NSLI-Y Korea Summer 2018 Pre-Departure Orientation {Alumni Leader – Part 2}

안녕하세요 여러분~

Tuesday 06/26

The first full day of PDO (at least for the New NSLI-Yians) started bright and early. After breakfast, presentations of all different types were scheduled from 9 am onward.

 

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Ready for a long day of presentations!!!

The day started off with a video call presentation by the Department of State’s Christopher Schwab. He talked about the Department of States expectations for NSLI-Y and its programs as well as the importance of each and every program. (He also talked at length about the geopolitics concerning the US and North and South Korea.)

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After the presentation from the Department of State, we began a session called “The Intentional Language Learner” which focused on how to set goals, manage expectations, as well as general NSLI-Y goals regarding language acquisition.

 

The students shared their “Smart” Goals which were prepped before they arrived at PDO. They were told to try to make goals for their program that followed the SMART acronym.

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound

 

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OPI Scale (Novice Low to Distinguished)

Ligaya then went over the OPI scale. Before we headed out for lunch, the students were allowed to check their OPI scores with their resident director Minjeong. iEarn discussed reasonable expectations for language skill improvement. According to iEarn, a student that began at novice low succeeded in reaching the program’s expectations if they were able to reach novice high– anything above that was surpassing expectations. They also made sure to let students know that the higher a student places on the OPI scale pre-program, the fewer levels they will probably move up/ are expected to move up.

The second session of the day was “The Flexible & Open-Minded Cultural Explorer” Minjeong went over culture shock and how to deal with it as well as Mental Health while abroad.

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We liked to call this the Stress Tornado

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Shown in the picture above is the NSLI-Y students playing this game that I really can only describe as a demonstration of differing perspectives and cultures. Each student was given a slip of paper and on that paper, there was a statement that revealed a pet peeve or something the individual should now consider disrespectful. For example, some slips of paper may have said “Not making eye contact” or “fidgeting” or “interrupting.” Each student was also given a pile of toothpicks to hand out to the other students they interact with if they do anything that does against the statement on their slip of paper.

The NSLI-Y students walked around having conversations and handed out toothpicks to their partners. Each individual was supposed to try to figure out what the other partner had as their “pet peeve.” Some were easier to guess than others–especially when there were certain statements that were about such subtle, natural things like fidgeting or playing with one’s hair. This activity was done to showcase and highlight the subtleties of different cultures and interactions between people in different societies. It made the students more aware of themselves within a larger entity.

After this activity, we moved on to lunch and the final three sessions of the presentation day: The Model Citizen Ambassador, The Safe & Savy Traveler, and The Thoughtful & Engaged Host Student.

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I love Kahoot! We did not play this during my PDO 😛

Alicia (American RD) went over the program rules, expectations, as well as how communication will work during the program. After we discussed everything about safety and security, we played a Kahoot game. It was actually really fun seeing everyone being so competitive in order to win. (Dio also took out his phone to play… but let us just say we probably disappointed the iEarn staff with our low place… XD )

One thing that I thought went really well was the conversation the staff led about preventing sexual abuse and harassment. They went through a presentation slideshow on signs of sexual abuse (what is okay or not okay) as well as ways to report it.

We also discussed being homosexual in Korea and the stigma that can revolve around that. I know during my summer PDO, we glossed over this topic. We only had a small booklet about it that was given to us before the program.

We also talked about race in Korea. We discussed Korean beauty standards that praise pale skin and how that can cause stigma against darker skin tones. These discussions were very compelling to be a part of, and I was happy that the RDs took the time to bring awareness to these taboo topics rather than push it under the rug for the students to figure out along the way on the program.

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My Presentation ❤

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Example Slide~

The last session of the day was a presentation that I made about living with a host family! I presented about common host family issues (and how to solve them), tips for living with a host family, as well as useful phrases to use with your host family. I also shared plenty of stories about my host family to the students. (Glad I got them to laugh at my failures and my host brothers’ shenanigans.)

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After all the presentations, it was 5pm which means dinner time! I ended up going with Dio to take a group of students to the University District so that they could grab some food (Though I went with Alice and Calista back to the university to eat dinner at the cafeteria because it was free!)

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Dinner with Alice!~

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The view from the cafeteria! Wowww

After dinner, Alice and I walked around campus and got some more ice cream because why not! We saved money on our dinner 😉

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Another amazing view!!~ ❤

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Alicia (the resident director) decided that the students would spend their final night at PDO watching a Korean drama together! She hooked up her laptop to the TV in the lounge and played the first episode of a really old Korean drama that was not popular– but it was hilarious! We all sat on the floor or couches wearing our pajamas enjoying this show. I thought it was such a cute bonding gesture between the RD and her students. It was a nice way to end the night!

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After the drama, Dio and I did some room checks which meant making sure everyone was in their designated room by 10 pm. I checked about 12 rooms for the girls while Dio checked all the boys’ rooms. Dio joked about him being really good at room checks and that it was a sign that he would be a good resident director too. I laughed at the idea (jk I love you Dio ❤ haha)

Wednesday 06/27

Today was the day the NSLI-Y Summer 10 kids would be flying off to Seoul, South Korea! In the morning we were to meet in the lobby right after breakfast at 8 am; however, we ended up counting the group several times because a couple of people were missing. They were three of the NSLI-Y students and Dio. By 8:15 am Minjeong is getting upset and asking me where Dio was. I messaged him on KakaoTalk and I was like “Dio, where are you?” And he all casually goes “In my room… why?”

But do not worry, he made it down with the other boys in less than 5 minutes. I just laughed at the thought of him being a resident director that is always late.

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They were so excited!!~

We took a large shuttle bus to the airport (all 55 of us) and arrived about 3ish hours earlier than the flight just because getting a large group through an airport and security can be tough. It also gave the students enough time to grab some snacks or an early lunch at the airport if they so chose to.

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I sat by Dio and we talked the entire way~

We played games to pass the time and I talked to a lot of the students (especially Alice and Dio because I am going to miss them!)

Eventually, it was time to say Goodbye to the students as they embarked on their journey!

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Honestly, seeing them all file into the plane was pretty bittersweet (there were tears! From me!) This sight reminded me so much of my NSLI-Y experience and I could not help but think back to the feelings I had when I was traveling to Korea. This reminded me of how fulfilled I felt getting on the plane after grueling over the application and waiting to apply since I was in the 7th grade and first discovered NSLI-Y. Luckily, I could remind myself of the fact that I will return to South Korea, in September even.

After the students left, I hung out with Signe, Ligaya, and Dio until it was time for me to hop on a plane back to Chicago. We got dinner at the airport and just chatted about all sorts of things. We (Dio and I) also tried to teach Signe and Ligaya some letters of the Korean alphabet. They learned pretty fast! And I hope one day they learn Hangul completely.

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Back to Chicago!


This actually has nothing to do with this post but when I arrived back home, I had a lovely package waiting for me from American Councils:

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NSLI-Y Merch !!! ❤

Back in May, Shraddha (NSLI-Y Alum Rep –> Here is her Blog) held a NSLI-Y trivia competition through Kahoot for NSLI-Y alumni and finalists. I, of course, had to participate (rather than study for AP Gov test the following day). But also, I asked her if I could participate so it was not unfair~ And, by some stroke of luck, I ended up winning! So as my prize, I got a NSLI-Y waterbottle (a nice addition to my thermos ^^)

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And that is all for this blog post! My next few blog posts will most likely be about information regarding my NSLI-Y AY program (host school and host family announcements) as well as my last couple events as an alumni representative. Look forward to those! Until next time~ 다음에 봐요!

  • Emma (엠마)

 

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Being an Alumni Leader at the Korea Summer 2018 Pre-Departure Orientation {Part 1)

안녕하세요 여러분!~

06/24 (Sunday)

I had a very fun little trip back at the end of June. iEarn flew me out to Seattle, Washington to serve as an alumni leader for their Korea (Seoul) Summer 2018 PDO (alongside fellow alum Dio). I was super excited when I discovered I had been afforded this opportunity~ I tried really hard on the application, so I am glad it worked out!

This year’s program PDO was scheduled for Monday (06/25) to Wednesday (06/27) with the students flying out to Korea late Wednesday morning. However, I and the other staff members and alumni leader arrived in Seattle a day earlier. I thought it was for setting up purposes, but honestly, Sunday turned out to be a very chill, free day.

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On the 4-hour plane ride to Seattle, I decided to study Korean. I wanted to review lots of things as a refresher.

When I arrived at the airport, I was greeted at baggage claim by both Signe (a staff member at iEarn that is one of the individuals in charge of the NSLI-Y programs) and Dio. I have talked to Dio previously but only to congratulate him on also getting into Columbia through Questbridge (You heard that right; We will be going to the same university!), and that was about it. It was really nice to finally get to meet him (in person) and become fast friends!! {You know Dio is going to give me a tour of Columbia later this summer!! ;D }

Our shuttle ride to the airport comprised of Dio and I just sharing stories and our experiences in Korea. We even had an impromptu conversation (all in Korean) about what we did on the plane ride. My Korean was very rusty!!!! But, it was all in good fun and helped me get more comfortable to speak in Korean later that day (and later during this trip).

At the airport, I also got to meet 민정쌤 (Minjeong) who is the Korean RD for the summer 2018 students (She has also been the Korean RD for the summer 2017 students as well as the AY 2017-2018 students.) This was a very exciting meeting because 민정쌤 will be my RD for my gap year abroad in South Korea. I have already had some really great RDs during my NSLI-Y summer program (JT하고 메들린쌤 사랑해요~~), so I was hoping that 민정쌤 would be a great addition. (And, I think this wish is on its way to becoming reality~) I am just glad to have met her early, and I hope we can get close in Korea ❤ ❤ ❤

When we arrived at the University of Washington, the staff members (now joined by Ligaya from iEarn and the American RD Alicia (so sweet as well! She did CLS and Fullbright in Korea!) wanted to have dinner by themselves (they missed out honestly XD Dio and I are greatttt company!) We decided to meet up with another Korea (Seoul) Summer 2017 alum Tierney and get some dinner at the University District. We walked around a bit contemplating what we wanted to eat but eventually, as expected, we settled for some Korean food. (Don’t act like it is a surprise~)

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Campus Tour courtesy of Tierney

We ate at a restaurant called Seoul Tofu House. Tierney swore by its charm and the tastiness of its food. When we entered the restaurant, it was packed full. Luckily, there was only a small table open… just for us it seemed~

 

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Tierney & Dio ❤

I ordered 잡채 (Sweet Potato Noodles) and it was honestly the best one I have had (in America). Dio had 해물파전 (Seafood Pancake) while Tierney ate 갈비탕 (Short Rib Soup).

After our very filling dinner (but kinda lunch???), Tierney made us walk off all our food by taking us off campus to explore a bit. We went to this park called Gas Works. Tierney (our awesome Seattle tour guide– though, she is from Colorado) told us that it used to be a Gas plant of some sort; however, the area was refurbished to be a nice place to relax. It had amazing views! And the bike trail to the park was really nice too! Made me want to go biking (and enabled me to find out that Dio cannot bike nor swim! Columbia will teach him the latter one (or he can’t graduate XD) but I want to teach him how to bike!

 

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Seattle Views ❤

 

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Gas Works

At that park, they also had a silent DJ party which comprised of lots of young adults dancing around on a large grassy hill with black headphones on–no music playing aloud. It reminded me of those silent dances that some high schools have to be inclusive to those individuals on the autism spectrum or others who struggle to deal with loud noises. Though, I believe this was just an initiative to get people outside and moving. (Apparently, they were continuing throughout the summer–every Sunday– and the cost of being a part of it was $5)

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Views from the top of the hill~

We also walked along the water for a bit; the views of the city skyline were gorgeous! We also stumbled upon an engagement photo shoot (Tierney thought it was her English teacher…) and the best thing I saw all day: a photo shoot of a dog dressed up as a sailor.

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After our very long excursion, we returned to the university to see all the staff members on their computers doing work. We chilled in the lobby together for the rest of the night chatting about everything and anything. Dio and I showed Ligaya, Signe, and Minjeong some wholesome memes from the NSLI-Y Meme Facebook page (unofficial). There was a lot of laughter that night.

6/25 (Monday)

Today was the day! The day that the new NSLI-Y Summer students were flying into Seattle! I was so excited to be able to meet all of them~

Dio and I finally got the chance to help out this morning. We set up the tables where the NSLI-Yians would be greeted at. We laid out the 49 name tags onto one table while we folded the many NSLI-Y t-shirts and placed them on the other. Once we got the two tables ready and organized, we did the most intern-like thing possible: we got Minjeong and Signe coffee. iEarn sent us off to pick up chart paper and stickers from Office Max and  Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks.

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I couldn’t wait to welcome the new NSLI-Y students!!!~

Dio’s Google Map skills are decent at best, so it took us a little while to find Home Depot. And afterward, on the way to Starbucks, we forgot whether the staff wanted hot or iced lattes, so Dio texted our PDO group chat asking “Do you want a cold or cold latte?” We didn’t realize that this was the case until Minjeong pointed it out to us… but don’t worry, we ended up getting their HOT vanilla lattes to them as they wished~

When we returned to the UW campus, some NSLI-Y students started to arrive. Dio and I took a few of the recent arrivals out to lunch because they were all hungry as they had some really early flights– with no lunch. Because they were with us, we were allowed to go off campus. After a lot of back and forth on what to eat (we had to convince them not to get Korean food… they were super excited, but we wanted them to cherish their last meals in America!), we decided to get some Vietnamese food.

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This is where we ate! Such a cute little restaurant and the owner was the sweetest!~

We spent a little bit too long enjoying our lunch, so we had to rush back to campus in order to allow Signe and Ligaya to take lunch. Minjeong eventually went to her room to pass out because of the time zone change, so Alicia was the only one with Dio and me as the rest of the students came in.

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Tierney came back out to help us!!~

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I love these two!~ ❤

Alicia focused on getting the students checked into the university’s front desk and bringing them up to their rooms while Dio, Tierney, and I took charge of the tables in the lobby. Tierney handed out name tags while Dio collected their passports and marked them off on the RD’s chart. I gave out the NSLI-Y T-shirts, collected the students’ luggage receipts, and handed out stipends (and luggage reimbursement to those in which it applied).

Eventually, evening rolled around and it was dinner time. Two NSLI-Y students still had not arrived yet because their flights had been delayed by a lengthy amount of time, but dinner and a short segment of PDO went on as planned. We ate pizza out on the patio before beginning the first round of icebreakers. We played a bingo game where each square had a statement (in Korean and English) like 매운 음식을 잘 먹을 수 있어요. (Can eat spicy food well) Then, the point of the game was to find someone who fits that statement and have them sign their name in the square. Afterward, we had to all fit ourselves in a map of the United States based on where we live– without talking! Our map turned out alright… Texas was a bit too close to Florida but heyyy, we tried!

After dinner and a couple icebreakers, Dio and I took a group of the students to get ice cream at the University District, and I finally got some time to hang out with Alice! Alice lives near Chicago (like me) and we met up the week prior in Chinatown. We only met up for a couple of hours, but we were already fast friends!

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We love hipster ice cream! My flavor was called “Dough or Die” !! haha

And that was my first two days in Seattle (including the first day of the Korea Summer 2018 PDO)!!~ This post will HAVE to be in two parts because I am already at 1,600 words and I still have two more days to write about… So until I post the next one 다음에 봐요 친구들!~

Part 2: Coming soon

PS. I also got some more information about my academic year in Korea! I cannot wait to share about that too~ But I think I will wait off on that until I finish posting about PDO~

  • Emma 엠마

 

 

 

NSLI-Y Alumni Bubble Tea Social w/ Midwest DIR: Melissa Martinez {06/01/18}

On the first of June, I was able to partake in my second NSLI-Y alumni event! As an alumni representative for the Great Lakes (Chicago) region, I am expected to organize and carry out such events for the NSLI-Y Alumni, and so I arranged a NSLI-Y Alumni Bubble Tea Social with the Midwest DIR: Melissa Martinez to kick off summer in Chi-town.

The event was scheduled to begin at 2 pm; however, I made my way to Chinatown about an hour and a half earlier in order to meet up with two of my StarTalk classmates Citlali and Bruce (and now NSLI-Y Finalists! They will be going to China this summer!) for lunch. We went to Joy Yee and indulged in Teriyaki Chicken and dumplings. (Didn’t get any pictures though… because we were too busy eating and catching up!)

During the event, NSLI-Y alumni were afforded the opportunity to converse with Melissa Martinez and ask her questions all while enjoying delicious bubble tea. We had deep, engaging discussions that covered topics such as team management, government jobs, Department of State internships, government fellowships, culture shock, being flexible and adaptable, diplomatic experiences, sexism abroad/ in the foreign service, etc.

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At the end of the event, we obviously took some group pictures and then, many of the alumni hung around Chinatown Square to talk. We took some selfies, exchanged social media, and talked about future plans to meet up. It was very fun to be able to meet another handful of alumni in the Chicago area! Especially, Korean Summer 2017 alum Katie because she will be heading to Korea with me in the Fall~ It was great to be able to meet the person I have been messaging on KakaoTalk (and have a 35-day SnapChat streak with…as of now).

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(Back: Citlali & Kristin // Front: Me, Katie, Sydney, Bruce)

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Look at all those countries being represented!!~ (And Melissa could have soooo many flags!)

And that is all for this blog post! This event was very fun and I really enjoyed having a guest speaker and being able to host an event in a more informal environment. Hopefully, I can organize one more event before I leave for Korea! And, maybe I will blog about my outreach at my local StarTalk program– we will see if I have enough to share! Thanks for reading~ I hope you enjoyed!

P.S. NSLI-Y Alumni, make sure you are a part of your regional alumni FB group! This is where you will hear about events such as these~ I hope turnout can continually go up as it has so far! 😉

  • Emma 엠마

Chinese Dragon Lights at Soldier Field in Chicago {April 27th, 2018}

The Dragon Lights was an exhibition of Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, demonstrations, as well as popular products, handicrafts, and food. I found out that this exhibit was coming to Chicago after being bombarded with SnapChat messages from my fellow StarTalk Chinese classmate, and we immediately decided we had to go!

The Dragon Lights exhibited numerous displays of Chinese lanterns: pandas, koi fishes, dragons, bears, Chinese warriors, families, gates, etc. They were very beautiful and intricate! I had never seen anything like them before! I really can’t do much explaining in this post so please, simply, enjoy these photos:

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Spot the difference!

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These dragons were constructed with tiny jars filled with colored liquids!

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There were also cultural performances scheduled throughout each day; however, it was raining while we were there, so they had to cancel some of the performances. Though, we were able to watch two very interesting showcases. I believe the ones we missed were martial art performances.

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Peacock Dance (Chinese Folk Dance)

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The dancer was very thin, but she had such defined back and arm muscles! So talented~ (And she must have been so cold being rained on…)

Besides walking around and catching up with my friend Becca, I think the best part of the exhibition were the stalls with Chinese handicrafts and products. Becca and I pulled out our Chinese skills (if we can even say skills) to talk to the vendors.

It started raining a lot more and it got super cold at the end of the night, so we left early to indulge in Chinese food. The best ending to a great day.

Website of the Dragon Lights: http://dragonlightschicago.com/

  • The Dragon Lights exhibition lasted from March 30th to May 6th

Thanks for reading this post! It is quite late (the last month of senior is crazy, okay!) but better late than never? I have also been really sick these past two days (which is why I was able to write up this post XD) but my next post will be about my second NSLI-Y event! I organized a bubble tea social with a group of alumni as well as the Midwest DIR. Stay tuned!~

  • Emma 엠마

Studying Abroad in South Korea Again? (NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year 2018-2019)

안녕하세요 여러분!~

As evidenced by the title of this blog post and the featured image, I have been afforded the opportunity to yet again study Korean in South Korea thanks to NSLI-Y (The National Security Initiative for Youth). On April 12th, 2018, I received an email in my inbox informing me on my acceptance to the 2018-2019 NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year program!!! This program will enable me to study Korean for 9 months in Seoul, South Korea as a gap year before I begin my time at university.

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The emojis don’t just cover up my personal information; they also represent my exact feelings towards receiving this scholarship!!!~

It has been a little while since I found out for two major reasons: 1. I had to figure out if a gap year was right for me as an individual and a student. 2. I had to make sure that the university I committed to would allow me to defer my admission til the fall of 2019 as well as my scholarship.

The latter proved to be more of a daunting task because I had no idea how to go about asking for a deferral, and the FAQ section of the school’s website was only so helpful.

(Have I mentioned in a blog post where I will be attending college? Well, just in case I haven’t, I will be attending Columbia University in NYC as a QuestBridge Match scholarship recipient. I will be making a post on QuestBridge and my experience when it becomes more applicable– right before applications open, for example.)

It ended up taking about a week to figure out whether or not I could accept my spot on the NSLI-Y Program. This was very stressful and frustrating because it seemed that everyone in our finalist group chat had already been deferred and had accepted the scholarship. I wanted to be excited about the prospect of spending a year in South Korea, but I could not let myself until I knew it was official–because I honestly did not know whether or not I would be accepted. I couldn’t find any information about QuestBridge (Match) Scholars taking gap years, so I went through that one week in the dark and extremely anxious.

One week may not seem like a big deal, but after waiting since November to know of the results of my application, one more week was honestly very torturous.

But, finally, it has been figured out!! And, I will be going to South Korea with NSLI-Y yet again (but this time for 9 months!)

Story Time:

I just wanted to add how/when I found out that I had been accepted into the program! (More so for my remembrance, but hopefully you can find enjoyment or a few laughs from it!)

I was sitting in AP Spanish as my teacher discussed our plans for the Socratic Seminar we would be having after we annotated the reading (It was by a famous Spanish author. Jorge Borges I think?) And like the bad student I am (just kidding), I kept checking my email throughout the class. I truly did not think I was going to get anything because I thought (if they did come out that day) it wouldn’t be til after 3 pm. However, to my surprise, an email was waiting in my inbox with the subject line “NSLI-Y 2018-19 Application Status” and an attached PDF.

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Internally, I freaked out. But I was in class, so I had to contain myself. After class, tears started welling up in my eyes because everything started to become very real as I knew I could now check my email at any moment. I let my Spanish teacher know that I had received an email regarding my gap year (because she supported my wishes to take a gap year since the beginning of the school year) and that I would check it in the bathroom.

She offered her classroom because she did not have a class third period, but I knew I was going to cry (with either decision) and I figured being alone would be best. I went to the least traveled to bathroom in the school and opened the email. I read the first line and literally screamed. I erupted into a crying fit and I could not contain my happiness. I ended up missing the first 40 minutes of my third period class (American Problems) because I went to see my counselor to tell her the great news and calm myself down.

From there I told my friends and my (other) Spanish teacher who wrote the NSLI-Y recommendation for me as well as some teachers who were around. I waited to tell my mom when til I got home because, of course, in person messages are lot better than sharing the news via text message.

So that was how I found out! And I would like to just end this post with how utterly grateful I am to be able to receive another amazing opportunity to study Korean– especially because everything is paid for by the government. I am thankful for everything and everyone! I officially accepted the NSLI-Y scholarship on April 21st, 2018. Therefore, I could finally make this post! To more awesome endeavors in Korea!~

(P.S. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about my AY interview experience, but I will wait on posting it until December or January since it will be more relevant then! I will also post an updated interview tips/advice blog post then too!~ So look out for that– by following my blog!!)

고마워요!~ 다음에 봐요.

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Alumni Dinner Event (Chinatown, Chicago – March 29th, 2018)

안녕하세요 여러분! 你好 朋友们!

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to host an alumni dinner in Chinatown, Chicago (my first in-person event) as part of my role as this year’s Chicago (Great Lakes Region) NSLI-Y Alumni Representative! I had been planning this event for about a month or so and when the date finally came, I was so nervous! I really wanted to make a good impression on the other alumni by organizing a successful first event~~

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Behind the Scenes: Preparation

I took over NSLI-Y’s Snapchat in order to document the event (Follow NSLI-Y on Snapchat: @nsliforyouth) and it was a lot of fun taking photos of the alumni! Plus, their introductory videos were very cute! We had some shy alums but I was glad that they were open to group photos~~

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We started off the dinner event by introducing ourselves. It was interesting to see that we had a variety of alumni eating with us. We had two college graduates, one current university senior, and then two seniors in high school (including me). It was fun hearing about what they had done after their NSLI-Y programs: studying abroad, traveling, interning with the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, working for the Department of State, taking NSLI-Y (target) language classes, and even taking up new languages.

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(Left to Right): Diana {Morocco Summer 2017}, Angela {China Summer 2011}, Teri {Egypt Summer 2010}, Me {Korea Summer 2016}, and Elizabeth {Morocco Summer 2014}.

We discussed Chinese New Year (even though this event is quite a late celebration) and its traditions. We allowed Angela to take the floor and share her experience studying in China. Though this was an event for the Chinese New Year, we still discussed all of our experiences and because the majority of the alumni present were Arabic alumni, I got to hear a lot about the Morocco and Egypt programs.

Till this event, I had not personally talked to any alumni that had participated in the NSLI-Y Egypt programs, so it was very interesting to hear from Teri. Let’s just say that programs have changed so much in comparison to the stories she told…

We talked about our language learning journeys, our host families, and issues of race and identity on program. Our discussions were quite in-depth and stimulating.

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Of course, we also ate plenty of food (too much to be exact!)

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We feasted on a lot of delicious Chinese foods: Beef Fried Rice, Mongolian Beef, Beef & Broccoli, Orange Chicken, General Tso Chicken, Mapo Tofu, and Vegetable Chow Mein.

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Teri, Angela, and Diana enjoying the course!~

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Elizabeth the Model ❤

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Snapchat saw it first!

This event was a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting these alumni and hearing their stories (while sharing mine as well). I hope that I can hold a few more events so I can connect with as many Chicago alumni as possible! Though we had a few cancellations right before this event, I am proud of the turnout~

To all the NSLI-Y alumni out there, make sure to join your regional alumni Facebook pages! This is where you will be notified about events in your area.

Thank you for reading this blog post!~ I hope you enjoyed~ 😉 Don’t forget to subscribe for future posts about events I host as Chicago’s NSLI-Y alum rep as well as other posts about language learning, travel, etc. 다음애 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

Startalk: Chinese Class Reunion Celebrating Chinese New Year (Feb 17th, 2018)

February 17th, 2018

你好!My Startalk Chinese class came back together today in order to celebrate Chinese New Year~ I carpooled with my friend Becca, and we were both super excited to see our classmates again. The director of the Startalk program planned this reunion at a Chinese Restaurant about 30 minutes from where I live. And, wow, it was so crowded. There were so many families and couples there. The line was out the door! I guess this place is a crowd favorite for ringing in the New Year!~

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10/10 I would definitely recommend!

Becca and I were the first people to arrive so we met 胡老師 and her husband at the front of the restaurant until they could clear a table for us.

We started off the afternoon with a little test. Our director gave us four slips of paper and we were told to write down four characters to then be placed in a box. The director would pull random slips out throughout the lunch, and the winners would receive small prizes: candies and pastries. Then, before we started eating, 胡老師 taught us how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

新年快樂
Xīn-nián-kuài-lè
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Becca, Citlali, Adrienne, and I

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Citlali, Adrienne, Elaina, Bruce, and Magalie

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我的朋友!

We also learned a lot about Chinese New Year. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 16th which officially begins the year of the dog! (My zodiac sign is a rabbit~) Many people ring in the new year by cleaning their entire house and by decorating it with lanterns, calligraphy, and posters with poetic verses. Homes are filled with a lot of red! And on New Year’s Eve, families have reunion dinners– kind of like the one we were all having together!

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Such delicious food!!!

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For dessert, we had these pastries with filling that was made partially from egg yolks

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After eating, we played a couple of more games to try to earn points for prizes. We were taught the characters for Happy New Year and then we were given them, shuffled, and had to put the characters in order the fastest. We also played this game that involved our director holding up a piece of paper with a number (in Chinese characters of course) and then we had to quickly write a sentence in Chinese with the same number of characters. It was intense!

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Prizes for winning the games!

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Our director gave us training chopsticks shaped like ninjas. XD She told us that her 20 year old son can’t even use chopsticks! Fortunately, I do not need them, but they are adorable!

Lastly, 胡老師 talked to us about red envelopes during Chinese New Year. They are red packets filled with money given to kids, family members, friends, and coworkers to wish them a good new year and lots of luck. It is custom that once you get married, you should start giving out red envelopes. Our director all gave us “symbolic” red envelopes each holding one dollar. She explained to us that the tradition started off with small amounts of money but now, the custom has become more costly for the givers. (Especially when it comes to family members having to give money to the children in the family.)

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1. Accept the envelope with both hands 2. Give a greeting and express thanks 3. DON’T open the envelope in front of the giver!

At the end of the reunion, we took some group photos together and the individuals with the most points were able to choose a prize. There were so many prizes: Chinese coin purses, t-shirts, Chinese candy, chopstick sets, etc. I picked out this gorgeous set with 4 chopsticks and 4 chopstick rests~

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The Startalk Director (and my Chinese professor) with Becca and me~ ❤

And that was all for our reunion! It was a lot of fun being able to see all my classmates again (and eat some really delicious foods). Today has really motivated me to get back into my Chinese studies! It was nice being able to use it with everybody. Currently, I’m hoping to be a student helper alongside my director during this summer’s Startalk program! (Because I am too old to actually partake in it once again) I also found out that Lewis University’s Startalk is adding Russian this summer! How cool is that?!?! We will see how my summer plans work out 😉 Thank you for reading! 謝謝!再見!

  • Emma (敏娜)

2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop PT. 3 (Jan 7th, 2018)

The last day of the 2018 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative Workshop proved to be a very fun (yet emotional) day. I was very excited to be spending more time with the people I had been chatting with over Facebook and Instagram for many months leading up to this workshop; however, I was also very sad to think that I had to leave them only having just met them. This would also be my last time as a NSLI-Y Alumni representative as you can only renew the position for one year. I better make the most out of this year and these friendships! 😉

We started off the day eating breakfast at the hotel buffet like previously. This day I ended up sitting with my roommate Selin, Deni, Remi, and Jeremy. I got to hear more about their respective experiences and all about Remi’s adult life– he is the only alumni representative who is out of college with a career.

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Selin, Deni,  & Jeremy (Remi is MIA because he had gotten up to get a second helping.) ^^

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A filling, “healthy” breakfast with a lot of variety: scrambled eggs, Frosted Flakes cereal, fruit, chocolate muffin, and potatoes.

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I also took a picture of my girls Anjali, Paula, and Shraddha because they were looking extra cute this morning! ❤ I’m going to miss them a lot!!~

After breakfast, we got down to business and headed to a small conference room on the first floor of the hotel. At this time, we discussed what characteristics make a good speaker as well as tips for commanding a room and not letting a fear of public speaking take over one’s presentation. We did this practice activity called giving “elevator speeches.” Basically, the premise was that you should be able to introduce yourself and state your purpose/goal all while being on a quick elevator ride. This was deemed to be about a minute of speaking. (And it is a lot harder than it sounds, trust me!) I partnered up with Shraddha and we practiced giving our speeches. We both had to restart many many times but eventually we made it through. And, the jokes and laughter just added to the learning process. This was honestly the same exact thing we did last year at the representative workshop; however, I needed it again because I never ended up having to use my “elevator speech” last year. As a virtual rep who really only hosted/partook in webinars, I had all the time I needed to introduce myself and my role. So, I appreciated this repetition.

After the public speaking session, we all practiced answering common questions about NSLI-Y the “right way,” meaning the way that NSLI-Y would want us to answer. (This does not mean we would lie or not give personal experiences, we just had to make sure we did not guarantee things that the program doesn’t promise as well as remind the applicants about the true purpose of the program.) These questions included:

  • “How safe are the NSLI-Y countries?”
  • “Is previous language study required?”
  • “Will there be a lot of free time during the program?”
  • “How hard are language classes?”
  • “What type of person is NSLI-Y looking for?”

We then chose partners to hold us accountable for hosting our requirement of three events (2 in-person/virtual and 1 outreach event). I partnered up with Lila (West Coast – San Francisco) and Josh (Southwest – Dallas, TX).

After everything, it was almost 11 am. Some of the alum reps had to start calling taxis and departing to the airport for their flights back home. Luckily, my flight was not till 2:30 (and then later, it was even delayed!), so I could stay with everyone for a bit longer.

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Had to get a picture with Emily and Kate before I left!! 🙂

A group of us decided to go out and explore DC some more. Paula wanted to go and get a picture in front of the famous Department of State sign, so Paula, Dean, Deni, Nicole, and I went on a journey to the State Department. At first we were following Paula’s Google maps which got us lost… very very lost. We ending up walking so far (and in the wrong direction). Eventually Nicole and I saw some landmarks that looked familiar, and we tried to redirect the group in the right direction. Though we may all be bad at directions (in the US and Abroad), we did find the building and the sign!

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Look at us go! ❤

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Before we found the Department of State, we stumbled upon the United States Diplomacy Center. It was quite a chic building!

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The Sun was in my eyes! haha During our walk, I got to hear A LOT of stories about Harvard from Deni and Nicole.

 

Eventually, we had to make our way back to the hotel. Paula and I would be going back on the same flight while Nicole stayed till Monday for some presentations. Deni’s flight got delayed by quite a few hours but Dean was out with us later than he was supposed to be. Emily kept messaging us asking if Dean had left yet and though we reassured her, Dean was still scrambling to get an Uber. He eventually had to cancel cause the Uber passed our location! He expressed his anger on the Facebook group later when he was charged a cancellation fee. XD

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Dean calling his Uber. (Yes he walked all the way to the State Department on crutches.)

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Crossing the street trying to get a taxi

When Paula and I got back to the hotel, we had to say our final goodbyes~ I was not ready to leave everyone!

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My faves Jeremy and Nicole~ ❤

At the airport, Paula and I grabbed lunch and we talked some more. Before we knew it, we were back at O’Hare International Airport. On the plane ride home, I was feeling really grateful that I got the chance to renew as a rep as well as visit DC once more. I love the city so much!~ ❤ NSLI-Y has granted me so many opportunities as an alumni, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!!!

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O’Hare decorated for Christmas!

That is all for this blog post (and this series about the 2018 Alumni Representative Workshop!). I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope that this post can inspire NSLI-Y alumni (or future NSLI-Y alumni) to apply to be an alum rep! You will not regret it! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out~ I will be hosting my first event as an alum rep late this month. I am so excited for it! I will definitely write a blog post about it~ Stay tuned! 고마워요! 다음에 봐요!~

  • Emma 엠마

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 filling. 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

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