Outdoor Korean Mall, Escape Room, and Bonding With My Host Sister {02/03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/03/19 Sunday

Today I spent the day with my host sister walking around this outdoor mall area called Lafesta. Apparently, it is a really popular hangout place in Ilsan, Goyang-si. We went on a Sunday afternoon and since it was raining, there were not too many people (which was honestly better for us. Crowds are never fun!) but I realized quickly that I had been to the area before with my last host family. We walked around the area on Christmas and watched the Disney Nutcracker movie at the theater that is located there. When we first arrived, nothing looked familiar at all but as we kept walking through the street, I recognized the placement of the Artbox, the book store, and the outdoor arcade.


With my host sister, our first stop was to get her ears pierced! We found this one little shop and waited for a little while as there was already a woman there getting her ears pierced and a couple other girls in line to go next. There were so many really pretty earrings and it took my host sister quite a bit of time to pick out the earring she wanted. She ended up getting her ears pierced in two different places: on her earlobe and then on the outside cartilage of her ear (I do not know the official name for that placement on the ear.) At the time, I kind of wanted to get my doubles pierced but piercing is not allowed on the NSLI-Y Program!

After she got her ears pierced, we continued walking around the outdoor mall and stumbled upon this little cafe that allows you to decorate phone cases. There was a large counter with a bunch of small dishes filled with gems, character molds, and other little plastic pieces that resembled cute foods, flowers, hearts, and unique designs. We got to walk around, pick what which ones we wanted to use, and then glue them onto our individual phone cases. They also gave us free drinks as they were included in the cost of making the phone which I thought was interesting, but looking back… I guess it makes sense since it was advertising itself as a phone case making cafe–so drinks were to be expected. 


We were ready to eat by the time we finished up our cases and they dried, so we went to this one well-known restaurant that my host sister recommended. It was a seafood restaurant that was known for its good quality salmon. We ordered some salmon rice bowls (연어덮밥) and a kimchi seafood crispy pancake (해물김치전). When we ordered, they needed to make more rice which was going to take 20 minutes, so they apologized by giving us some 연어회 (raw salmon) as service. Because of the extra food and our pancake appetizer, we barely had any room left in our stomachs to eat the salmon rice bowls! When the waiter brought out the raw salmon for free because our food was going to take a long time, my host sister brought up the fact that sometimes foreigners (especially white foreigners) get special treatment and she believed that this was one of those occasions. She also gave me other general examples and one about her sister’s American friend.

After lunch, we went to finally try doing an escape room! I have never done one before (well I mean… maybe you can count the one made for children that I did with my last host family but… I will not.) and neither had my host sister, so it was a first experience for the both of us!! We ended up picking one of the hardest rooms that the place offered just because the room looked pretty (well we did not outright say that but I believe it was both of our motivations–Also, maybe we both believed that we could do well at the hard room.) The worker told us that we had three clues and we definitely used all of them and then some! We started off in a room with lots of really pretty paintings (like a gallery or exhibition or something). We were able to get halfway with a lot of tricks. We could tell what we needed to do in some way but exactly how to execute it was the issue we came across often. It was most difficult for me because I could not understand the Korean throughout the room. Most of the paintings had little descriptions that hid clues to solve the problems and I had trouble catching what was said through the recordings because my listening comprehension is horrible! The room was a lot of fun though because paintings would like pop out of the wall or doors would swing open which added to the experience. We made it to the second room but struggled so much trying to figure out how to start that the worker actually called our room to give us a hint! I could not help but laugh at the fact that he had been watching on the cameras and felt pity for us, so he gave us another hint to help us out. 

There was one point where I figured out how to solve the next step but when I tried executing this idea, nothing happened–I was wrong. My host sister went to call for a hint and it turns out I had been doing it right the whole time! I must have just made a small mistake because when we tried again, it worked and the secret door opened. That was a bit frustrating! Eventually, the hour was up and we did not make it out of the escape room. We made it to the final area but did not even get the chance to start any of the puzzles. The worker came to get us when the time was out and he showed us how to solve the remaining couple of puzzles and escape the room. Even though we did not make it out by ourselves, I think we did a pretty good job for our first time. Especially regarding me and my participation, I think I did a pretty good job for not speaking the language that literally everything in the escape room was written in (except the one lock that used the English alphabet.) There was one point where we were looking at this one sheet of paper and on it were three bolded words in Korean and I was able to point that out to my host sister! Small things like that made me feel like I was helping so that made a difference to me, in my opinion at least!

We left the place with a good attitude about what we did and a free drink in hand. We took a taxi back home and just relaxed for the rest of the night. My older host sister ended up coming home later at night from her trip to Japan so we all welcomed her back.


Well, that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed what I have to share with you all today! Thanks for reading~ Til next time!!!

  • Emma 엠마

연탄 {Coal} Community Service, Korean Movie Theater, & 잊지마 식당 {02/01-02/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/01/19 Friday 

Friday was our second big community service activity as one cohort. This activity consisted of delivering cylinders of coal to mostly poor elderly homes that did not have electric heating. They counted on the coal to heat their houses during the winter. We were brought to the area surrounding 영등포시장 (yeong-deung-po market) which is known for having a large elderly population. We met the man in charge of the community service activity and he prepared us by explaining directions and handing out materials that we would need: gloves, aprons, etc. 

com ser 5

Shada & Me

2 hours were designated for this activity but because we were so productive, we ended up finishing in 1.5 hours! For the first “shift” or “session” if you will, I was in a group of 4 with Shada, Jenna, and June and we moved a stack of the coal to a little storage area near the side of a house. The other 12 students did a separate house and that had a farther distance between the coal drop off and the destination which is why they needed more people for the assembly line.

After we finished those two houses, we moved onto the last one which involved carrying the coal through a narrow alleyway. All 16 of us did this one but rather than doing an assembly line, we just had each individual take a cylinder of coal to the storage area while the boys stacked them with help of the director or leader of the service activity. It was difficult labor as the coal came with a lot of powder and sometimes the dust was too much. Additionally, the cylinders were quite heavy. Moving them from one place to another wasn’t too hard but when I had to pick them up from off the floor to hand them to the next person {2 each} my back started hurting. 

But before we knew it, we had finished! It was a nice little rewarding experience. We didn’t get to meet any of the people we were actually helping which was kind of disappointing. I think it would have been better if we got to see the people that would be using the coal.

com ser 4

We also got to take home keychains that were mini coal blocks with faces on them!

After the community service, a big group of us decided to go to the market and have lunch there. It was literally huge! Much larger than 통인시징 (Tongin Market) but then again that’s probably why it has its own station! Katie, Alix, and I got these really delicious huge 호떡 (Korean pancakes sold as street food)! They were of the thicker variety of the pastry known as 찰호떡. They were a dollar each and 100% worth it. In fact, I was pretty full from just eating that!! We kept walking around and we ran into Shada who showed us this really good place to buy 만두 for cheap {only 2천원 = a little less than 2 dollars}. That was my lunch~ Because my commute was over an hour-long due to me having to wait 20 minutes at 공덕역 {The next train didn’t go all way to my train station so I had to wait for the following one}, I ended up eating my dumplings while sitting on a bench inside the station. But honestly, it was really good so I didn’t mind the interesting circumstances. 

I came home from community service and relaxed for a bit—watching YouTube, writing blog posts, etc. Eventually, I even fell asleep and took a nap for a couple hours. My host mom and host sister had dinner during that time so when I woke up, I ate some 돈까스 that they brought back for me. And my night basically ended like that! 

02/02/19 Saturday 

Lately, I’ve been coming home early on both Friday and Saturday night just because I don’t make all day plans. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but sometimes 9 pm rolls around and I’m lying in my bed thinking “I could be out and about playing right now!” This could be because I’m bored or because my feelings of loneliness tend to skyrocket when I’m alone in my room at night. For the first time in a while, I made some plans for all day Saturday with some pretty cool people: Shannon, Josh, and Harmony. 

Our day mostly revolved around seeing the movie Unbreakable from that director M. Night Shyamalan. The night before we had tried ordering the tickets online {to make sure we got seats next to each other because literally the theater we found was the ONLY theater in Seoul playing this movie and there was only one showtime!} but because of our lack of Korean credit cards or Korean bank accounts in general, this attempt failed. Instead, we planned to go to the movie theater several hours before the movie started and reserve our seats ourselves. 


So Harmony, Shannon, and I met up at 충무로역 at around 1 pm and tried to find our way to the theater using Harmony’s map. Actually, the theater ended up being almost right next to the station but we passed it as we were too busy talking about the abundance of pet stores in the area rather than looking for our destination. We turned down some random street and ended up seeing the theater from the back. When we got to the theater we texted Josh to see if he still had plans to come and he was like the “moment of truth” which was so unclear. we were just standing in the theater being anxious and trying to figure out what to do with our boy Josh. He ended up telling us that yes he would come so we went up to the electronic self-checkout machine to order our tickets. We were determined to figure out how to buy the tickets without talking to any alive tellers—and we did! Plugging in our information and payment was a bit confusing but we managed. It honestly felt so good to have done it by ourselves {never changing the language to English}. It was definitely nothing besides a really simple accomplishment but in this household, we appreciate all.

After buying the movie tickets, Harmony, Shannon, and I went and had lunch at Popeyes which I had been craving for quite a while now. I really wanted their chicken tenders! Now, the Korean Popeyes does not have my favorite Cajun rice but the recipe for the biscuits was not that far off from the ones back in America; they were just a bit sweeter {but that is to be expected when it comes to bread in Korea.}

We hung out at this cafe called People’s Cafe {which also has a logo that resembles 나쁜여자 (bad woman) bar in 홍대 (Hongdae) which made us all laugh (Disclaimer: I have not been but it is an iconic landmark so it became an inside joke! Do not come for me Better World!) Besides the interesting choice of outside signage, the place was nice. Not too busy, WiFi was good, and the drinks were actually pretty cheap! Josh met up with us eventually and we went to see Unbreakable at the theater. 


The movie itself was interesting and it kept me entertained for the duration of it because of its absurdity and the many surprises. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No. But the experience was one! We decided to sneak in snacks from the Emart right next to the theater like everyone does in America which was a great decision on our part! (Do Koreans do this too? Or were we really foreigners overstepping our boundaries?)



After the movie, Harmony left to go home for dinner while Josh, Shannon, and I decided to eat dinner out because, by the time we got home to our families, it would be passed dinner time anyway. We walked down this long sketchy alleyway of really traditional ma&pa Korean restaurants that really made me anxious. I guess it was just the dim lighting and the quiet empty atmosphere that really freaked me out. We ended up stumbling upon this 24 hour operated restaurant called 잊지마 식당 {Don’t Forget Restaurant is how you would directly translate it.} 

We ordered three portions of meat and 김치찌개 and ate all of it. However, although the food was very delicious, that was not what made this eating experience unforgettable… it was the lady serving us. In all honesty, I couldn’t really understand her Korean, but Josh had no trouble answering all her questions so he just went on with talking with her. After all our food came out, she prepared to show me how to make a lettuce wrap with the meat and the 반찬 with all our food. I was confused as to why she was doing this {mostly because we knew what to do} but it was a nice gesture by nature. Then, she took the lettuce wrap and fed it to me by putting it in my mouth for me. I was shook and had to try hard not to laugh or I would have choked on my lettuce wrap. She did the same thing to Shannon so I was not alone! 

We had a nice dinner and then separated with Shannon. Josh and I spent another hour and a half at a cafe—I wrote a blog post while he worked on some scholarships. And that was all for my night! It was a lot of fun~ I feel like I haven’t gone out and done things outside of my comfort zone {getting movie tickets and eating at that type of restaurant} or out of routine {going somewhere that’s not Hongdae and hanging out with people other than Katie}. It was a nice change of pace! 

That’s all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed~ 

  • Emma 엠마


Monthly Korean Test, Waffle Tradition, and Package from Home! (01/31/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/31/19 Thursday

Today was our monthly test for Korean so you can probably guess what I was doing earlier in the morning: did you guess studying at a cafe? Extra points if you said with Katie!! 

Katie and I met up at Holly’s Cafe at around 9:30 am to study before our big tests. We both were studying as if this was the most important test yet but during our short breaks, we also reassured ourselves that this doesn’t have to be our month… we reassured ourselves that February could! We would get all the bread then !! 


Drinking a Cafe Mocha (Test days were coffee days for me)

Anyway, at the cafe, I read all the reading passages from both the textbook and workbook as well as writing out a rough sketch/outline for my 자기 소개 (self-introduction) for the OPI. It’s a question that is always asked and I try to always switch up what I say to show off different grammar points and to give my teacher fresh new topics to talk about. 

This past month, my class {3반 with Jacquelyn & Josh} has been having class at the youth center rather than the Better World office—where we had classes from Sept-Dec. The Better World staff members wanted to get the chance to see some other NSLI-Y faces more so they switched our class with 2반 for winter break. {There were talks about having 3반 have their turn there for the spring semester but I talked to 민정쌤 about it and I’m more positive that the current class will stay or we will go back.} Anyways, what a long ramble away from the point I was getting at!! For the monthly test, 2반 and 1반 were switching teachers during the OPI portion due to a disagreement with how students were scored last time as it involved moving students down a level. To make that easier on everyone, those two classes would be taking their tests at the youth center and 3반 returned to Better World. 

I ate a quick 편의점 lunch with some of the other girls before making my way to Better World—I walked by myself with some headphones in. I had made the walk this winter break with Katie to get brunch at flapjack pantry or to get to Better World for our orientation but it felt weird going there again knowing that I would be returning for a Korean purpose (The test!). {Does that make any sense?} 

I ran into 민정쌤 on the way actually and that 5-minute long by chance meet up improved my mood as previous to the encounter, I was practically shaking—not from the cold, but the fact that I would be taking my unit test! 

When we all arrived at the familiar room, my teacher explained the monthly test process once again and we immediately started on our reading test. 

Honestly, when I flipped the last page and was brought back to the cover of the test, I was relieved and happy. It felt like an easy test. Yes, there were questions that I, of course, did not understand whatsoever and I felt really iffy about answering certain questions but overall, I felt good. 

Then came the writing and speaking portion. Our teacher decided that we would do Rock Paper Scissors to decide who would go first for the OPI because no one was sacrificing themselves. I technically hadn’t gone first yet but if I didn’t have to, I wasn’t going to! Unfortunately, however, I lost!! I would be doing first. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost start crying because I did not want to go first. My teacher even exclaimed, “Emma it almost looks like you are going to cry.” Little did she know… Why was I being so emotional? For such a trivial concern? I could not tell you…

But honestly, going first wasn’t that bad. I shuffled into the room angrily and let out an exasperated sigh but getting it over with was nice. I didn’t have to wait with the anticipation so that my nerves had time to build up. 

The writing section was okay. It went very very quickly. I didn’t feel the best about it because I knew I didn’t utilize advanced vocab terms or grammar but oh well what is done is done. 

After class, Josh joined me in walking to an after monthly test tradition: waffles! We went to 와플 대학 and met up with Katie, Alix, Hunter, and Shannon to eat waffles but because the walk was so far and our teacher let us out late {she decided to finish the textbook with us that day so we learned 2 new grammar points during the last hour… everyone had to leave as soon as we got there. Katie stayed with us, though~ 

Another thing that happened by surprise today… was that a package from my friend Kara arrived!! When 주연쌤 handed it to me, I was beyond ecstatic!! I got home and happily opened it. She sent me the cutest pig ornament, a book I’ve been meaning to read, and some good old American candy! Oh, and the most heartfelt letter~ Ahh I definitely cried!! 

Also, last week 주연쌤 went to America for a partners workshop with American Councils and she met Emily Matts and Brian Leopold who both said hi to me! Apparently, at the end of the workshop, they had a session on what alumni reps have done and both Jacquelyn and me were included. I was so proud that my legacy could live on to them~~ 주연쌤 said that she believes it’s the first time an AY participant had been an alum rep so she was very proud of the both of us. 

Anyways, that was my Thursday~ I came home and just literally spent the rest of the night in my room exhausted. Although the days leading up to the monthly exams are so stressful, the weekend afterward is always the best because we have no work to do!!! {Even though this time my teacher gave us another practice Topik test to do… but that is break homework rather than actual homework… I’ll tell that to myself to make me feel better!} 


Also meanwhile… It snowed like three times in Korea during the winter… while it was negative 50 in Chicago!

I was going to add this post to tomorrow’s post because I figured it would be short and boring but instead, it’s long and boring! Stay tuned for the next post that will hopefully be more interesting: delivering coal community service activity and a trip to a traditional market! 

Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

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

01/29/19 Tuesday

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

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

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


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

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


01/30/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Emma 엠마

Arcade with my Korean Host Sister & The 10 Commandments of Free Food (01/27-28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/27/19 Sunday

Today was just a study day. I had no plans to meet up with anyone or leave the house quite frankly. I had a long list of tasks to finish for Korean class on Monday so I decided to just be productive at home. One of the things that took me forever to finally get a move on and start writing was my essay assignment on how to overcome cultural differences. I wanted to talk about what issues can arise from cultural differences and how this awkwardness can be avoided if we adopt a learning/growth mindset and not blame ourselves for making mistakes. I even talked about some of my own experiences and how I dealt with them. It took me a long time to organize my thoughts before writing but once the pen hit the paper, I was able to write it all in a good amount of time. Once my ideas started flowing, it was a pretty quick assignment! 

Eventually, it was 7 pm and my host sister and I went to an arcade that is on the basement level of this mall-type outlet store thing (wow look at me being able to describe things with such precise and advanced vocabulary) right next to our subway station. When we first got there, we tried two Virtual reality machines that were next to a children’s play area. The two that we tried were simulations of a roller coaster and a bicycle rickshaw ride on the Great Wall of China. Although you would assume that the roller coaster ride would be more intense and exciting, I found the one taking place in China to be more fun! There were more bumps and turns and most of them were surprises! With the roller coaster one, you could see ahead of you when the drops were going to happen; however, the rickshaw ride included a lot of sudden surprises because you could not see the path laid ahead. 

After trying VR for the first time ever (did I mention that?), we went to the arcade that was right across the way. I was really excited to walk in and see all the games and neon lights. Arcades really are not that popular in America? (I believe anyway). Like, if I wanted to go to one, I would have to go out of my way to find a place. Because of this, I have not really been to one since I was little… and that arcade was probably Chuck E. Cheeses. We played the classic basketball game, some claw machines (won nothing :/), some Japanese fighter game, and then DDR! I have not played a DDR game since middle school… when I went to one of those birthday parties that took place in an arcade/ laser tag facility. But it was so fun although very very difficult! When I played it for the first time with my host sister (to the song Pick Me Up from that Produce 101 show or something), I got an F as my score. I redeemed myself with the next round! We did another song from some random girl group, and I got a C rating. Not good by any means but an improvement nonetheless! We ended the night with some really cute sticker photos~ I really enjoyed the time that we spent together~


Stolen from my Insta story~

01/28/19 Monday

Today I met up with Katie early in the morning before class to study for a bit. Because our monthly test is this week on Thursday, we are getting on that study grind! We visited this cafe called Coffee Slob after hearing about it from the other NSLI-Yians that had their supporter/research project meetings there. We were there basically right when it opened, so there was no one there! It was nice having such a spacious cafe to ourselves. The prices were also pretty cheap! Much better than cafe chains like Twosome Place and Holly’s etc. We worked there for about two hours before heading back to the youth center to have our convenience store lunch before Korean class.


I brought over the snacks I got from my Christmas package to the youth center and I shared with my fellow NSLI-Yians. To eat the peppermint Oreos, we went to the convenience store to buy milk cartoons to dip our Oreos in ft. the use of a straw. 

Korean class was a blur. I really do not remember what we learned. I am pretty sure we learned two grammar points that I already knew because I taught them to myself outside of class. Besides those points, we focused on doing reading and listening passages from the textbook. We also learned vocabulary for the next chapter although we would not be finishing the entire book by the unit test on Thursday. We planned to learn the last two points on the day of the test. 


My Korean teacher always impressing us with her cute drawing skills

After Korean class, I wanted to go to this really pretty restaurant called D5 that I saw in a Youtube video about cute places to eat at in Hongdae with Kaitlyn. The last time we tried going, we thought it was just closed for the night so we came back today to see if it would be open… Alas, I think the entire place closed down? Wait… unless they are usually closed on Mondays? Not sure… I will have to check the reviews again because I know I saw one from two weeks ago on Mango Plate… It was kind of a pretty big disappointment if I am being honest.

Instead of going there, Kaitlyn took me to this really nice restaurant that was also kind of in this sketchy alleyway that her supporter from her summer program introduced her to. The name of the restaurant was 그남자의볶음밥 (That Man’s Fried Rice.) The place seemed to serve really big portions of kimchi fried rice with a variety of ingredients that could be mixed in for pretty cheap prices. However, the cool thing about the place that really made it unique was that there were ten ways (ten commandments if you will) to get your meal on the house! They were not too hard that no one would be able to do it but they were not too easy that every one that came could qualify for free food. For example, they included things like

  1. Be a triplet
  2. Be born on Feb 29th
  3. Get Straight As, Bs, Cs, Ds, (they included Es), or Fs on your report card
  4. Sing the national anthem (of your country)
  5. Wear a bathing suit in the winter or padding (long winter coat) in the summer

Actually, one of the commandments is sharing the same birthday with someone else. On our AY program, we have two pairs of people that have the same birthday… is that not crazy? Josh and Kaitlyn share the same birthday and so do Jack and Jenna. Not only that, but all of their birthdays are in February. All four of them really need to go and get their food for free!!!

There also used to be a corner where you could decide to eat your meal by yourself in the corner-of-shame if you will and get the meal for free! I believe they probably stopped the practice because so many people were doing it. In the entryway up to the restaurant, the stairwell was decorated with picture frames of people that took the challenge.


The reason this picture exists because Kaitlyn kept trying to tell me that I did not finish my meal because there was SOME rice still left on my plate… What do you all think?

After eating, we went and hung out at a cafe called Cafe Anne House which was spread out like a house. The area had little rooms that you could sit in beside the normal tables that are set up like any other average cafe. Also, the decorations were very American House-like. The atmosphere was really nice! Kaitlyn and I just hung out there enjoying our drinks and talked for an hour or so. We were not done eating after that–we went to get 호떡 (Korean style pancakes) at one of the street vendors. We originally planned to get these really cute heart-shaped 호떡 but the wait was 5 minutes and there was a line, so we went somewhere else to just get normal ones. I absolutely love 호떡! I know that they disappear quickly once winter is over so I am trying to treasure them while they are still around~

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading. I hope that these winter break posts are a bit more interesting than my boring old routine following posts while I was attending school (Plug: Day In the Life Post Here). See you soon!~

  • Emma 엠마

Day in the Life: NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year Student (Gap Year) 2018-2019 Edition

Due to the popularity of this same type of post that I made for my experiences from the Korea Summer Program (Day in the Life: Korea Summer Edition Linked Here~~~) and the immense amount of questions I have gotten from friends, family members, and prospective applicants, I have decided to once again try my hand at making a Day-in-the-Life blog post for the Academic Year NSLI-Y Program.

Disclaimer: There is NO average day on the NSLI-Y program. And with me in Korea, there were 15 other students on the program and not one of them probably had my exact same routine (or the rough schedule my more ‘average’ days seemed to follow). An average day honestly depends on your host family (their lifestyle, schedule, etc), location (some students end up being placed in 인천 or 고양시– not 서울), host school (Whether you have a more specialized host school or one that is more similar to an average Korean high school), the time of year (weather, holidays, etc), program activities (cultural excursions, obligations, etc) and also how you are feeling!! Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading this blog post… and I will just get on with my average day!!^^

6:00-6:30 am – Every single weekday I woke up at 6:00-6:30am in order to get ready for the school day ahead. During the NSLI-Y AY program, I attended a Korean high school Monday-Friday (but left early on days that I had Korean class). My wake up time highly depended on how tired I was, whether or not I was wearing my full uniform that day (or the casual sweatpants that were basically pajamas), my desire to eat breakfast, and the location of my host family.

With my first host family, my host mother woke up extra early every morning to get breakfast ready for me which usually consisted of rice, some type of soup, and side dishes. (By the end of the fall semester I ended up just warming up my breakfast myself to allow her to catch some more Zs.) When I stayed with my second host family, I would usually have a bowl of cereal every morning with the occasional addition of fruit or yogurt since my host family had a later schedule.


6:38-6:53 am – Around this time I would be scrambling out of my house after rushing to finish my breakfast without choking (or burning my tongue…rip my love for hot soup paired with my utter lack of patience) to the subway station. To be honest, although I would have appreciated more stress-free strolls to the subway station (one thing to look forward to on the weekend), I loved the walk–or the light paced jog–in the morning because I always would wonder what the new day would bring me. Also, one plus of having to leave so early for school was that the sunrise would also greet me every morning!


When I lived with my first host family, I took a regular train at around 7 am with an 8-minute walk to the station. When I lived with my second host family, I took an express train at 6:42 am (if not…I would have to take a normal train at 6:27 am!!) and transfer once (at the dreaded 대곡역… war flashbacks…) with a 3-minute walk to the subway.

7:20-7:30 am – Katie and I usually met up at 7:20 every morning to take a 15-ish minute long bus ride to our high school. We liked arriving at our high school by 7:40 to 7:50 because that allowed us time to sit and chill in the hallways before homeroom. (Sometimes to rant or freak out too if we had nerves or complaints about whatever.) Though occasionally we missed our ‘early’ trains and ended up meeting at 7:30 am.


8 am – At our Korean high school, homeroom started at 8 am and lasted for around 10 minutes though sometimes homeroom teachers would let us head to our first class early if there were not any announcements (Unlike most Korean high schools, the students at our school would switch classrooms every period rather than having teachers come to each individual homeroom). Our teacher would usually update students on any upcoming events, or things to turn in, or information on examination periods. She also often would give pep talks to the students to encourage them to keep studying hard! Sometimes we would watch a broadcast video that was run by actual students that would show the daily meals, any special info on the school day, and even the weather. (But more often than not the projector seemed to not be working so our teacher would just do the talking.)


8:20-12:10 pm – The first 4 periods of Korean high school classes in the morning.

Each period lasted for 50 minutes and then there was a 10 minute passing period or 쉬는 시간 (break time/resting time). Most of the classes I took were lecture-based, usually involving students taking notes or reading straight from the textbook. (I want to make a post more specific to my experience at 하나고. When that is finally written, I will link that right here~~ This post will discuss the classes I took and go into more details on the Korean education system: or at least a side of it that I was able to partake in at my host high school.)



During break time, most students would run and buy snacks at the 매점 (or school store) or just take naps. At first, I did not understand how they could sleep for such a short amount of time but by the end of the semester, I too was also sleeping during breaks.


12:10-1:00 pm –  We were allotted around 50 minutes for lunch (including the ten minute passing period) However, there was kind of a hierarchy based on your school year that determined when you could go into the lunchroom. I am not sure if this was exactly monitored or simply done out of respect of the older kids, but the younger students adhered to it pretty well. Third years (seniors) were allowed to start their lunchtime first while second years had to wait till 12:20–at least–and first years were not allowed to enter the 급식실 (cafeteria) until 12:30 pm.


If Katie and I had Korean class (Monday, Tuesday or Thursday) we would have to leave our high school around 12:40 so that we could catch the right buses and subways to make it to class on time. If we ate with our friends, we would end up scarfing our food down fast (with little time for conversation). Or, we would just leave school right after 4th period and get lunch at the convenience store or local street market. (Also on certain special days, we would get 녹차호떡 (green tea pancakes) from our favorite street vendor.



On Wednesdays and Fridays, we were able to stay for the entire lunch period and take our time eating. Honestly, school meals often get a bad reputation but that clearly does not apply to our Korean high school because most of the time the food was delicious! (Minus a couple of times that they would serve weird meat patties and fries with a sweet glaze to pass off as a foreign meal if you will…I shudder at the memory.)


2:00-5:00/6:00 pm – Our Korean classes were on Monday and Tuesday from 2 pm until 5 pm and on Thursdays, we had an extra hour till 6 pm.


If we did not have class, we would stay at school for the remaining 3-4 periods until 3 or 4 pm. (On Wednesdays, school got out an hour earlier because some weeks club meetings would be held on those days. I participated in an Economics & Business centered club called BSRA: Business Strategy Research Association.)

Sometimes after Korean high school, Katie and I would go to a nearby cafe and study together (We had our two favorites: one near my home station and the 한옥 Twosome Place across the street from our high school). We were usually very tired after the long days of Korean high school and would tend to go home right after studying. (This definitely applied more to the first semester, however.) Occasionally, we would also go out (Always bringing a change of clothes because wearing our uniforms in public was not our favorite look when not in school…)


I also would like to do a more detailed blog post on my Korean classes for the year program because they were a tad bit different in comparison to my summer class (So when that is published, I will link it here~~). Our class periods were 50 minutes and we had 10-minute breaks in between them. I was in 3반 (Third Class) which was the highest level class and also the smallest with only three students. (The other two being Jacquelyn & Josh). We had one teacher and used the Ehwa Korean language textbooks.


7:00-7:30 pm – After class ended, we were off from any obligations from the program (usually). Every other Monday we would have Bi-weekly meetings which meant meeting at the youth center to hear updates and announcements from 민정쌤 our resident director.


If I decided to go home right away, I would usually end up getting back to my host family’s home by 7:00-7:30 and that is around the time I would have dinner with my host family. I was lucky enough to have two amazing host families that really took the time to make sure that I was able to eat dinner with the whole family (or at least with someone if there were other plans). My first host family had young children so it was a bit easier to sit down with everyone but even with my second host family, the dinners I would have with my sisters and with my host mom were always wonderful. (Both my host mothers–and even my older host sisters and first host dad–were amazing cooks! I was very spoiled and I grew to have favorite dishes from each family.)

(For example, while living with my host family, I loved 김밥 (seaweed rolls), 김치지깨 (kimchi stew), 볶음밥과 계란 (fried rice with eggs) and 잡채 (sweet potato glass noodles). With my second host family, I came to love 콩나물국밥 (bean sprout porridge?), 해물파전 (seafood pancake), 순두부지깨 (tofu stew), and 짬뽕 (spicy seafood (Chinese style) noodles.)


8:00-9:30 pm – If I stayed out with NSLI-Y friends or in-country friends on the weekdays, It would usually involve just grabbing a simple dinner or going to a cafe (maybe a trip to a 노래방–karaoke–to let off some steam or bottled up energy). Curfew was 9:30 pm so I would promptly always be home by then~


If I was not out and about exploring what Korea had to offer, I was most likely home on that study grind: working on homework, presentations, memorizing vocabulary, etc. When I was not studying, (because let us be real… I practiced self-care on the program!) I was most likely on my phone, writing my blog entries, chilling watching Disney shows with my younger siblings, playing board games, playing with Andy (my host dog), or watching Netflix or Youtube.


11:30 pm-12:00 am – I would say I definitely did not go to bed as late as I often did in high school because I always just felt so much more tired in Korea. (Probably cause learning another language and being immersed in said language is a lot for anyone). So I would try to get in my bed as early as I could and to be honest when I had no plans on the weekends (or no Korean class the following day)… I would even go to sleep as early as 9 pm!

(I would say this post is more of an average (week)day in my life as an AY NSLI-Y student in Korea because there really are not any average weekend days.)

Alright, that is the end of this here blog post! I hope that it was very informative and hopefully entertaining to read through. I tried to add relevant photos throughout to keep things interesting. (Some being never-before-seen photos as they have yet to debut on my blog!) I also have plans to make another version of this post for winter break because the research project and community service really shake things up then, and I think it would be interesting to talk about that as well! Our winter break followed more of the Summer program schedule I would say.

Well, I hope you enjoyed (once again!) Thanks for reading. If you have any questions for me at all, feel free to comment or email me. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Thank You! Until next time!~

  • 엠마 (Emma)

Making Gingerbread Houses with my Korean Host Family {01/26/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/26/19 Saturday

This morning I slept in till 9:30 which was a nice break from waking up before 7:30 on most of the days last week. I also went to bed rather early which meant actually getting 8 hours of sleep! 

I ate breakfast with my host family before getting ready and leaving the house to meet up with my old host family. The subway ride was only 20 min which isn’t far at all. I had to transfer at 대곡 which was definitely a transfer down memory lane {I’m sorry I thought that would be funny…}. Actually, the subway seemed a little different because it was so bright! Usually, when I did transfer there, it was early in the morning or late at night and I guess I never got to see it at its brightest during midday. 

Walking from 화정역 to my host family’s apartment felt welcoming and yet strange at the same time. I looked at around at the streets I walked down so many times and immediately thought “This was such a great place.” I passed by the Daiso (Basically a dollar store/Five Below but with better stuff and 5 times cuter.) I always bought last minute things at, the Olive Young I frequented for hair conditioner, the one drug store that sold Goldfish and Milano Cookies, the Macaroon place with the cheapest Macaroons which I bought as gifts for my Korean classmates, and the 편의점 I ate dinner at with Katie after a long study grind at our favorite cafe. I really wanted to visit my cafe again; it had been almost a month since the last time I went! But, I decided to come back another day, with Katie or another friend. 

I walked the familiar path to my host family’s home and upon arriving at their house, I realized that I no longer remembered their door passcode. I pressed the doorbell and waited for my host sisters to open the door. It was so weird seeing them when they opened the door. They ran up to me and we started talking immediately. I joked around asking the younger one if she had grown taller and she replied telling me that my hair got longer. They brought out the packages from my mom and seeing all the wrapped Christmas presents made me so happy! I took out the two big boxes— knowing they were gingerbread houses. My host sisters had never made them before so they were super excited to be able to have the experience, and I was excited to have the opportunity to share something I did around Christmas with them. 


My Christmas Package

We warmed up the frosting packs with our hands and got to work assembling the houses. Unfortunately, because of shipping, a lot of the pieces kept breaking and collapsing in on themselves so actually building the structures proved to be quite difficult. Nonetheless, the girls had a lot of fun decorating all the pieces and simultaneously eating all the candy that came along with the kits.


My adorable host sisters~

We tried standing up one of the houses three times but each attempt ended in all four walls caving in and a collapsed roof. We gave up and decided to just eat the gingerbread and the candy with the leftover icing. We decorated little pieces of broken walls and roofs and ate those. I also pulled out a bag of off-brand Puppy Chow {Chex Mix with powdered sugar and peanut butter–called Muddy Mix at Aldi} and we added that to the mix of treats. It was all very delicious. 


They had to hold up the house for the photos… xD

Eventually, my previous host mom returned with my host brother and host father and so it really became a reunion! Everyone looked pretty much the same {except the fact that my host dad had a different hair style} but it still felt like it had been quite a while. While my host mom was preparing lunch, I hung out at the table with my host siblings and watched them run around and be crazy. My host mom made a comment about me probably not missing the noise and I laughed. It was quieter at my new home but my host sister loves music too so that is sometimes blaring from computer speakers. 


My host brother also loved the gingerbread cookies~

For lunch we had 갈국수 and it felt so comfortable sitting at the table again with everyone. I sat at the same spot and I even drank out of the same cup. The eldest host sister even pointed it out earlier and said: “This is Emma 언니’s cup right?”


I told them a lot about what I had been doing during break and I even introduced my topic of single mothers. I showed them my new room and my host dog. We also talked about my new host family for a bit. I thought it would be awkward to bring them up after my host family asked about them but it seemed that they were simply curious—and wanted to make sure I was doing well and happy.

After dinner, I talked more with my host mom and shared some tea and cheesecake. While she began washing the dishes, she told me that she got an email from Better World about hosting again for the spring semester. She told me that she would call Better World about it and if I wanted to, I could move back with them. I was really grateful to hear that proposal. The fact that they liked me so much and truly did want me to stay with them earlier but couldn’t keep me because of their schedule… meant so much to me. My host mom told me how much my siblings missed me. I mean, I had been living with the family for 3 months. 

However, unlike how I figured I would react to hearing her asking me that, I didn’t know what to say. She told me to think about it a bit more before deciding. This made me feel more at ease; I hoped they would not care whichever answer I gave. But I wasn’t immediately down with the idea of moving back in with them. 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved living with that family. I loved my host siblings and my host parents make me feel like a real part of the family. But I’m not sure if I would want to move back? I also am really enjoying the time with my current host family. We have made a lot of fun memories together already and I really enjoy our conversations together. I don’t know if I would be okay with only staying with them for the 2 months of winter break {a duration only a little bit longer than the summer program}. It was a lot to take in at once and I didn’t know what to think. 


After playing with clay with my host siblings for a bit, I decided it was time to go back home so I could get home by 7pm for dinner. My host mom was out of the house with her own plans so I ate with my two host sisters. The eldest one prepared some meat for us and so we all sat around the table enjoying the lettuce wraps. After dinner, we tried feeding Andy a lemon for the first time and to our surprise, he did not hate it! Like he would recoil after licking the lemon but rather than stop eating it, he would come closer and try to lick it some more! It was honestly the cutest thing, and I got it on video!


Babys first Lemon!! ❤

Well that is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

Running in to a Youtuber, Visiting a Shelter for Single Mothers in Korea, and Studying at a Comic Book Cafe (01/24-25/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/24/19 Thursday

We had no project meeting today, so the morning was free for every NSLI-Yian to spend it however they liked it. I decided to wake up early and work on my presentation for Korean class at a cafe, so I ended up at The Coffee Bean (and Tea Leaf). To be honest, I really dislike going to cafes alone; I really do prefer being able to study with friends! Though this is the case, I will say that I got a lot done at the cafe by myself! I was able to make my powerpoint for the presentation and memorize all my lines. Usually–because of a lack time–I only memorize lines well enough to recite some off the top of my head and the rest come to me after reading the first couple of words on my presentation slides. But this time, I was able to memorize it fully. I also think that it helped that I knew exactly what I was saying. I used complex grammar and advanced vocabulary but I made sure I knew how to use them rather than just writing things that would sound good to my teacher. While I was at the cafe, a YouTuber named Sissel (A model from Denmark) showed up. At first, I did not notice it was her. I was very concentrated on what I was doing, so I never looked up from my laptop. The thing that made me finally look in her direction was when I heard her open her mouth– her lovely accent gave her away! She was there meeting someone and I did not want to be rude so I did not approach her to say hi. I will say she is far prettier in person! I don’t even know why… but I was starstruck! (I later DMd her on Instagram to tell her that I saw her at the cafe and she responded telling me that she also noticed me because of my hair. It was a sweet interaction). I literally watched one of her videos the day prior, so running into her was such a coincidence.


Anyway, after finishing up my presentation (and memorizing a new chapter of vocab words on Quizlet) I went to the center where my classes are held and grabbed some lunch from the 편의점 with Shada and Kaitlyn (That 김밥 life though…) I just chilled there and reviewed some grammar while Kaitlyn taught Shada a dance to some Jay Park. It was really funny to watch. (Though, they were actually pretty good! Especially Kaitlyn, she is actually a dancer.)

Korean class went really well today. We had four hours today so we were able to learn two grammar points and do some reading and listening passages in our textbook. The grammar points were really not that difficult and I can see myself using them frequently which makes me happy. But, I think the best part of the class was the presentations for this week. I did a really great job presenting. I did not forget anything that I was supposed to say and I kept a good pace and even did a good job with inflections and expressing emotions. At the end of my presentation, we had a short discussion on the topic: lookism. It was really interesting to hear from the teacher and what she thought about everything.

After class, I just came home right away and had dinner with my host family– black bean noodles were on the menu. I did not do too much homework because I was tired and since tomorrow was Friday, I knew there was no rush to finish anything. 


But looooook at this! When I got out of the bathroom after taking a shower, my host dog Andy was waiting for me!! This was too adorable for me not to take a photo of! Anyway…


01/25/19 Friday

Katie and I met up early at 홍대 with the goal of withdrawing some money because we both have officially accepted the fact that it is winter break and we will have to spend more money than our stipend no matter how much it hurts our cheap hearts. Katie met up with me a little late so we did not have time to take our usual 10 ish minute trek to the Citibank ATM. Instead, we wandered around hoping to see a non-sketchy looking ATM closer to the subway station and we did! This whole time there has been a 신한은행 (Shinhan Bank, my favorite bank might I add…sorry 하나은행… I have no experience with your ATMs so….) right by exit 3! And we had no idea! Well, next time, we will know! Now we can more easily get cash to feed our poor spending habits.

Anyway, we met up with our supporter 혜린언니 and walked to the Hmart Express near the Better World office in order to buy daily supplies for the single mothers and children we would be visiting at the shelter the very same day. We ended up buying two shampoo bottles, six adult tubes of toothpaste, 3 children tubes of toothpaste, and a couple bars of soap. After purchasing everything, we left to go have lunch at this ramen place we tried going to the other day when Josh joined us for lunch.

Luckily, this time, it was open! We all ordered the same thing and got to enjoy some really high-quality ramen while enjoying each other’s company. Katie and I have been speaking more Korean with our supporter which is always good. This lunch was a really good example of it because I noticed the times when Katie and I would switch back and forth between the two languages depending on the subject at hand. I also found myself saying some things just to be able to use recently studied grammar points so go me for putting what I learn into my daily conversations!


We walked from the ramen shop to the shelter for single mothers which was only a 10-minute walk from exit 4 of the subway station. We originally planned to do some actual volunteering there but that is going to be rescheduled for another day and possibly a different shelter that needs more help. At this place, we were just brought into the office by one of the women that ran the shelter and we had a casual interview type conversation about single mothers in Korea and their lives. She basically restated many of the same points that our interviewee on Wednesday said but with a bit more detail on different subjects (Also, her Korean was a bit more manageable to understand I will say). One thing that she talked about more was the psychological support the women and children get at the shelter which really interested me because I also know that mental health can be a bit of a taboo and really personal topic in Korea (while it feels a bit more accepted by western countries specifically America).


We were then given a tour of the shelter and I was a bit surprised by how nice it was. It kind of reminded me of a college dorm with a common eating area, shared bathrooms on each floor, and separate single rooms for the mothers and their children. There is a kitchen but meals are not provided at the shelter. The moms are given that space to cook for themselves and their children with the food they purchase with their own working money. While we were there, most of the single moms were at work or out while the kids were at 학원 or daycare (어린이집). There was one mother and daughter who popped their heads out of their doorways and said hello to us. The daughter was not feeling well so they stayed home that day. At this shelter, the maximum amount of time they can stay is one year.


After our visit concluded, Katie and I said goodbye to 혜린언니 and went to go hang out at this book/cartoon cafe that I found on a Youtube video. The place is called 놀숲 (I guess it kind of translates to “play forest”) and you pay by the hour to stay and the drink is included in the price. Katie and I both paid for 3 hours (and a drink) which came out to be about 10 dollars per person. The place is really cute because there are cubbies with blankets and pillows and even tents up on this lofted area. Around the bookcases, there are also normal desks with comfy seats in case you want to read or study (sitting up). The place also sells snacks (like chips, candy, etc) and actual food (떡볶이, 라면, 파스타, etc) and has a PC room in the back– which I would prob never use but it is cool that this place offers so much!



We were productive with our time for almost two hours and then we started watching a very interesting movie… we had to shut it off about 50 minutes in because it was too much for one sitting aha maybe we will finish it another day? We walked around 홍대 for a bit (Katie and I shared some of those candied strawberries. They seem to be very popular lately! I guess strawberries are in season now~). Also, something a bit strange happened. These guys stopped us both and asked if they could interview us about cultural differences between America and Korea. We concluded that they were not a part of a cult so we went for it; it was a good experience to practice Korean at least.

I came home early to have dinner with my host family and we talked about some pretty serious topics? It was pretty interesting… For example, my host sister was showing me the world map they have in the living room with stickers and writing on places that they have been to and want to go to. They have written the names of people they have met on their respective hometowns too which was really cute. After showing me everything, my older host sister even put my name up on the map! She circled Chicago and wrote my hometown–Lemont– on it and my name with a heart next to it ❤ When we were looking at the American part of the map, my host sister told me she wanted to go to the Grand Canyon but is scared to go because of the recent news. I was shocked and was like “What news?” 

Apparently, there was a Korean exchange student that went to the Grand Canyon and actually fell off. He did not die but is only alive due to life support–brain dead. He broke like almost all of his limbs and the fact that he is staying in an American hospital for an extended period of time means that his family is racking up the medical bills…. I can imagine how crazy the costs seem to Koreans because people literally go to hospitals here for the common cold (I am not kidding) and the costs for visiting a doctor are next to nothing (in comparison to American healthcare). This family needs to pay about 3,000,000,000 dollars to be able to bring their son back to South Korea from America… you can see how that is not an easy thing to do. There is also a lot of controversy about this situation in the nation because the family is trying to raise money to bring their son back home. My host sister told me that some people believe that it was the boy’s fault for taking that risk to go to such a ‘dangerous’ place.

We also talked about allergies and the deaths that have come about because of that (I know… some very strange things to bring up in a conversation during/after dinner.) My host sisters found it pretty funny that I had a lot of experiences having certain nuts for the first time here in Korea because both my mom and twin brother are allergic (very badly) to all nuts. So I was never exposed to them at home (and did not really have any desire to eat them outside).


What was this pastry my host mom gave me? I have no idea…

After dinner, I worked on my workbook and wrote some blog posts. I gave up on doing any other studying to allow myself some time to relax and binge watch tons of Youtube videos. I had plans to visit my old host family the next day so I went to bed early to have the energy to deal with my energetic siblings!

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

  • Emma 엠마


Research Project Interview, Community Service, and (Real?) Tacos in Korea {01/23/19} NSLIY Korea AY

01/23/19 Wednesday

We needed to record our interview today with KUMFA {한국미혼모가족협회} for our research project but we were not given a camera. To add on to that, the tripod that 더나은세상 gave us wasn’t compatible with our phones. Later, 혜린언니 found us one that she had at her home but it only filmed things vertically which made the videos not come out so nice… therefore, Katie and I went on a hunt to buy binder clips and rubber bands to somehow attach her phone to the borrowed tripod—horizontally. While we were at Morning Glory trying to search for some thick rubber bands, I found this weird phone mount for a table top which led us to find the actual tripods! They were kind of expensive but Katie took one for the team and used her parent’s credit card to pay for it. 필요한 것이라서 괜찮은 것 같은데요 ㅋㅋ

While we were messing with the tripod, Katie accidentally left her wallet on the bench we were sitting at. She didn’t realize until we were at a 편의점 about an 8 min walk away. We hurried back and returned to the same bench to see no wallet. I noticed some guys surrounding the area and saw one holding a wallet that seemed pretty similar to Katie’s—as you guessed it, it was hers! Those men were just holding it and waiting for her to return and were leaving the area as we approached. They were so kind to wait and we got there at a good time because who knows where they would have brought it. After that, we went to meet our supporter at the subway exit to head over to the location of our interview. We took a quick bus ride and then waited at a Paris Baguette. There, we practiced our interview questions and bought a cake for the workers at KUMFA. 

The office was on the 5th floor of this building and they were getting a lot of shipments the day we were there so there were boxes everywhere. We were taken to the children’s playroom in order to conduct the interview because there was no free room anywhere else. We were allowed to record ourselves and the content of the interview but we were not allowed to record the face of the man we were interviewing. 


Fun Storytime: We got to the interview location early so we just waited in the elevator on the 5th floor for several minutes. Until we saw a delivery man try to use the elevator and then we scrammed.

The interview ended up being almost an hour long! We had 52 minutes of footage! And I did understand the vast majority of what was said; I will admit! I also kept getting distracted with other things in my mind because I couldn’t always understand him… the content was quite difficult. We left after the interview and giving the present. He asked us how much the cake was and I was so confused??? 혜린언니 later told me that government officials {I think?} aren’t allowed to receive gifts from the public that are more than $10 or something along the lines of that. It was pretty interesting.


Also…take a look here! Better World used a picture of me and my former two host sisters for host family recruitment!

After the interview, we ran to find a place to have lunch because I needed to use the bathroom so badly—plus we were hungry. So, we ended up at Burger King, with some delicious chicken tenders & fries. 

We separated at this point with 혜린언니 going home and Katie going to meet Josh at a cafe. I was heading over to 마포구어린이수련관 early because Kaitlyn had gotten out of community service and wanted someone to chill with her until we both did the nighttime community service. June and Jacquelyn {and Shada} eventually joined us so we all hung out at a Twosome Place for a little more than an hour. We also ordered three pieces of cake because we wanted to live it big!!! Not mad about it…


Out of the three cake slices, the raspberry cheesecake was the best!

I tried doing some studying at the cafe… but that did not go too well if I am being honest… but anyway, eventually 6 pm rolled around and we met the director of the center to hear about what we had to do for the community service. We were just going to go get the food for the dinner, set it up on this table outside of the classroom, eat with the kids, and then lastly, clean up. It was fun serving the children {I was on rice duty} although I was pretty bad at giving them all a good amount of rice. We ended up not eating with them because I had plans with Kaitlyn to get pasta after the service so we just sat in the rooms and tried to speak with the children… they were shy so it was a lot of silent whispers and awkward conversations. Hopefully, next time {when we actually eat with them} it will be less weird? I do think it will get better! 

After service ended, Kaitlyn and I headed back to 홍대 to visit this restaurant known for really pretty pasta ice cream??? {Don’t worry it’s real pasta and fake ice cream!} Unfortunately, with our luck, it ended up being closed. Apparently, on weekdays the place closes at 6 pm while it stays open to 8 pm on the weekends. We were there at around 7:30… it was quite sad. We decided, instead, that we would go either after class on Monday or before community service on Wednesday. 

Instead, we went on a hunt for tacos! Kaitlyn found this one place on the main bustling street on her phone maps but we could not actually find it. We walked down the street twice before she finally accepted the fact that it no longer exists! I remembered seeing a place near exit three that Liam pointed out a while ago and we were able to successfully find that and eat there. 


We shared a plate of nachos and I ate quesadillas! I was so happy to have somewhat of a familiar taste of Hispanic food! Like there was salsa! I haven’t had salsa since America and I love salsa! It was pretty pricey not gonna lie but definitely worth it. 


We ate too many of the nachos before I was able to snap a picture…

I came home pretty late and immediately got on the grind because I had a presentation to do for Thursday!!! And I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet!!! Our teacher told us to do cultural differences between America and Korea but I really wanted to try something else so… I decided to be wild and do the concept of Lookism—the obsession of physical beauty or discrimination against others for the way they look {these two definitions exist}.

I spent so much time researching the topic because I knew it was sensitive and I wanted to represent it correctly. Since it took a lot of research time, it also took a long time to write. I finished writing the script— getting it to three minutes— at 2 am! But it was okay, I did this to myself~ I had time to start it earlier… I just didn’t. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe to make my PowerPoint. And that was the end of my day~ 


My host mom brought strawberries to my room~ ❤

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Till the next one~~ 

  • Emma 엠마

Impromptu Project Meeting & Trying Donkatsu for the First Time {01/22/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/22/19 Tuesday

This week we were not having any official supporter meeting plans for working on our project but we wanted to make sure that we got the interview questions down for tomorrow so we decided to meet up at an Ediyas near Better World. Our meeting time was pretty early but not as early as our normal meeting time so I decided to still leave the house at the same time. I did not want my host mom worrying about making me breakfast. I went to study and finish my homework at a cafe. 

I went to Blanc Bakery at 9:30, bought a small blueberry muffin for less than three dollars and then spent almost 2 hours memorizing vocab words and answering questions from our debate in class today {The topic was a no-kill shelter putting down dogs here in Korea}. Katie joined me a bit before 10:30 and we worked until we had to meet our supporter at 11am. 


With our supporter, at Ediyas, we just went through the interview questions we wrote and practiced saying them–making sure we knew what they (sorta) meant and how to pronounce every last word. We also wrote an introduction and conclusion for the interview. We only were at the cafe for about an hour, but we got a lot of work done–and had time to goof off and just talk. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom but it was outside of the cafe (in the lobby type area of the entire building) which took some courage from me to go find. (I know… that should not be a difficult thing to do but I am just the anxious type about everything!) However, when I went and typed the passcode into the lock pad the bathroom door, I could not get the door to open. Eventually, I typed in the code too many times that it started beeping so I just ran back to our table in defeat and proceeded to tell them how inadequate I am. Katie, being the amazing friend she is, took me to the bathroom and showed me how to open the door. Apparently, I was supposed to close the cover of the lock on the door before opening the door so that the code would process which makes so much sense but… when you need to do the deed, sometimes you cannot think. (That is what I will blame it on.)


After we finished practicing, we once again separated ways. Katie came to study at the center for a bit but then I went with Shada to get lunch with Jacquelyn and Jenna while Katie walked back to Better World to study some more before class. We planned to, at first, go to this small shop called “Cheese Mania” to get grilled cheese for lunch but halfway there, I pointed out this really good 돈까스 place that Kaitlyn took Alix, Katie, and me to during the beginning of the program. With that comment, Shada exclaims “I have never had 돈까스 before.” At that moment, we knew where we would be eating. We all ordered the same thing at this restaurant: 치즈 돈까스. When we all sat down, we gave each other the eyes because the guy behind the counter in the kitchen was extremely attractive. We joked about it for a bit.

Korean class today was really slow. We spent one hour just doing reading and listening passages from the textbook while the second hour was Josh’s presentation on the influence of 유교 on Korean culture and just chatting about a variety of topics. 민정쌤 came to observe our class during the last period in which we just went over the vocab words from the new chapter. The theme was words with the prefix 맨 which means bare–mostly. For example, 맨밥 means just plain rice and 맨발 means barefoot. Our teacher was giving us an example of 맨몸 which to us looked like it was going to be just naked but the she starts her sentence with “When you fight with someone” and we were all looking so confused. She goes on to explain a situation in which you are fighting someone with no weapons–just your hands, and we all burst out laughing. We all were laughing because this whole time we thought she meant someone fighting while naked until she got to the point about having no weapons. 민정쌤 also began to laugh when she realized what we thought.

After class, I just went home right away so I ate dinner with my host mom. My older host sister was not feeling well and the younger one was not hungry so it was just us two. I told her about my interview tomorrow and how nervous I was!! I spent the rest of the night working on my workbook pages and studying some grammar. I went to bed kind of early to feel well rested for tomorrow~


Delicious dinner made by my host mom ❤

I was going to combine today with tomorrow since I assumed this blog post would be quite short but I think I underestimated how much I would describe Korean class today… So I guess Tuesday gets its own day! Yay~ Anyway, thanks for reading this blog post~ Catch you on the next one!

  • Emma 엠마