Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Day 2: Traditional Korean Feast (진수성찬) & Exploring Gyeongju Hanok (한옥) 05/19/19 (NSLIY Korea AY)

05/19/19 Sunday

Woke up in our 한옥 (traditional Korean house) the morning of our last day in Gyeongju. Despite having slept on the floor and the chilly nighttime temperatures, I slept so soundly. Perhaps all the tears from the previous night helped with that since I feel like sleep after a good cry can rival anything. We all woke up rather early and got ready for another day with a planned-out agenda by Better World although 민정쌤 had said we would be having some free time after lunch to explore the area near where we slept, do some souvenir shopping, etc. 

The outfit I chose for the day actually matched our 한옥 perfectly so Addie offered to take some photos of me with her professional Canon camera and I will forever cherish these photos and have changed all my profile photos!

For breakfast, we were handed out pastries from a local bakery as well as fruit pies from McDonald’s for breakfast? I was a little confused because these fruit pies are most likely filled with so much sugar and are 100% considered dessert to me but hey, it was still tasty–processed or not. It was a nice, quick breakfast on the bus!

Our first stop of the day was a historical center in which Better World had rented out a room with projector capabilities in order to have a pre-departure/re-entry orientation for heading back to America. This was a very depressing time of the trip because I would have much rather allowed myself to be distracted by new and engaging activities and not discussing our impending return to the states. We of course had to talk about the infamous W curve which illustrates the roller coaster of emotions common to the plight of an exchange student. Of course, this curve does not only apply to time in one’s host country but also when returning to one’s home community and culture.

Credit: From GW’s Study Abroad Page

We discussed that it would be quite normal to experience a period of adjustment in which we may feel shock or conflicting feelings about being home and having to readjust to our previous lives after having experienced so much. We talked about how isolating may feel like one of the only options after feeling like a changed person but being placed back into an environment that is the same (and yet at the same time, so different). I was sitting next to Kaitlyn during this presentation and we also mentioned how the thought of returning kind of feels like water displacement–like when you get into a tub. You might have perfectly fit in the bath before but after returning and trying to re-familiarize yourself with this old life (old bath water? Ugh this simile…), clearly, things cannot help but shift and change.

We also were handed back these little goal sheets that we had filled out at our very first orientation and the one we had over winter break. We were given a new half sheet of paper that had a little drawing of a man in an airplane. We were instructed to write the things that will be hard to leave behind, our contributions to the NSLI-Y program as a whole and what we are most looking forward to upon arriving home.

Wow my handwriting…is kind of atrocious..

I will include a picture of what I wrote but I did want to highlight what I was looking forward to about returning to my cozy Chicago suburb because I was, in fact, homesick.

  • Seeing my best friends (Kara, Courtney, Brianna, Jazmin, Grace!! I have missed you guys!!!)
  • Hugging my mom (I could cry just thinking about it honestly. Never have I ever cherished my family more)
  • Pizza & Pancakes (What can I say… I am a simple girl and a foodie)
  • Not feeling lost, uncomfortable, misunderstood 24/7 (I try to be as positive as I can but I would be lying if I said living in Korea–as a foreigner–was a walk in the park)
  • College (Just like how Korea had been a long-held dream of mine, so has been attending college at my dream school in NYC!)

Thinking about these things and the countless other things that I could not write out (sorry to my brothers if they are reading this..) did help me put into perspective that all good things must come to an end so even better things can occur in the future.

The meeting was pretty serious but Kaitlyn and I still found time to goof around like when she stole my phone and started taking photos hehe compiled here for your viewing pleasure.

After our final orientation was over, it was lunchtime and we got back on the bus to return to the area around our accommodation which was close to a very popular shopping street in Gyeongju known as 황리단길 (Hwangnidan-gil or Hwangnidan Street) which is famous for the 한옥 architecture of many family homes or guest houses and very lovely cafes and boutiques to add to the atmosphere. 

Luckily the weather was better today (no rain!! My rain dance this morning worked!!) but it was still quite cloudy so the sky was dark but it was still nice to be able to walk around without the hindrance of umbrellas and those icky ponchos. For lunch, we came to this restaurant that seemed to be a couple smaller buildings/private rooms all a part of this one place so we were able to be separated from the others. The restaurant was also all 한옥 structure so maybe that was why the buildings were separated as we walked through a sort of courtyard/common area of the house. The greenery in this restaurant was also insane and so so beautiful! As for the meal, we had what my first host dad would have called a 진수성찬 (Korean word for feast). I am not sure if this has been a story I changed before but this was a word my host dad taught me back in September for 추석 (Korean Harvest Holiday/Thanksgiving) and it has stuck with me ever since. Everytime I have a big meal–this word pops in my mind.

Once we were stuffed beyond our stomachs’ capacities, we got free time to walk around and explore. I mostly followed Harmony and Kaitlyn back and forth to different shops and boutiques. The window displays of every single building we passed by was so expertly curated that I wanted to go into every store! There was this one stationary store that we visited which I really had to hold myself back because I honestly could have convinced myself to buy so many things for the prospect of making my scrapbook beautiful (Yes, I scrapbook and yes I will dedicate an entire book for this year~ Stay tuned for a post about it!)

I ended up buying a couple of postcards/art print and washi tape with illustrations of the historical locations of 경주 as well as two pairs of earrings because there was a sale. Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I also took some sticker photos to commemorate this trip!

The girls made it on my cork board ❤

And would it really be an excursions with NSLI-Yians if there were not any group photos?

Eventually, it was time to return to the station and I ended up buying a box of 황남 빵 (Hwangnam Bread) or 경주 빵 (Gyeongju Bread) which is a speciality pastry of this city filled with red bean paste. I was intending to study Korean on the KTX ride home but… I fell asleep instead… what can I say, traveling is exhausting! I remember returning to my host family this night and showing off the souvenirs I bought before literally falling asleep through dinner. I later had a late night meal of ramen with my younger host sister as I stayed up, cramming for my Korean final tomorrow. Oh, how I love being a student.

Wish me luck! 

Thanks for reading~ Next post will be quite exciting because although I am taking my final test, I will also be spending the day with my Korean class and teacher and visiting some old, familiar faces from the first time I had ever been to Korea~ 기대주세용 

  • Emma 엠마

P.S. Also something fun for the kids in my NSLI-Y Cohort~

Enjoy this picture of 울 사랑하는 민정쌤~

Exploring a Hanok Village & Insadong Souvenir Shopping {05/08-09/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

5/08/19 Wednesday

I feel horrible but this day might win the record for having the shortest explanation because I have barely any pictures from it and it’s been so long… I forgot what I did!! 

After school on this day, Katie needed to go home early for some reason so we couldn’t have our usual study date at our favorite Twosome Cafe. However, instead of going home right away, we did spend some time exploring the 한옥마을 (Hanok Village) across the street from our high school. We enter the village quite frequently to buy coffee or snacks at the convenience store or to visit our cafe but we have not really spent any time just walking around and enjoying the scenery. So today, we decided to do just that. We picked up some ice cream from the convenience store and took a walk. It was so nice to walk through the streets and appreciate the gorgeous architecture that makes up 한옥s. The buildings themselves seemed to be mostly be private residences while some were made into cafes, tea houses, or small clothing boutiques. We found this one bridge that really made me feel like I was being transported back in time as we kept making our way closer and closer to the center of the neighborhood. It was so quiet and peaceful. Less touristy than other 한옥 villages which was perfect! 

5/09/19 Thursday

The only really memorable class of today was my AP Econ class because instead of our normal lecture, we played a hands on game with a group of students! So the game was basically utilized to talk about wages within the market and supply-and-demand. Every group was randomly handed a job relating to the production of bananas. My group was given the “lowest job” which was a banana farmer. The others included the plantation owner, the transporter, the grocery store manager, etc. We all had to agree on how much each job should get paid. It was pretty interesting but since we were given the obvious choice for the job that would get the least amount of pay… we were stuck being severely underpaid!! At the end of the game, our teacher handed us all chocolate coins to symbolize how much money we would earn at the end of the hour and we only got 2 coins… (We did get more at the end though! So that every student could have one to eat, of course!)

Katie and I decided to not eat lunch at school today because we did have Korean class so we left right after our fourth period and made our way to 홍대. We stopped to get some green tea 호떡 on the way over. 

For lunch, we changed things up a bit and surprise, did not eat convenience store food!! We went to McDonald’s!! We shared some chicken tenders and intended to eat some French fries with vanilla ice cream but !!! McDonald’s ice cream machine was broken!! Who would have thought!! McDonald’s is not any better in Korea when it comes to their ice cream machine … yikes. 

We left McDonald’s with our fries and treated ourselves to convenience store ice cream. There is an ice cream sale happening all of May that if you get at least three ice creams, they all cost the same!! It’s such a good deal!! I also shook things up today with my ice cream selection and got a Melona Bar instead of my usual red bean fish ice cream.

Korean class today was something. I haven’t laughed so much in class like today in a while. I wasn’t stressed or feeling negative today at all. I truly enjoyed class and participated a whole lot!! Today, we also learned more about my Korean teacher when it comes to her past love life. Our teacher went around and asked us if were dating anyone because recently she had become intrigued by any possible love interests within the NSLI-Y program and when she came around to asking Jacquelyn, Jacquelyn had an answer that we were not expecting: she did in fact have a boyfriend, and a Korean one at that! Our teacher’s soul practically jumped out of her body as she rejoiced at this information. She then immediately deflated after Jacquelyn told her that she was gonna breakup with him before the end of the program because long distance never works. Our teacher went on a whole rant to express her disapproval!! She talked about how a good amount of Koreans are in long distance relationships because of the military (It is mandatory for all Korean men to serve in the military for about 2 years) and so they are innately good at it? (Maybe I understood this part…wrong?) She also brought up the fact that her first relationship was long distance (and that she had her first kiss pretty late in comparison to most because of that fact). She kept telling Jacquelyn that she could make their love last! It was quite heartwarming to witness our teacher being so enthusiastic about this topic. And in order to make this part of class truly educational, we of course had to learn the vernacular for long distance relationships and even the shorthand slang for it as well.

After class, Alix and I went to 인사동 to start buying souvenirs for our friends and family back home. We changed out of our uniforms at the youth center (Because no way we were gonna be dressed as school girls at the most touristy place in Korea practically) and did some shopping along the Main Street. We wanted to go to the poop cafe (yes, this kind of establishment DOES exist in Korea! You can eat stew out of heated toilet bowls and chocolate ice cream shaped like you-know-what) but we didn’t get to 인사동 until after 6 and unfortunately, we were too late. To make up for it, we did get poop shaped chocolate stuffed bread. It was just as delicious as expected. 

We walked around the shops filled with items mostly designed by independent artists. We went into this one cat store that Alix fell in love with at first sight. In their window display, they even had keychains of fake cat poo! It was pretty ridiculous. We each ended up buying a Korean book at this bookstore we also visited; I bought the Korean version of Peter Pan. The illustrations were absolutely gorgeous and I was able to understand he majority of the first page which made me take the leap to purchase it. (The amount of books I am buying in Korean for my future studies… is A LOT! I may need to send them to the states in their own box because they may be too heavy in my suitcase.

While walking around, we stumbled upon this store selling traditional Korean masks like the ones we saw being used for the mask dance in 안동 (That blog post linked here). There was even a wall with a variety of smaller sized masks that can be worn as a necklace (or used as decoration). They were also a really good price (Maybe about $5 each if I can remember correctly?) considering that they were handmade! The coolest part was that above each mask, the type of “character” it represented was also written. Alix and I were able to pick out the ones we saw in the dance like the fool character, the monk, and the maiden. I ended up buying two as gifts for some of my high school teachers (the ones that wrote me recommendations for college and NSLI-Y). 

We also bought some dragon beard candy (traditional malt candy that was eaten by the king). These candies can last for a long time if they are frozen so they act as perfect souvenirs. The night ended with some delicious food at a cozy restaurant off of the main road. It was on the cheaper side which was permitted a sigh of relief from our wallets. I enjoyed a nice bowl of 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) which was on the spicier side—exactly how I like it!

Walking through 인사동 at night might even be prettier than walking through it during the day! Looking up at the sky and seeing the outlines of dark trees and the multicolored lights lighting up the path is something right out of a piece of artwork. We also got to stop for a bit and watch a jazz performance by some foreigners! 

Well, that is all for this blog post! Sorry for the abrupt ending but let’s be honest, I probably just came home and studied for a bit or went to bed right away seeing that the next day was Friday. I hope you enjoyed~ I can’t believe these posts will be coming to an end soon… a little more than two weeks left of the program!

  • Emma 엠마