Last Day at 하나고 for the Fall Semester {12/14/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/14/18 Friday

Just like the other days at school this week, every single period was basically 자습 or self-study; however, I did not spend my time studying at all really. I was too busy finishing up letters for my friends at school. I won’t be seeing many of them for two months and me being attention-seeking and lonely half the time doesn’t want them to forget about me… {I’m only half joking…} So I spent the day writing 6 letters including my final letter to 윤세 who I have for 마니또. I had bought this really cute blue flower shaped card from 인사동 and I was excited to finally get to use it {though I will admit, writing in it was a bit of a struggle.}

Also before my Economics class, I surprised my good friend 세림 with a gift. Like everyone else, I wrote her a letter and gave her a macaroon but I also bought her this cute panda stuffed animal! It’s very adorable and the colors reminded me of things that 세림 really likes and it seemed that she was head over heels with it when she got it. But as cute as this panda was… it really embarrassed me in the morning! For some reason, while coming to school, Katie and I happened to get on a bus with every other teacher in the school (exaggeration? maybe…) and we had to ride the elevator together too {veryyyy awkward}. This group of teachers included my Statistics teacher! My backpack was open cause it periodically unzips when I run {and Katie and I ran across the street this morning…} so when we were walking to our homerooms, this panda falls out of my bag and my Statistics teacher screams Emma down the hallway. It was nice of him I know!!! But I was so embarrassed! Just my luck right?

Anyway, when I came into Economics, 세림 saved my seat as always but this time, she also placed her bag on her seat with her new panda sticking out of it~

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She also even explained this point of Korean grammar that has never been explicitly explained in any of the Korean textbooks I have used. Knowing this now helps me with conjugating for other grammar points as well! 고마워 세림아~

Lunch today was one of the final days we would be eating with all our friends… it was bittersweet because this meant winter break was right on the horizon but it also meant we wouldn’t be seeing our friends in a while… Lunch was honestly once again not good… {What happened 하나고? I used to brag about your lunches earlier this year!} but it was fine because we were all too busy talking and yelling to take much notice of the food (or eat it basically…) We went around the table and guessed who was who’s 마니또. I had guessed that mine was 지연 and then Katie confirmed it for me during the first week so I knew I was right but our friends did not guess right about us!! 지연 thought that 도윤 had her rather than Katie and 윤세 thought 지연 had her instead of me!! We fooled them oh so well! 

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After that, 도윤 and 윤세 were screaming trying to figure out where they went wrong because at dinner last night, they were positive they figured out who every one had. I explained how I finessed the system with asking other first-year students to give her the gifts {including giving her a gift in the dorm to throw her off my tracks}, having other people write the notes, and asking her for someone else’s locker number! They all kept saying “Emma you tried so hard!” And then 도윤 joked and said you know you are Korean when you wait for the day before the end of the gift giving period to give your gift because that is when most of the girls gave their gifts.

After lunch, we took a group photo but 서린 ran off somewhere? When we sent the photo later in the group chat, she was upset that she wasn’t in the photo so Katie edited her in and so we were blessed with this lovely cursed image:

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The rest of my classes was more letter writing and gift giving. I accidentally smashed all the Macaroons in my backpack… so by asking 지원 with some good explanations and charade-like gestures, I was able to learn that the word for to squish or smash is 뭉개다 or to be squished is 뭉개지다. There’s your Korean lesson for the day!

During 영미문학, 서연 actually gave me a really cute letter back to me telling me that my letter really made her day and she wanted to thank me. It was really sweet! She also gave me a piece of chocolate and vitamin c tablet and apologized for the lack of gifts due to dorm living {which is why I brought my friends’ macaroons! So they could have a treat they cannot buy at the 매점.}

On Friday I came home early and relaxed for a bit but then I accidentally fell asleep before 7 pm. I woke up again at 7:30 and could tell that my host family was eating dinner but I really wanted sleep so I figured I’d sleep for another hour and then eat dinner later—by myself. I guess I underestimated how tired I would be? I ended up waking up at 3:46 am. I was so confused when I realized I had skipped dinner. I stayed up for a bit and then went back to bed.

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When I was not looking, my host brother decorated my chalkboard! He wrote “Big Sister Emma, Goodnight~” 

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I wanted to quickly end this post with a little blurb about how I feel regarding today being my last day at 하나고. This is going to be 100% brutally honest!

Going to 하나고 for these couple of months was really really difficult. At first, everything was exciting and new and the nerves and anxiety seemed fully justified. I remember ending school and being excited to tell my host family everything about my day when I got home during dinner time but eventually… the excitement turned into complacency with a routine and the things I expected to get better with time only grew to frustrate me more when I continued to fail at improving my situation. Feeling incompetent and like a burden became second nature to me and I struggled with those feelings. What other people may see as trivial things felt as if I pushing mountains. Having no one to sit next to or talk to during class, figuring out where to sit or even having to take a desk from another classroom because the class had no more empty ones–all these moments culminated into me feeling dejected during the school day. Spending hours worrying about having to do work in a class that seemed impossible (*cough cough coding in statistics *cough cough) to not even being told a class was canceled were frequent occurrences for me after awhile. I cried often and had never felt so stressed in my life. And comparing my school life to the others only made me more pessimistic. Everyone has their own problems, sure. Some of them might have wished they had it a bit more like me since I did have a little bit of Korean knowledge before coming to Korea and attending school. But at everyone else’s school, they weren’t expected to participate in class as much in comparison to the expectations on both Katie and I. They weren’t expected to try and follow along. They got to do their own work every single day.

And sure, high school in America was tough and I was stressed academically but at least then, I could ask for help. I was in a familiar environment and I knew how to solve problems when they arose. This was adjusting to a new type of stress. Stress about life—something I have never had to deal with before. Something a lot of people my age have never had to deal with. Although I say that it was extremely difficult, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been placed at any other school.

I love 하나고 because I love its students. I had such good friends that made waking up so early for my 5th year of high school worth it. I’m thankful for 서린 who found Katie and me and took us under her wing and gave us a friend group that included 윤세, 도윤, 지연, and 혜지. I am thankful for 세림 for trying her best to explain to me how to code or whatever the teacher was saying. She even made me a little cheat sheet with statistic terms in Korean for things like hypothesis test, confidence interval, etc. I am thankful for 지현 for hanging out with me during our 반모임 when no one else would. I am thankful for 정윤 for always sitting next to me during homeroom and saving seats for me in 한국사 and 통합사회. I am thankful for 지원 and 다연 for making me feel like I do have friends when they wave at me in the hallway. I am thankful for 서연 for reaching out to me in world history and for exchanging Instagrams. I am thankful for 동철 for being the first person to talk to me at 하나고, for telling me to sit next to him when I was alone, and for answering all my questions over KakaoTalk. I’m thankful for 예성 as our conversations in English made it one of my favorite classes. I’m thankful for 혜지, 윤세, 도윤 and 지연 for making me comfortable during lunch and our hallway conversations–for allowing me to feel included in school life and for always being patient despite our cultural differences and the language barrier. And lastly, I am thankful for Katie because without her, I know I would not have been able to survive those two and a half months at 하나고. She helped me navigate every situation and kept me calm during high-stress times. I could never thank her enough and will be forever grateful for having a best friend alongside me for some of the best and worst times of my exchange.

HAH Quickly… why do I even try… that is all for this post. Thank you for reading. I hope that this did not come off as too pessimistic or negative. I am just trying to keep it real, for myself and for others. Exchange is not easy; I can vouch for that. But, despite that, I am having the time of my life.

(I am editing this and posting this with only a month left of my exchange. Reading this over makes me teary-eyed. So much has happened and so much has changed, and I could not be more grateful. If only time would pass by more slowly…)

  • Emma 엠마
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