Host Family Information

An underlying theme in both my Nsliy application essays as well as my interview was my excitement for my host family. I can definitely say that having a host family is a great plus to this program. I would have still applied if we lived in dorms like some of the other countries, but I am glad that I’ll be able to have the experience in Korea with another family. I’m not new to the whole “hosting” world as my aunt herself owns a homestay in New York where she hosts students from all over the world. I’ve met countless people from countless countries through staying with her every summer (unfortunately, I will not get a chance this summer but my time in Korea is something I’m super grateful for). Her business was one of the many starting points of my curiosity for other cultures and languages. But back to the original point of this post, I’m happy to share that on June 21st (Tuesday) I recieved my host family information by email. I will not be sharing everything (for privacy reasons) but I will share as much as I deem suitable.

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Seodaemun District (Seodaemun-gu)

I will be living in an apartment located in Seodaemun Gu (서대문구). This part of Seoul is where Yonsei University is located (A prestigious university in Korea) as well as Sogang university which is where previous Seoul Summer Korean classes have been held (Last year was the first year the program moved to Sookmyung Women’s University). Sinchon (신촌) is also a neighborhood in Seodaemun Gu which is known for it’s many shops and lively night time crowds. I will be living in an apartment with a mother and father who are both managers at an educational institute. I’m assuming this means that they work as managers at a hagwon (학원). Hagwon is the Korean word for a private academy or cram school that prepares students for the college entrance exam (대학수학능력시험). However, I’m not 100% sure. As for host siblings, I will have two younger brothers (Just like I do now). One is 14 years of age and the other is 11. It will take less than an hour to get to Sookmyung by subway which makes me happy since I would rather not have to wake up so early in the morning just for my long commute. Our curfew for Nsliy is also very very generous (at least to me it is). Our curfew for weekdays is 9pm and the curfew for weekends is 11pm. Both times are very manageable.

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Sinchon During the Day

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Sinchon At Night

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That’s all for today folks. Sunday (6/26/16) is my last full day in my hometown. These past few days have been spent cramming in last minute hang outs with my friends at the movies and downtown, as well as my mom making me all my favorite foods (I’m going to miss Cuban food so much when I’m gone. Tostones and Flan are my guilty pleasures). I’m still not packed yet but it’s supposed to rain on Sunday (tomorrow) so I can always do that then. Thanks for reading this post and don’t forget to subscribe!~ 안녕!!!

Emma 엠마

How I’m Studying Korean (Digital + Physical Resources)

Today is a very special day. It’s a special day because today marks only 14 days left until I hop onto a plane for my Pre Departure Orientation in Seattle. There’s only two weeks left till I potentially leave for Korea and this honestly boggles my mind (Well, 14 days till Seattle and 16 till Korea). Again, I remember when there were 70 days left and now there’s only 14! It’s crazy how fast the days go by (I mean, I expected this… but still). Now, I don’t have anything too exciting to post about my trip yet, (as I am still waiting for my flight and host family information) but I did want to dedicate a blog post to how I am preparing for my six weeks in South Korea (Beware!~ This will be a very long post).

Obviously, I am preparing for this trip by studying Korean. Is it hard to stay in during beautiful summer days to study a foreign language? It is, and it isn’t. I have a lot of fun studying Korean as seeing any sort of growth or success in my studies can make me happy for the entire day (literally). For instance, yesterday I was able to have a full Korean conversation with my Korean friend over Kakao Talk and I only needed to look up one word (French fries). Granted, our conversation was about food so it wasn’t too difficult, but the achievement definitely made me happy.  But I do have to be honest, it is hard to plan out a certain time of the day and actually sit down and begin studying (because it is still studying- during the summer). However, I know I will appreciate my hard work when I’m over in Seoul and that is PLENTY of motivation.

Physical Resources

So as a part of our PPLP, (Pre Program Language Preparation) we were given a textbook to study from as well as weekly assignments that we are expected to complete and email to our Resident Director every Friday by midnight. So far, I haven’t used my textbook in correlation to the worksheets all too much, but I have been studying the textbook by myself (Though I am in the advanced group and i’ve heard that the basic/beginner group uses the textbook a lot). The textbook we were given is the Integrated Korean: Beginning 1, 2nd Edition (Purchase It Here).

textbook 2

What The Textbook Looks Like

I already had the textbook so now I have two copies. Personally, I think the textbook is really helpful because it explains topics pretty well. It provides questions to help further your understanding and places for you to put forth the grammar skills learned (there are even cultural tidbits at the end of each chapter). 

cultural tidbit

Cultural Tidbit About Greeting With Bows

There’s also NO romanization in the textbook which is great for getting better at reading hangul (Korean Alphabet/Written Language) because it does not allow you to use the crutch which is romanization. The only downside I have is that the textbook was created for classroom environments so you will come across sections that ask you to discuss with classmates and there are some questions that involve responses from other people (I just made things up in these circumstances so it’s not that big of a deal). Also, it is a textbook so it won’t help with pronunciation but that can easily be taken care of with another Korean language resource.

Besides my textbook, I only have two other physical Korean Language resources and they are both dictionaries of some sort. The first one I have is Korean Phrase Book and Dictionary by Berlitz Publishing (Purchase It Here).

phrase book

You Can Tell It’s Well Loved By The Bottom Right Corner

The phrases in this book are actually quite useful and it is split up into categories like Arrival and Departure, Shopping, Sightseeing, Eating Out, Business Travel etc. Everything is pretty easy to find as all the phrases are put in organized sections. The Phrase sections show the phrase in English and to the right it has the phrase written in Hangul. Underneath the Hangul, the romanization for the phrase is also displayed (Though I don’t really pay much attention to romanization, this is a handy feature for tourists that don’t plan on learning Korean). phrase book example .jpg

Lastly, the book also has a small English-Korean dictionary as well as a Korean-English dictionary. I’ve actually used this book quite often when it comes to its dictionary. When I need to look up a word for my homework, I use this since Google Translate can’t always be trusted. The book is also quite small, so it’s the perfect size to just throw in your bag when you are going to class or around town. The only thing I don’t like about this book is that most of the phrases (98%) are very very very formal. It’s pretty easy to change many of the phrases by just altering the endings but how to do that isn’t exactly shown in the book so that knowledge will need to be found elsewhere (which is understandable since this was created for tourists and not specifically for language learning but still, I’m going to critique it how I deem fit).

Next up, is another dictionary! This one is titled McGraw-Hill’s Korean Illustrated Dictionary (Purchase It Here). Dictionary

This isn’t any plain old dictionary. Why? Well because it has pictures to go along with the words inside!~ So like the phrasebook this dictionary is split up into sections like In the Bathroom, People, At the Restaurant, Transportation etc. The dictionary displays the word in Hangul as well as an illustration to match that word. The word is then shown with it’s romanization and it’s English Translation of that word. dictionary example

The dictionary also has an index in the back of the book so if you are looking for a word in particular, it is easy to find. Not only that, but the dictionary also comes with a CD with the pronunciation of every single word in the book so you can put it on your computer/phone/mp3 or whatever you use and listen to it when you feel like it (I personally haven’t touched the CD… but hey it will be there when I need it). 

Digital/Online Resources

Here I’m going to link my favorite websites for learning Korean as well as a list of the names of apps that I use. Depending on the resource, I may give a brief description or some information but I won’t be too in depth as it is very easy to just click on the link and check everything out.

(1. TalkToMeInKorean

  • A very popular Korean learning resource (that also has a Youtube Channel to aid lessons). The website also has free lessons as well as things that need to be paid for (I definitely don’t use this website all too much but I did use it to learn hangul).

(2. HowToStudyKorean

  • A very guided Korean language learning resource. It starts off really slow with hangul and works it’s way up in difficulty. (For example, this website introduces the conjugation of verbs in later chapters.) This website has recorded pronunciation of the words introduced in each chapter and it also includes free word searches that go along with the vocab learned in each chapter (Pretty much free but has workbooks to go along with the chapters that can be purchased). I also use this online resource the most out of all three mentioned.

(3. WordReference

  • Dictionary (For all languages. Works for English-Korean and Korean-English).



(1. Memrise 

  • Vocabulary app (You can download the vocabulary from lessons/chapters from many Korean language resources such as TalkToMeInKorean, HowToStudyKorean, and the Integrated Korean Textbook).

(2. Quizlet

  • Online Flashcards (Also has games to help memorize vocabulary).

(3. HiNative

  • Language Learning Community (You can ask questions about grammar and pronunciation and get answers from native speakers).


Lastly, I want to talk about Pimsleur (Purchase It Here). I personally have the CDs for the Basic Korean Pimsleur Program which can be found here.

So I purchased this program after watching Pimsleur’s youtube video about this product. It seemed like a very good buy especially since Rosetta Stone was way out of my budget. Fortunately, this program is not that expensive (at least for the Basic Programs) as I was able to get this program for around $25 (I did buy this awhile back and I’ve actually been able to find it for cheaper lately). So this program is solely an auditory language learning experience. The Basic Korean Program comes with 5 discs with an hour of conversational Korean on each disc. pimsleur cds

It really helps with pronunciation as you are hearing Korean being spoken by native Korean speakers. It helps you adjust to the pace and speed of native Koreans which is really nice. I also like that the lessons are split up by 30 minutes because it makes sitting down and scheduling time for studying a lot easier. Also, each CD reviews what has been taught previously so you won’t have to go back and listen to a CD again when you need extra help with a phrase or question. Obviously, the only problem with this program is that it is solely based on auditory learning so you need to find resources to accompany it if you want to learn how to write. Not only that, but the program does not introduce Hangul at all. If you don’t have knowledge about the Korean alphabet, these discs can prove to be difficult as you have the possibility of not knowing how to pronounce many of the words/phrases. I would suggest knowing the sounds of the Korean alphabet so that following along with the discs is easier.

And that is everything! This was quite a long post and it won’t be very interesting to people who are not studying Korean but if you are looking for more Korean language learning resources to add to your collection, I hope this list helps you with your language journey as they are definitely helping me with my studies! My next post will either be my packing list or my flight/host family information so look out for another post sometime next week. Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed, don’t forget to subscribe!~

“Don’t study hard, study smart.” – Amy Lucas

Oral Proficiency Interview

Today marks 30 days till I find myself on a plane heading to Seattle for the first part of a really exciting summer. Ever since I recieved a NSLI-Y scholarship, I’ve been counting down the days. Obviously, I went out and downloaded two different apps to count the days for me because math is not my strong suit and it is definitely something I don’t want to be doing over the summer months. I remember when my countdown was in the  80s, 60s, and now it will be in the 20s starting tomorrow! It’s all pretty overwhelming if you ask me. Anyway, Thursday was a very interesting day for me. It was interesting because my brother was graduating Junior High that day. Not only that, but I was going to have to take my OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) at my old elementary school where the graduation was taking place. The graduation was at 7pm and I had my call at 6:30 so it was a pretty tight squeeze. The beginning of the call was very hectic as I was in the car and the AC was louder than ever. I tried to put the call on speaker but instead, I ended up ending the call. After I laughed at my inability to do anything without messing up, my interviewer called back and I profusely apologized to her about what I had done. She called back once my family had parked so I resumed the call while walking through the parking lot. It was actually very amusing seeing that a large amount of children and adults stared at me while I walked to the main doors due to the fact that I was speaking in a foreign language to someone on the phone. I was still on the call once we made it to the doors so my family went on inside and I stayed to the side of the school to finish up the call and not disturb anyone else. The “door holder” kept staring at me during the whole interview as well. My interview lasted around 15 minutes and then once I was done, I rushed to the gym and tried to find my family in the mass of graduates and families. This was a very difficult task but eventually I was able to find my family. Overall, my OPI went very well. My interviewer went slow and she would rephrase questions and add examples when I told her I didn’t understand. I kept laughing at myself when I would say I didn’t understand and she would reassure me that I was doing well. To future NSLIYians who will be taking an OPI, don’t sweat the small stuff. You are only taking it so that the program has record of your language ability before the program so that they can compare it to your skills afterwards. It’s not a test and you won’t get a grade. If you do bad, your scholarship will not be revoked so don’t worry about it. Also, Don’t do too much studying before hand because you want to truly show them your language level. Think of it this way, if you do bad, there’s more room for improvement while in the host country.

“Never Neglect An Opportunity For Improvement.”  Sir William Jones

Why Korean? Why South Korea?

The news has gotten out. Ever since an article about my NSLI-Y scholarship was posted on the front page of my school’s website on May 2nd, my entire high school has had access to an article that declares that I will be packing my bags and going to South Korea for 6 weeks and a few days this summer. Before this happened, only my close friends and two teachers knew about my summer plans. Now it seems that everyone knows. I have even received congratulatory messages from people I haven’t talked to in ages. This whole scholarship isn’t something that is brought up in conversation that often so it was kind of overwhelming to have so many people know about it at the same time (You can bet that I recieved a lot of questions). Obviously, what I’m doing is strange to a lot of people. In fact, some people think that what I am doing is kind of unbelievable. I’m pretty sure I am the first NSLI-Y participant at my school and besides that, my school doesn’t seem to be that big with having it’s students study abroad in the first place. I have gotten so many questions from my peers and teachers regarding what I will be doing in Korea. Some can be labeled as more “interesting” than others but overall many of the questions have been repetitive. Most of them can be answered rather easily but on the other hand, some questions require a longer explanation that is kind of not appropriate for a conversation taking place during passing period on the way to World History. I plan on writing a series of posts answering frequently asked questions before I leave to Korea. This post will mark the start of this series. I personally feel this is one of the most important questions I receive and I seem to never have the amount of time I need to give a clear and coherent response. However, this is me trying.

Why Korean? Why South Korea?

So in this installment of my FAQs, I will be giving a response to the question written above. Usually, once I thank a person for congratulating me on the scholarship, their follow up response is “Why Korean?” or “Why South Korea?” I would just like to start off by saying I am aware that not everyone asking this question looks down on the Korean language or the country in general, but there are a vast amount of people who ask this question wondering why I picked Korean instead of a more “popular/useful” language. Sometimes the person will even straight up ask me with the question “Why Korean when you can learn [insert ‘popular/useful’ language here]?” or “Why go to South Korea when you can travel to [insert ‘popular’ country here]?” To answer this question, I am not going to respond to my overall reason for wanting to go to South Korea (I will do that in a later post). Instead, I am going to respond to the idea that one language or multiple languages are more “useful” than others. When most people ask me this question, they bring up the position that I should study abroad in Spain/any Spanish speaking country because there are more Spanish speakers in America than there are Korean speakers. To this position, I have a question. To all highschool students who are studying a foreign language in school currently/adults who have studied a foreign language in school, when was the last time you have used that language outside of the classroom/school? The majority of people who can answer this question will probably state that they have rarely used their second language outside of school (even if they have a large population of native speakers nearby). I can vouch for this. I can count all the times I have spoken Spanish outside of my classroom/my home (My mother and her side of the family speak fluent Spanish, so I do keep up my skills at home on a regular basis) on one hand. I have been studying Spanish for two years and I have had a large knowledge of the vocabulary for many years before I started learning Spanish in a classroom environment. That’s honestly really sad to me. I have had plenty of opportunities to use my Spanish skills but when the opportunity arises, I realize that I can go on without using it. I resort to English and that is what many people do. I hate that I have created a pattern of acting this way and I am slowly trying to break out of my habit of only speaking in English. In fact, even when my abuelo (grandfather) speaks to me in Spanish, like habit, I just reply in English whether I knew how to explain my thoughts in Spanish or not. Does this mean that the Spanish language is useless to Americans since so many citizens in the states don’t regularly use it? No, it just means that those people aren’t making Spanish useful to themselves. No language is more useful than the other in general terms. Every individual has the ability to make every single language in the entire world useful to themselves as long as they look for opportunities to use it, immerse themselves in the language, and truly put in the effort to maintain a second language. You could have the best memory in the world (lucky you) but if you don’t go out of your way to practice that language and actually use it in conversation, you won’t go far at accomplishing true fluency. So is the Korean language useful to me? Why yes, yes it is. It is useful to me because I make sure that it is. I have frequent conversations with native speakers and I even spend a few hours at a Korean church from time to time (though I am planning on attending the church regularly with my friend when I come home). No statistic about how big of a population of the world speaks a language is worthy enough to deem a language “useful” or not. It is all about how you decide to use a language. Language is a form of communication, and that in itself is important, whether it is being done in Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Croatian, Turkish or Swedish.

“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.” – Nelson Mandela


Program Dates and First Webinar

All the iEarn Seoul Summer Finalists had to accept or decline their NSLI-Y scholarship by Thursday, April 7th. Which happened to be yesterday. I have known the program dates and the additional information about this summer since I got my acceptance email, but I didn’t want to blog about it until I officially accepted the scholarship. I accepted the scholarship by filling out another online form which asked for some basic information such as my name, birth date, and reference code from the acceptance email. The form also required signing another form with one parent/guardian signature and it also asked for permission from the program to take pictures or videos of the summer program (which meant the participants) and possibly put it on their website, Facebook, etc.

Now, it is time for the more exciting part of this post…. The PROGRAM DATES!~ So I will be heading to Seattle, Washington on June 27th (Which happens to be my mom’s birthday) for the Pre-departure orientation. Then on June 29th, all the finalists will get on a plane and fly to Seoul, South Korea from Seattle (I’m not sure if it will be a flight with stops or without stops but that isn’t really a big deal). We will be studying Korean for 20 hours a week at Sookmyung Women’s University (120 hours total). I will get home from South Korea on August 13th (Which is my stepsister’s birthday). August 13th is a Saturday and knowing my luck, my school will have its first day on that following Monday but…    I’ll live.

On April 4th, 6pm EST, iEarn had their first webinar for the Seoul Summer Program. It was supposed to be a webinar to help the parents decide whether or not they wanted to allow their child to participate in the program. To be honest, the questions were kinda off topic but I didn’t mind since I had nothing better to do than listen to all the questions and answers. However, It was pretty informative and my mom definitely felt better after she was reassured about safety when traveling from home to school and money. During the webinar we also found out that we would get a package in about two weeks with more forms to mail in, handbooks, and a Korean textbook for studying before the program. I am super excited to get the package and I am hoping the textbook they send this year is not the one I already have.

Anyways, Thanks for reading! I will definitely update soon when I receive more information. If you want to be notified via email every time I upload a post, subscribe to my blog by pressing that subscribe button to the right of this post. You simply have to plug in your email and confirm the subscription in a follow up email. BYE!~

“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You are cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming. ” – Nicholas Sparks