Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival

你好!This post is a little late… about four months after the Mid-Autumn Festival to be exact. But, I am finally getting around to making this post after collecting all my photos as well as researching more about this Chinese holiday.

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So this past summer (2017) I participated in a Startalk program to learn Traditional Chinese. I spent about 5 hours every weekday at a local university learning how to speak, read, and write Chinese for 4 weeks. Startalk’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens speaking critical languages, and it is funded by the National Security Agency (NSA). This summer was a blast, and I made a lot of really good friends from different high schools all around me. In order to keep us engaged with Chinese and to allow our classes to “stay” together, the director of my local Chinese Startalk program planned a reunion for the students. We would be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival– eating delicious food, learning about the holiday, refreshing our Chinese skills, and just hanging out with friends we haven’t seen in awhile.

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PC: Examine China

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival that gets its name from (you guessed it!) the fact that it is usually in the middle of autumn. (The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese calendar.) The Chinese celebrate this festival by having dinner with family, playing with lanterns, flying lanterns, worshiping the moon, and more. And of course, food is plentiful!

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and had our reunion on October 7th, 2017 (Saturday). This date, inconveniently, was the same day I took my SAT Subject tests. Therefore, I was a little late to the festivities because I had to deal with SAT Spanish and SAT Literature and when I did get to Lewis University, my classmates were playing games to refresh our memories on Chinese and practice new words and phrases.

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So happy to see everyone again!!! ❤

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Before I arrived, my classmates had eaten these flaky, sweet pastries. I later learned that these pastries were Taiwanese Sun Cakes, and they were very delicious!~

To practice out Chinese, we played this game that was very similar to Charades. We were given slips of paper (2 or 3 each) which had vocabulary words written on them. We had to get up in front of everyone and act out the word without any sounds. If someone guessed it, then both the guesser and the actor would get a point. (Points were important because there were “prizes” to be given out!) It was a lot of fun and Bruce acting out “Mother” will always be my favorite thing! XD

After games, we had our Mid-Autumn Festival feast! (Which was what everyone was looking forward to~)

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They got SOOO much food catered! It was crazy to see so much food for not that many Chinese students. (Lucky for the director, high school students know how to eat XD)

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Not every student was able to make it :/ However it was still very nice to catch up with everyone (and talk to those who I did not have a chance to during the summer).

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Reunion photo with Class 2’s teacher (My class’s teacher was busy :/) and the director of the program (and my professor for my online Chinese course at Lewis).

After dinner we learned about (and obviously ate) Mooncakes which are traditional Chinese pastries eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are usually circular or square in shape with a pastry exterior and a sweet feeling. There are many things that are used in the filling for the Mooncakes: Lotus seed paste, fruits, red bean, nuts, dates, etc. Mooncakes are very popular and are often offered as gifts to family, coworkers, and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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The Mooncakes were purchased in gift boxes because of how often they are given as gifts.

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Mooncakes often have really intricate details on the outside!

Our director purchased two types of Mooncakes: The first having pineapple filling and the second having a filling made out of dates. Mooncakes can be considered an acquired taste. Some of my classmates were not fond of the taste or texture or both. However, I found them really tasty! (Even though I had never even eaten dates before this day!)

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Becca trying to be funny! XD  我爱她 ❤ ❤

After we stuffed ourselves with all the Chinese food we could get our hands on, it was time to start wrapping up the reunion. Throughout the day we were accumulating points if we had won any of the games in order to pick prizes at the end. (Those with the most points got to pick first and then so on down the line.) Unfortunately, because I was the last student to show up (As if the SAT Subject Tests were not bad enough! haha jk…), I had the lowest amount of points which meant I was to pick last. I received an American candy bar XD It was still greatly appreciated, however. (Though I definitely had enough to eat already!) But there were some really great prizes: Chinese textbooks, Chinese books, Chinese music CD’s, Taiwanese scarfs, and notebooks.

The biggest prize of all (at least for me) was the fact that the director of Startalk needed to get rid of all the leftover food so we were allowed to take home as much as we liked. So, of course, I made myself a nice plate for dinner.

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Sam getting his Ziploc bag for leftovers ready!

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Bruce bringing home a whole box of leftovers! #goals

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My dinner for the night XD 谢谢老师!~ ❤

And that was my Startalk’s class reunion for the Mid-Autumn Festival! It was a lot of fun to come back together since we had not seen each other for almost an entire 3 months. Additionally, I was talking to my Chinese professor a couple weeks ago, and she is trying to have another reunion in February for Chinese New Year!~ I am excited to see what she plans for that! (This reunion happened today: February 17th) I will write a blog about that soon!~ 谢谢!再见~

  • Emma 敏娜
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2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop Pt. 2 (Jan 6th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분!

On our full day of the Alumni Rep Workshop (01/06/18), we would be having a majority of the presentations American Councils planned for us as well as learning about our planning expectations and requirements. (A lot of things would be repeated from last year, but I needed to hear more about in-person planning as I did not really pay attention to that aspect last year–because it wasn’t my role.)

We had breakfast at the hotel starting from 7:30 am until 8:30 am. I got up an hour earlier to take a shower and get dressed and my roommate Selin and I headed down for breakfast at 7:45 am. During breakfast, I sat with Jacquelyn, Shraddha, and Selin and was able to hear more about their experiences with NSLI-Y and their daily life in wherever they lived in America. The breakfast was really delicious! I usually never eat breakfast (and if I do it is a granola bar), so the spread for breakfast seemed so glamorous and luxurious! There were chefs who would make you a personal omelette with whatever you wanted!

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My roommate Selin and Shraddha at breakfast

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I took advantage of this breakfast by getting a lot of things: waffles, southern style potatoes, bacon, eggs, fruit, and a chocolate muffin

After breakfast, we walked to American Councils (except for Dean who took a couple people with him in an Uber because of his injury. If only AC knew that he crutched all the way to the Lincoln memorial the previous night… haha). When we first made it back to the American Councils Office,  we did some icebreakers to learn more about each other. We all made two circles (an inner and an outer) to talk about some highlights of our NSLI-Y experience, goals for the alumni rep role, etc.

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Walking to American Councils Saturday morning~

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Nicole ❤

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Ready for a long day of presentations!~

Then, like last year, we had presentations on our virtual presence on social media, in-person event planning, planning logistics, different types of events, and we were introduced to some resources we can access from the US Government.

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Like last year, American Councils gave out prizes to the reps that could answer some NSLI-Y/Alumni Association “trivia” questions. Shraddha and I both picked out some pretty cool merchandise. Can’t wait to use my thermos!!!

One difference between this year and last year was that American Councils had some of the alumni representatives (renewed and new) give presentations on the different types of events. First, we skyped past NSLI-Y Alum rep for Philadelphia (Mid-Atlantic Region) Andy Nguyen! Ahhhh it was so great to see him again. Before the video was set up completely, Nicole and I chatted with him for a bit telling him how much we miss him. He did a presentation on all of his events (which were EXTREMELY successful) and his tips for planning events and getting a good turn-out.

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Andy about to present to us

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haha PC: Nicole’s Snapchat // I do not remember what I was looking out but this is hilarious!

Then some of the other alumni reps presented about their experience with one of the types of events (+ tips and advice). For example, I had a presentation on my experience having a virtual Serve event. (I hosted a webinar with Youth Service America for Global Youth Service Day in April.) Jeremy (Virtual Engagement) presented about virtual events, Rahul (Virtual Engagement) presented about Outreach events, Jacquelyn (Midwest- Louisville, KY) presented about Learn events, etc.

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Deni presenting about his Grow (in-person in Boston) alum events from last year.

After what seemed like an endless amount of hours spent on presentations and note-taking, we had lunch!

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My lunch consisted of a roast beef sandwich, salsa sun chips, and a brownie cookie.

After lunch, we got into small groups to plan out some events for the year. (As an alum rep, we are required to organize and host at least three events: two in-person or virtual events and one outreach event.) Since I will be attending university in NYC next fall, I will have to host all my events before I move. Josh was in the same situation as me, so we focused on planning all our desired events during the late winter, spring, and summer months. I am really excited to meet and hang out more with the NSLI-Y Chicago alumni!~

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My small group for the event-planning activity!! I worked with Paula (Northeast — NYC), Josh (Southwest — Dallas), and Rowan (West Coast — LA).

Also, before today’s segment of the workshop, we were told to take a survey to asses our leadership style. After adding up all my points, I had more or less a leadership style known as East–Vision. We got into groups based on our leadership style (I was placed with Rowan, Lila, and Justin), and wrote out a poster on tips we would give others to work with us.

Main Points of the East-Vision Leadership

  • Visionary who sees the big picture
  • Likes to experiment and explore
  • Looks for overarching themes and ideas
  • Generative and creative thinker; able to think outside the box
  • very idea-oriented; focuses on future thought

Then, we were getting ready to end the workshop activities for the day. Brian gave a debriefing and told us all the housekeeping rules for the night. We got reimbursed for transportation to get to the airport (to and back) from yesterday, and we also took some time to take photos in front of the iconic American Councils wall (It was in the room we stayed in last year!)

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They decorated for Christmas!~ So adorable!!! 🙂

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Front: Paula, Me, Jacquelyn, and Shraddha              Back: Jeremy, Dean, and Nicole

With Old Friends!~

With New Friends!~

American Councils would be taking us out to dinner at Bangkok Joe’s in Georgetown. We would also be given time to walk around Georgetown and experience Georgetown Glow (An outdoor light exhibit). We all walked back to the hotel, got changed and dressed for dinner (For me, this meant putting on more layers. It was so cold!). We took taxis to the same restaurant we ate at last year.

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I ordered General Tso’s Stir-fried Lomein with Fried Shrimp

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Alumni Representative Dinner! (Left to Right: Josh, Justin, Jacquelyn, Dean, Selin, Deni, and Caroline)

After dinner, we split off with Brian to find the Georgetown Glow exhibits and just hang out in Georgetown. (Many of us, including me, wanted to stop by Georgetown Cupcake and then sit down and chill in a fun cafe.) The light exhibits were not close at all. The first one was right in front of the restaurant and Washington Harbor, but the other ones were scattered all around.

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When I first saw it, I thought they just wrapped some pretty, glow-in-the-dark ribbon around the trees. XD

The second light exhibit consisted of light up floor “tiles” on the ground. When you step on them, they change from their normally blue color to either a purplish-pink color or a reddish-yellow color. It was a lot of fun to run around on them!

The third one was more of a trek away– and up a hill! And though it was very very cold, I got to talk to Nicole, Shraddha, and Jeremy more. I talked to Nicole about her first semester at Harvard, Shraddha’s experience helping out at a refugee center, and Jeremy and I bonded over our NSLI-Y Korea summer experiences.

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This gave me Olympics and Sonic the Hedgehog Vibes. Anyone else? No? ….

After walking for awhile, we made it to Georgetown Cupcake! I, and a couple other reps in the group, stopped by to buy cupcakes. The line was so long! I was surprised… but I still waited in line! XD I ended up getting a Happy New Year cupcake (chocolate) and a gluten-free peanut butter cupcake (chocolate).

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❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

We then walked over to the cafe right across the street to hang out, eat our cupcakes, and some of the reps ordered coffee or hot chocolate. We lost track of time, and I had to remind Brian what time it was. (We were late to the meeting spot but… it was worth it! haha)

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Cafe Aesthetic!~ ❤

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All the alumni reps took over the second floor! haha XD

We arrived back at the hotel, in taxis, around 8:30 pm. We messaged back and forth on our group chat to figure out whose room we should hang out in, but we decided to just all hang out in the lounge area on the first floor of the hotel (close to where we ate breakfast in the morning). A lot of the reps were doing homework or writing essays for some programs so there was a multitude of laptops out. (I had mine, but it took me about half an hour to get it connected to the internet. Thanks to Anjali for helping me figure it out!)

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The qualityyyyy (Jeremy, Deni, and I)

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I stayed up till 2 in the morning talking with the alumni reps! Till 1 am, Jeremy, Dean, and I talked about our NSLI-Y Korea Summer experiences. It was super interesting to hear about Dean’s experience because his was the most recent and he had gone to Jeonju (전주) instead of Seoul (서울). They took Korean classes at a high school instead of a university like Jeremy and I had. (Additionally, he was quite popular at his school. The girls were head over heels for him! XD)

Then From 1 to 2 am, Dean, Justin, Lila, and I just talked about who knows what. We moved from the tables to some couches and got into some deep stuff. (Except when Dean starts telling us what our animal selves would be– apparently I am a golden retriever and Lila is a turtle… weird haha) So a mix of deep stuff and stuff that you can only talk about when it is two in the morning.

And that was the second day of the Alumni Representative Workshop! Usually, (well at least last year) I combined the second and third day of the workshop together; however, this post is getting so extremely long! This post is already getting up to 1,700 words!!! I had a ton of fun getting to know the reps more and learning more about what I can do as the Chicago Representative this year. I am so excited!! Hopefully, I can post a (rather short) blog post about the third day sometime soon~ Hope you enjoyed! 고마워요 여러분! 다음에 봐요!~ 🙂 Do not forget to subscribe!!!~

  • Emma 엠마

2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop Pt. 1 (Jan 5th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분!~ I am back with yet another blog post about the NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop!~ I have been granted the amazing opportunity to renew as a NSLI-Y Alumni Representative! So Alumni Representatives (shorthand = alum reps) are given the chance to renew their position for a second year if they successfully completed their events and fulfilled the requirements of the role. Last year, I was a NSLI-Y Alum Rep for Virtual Engagement; however, this year I am in the role of the Chicago/Great Lakes Region Alum Rep (Nicole had this position last year, and this year she is a virtual engagement rep. So, we switched positions! haha). If you want to read my posts from last year, I will link them here and here!~ ❤

So the Alumni Association is a network of exchange alumni which focuses on engaging alumni to continue language learning, promote the NSLI-Y Program, perform community service, connect with other alumni, as well as network and attend events geared towards professional development. The role of a NSLI-Y Alumni Representative is to engage the alumni in their respective region with events that help to fulfill the mission of the Alumni Association. (These goals being learning, growing, connecting, and serving.) Along with this responsibility, NSLI-Y Alumni Representatives are required to attend a 3-day workshop in Washington DC coordinated by American Councils. (One of the many implementing organizations of the NSLI-Y Programs.) Therefore, I flew to DC with 16 other Alum Reps  to attend this workshop–once again.

(To learn more about the NSLI-Y Alumni Association, check out the alumni tab on the NSLI-Y website HERE. You can also view the profiles of the new NSLI-Y Alumni Representatives.)

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Waiting at the gate~~~ Anticipating the fun that awaits in Washington DC

On Friday (Jan 5th, 2018) I flew to Washington DC with Paula Zhang (Yes the infamous #NSLIYQueen) as well as Shraddha Joshi. Paula is from Chicago, so you would think we would have met up by now… but this was our first time meeting and she is incredible! Such a lovely person~ And Shraddha is a Virtual Engagement Alum Rep this year, so we talked a bit before because she had some questions about her position. (Just like I did! XD) Shraddha is so sweet, and she has a blog too! I will link it here~ FOLLOW HER!

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Paula (Northeast/New York Alum Rep), Shraddha (Virtual Engagement), and me.

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These biscuit cookies are the best airplane snack. Nope, pretzels DO NOT compete!!!

We then met Brian (The new American Councils NSLI-Y Alum Rep coordinator as our last year coordinator, Tyler, took a position at a University) at the airport after our plane landed. We were going downstairs to baggage claim, totally passed by Brian though he literally had a NSLI-Y sign in his hand! haha We talked to Brian for a bit while Shraddha got her bag. He did Peace Corps in Armenia! So a fellow world traveler~

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Our amazing hotel: Embassy Suites

 

 

We got to our hotel at around 2 pm and we were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby at 5:30 in order to walk to American Councils to start the Alum Rep Workshop; therefore, we had some to kill before things truly got started. (Reps would be arriving anywhere from 1-5 pm– but poor Lila missed her connecting flight.) So, a group of us (Me, Josh, Shraddha, Dean, Deni, and Selin) walked around the hotel to look for a coffee shop (that was not Starbucks). We ended up going to this Cafe called Illy. Dean kept pointing out that the logo for Illy was very similar to this Korean song (???). Apparently, it used a very similar graphic.

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The Illy Cafe in DC (PC: Google). The next two pictures are screenshot from the Korean Music video “Iffy” sung by Jay Park, SiK-K, and pH-1.

 

At Illy, some of the alum reps got coffee, and we all just hung out in this seating area talking and getting to know each other better. I just love connecting with alumni at this workshop– hearing about their experience and talking about our shared interests.

Selin (NSLI-Y Alum Rep for the Austin, TX/Southwest Region) turned out to be my roommate, and we got ready for the workshop together. We, once again, had to dress Business Casual on the first night for pictures and to meet with staff from the Department of State.

We walked to American Councils and as we arrived (perfect timing), our dinner had just gotten there. We were given a NSLI-Y folder full of contents for the workshop: a list of the Alum reps, an agenda, a scavenger hunt, a calendar, brochures, etc. We ate Mediterranean foods in one of the conference rooms before we started presentations.

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We got his really nice NSLI-Y Notebook and Pen too~ As well as a name-tag (but we learned everyone’s name pretty quickly.)

 

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Everything was very delicious!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

 

After we had dinner, we had a welcome and introduction from some of the American Councils staff: Emily Matts Henry, Kate Elci, and Brian Leopold. Then, we met Chris Schwab and Megan Huber from the Department of State who talked to us about resources that were available to us as a part of the International Exchange Alumni. We learned about grants, other scholarships, internship position listing, databases– basically how to use the website for whatever we were looking for. (This was very similar to last year’s presentation.)

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A short weekend with a lot of presentations was in our future~

 

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I am so excited that NSLI-Y has added Indonesian! I definitely want to try learning the language in the future~

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Some of the Alumni Reps stayed till Monday to present at the Department of State. And Look! This is our group picture from last year~

At around 8:30 pm we finished up the day’s session and were informed about the activities planned for tomorrow and the rules for the night (house-keeping, rules if we went out, and our curfew of 11 pm). We also took some photos before walking back to the hotel from American Councils.

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2018 Renewed NSLI-Y Alumni Representatives! (Jeremy-Virtual Engagement, Nicole-Virtual Engagement, Me, and Deni-Boston/Northeast Region)

A group of us (Jeremy, Deni, Nicole, Justin, Selin, Dean, Lila, Caroline, Josh, and me) decided to walk around DC and visit the Lincoln Memorial and the State Department (even though it was really cold!). Luckily, we had Jeremy as our tour guide as he attends George Washington University, so we did not get lost on the way to the memorial.

 

 

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Loved being back in DC with Nicole!~ I have missed her! ❤

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Justin and Josh called this the #SlavSquat ??? I think… I do not the significance but hey, this photo makes me laugh! haha

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Such a nice (cold) night!~

After we visited the Lincoln Memorial (and after Justin almost “tried” standing on the ice over the reflecting pool XD), we made our way back to Burger, Tap, and Shake. The same restaurant we ate at last year after that monument tour! It was so nostalgic~

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Hanging out and having a good time!~ (Me, Nicole, Justin (Portland/West Coast Alum Rep), Deni, Lila (San Francisco/West Coast Alum Rep), and Jeremy

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Deni & Selin!~

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I got my table fries to share. The hot fries helped us deal with the cold (Though even inside Caroline was shaking! It was a big change from North Carolina weather.)

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Caroline (Chapel Hill, NC/Southeast Alum Rep) and Jeremy

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Lila and Nicole

And that the first day of the 2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop!! I am so grateful that I am able to experience this workshop twice in order to continue planning and organizing events for my local alumni as well as meet and become friends with so many alumni that I may not have met otherwise (I would have just kept stalking their Instagram as usual…. just me? XD) This post has gotten extremely long so I will post blog posts about the workshop in parts. (Hopefully two but we will see what happens…)

Thank you so much for reading this blog post! (And for once, this blog post is going up a decent amount of days after the event– not almost two months later like my last post haha) All NSLI-Y Alumni! If you have not signed up for the Alumni Association or if you have not joined the Alumni Facebook pages or your respective region page please do so! If you want to attend events and receive these resources, this is a must-do!

Follow my blog if you enjoyed~ I will be posting the next part(s) soon as well as posts about the events I organize as an Alumni Rep! Stay tuned! 고마워요 여러분! 다음에 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

 

 

Diversity & Inclusion Fly-in Program at George Washington University (11/09-11/10/17)

Thursday November 9th, 2017

GW (George Washington University) has always been on my college list, and to be frank, I did not really know why. I knew I had put it on there because it was located in DC and offered International Relations. But other than that, it just took up space. While researching other programs, I discovered the ‘amazingness’ that is fly-in or fly-away programs at universities. Fly-in programs give students the opportunity to thoroughly explore and get to know a university. (Typically these students are underrepresented on their college campus.) While scrolling through a list, I came across GW. And, I was excited to see their application was still open– although the deadline was in three days. I filled out the application, wrote the essay, and the following week I received an email affirming my acceptance to the program– with all expenses paid. I was ecstatic.

I flew independently to GW, but this was nothing new to me. I had flown alone to Seattle because of NSLI-Y as well as to DC previously due to my position as a NSLI-Y Alumni Representative; therefore, I was not nervous about the flying aspect … just the “Will I like this school or will I forever not know where I want to go to college” aspect.

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O’Hare International Airport –> Reagan National Airport

I arrived with a couple other students on the program around 4 pm-ish. Luckily, I immediately met my roommate Payton and our friendship formed just as quick. We met our student host Ana as we took a taxi from the Reagan National Airport to the Marvin center– a building on campus. We dropped off our luggage in the room we would be eating dinner in– Continental Ballroom– and then had Ana show us around campus a little bit. We also got to take a quick jog down to see the White House. Last time when I was in DC (Jan 2017), the front of the White House was closed and so this was my first time being able to see it from the front. First Observation: It was smaller than I expected.

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Afterwards, we had a delicious dinner. The mashed potatoes were to die for! And the chocolate cake for dessert… let’s just say I took two slices! XD

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I finally got to see the true nature of the GW students when the director said that you could go back to the buffet for second helpings, all the student hosts ran up to the buffet with their Ziploc bags and plastic sandwich containers. It was hilarious.

After dinner, there was a student performance showcase where we got to see a lot of organizations on campus, in their element, showing off their talents.

We watched a few A Capella groups such as the Troopadors (Co-ed) and The Sirens (All Girls) who sang some really great renditions of songs such as Toxic, Crazy, Praying, It’s Raining Men, and Somebody to Love. We got to hear GW’s band play the Fight Song and other classics like One Direction’s You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful XD There was also a performance by GW’s K District (Kpop Dance Group) and Raas (Indian Dance Group), and some performances by Spotify artists like Blink and Plantain Poppy.

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Group Photo of everyone that was a part of Your GW (prospective applicants as well as student hosts)

After the performances, we went to the MSSC (Multicultural Student Services Center) on campus and had some Hot Chocolate while meeting with the director and other students who who just chill in the lounges. Once Payton, Ana, and I were equipped with our cup of hot chocolate, we went out to see as many monuments as possible. (I had seen them all during my last trip to DC, but I love walking around DC so the exploration was much appreciated). We left the bigger group around midnight because we were so exhausted and headed back to Ana’s Dorm. She showed us a tour of her floor and we got to meet some of her roommates. She lived with 5 other roommates so the room was quite full but also spacious. Not only that, but they had their own private bathroom and full-sized fridge. It was all pretty neat! Payton and I both slept on the floor, but honestly, it was not all that bad.

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Payton and I at the Lincoln Memorial


Friday November 10th, 2017

We woke up bright and early for breakfast in the same building. Once again there was a buffet with a TON of food: scrambled eggs, waffles, bagels, fruit, bacon, french toast, and potatoes (Southern… I think?) And like expected, GW students ran to the buffet when second helpings were called with all of their containers.

After filling my belly with the best potatoes ever, it was time for a campus tour of Foggy Bottom (the name of the campus). We had an official tour guide and a student who was training to be a tour guide take us around campus to see some important buildings, statues, and places. They also explained the food plan for freshman and I loved it! So, GW does not have any dining halls. Instead, you get points on your ID card. These points can be used at local restaurants and grocery stores, so you can eat out or buy food to cook at home in your dorm. I thought that this was pretty food. You literally have control what you eat and you do not have to be in a routine if you do not want to.

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Ready for a tour of GW!

 

Then, we watched this really great documentary that was truly eye-opening. The documentary was called “Hands Up” and it was directed by Zinhle Essamuah. The majority of the documentary was filmed in Ferguson Missouri and focused on the Black Lives Matter Movement. It was beautifully filmed and tragically sad. What a great piece. (We also ate lunch during the viewing.)

The last two events of the day were visiting the MSSC once again and getting to ask questions to some regional admission officers from GW. The visit to the MSSC involved getting more information on how it supports students, and we also participated in these activities called “round tables” which were very similar to icebreakers. We did a bingo sheet, a discussion on our future fears, and a discussion of “Where are you from?” and “Where are you from from?” The question session was not too helpful. We read through a GW application– but they refused to tell us if the individual got in or not (Then how was that supposed to help us?). I also already knew most of the answers from my extensive research on the college admission process through YouTube, mostly.

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And that was my fly-in experience at GW (Nov 2017)!~ It was a really fun experience, and it truly made me  love GW and DC, in general. GW is the best! Who knows… I could possibly end up here!

  • Emma 엠마

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

(4. 김밥 (Seaweed rice rolls – gim-bap)

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

 

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

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

 

(6. 치킨 (Fried Chicken- chi-kin)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

(9. 버블티 (Bubble Tea – buh-beul-tee)

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

  • Emma (敏娜)

NSLI-Y Reunion: KoreaTown, NYC with Casey!~

I have been wanting to meet up with some of my friends from my NSLI-Y summer program but none live near me. I almost met up with Teresa (She is currently on 2017-2018 Korea Academic year! Follow her blog HERE) when she visited UChicago, but I had a school event I had to attend. When I went to NYC this summer to stay with my family for a few weeks, I planned to meet up with Casey!~

We met up early in the morning in front of some museum (on accident) but ended up deciding to go! We went to the American Museum of Natural History and spent a good amount of time there. We visited Three Limited Edition Exhibits:

mumy

Mummy Exhibit (PC: Google)

dark

Dark Universe Exhibit (PC: Google)

cubaa

Cuba Exhibit (PC: Google)

After the museum, we were STARVING. And because this was a reunion of NSLI-Y Korea summer participants… we had to go to Koreatown and get us some 한식 (Korean food).

Casey took me to this one restaurant which she said had the best 김치 (kimchi) ever. I had some pretty high expectations for this restaurant. Casey ordered 설렁탕 (Ox Tail Soup) while I ordered 물냉면 (Cold Water Noodles). I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw it on the menu because the local Korean restaurants near me do not serve it. I had not eaten 물냉면 since my last day in Seoul. For an appetizer we had 만두 (dumplings) — but fried.

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Fried Dumplings~

After eating, we visited Tous Les Jours (A French-inspired Korean bakery). Casey bought some bread for her train ride back to Jersey while I bought a taro bubble tea.

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❤ ❤ ❤

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So many pastries! I looked for melon bread but unfortunately, could not find any :/

We spent the rest of the time before her train waking around the city for a bit. We went to HMart and Casey bought her favorite snack– Kancho. I was tempted to buy a whole pack of banana milk, but last minute, I decided to just go with two XD

Casey 11

And that was that! Just a short, quick little blog post about a day I spent in NYC with Casey! It was fun getting to hang out with her again as I missed her so much!~ I hope I will be able to visit her again soon. Thanks for reading and do not forget to subscribe for more posts!!!

  • Emma 엠마

 

Startalk: Last Week of Chinese Classes & Graduation {July 17th – 21st, 2017}

你好!~ It is time to talk about the last week of Startalk :,( I had been putting this blog post off for quite awhile because looking through these pictures, especially the graduation pictures, makes me feel very nostalgic! I want to go back! I need to get back on the Chinese grind!

Monday (July 17th, 2017)

This week we continued learning vocabulary words about the weather and we expanded on that theme by learning how to describe the temperature/highs and lows. We also learned more hobbies and how to describe peoples’ physical appearances.

We also had our last calligraphy class which was low key a blessing because I was really bad at calligraphy and I would get so stressed when our director would call a minute left and I still had to complete the assignment given. This class was really fun; however, because we also got to make our own bookmarks. Our director was trying to give us ideas on what to paint and she suggested writing “I love Alfred.” She was kidding… but everyone took that and ran with it XD Basically everyone used one of their bookmarks to write “I love Alfred.” (AN: Alfred is the name of our TA)

At the end of the calligraphy session, our director picked the three best pieces to win a calligraphy brush and to my surprise, I was chosen as the third winner! (Honestly, I do not think I deserved it whatsoever… but I kept asking her for help throughout the session and so it might have been a pity prize XD ) I will probably not continue practicing calligraphy on my own time but the next time I go to China Town, I will definitely buy a bottle of ink or an ink stick so I can paint when I am in the mood.

 

Week 4 7

I got Alfred to write my Chinese name (吳敏娜) in calligraphy. He did so much better than I could ever have done! 😛

 

Week 4 9

我們愛我們的小老師。謝謝Alfred.

Tuesday-Thursday (July 18th-20th, 2017)

The rest of the week, minus Friday, was spent learning the last few things on the curriculum and working on our Final project, extra credit assignments, and other assignments that were due before the final on Thursday. Our final project was to pick a Taiwanese celebrity and introduce them with a video. I did mine on Aaron Yan or 炎亞綸. (I chose him because not only did I really enjoy his acting and singing in “Fall in Love with Me,” but also because Sydney and I did a project on him last week as one of our tasks. Take a look:

Week 4 14

Nothing too fancy… and I am currently cringing at my handwriting!!!

For extra credit, we had to watch a video on the Chinese language and radicals/characters and answer some questions. This week we also got to watch the entirety of a Taiwanese movie. It was called “Eat Drink Man Woman” or “飲食男女.” We got plenty of time to work on all these assignments during class as tasks stopped this week; however, I mostly used this time to goof off with all my classmates because we did not have that much time left together!

Highlights:

  • We had to rap a song about weather. We discovered that Ricky has a hidden talent in rapping. Someone sign him please !!! XD
  • Conversations about memes with Jada, Bruce, and Cetlali
  • Alfred roasting us as per usual
  • Teaching our 老師 what “twinning” means
  • Singing Kpop in the car with Becca
  • Embarrassing Jada with our singing skills when singing her Happy Birthday in the cafeteria- in front of everyone
  • The cafeteria CHURROS
Week 4 24

#bestlunchever #很好吃

Week 4 25

Photoshopped Kameron into our last lunch photo. Can you tell? XD

Friday (July 21st, 2017) – Startalk Graduation Ceremony

Oh, this day was filled with the feels! It was a really nice day though~

Week 4 46

Becca and I waiting to go inside. (We did not want to be too early…)

We started off the day viewing final projects. It was pretty awkward and embarrassing because I hate how my voice sounds over recordings and I was nervous that others would judge my pronunciation. Everyone felt the same as me, however, so it was not too bad. After our projects, we played a few rounds of this new vocab game (it has something to do with the wind… I wish I remembered its Chinese name!) and just talk with each other until it was time to take a class photo and make our way to the room where our graduation would be held.

 

Week 4 57

Last selfie in our Chinese class!!~

The graduation ceremony was in the same room we had orientation in which was an interesting feeling because our time in Startalk felt like it went full-circle. The ceremony started with the director talking about the program and what exactly it entailed (for all parents in attendance). We also had a few messages from our teachers. Next, they did something unexpected… they started playing my final project video! I almost fell out of my chair! I was surprised and my face immediately became red. Our director said that she wanted the parents to hear more of what the students had learned and so she had the teacher of each class pick the best final project. My 老師 picked mine! I was honestly very proud of myself, but I still could not help cringe at my voice XD We then got to watch a compilation of photos from throughout the program with some upbeat background music – it was really cute and I literally teared up.

Then, it was time to get our certificates. We started with my class and we all lined up like practiced (one of the things we did this week in preparation for graduation). We went down the line translating the Chinese sentence said before us and then saying a sentence in Chinese of our own choice. Afterward, the teachers called each student, one by one, to shake hands and accept their certificate of completion. The other class went after.

Week 4 35

My Class ❤

Week 4 36

Congratulations to me!~

And as I predicted, after the Director called everyone out to the hallway for photos and light refreshments, I started literally crying. My friends were gathering around me trying to comfort me and so I quickly stopped. I never thought that I would be getting so emotional. The program was less than 4 weeks but I still had a blast learning Chinese and I bonded a lot with my class mates. I could not imagine starting my senior year of high school and not going to Chinese class. Everything just blew up in my face at that point. However, I quickly got over it and a smile returned to my face~ Which was good because there were so many pictures afterward!! Prepare for a spam…

Week 4 52

Sabrina, me, Jada, Daina, and Adrienne with our Certificates of Completion

 

Week 4 40

The “Yeah Boi” Squad!!

 

Week 4 38

Becca did not get the “wear a yellow dress” memo

Week 4 41

The best people you will ever meet

Week 4 44

Me with my 小老師

Week 4 43

Had to snap a picture with my teacher and director~

After the ceremony, I had planned a lunch outing with anyone from my class that could attend at a Chinese restaurant in Bolingbrook called “Gong Ho.” Not everyone could make it… but a good amount did! I am so glad that we got to celebrate altogether outside of school~ We plan to hang out and eat food at least once a month or once every two months~ I really want us all to keep in touch even if we do not see each other a lot.

Week 4 48

Reflection: Startalk was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did it allow me to stay productive through the summer, it gave me a kick start on learning Chinese which I might not have gotten from anything else. I made a lot of really great friends and I am now inspired to not only gain fluency in the Korean language but also the Chinese language. Lewis University was very kind; they gave us Startalk students the opportunity to continue our Chinese learning journey with a second semester online Chinese course. If we got an A in the summer course, we would be allowed to enroll in the online Chinese class for free! (Which was super nice because it would have been so expensive if I had to pay for it!)

  • I found out my grade from the class a couple weeks after the graduation ceremony- while I was in NY visiting family. I got an A and I am happy to say that I will be continuing Chinese with Lewis University this fall! Classes start on August 28th. I will have 3 assignments per week up until December. I will be meeting, through video call, with my professor (otherwise known as my director from Startalk) once every two weeks. We will also be doing handwritten assignments and we will also be taking tests. I can not wait to improve so much during this semester!! (Hopefully, I can handle it with my 5 AP classes… wish me luck! haha)

If you ever get the chance to participate in a Startalk program, please do! You will have a lot of fun and learn so much! If only I could apply next year, I would do it in a heartbeat~ Thanks for reading and do not forget to subscribe to my blog! More posts to come on traveling, NSLI-Y stuff, and learning Korean and Chinese. 謝謝! 再見!~

- Emma 吳敏娜

 

StarTalk: Third Week of Chinese Classes {July 10th – July 14th, 2017}

你好!The third week of StarTalk Chinese classes was super fun but also super stressful. This was because we had our field trip to China Town and our Chinese midterms all during one week!

We still learned a lot of Chinese this week. Our teacher did not let us slack off just because we had a field trip and that we needed to study for our midterm. This week, we focused on family vocabulary, common Taiwanese foods, and adjectives to describe places.

We also got to practice more calligraphy. Calligraphy and I truly have a love-hate relationship. I am not good at it, but I really want to be. It is honestly a struggle.

China Town (7/12/17)

  • In the morning, both Chinese classes met up at the library in order to wait for the bus that would take us to Chicago. We did not start the day off with really good luck because our bus was 45 minutes late and it started seriously storming while we made our way to China Town.

We were supposed to do a scavenger hunt as soon as we got to China Town but because it was raining and we had lost a lot of time due to our ride being late, our teachers and the director allowed us to just walk around for a little bit before it was time to eat. The scavenger hunt then became extra credit, and because mt group was very extra (haha word play) we completed the task! (We just had to take photos of storefronts on our list and take photos of signs where we could recognize some characters.)

Then, it was finally time to eat! (Honestly, the part of the trip we were most looking forward to!) We ate orange chicken, duck, white & fried rice, dumplings, steamed buns, eggplant, fried noodles, tofu, etc.

After lunch, we were all treated to drinks from JoyYee. I had milk tea with tapioca pearls and I was in love! Bubble tea (or Boba tea) is my favorite thing to drink. I had not had it since Korea and boy… did I miss it!

After lunch & drinks, we were given an hour to just walk around China Town and do whatever we wanted until the bus arrived to take us back to Lewis. This part of the trip did not treat my wallet very well XD

Midterms (7/13/17)

  • One of the scariest words in the English vocabulary: Midterms. Our midterms were split into two parts; we had to take a reading test and a speaking interview. The reading test was composed of one side being sentences in Pinyin that we had to translate to English while the other side had sentences in Chinese characters. The speaking interview was with the director in which she would be asking us lots of questions and then, at the end, we would have to ask her questions like we were getting to know a host sibling. With my amazing luck (note the sarcasm), I had to do the interview first. Fortunately, my midterms went great! Aced both of them!~

And that was my third week of Chinese classes at Lewis! It has been very fun and I have gotten even closer with all of my classmates. Honestly, it is going to be very hard for me to have to say goodbye to everyone! Good thing we all do not live too far from each other! Thanks for reading~ Don’t forget to subscribe!~ ^^ 再見!

  • Emma 엠마 敏娜

NSLI-Y Outreach: NSHSS College/Career Fair at The University of Chicago

This weekend (09/09/17), I had the opportunity to conduct outreach for the NSLI-Y program at The University of Chicago. We needed one more alum other than me to come, so I went to the Great Lakes – Chicago NSLI-Y Alumni Facebook page and asked around for any volunteers. (Author’s note: Attention all NSLI-Y Alumni! Make sure to join your region’s (if applicable) Facebook page! Us alumni representatives will often post about opportunities there!) Michaela, an awesome China Summer 2015 alumna, joined me for the event.

For this event, Michaela and I were at a “college fair” for NSHSS (National Society of High School Scholars) members. We were at the U.S. Department of State’s table and our job was to talk about the fully funded cultural exchanges, hosting opportunities, and our experience with NSLI-Y. The rest of the tables were for universities (mostly in IL/the Midwest region), but there was also a table for the CIA. It was just us and the DIR (Diplomat in Residence) for the Midwest: Melissa Martinez.

I arrived at the right hall at UChicago about an hour early, so I walked around campus for awhile. The campus is so pretty! I could not resist taking photos of all the old buildings. Its architecture is my aesthetic.

Uchi 3

After my own little “tour” of the campus, I went to the room for the college fair and besides the UChicago reps that were present, I was still the first one there.

Uchi 16

The University of Chicago prepared goodie bags for all of us; they included water, a Toblerone, and some hand sanitizer.

Eventually, Melissa showed up, and we began to set up the table with a U.S. Department of State tablecloth, tons of brochures, pens, and post it notes. Looking around at all the other tables for the colleges, I realized that table setting is truly an art.

Uchi 13

good work shall I say

After setting up, Melissa left to go present to the NSHSS members. While she was gone, I met Michaela for the first time. For about an hour, we talked about a variety of things: our NSLI-Y experiences, other alumni opportunities we have done, learning languages, China Town, Gentrification, College, etc.

Uchi 10

Michaela ❤

Uchi 9

Me! Did I mention we got name tags? I am wearing mine with my NSLI-Y lanyard I received from my PDO!

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Michaela and I standing in front of our lovely table~ (We had to get a picture before the students came in. Once they did, we had no breaks for photos XD)

The fair lasted around 2 hours, and I talked more than I normally would at a speech competition! That is saying a lot!

During the two hours, Michaela and I spoke with students that were interested in studying abroad. We also talked to parents about how they can host international students (selling point: once they go off to college, there will be an extra room in the house XD)

It was honestly very heartwarming to meet so many students that had an interest not only in cultures and languages, but also careers in foreign policy/with the U.S. Department of State. I hope a good amount of students we talked to will apply this application season.

Uchi 8

A funny part of the fair was the fact that many parents thought I was working for the Department of State. They would ask me what I did, and I would then tell them that I was currently only a senior in high school, but that hopefully, I would be there in the future XD Honestly, I do not look old at all. In fact, I think I look younger than most people my age. It must have been my blazer. It must have made me look professional!

Uchi 1

Me with Melissa Martinez (Midwest DIR) and Michaela

And that was my take on the outreach event I did this September! It was quite a lot of fun, and I am glad I received the opportunity to do so. The NSLI-Y Alumni Association is such an amazing network of people and I am so thankful to be a part of it!

Thank you for reading~ If you enjoyed, please subscribe to my blog! 再見!

Startalk: Second Week of Chinese Classes { July 5th – July 7th, 2017}

你好!~ So this week of Startalk was shorter than normal because we had July 3rd and July 4th off. I really enjoyed the break and did something fun every single day to really make the most of the time I had without classes and homework.

We reviewed everything we had learned the past week on Wednesday and Thursday in order to make sure that we did not forget anything over the break and that we truly had these things in our long term memory. We also got our first taste of characters. We learned the characters for several popular Taiwanese foods and practiced writing them with the correct stroke order. I tried very hard but my copies of the examples were not good looking at all XD On Friday, we learned the characters and pinyin for family vocab. We spent time studying the stroke order for each and every character. We played some competitive games with all the groups to see who could write the characters the fastest with the correct stroke order by working as a team (it also had to be legible XD)

This week we were also introduced to task activities. On certain days we would be moved to a separate room filled with several different tasks all surrounding different aspects of learning Chinese. There was a task that involved writing characters, creating a Chinese menu, listening to Chinese music, creating a poster for a Taiwanese celebrity, calligraphy, creating a picture book with common radicals, a conversation station, and researching locations of interest in Taiwan. We have to do one every day and if we can get more done, we get extra credit!

Overall, this week has been my favorite because of the fact that all my classmates are becoming more comfortable with speaking Chinese and putting themselves out there (this is something that I already had the opportunity to do through NSLI-Y), and that my classmates and I are also getting more comfortable with my teacher and TA. Also, I have been wanting to learn characters since the beginning so I could not be more excited when we began to use them in class. Since the first week, I had been memorizing and learning the characters of our vocab words (which was optional) as well as the pinyin that we studied in class ~ I can not wait to learn more characters next week!!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed. If you have any questions, please comment below~ Do not forget to subscribe. 謝謝!再見!~

- Emma 敏娜 엠마