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

4/21/19 Sunday 

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

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Off to take the exam!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

Exploring Korean High School Campus Grounds & Man-Made Waterfall (04/17/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/17/19 Wednesday 

School today was just eh… I did not really have class today… it was mostly just 자습 the whole time which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I got so much Korean studying done! I reviewed all of my recently learned grammar—and three points we have not officially learned yet—and did my workbook pages. I guess days with too much self-study make me lonely since it limits my interactions with the other students because they are also studying as well. Especially in politics class after lunch, I have three good friends in that class so you would expect it to be alright but I felt the most 답답하다 (suffocated/frustrated) in that class for some reason…

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Honestly, my school is so pretty ❤ No matter what season!~ But especially in spring~

But besides actual classes, break times were fun and lunch was really nice! We planned to meet up with our friends to eat lunch at our usual time (12:40 pm) so until that time rolled around, Katie and I walked around the school and explored the grounds. We went on the search for the cherry blossom trees on campus! We found them! The weather was incredibly nice out so we just enjoyed the breeze and chatted before lunch time. 

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Today was another 수다날 otherwise known as 수요일 다 먹는 날 which means that if you eat all of the food on your tray, you get a sticker and usually a prize or a chance to win a prize. Today’s gift was only receivable if your individual home room won by having the most stickers and the prize was highly coveted seeing that they were Ryan (the Kakao character) themed electric tooth brushes! Particularly, this is an amazing gift for high school students because it’s really cute, follows a trend, and if you know anything about Korean high schools, the students always brush their teeth at school—in the morning, after lunch, etc. 

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Also look at those strawberries!! I love fruit! Our school cafeteria feeds us so well! (American high school cafeterias can honestly not even come close…)

I could NOT finish the meal because they were serving these weird cheesy meatballs and I could not get myself to stomach it. I instead ate everything else as the soup, hash browns, and rice with an egg were all very very good. I decided to take one for the team and sacrifice my tray for everyone else that still had stuff on their plates so that they could get the sticker for their respective homerooms. 

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Once the school day was over, Katie and I changed it up with our cafe choice and headed over to 북한산 제빵소 (Bukhansan Atelier is the English name) and tried to be somewhat productive while consuming large amounts of bread that should not have been humanly possible. (I am not kidding, we split a huge baguette type thing! It was so good though… no regrets!) 

The weather was still so nice and it was my first time being back at the cafe when it wasn’t winter and we realized that the bakery has a lot of outdoor space. While walking up to the building, we noticed that the entire front side of the cafe is lined with tables. Once inside, there are open spaces that you can walk through to get to small courtyard-like space with more seating! There’s even space on the third floor to sit outside! 

We ended up sitting inside but only because we desperately needed the WiFi to do work otherwise our butts would have been on some chairs outside. We will have to come back with the only goal of relaxing. Though, at that time, there won’t be any cherry blossoms…

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Enjoy this lovely painting that was in the bathroom of the bakery/cafe. I had a laugh.

After staying at the cafe for about two hours, Katie and I embarked on an endeavor to find the waterfall nearby. There’s a bus stop called 폭포동 (Waterfall Neighborhood) and I’ve seen the waterfall before, so we decided that today would be the day we would get off at that station and explore! 

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Views while waiting for the bus~

Turns out, the waterfall is fully man-made and although I expected that (you would too if you saw it… it is really oddly placed and we are smack dab in the middle of the city. ), it was still interesting to see.

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Another disappointing factor though, was that water only came out of the waterfall twice a day for only one hour each time. One of the times was at night but the first time was from the span of noon to 1 pm. That must have been the time when I’ve seen this waterfall previously because I do have recollection of it having water flowing. I must have seen it on our way to Korean class. Katie and I decided that on a day that we leave 하나고 to have lunch (but don’t have a reason to—like we don’t have to be in 홍대 for class or anything), we will come to the waterfall for a quick sight before going off to get 분식 at the market. 

We got back on the bus to return to the subway station and I only had 400원 on my card so the machine beeped at me. We got off the bus and hadn’t been walking around for more than 30 minutes so we assumed we wouldn’t get charged more for getting on at a different stop on the same line. I ended up just throwing money in the collection bin. However, when I got on the subway to head back home on the 3rd line (after refilling my card), it charged me as a transfer and not as a new trip so I’m not sure what my card was doing—though I was happy about the situation cause I didn’t have to pay more money! 

I arrived to the apartment and no one was home when I first arrived. I closed the door to my room and change into comfier clothes while my host mom returned with Andy. She assumed no one was home but Andy was going crazy in front of the door. She opened the door about to say that no one was there and then she was shocked to see me! Andy knew that I was home! Him and his strong little nose~ 

My host mom later told me that he was going crazy before they even got in the elevator! I don’t know why but the thought of Andy getting all hyper and happy thinking about me being home made me very touched~~ I’m going to really miss this dog! 

For dinner, we went out and tried this new restaurant in the shopping center near our apartment that serves 짬뽕 (Spicy Seafood Noodles) and 탕수육 (Fried Pork). Usually when we want to eat Koreanized Chinese food, we go to 도깨비 (Goblin) in 파주 but this place was a lot better. The noodles were chewier and the broth of the soup was addicting. Plus, the 탕수육 had more of the snack-like crunch that both me and my host sister really enjoyed. Now that we have this place, we may not return to the other one. Thinking about that… is kinda bittersweet, though. 

I spent the rest of the night procrastinating on my Korean homework and my presentation. That night I wrote one on jobs that will mostly likely disappear due to the development of technology! (Robots anyone?) I stayed up till after midnight writing the script because I kept getting distracted… on the bright side, it ended up being one of the presentations I’m the most proud of! I included lots of vocabulary learned in class recently and my grammar points were pretty advanced…if I do say so myself.

That’s all for the blog post~ Although the school day was overall quite underwhelming, I really had a great day today. Made a lot of discoveries, felt closer to both my school community and my host family, and ate some pretty delicious food~ It was a good day indeed. Well, I hope you enjoyed! Do not forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts like this one!

  • Emma 엠마

Being Late to School, After Class Karaoke, and Korean Food Market (04/15/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/15/19 Monday

I started my Monday morning off on the complete wrong side of the bed. I woke up to the sound of my program phone ringing rather than my alarm, and when I alarmingly got up to answer my phone—hoping that it wasn’t loud enough to wake up my host family—I noticed that it was Katie calling me. I answered the phone and I could hear the worry in her voice. I looked at my phone at that moment and saw that the time written across the screen was in fact 7:25 am. I almost swore in that moment and refrained myself and quickly explained to Katie that in my tired daze last night, I accidentally set my alarm for 6 pm rather than 6 am.

I looked at the time and figured out that I could take a train at 7:47 am and make it to the train station by 8:30 meaning that I could get to school around 8:45 am if the buses decided to play their route to my favor today. This would make me only 45 min late to the school day—and only 25 min late to first period in theory. 

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Documenting my lateness with a hurried selfie to my Snapchat streaks

I texted 민정쌤 about my situation and all morning I worried about what kind of scolding I would get. I made it to school around the time that I expected myself to but when I finally found my first class (The teacher decided to switch classrooms for some reason?), my teacher was lecturing at the front of the class and because I did not want to interrupt her, I hid in the bathroom until the first break—so only for like 20 minutes. (Hiding from my problems? Possibly… yes…)

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When the bell finally rang and I was free from hiding in one of the bathroom stalls, I went to class and very awkwardly greeted the teacher. Because my luck is just so great, I entered the room and there were no open desks—not. one. Single. Desk. So I was not only late to class (and everyone noticed), but I also had to go two doors down to our old classroom and move a desk from that room all the way to ours. The desks are very loud and drag on the floor and my desk would not go through the door smoothly so I definitely made a small scene pushing my desk into the room. 

The teacher didn’t really acknowledge my presence—or the previous lack of—so I just kept to myself during her remaining lecture. I didn’t do any self study but I also didn’t take notes while she was talking. I just existed in my seat. 

My last class of the day was English and while I walked with Katie to our next period, I ran into my homeroom teacher who had no idea that I was not coming to school. (민정쌤 never read my messages about being late to school… by the time I messaged her telling her that I had arrived, she still hadn’t seen it. I never contacted our 하나고 coordinating teacher (because I was in such a rush) and so my homeroom teacher had no idea. I felt bad for not messaging her earlier (I did tell her when I arrived… half an hour later) and she definitely scolded me during that quick hallway interaction. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Katie went to the 편의점 before school and bought me food for breakfast: yogurt, a granola bar, and coffee. She knew I would not have had the time to eat breakfast so she prepared everything for me. I was incredibly touched by such a kind gesture! I don’t deserve a best friend like her! 

English class today was actually really really fun. We spent the first period of class just talking about unpopular opinions. We all wrote three down in our notebook at the start of class and then we went around the room and each shared one. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s weird unpopular opinions. Andrew had some really interesting ones like the fact that he thinks that anything that combines both salty and sweet (salted caramel/chocolate was his example) is disgusting. This blew my mind because it could not be more wrong like hello, one of the best food combinations is French fries and milkshakes for a reason! He also thinks that besides in pie, fruit should not be heated up or cooked (This I agree with. We said this against the case of pineapple pizza.) and that cherry blossoms are overrated—like popcorn (This I completely and utterly disagree with!) 

Katie and I left 하나고 early so we wouldn’t have to eat alone (surprise surprise) and so I could memorize my speech for today’s Korean class and pick up stipend at Better World.

late 1

Took a photo of this junkyard for cars (all of a sudden… forgetting the English name…) because we learned this word in Korean class the other week and I was happy to spot it in public!

Korean class today was a lot of fun. We learned one new grammar point today that is actually really similar to one we already learned and if you asked to me to explain to you the difference… I would not be able to do that just yet. The point is not in our grammar book and Internet forums were not helpful at all!! So that was a bit frustrating. Other than that, we learned a lot of fun words.

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We started a unit on science and technology and futuristic things. We talked about endangered animals for a bit which was quite difficult seeing that our animal vocabulary is a bit lacking.. we started naming animals that were extinct from the ice age which led 윤아 to start describing Sid the dumb sloth from the Ice Age movie but our teacher wasn’t getting it. She proceeded to draw her rendition of him on the board… it was pretty hilarious. Please, take in this masterpiece for all it is worth: 

late 3

After class, I went with Katie to a coin 노래방 so we could sing some songs because during our cafe date on Wednesday from the previous week, I basically danced to old Taylor Swift songs in my seat while working on my presentation. I really wanted to sing Love Story with an actual microphone and in a private space so I could scream my lungs out. We sang Taylor Swift, Let it Go, Avril Lavigne, Les Miserables, and we ended it all with Ailee’s 보여줄게—the classic. 

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We sang our hearts out and worked up quite an appetite so we went to Katie’s home station and ate 분식 for dinner: 떡볶이 and  튀김. 윤아 also came out of her apartment (both their host families live in the same complex!) and joined us for some food before having dinner with her host mom. It was fun just chilling with the girls—talking—under a gazebo type thing while chowing down on rice cakes and fried sweet potato. 

I came home afterward and finished my homework before I let myself fully go and put on another Netflix movie. (Not proud of this one… I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic…) And that was my night! 

Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my day~~ Whether it was a mess or not! Well, until next time! 

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/11/19 Thursday

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Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

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

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

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

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On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

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

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

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

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

04/12/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walk back to the subway station~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

04/10/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gloomy weather after school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

After School Express Bus Terminal Shopping with Friends (04/08-04/09/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/08/19 Monday

Our politics teacher literally showed up 30 minutes late to class today! We also had to switch classrooms after waiting in the wrong one for 20 minutes (a random teacher came into our room and told us to move classrooms and that our teacher would be with us shortly). I was really surprised to see that the teacher being late was not treated as a big deal… we did not even have a substitute teacher to watch us during that time for anything. That would never happen in an American high school…or at least… good ones? There always had to be an adult in the room; students were not trusted.

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Quick shout out to Korean high school’s school stores and their amazingness! Literally a 7/11 on premises. Shelves and shelves of snacks and drinks and there are freezer sections for frozen food and ice cream.

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Today I tried this carrot juice… and it was… very carrot-like. I mean, I expected it! Mostly bought it for the packaging–love this bunny guy~

During English class, we went through common mistakes that Andrew saw in the students’ argumentative essay rough drafts and then read an example essay on the issue of punishing children with physical punishments like spanking. It was an interesting read and I agreed with a lot of it. As learned from my Hispanic mother, fear can be a good way to discipline but it is not the most effective way. 

The 한옥마을 surrounding the school is now decorated with these rainbow colored lanterns and I believe they may have been put up for Buddha’s Birthday which is next month. I know it is a little bit of a ways away but maybe they wanted to get ready for it a bit earlier to celebrate for longer? (This is my reasoning for it at least!) We were originally planning on eating with our friends at the cafeteria today but they could not eat early enough so we ended up having a 편의점 lunch instead so we would not be late to Korean class.

We had a quiz today in Korean class… and I did not realize that we were having one until about an hour before class started so even though I was able to cram some vocabulary on the train ride to 홍대 from school, I still ended up doing really bad on the quiz… I got a C… a high 70 percent on the quiz. I got all of the questions in the grammar section correct but my lack of knowledge on the vocab section really hurt me. And it was not even at the fault of me not knowing the vocab! I knew the vocab but if I did not understand the contents of the example sentence, I could not pick the right word to fit in the blank… I was really disappointed to see all the red marks on my paper…

After class, we had a bi-weekly meeting where 민정쌤 told us all the due dates for the current week. Our field learning reflections were due on Wednesday (though mine was not due till Sunday because I was not going to be doing my project interview until Friday morning) and then we had our program reflections (rough draft #1) due Sunday night. 

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Liam made a joke after 민정쌤 asked us when the reflection draft due date was (to make sure we were paying attention and did not need further clarification) which consisted of him replying with “tomorrow.” 민정쌤 took the joke and ran with it. She retorted back with “Alright then for Liam, it will be due tomorrow!” and proceeded to write his new deadline on the board. We all could not help but erupt in laughter as his face drew blush.

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Enjoy this cute photo of Liam & Josh

I went home right after the bi-weekly meeting and ate dinner with my host family. I did Korean homework as well as some Topik practice tests (not a full test… I was only able to complete a listening test). I tried my best to be productive but my urges to sleep early took over! It was an early night.

04/09/19 Tuesday

School today followed the normal routine basically. I had my English mentorship class in the morning and we talked about globalization (세계화 in Korean). We discussed ways in which American culture has influenced Korea and ways that Korean culture has influenced America (skin care, fashion, new music show called the masked singer, etc) I also talked to them about cultural appropriation after we watched the new Blank Pink music video that includes Lisa wearing dreadlocks in one scene. It was interesting to hear what they thought about it because they all just saw her wearing the hairstyle as being influenced by hip hop and nothing else; however, many people in America would not see it as such a harmless move. Especially seeing that Lisa is not an average person but an idol in a group making a profit culturally appropriating black culture (even though that may not be the main intent.) Korea, of course, does not have the same deep history regarding this subject as America which makes its perspective quite unique. Although this is the case, this does not mean that such things do not occur or cannot occur in Korea or by Koreans. Ignorance like malicious intentions can also be used as fuel for the fire…

Moving on!

Our music teacher did not show up today so Katie and I just studied in the library. (Another example of what I was saying earlier! If the teacher is absent… thus far based on my experiences, we have yet to have a substitute teacher).

한국사 was just another lecture as expected so it wasn’t too interesting in that regard but it ended up being a lot of fun because of the third year I sat next to—민지. When I sat down next to her, she immediately started talking to me like she knew me for years but at the same time didn’t as she asked me many many questions. I asked her how she felt about the mock exam day tomorrow and she had totally forgotten it was next day! We talked about both English & Korean language learning and I showed her my current workbook (level 5). We also brought 민우 into the conversation who was sitting in front of us (He was in one of Katie’s mentorship groups last semester and was in my economics class last year.) We kept talking throughout the class period which was really nice~ Usually, I end up keeping to myself during this class, so this was a nice change. She even gave me the candy that the teacher gave her because she didn’t like any of the flavors! I hope I can sit next to her again. I definitely enjoyed the class more since she was there to keep me company. 

My last class of the day was my second English mentorship class. For today’s discussion, we talked about school culture so like with the other girls last week, I talked a lot about prom and showed them all pictures. We also talked a lot about couple culture and the “no dating” rule at 하나고. The girls told me that even if the teachers just see a boy and a girl alone somewhere secretive (even if they aren’t even touching or anything of the sort), they will call out the students and might even tell their parents. They said that the only good times for couples to meet are right before room check and snack time. But the teachers at 하나고 literally have no chill when it comes to enforcing the no dating rule. 서영 told me that the teachers go the extent of even looking at the seating reservations at the library! If they see that a boy and a girl are constantly signing up for seats next to each other for a period of time, they call them out on it!! Like who even first thought of checking up on that?? It’s really intense…

Today’s lunch menu was 삼겹살 (pork belly) and Katie and I wanted to eat it so much that we did consider eating at the school by ourselves and then heading to Korean class. That was how badly we wanted to eat it! But when we got to the cafeteria, the line was literally so long and we needed to leave for Korean class so we ended up just eating at the 편의점 again like the barbarians we are. 

I literally remember nothing from Korean class today… we learned a grammar point and crammed the vocab words from the workbook. Korean class is starting to feel very difficult once again… I don’t know why but this book seemed to really leap in difficulty from the level of the last one. I’m understanding less of the readings in it, the vocab is all really complex, and the grammar can only be used in very specific situations; therefore, I don’t find learning them as applicable as the previous grammar points (which I mean is a given seeing that my level should be getting higher as well…) 

After Korean class, a big group of us NSLI-Y girls decided to go shopping at the Express Bus Terminal just for fun! We usually do not often have “big” group outings like this after the school day but today we were feeling spontaneous. Originally, it was just going to be me and Katie but then as we told the plans to the other girls, more and more of them decided to tag along!

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Basic photo of the scenery of crossing the river! But also…can you see the slight gap in the subway car doors?

Now that the weather was getting warmer, we wanted to ditch our heavy sweaters and pick some up cute, cheap spring clothes! So Shada, Alix, Harmony, Jenna, Katie, and I went to go shopping! I gave myself a budget and I’m proud to say that I was able to almost stick with it perfectly… it could have been worse! I’m happy with everything I got! 

We ended up eating some 분식 (street food/snack food) at this small place inside the shopping area. I have eaten at a small cafe in that area with Kaitlyn but I never got a chance to try out the actual restaurants. The food was so cheap! I would definitely eat there next time too. I got a set (made for one person) for about $5 that came with 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 김마리 (fried seaweed), and 오뎅 (fish cake). I couldn’t finish everything cause there was so much food! I definitely could have shared with someone and been satisfied (or shared with someone and also gotten something off the side menu.)

Katie and I ended up leaving the other girls to continue shopping at about 7:45 pm because we wanted to get a head start on studying. She ended up taking the longer way home so that we could stay together as long as possible~ Since we were getting on the 경의중앙 line at an unpopular station (and the fact that it was Tuesday night probably helped), we got to have seats! The whole time! Once she got off at 공덕역, I was able to sleep all the way up to my home station. 

That’s all for this blog post!! I hope you enjoyed~~ I cannot believe time is going by so fast… it’s really scary! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마 

First Sauna (찜질방) Experience in South Korea–Getting Fully Naked in Front of Strangers (04/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/05/19 Friday

When I met up with Katie at the subway station this morning, she pulled out her notebook and I saw a bunch of scribbled music notes on the pages with their corresponding letter notes. I was confused as to why she was showing me this until the fact that it was Friday and that we had music class today came to me. Katie (the bright ray of sunshine that she is) took it upon herself to make a song for us on her subway ride so that we would have something to show the music teacher when she came around to check our progress on the music assignment. I was so thankful for this because as soon as class started, the teacher came to us and asked to see our song. We had to hurry up and log everything that she had written into the computer because we never got around to buying a USB for the class. And although everything was rushed, our song actually sounded pretty cute! We were proud to showcase it to the music teacher.

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Break Time: Piano Practice Room Session

After music class, I had public speaking and we just spent the entire class doing voice exercises to practice intonation, voice, volume, speed, pauses, etc. But before the class started, Jason told me that some students scored me 11s (out of a scale of 10) on the peer evaluation sheet for the speeches last class. I was shook by this seeing that I really did no preparation for it, and I definitely did make mistakes. I guess it is a pro of being a native English speaker in a public speaking class taught in English for non-native speakers!

He also read a sheet of paper that the male Japanese student left for everyone during his last class with us last week. At the end of every single speech, he left comments (all encouraging!) for the speakers. He complimented things like their flow, their pronunciation, the content of the speech, etc. He even said that if the boys whose English is not that good had more confidence, they could really control the room because they are so funny. I was just really touched that he thought to do that before he left–especially to tell Jason to read these comments aloud to everyone. Such a sweet gesture! I was definitely emotionally touched.

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Main dish: delicious curry!!! (And golden kiwi jello! I have never eaten golden kiwis in America…)

Katie and I ate with our big group of friends and we all goofed off happily at the thought that it was Friday and that the school day was almost over which would mean the weekend had arrived! We also discussed some of our plans for the school trip coming up in May which included outfit coordination? But 서린 is set on a color like yellow and I think she is delusional?? Why would we do yellow when we can pick a color that is easier for everyone to wear? (and buy since many of the girls were looking to buying new clothes for the trip.) Why yellow when we can wear colors such as pink, blue, white? We will continue this conversation again at a later date.

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Economics Class was actually kind of fun today because we did this auction activity that involved buying values (things like living for a long time, finding an honest significant other, having a good relationship with your parents, etc). It was fun when the groups would fight and when prices for values would only continue to increase to unbelievable prices. I could not participate much within my group so I just sat by and watched them figure out all that they wanted to do and gave some input here and there.

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On the board, our teacher wrote all the names of each team. In Korean, team names tend to end in 조 (translation: group/team) and everyone in my class tried to make creative team names based on that word. For example, my team was called 타조 (which also means ostrich!) One of the group of guys chose their team name to be “오빠이거사조” which is a play on the phrase 사줘 (or buy for me) but in a cuter way with how it is pronounced–애교 style if you will. So there team name was “buy this for me” with the term of endearment 오빠 which can be used for one’s boyfriend or just an older male figure/brother.

After school, Katie and I went to Twosome Place to get some studying done before heading to a 찜질방! At the beginning of our program, we would always come to Twosome on Fridays and try out new flavors of cake and just chill (and study of course) so it was nice being able to do the same today. Lately we have been running around with other plans on Friday nights and I have missed just being able to relax. But I guess as time is running out, we have to make the most of our free days! (Especially days with extended curfew hours such as Fridays)

We ordered a whole menu of strawberry items at the cafe it seemed. Katie ordered her recent favorite: 딸기 라떼 (Strawberry Latte) BUT it is now what you expect. I would have thought it would be strawberry flavored milk with coffee or something of the sort–something with coffee! But actually, it literally is always just a glass of milk with chunks of strawberry in it that you mix in. I ordered a strawberry peach frappe (which again… was not what I was expecting). It ended up really just being a smoothie. To pair with our drinks, we ordered a chocolate cake with full strawberries on it. We love strawberry season in Korea! At the cafe, we were productive but we also just goofed around and talked. It had been a stressful week for sure!

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We took the subway to 용산 찜질방 (Dragon Hill Spa) which is probably one of the most popular Korean spas/saunas in Korea. I remember during my summer program, many of the students had their first experiences there. I was really excited to go with Katie and since she had been there already, she would be able to show me the ropes so I would not be making any dumb foreigner mistakes hopefully.

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Did I mention this place is open 24 hours? Some people do end up sleeping here since you only need to pay the entrance fee and a bit more depending on how long you plan on staying. Could you imagine staying  a whole day here? That would be an interesting challenge!

The path towards the building itself looked as if it were straight out of a cringey tourism commercial with lots of lights, greenery, bamboo shoots, and a cobblestone path that I almost tripped over several times. For the entrance fee, it was about 12 dollars and then we were given a wristband that we could use as payment for extra features inside the building like food or massages and then would pay those fees on our way out. We put our shoes in our own little cubbies (like being back in first grade) and then headed to the changing room to get naked and hop into the shower room.

I definitely thought that I would be more hesitant about getting naked but once we walked into the room and I saw a myriad of body shapes and sizes and ages, I immediately became somewhat relaxed. Before coming, I worried about my body image insecurities hindering me from feeling comfortable during everything. I also expected their to be a wave of shame that may exude from some people like what you see in gym commercials (like for Planet Fitness, for example) I think seeing everyone being so carefree in their body made me feel okay about it–at least long enough for me to get out of my clothes and get to the shower room. 

I have never been confident in my body–ever. I have always had a fully fair share of insecurities and although I looked away plenty of times when I saw parts of my body that I really disliked in the reflection of the water or the mirrors around the room (particularly mirrors placed awkwardly like the ones on the ceiling of the jet tubs… that one made me feel very uncomfortable), over time I began to feel more comfortable. Not confident by any means, but at least I got to a point where I almost forgot that I was even naked–in front of strangers. South Korea has really done a number on my own self-image (in both a positive and negative way… maybe I can expand on this in a future blog post!)

Seeing other people being comfortable eventually helped me not focus on what my body looked like but rather the state that it was in (cleanliness, healing etc). Katie and I took our showers, scrubbed dead skin off of each other, and then climbed into the hot baths which were so refreshing. I had not been in a pool since the summertime (back in America) so it was nice being able to swim around again. After we got all cleaned up, we changed into the after-bath clothes they provide you at the sauna and then brushed out our hair and such.

We spent the next couple of hours just sitting around the main room and then the women’s only resting room just talking and relaxing on our phones. There were a couple smaller rooms with extremely high temperatures and really low temperatures and we tried each of them only for a couple of minutes. After having showered, we had no plans of getting all sweaty once again. The sauna, of course, also sold food like marinated/smoked hard boiled eggs (yes, the famous eggs you can see in Korean dramas!), ramen, snacks, and fermented rice drinks. Katie and I ended up sharing banana milk because… banana milk truly fits any occasion! Katie also used the fancy arm-bracelet-paying system to buy Dippin Dots. 

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Monkey King?

It definitely was not a very energetic Friday night but the peacefulness of everything was exactly what I wanted for an energy replenishing day. I had plans all weekend too so I needed this time to rest! It was a really good night~ And I could not have been happier to experience my first 찜질방 with Katie!

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Back at home after the night in (a sauna). Ready for bed but first, a cheeky selfie

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed reading! Would you ever dare get fully naked in front of strangers? I feel like this is an iconic experience to have in Korea but I have met my fair share of people who vow to never do it, which is totally understandable. I probably would not have ended up going during my year here if it was not for Katie. Although it was awkward, I had a great time and I highly recommend it! Do not forget to subscribe to my blog for more posts about my travels in Korea! Thank you~

  • Emma 엠마

 

Quater Squad: Pizza & Board Game Night in Hongdae (04/01/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/01/19 Monday

Today was technically April Fool’s Day but I didn’t realize this fact until halfway through the school day. I mean I didn’t pay much attention to this holiday back in the states either so it’s not too surprising. 

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Sunrise during my morning commute to High School ❤ Just trying to appreciate the little things~

School was the same basic routine. I had politics as my first class and we just did presentations the whole time (which meant work time for me) and then my second class was English (a bit more enjoyable because I can actually participate.) Because it was April Fool’s Day, a lot of teachers were allowing their classes to go outside especially since the weather was nice but Andrew was not having that. He had gotten a hair cut over the weekend and gave the excuse that his hair stylist banned him from doing such activities (AKA being outside?) as it would mess up his new hairdo. It was a pretty stupid excuse but funny nonetheless since it came out of Andrew’s mouth—you couldn’t help but laugh. Of course, however, his excuse was followed with some groans. I empathized with the other third years, it was hard focusing while watching other students run around outside enjoying the spring weather.

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Dry Erase Board with scribbles begging Andrew to let us go outside for class

Katie and I decided to skip out on lunch at 하나고 today so that I could also come to Better World early to pick up my stipend before Korean class. Katie was busy memorizing her presentation on the way to class so we went to the convenience store to pick up lunch and then went our separate ways. I ran into Jenna, Shada, and Kaitlyn at the convenience store too so we walked back to the youth center together which was nice because I did not want to be alone on that walk today. 

Korean class was nothing new… as the feeling of disappoint is something I’m getting used to as of late (wow, Emma… could you be any more depressing?) We got our monthly tests back in Korean class today and… I did so bad. I already knew I bombed my speaking test which negatively impacted my writing score as well but who would have thought I also would have done worse than normal on my reading test too! It definitely put me in a bad mood for the rest of class… (In case you missed it… here is the blog post about this particular test.)

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This was a momentous occasion! Josh finally cracking his own hard boiled eggs! (Usually I would end taking the shell off of them for him during our break time because he would always do it so wrong! Mess everywhere!) So of course, I needed to record this moment.

However, there was one shining thing that I was able to look forward to at the end of class: Quater Squad hangout! I’m pretty sure I explained the origins of our name in my first original post so if you care that much to know, refer to this post here. Kaitlyn, Liam, Josh, and I met up to have dinner together and because we were just given some fresh stipend money that afternoon, we were feeling rich—even though we were the exact opposite— and so we were ready to have a fun night!

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Quater Squad!!!

We planned to follow tradition and get pizza but since class ended at 5 pm (before we would meet up on Thursdays when class ends at 6 pm), we decided to go to a board game cafe for an hour. Actually this was an extremely spontaneous decision. First, we were just going to walk around and waste time that way but after turning down some random side streets here and there, we came across “Yellow Meeple” Board Game Cafe and the name alone was enough to pull us in. 

We spent an hour there playing a round of RummiKub and then Jenga. It was funny because Kaitlyn beat us all at the first game (she was the self-asserted Rummikub queen) but was so quick to get out at Jenga even though it seemed that Liam was trying to knock down the tower on purpose looking at all the risk moves he was pulling. Honestly, I forget how fun playing board games can be, especially when the people you are playing with are not extremely competitive and instead just enjoy the playfulness of the act. I have been playing so many board games lately! Three cafes in the last three days! Also the place we went to had actual apple juice! Like I’m not talking the sugary filled apple juice drink (the only one available at most 편의점s), but actual apple juice!! The bottle itself was cute and the cafe provided everyone with heart shaped straws which made everything taste better? It’s like how using cute stationary makes studying more fun; the same can be said about utensils! 

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After the board game cafe, we returned to the pizza place only to see that there was a little bit of a wait so we decided to keep walking around the area and explore the many pretty cafes nearby until we got a call from the restaurant. (Also, note that we were all wearing our different school uniforms and probably were an interesting sight on a Monday night. But, I was having too much fun to even mind the fact that I was wearing my school uniform in public–usually a small insecurity of mine) We wanted to hang out at a cafe after dinner to talk so we made sure to scout out which ones looked good enough to come back to.

For dinner we ordered the legendary Quater pizza with our four sections being macaroni, meat lovers, bacon & cheese, and truffle & arugula maybe? I can’t remember but it was some leafy pizza. We also ordered a side of onion rings and ‘bacon steak’ which ended up literally just being thickly cut bacon pieces. The boys seemed to be the tiniest but disappointed. The onion rings were so good, though! Unlike traditional onion rings which are made by frying the literal onion in ring shapes, these onions were mashed first and then fried in an onion ring shape. This made them easier to eat because there were no moments where you would only take one bite and take the whole onion out of the ring batter because of its shape and tough-to-chew level of difficulty. 

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After stuffing our faces with food (Also big thankful shout out to Liam for paying for the entirety of the pizza! What a hero! Who is he?!?!), we went back down the narrow alleyways around the pizza shop and found a cafe to nestle in and chat at for the next hour or so. (Kaitlyn had to be back at the station promptly within an hour because of her sucky commute—trains every hour only.) Everyone decided to order milk tea but I stayed true to my roots and ordered a green tea latte.

With the boys, we just talked about a whole handful of things. Our relationships with the other NSLI-Y students, fights between ourselves, our thoughts on language improvement, our motivations, and even how we were feeling about the end of the program being so soon. At one point I remember telling Liam and Josh (Kaitlyn had left at this point) that living in Korea for a year has felt like a dream—like my life in America had just taken a pause. Everyone else’s lives continued while I’m living in a space time continuum in Seoul. But what I don’t fully realize is that when I get home, I will be a different person for sure. I will have changed. I will be put back in the same environment but I will be different and that is going to be strange. (I mean soon I’ll be in a new environment once again when college begins.) 

I don’t know… the talk about going home made me really sad. A big part of me is ready to go home. I miss my family and my friends and I miss so many things I took for granted but at the same time… I’m gonna miss all my memories here, my freedom here, my friends here. This country has also started feeling like it belongs to me to. Even though, there are constant reminders that even if I moved here permanently, that would never be the case. As cheesy as it sounds, I have never felt the truth in the expression about a certain location keeping a piece of your heart ring more true than with my experience in South Korea. (Though, of course, New York is a close second!) 

That’s enough for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~ Till next time! If you like posts about traveling or just want to hear more about my experience studying abroad in South Korea, do not forget to follow my blog~ Thanks!

  • Emma 엠마 

Surprise Birthday Party & First Club Meeting of the Semester! (03/27/2019) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/27/19 Wednesday

The morning commute to school was a bit different today just because I had to carry a full size cake onto the train. I’ve carried birthday presents to 하나고 before but nothing quite like this. Because of my efforts to stuff the cake in a bag (so the cake box shape wouldn’t be obvious—and  the logo on the front), I ended up missing my usual train but making a later express train that got me to 연신내역 at my usual time. And because the express started out at 문신, there really weren’t many people on it so it was very comfortable. I’ll have to ride that train from now on. It gives me 14 extra minutes in the morning! How did I not know about this earlier?

Classes today were the same old same old. In 국어, there were no seats at the front of the class so I ended up sitting in the back next to some random male students and when the teacher walked in, he actually asked me why I wasn’t sitting in the front! I was shook by this immediate exclamation and my red face probably showed it. Because I was in the back, I realized that he did not single me out as much— probably because he knew I wasn’t paying as much attention as I usually do when I am in the center and at the front of the class. He told me I should come earlier so that I can get a seat at the front of the class. 🙂

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Uncle Sam wants YOU to return your library books!

I had a study period today too which was spent uploading a blog post and then working on some pages from my workbook. 세계사 was my class before lunch and because I have officially designated that class as 자습 시간, I literally just spent the whole time studying Korean. 

Katie and I stuck around 하나고 for lunch today (surprising, I know right…) and so we got to eat with all our friends. And the lunch today was honestly my favorite we have had thus far into the semester. We ate 보쌈 with huge lettuce leaves and even had pear slices for dessert. It was the best!

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After lunch, even though we were all stuffed by the really delicious lunch, we all met up at one of the lounge areas on the fourth floor in order for Katie and me to surprise 혜지 and 도윤 with their birthday cake. I bought plates and forks but forgot to buy a plastic knife (jokes on me… we found a plastic cutting knife inside the box after we finished eating…) so we just literally took the cake off the platter and put it on our plates using the forks. It was honestly really fun. 

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We hurriedly ate the cake in less than 10 minutes and then ran off to get to our next class. 혜지 did not want to take the left over cake so she handed it off to another student who ended up just sitting down and eating the cake in our classroom with some of the other girls. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight—I laughed so hard my sides were hurting. 

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우리 혜지야~ ❤

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Last class of the day was 정치와 법 and the majority of it was discussions and then we switched to lectures for the second class. I was not in the mood to pay attention and 윤세 forgot her note sheets so I gave her mine while I just did some Korean studying. 

Once school ended, it was off to our club meetings. The first club meeting of the semester! I was back with Bisera (the economics club). At first after class, 다은 and 기준 were going to take me to the meeting but I talked with a Katie a bit before separating for our respective clubs so I went by myself. I ended up running into 동철 on the staircase so we chatted for a bit and walked to the club meeting together. Apparently third years don’t really participate in their clubs (because the school would rather have them be studying for their exam in the fall–수능) but they do all tend to come to the first meeting so I got to see a lot of familiar faces: 주호 and 준호 in specific (and like I mentioned previously—동철.) We had everyone sit in a circle and I of course sat next to 지현~ We had the 3rd years and the new 1st years introduce themselves (I also did a 자기 소개 along with the Japanese exchange students that were joining us for that meeting only.) 

Besides just talking and chatting, we spent the majority of the first hour of the meeting picking out colors for our sweatshirt hoodie. I was really excited for this because I definitely want to buy one! I hope they choose a cute color~~ (Got my hopes up a bit too high… everyone ended up voting on dark concrete gray…ugh)

I had to leave before the second hour of the club started so that I could have adequate time to study for our monthly test the following day so I rushed home to pick up my books. But before I left, this teacher came into our room to do attendance and he sees me and asks “Is she really a member?” And then after everyone says “yes” in unison, he goes “Since when?” Many of the students answered back with “Originally” or “Since last year” in my defense which really touched me! I cannot wait for the next meeting! 

Lately at school, I am feeling a lot better. Last semester was kind of rough because things were so new and I felt lonely constantly but now that I have a secure group of friends and have more of a sturdy grasp on the Korean language, I feel like I am almost a part of this school :,) I know it may sound dumb but feeling like you stick out 24/7 can be frustrating. I just want to feel like I belong… In the moments that I forget that I am a foreigner and that I am different, I feel the most happy. Even if those moments are short or in frequent. They truly make up for the rest. To more days like today!

  • Emma 엠마

파주시 Eats & Cafe, 야외수업 (Outside Class), and Homeroom Teacher 상담 (3/22/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/22/19 Friday

Today was a really fun day. Thinking back on it now (about two weeks later), I can’t help but smile—especially looking at all the pictures I took from this day. I was genuinely happy during so many moments throughout the day. I can’t help but feel thankful for days like today. 

The Japanese exchange students arrived at 하나고 yesterday so everyone was still buzzing about the new students. There were about 12 students maybe? Half boys and half girls—representing about 6 schools or so among the students. In my homeroom, we watched a video introduction of them and Japanese culture which was really well edited. Though I will admit… it made me kinda sad to see how much effort the students at 하나고 put into it and how much they prepared for the Japanese students while Katie and I were left to our own devices to either sink or swim when we first arrived here. 

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One of the Japanese students in my public speaking class gave me this delicious Japanese chocolate! Best thing I have ever eaten, perhaps?!?!

Music class was the first period of the day and after we got through all the boring things about music theory, we got to sing ‘What I’ve Been Looking For’ from Disney’s High School Musical!! Honestly, I didn’t watch high school musical till the year prior when my friend group let me know that I could not finish my high school career without seeing the movie. The fact that it was an American song and something somewhat familiar made my heart skip a beat. 

For once, Katie and I felt like we knew something better than the Korean students which was nice. Singing the song was so much fun and my smile never left my face during the duration of the song. Even during break, we went into a practice room with some of the other girls in the class and practiced the song (along with random things like Justin Bieber.) It was the best music class yet. 

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Public speaking was my next class and we spent the entire class doing tongue twisters. It was truly a lot of fun. I think I have come to realize a hidden talent of mine: how fast I can say the Peter Picks a Peck of Pickled Peppers tongue twister! 

During lunch, I had to do a 상담 with my homeroom teacher so we ended up taking a short little walk to the Twosome Place Cafe near school and sitting down together to chat (while also enjoying some drinks and a cheesecake). We ended up talking about a lot of subjects: life at 하나고, making friends, 마니또, Korean class, plans with Katie, our upcoming 반모임, the templestay I will be doing this weekend! We spoke in all Korean and it was nice having time to say more to my teacher than the hurried ‘good morning’ when she is either rushing to start homeroom class or rushing to end it. 

Also the main female employee at the cafe was there and when she met my home room teacher, she kept complimenting my Korean and telling her that I come here often and that she’s always shocked by what I say. She also guessed my order before I said anything (My order being a green tea latte or a strawberry & peach frappuccino) which shows how observant she is! But also… that she likes me enough to remember my order!^^

We got back to the lunch room 10 minutes before the end of the lunch period so I ended up not being able to eat lunch… so my lunch ended up being the rest of the cheesecake that we did not finish at the cafe. It wasn’t a big deal though— I wasn’t complaining. It was my favorite flavor: raspberry cheesecake.

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After lunch I had a free study period with Katie (which is where I ate my cake!) and then it was Economics. Before our teacher came in, we (the other students and I) decorated the board with lots of pictures basically begging our teacher to allow us to go outside for class today: something known as 야외 수업. When she came into the classroom and saw all that we did, she was adamantly against letting us go outside. After a first period of actually working hard, we were able to convince her to let us roam free for the last period of the day. 

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That day, I hung out with the girls in my Economics class and the girls from the class next door (people like 소연, 서영, 예원, and of course 서린 and her Japanese exchange student friend Kana. We played some Korean games like I am grounded (I finally know how to play although I really suck at it!) as well as this flower blooming game that is very similar to the American game called Red Light Green Light. At one point, one of the math teachers came and joined us in playing the game too! (The math teacher that all the girls shriek over when he passes them in the hallway… Everyone thinks he is so attractive. The image of squealing high school girls live on here at 하나고.)

We took lots of selfies and just enjoyed the really nice weather. (We didn’t realize that it was actually going to get really cold that weekend and the week to follow…) 

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What do you call these poses? Just a bit concerned 😛

After school that day, Katie and I went back to my home station of 탄현역 to go to a cafe near my apartment. We studied for an hour or so there (Trying to get some work done since we knew we would be hanging out and having fun tonight—and there would be no work time at the temple—so we needed to be productive… though that was easier said than done.) 

For dinner, my host family, Ellen, and Katie and I went to the Chinese restaurant that was the first place I ate out with my host family: 도깨비 탕수육 (Goblin Sweet & Sour Pork) out in 파주시 (Paju-Shi). We had some delicious 탕수육 and 짬뽕. Dinner was a lot of fun! Katie and I were able to talk to my host sisters and Ellen about our days and life in general and since we are so close in age, it was fun feeling like we were actually friends! We talked about Katie’s current boy issues and just life lessons. 

After dinner, we also went to this really pretty cafe that looked like a regal furniture store that also sold handmade accessories like jewelry and purses! And it did sell all of those things… but the main purpose was a cafe! I got this really huge and yummy strawberry smoothie (it was also really expensive) and we all shared a massive plate of waffles and ice cream. Sitting all together and chatting was exactly how I wanted to spend this Friday night~~ It was such a special day. I will always remember this! 

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(I will also put Katie on blast and expose her for breaking the handle of the bathroom door. She went to turn the knob… and it just fell straight off!)

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We got home from the cafe and went on a little walk around my apartment complex. We bought some kinder eggs at the convenience store and ate those, built the little action figures, and talked for more than an hour–luckily it was not that cold this evening.

While we were sitting under the gazebo, we dished out everything that had been happening recently: ranting, complaining, and simply updating. While we were sitting there, a man walked by with this medium-sized pig on a leash. I stared at it for a second and blinked a couple times before I started silently shrieking and pointing at the animal. I was so shook! I had known there was a pig living in our apartment complex (because I had seen pictures taken by my host mom) but I was still not ready to see it! Here, big dog breeds are pretty rare so to see a pig… my jaw dropped to the floor.

Katie ended up sleeping over at my house because her host family would be going on a trip during the weekend and she could not go because of our required templestay programming so we were able to convince Better World to let her stay with me! For a sleepover! Katie finally got the taste of spending a night in a real bed which she hadn’t experienced for an entire 6 months. (She was also quite thankful because my bed is super comfy! I ended up sleeping on the floor, but it was also really comfortable.) 

We didn’t stay up too late talking or anything of that sort. We knew we needed to sleep because of the 3 am wake up call on Sunday (as per templestay routine) so we were good and went to bed by midnight. 

That’s all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I have not uploaded a blog post in so long… it has to be almost half a year now huh? It was not my intention, but I ran out of storage space. It was not until now that I was able to upgrade my WordPress site. Now I have my own domain!! Isn’t it so snazzy??? Till next time (and it will be sooner rather than later)

  • Emma 엠마