All About Supporter Groups (Korean Summer NSLI-Y Program)

Though everything from my summer in Seoul, South Korea with NSLI-Y was amazing, the friendships I fostered within my supporter group and the memories we made with each other were nothing short of being on the top of the list of my favorite things from the program.

The name “supporter” is pretty unique to the NSLI-Y Korea program. From the conversations I have had with other alumni, most programs have peers that help the students with their language learning by tutoring; however, supporters and supporter groups are really only found on the Korea program.

A supporter is a Korean college age student that acts as a tutor, a tour guide, and if you can successfully build a relationship — a lifelong friend. Supporter groups are made up of your Korean supporter and usually one or two other students. (Usually, these students are from your own Korean class since you will have a similar language level to them.) We found out our supporter groups when we received a text from our supporter on our program phone. I found out the other members of my group by comparing texts with my classmates on the following day during Korean class. On the Korean summer program, we had supporter meetings twice a week: Tuesday and Thursday. The meeting was about two hours long and there were two types of meetings.

 

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My Lovely Supporter Group (Left to right: Jodi, Casey, Sujin, and I)

 

The Academic Supporter Meeting

During the average supporter meetings (which I will call an “academic supporter meeting”), our supporters acted like our Korean language tutors. Supporters usually meet at cafes and sometimes restaurants if they have planned to have lunch with their “students” before the actual studying part of the meeting. They are given stipends to use to buy any food, snacks, or drinks from the cafe; therefore, this is a great way to try out many Korean treats and cafes as a matter of fact. My supporter meeting was at the same cafe every time (with one or two exceptions when we, instead, went to 설빙 and Blind Alley) but many supporter groups changed up their meeting locations every meeting. They would have their supporter text them the location/map before every meeting. During this kind of supporter meeting, we would study Korean using this little booklet that went along with what we covered in class. (And a little more vocabulary words for good measure.)

We would go over vocab words as well as grammar points. Our supporter would make sure that we knew how to utilize the new knowledge effectively before asking us questions in which we could practice using them. After everyone had studied the vocab and grammar points, we would record our answers to more questions that our supporter asked us. (This sometimes took awhile due to many BAD mess ups as well as too much laughing in the background of the recordings.)

Cultural Excursion Supporter Meeting

The second type of supporter meetings were cultural excursions. Our supporters acted as tour guides by taking us around Seoul to famous historical sites. My supporter group had two cultural excursions throughout the duration of the program. We had one at Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) and at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (동대문디자인플라자).

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The cultural excursions were a great way to learn more about Korean history (and more modern aspects of the culture) which we did not get much of during class. They were also great for bonding. Through these excursions, I was able to get close with more of my classmates as well as make some Korean friends. We also got to try a lot of delicious Korean desserts during our cultural excursions and actually… they were all bingsu desserts haha

And that is everything I have to say about supporter groups! I hope you enjoyed reading this post and hopefully it is informative to all the future NSLI-Y scholars. Supporter groups can truly make the program that much better! The next informational post I will be writing will be about culture clubs for the Korea summer program in Seoul. Look out for that!~

안녕 친구들~ ❤

  • Emma (엠마)
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Night at The Seoul International Youth Hostel (August 12th, 2016)

Friday Afternoon (08/12/16) was a time for all the NSLI-Y scholars to spend the last couple of hours with their host families. Most went on their last cultural excursions or simply had lunch with their families one last time; however, not everyone’s host family could make time to do this. Both of my host parents had to get to work and so my last meal with them was yesterday night. Therefore they brought my luggage to the university and I was told I would make my way to the hostel with the help of one of the supporters. I wasn’t the only one, though. I was traveling with Nicole and there were about three other students who were hanging out with their supporters because their host families were busy. It was around lunch time when the ceremony ended so I went along with some supporters and our program photographer to get some lunch at one of the restaurants close to the university. It was such a hassle heading to the restaurant because we couldn’t leave our bags at the school; therefore, we had to carry them to the restaurant which was not easy. Not even that, but the restaurant they chose was on the second floor of a building so we had to carry all of our bags up the stairs (I am really surprised no one got hurt…) The lunch was nice even though I was really quiet in the beginning. (I didn’t know any of the supporters before this lunch and I was also still pretty sad about all the goodbyes and not being able to spend the rest of the day with my host family.) We went to Bbalbong. I ordered this dish of Ddeokbokki (떡볶이) and Donkatsu (돈까스) which also came with french fries, a salad, a small chicken leg, and white rice (staple). It was all very filling and delicious too! I was also able to handle the heat brought by the 떡볶이 (Spicy rice cakes). Once we got some food, I found some energy and started engaging in conversation with the other supporters and my fellow classmate Nicole. We talked about our favorite memories from Korea and even some “gossip” like who we think had feelings for each other.

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Afterward, we continued to walk down the main street and we went into a couple of stores to pass the time. We also had to stop at a glasses store as Trudi (one of the girls whose host family also had to work) needed to pick up new contacts. That store though… was so aesthetically pleasing. The shelves were so organized!

 

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띵똥와플 (Ding Dong Waffle) sprang up out of nowhere. It only started to be built a week ago and it already looked like this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t done in time for us to try out the waffles… and they look so good!~

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The famed egg blow up (I loved seeing it this summer!)

I took a taxi with one supporter (I forget whose supporter she was… but she was in my group back at the HanMi Camp as well.) to the Hostel we were staying at again. It was my first time in a taxi in Korea and it was a very nice experience. My Korean was the best it has ever been and I was able to have a good conversation with the driver about my skills and my time in Korea. He was very surprised to hear that I was only a high school student. When we got back to the hostel, we were one of the first ones there and our rooms were not even ready yet so we had to drop off our luggage in the lobby. I hung out in the lobby with the supporters and Nicole until a couple other NSLI-Y kids came back from lunch with their host fam. I believe the time everyone was supposed to back was 5pm. Abby showed up after her host mom and sister came and one of our program coordinators told us that we were allowed to leave the hostel, as long as we came back home by 5pm. I went with Abby, Nicole, Trudi, and a few of the supporters to Myeongdong which was a close walk and subway ride away from the hostel (well the main shopping area). We spent the next two hours walking around, talking, and hanging out around the area. It was great because I thought I had already made my last visit to Myeongdong but it looked like it really wasn’t the last (for the summer). We came home just in time for our rooms to be ready and we got to carry our luggage up once the room keys were administered (there was only one per room… it was weird having all the power haha). We were not in the same rooms from the beginning of the summer but we had the same room mates (so in my room there was Me, Angie, Jodi, Jane, Rhea, Grace, Maris, and Jessica). For dinner, our program totally spoiled us! They ordered each room a box of Korean fried chicken and a box of pizza (we got the plain cheese pizza but they also were giving out sweet potato pizza). It was a lot of fun to pig out on all this food while spending some of the last moments in Korea with the same people who I started out the summer with (Read about those nights here and here).

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Sofia taking candids XD

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Me writing a thank you letter to Madeline while Jodi is cooling down (Our room was very WARM!~)

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Hostel Dinner (Photo Creds: Nicole)

That night was also very hectic as I was running around the whole hostel (with Sofia at times) to finish up our group presents to our resident directors Madeline and JT. So earlier in the week Sofia and I visited the Morning Glory (A Korean Stationery Store) in Hongdae trying to find a group gift for our RDs. We were able to find these really pretty jars filled with these tiny messages/scrolls. We thought it would be a very fun idea to have every student in the program write a message for our RDs and put it in the bottle. And that is what we planned to do.

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One of the Jars we bought~

The night before the graduation ceremony, Sofia and I fixed up the bottles by putting in mostly “masculine ” colors in one jar for JT and we put all the other pastel-colored scrolls into a jar for Madeline. We also had to count out 50 scrolls for each jar to make sure it would be ready (but we kept the access in a baggie just in case some accidents were made… and there were PLENTY). Then, at night at the hostel, Sofia and I went around to every room and placed scrolls on the vanity to have all kids fill them out with short messages. You would probably think the rest of it would be easy… but it was not! I had to follow and stalk so many people trying to get them to write their message before the curfew. I literally had a list of people that didn’t hand in their scrolls yet and I had to track them down. Not only that, but getting the scrolls from the boys rooms was even more difficult because every time I would head up to their floor… JT was there. One time Kenwoo told me the coast was clear and when I came up to collect their scrolls, JT opened the door (I quickly and quietly rolled the jar down the hall… I do not think he saw me.) But he did notice that I was acting funny since he told me not to worry. He promised that everyone in the room was decent XD Eventually, however, I was able to collect all 50 and fill up the jars to look all pretty.

That night was spent mostly switching between hanging out in the lobby with my resident directors and Ari 쌤, talking with my roommates, collecting scrolls for our group presents, and hanging out in the “lounge” area of our floor. We all stayed up until past midnight just chatting. We had a curfew but we were allowed to go to other rooms even if it was past curfew (which is why Joy, Casey, and Sofia hung out with my roommates). The last night in Korea was spent well and I am glad I got to spend it with so many people that influenced me and made this summer one of the bests. (Actually… I think it earns the title of the BEST SUMMER EVER!) The next morning we would be waking up in Korea for the last time leaving for the states in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading~ And I hope you enjoyed~ 안녕 친구들!

  • Emma (엠마)