girls in my group–not just my main group of friends or Katie. I was able to talk to more classmates of mine that I share time with during class but because we do not eat lunch together, I find that our conversations mainly revolve around school and never get really personal. It was nice to finally have some time to talk with some of my friends like 정윤 or 선민 or 수미. We of course also took lots of photos, especially group photos. (Is it a group excursion if there are no group photos? Better World would say so! And 하나고 follows suit.)

Another bus ride later, we found ourselves at our next destination: Seong Eup Land (성읍랜드) which is a small “amusement” park of sorts which is known for horseback riding and go karts. Horseback riding is one of the common tourist activities to partake in on Jeju–especially if it involves riding horses along the beach like in all of the cheesy, romantic Korean dramas.

I will say that the place we went to was a bit different…? We did ride horses but we were just on a track–no natural path or anything–and we were pulled along the track with our horses by a worker. The horse did get up to the speed of a gallop at one point but the majority of the ride was a slow steady pace. I believe the ride, overall, lasted 5 minutes if that. It was a bit underwhelming as I have ridden a horse through rougher, more exciting terrain but nonetheless, I had fun. I am grateful to have had the experience. For some of the girls, it was their first time riding a horse!

The majority of the location seemed to be comprised of the horse stable, horse-riding path/routes, and the go-kart track. There were also a lot of photo zones as the main building was painted entirely pink and almost every wall was made out to be an especially colorful mural with cute graphics and a lot of famous Jeju-do icons and memorabilia. There was also a little gift shop with cute knick-knacks as well as a little concession stand type area.

Of course, our friend group had to take advantage of all the wonderful backdrops for photos. I think my favorite place within the “park” included this fake pink car. It was a lot of fun being able to pose with the car and we had a lot of fun trying to take some more “serious, vogue-like” pictures but honestly, we looked kind of ridiculous but I would not change anything about these photos! I love them so much :,) 

There was also a really cute mural on one of the walls that had the statement “Meeting you was good luck” in Korean which I thought was utterly adorable! Katie and I were also able to get photos with our old coordinating teacher and my previous homeroom teacher 민정쌤 (not to be confused with our NSLI-Y resident director 민정쌤). And besides all the photo taking, Katie and I ate some ice cream while some of the other girls drove some go-karts (Of course, I would much rather eat my beloved ice cream rather than risking my life in a moving vehicle–low key have a fear of driving…)

After everything, we moseyed on over to our next location for lunch and we were able to try 제주흑돼지구이 (Jeju Black Pork) which is probably the food 제주도 is most known for and may actually be one of the most famous types of meat in Korea. (Think of it as Korea’s version of Japanese Wagyu Beef? Or at least… I make that connection)

DEVOURED that food! Waiting for more >;P

The place that we went to was very large with a lot of long picnic tables but it had a rather close-to-nature type vibe because there was a lot of natural lighting, open windows, and the bathroom was actually not connected to the restaurant–a portable potty moment. The restaurant was also all you can eat so you can bet that the girls and I ordered quite a lot of servings of meat. I cannot remember the exact count but I feel like we went through at least 4-5 servings and we had to go back and refill our lettuce and side dishes quite frequently. Everything was delicious and my mouth is watering right now just looking back and thinking about all the food that we were able to stuff our faces with. 

Once we were full and napped through a food coma on the bus, we arrived at 성산일출봉 (Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak) which is an Unesco World Heritage site. Honestly, when we first got to the naturally made wonder, I assumed it was just this random mountain but it was actually created by an underwater volcano. The views around the peak were spectacular! On one side, the blue waters of the ocean were sparkling in almost a heavenly way as the sun reflected off of it and on the other side, there was a village along the grassy hill with tons of colorful buildings. At the top of the peak, everything looked so tiny and 10x cuter. 

The walk up to the very top of the peak was not too difficult when it comes to difficulties of the hike as it was not too steep and the stairs were wide and there were railings at some points; however, the weather was hot and the breeze only helped so much so we were all rather sweaty by the end of it. Despite everything, the views at the top–of course–made everything worth it. Additionally, the trip upwards was a nice time to talk more with our friends and other classmates too. At one point, I was explaining the entire plot of the Nickelodeon TV show “Avatar the Last Airbender” to 선민 as we discussed our favorite series during our childhoods. I remember this conversation in specific because it was a difficult thing to talk through but I was really proud at the end with everything I was able to say–my vocabulary skills were popping off.

At the top of the peak, Katie, 선민, and 정윤, and I had this idea to take some photos–including a jumping photo. We asked this older man to take the photo for us (Now… I wonder why? We could have asked anyone else… including someone young who most likely had an Instagram.) and it would be an understatement to say that he had a little trouble taking the photo for us. They did not turn out the best but are still funny to look back on. And the collective countdown and jump while holding hands was extremely thrilling. 

When we got back down to the bottom of the peak, Katie, 선민, and I treated ourselves with some unique 한라봉 아이스크림 (Hallabong Ice Cream) and bought some souvenirs for our host families and Korean classmates. Katie and I impressed the lady running one of the shops with our ability to not only speak with her in Korean but also to haggle. I ended up buying a box of chocolates and tarts with some pretty cool, unique to 제주도 flavors like 한라봉, cactus, and 제주 tangerine (감귤).

After getting back on the bus, our homeroom teacher told us that we would be going to a market the following day and we should wait to buy the majority of our souvenirs there because it would be cheaper…I wish we had known earlier! But nevertheless, I felt that we got everything at a good price so I was not upset.


This day is far from being over but I feel like this post is already extremely long and with photos…So I have made the executive decision to split this post up. I will probably include the second half of this day with my third day of the school trip (Unless, that one ends up being too long… we will see I guess!)

I hope these posts are entertaining and I am also trying my best to make them informative at least in some way. Thanks for reading and do not forget to subscribe for more posts. Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

제주도 수학여행 (School Trip to Jeju Island) Day 1: 함덕해수욕장과 천지연폭포 (05/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/01/19 Wednesday

Today was the long-awaited first day (1일차) of our school trip to Jeju Island (제주도) with our fellow classmates and friends from 하나고! I have been looking forward to this trip for a myriad of reasons: taking a flight to visit a gorgeous island, being able to hang out with my 하나고 friends outside of school for an extended period of time, and finally fulfilling the dream of going on a school trip! We had a few options for where we wanted to go for our school trip (Other options included 부산, 전주, 강원도) but Katie and I both figured we would have a better chance to eventually visit these places but possibly, this could be our only chance to visit 제주도. 

For those that may not know, 제주도 is an island province of South Korea that is probably the most popular tourist/vacation spot within the peninsula (for domestic trips). The island is mostly known for its gorgeous views, hiking trails, 한라산 (dormant volcano), and of course 한라봉 (a variation of orange–hallabong) and we were going to have the opportunity to experience it for free! Thank you NSLI-Y!

Anyways, on Wednesday Katie and I met up at the Paris Baguette near the subway station by our school for breakfast before we headed over to our school to depart to the airport with our classmates. What did we have for breakfast you may ask? Something nutritionally dense and healthy for two growing gals? Nope. No. Not a chance. We instead convinced ourselves that mochi ice cream would be a great idea for breakfast. Already in that #vacationmindset

We ended up leaving the school on our giant shuttle bus at around 10:30 am. But until then, we all hung out in one of the classrooms all giddy and excited for the days to come. We were all happy to be done with school–for a short amount of time at least–and to LEAVE campus. (Not only that but we were taking a plane so!!!) All the girls were also super super dressed up in spring floral and dresses and makeup and such because well, they had a reason to get all dolled up. Honestly, it was a bit strange–seeing some of my friends for the first time without their school uniforms and bare faces.

Before boarding the bus, we also took some photos as a group and they turned out really cute! Seeing everyone posing with peace signs and such made me laugh. I could not believe I was going on my first school trip! I never went on an out-of-state or even overnight trip in middle school or high school so I was very thankful to be experiencing this first with my Korean high school classmates. What a reason to be a super senior~

We got to Gimpo Airport within an hour and since we arrived around lunch time and needed to wait practically 2 hours before our flight at 1:30 pm, we were given that free time to have lunch at the airport. We were each handed out roughly $10 and were allowed to eat whatever our hearts’ desired. People tend to say that airport food is vastly overpriced and oftentimes the cheaper options are extremely unhealthy (like McDonalds, for example) but maybe it just happened to be this Korean airport; however, the food was amazing. Honestly, I think the best 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) I have ever had was this one at the airport! And I remember our lunch not only because the taste was so delicious that it will forever have a place in my heart, but I remember my 하나고 friends poking fun because the stew was especially spicy but nonetheless, I was able to eat it all while some of the others (actual KoReAns) could not stomach the spice. What can I say…매운 음식을 잘 먹는 편이에요 ㅋㅋ;) and also 김치찌개 is probably one of my favorite Korean dishes (maybe only beaten by 잡채 or 해물파전).

The flight to 제주도 was only about an hour so definitely the shortest flight I have ever been on (Even a flight from Chicago to New York is longer) and I honestly slept through the entire thing. We got to the airport and it was quite small. We left the building and were immediately greeted with slightly chillier weather (surprised?) and PALM TREES!?! The weather was gloomy but of course, the occasion was exciting regardless.

We boarded a shuttle bus (which had a cute little sign in the window with our school name–하나고등학교) and immediately headed out to our first location: 함덕해수욕장 (Hamdeok Beach).

I am not much of a beach person (meaning I am not too keen on tanning on the beach or swimming in the ocean, etc);however, I can appreciate the beauty that encompassed this beach. Although it was early May, it was not too busy at all–no large crowds. The sands were basically white and the water was so crystal clear and blue!! I have only ever been to a beach in New York and so this was something completely new for me! We had a blast walking along the beach, holding hands, and laughing about who knows what. We also, of course, took tons of photos–every place was a photo zone!

In the parking lot of the beach, there were a lot of other shuttle buses for different schools. It seems that this is a common time of the year for high schools to go on their school trip. One of the more awkward moments was when we were lined up or passing by these school groups, Katie and I received a lot of stares and whispers. However, this feeling of being an outsider was only fleeting because the presence of my friends reminded me that I did have people.

We also visited this arched bridge which had a beautiful lookout view and the waves crashing against the rocks acted as a perfect soundtrack to the day! I believe the only words coming out of my mouth at this point was “woah” because I have never been to a place like this and all I was experiencing was utter awe and gratefulness at the same time.

For dinner, we sat down at this seafood place at a long table pushed up against windows with a view of the ocean. What more could we have asked for? The meal included a lot of traditional aspects of Korean cuisine including a variety of side dishes like different types of kimchi, fish cakes, veggies, japchae, etc. Everything laid out made me feel like I was eating a huge 8-course meal! The main points of our dinner were a type of grilled fish (옥돔구이 — perhaps grilled horsehead tilefish? Translation… not sure of) and 고등어조림 (grilled mackerel stew).

We ended the night visiting 천지연폭포 (Cheonjiyeon Waterfall) and having a tour of the night views. This was probably one of the funnest parts of the trip because we were given a lot of time to just explore the trails and the souvenir shops and goof around. We also took a lot more group photos and were having a lot of fun striking some fun poses–even ones with the head homeroom teacher. And lets just say that this waterfall was a lot bigger and better than the one near our school–especially because it was natural! (No shade to 폭포동)

After our waterfall tour, we headed to our accommodation (Co-op City Hotel Harborview) and got our room keys, unpacked, and then met up in one of the conference/meeting rooms to hang out till late in the night. (We did have to be in our rooms by a certain time, however.) I ended up sharing a room with my friends 서린 and 도윤 while Katie stayed with 윤세 and 혜지. 

Matching NSLI-Y Shirts~

We could not end the night without some ice cream so Katie and I bought some of our favorites from the Seven-Eleven connected to the hotel and ate those with some other snacks that the other girls prepared. The rest of the night was spent playing random games like charades and such which at times were hard to follow but we were always included–no matter how long it took to explain directions or roles. I was so very thankful to have such sweet classmates and friends!

And that was day 1 of my school trip to Jeju Island! Looking back at all of these photos, reminds me of all these very happy memories. I am so thankful to have been able to experience this amazing opportunity and I am even more excited to share this time with others. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and the next 2 days of this trip will be uploaded soon! Stay tuned for more~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

Outside Class (야외수업), Travel Maker Brunch in Hongdae, and Korean Monthly Exam (04/30/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/30/19 Tuesday

Since Katie and I stayed up really late the previous night studying, we were both practically dead in the morning. We even went to the convenience store to buy coffee before school started because I knew that there was no way I would be able to sit awake during my classes today without some assistance from caffeine.

Morning selfie before we have to be in our homerooms

During first period, I had my English conversation class with three 2nd year students and instead of having any conversation on intellectual topics, we rather planned what we would be do in two weeks time when meeting up in 홍대 to hang out! The girls were going to be able to get permission to leave school to hang with me for a couple hours, so we spent our hour in the library picking where to eat and deciding what we could do to fill up the time. 수빈 recommended this really good (and cheap) chicken place that she had been to in 부산 (it was a chain) so were going to eat there and then most likely go to 노래방 (karaoke) and make perfume or macaroons or something crafty–we wanted to do something hands on! It was a lot of fun planning out our day!

My 한국사 (Korean History) teacher switched things up for today’s class and allowed us to have class outside which we call 야외수업! We left the classroom and walked down this really nice, scenic path past the 한옥 (Korean traditional house) museum and neighborhood almost towards the nearby Buddhist temple.

On our way there, we passed by these birds fighting on the sidewalk and one of the birds became injured and was struggling to flap its wings while it was down on the ground. A lot of the girls were scared of it although it was harmless so they kept shrieking every time it gained enough momentum to get a little bit off the ground. It was really sad to see it in so much pain, struggling to survive and get back up. One of the students called someone (maybe some type of Animal control?) so when we did walk back to the school, that bird was gone.

The teacher talked to us a little bit about the history of the area before letting us go free and visit either the Twosome Place Cafe or the convenience store. (He turned a blind eye away from those students who were buying ramen to stockpile reserves in the dorm.) During the entire duration of our outdoor class, I hung out and chatted with my friend 정민. She actually is close friends with my other third year friends (세림, 지은, and 지연) but this was the first class I was able to have with her.

She was so sweet with me that she even bought me a drink from the cafe–an iced chocolate (basically just the cold version of the hot chocolate). We talked all about our school lives and a bit about our past. Apparently, 정민 spent some time in America when she was young because her aunt lives in the US. That was interesting to hear about.

After Katie and I finished our second exchange student conversation class of the day before lunch time, we immediately booked it off of school grounds to try to get to 홍대 as fast as we possibly could. All the other NSLI-Y students had no school today so they planned to all go out for a traditional American brunch at a famous place in 홍대 called Travel Maker.

Katie and I were able to make it to the restaurant just around the time that everyone else was receiving their food. We were able to just sneak into the booths they were already at and order some pancakes. Luckily, even though we did have school, we were able to make in enough time to eat with everyone for a little while. After we finished eating, we wanted to take a group photo so I (with some random confidence) ran up to a complete stranger walking in the park across the street and asked them to take a photo for us. I was glad that we were able to put this little brunch date together!

Blueberry Pancakes ❤ My favorite food = pancakes

Afterward, we all had to go and take our monthly tests for April… what a downer to a great first half of the day. I walked to the Better World Office with Josh and Jacquelyn and we passed by his cafe that day and there was a really cute sign out front. It made me smile.

Translation: Difficult days also pass by. Waiting for a happy tomorrow.

Our test this month was extremely difficult. We expected it, though. Our teacher warned us about it. The passages in this test seemed a lot more complicated than the ones in past tests and they were so much longer too! I barely had enough time to read through all of the reading passages and answer all the questions. I had to pick my best guess for a couple questions. I was also super tired from staying up late studying (and the coffee in the morning already wore off), so I started nodding off during the test too which is never good! After we all finished the reading test, we made a stop at the closest convenience store during break time to pick up some pick-me-ups including coffee and gummy geckos.

Usually my blog posts about the unit/monthly tests tend to be a bit more negative because more often than not I feel mildly incompetent after taking each and every test. Luckily, because I am writing this so much later, I do not have those negative thoughts floating around in my head. Looking back at this test and my OPI, I feel like I did pretty well. Comparing it to my march speaking test which involved me crying while on the phone with my teacher, this one went a lot smoother. She actually asked me to describe the movie plot of one of my favorite movies so I went on and described the basic plot of Hello Ghost which involves suicide and ghosts and although the subject matter was heavy, I was able to explain it all better than I originally assumed I would be able to. (Actually, I feel like that answer was probably one of the biggest reasons for why I was able to move up a level that month.) The writing test for this month was writing about our individual projects and I felt prepared to discuss my topic, but I still struggled with vocabulary. Even though I had to substitute some desired words for ones that I did know, I felt that I explained everything I wanted to discuss in my paper quite well.

After the monthly test, Josh and I walked to 와플대학 to meet some of the other NSLI-Y students (Alix, Hunter, Katie, etc) for our after-test-tradition of waffles. I had dinner plans with a friend after the test so I ended up not ordering my own and just stealing some bites from Katie. We talked about our tests and ranted for a bit before I left for 신촌.

In 신촌 we went to a meat restaurant and had barbecue for dinner while chatting about a lot of different topics. I learned that the tape and arrows on the roads and alleyways pointing to certain restaurants were a part of events that the university students hold. Apparently like a fundraiser type thing? Or they are ways to try to raise membership for clubs and such. When we first got to the restaurant, we watched some female students putting the yellow tape on the road and as it got darker, we noticed people directing others to follow the tape to the final destination. 

Yonsei at Night

After eating we walked around the 연세 campus which was honestly the first time I really was able to walk around a large majority of the campus. Previously, I had only walked up the large drive (lawn maybe is a better term?) with Addie and Jessica on two separate occasions. My friend was not a student there or anything but we still walked around the different buildings anyways.

We ended the night just chilling at a cafe to talk. Cafe Pascucci was the name of the cafe and it was my first time there! We just got our drinks and relaxed on one of the sofa seats on the second floor and talked until I had to go because of curfew. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful days leading up to the test day.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마