Just An Average Day in the Life of a Korean High School Exchange Student (04/16/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/16/19 Tuesday

My days were really off today (in my mind I mean). While chatting with Katie in the morning, I kept telling her that I was dreading going to 국어 and that Wednesdays were always so long… when it was in fact Tuesday. And then, I kept talking about Topik being on Saturday even though it is on Sunday! You would think that being back in school (and having so many deadlines from Better World to keep track of), I would be better about knowing the date and such but clearly, that is not the case. 

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During my usual English mentorship class today, I just self-studied in the library as midterms are approaching. The actual 하나고 students need to study for those! (And a selfie to show an exchange student staple: dark under eye circles/bags !! haha)

Actually half way through the period, two of the girls from my group—은서 and 지연—came into the room apologizing to me as they thought I was waiting for them since they never outright cancelled the meeting with me. It was really sweet to see them thinking about me! 

In music class, our teacher explained to us this project that we will be doing. We were supposed to start it last week but the teacher was absent the whole week because of the flu, so we were starting it late. But this in the end had a positive, we were not going to have to present anything! The other students were put into random groups and then allowed to pick their topics from a list (a list that she created from topics that we included in our survey about music from the first day of class back in March) based on the number of their group (also chosen randomly). Because Katie and I were in two different sections of this music class, the teacher told us that we can just work as partners and she picked our topic for us: Arirang.

I honestly find it really heartwarming that she always thinks about what we will be doing in class. Like the other day, she gave us chords to work with for our song because she thought that we might have been having trouble. The fact that she prepares stuff outside of class for us rather than forgetting we are a part of the class (and even with small things like calling our names for attendance)… most teachers don’t do even that. It feels good to be included. 

During 한국사, our teacher lectured the whole time but that did not stop me from just doing my own Korean work in class. Before class started, I noticed that 동철 was still in the class, getting ready to leave. I wanted to say hi but I worried that he might be busy so I just sat down. He actually ended up coming over to me and asking how I was and we quickly talked about midterms, third year life, and so on. At one point, he pointed out his good friend (Both 동철 and his friend took AP world history with me last year) and asked him why he wasn’t sitting next to me. He pointed out that I had no one sitting next to me on one side, so he could just plop his stuff down on that desk. His friend was laughing along but you could tell he felt really awkward and uncomfortable. Then 동철 continues on and tells me to just go move over to him. It was funny that he wanted to make me feel more included within the class but I was not about to sit next to someone who clearly wasn’t up for the interaction. It was a nice gesture, though. 

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Today was also the 5th year anniversary of the 세월호 침몰 사고 (Sewol Ferry Incident) in which a ferry carrying mostly high school students on their school trips sank–killing many. In Korea to this day, this is a sore subject and is seemingly continuously present in the collective Korean psyche. To represent this event, many people wear a yellow ribbon. (Translation of the banner: “The 5th Spring, We Will Not Forget”)

Katie and I had another mentorship class before lunch so we just did some self-studying in the special room on the third floor—it’s for meetings I believe? But there are couches! And less fitting… a BMI scale? Students kept coming into the room to use it… I originally planned on sleeping during that period but instead I went hard on the study grind. 

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For lunch, we decided to actually just eat at 하나고 early for once. This entire second semester, we have not eaten at the school cafeteria (without our group of friends) at all—not even one time under our belt. Today we just went for it and honestly, it was not bad at all. In fact, it was quite nice because there was no line and lots and lots of seats. It was also quieter and easier to talk because there were less students. 

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Of course, stopped by to get 녹차호떡 on our way to Korean class. (Gotta get our fixings in before the weather gets too warm and they stop being sold–since it is more commonly eaten during cold weather),:

Korean class today was really entertaining. We learned two new grammar points but besides that, we talked a lot about new-age technology and the advancements that humans have made. One of the readings we looked over was about new inventions involving technology that can be commonly found in the home—making people’s lives easier. One of these inventions included refrigerators with touch screens or smart screens. At first, I thought this was extra but then I realized how handy it could be… until I read the description for it in the excerpt. It literally said that “by using the smart screen on the door, you can check where the items in your fridge are placed.” I immediately called this out to my teacher. 윤아 tried defending the idea saying that you could see what was inside (or how much you had) without opening the door and though I find that somewhat valid, that’s not what the article said. It literally said you can check where the items themselves are placed. We all started erupting in laughter as I kept questioning “Why can’t you just open the door of the fridge?” 

Our teacher gave the argument that finding things in the fridge can be difficult and then josh retorts back “Not if the fridge is organized.” He then goes through his own American fridge’s organizational state–meat drawer and all. This made me laugh so hard that tears almost left my eyes. Koreans already often have another fridge for their 김치 and 반찬! They also need a fancy fridge with a screen? Our teacher asked us if our host family’s fridges are organized and we all looked at each before simultaneously saying no. We all laughed at this point and our teacher kept saying that that was why—Koreans don’t really organize their refrigerators like Americans apparently. It was a funny conversation. 

We also read a blurb of an article predicting that there would be humans marrying robots in the near future and our teacher goes “Probably from Japan! That’s a very fun country…” and then she goes on to bring up the anime girlfriend pillows. It was pretty funny. 

After class, I wasn’t in the mood to go home. In fact, I was in the complete opposite mood. I wanted to go to a 노래방 (once again) and sing some old Justin Bieber songs like Baby, One Time, One Less Lonely Girl, etc. (But only for a short period at a coin 노래방, I wanted to be home for dinner.) 

So June took Kaitlyn and I to her favorite place and we spent about half an hour there. We sang a whole slew of oldies that included Miley Cyrus’ The Climb, Demi Lovato’s Heart Attack, Taylor Swift’s Our Song and of course we sang Let it Go—the crowd favorite. 

I went home after that and I was told by my host mom that I would be eating alone tonight because my host sisters were so hungry that they already ate ramen at the 학원. She asked me what I wanted to eat and gave me three options that included 물냉면 so of course I went for that—one of my all time favorites. Eventually, my host sisters came home and they didn’t just bring themselves. They also brought back cartons upon cartons of strawberries (I’m talking at least 10) and three jars of Nutella. 

They had a cooking class at the 학원 today and the students got to eat fruit crepes. She showed me the pictures and wow did they look delicious! But it also looked like a lot of work. Nonetheless, the strawberries were delicious with the Nutella. I could have eaten that forever for sure. 

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

  • 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. 

late 10

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…)

late 2

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.

late 4

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. 

late 5

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

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.

april 6

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.

april 5

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. 

april 10

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.

april 4

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!

april 9

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 

Cafe Hopping, Teaching Korean Students American Dances, & Community Service (01/29-30/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/29/19 Tuesday

Tuesday morning I met up with Josh at Coffee Slob (Yes, the cafe I went to the previous day… it was cheap and had such a good atmosphere…so here we are!) right at their open time to study for our unit test. Well, I studied for the unit test (studying vocabulary) while Josh worked on some essays for a scholarship he is applying for. Eventually, Jenna came by and then later, Katie joined us. I feel that with some people, I can be quite productive while others… can be quite a distraction. I think that just the combination of everyone made my brain want to have fun rather than study. 

When 11 am rolled around, Katie and I separated from the group and met our supporter 혜린언니 to plan out the rest of our supporter meetings because we really needed to start getting things done. Our final presentation day is rapidly approaching! We organized what topics we wanted to bring up in our video presentation/ in the actual powerpoint presentation and assigned ourselves homework to have done by our next meeting on Thursday (after the New Year–설날–holidays).

Before Korean class, I met up with Kaitlyn and Harmony at the youth center and had a very nutritious 편의점 lunch. (I know it is sad that I have not been eating real food here but the timing is not right… plus I am always doing some last-minute studying… Cannot exactly do that while scarfing down some real Korean food. We had a lot of fun before class because we were freaking out about where everyone was. It was 5 minutes before 2pm (the start of class) and only Harmony, Alix, Kaitlyn, and I were there. Every time the elevator opened, we expected to see some of the other NSLI-Yians but they were not showing up. Random Korean adults were just coming out to go to their rented conference rooms. Eventually, the rest of my class showed up 3 minutes before 2pm but the other three girls from 1반 actually were late (They were doing their field trip for the research project.)


I will not be posting the video but I did film us freaking out about no one showing up including time updates. It was a lot of laughing and clips of the elevator opening to show no NSLI-Y students.

During class, we learned the last two grammar points that would be on our test and if I am being honest, one of them confused me to no end… I still really do not understand the point of it… Maybe I can get it down by the test? Class went by really quick and within a blink of an eye, it was over. I ended up going straight home because I knew it was the last night my eldest host sister had at home before leaving for Japan. However, when I got home, her stomach was badly hurting and my other host sister had already eaten ramen so I ate some noodles by myself.


01/30/19 Wednesday

On Wednesday I had plans besides community service for an hour at night; however, after texting Kaitlyn about what she was doing before community service…she convinced me to also join her and June for the afternoon session of community service (unlike the nighttime section which just involves us serving and eating with the kids, this session was about introducing them to American culture!) I gave her the idea of teaching them American dances (Cotton Eyed Joe and Cha Cha Slide) which they both loved–probably because they both love to dance! I knew they would be all for it. Usually, I do not do the afternoon sessions but Liam and Jacquelyn would not be there, so I joined them so that it would not be just the two of them.

It was the day before our big unit test and I wanted to make sure I would be productive so I went to the area near the youth community center and found a cafe to sit in and study at. I went to Tous Les Jours and sat down with a cup of coffee (I know… unusual but I knew it would be a long night!) Kaitlyn came and joined me after a while and we both left to meet June at another nice cafe nearby. We made plans for what we were going to do with the students at the center before just chatting. I used this time to also continue my studies–trying to review as much grammar as possible before getting home later that night (to make my workload lighter).

During our community service session, we gathered all the students onto the huge stage to teach them the dances. I was the one put in charge of explaining the directions to them and because everyone had so much energy, it was quite difficult getting them to listen to us. But nevertheless, it was really fun teaching them the dances. When the familiar music turned on and we showed them all the dance moves, I immediately thought of school dances back in high school. As silly as it sounds, I thought of all the happy memories I have had with my friends dancing to such obnoxious but catchy songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy the dances as well. Unfortunately, we ran out of dances to teach them and they were getting really antsy and restless, June and Kaitlyn started showing them Korean songs. The kids seemed to really enjoy just running around and doing random dance moves to the melody. At the end of the session, when we still had 10 more minutes to entertain the children, June started showing them her gymnast tricks–cartwheels, flips, and even a walking handstand! It was cool to me too!

After our session, we said goodbye to June. Kaitlyn and I walked over to a nearby Kyochon Chicken and shared some honey chicken and a salad for dinner. After eating, to kill more time, we ended up at Twosome Place (I also got some more studying done there!)

Shada joined us for our 급식 community service at 6 pm and we served our second dinner here at the community center. We thought it would go smoothly as we remembered the procedure, but they had no clean trays or utensils so we had to make do with plastic trays and chopsticks. At one point we ran out of plastic spoons… so some kids had to eat their soup like it was a drink. We took such a long time serving the food (and the kids kept coming up to get food and seconds pretty late into the hour) so by the time we served ourselves, it was too late to eat with the kids, unfortunately. They were all cleaning up the classroom while we ate dinner and wrote our reflection. And then while we were cleaning up all the food, they left so we did not get to walk them home either… A bit disappointing but it was still a nice session. Seeing the kids again from earlier in the day and of course, Shada and Kaitlyn are great company.

I came home and studied well into the night. I finished writing example sentences for all the grammar points and I also finished my workbook assignment. Lastly, I went through almost ten vocab sets and tried to memorize everything. It was a long and stressful night. I was so nervous for the unit test! Mostly because I felt like I had not studied enough… this was winter break… I should be trying harder!

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time!


  • Emma 엠마

10 Things to Eat in Seoul, South Korea!!~ {서울에서 먹을 수 있는 10가지 일들}

안녕하세요 여러분!~ To go along with my blog post about ten things to do in Seoul, South Korea, I thought I would also write a blog post about ten things to Eat in Seoul, South Korea. The way to my heart is definitely food and there was never a lack of delicious food in Seoul. On every single block, there will be restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores galore! Sometimes looking at the menu and choosing what to eat can be pretty difficult. So hopefully some of these foods will make it on your “food bucket list!”

(1. 빙수 (Korean Shaved Ice Dessert – bing-soo)

  • Bingsu is a summertime favorite for Koreans and tourists alike. (It definitely stole my heart!) It is a shaved ice dessert topped with a variety of things: condensed milk, fruit, nuts, cake pieces, chocolate, red bean, and more. I like to describe eating bingsu like eating sweet snow. Though it is shaved ice, it does not resemble the crunchy, hard shaved ice found in the states. It is softer and more flavorful and that is why it is so very delicious!


(2. 돈까스 (Fried Pork Cutlet – ton-ka-seu)

  • I believe Donkatsu is originally a Japanese dish, but Korea has created its own version of it. This is such an unhealthy meal but that is what makes it so delicious. Donkatsu is a fried pork cutlet which is usually served plain; however, you can also find some tasty spin-offs like Cheese Donkatsu (치즈 돈까스) and Sweet Potato Donkatsu (고구마돈까스). Donkatsu is usually topped with a gravy sauce of sorts or mayonnaise or both! My favorite place to eat Donkatsu is at Kimbap Heaven (김밥천국). Definitely, try it out!~


(3. 삼겹살 (Korean grilled pork belly – sam-gyup-sal)

  • Samgyupsal is fatty pork belly slices that are grilled. It is usually eaten with lettuce (상추), spinach (시금치), garlic (마늘), kimchi (김치), and onions (양파). The leafy vegetables are often used to wrap the meat into a ball. My favorite way to eat samgyupsal is to wrap it with radish (무). Korean barbecue and samgyupsal outside of Korea is delicious but nothing can compare to what you can eat in Korea!


(4. 김밥 (Seaweed rice rolls – gim-bap)

  • 김밥 is a really easy (and usually cheap) meal or snack that is very delicious. Kimbap is basically seaweed rice rolls with various ingredients like egg, tuna, ham, cheese, kimchi, carrots, radish, cucumber, and more. It is often compared to sushi rolls except that kimbap is not made with raw fish or seafood. Kimbap Rolls are a quick meal to eat on the go and can be purchased at convenience stores. 삼각김밥 (Triangle Kimbap) is the popular type of kimbap that can be purchased at a convenience store for very cheap. When you are low on cash, want some fresh, healthy food, or need some portable food for a busy lifestyle or picnic, Kimbap Rolls are the way to go!


(5.  국수/면류 (Noodles – gook-soo/myun-ryu)

Noodles are a staple of Korean cuisine and many dishes focus around all types of noodles: buckwheat noodles, wheat flour noodles, and even sweet potato noodles. They fill you up really well and are also super tasty!~ There are so many noodle options in Korea. And you can even get other cultures’ noodles very easily as Korea has a very diverse range of noodle selections: Japanese, Chinese, Italian, etc. Even simple ramen from the convenience store can prove to be delicious– especially if you are hungry. Just make sure to read whether the noodles are spicy or not, you do not want to accidentally take part in the fire noodle challenge XD !!


(6. 치킨 (Fried Chicken- chi-kin)

The combo of Chicken and Beer is a beloved one. The slang for this combo is 치맥 (chi-maek). But besides being a good food to eat whilst drinking, fried chicken is enjoyed by Koreans of all ages. Korea has normal fried chicken like KFC chicken, but Korea also has their own version of fried chicken– and it is delicious. The batter is different and a lot of times, the chicken is covered in pepper flakes to make it spicy. Radish is also often paired with fried chicken to compliment its flavors. The best fried chicken in Korea, hands down, is at 교촌 치킨 (kyo-chon chi-kin). And if you do not like spicy, you can always get the original or honey flavored chickens.


(7. 와플/토스트 (Waffles/Toast – wa-peul/to-seu-teu)

I never really thought about turning waffles and toast into desserts–and that the transformation would end well–before visiting South Korea. But now, if I am being honest, all waffles should be sweet! You can get waffles on the street or in cafes covered with sweet syrups, cinnamon, whipped cream, and chocolate. Toasts also come in a wide variety of flavors and are mostly cafe dishes but you can find some toast vendors on the street.


(8. 떡볶이 (Spicy Rice Cakes – ddeok-bok-ki)

Ddeokbokki is probably one of the most famous dishes of Korea. It is the dish foreigners usually first learn about, and Korea makes sure to advertise it on every travel show and brochure. Ddeokbokki can come in different forms with some being in a liquid based sauce while others are dry. My favorite way to eat ddeokbokki is with ramen. Cheese ddeokbokki is also very tasty~ And you can not have ddeokbokki without fish cakes too!


(9. 버블티 (Bubble Tea – buh-beul-tee)

Bubble tea can be an oddity to Americans who have never tried it, but once you do, your whole life will change. Bubble tea is a tea-based drink with milk and tapioca balls (Though you can see a shop on every block in Korea, this drink was actually created in Taiwan.) In most shops, you can ask to change the amount of sugar and ice in your drink which can really alter the flavor of your drink. It all depends on how much of a sweet tooth you are. And if you say you drink bubble tea, but that you do not eat the pearls… you are a disgrace.


(10.  길거리 음식 (Street Food – gil-geo-ri eum-sik)

The concept of street food can be found in other cities– like New York where you can buy hot dogs for cheap or a nice smoothie. But, there are other places, like Chicago, where street food is not as common as an occurrence. Luckily, Koreans love their street food and there is always lots of it! Especially at night at the most crowded popular places. You can get things ranging from 붕어빵 with red bean or custard to spicy chicken, egg bread, candied strawberries, octopus, 번데기 (silkworm pupae), and ice cream. This type of food is rarely healthy but it can be cheap and a perfect sidekick to a night of shopping.



And that is all I have in store for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading about foods you must try while you are in Korea. I did not want to do too many of the more popular foods– like bibimbap or kimchi–but I had to include some famous ones: ddeokbokki, samgyupsal, and kimbap. I also hope you did not read this at midnight or on an empty stomach… if you did, I am sorry. Book a flight to Korea right now!

  • Emma (敏娜)

Words Of Appreciation

Since I have been back from Seoul, South Korea I haven’t been able to express my gratitude to some people that made my experience on the NSLI-Y program amazing. Therefore, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I felt that it was necessary to make a post expressing my thanks to some people even though they will probably not read anything that I write on here. Now I wont have the ability to thank everyone that deserves a thank you for making my experience great, but I mean well. This post would be so long if I did all that. This is going to be a very long post already… and I am writing it to make myself happy. So I am warning you, if you decide to keep going… this may take you several minutes to read.

A quick shout out to my apartment complex’s security guards, the nice woman who worked at 7/11 near 숙대, the most hilarious Dragon Beard Candy (꿀타래) vendors, and so many more!~ Authors Note: This list is in no particular order!

My Host Family

  • My Korean Mom

    I am so thankful for my host mom. She honestly made me feel so at home even though I was thousands of miles away from my home. I was definitely awkward with her during the first few weeks and my Korean was awful, but she was still so patient with me no matter where or what we were doing. She tried extra hard to make sure I was doing okay by constantly asking me if I needed help with my Korean homework and asking me about twenty times per night if I was still hungry and if I wanted watermelon, yogurt, tiramisu, or whatever else she had handy.host-fam-6

    I also loved the fact that she always talked to me. This might not seem like much but I truly enjoyed those breakfast and dinner conversations we would have. She would talk to me like I was a native Korean making sure to speak Korean normally to me. I am able to understand Korean pretty well and that is because she never used her amazing English skills with me if I didn’t ask her to. We would talk about her students, life at home, and how I was doing in Korea. If I didn’t understand something, I would ask and then she would tell me what the word translated to in English. My host mom also always expressed her pride in me when I would speak Korean. She always cheered me on. It made me feel so good when I would talk to her in Korean (and use a new vocabulary word or grammar point) and she would tell me how she had noticed me improving from the first week. One moment I specifically remember was when I told her about where I had eaten cold noodles with chilled broth (물냉면) earlier that week. I told her “저는 친구들이랑 숙대근처 물냉면을 먹었어요.” She was so proud of me for simply using the word “근처” which means near/close to. I thought it was a simple word that everyone would know (and I still think it is) but it made me really happy that my host mom told me I was improving and that she could tell. I can’t wait to come back to Seoul in the future and be able to see my host mom again. I miss her so much and our Kakao messages are simply not enough for me.

  • Host Dad

    My host dad and I definitely didn’t get as close as I did with my host mom but I didn’t have a bad relationship with him either. He meant well but we didn’t talk too much as he was very nervous to speak English and was even nervous when I would speak to him in Korean but nonetheless I am thankful for him. He would usually just tell my host mom to tell me anything he wanted to say. My host dad was great. Because even though we didn’t talk as much, he was still nice to me by basically making all my meals while I was in Korea. My host mom believed that she wasn’t a good cook and all she would make for the family was eggs (계란), rice (밥), and Donkatsu (돈까스). He would wake up earlier than he needed to every weekday to make me breakfast. He could have given me cereal but he instead made me nice breakfasts of different types of Korean soups, fried rice, and meat/seafood dishes. He also took me out to eat dinner with him and my host brothers on several occasions for things like Korean barbecue (삼겹살) and Black bean noodles (짜장면). thu-6

But my favorite memory with my host dad was the day before I left for America. It was the morning of my graduation ceremony and only my host mom and host brothers would be going. While I was eating the breakfast he made me, he started talking to me like a motivational speaker… and it was in English. My host dad was terrified of speaking English and hearing him do it on the last day made me so happy to see him try because he really wanted me to understand what he was saying. It made me start tearing up and he kept telling me to stop crying. But I will always remember what he ended his “speech” with.

“Live for you, not others. It is important” – Host Dad

  • Host Brothers

My host brothers and I didn’t get as close as I had imagined I would with my host siblings but I don’t think badly towards them because of it. We both had to deal with a language barrier and we didn’t have too many common characteristics to bond over. But I am glad that my host brothers were my host brothers because they allowed me to work towards a better relationship and though I didn’t see it as a very good one at first, it definitely got better compared to the first week or so when my youngest host brother would whine about sitting next to me at the breakfast table. We had our moments when we would talk and I brought them home treats. I still remember the first time my host brothers tried War Heads and they ran around the kitchen screaming and then my host dad ate one like it was a strawberry — with no reaction whatsoever. It was pretty funny to me since I love sour candy. The best thing I did for my younger host brother was go to his soccer practices and games. Even though I felt that I didn’t do enough with my host brothers, I tried and my experience in Korea wouldn’t have been the same without them and so I am thankful. My host brothers taught me that sometimes the littlest things are what you remember and cherish the most.


He asked me to take a picture of him

Like the time I went walking to the convenience store with my youngest host brother and when we passed his school, he showed me the bunny they had in a cage by the gate. He was telling me stories about the bunny and even though I didn’t understand much of it, I enjoyed the thought that he was sharing part of his life with me. Once I left Korea, my host mom messaged me on Kakao one day telling me that my host brothers told her that the house felt weird without me and that was the best thing anyone could tell me.

My Supporter Group

  • Sujin

Sujin was my supporter. She had to be with me. She had to act as a tutor. But what she didn’t have to act as was my friend. I grew so close to my supporter group and Sujin. From what I observed from all the other supporter groups on my program, I would probably say that my supporter group got the closest. Sujin was the best supporter ever! When I first met her I really wanted to make her like me but I knew it would be a bit more difficult since my Korean language skills were not too great… especially compared to Jodi’s and Casey’s Korean language skills. Sujin and I were able to forge a friendship that pushed passed language barriers and when I improved my Korean, our friendship grew and got more meaningful. I miss hearing her laugh when I ask her for the millionth time to repeat something and her stern voice when reprimanding Jodi for whatever she had done. I want to thank Sujin so much since she really did make my experience better.


Sujin ❤

So much that when I found out that she couldn’t come say goodbye to us at the airport like she had planned, I (and Jodi) spent a good 20 minutes crying to Casey about how much we would miss her. I still text my supporter Sujin very often and I know one of the first things I will do when I return to Korea, is to visit her and hopefully catch up at a nice cafe. In particular our favorite cafe,  카페 아레카 (Cafe Areca).

  • Jodi

죠디!!!  NSLI-Y is such a great experience due to the people you will meet and the relationships you will create during the duration of the program. Jodi was no exception. Until the supporter meeting started, I hadn’t talked too much with Jodi and I am so glad we were able to get close through our supporter meetings. Jodi and I got close super quickly and I enjoyed every minute that we spent together whether it be stuffing our faces with banana milk (바나나 우유), triangular kimbap (삼각김밥), or simply making konglish (Korean and English) jokes.



Jodi never failed to make me laugh and she was always there when I needed help with my Korean in class. I want to thank her for making my supporter group one of the best parts of my NSLI-Y experience.

  • Casey

Oh Casey! 오 미선! I miss my Casey so much! Casey and I always joked around in class, during our supporter meetings, and especially just hanging around in Seoul. She and I would be immersed in laughing fits from the littlest things and I never regretted any moments I spent with Casey. I also want to thank Casey for always helping me out during supporter meetings. Whenever I couldnt understand Sujin completely, Casey would be there helping me out making sure I didn’t lose out on any important information. She also never failed to cheer me on when I impressed her with something I said in Korean. Casey and I could talk to each other for hours and I truly miss our conversations.thurs-7

Our skype calls always remind me why we are such close friends even though we don’t see each other every day any more. I want to thank Casey for being there every step of the way making my journey in Korea the most fun I could imagine (and for calming me down when I started crying at the airport. It meant a lot).

My Korean Class

  • Classmates

I have never loved a class more than my Korean class 나무반 (Tree Class). Sure I have had fun in my classes back at home from time to time but I have never had such an interest in a class before that everything we do is fun to me. Even when I would get only 5 hours of sleep, I was always still looking forward to class. I want to thank all my 나무반 classmates for making Korean class so fun and interesting. If it wasn’t for all our funny jokes and ridiculous answers to our teachers questions. (I am looking at you Jesse! *cough cough 결혼한 여자 *cough cough ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ.)


I am thankful for the white board in the back that we never used for class but as the days went on, more and more weird and funny drawings started collecting on it. I am thankful for all the positive attitudes that everyone brought to class every single day and I am super thankful for all those runs to the convenience store during our ten minute breaks because those green tea bars, chocolate mushroom snacks, and pepero saved me from my always growling stomach. My classmates made my Korean class the best! I am really thankful for this experience. Korean classes in college could never be this good! 🙂

  • My Teachers

Teaching a foreign language is definitely difficult but my Korean teachers didn’t make it seem that way at all. In my Spanish class back home, especially during my freshman year, we were always using English during class. However, I can count the amount of times I used English in class on both my hands. My Korean teachers made learning fun and always encouraged us if we didn’t understand. We were engaged with constant role plays and questions and we got enough examples for each grammar point to last us a lifetime! I want to thank them so much for helping me improve my Korean language skills and being able to see my improvement as well. Receiving the most improved award at the end of the program ceremony made me super happy. I knew I improved and knowing that they could see it too… made me thankful for having such great and observant teachers.


감사합니다 이선생님 그리고 박선생님!~

 Resident Directors


  • Madeline

고마워요 메들린!~ Madeline was such a great resident director. Sometimes I felt that I was annoying her going to talk to her every morning and between classes with Sofia but I honestly just enjoyed talking to her. Even though I never had a real emergency while I was in Korea I know that if I did, I could count on Madeline to help me out with anything. Plus, saying “Madeline!” every time I would see a “Madeline Shirt” in Hongdae, Edae, or Myungdong was pretty great. I got lots of stares too! By the time the end of the program came around, I felt so much closer to Madeline.gyeong-14

The more time I got to spend talking to her did not only create good memories, but also a good friendship as well. I can’t wait to soon have the opportunity to meet up with her in NYC! It has been long enough!

  • JT

JT쌤! ㅎㅎㅎ 고마워요! It was really funny meeting JT for the first time since I didn’t even know that we had another resident director. I saw him walking around the patio of Washington University and was really confused on why one of the Japanese students was so interested in talking to everyone. I soon found out he was our RD when he came and started talking to my table about what got us interested in the Korean language. I am so thankful for JT being such a great RD and making me laugh so much. Since he was in charge of the cooking club I got to talk to him a lot more than I probably would have if it wasn’t for the club. He made everything so fun and he would get so excited for us for the silliest things. For example, he would smile so big whether it was just us succeeding in flipping our 김치전 (Kimchi Jeon – basically a crispy kimchi pancake), talking to him in Korean and not English, or just asking him about his time in Michigan. I will never forget JT for being a savage towards me and also being so sassy. I am thankful for having him on our program which made my experience even better. He also gave all 49 of us permission to come to his house in 8 years from the day we arrived in Korea for a potluck dinner and ramen! I mean it wasn’t exactly permission… but I know we will be coming. 😉


End of the Program Ceremony 😦

“You think you’re smart but you’re not!” – JT


Sofia!!!!! I can honestly say that I probably got the closest to Sofia out of everyone I met on the trip and for that I am so thankful! When I first met her at the airport and talked to her on the shuttle ride, she was so quiet and I thought she didn’t like me. I hovered around Angie during the entire time in Seattle and didn’t give much thought to anyone else since I was scared I would have trouble making lots of friends (which soon proved to not be difficult at all). I started bonding with Sofia on the plane ride to Korea since we sat next to each other on the plane. You can’t help but become friends with someone you spent 10 hours with in a small confined place. I got to see Sofia change and grow as a person and we started hanging out more and more once we found out we were in the same class.sm-10

Most of my blog posts mention Sofia or are about an adventure I had with Sofia because we honestly became best friends seeing each other basically every day. I am thankful for Sofia since we did so many things together and we grew so close. I still talk to her every single day and we skype sometimes too. NSLI-Y would not have been the same without her and she knows it too 🙂 I can’t wait to meet up with her this summer in New York!~Best Reunion ever! ❤


고마워 소피아!~ 사랑해!~

NSLI-Y8 Family

What is NSLI-Y8? NSLI-Y8 is the 8th group of NSLI-Y scholars to Seoul, South Korea. I was lucky enough to be apart of this amazing group of people and I could not be more thankful!~ These 49 people made my trip amazing. I didn’t have the chance to get close to everyone but I am thankful to say that I didn’t leave without talking to everyone and I was able to start a good relationship with everyone on the program. The Nsliyians on my program were honestly some of the best people I have ever met and it had to do with the combination of their awesome personalities and us sharing common characteristics like our passion and love for the Korean language and culture. Whether it be being able to text our group chat and plan fun activities or simply walking around during break and joining peoples after school plans, there was never a moment of isolation. Everyone included everyone and no cliques were formed. I am thankful for no drama!!!!


Everyone worked so hard with their Korean and made the most of their time in Seoul. I was able to make so many amazing memories with spending time with my NSLI-Y8 family!~

나는 니슬리8 가족을 너무 사랑해~ ❤ !!! 고마워~

The People that Made this Possible

Last but not least a huge thank you to everyone that was able to make my trip to Seoul, South Korea possible. That means my lovely parents for allowing me to take a hold of this amazing opportunity. The State Department for seeing the benefits of sponsoring this program for the rising generations. IEarn for doing all the “behind the scene” stuff to make this program to Korea a reality. The Better World Staff for making our time in Seoul a blast and making sure everything in country ran smoothly from the start. My Spanish Teacher for writing my recommendations and supporting me on this endeavor. All my amazing friends back home who were always supportive every step of the way especially when I was able to share the good news. And a thanks to everyone at my old middle school and those teachers who encouraged me to follow my passion (even though some called it a phase). I would not have been here today if It wasn’t for the influences of those around me. Lastly, thank you to Elaine. A Korea summer and year alum that was the one who introduced me to the NSLI-Y program in 7th grade. Who knows where I would be without her. Thank you all so much! I am so grateful for everyone.

And thank you for reading. I hope this encourages you to thank the ones that have helped you on whatever journey your dreams will take you on and if NSLI-Y is that dream, I wish you the best of luck!~ It is worth it — TRUST ME!

Emma 엠마

“Whatever happened this past year, be thankful for where it brought you. Where you are is where you are meant to be.” – Mandy Hale


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

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


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

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


Outside the Stadium



Seoul VS Ulsan (서울 VS 울산)


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



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


PC: Host mom’s family friends high quality camera

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

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


Picture of a Vuvuzela from Google

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

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

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


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


It was VERY delicious!~


My host brother enjoying his waffle

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

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

  • 엠마 (Emma)