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

05/22/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was how we ended the night~

05/23/19 Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마 

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~

Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Pt.2: Rainy Day Visit to Bulguksa Temple (불국사), Traditional Tea House (전통찻집), and Donggung Palace (동궁) 05/18/2019 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

05/18/2019 Saturday

The rain did not let up as we ascended the mountain and continued on our path to visit Bulguksa Temple (불국사). Maybe because we were not so high up nor were we surrounded by such sigh trees and thick fog, the rain felt a lot calmer on the temple grounds. We walked around, ducking under anything to give a temporary refuge from the rain, and took lots of group photos because 민정쌤 was not going to let us get away with not taking any photos even with the weather conditions.

In front of the main hall of the temple, the two ‘hallways’ (if you can call them that) or more like open-air pathways with a overhead covering (Slowly forgetting how to sound coherent even in English…) that extended on either side of the main building had many many lanterns hanging above our heads. I believe there were so many because the Korean holiday of Buddha’s birthday was a few days earlier so usually there isn’t as much color as we saw.

One of our group photos was taken in front of the one of the twin pagodas that are considered national treasures. The specific one in these photos is called 다보탑 (Dabotap Pagoda) which is considered to be the more masculine one of the two? I am no expert in architecture and design but honestly… I do not really understand. Is it cause of the sharper angles? The shapes? Someone please explain…

We also visited the Hall of Supreme Hall of Bliss (극낙전) which is most famously known for the small golden pig statue that is resurrected in the front of the structure. I was really excited about this because as you may or may not know, my favorite animal is the pig and 2019 is actually the year of the pig! How fitting! 민정쌤 said that in Korean culture, pigs are seen as a creature that can bring good fortune and wealth and if you rub the statue (~superstition~), you too can become lucky! Do not doubt… I also rubbed the pig’s nose and behind his ears–I thought he’d like that.

After walking around and exploring for some time, we stumbled upon the souvenir store and right next to it, a traditional tea house (불국다원 전통찻집) which was halfway outdoors–not the best during this weather; however, I can only imagine how close to nature you would feel when drinking tea outside like that. I ended up ordering 냉오미자 (Cold Five Flavor Berry Tea) which is definitely one of the more traditional tea flavors, getting its name from the 5 different flavor profiles it apparently possesses. I cannot say that my tongue is skilled enough to distinguish such refined tastes but Kaitlyn (who brags about being a supertaster with more taste buds than the average person) agrees to its name.

The rain eventually came to a standstill and we got back on the bus and traveled to our accommodation so we could change out of our wet clothes and put our bags away and rest up a bit before leaving to have dinner which would be MEAT!!

For our only night in 경주, we would be staying in a traditional Korean style house (한옥) where we would also be sleeping on the floor in futon style mattress pads and blankets. The room the girls were staying in was quite big and even included a loft which Katie and I could not pass sleeping in (We love lofts! Always our first choice!) We hung up our wet clothes to dry around the room and sprawled across the floor to rest our tired, sore legs. I had gotten a hole in my poncho so I also gave it a farewell ceremony into the trash. 

When dinnertime rolled around, we all walked to the restaurant we would be eating at and Better World was gracious enough to buy us all meat! And not just any old meat, meat that we would be grilling ourselves. Once again we split up into three separate groups sitting at a long table with our respective grilling units. I sat with 민정쌤, 소영쌤, Addie, Jacquelyn, and Jenna. We ate so well and stuffed our faces with as much garlic lettuce wraps filled with meat as we possibly could. It was a nice way to end the night–or we thought. After eating, we were surprised with one more thing on our agenda for the day: visiting a palace!

By the time we arrived at the palace (동궁), the night was well set in so there was no light in the sky but luckily the castle grounds were open until late and there were lots of lights to illuminate all the structures and reflect on the pool surrounding the castle (월지) and the weather was only slightly chilly. It was a nice, early summer evening and lots of people were actually out and about too. I mostly stayed with Harmony and Kaitlyn as we hopped around to the buildings throughout the area. The palace ground was not actually that big (in comparison to other ones I have been to–in Seoul too) and that is because most of it was burnt to the ground. There was also a lot of natural bamboo growing alongside the perimeter which is always a plant I enjoy seeing up close.

At the end of the night, we took a group photo and then were told to all get in to taxis to make our way back to the house we were staying at because it was now pretty far from the palace and since it was late at night and dark, walking was not allowed. The 쌤s rode with some of us but others had to get in their own taxis and tell the driver the right directions. In my car, we put Liam in charge of this and well… lets just say we did have some walking to do back but we made it–on time too! There was a slight problem with two stragglers who became seemingly lost and would not pick up 민정쌤’s calls (nor mine as I was told to call them as well). It was probably the most drama we had had all program and it was not even anything too exciting.

Once everyone had gotten back to our 한옥, the 쌤s had us all gather into the main, biggest room and randomly turned off all the lights. We were all confused at first until she started pulling out plastic candles out of her bag. They were the small tea lights (perhaps that’s the name for them?) or the tiny candles often used for vigils I think. She instructed us to all light our own candles and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room. In order to reflect on our time together and as an act of closing out our full year studying abroad in Korea. I would be shamefully lying if I said I did not cry multiple times throughout this little late night session.

We all went around the room and said whatever we were feeling and a lot of people found it very difficult to keep their emotions in check–including me. Literally, I found myself tearing up at every single person’s response and would try my best to stifle my sniffles and dry my tears but multiple times I was handed tissues from my fellow NSLI-Yians and Jacquelyn kept pointing out my inability to not be moved by the stories and sentiments being shared. When it came around to my turn to speak, I opened my mouth and all that came out was a depressing cry. I tried composing myself and basically discussed how besides for language improvement, the area I experienced the most growth in throughout this year was my confidence. I probably felt the most vulnerable in this moment but it felt nice being able to share this with the people who would probably understand my feelings the most in the entire world.

After we all shared our thoughts and said our goodbyes for the evening, I did feel a little empty. The little candle sharing session felt like an official end of a chapter and I was not ready for that. I was not ready to say goodbye. I thought I had been preparing myself to leave and I felt as ready as ever but now… I was not so sure. How can I say goodbye to all this? To all these people? To all these connections? At least this trip wasn’t over yet. We would have a great day tomorrow! That I could look forward to for sure~

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it~ I hope this one was a bit more interesting since we were bopping around a lot of different places in 경주. Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

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

05/18/19 Saturday

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

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

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

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

Seconds before disaster!! 😛

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

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

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

Clouds foreshadowing some bad weather ahead…

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

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

Addie down for the count!

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

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마

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 

Heyri Art Village (헤이리 마을), Provence Town (프로방스 마을), and other Shenanigans in 파주시 (04/26/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/26/19 Friday

Today was the last day that Katie and I would have off for our midterm week and so we had to end off the week with a bang! To do this, we decided to go on a trip to 헤이리 예술 마을 (Heyri Art Village) with some of the 대원외고 students: Jenna, Shada, Josh, Liam, and Harmony. This particular place was not too far from me as I live on the edge of 고양시 in the 일산 neighborhood so if I could drive, it would have been a less than 20 minute drive to the village. I could not for the life of me figure out how to take a bus from my station to one of the gates of the village so I gave up and decided to go the way everyone else was— meeting at 합정역 and from there, transferring onto one of those big buses for an hour or and driving up to 파주시. But even though it was kind of an illogical way for me to travel, I enjoyed the extra time with my friends.

Cool kids at the BACK of the bus! W/ Liam & Harmony

We met early in the morning so that we could get to the village by 10 am in order to have ample time to explore everything. The bus that we rode on was not your usual city bus and more like a type of shuttle bus. One thing that was cool about the bus was that it had a seat counter. Every time someone swiped their card, the seat counter would subtract a seat. I thought this was honestly really innovative so that you could see if there were seats before you got on—especially considering there really wasn’t any room to stand. I sat in the very back of the bus with Harmony and Liam and after about an hour of travel, we made it to 헤이리 예술 마을. 

It was a bit colder than anticipated (and it started to rain) when we arrived so we wanted to hurry and make our way into a cafe or museum but because we had gotten there so early, most things were closed.

We found this one open bakery that was really nice. It had a very warm and rustic atmosphere to it and the pastries all looked delicious (but the prices were not cheap). I ended up buying some chestnut bread that also had raisins and dried cranberries inside. It was the cheapest thing I could find but it was also good nonetheless. We all hung out there for a bit chatting, waiting for some time (and the rain) to pass. 

To be honest…these looked better than they tasted. Should have bought one of those Shrek-lookin gingerbread bears!

I then get a message from 민정쌤 about a missing PowerPoint from 3반 who promised to prepare one for community service event the following day. I told her that we would do it by three as Josh and I expected to go to a cafe after lunch to work on it but 민정쌤 got mad and scolded us for not giving it to her by the deadline. She started saying that she knows we all have things we still want to do in Korea but we can’t ignore our work since this is a scholarship program. It made me feel really bad and guilty that I almost started to cry. Josh realized my feelings and we ended up deciding to finish the presentation right then and there while the others just walked around for a bit until we were done. We made our PowerPoint in record time and then left to explore the village with the rest of the students. 

We went to walk around a park and found this red cherry shaped statue with the phrase “Love’s Fruit” written on one side. I recognized the statue which made me start looking around until I saw the familiar sight of the front of a cafe.

I kept walking closer until I was sure. I started screaming to Katie and I pulled her over to the cafe and pointed at the doorway that had a statue of a creepy doll. It took Katie a few seconds before she realized. We had both been to this cafe before! My host family took us after we had dinner at our favorite 짬뽕 place in 파주시. I couldn’t believe that we had technically come out here and I had no idea! 

Harmony brought her DSLR camera so we took lots of photos in front of the statue and with the scenery surrounding the park. It was a lot of fun! We took some serious, good shots while also sprinkling in ones with ridiculous poses for good measure. I will admit that the 대원외고 kids have mastered the straight face/sexy model poses better then us 하나고 girls… we will have to work on it. 

After taking photos wiped us clean of our energy, we decided to make our way to Provence Town which is a French themed town right next to the art village.

gloomy weather… but it still had its charm

Honestly, I think I liked this area the best! It took us about twenty minutes to walk there and it did start raining while we were on our way, but the effort put forth in trying to find it was definitely worth it. The town had all these beautiful brightly colored buildings and lots and lots of greenery. I don’t know if everything was exactly “French-looking” but it was at least very fairy tale-like if anything.

For lunch we ended up going to this place that had special lunch sets which came with soup, garlic bread, a drink, and then a main course being either pasta or 돈카쓰 (I ended up choosing the latter because it was 3 dollars cheaper—honestly the cost of things really affect what I purchase!) The soup we had was mushroom which I haven’t eaten in so long. And even though the garlic bread was sweet, I enjoyed it nonetheless. The portion sizes were huge so Liam ended up eating a lot of my meal.

 Afterward, we walked around more and enjoyed the views of the area before finding a cafe to chill in for a bit. Harmony and I were going to film a YouTube video on the rooftop of a cafe.

We came to the this particular cafe because the outside was absolutely gorgeous with light blue walls and flowers and ivy growing along the side. I’m not sure if it was because it was Friday (afternoon) or because it’s usually not too packed but no one was there! Literally there was probably one table filled on the first floor and then both the second and third floor were empty. We had the rooftop all to ourselves! It was so nice! 

Laughing Photos ❤

We filmed the video, ate some macaroons, took some artsy photos (You can decide whether you deem the attached photos artsy enough but I believe that they are some museum grade stuff.) After hanging out for a bit, we left and took the bus back to 홍대 this time. The others planned to head to a 찜질방 near 이화 but I was supposed to have dinner with my host sisters so I decided to just head home after getting off at 홍대. 

The bus ride was a lot of fun, though. The hour went by really quickly as we all talked the whole time and spilled some of our most embarrassing moments. (I told them about the day I ran into a glass door during my NSLI-Y summer program—that blog linked here—and a few other things that will not be spoken about on the internet. 

I used slang with my friend 호영 and his reaction killed me. I showed my host sisters his messages during our dinner together and they were so impressed by me 😉 IYKYK

Well, that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~~ Thanks for reading !! Do not forget to subscribe for more~ I still have some interesting posts to share!

  • Emma 엠마 

Starting our English Mentorship Program & Cafe Study Date (03/25-26/2019)

AN: I am writing all of these blog posts almost two weeks after they happened so most of them will just be the bare bones of what I did during the day and a few random really clear and detailed moments. I am kinda upset that I have been slacking on blog posts but hopefully I can catch up more!

03/25/19 Monday

Random Class 12

LoL This sign was on the back of the door of some bathroom stall. It is about not flushing the toilet after you use it

My morning started off with my lovely Politics and Law class which was just consisted of debates for two hours…at first I tried to actually pay attention but then it all became too much and I ended up taking out my workbook and doing that secretly. The teacher might have noticed? But then again, I was not in the mood to feel guilty for doing other work during class. The Korean students were not missing out on much by me not listening to them.

My second (and last) class of the day was English with the third years. Today Andrew was counseling with them about their argumentative essay topics while the rest of the students were put into groups and discussed a chapter out of the book they are reading: They Say I Say. I was put into a group with one girl and guy but I can only remember the guys name– 인규 (I only remember his because I kept saying 인구 at first which is not his name. It instead means population). Because I was in their group, I actually made them talk with me and communicate in order to answer the questions. They were actually both students that never participate in class (or at least not on the days that I am in class with them) so I was half expecting their English to not be very good, but I was wrong. They both spoke very well. I apologized for making them do work because the other groups were practically silent the whole time–not discussing anything– while we were going down the entire list of questions together. It was also just fun chatting with them. From 인규, I learned about the grading system here at 하나고. Like at American schools, teachers do get evaluated by their students’ test scores, class grades, and with random observers that come in during class time but one difference is that at 하나고, the students also get to grade the teacher. They get to anonymously fill out a report on all their teachers and these reports do affect the teachers (income and and what classes they teach, etc). I found this to be really interesting but also somewhat problematic? Wouldn’t the students be quite subjective with their answers and hurt the teacher just because they gave them a bad grade or something? I could imagine that being a case that would occur… Maybe Koreans respect the institution of education or their teachers enough to not partake in any “foul play” if you will–in regards to their evaluations.

I also showed 인규 and the girl my Korean textbook as they were really excited to see how their language would be taught as a foreign language to others. 인규 actually plans on majoring in Korean because he really has pride for the language; he thinks it is very beautiful. Though, he is not quite sure yet on if he wants to study in order to teach a subject like 국어 in the future or if he wants to teach Korean to foreigners.

Random Class 1

Bus Stop Views

I cannot remember what happened during Korean class (yay for writing these posts so late!) but afterwards we had our Bi-weekly meeting which we talked about when our templestay reflections were due as well checking up on our field trip plans for the individual research projects. I believe I will try to interview some employees at a special education school near Gangnam. Now I just have work that out and set up an interview date!

Also, I forgot why Shada and Jenna were being punished by 민정쌤 but they were the only two students that had forgotten to send her something so she made them stand in front of the room during the meeting and in traditional classroom punishment style–they had to raise their arms above their heads. It may not seem like this punishment would be bad but… your arms DO get tired! It is intense.

Random Class 4

Yup… not sure why I have this random photo of Liam and Jacq from our meeting

03/26/19 Tuesday

I was excited to get up early this morning and go to school (what a shocking turn of events!) because I knew that my English mentorship program was starting today! Like last semester, I had it during my first period class, and I would also have another period of it later in the day right before lunch period. 

For my first mentorship 공강, I was with three second year girls: 은서, 수빈, and 지연. This was my first time meeting 지연 but both 은서 and 수빈 were in my politics class so I knew them well. (수빈 was also elected to be the school’s president alongside another second year. He’s in my Economics class) For our first meeting, we just talked about yourselves and did some icebreakers because we really hadn’t had the chance to speak to each other that much before our meeting. They were all at a good enough level of English that conversation was easy. After our long introductions, we started to talk about the topic of the meeting which was food. We started out with Korean food and talked about all the most delicious and famous ones out there. We also discussed what was good around 연신내역 and concluded that we had to make a trip there altogether to eat meat and get some bubble tea! I brought out the google doc that I made last year (for my 공강 with 호영, 근영, and 건우) that had photos of all different kinds of American foods like Thanksgiving foods, biscuits & gravy, Chicago deep dish pizza to things on the sweeter side like funnel cake and S’mores. I also introduced them to Cuban food! (Since that is mostly what I eat at home anyways)

Music class was not the most fun since we spent the whole period making a song on this one computer program. Since I know nothing about music, this assignment was put all on Katie so bless her for 1. Being good at music and 2. Being chill with me literally doing nothing.

Random Class 5

Afterwards, I had my 한국사 class with the third years. I talked a bit to the girl next to me and the usual candy given to the students by the teacher made me enjoy the class more than I would otherwise. I was going to focus during the class content this time but I gave up halfway through and started doing Korean class homework. 

The last class I had for the day before lunch was another English mentorship. In my group I had two second year girls: 세연 (who happens to have been in both my homeroom last year and my current homeroom) and 서영 who is in my AP Economics class! We started off by introducing ourselves and doing some small ice breakers but then we moved to playing games rather than actually having conversations in English. We played “I am Grounded” (in English) which I was very very bad at. I had to play a couple rounds to regain my rhythm and to remember the point of the game. I was not the worst player though! Out of Katie’s two students (first years 민화 and 재훈) 재훈 was terrible. We would give out punishments which involved bending over on the table and then being slapped by everyone else on the back. This punishment was dealt to 재훈 so many times! I felt so bad!

Random Class 6

After playing a few rounds of that, I taught everyone this elephant game that I played in ASL (American Sign Language) often during my senior year of high school. Basically someone stands in the middle of the circle and points to one person. That person has to quickly form an elephant nose with their hands and the two people next to them have to create ears with their hands. Usually you have a big group and you keep going around until the last person not disqualified is standing (you get kicked out for missing your job, being too slow, or making a weird shape) but we only had 6 people so we just kept switching being the person in the middle. It was definitely so much fun!

Katie and I had lunch at school and I am disappointed to admit that they have been serving such good lunches lately probably due to the fact that the Japanese exchange students are visiting. Today we had some really delicious chicken legs and even had a dessert of two cream puffs!

Random Class 7

Korean class was a blur…. I have no idea what we did.. It has been way too long. We were trying to hurry up and finish our last chapter in the fourth textbook of the Ewha University Series so the class was really fast paced for sure. (Though, of course, we did go off on tangents and talk about random things like we always do.)

After class on Tuesday, I had plans to go to a cafe with Shada to study so we ended up heading over to our long time favorite Blanc Bakery (So we could have bread for dinner and so I could buy cake for 혜지 and 도윤…long story short… Katie and I found out at lunch today that it was 혜지s birthday and that 도윤s was Saturday!! No one told us anything!) We bought some tasty savory pastries and studied for about two and half hours–I studied Korean while Shada focused on her online high school math class. I also caught up Shada with how I am doing as of late (and she did the same with me). We have not gotten the chance to just talk lately and I really miss hanging out with her! Shada is the sweetest and is a lot of fun to hang out with so I hope we can continue to hang out more for the rest of the program.

Before I bought the expensive slices of cake, Shada told me about this place that sells full (small but still bigger than a slice) cakes for only 10,000 won (less than $10!) I ended up buying a 10 dollar banana and chocolate cake! I was so excited for the girls to see it tomorrow (and enjoy it!) Of course they would much rather enjoy a full birthday cake than just a slice or two of cakes.

Random Class 8

Look! New flavor: Cherry Blossom!!! Will try them later 😛

I got home a little bit later than usual and chilled at home–did some Korean class work for good measure…

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading! And also quick note because I have received some confused comments about the timing of my posts. So yes, in accordance to the dates of my blogs, these posts were all written last year. I am not writing these posts now. I wrote all of these blog posts like my own diary in separate Google Docs while I was studying abroad in Korea and then as I have had time (whilst in Korea and as I have been home), I have been editing them (for clarity! My English increasingly worsened while I was in Korea), adding photos, and then posting them. I hope this makes more sense! I definitely could not remember this much stuff in this much detail if I was writing them all present day. Anyways, tangent aside.. Have a great day!

  • Emma 엠마

TempleStay in South Korea (2 Days & 1 Night) (3/23-24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/23/19 Saturday 

Katie and I woke up around 8:30 am today to start getting ready to spend the weekend outside of our homes. She ended up basically not packing any clothes so she borrowed a T-shirt, some sweatpants, and even socks from me. (Which, while writing this, have still not been returned to me… Katie!!!!) We had to meet the rest of the NSLI-Y program at the subway station around 12 so we needed up heading to a bakery in the shopping mall next to my train station for some starchy breakfast. I didn’t end up taking a photos of the bread we ended up sharing but here are some really cute croque monsieurs (Shoutout to Kaitlyn for sharing my first one with me a while ago and bestowing upon me knowledge of such a great French carb!) that have heart cut outs in the bread! 

Apparently when we got to the station, it was raining really hard and only one NSLI-Yian brought an umbrella so 민정쌤 ran out to the closest convenience store and bought us all rain ponchos. All the students were wearing rainbow colored plastic coats that highly resembled gummy bears… you could say we came in an assorted batch of colors and flavors. What made this really funny was that when we made our way outside once the final student was accounted for, it was basically not raining at all—if anything it was just a light drizzle. But hey, at least we looked ridiculous all together! 

We took this one tiny bus where we all almost didn’t even have room to stand let alone breath but after a quick ten minutes, we arrived at the temple: 길상사. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the program because they were locked up during the duration of our stay so the photos that I took last up until this point. (Though I will scatter them throughout this blog post so photos are not only concentrated on one part.) Plus, there was a professional photographer that took photos of us, so I have those shots as well! 

templestay 1

On the walk there, we passed a famous statue of Korean comfort women from the Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The community (?) dressed the women up warmly for the cold winter weather with hats and scarves.

templestay 3

The first order of business was giving up our most worldly possessions (cell phones and wallets) and then we went and changed into our Buddhist attire which consisted of these really baggy sweatpants type bottoms and then a corduroy vest that went over whatever top we were already wearing. 

During the beginning of the templestay, we met the main workers and volunteers for the day and the monk that would be taking us through our journey of experiencing Buddhism. We started off learning about the rules of the temple aka the rules we also must abide by while we are here. Most of them were common knowledge like being respectful, peaceful, no phones, etc but others were new to me. I knew that many Buddhists didn’t eat meat (so we would be eating vegetarian all weekend) but I didn’t know that you were required to finish everything that you put on your plate. Also, during the duration of the stay, we were supposed to try our best to be silent but that didn’t last very long…

We were doing the program along with another group of foreigners (a couple European exchange students from SNU) and then several other native Koreans; although, foreigners definitely outnumbered the Koreans. 

It was at this time that we also learned how to properly bow like a Buddhist would in a temple and also how to create the 합창 pose– which is just the post of putting your hands in a prayer-like formation.

The first activity of the day was to take a tour of the temple grounds. We provided our own interpreter aka 소영쌤 for our programming but for the tour part, we switched her out with one the of the volunteers whose English was fluent and almost 100% natural. She was definitely thankful about that because earlier the Monk was being quite a savage to her when she couldn’t quite translate everything (Especially when Josh would shout things out from the crowd to help her out). The volunteer actually attended 대원외교 and so he bonded over that with the rest of the NSLI-Y kids attending that school. 

templestay 6

One of the more interesting parts of the tour was when we found out that this temple actually started out as a high class restaurant/ alcohol joint for rich men and politicians. There were also usually female performers to entertain the men that came to drink. The lady that ran the place was very rich as the place brought in a lot of revenue but she ended up giving it to one of the monks at the temple, after begging them for years to take the location.

templestay 13

This unique characteristic is why some of the buildings and the makeup of grounds is not exactly representation of most Buddhist temples. When 소영쌤 was translating this fact earlier, she called the place a high-class bar. Everyone was a bit confused so when we actually got to see where people would drink (and where the females would change), the volunteer rephrased the explanation of the place so we wouldn’t be confused. (So, in conclusion, the place was not as seedy as a normal bar.)

templestay 26

We walked around a bit more to see the rooms in which the monks sleep in and mediate in and the main temple where the monks (and visitors to the place) can go and pray. We also were showed two statues that our tour guide really made sure to emphasize that they symbolized religious harmony. One of them was donated by a rich white Christian to the temple while the other depicted Mary. 

templestay 21

After our tour, we learned how to mediate like a monk. This involved a demonstration of hand positions and breathing techniques and then all of us trying out meditation for ourselves. The monk walked around us carrying this large wild stick (Don’t you love my descriptions?) and showed us how he would hit people if they fell asleep during mediation time. He ended up showing off the stick’s power (it sounded like it hurt badly but apparently it was not that hard) on Alix, Jacquelyn (good foreshadowing) and 민정쌤. I am going to be honest, it was really difficult for me not to fall asleep while sitting there. I was tired and toasty from wearing so many layers and so I definitely felt myself nodding off at times. (Luckily, he never caught me) Although I will say even when I wasn’t fighting with sleep, I couldn’t mediate very well.. I kept the thinking of other things—my mind was racing with thoughts about everything and anything. I wouldn’t be a good monk for sure. 

templestay 16

Picture of me meditating…or was I dozing off at this point?

Eventually dinner time rolled around and it was time for us to experience Buddhist food—very simple ingredients, no meat, not much seasoning, and very healthy. In Buddhism there are actually a lot of different words for things that differ from plain-spoken Korean. For example, meal time is called 공약. And like I mentioned previously, the food you take is all the food that you need to eat! Monks do NOT waste food. 

Unfortunately, since there was no cameras or phones allowed, I can’t exactly remember what we were given to eat… what I can remember was that there was soup, different types of 김치 and vegetable 반찬, batter covered mushrooms and other root vegetables, rice, watermelon, and traditional rice cakes. Every single person had to wash their own plate and silverware at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, we had an evening Buddhist service in which we got to bow along with the monks at the temple as they had their nightly pray session. We were given pamphlets to follow along with what they were chanting but regardless of the fact that I can read Korean, I was confused at what page to be looking at. Either way, we all got to participate by bowing along with the monks.

We also did walking meditation after this which although it was very cold, I really enjoyed just mindlessly walking around the temple grounds. Compared to sitting meditation, I was able to let loose of more my thoughts during this exercise—maybe because I wasn’t as tired and because I had just eaten and was in a very calm and satisfied mood. 

We got the chance to talk with a different monk and ask him all his questions during a tea time session. We were given plum tea and a bunch of 약과 and assorted nuts. I was able to understand a lot more of what the monk said (before the volunteer translated) which made me quite proud. I could not imagine how I much I would have understood after only being here for a little while (say back during first semester).

We finished off the night with a movie documentary on a famous monk: 법정스님. It was interesting seeing how he lived his life as a monk. One thing that I thought was interesting was that he was highly judged by his parents. They had paid so much money for him to get a college education (not an easy feat now and not an easy feat then either) and he decided to leave the academic world behind and become a monk. But because of this tension, he did not help his family at all once he started earning money from the royalties off of his bestselling books. He had some ask for help but he basically cut them off completely. Instead, he would donate a lot of money to students who were struggling to pay for their college tuition and were near having to drop out. 

We all got ready ready for bed and slept on mats on top of the heated floor. I was expecting it to be rather uncomfortable but honestly, it was one of the best rests I have had in awhile. I think that sleeping on the floor is really good every once in awhile! I definitely do not mind it. I fell asleep right away and the next thing I knew… it was three in the morning.

3/24/19 Sunday

The lights slowly turned on and a bell began to sound. I looked around the room and watched everyone stir awake. No one had their phones so we could not tell that it was 3 in the morning but our bodies definitely were aware of this fact. We got up, changed, washed up a little, and then headed out for the early morning Buddhist service in the temple. Like the evening service, we got our own mats at the side of the temples and were given pamphlets to follow along with the monks. We finished off the service with another round of walking meditation around the temple grounds. This one, in comparison to the last, was actually very relaxing for me. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was the morning and I was too tired to think of anything else but I was able to just watch my feet while I walked and forget about the world around me. It was very nice.

The next program on our schedule had been highly anticipated since the beginning. We would be doing 108 prostrations or bows. This involved bowing in the right way that was taught to us during the temple etiquette presentation and with every time we came down to the floor, we strung a brown bead (handmade, completely unique bead! You cannot find them/buy them anywhere else. You can only obtain them by doing a templestay!) on a string that would later become a necklace. We were told that with every bead strung onto the string, we were saying goodbye to a temptation, something bad in our lives, worries, etc. I found this activity very peaceful and I actually enjoyed being able to count out everything that had been consuming my mind recently. I metaphorically imagined myself saying goodbye to all my worries: not reaching my desired Korean level, confidence issues, not making friends in college, struggling with grades in college, homesickness, trust issues, my friends moving on without me in their lives, not being able to find true love, negative body image, missing out on a dream job of mine, etc. (Was that information too intimate? Oh well…)

It felt good feeling like I was releasing them into something else. I also figured that the 108 bows would be more tiresome than they were. I felt wobbly by the end (my legs) for sure but I did not really break a sweat. By the end of the activity, I was able to look at my necklace, and its 108 beads, with pride. I had done that. I had made this with my own hands and it definitely was not easy. When I got home, I hung it on my vanity mirror and I cannot help but smile when I look at it every day.

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The finished product!~

We had breakfast after which consisted of 죽 (porridge), 잡체, spicy tofu, salad, lots of 반찬, and apples. It was all very clean tasting~ The next activity of the day was community work. For this part of the morning, we returned to the temple that we prayed at earlier and “cleaned” the mats that you kneel on while bowing. This process involved taking the mats out of the temple (assembly line style) and patting/smacking the dust off of them outside and then placing them back into stacks inside the temple against the wall. 

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Smiling faces after accomplishing the task!

To work off some of the breakfast, we did temple yoga next which was not exactly like my yoga classes in high school; this yoga was definitely centered more on stretching and breathing. It  was a nice final session to end this program before we wrote our reflections and got ready to leave the temple. 

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Last Photo of our TempleStay experience!

Katie and I went back to my house together so that she could pick up her bags. We ate lunch together at the shopping mall near my apartment– at 홍익 돈까스 to be exact, sharing 돈까스 and tomato pasta.

We also dropped by a cafe where I bought Katie bread for getting into UCLA!!! Congratulations Katie! ❤ We hung out there to study and chat for a bit before we both returned to our respective homes for dinner.

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This bread’s name was 남편보다 더 달콤한 빵 (Sweeter than your husband bread)

My host mom was not feeling well and my sisters were out so I ended up eating dinner by myself in my room that night while I was studying. It was a very chill Sunday night. Although I did no actual work or studying during the templestay, it was still quite draining yet rejuvenating at the same time. Probably one of the biggest examples of something contradicting itself but hey that is how the world works sometimes!

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That is all for this blog post! It is a very long one… more than 2,500 words yikes! If you got through all of it then… thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I really had an amazing experience doing the templestay. I am so glad that we were able to get approved by Better World as it truly was such a unique and eye-opening experience. Especially because a lot of Buddhist values can be seen in aspects of the Korean culture even to this day! 여러분 기회가 있으시면 꼭 템플스테이를 해보세용~ Alright BYE!

  • Emma 엠마

No School!! Pancake Brunch at Travel Maker in 홍대 (Hongdae) & Dinner with my Korean Teacher {03/07/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/07/19 Thursday

Today I got to sleep in till 8!! I honestly took for granted all the sleep I was able to get during winter break… mornings that usually started anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Now, I have to wake up before the sun is up; 5:45 am is too early to be awake! 

Why did I get to sleep in? Well, today was some national mock exam of some sort that I did not have to take since clearly I am not a student here {full-time student at least} so I, along with all other NSLI-Y students, did not have to come to school! In order to use our morning well, Katie and I went out for Brunch! We wanted to try something new {besides Flapjack Pantry mostly…} so we walked down these random alleys trying to see if we could find this brunch place that Katie very vaguely remembers seeing during one of our walks last week. After walking around for almost and hour, we did end up finding a brunch place but their idea of brunch seemed to focus on sandwiches? And not even good sandwiches either… it looked just like average homemade sandwiches on white bread with the crust cut off… not my thing. So we gave up and decided to go to Travel Maker! We had both been there previously but not with each other which made it feel kinda new? Plus, they recently moved locations since the last time I was there so it was like I was there for the first time ever. I ordered strawberry and banana pancakes and Katie got the same thing but in a French toast version. 

We enjoyed our time to chat together before Korean class {While we also did some last minute cramming— Katie memorizing words and me rehearsing my presentation for that day}. 

Class today was actually really good! I felt that I participated more than usual especially during the part of class when we discussed what we talked about with our host families. {Every week from now on, we will have a discussion in class about a conversation we have had with our host family and or school friends about a topic that was given to us beforehand.} Today’s discussion was on 미세 먼지 (Yellow Dust–air pollution) which I talked to my host sisters about last night at dinner and boy, did they have some strong opinions. 

Then this morning, I wrote down sentences that summarized all that they had said so when it was time for the discussion, I was able to use those sentences as an outline to talk about all that I did. I made mistakes here and there but because it was prepared, I felt confident in what I was saying!

We also went over the TOPIK tests that we took over the weekend… Luckily, my reading and listening scores went up {barely like I’m talking a couple points if that but hey… it is something}. 

The rest of the class periods were spent going over the reading passages in the chapter and we did start the grammar for today but only were able to get through 2 rather than the usual 3. Today was also presentation day but we only got through mine … I felt sorry for the others but I’m glad I got mine out of the way! 

After Korean class, I was supposed to have a little 상담 or (counseling) meeting of sorts with my teacher and so I figured we would just go to a cafe and chat but we both forgot that Thursday classes end at 6 pm meaning that we were both quite hungry. {I also wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner if I did the meeting with her}. Because of that, we decided to get dinner together instead!

I am not exactly sure where we ate but she drove me in her car and it didn’t seem to be too far of a drive from around 홍익역. At first, I thought the restaurant was a place serving Japanese food but they also had pasta and other western style foods there too–a little on the pricier side, though. My Korean teacher ended up ordering some type of Hamburg steak while I got 돈까스 (fried pork cutlet–One of my true love’s here in Korea!) But before we got our main meal, we got served soup and bread rolls! I was so surprised to see bread served like that.

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Dinner with my Korean teacher went really well. Before I warmed up, got over my nerves, and became comfortable, I felt really awkward speaking with her. Because class had just ended, I needed to try very hard to get out of the academic mindset. While eating with her, I had no reason to worry and mull over using advanced vocabulary and or grammar points. I just needed to speak and express the words that I wanted to say. 

She asked me how I was feeling in class and overall with my Korean abilities. I talked to her about the last TOPIK practice test that I took and how I kept putting it off until the last possible moment (particularly the reading and listening test). I explained that the huge amount of unknown vocab words and grammar in these sections makes me lose confidence and dislike the test taking project. However since the writing section depends only on what I know, I really enjoy completing that section. My Korean teacher reassured me that I should not be disappointed with not knowing what comes out on the TOPIK test seeing that we do not cater our current Korean class to the TOPIK exam. She said that I just need to continue studying vocabulary (like I have been doing since the beginning) to continue to raise my score.

We also talked about my bombed OPI… I told her that I was not like that when I took the OPI before starting this program. I was really nervous but there were no extreme silences or as much stuttering as there was when I did do the OPI with her over the phone. I also opened up and mentioned that when I do it in front of her, I have to stay strong because I am being watched but when I was in the break room alone, I almost started crying when I got overwhelmed with the questions being asked. 

In addition to that, I explained my issue with speaking to some students at 하나고. My issue being the fact that I will have things to say or I will feel the urge to say something but then I am too much of a chicken to act on the desire. However, during other moments, I have no problem just speaking my mind when I am surrounded with friends or in emergency situations. But also just random confidence boosts! My teacher gave me some advice after assessing that I think too much when I try to speak Korean (and she literally could not have been more right). Lastly, she suggested that I try to persuade the other students to talk to me by offering them candy. (I will be using that one…)

My teacher also talked to me about my personality and the type of a person I am. She said that out of everyone in the class, she sees herself–the most–in me. She also exposed Josh by telling me that he confessed to her that seeing me studying so hard motivates him to also put in more effort to study Korean. Whether it be because of my organized notes or my countless Quizlet sets, he honestly believes I am the hardest worker among the class. Josh is such a great friend and I am so lucky to have him in my life! She told me that she too is impressed with all that I do with my pretty notes (She asked me where I learned how to make them so nice! And why I do it. Apparently she wants to bullet journal which she thinks I would also enjoy.)

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My Lovely teacher!

We talked a lot and stuffed our faces with really good food~ She also paid for my meal which was really kind of her! I definitely could have paid for it. When we finished eating, she got up right away and booked it to the counter while I was putting on my coat. I could see what she was doing then! Overall, it was a really nice evening spent speaking with my teacher. I honestly could not ask for a better Korean language instructor. What would I do without her? I am a pretty difficult student to teach (I have some extreme lows and not so frequent highs…) but she somehow finds a way to help me through everything. I am grateful.

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Andy is such a mood

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

02/22/19 Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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02/23/19 Saturday

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

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

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

  • Emma 엠마