New Years Day in South Korea: Watching the Sunrise (01/01/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

1/01/19 Tuesday

I started the New Year before the sun even did! Literally, I woke up at 5:15 am in order to watch the sunrise with my host family; therefore, if you think about it…. We woke up to a new year before the sun! (I do not know why I think this is cool, but I do.) Apparently, in Korea, it is quite a common tradition for families and couples to go watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day. I am not exactly sure why they find it so meaningful but I assume that it has something to do with the fact that sunrises are known for symbolizing a new beginning. When I first woke up, I was immensely tired and felt that I was not in the mood to go stand out in the freezing cold to catch only a few seconds of the sunrise but after experiencing everything, I understood why this tradition is considered so special to so many people.

But anyway, we left the house a little bit before six and were met with a good amount of traffic on the streets. I was confused as to why we left so early seeing that the sun was not going to rise till after 7 am– closer to 7:45 according to the internet. I soon found out that it was because we would be eating breakfast at a restaurant and then climbing up this mountain (or someplace that people hike???) before seeing the sunset.

For breakfast, we all piled into this restaurant that was fairly empty and I was shocked to see that it was open. I wondered if it was usually open this early during the weekdays or if this was a special occasion seeing that it was New Year’s Day. We had some light noodles and 만두 (dumplings) for breakfast before heading up to the sunrise viewing. There were so many people! Actually, the huge amount of people proved to be kind of nice because it was as if we were all huddled like penguins waiting for the sky to brighten and the sun to rise. However, because there were so many people (and we did not get there too early), we could not get a spot right where the sun would rise (I mean the spot for the best viewing if that makes any sense…) and so we had to climb up this side part of the landscape which was had very crumbly dirt making it hard to climb and stand still on.

However, being surrounded by my host family and seeing all the togetherness around me made me immensely happy. We had a perfect view of a bridge across some water and with the lights on at dawn, it looked like a picture perfect moment. I looked out to the sky and thought about everything I was grateful for in 2018.

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I realized that I have been so lucky and so blessed to have had such an amazing year. A year full of dreams coming true, great times spent with people whom I love, as well as lots of firsts from trying new things! Everyone around us was chatting and I goofed around with my host siblings for a bit too until the time came when the sun was really coming up–showing a beautiful bright orange color. Everyone quieted down and took in the view of the sunrise (and many took photos too which kind of disturbed the viewing with a bunch of loud camera shutters, but who can blame anyone for wanting to document this moment?) Everyone in my host family made a wish when they saw the sunrise. I did not know that this was something that can be done (or is usually done) but I can see how observing the sunrise can be seen as (reminder of the beauty of the world and the gift that is waking up every morning) a prime opportunity to make a wish. (I would say that it should also be as popular as wishing on shooting stars! But I guess that because they are less rare (actually you can call them frequent!!) it is not as special.

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I made a wish too, but I refused to tell my host family about it because you know what they say: if you share a wish, it will not come true!

After watching the sunrise, we came back home and all immediately went back to sleep. It was nearing 8:30 am at this point and everyone was exhausted from the combination of staying up late, waking up early, and standing outside in the cold for quite a bit of time. I quickly texted my friends telling them that I was going to bed but that I would call them after my nap so that I could be a part of the Secret Santa Gift Exchange and watch the countdown in Chicago with them all. Seeing all my friends made me so happy. I have not gotten the chance to talk to all of them in such a long while because of our busy schedules and the different time zones (truly proving to be a pain in my rear end). Since their winter breaks from college started, I have been feeling major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) from seeing all their posts on Instagram and Snapchat of them just hanging out and partaking in our friend group traditions (like eating pancakes at our local 24/h diner) or just things we have always wanted to do (like going to an Escape Room!) I know in particular there was a photo taken at a restaurant and my friend had put a Snapchat filter on it that read: New Year Same Squad. It was such an innocent add on to a really cute photo but of course, it made me feel sad in a way. I truly love my friends and I do not believe that we are being torn apart because of this but I do feel extremely disconnected to them due to the distance between us. They have the time to share with each other so many stories and updates and I am left feeling like I know nothing when things are brought up. These new inside jokes make me feel like an outsider… Or maybe a bit less obvious, there is a divide in where we are in life. They will have finished their first year of college while I have done something just as growth-invoking: a year abroad.

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Wow, that was such a long tangent. (I am currently sitting in a cafe right now with Josh and maybe because I am being influenced by this deep/thought-provoking music, I am feeling the vibes to just dish out all my emotions and thoughts on this blog post right now… Anyway, since I brought my fears and the negative things that I have been feeling, I do want to bring up that it is not all bad. I like to think because I have such amazing friends, I have been reassured and reminded time and time again that they will always be there for me. In this past week, I video called one of my friends and she never failed to let me know how much she misses me. She told me that something always feels off without me there, and she even said she knew that they would have been successful with the escape room if I had been there too. My other friends too continue to update me on their lives through text (or by Snapchat video) and I really appreciate the extra effort they put in for me! Anyways back to my day! (and not my feelings!)

Earlier in the night, my friends came over to my house to surprise my mom with chocolates and I later heard from my mom that she was almost in tears with the kindness they showed her–she had missed seeing them around so much. My friends picked up my package with my secret Santa gifts and snacks for all of them to try. When we video called, I was so happy being able to see how excited my friend Kara got when she opened all my presents. They were definitely nothing too special but I thought she would use them well!

I got to watch the countdown with them and as the countdown reached 1, all my friends screamed Happy New Year and let off (what is the verb for this?) confetti poppers. I ended the call soon after that and also talked to my mom for a bit.

For lunch, my host family and I ate 떡국 (rice cake soup) which is a soup traditionally eaten during the New Year. In Korea age works a bit differently when compared to American age. To describe it as simply as possible… Koreans are born as 1-year-olds rather than 0 and then they increase in age on New Years Day rather than on their actual birthdays. (Yes, they still celebrate their birthdays, however.) Because of this system, you have to either add 1 or 2 years to your current age to get your Korean age. For example, I am currently 19 years (My birthday is Nov 4th, 1999) and my Korean age is 21 years old. I gained a year today! Before New Years (back in December) I was only 20 in Korean age. Before my birthday (let’s say October!), I was still 20 in Korean age even though I was 18. This is probably so confusing but I tried!!

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Once you eat the soup on New Years Day, you get one year older!

The rest of the day was spent spending time with my host siblings (watching a Barbie movie and then several episodes of a Korean tv show about the body? It was very educational.) as well as cleaning my room and finishing up all my packing. We played board games and I can finally say that I have won a round of Rummikub!! YESSS!

Our last dinner together was a very special one. There was a really big spread of all types of food. The main dishes were 삼겹살 and 회 with an assortment of veggies. Before we began eating, my host dad said that they had prepared a 진수성찬 for me and then asked me if I remembered what that was. I could not help but smile and think about the good memories from the 추석 holidays when my host dad first taught me that word. (Definitely, one of my new favorite Korean words since it is associated with such great memories. Should I do another favorite words blog post? Link to the first one: here) We also did a toast before starting to eat. My host parents said a few things about enjoying having me and I also thanked them for allowing me to feel comfortable with them and all the memories we were able to make with each other. Dinner was bittersweet, but I knew that I would surely be back soon. Hopefully, the next time I come back, I can make gingerbread houses with my siblings!

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And that was my New Year’s Day in Korea! (Though I will admit that a large majority of this blog post was just me explaining my emotions but what would a realistic blog about my experience be without me getting all personal out on here?) Thank you for reading if you even got this far! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마
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New Years Eve: Cafe Conversations in 회현 (Hoehyeon) and 홍대 (Hongdae) 12/30-31/19 NSLI-Y AY

12/30/18 Sunday

Nothing too special happened on Sunday. I spent most of the morning trying to pack my suitcases even though I was majorly dreading it. Honestly, I love packing. I find figuring out how to fit everything and then stepping back and observing the final product as rewarding and really calming. I like to pop in some headphones and listen to Netflix or Youtube videos and pack away. Though…this time it just reminded me of the fact that this chapter was ending and although I am looking forward to this new change too, I cannot help but feel emotional about everything–mostly leaving my lovely host family.

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One thing that was really great about this morning was that I finally got to skype Sofia since coming to Korea! We have not talked since I have gotten here… we tried to talk back in October but because of the timing and the internet connection, we had to give up during the call. We ended up talking for almost 3 hours!! We had so much to catch each other up on–her about her first semester of college and me (obviously) about my time in Korea. Sofia is the kind of friend that even though we may not talk as regularly as you would expect for close friends (we do text/snap each other every day, though!), we get back to where we left off and it is like we were never away from each other! We still have not met up in person since the end of our NSLI-Y Program in 2016 but we have big plans during the fall of 2019 seeing that we will both be on the east coast–and in the same country too!

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I wrote blog posts, packed, and played board games with my host siblings for the rest of the day; the epitome of a very chill day on the weekend here in Korea.

12/31/18 Monday

The last day of 2018!!! I cannot believe that the end of the year is already upon us… it is honestly crazy to think about (I know… I know, everyone says this every single year…) I left early in the morning this day to meet up with Katie around noon at 회현역. She was meeting up with someone staying around there so I came to hang out with her until her plans began. (I had nothing better to do and did not want to stay home alone for the whole day.) When we got to the station, we walked outside for a bit before going inside one of the other exits looking for the underground shopping center. We ended up thinking that we had made it to the entrance of one of Korea’s famous department stores/malls called Shinsegae (신세계). I spotted a Johnny’s Rockets (Do they still exist in America? I was shook to see one in Korea!) and we took out some cash at one of the ATMs. Then, we tried entering the mall at the place we thought was the entrance but boy were we wrong. We walked past the doors to see a security guard look at us and begin to get out of his chair. We saw only people wearing lanyards and ID cards walking through and lots of keypads right at the entrance. I immediately freaked out and Katie pulled me to get out of there. We ran back up from being underground and laughed at how we are always getting ourselves in these situations.

We walked around the area for a bit until finally finding a cafe to sit in and chat and do some “work” which for me meant writing blogs and for Katie, she was researching restaurants in the area to go to with her friends. We stopped into a Yoger Expresso (the first time I have been to this chain). We ordered our drinks and shared some strawberry waffles.

After I hung out with Katie, I was not ready to go home yet as it was still pretty early in the afternoon, so I texted the group chat and luckily was able to go ahead and make plans with June in 홍대! We walked around the outside shops together because June needed to buy gifts for the goodbye party she was having with her host family. We chatted while doing some shopping which was fun. I have not hung out with June in awhile so I appreciated getting to talk to her more! While June bought dog clothes, socks, and candles for her host family, I just bought a pair of socks and a pig-themed New Years card for myself… gotta treat yourself sometimes!

We ended our hangout at Blanc Bakery where we shared a slice of red velvet cream cheese cake and some conversation. I also bought some macaroons in order to bring something back to my host siblings in honor of it being New Year’s Eve.

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After getting home, I ate dinner with just my host dad and host mom because my host sisters were having Chinese language tutoring in their room. We talked about a lot of things like why Japanese and Chinese are more popular languages to learn (and their cultures are more readily known) for Americans rather than Korean as well as the colonization of both Korea and America (in the sense of the Native Americans). It was very interesting~ I definitely understood more than I could properly reply with complex, coherent answers.

The rest of the night was spent packing and watching the New Years Countdown with my host family– which included counting down from 10 (in Korean of course) and then watching some performances from famous k-pop groups like Twice, Red Velvet, Exo, Winner, and BTS. We stayed up past midnight even though we were planning to wake up at 5 in the morning to watch the sunrise (This is apparently a very common tradition for Koreans on New Year’s Day.) which did not matter at the moment… but I definitely noticed the next morning. It was not the usual New Years Eve and I severely missed my best friends, but it was still a very nice day. I spent it well with some really lovely people (Katie, June and my host family) and so I will always cherish the memory! My sisters also gave me letters they wrote… I ended the night in tears.

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SHINee’s Minho was on the Countdown as an MC of sorts

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed this blog post! My next blog post will be about the first day of 2019!!! Thanks for reading~ I hope you rang in the new year with lots of good food and people. Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Trick Eye Museum, Dynamic Maze, and Osulloc Tea Cafe {12/29/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/29/18 Saturday

The night before, I was wallowing in my own boredom as I realized I had no plans for the weekend. Rather than let the night go by without making any plans, I hopped into our AY group chat and asked if anyone wanted to hang out. Besides for Katie responding (like she normally would have), I got no response. Great. Then a few minutes later, Josh privately messaged me saying that he was down to do something too. Then Jacquelyn eventually said that she was free. We had a solid group of 4 wanting to do something but with nothing to do… I tried researching the best things to do in Seoul during the winter but the majority involved going outside to ice skate or ski and we knew that was not going to be an option.

I ended up finding this Trick Eye Museum located in 인사동 called The Alive Museum and attached to it was this maze sort of adventure called The Dynamic Maze. Everyone seemed super excited to try it out–especially because Katie and Josh had never been to a Trick Eye Museum (This surprised me seeing that the one in 홍대 is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area! I went during the summer program with Sofia. Here is that blog post!) and the maze seemed really fun with ropes to climb and tunnels to crawl through and puzzles to solve; therefore, I reserved tickets online early for the three of us. (Jacquelyn was going to join us for lunch but not for our activity because she was still not feeling well.)

We all met up at 종각역 which actually had some cheap underground shopping. Katie and I promised to come back and shop around because the sweaters were really cute. We walked out of the station and pretty quickly were able to find the place (a recommendation found by Jacqulyn #mangoplatemaster). We went to this place called 청진식당 as it was one of the best-reviewed places nearby for less than ten dollars per person. We ordered two servings of 불고기 and 오징어볶음 and it was utterly delicious. So much food for only 8 dollars a person! I left the restaurant so full from everything. I would highly recommend anyone to eat there if you find yourself in the area. Even for picky eaters, the 불고기 would be something good to introduce to someone who is trying Korean food for the first time. If my family ever came to Korea, I would take them here for sure!

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After lunch, we parted ways with Jaquelyn and made our way towards 인사동 to find 박물관은 살아있다 or the Alive Museum. We passed by this massive building that Josh said was the right place. I kept telling him that there was no way it was inside of there, “Where are all the signs?” I said. So we kept walking, in the freezing cold, all the way down to the other side of the street realizing that we still had not found the right place. We turned all the way back and returned to the huge building that Josh pointed out at first. We read all the Korean on the floor markers and could not find anything that said The Alive Museum. We walked out and returned realizing that the museum’s name was not 아라이브 박물관 and tried to find it again. On the B2 sign, it said something about a dark room which seemed to be another part of the museum, so we decided to try our luck with that and go there.

When we got into the elevator, we realized that there was literally no button for B2. Literally, there was even a blank button in between B1 and B3 that you could not press. We decided to just get off at B3 and figure out what to do there. We were the only ones getting off there and were shocked to see nothing expect concrete walls and doors with vague electrical signs. We quickly found the staircase and rushed up to the B2 level. We looked around and realized that we had just found ourselves in the middle of the museum. We walked for a bit {seeing all the photo opportunities} and realized we needed to find the entrance because we were basically entering without paying. I found this guy next to the VR area and told me that we bought tickets online but we didn’t know where the entrance to the museum was. He told us to take the elevator up one floor but when we did that, we were still right smack dab in the middle of the museum. Josh decided to take lead and told us to just walk through the whole thing. If we kept going straight, we would eventually get to the entrance—and he was right. When we ran through the last curtain, we laughed looking at the line at the ticket stand. I immediately went outside to see where we were supposed to enter and found an outdoor entrance with stairs on either side. I climbed them and discovered that the entrance was next to the huge building we entered. There was a massive sign {in English} noting the location of the museum. I ran back inside and laughed with the others. Only we would miss the ginormous sign, proceed to read the Korean on the floor map and enter the museum in the middle. I got us our tickets and after playing with the lockers for a bit, we just decided to go in with our coats in hand.

We had a blast on the museum—playing with the props and posing in so many different ways. We spent almost two hours taking in everything {and we didn’t even take shots at every single location!}. By the end of it, we were so tired of taking photos but I was still able to convince everyone to take sticker photos with me. I just like having the physical memories! Plus, today was a day to remember! It was so much fun!

After finishing up and returning to the lobby, we got in line for the Dynamic Maze. Though we hadn’t even waited for a full minute before the employee told us that it would be a 2-hour wait. We looked at each other in shock… we wanted to make it home in time for dinner so we ended up skipping out on the maze even though it looked like so much fun! Maybe next time? {Though I felt so bad because I had already bought the tickets and they were going to have to pay me back even though we didn’t get to do the maze… what a waste of money…}

We didn’t want to leave just yet so we walked around looking for a cafe that wasn’t too expensive {Though I will just say is pretty impossible in 인사동!} We ended up going to 오설록 tea cafe or something like that? They are famous for all their teas {especially 녹차} from 제주도.

Katie and I ended up buying some green tea ice cream and a roll cake. {Don’t worry we fed some to Josh too!}

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We sat at the cafe just chilling and chatting for about an hour. We also looked through all the photos from the museum and laughed at all the golden shots! Photos of Josh making creepy faces, Katie not being lucky with lighting, and me crying like a baby. It was a lot of fun (and the cafe eats only added to the experience)

That is all for this blog post! I had so much fun today~ It will definitely always be a day that I remember~ A good memory with great friends, conversations, and food! I hope you enjoyed. Follow for more content like this! 5 months left in Korea… wow, does time fly!

  • Emma 엠마

Cafe Studying, Pasta, Unit Test Depression Waffles {12/26-12/28/18} NSLI-Y AY

12/26/18 Wednesday

Wednesday was a full free day to just study study study! Katie and I met up early in 홍대 to find a cafe to study at. I really wanted to take her to the cafe that Josh orders an Americano at every Monday and Tuesday Korean class because the cafe looked small and cozy. (They also had a rainbow cake which I have always wanted to try!) However, I tried going down the same street the Better World office is on trying to find it but no luck… I later found out, from Josh, that I did not walk far enough down the street to the cafe. Oops…my bad. Next time! Cold and ready to just sit in any cafe, we decided to try a bit harder to stay out of Twosome. (Great cafe but we go ALL the time) We ended up going to this cafe called Paul Basset that was attached to a Samsung Store. This cafe was quite bougie (reminded me a lot of an off-brand Starbucks). So as you can imagine, it was quite pricey. But as always, I ordered a green tea latte. Katie and I studied for a couple hours by ourselves before we were joined by some of the 대원외교 (Daewon High School) NSLI-Y students who were getting out for their usual half-day-Wednesdays (I know how lucky! I mean yeah Katie and I are already on winter break but they got half days every single week!) We were joined by Liam, Josh, and Jenna. Honestly, hanging out with them at the cafe was a lot of fun! Not the most conducive study environment; however, laughing along with everyone as we went through grammar points and ranted about absurd vocabulary words (seriously though, 변송기– when a boys voice changes during puberty–is on our vocabulary list) made for really great memories.

After studying, we all went out to eat at this pasta place near the youth center where Korean classes are held. This place was called the Basement (I believe) and the pasta was pretty cheap –I had Chicken Alfredo pasta for 7,900 won (less than 8 dollars). We all hung out and enjoyed the Western Food (My first taste of real pasta on program!) and talked about so many things: from our worries about the Korean test the next day to our worst injuries during our past.

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I came home a bit before curfew and hung out with my host siblings for a bit in the living room before hurrying back to my room to study. Because of our less than productive study session at the cafe, I was very behind on getting through all the grammar points from the past two books. I had to plan to review a lot in the morning…which worried me.

12/27/18 Thursday

I met up with Katie at Holly’s Cafe early in the morning to study. I read over all of the dialogues and paragraphs in our textbook as questions on our tests usually come straight from there. Because we wanted to spend as much time at the cafe grinding, we got lunch from the 편의점 (Gotta love that 산각깁밥 (Triangle Kimbap) life).

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Our unit test…was not the best (Look at that, it rhymes!) Jacquelyn ended up not taking the test because she had gotten a really bad cold the day before so it was just me and Josh today. Before we started the test, our teacher told us that it seemed that we had a lot of remaining time left over after finishing the writing test so she added 10 more questions. Not only that, but she also added questions with passages and topics that we had never ever seen before–totally new questions. Let us just say that those two MAJOR changes did not help me at all. She let us know that there were only 2 minutes left and there were 6 questions that I had yet to answer. I literally guessed and picked random answers for those questions because I had no time. I had no time to go back and check my answers–to correct any of my mistakes. Yes, it is true, last time I had enough time to look back over my test one complete time… but what is wrong with that? But I am assuming that although I only looked over my test once last time, Josh and Jacquelyn probably had a lot of leftover time. I can see why our teacher wanted to limit this time… but this was not the way to do it. After the end of the reading test, our teacher asked us how the test was. I just did a half laugh and groan before whispering that time was very limited. (What I did not mention was that there were complete sentences that I did not understand… Or more frustrating was when I knew all the words in the sentence but I still could not figure out the meaning to the sentences… because those are my own problems…)

The writing test should not have proved to be too difficult but for some reason all my knowledge of how to write a paragraph from a source (in this case a graph) flew out the window. I wrote a short paragraph on the difference of priorities of 30 and 60-year-olds without actually using percentages and amounts from the graph. So… there is no way I am doing well with that writing. The other writing prompt was about being born again as another gender (though I wrote that I would choose to be a woman still–but obviously live my life a bit differently.) This one was actually not that bad! I think that I used some good vocabulary and explained myself well? But I know I could have used more grammar points… I feel bad for Josh because I promised to use 변송기 in my writing but I forgot… he fit it in somewhere! Gotta love that.

Josh (what a saint) went first for the OPI, so I got to go second… wow was my OPI a mess! I took several tens of seconds to even full-on minutes to answer certain questions. I could see my teacher getting excited when I would speak at a good pace, stringing good sentences along, and then I would pause not knowing how to continue and she would just stare at me–blankly. At one point she asked me to describe a difference between my American high school and my Korean high school and I tried explaining the college application process. I tried to talk about the fact that Korean students really only focus on one college entrance exam while American students can rely on their test scores, after-school activities, volunteer work, essays, etc. At the end of my OPI, she told me that I should not to try to answer the questions with such complex answers. Rather than trying to use advanced grammar and vocabulary, she said it would be better for me to talk about simple things with no mistakes (She brought up saying things like wearing uniforms, living in dorms, etc). I was taken aback by this at first… I figured that I should try my very best to go out of my comfort zone (language wise) but I guess to get the best score, I should stick to trying my best at having no errors in my speech.

My roleplay was about me trying to return a broken camera that arrived at my house with many faults. It went kind of okay? I used the wrong word for to return and to keep (I used synonyms that are only acceptable in other situations), so that was just great 🙂 That was sarcasm… Anyway, to sum it all up, it was not my best test. I know I am not moving up so I felt pretty disappointed at the end of the class period. I had studied very hard (especially memorizing so much vocab) and I just did not perform… In order to make myself feel better, I went out to eat waffles at 와플대학 (Waffle University) with some of the other NSLI-Y girls: Katie, Hunter, Shannon, Alix, and June.

After hashing out our feelings while stuffing our faces with carbs and gelato, Katie and I went to Twosome to hang out for a bit more to talk. We spent a little more than an hour just talking through our feelings, our worries, our hopes, etc. It was really nice to be able to express everything that was on my mind to Katie–I am so thankful that she is here for me. (And I will always be here for her too~)

After leaving the cafe and heading into the subway, I realized that I was missing my wallet! I almost started crying because I got so scared. My wallet has everything: my state ID card, alien registration card, debit card, all my money, etc. Katie and I ran back to the cafe to look around the floor of the area that we were sitting at. I wanted to ask the baristas behind the counter if they had seen it but I was panicking. I saw that it was not where we sat and so many eyes were on us too. Until, finally, this guy sitting next to us pointed to the counter and I realized he must have turned it in. I ran up there as quickly as possible and asked one of the employees if they found a wallet. When I got it back, I almost cried again–from literal happiness! What a night!

12/28/18 Friday

I had no plans to leave my house today and my host family was all out and about or at school, so I stayed in for the majority of the morning. I cleaned my room (a little bit… I need to start packing) and wrote lots of blog posts.

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My stuffed animal-filled bed! ❤

Eventually, I got tired of staying at home so I left and went to my favorite cafe here in 고양시. I ordered my $3 green tea latte and stayed there for almost 5 hours– mostly working on writing blog posts as well as editing posts and scheduling them to be uploaded. The cafe was slightly busy but the white noise was appreciated. I find that rather than listening to music, I like to listen to actual voices when I am trying to concentrate on something. The lady who (most likely) runs the cafe even asked me where my friend was (meaning Katie) and I said that she was busy. I thought this was cute~ She obviously remembers us!

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Later that night, I watched Santa Clause 3 with my eldest host sister and brother. We gorged on tortilla chips and could not help but rewind the bloopers more than 5 times because Tim Allen is my spirit animal and I love him as Santa Clause!! (Oh and the siblings thought he was really funny). It was a lot of fun~ I always watch the Santa Clause trilogy, so it was nice being able to still do that here–even after Christmas.

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That is all for this blog post! I know it is a mish-mash of a couple days but I hope that it is alright~ I have been really behind in writing these posts and honestly, there is not much to talk about… but I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading!

Authors Note (05/27/19): Officially back in America! It has been about two days now. I am going to try to crank out blogs more frequently now that I am off NSLI-Y and will hopefully have more time. I also want to post a reflection, so I will try to get that out soon as well.  Thanks for supporting me while I was actually on my gap year! I never imagined that keeping a blog would be this tough but believe me, for those that can actually keep up… they are literally superhuman. Until my next post! Bye~

  • Emma 엠마

Celebrating Christmas Day in South Korea as an Exchange Student! {12/25/18} NSLI-Y Korean AY

12/25/18 Tuesday

When I woke up Christmas morning, I was a bit dazed and confused. My body slightly ached from having to sleep on the floor and I had no desire to get up and get ready for the day. Seeing everyone in the hostel room with me and the Christmas decorations still scattered around {some hanging by single pieces of tape on the wall} reminded me that it was Christmas. It didn’t feel like Christmas. The red and green balloons on the wall now read “rry hrimas” and that made me smile.

We all woke up a bit after 8:30 am and started getting dressed while also cleaning up the room before 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 arrived. We had boxes upon boxes of trash to be thrown out and our tired bodies struggled putting away all the futons and blankets back into the wardrobes. 민정쌤 brought us all Paris Baguette pastries/breads to have for breakfast but we were all still full from last night’s epic binge to eat anything else this morning.

Once everything was in order, we all wished each other “Merry Christmas” and went on our merry way {see what I did there?} Some students were going to church, the airport {Addie was taking a trip with her host family to 제주도}, out to brunch, while others were just returning to their host family homes to spend time with them. The latter was the group I belonged to.

I trudged my way back up to 고양시 carrying my overnight bag and gifts in hand. When I was walking back to my host family’s apartment, this random Korean man rode past me on his bike and shouted “Hello!” at me in English. I was just listening to music on my phone with headphones making my way back home when he did this. There were other people walking in front of me and him yelling made them look at me too. I immediately put my head down to cringe at how awkward this interaction was. It was very uncomfortable. After he shouted out to me, I began to think about how I hate being a foreigner in Korea. I started to think about the fact that it was Christmas but that I wasn’t with my family… I was in Korea, alone. This made me cry, so yes I walked the rest of the way home crying. When I approached the apartment building, the security guard actually came out of the small outside office to look at me (I assume he could tell I was crying) but did not say anything. Before I entered the home, I wiped my eyes and took some deep breaths. I was sad; I was homesick. However, I did not want to bring that into the house. I wanted to have a good Christmas, and so I was going to try my best to do just that!

My host sisters opened their presents and seemed really excited to use them! I bought them Japanese Poppin Cookin set which they have never done before! (I was surprised because they are so crafty–I figured they may have already done them.) I bought a sushi making kit as well as one for fast food. Basically, the whole point of the “toy”, if you will, is to make edible candies out of powder (using only your hands, water, and sometimes the microwave). I was worried that the taste would be really weird… but when I was making them with my host sisters the process itself was fun. And, some of the candies were very tasty–albeit some tasted really bad…

My host family also got me a Christmas gift which took me by surprise; they did not have to get me anything! They have given me plenty while hosting me during these past three months. I received a really sparkly, rainbow planner for the upcoming new year. My host sisters, host brother, and host mom wrote me really sweets letter/cards. I will always treasure them!~

I also got to video chat with my mother on Christmas Eve (for them) as my family was heading to a Christmas Eve Party. We talked for a bit while they were in the car and it was very difficult for me to have a good conversation with her at first (we haven’t talked in so long) because all my siblings were in my room screaming, singing, playing, etc. I had to tell my mom to repeat her sentences so often because I could not hear her over everyone else in my room. Though, I got to show my mom all my siblings which I could tell she enjoyed. She kept asking me to translate when I would say things to my siblings. I made fun of my younger brothers hair and my host sisters agreed that he is in dire need of a haircut (sorry Gabe! Love you <3) My mom sent me a package for Christmas as well as ordered me two things from Amazon; however, only one of the items from Amazon came in on time so I opened that in front of my mom. It was a stuffed plush of Haku from Spirited Away in his dragon form. I immediately wanted to tear up~ It was so cute! I have so many stuffed animals with me here in Korea now! Wow… I will definitely have to ship them back to America because I will not have space in my suitcases.

The rest of the afternoon was very chill. I spent most of the time in my room learning vocabulary on Quizlet (Even though this would be a part of my winter break, I needed to keep studying because there were only two days left till our End of the Month Unit Test for December!) For dinner, we had Ramen which I thought was quite hilarious. Maybe because when I think of Christmas dinner, images of turkey or ham or roasts pop up as well as other sides like mashed potatoes or vegetables, etc. We were literally having ramen. Though, it was great and tasty!

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After we ate dinner, we left around 5 pm to walk around an outdoor area that had a lot of shops before watching the new Disney movie. In Korea, it is called 호두까기 인형 (just The Nutcracker) but I believe the official English title is The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms.

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I really enjoyed the movie! It was a cute Christmas movie for the family and I would definitely watch it again around the same time next year. (Comparing it to the cringe-fest that was the Netflix Original Christmas movie I saw the other day with my host siblings… this movie deserved an Oscar for sure!) Once the movie was over, we went to an arcade for a little bit rather than heading straight home. I found these sticker booths and I got the urge to take sticker booth photos with my host sisters. I told them my idea and dragged them into one of the booths. We did not let any of the adults know so we tried to hurry up in case they were looking for us (as they could not see us from outside of the booth). Taking and Decorating the photos was very very fun. We kept shouting trying to get cute poses and as the time hurried us along, we kept panicking. The machine edited our faces and made our eyes super huge! I am not going to lie; I looked like a creepy alien! But either way, it was a lot of fun and I am super glad that I have this physical memento to remind me of this day and of my host sisters

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And that was my Christmas in Korea!~ It started off quite emotional but after talking to my family back home and spending time with my host family, I realized how many things I have that I should be grateful for. Christmas away from home (especially since I am just a teenager) was difficult; however, I would not trade it for anything. It was a good learning experience and I am happy to know that I am growing as an individual. I may not have been able to partake in the same traditions I have in the past, but Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are–as long as you are surrounded by those who love and support you~

Thank you for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Christmas Party at Youth Hostel in Seoul (12/24/18) NSLI-Y Korean AY

12/24/18 Monday

Emotionally, I knew that Christmas Eve was going to be a very difficult time for me–the holidays (when you are away from your family and friends) are always difficult. However, the morning was quite busy so I was pretty distracted for most of it. I needed to finish buying gifts for the Better World Staff/my resident directors (주연쌤, 소야쌤, and 민정쌤) as well as my Korean teacher so after taking a shower, getting my presents in order, and packing things for our Christmas party, I went to 홍대 to complete my Christmas shopping.

I wanted to buy macaroons from Blanc Bakery, but when I got there, they were literally out of every single flavor except for passion fruit I think? So I skipped out on that bakery and went to Daiso to buy dry erase markers for my Korean teacher. (I wanted to get her a variety of colors to use during class.) And eventually, I ended up walking several blocks to a Tous Les Jours to find macaroons for everyone (green tea, lemon, and grape flavors). A bit before noon, I was able to meet up with Katie at a cafe where I wrapped my gifts and memorized my Korean class presentation while Katie worked on letters for her teacher and then later did a part of her homework too.

During Korean class, we just reviewed most of the new grammar points that would be appearing on our monthly test. We mostly just went through the points and created example sentences to go along with them. My teacher seemed to really like the thoughtfulness of the gift (Though I know they are not the best quality seeing that they were only 1,000 Won dry erase markers from Daiso). She also said that my card was really well written! I did upload it on HelloTalk to have it edited… but most of it was written by me without any translating it! So I was happy to know that I did pretty well–especially with using formal language.

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I also gave my gifts to the other Better World 쌤s (which included tissues, hand sanitizers, and hot/cold packs along with a macaroon) and they seemed to really like the letters too. 주연쌤 and 민정쌤 gave me some of the warmest hugs which made me feel very happy–I needed a hug at that moment!

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Once class was over, we were on our way to begin celebrating Christmas with a Christmas party at a hostel with the rest of the NSLI-Y students. Josh, Jacquelyn, and I walked with 소야쌤 to the subway station and from there we went to the hostel we would be spending the night at. We had to all anxiously wait in the lobby for awhile because Kaitlyn, Harmony, and Hunter were decorating the room with Christmas decorations.

When we finally got to go up to the room, we were all beyond amazed at the decorations; they had done an amazing job turning the room into a Christmas wonderland. They used garlands and string lights to make a tree on the wall that looked so pretty~ We all placed our presents under the makeshift tree which made it look that much more real. (It eventually fell off the wall about 40 minutes into the party but it was nice while it lasted!) They also made stockings for every single person and hung them (along with garland) along the windowsill. (There was also a photo opportunity made with wrapping paper and red and green balloons.) They definitely worked so hard in preparing the decorations (and all the games) and I could not thank those three enough for making our Christmas special!

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We were all told to bring some snacks to the party so we had so much food to go around (including the pizza and fried chicken that 민정쌤 ordered for us). They also bought hot chocolate packs so that we could make some later in the night. Luckily, there was a water dispenser that had both hot and cold water at the hostel so during the middle of the night we all went out into the hallway carrying our cups and packets in order to make hot chocolate.

We dug into the food first because we were all so hungry after Korean class. After eating, we did our secret Santa gift exchange. We started off with Katie who gave her gift to Harmony and then from there, we all passed out our gifts until the circle finally ended up coming back around to Katie with a gift from Mckenzie.

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My secret Santa was June and she got me some of the best gifts ever! She must have asked around about my likes because she was able to figure out that my favorite animals are pigs and bought me pig-themed items from Daiso and Butter. I received a pair of pig slippers, a pig coin purse, and this big round pig stuffed animal. (Katie actually gave me the same pig stuffed animal but in a mini size for my birthday.) They were all very cute–Thank you June! After I got my gift, I gave my secret Santa present to Jack after explaining that it was based on an inside joke. When he opened the gift and pulled out the bigfoot plush, everyone started laughing and asking what the joke was which led Katie and me to explain the joke to the group. He passed around the stuffed animal to others in the group and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I know Jack will not really use it? But I hope he appreciates the effort I put into the gift and the thought that went into it!

But also I need to bring up the fact that Josh and Liam came to the Christmas party and changed into fuzzy pink pajamas made for females. It was so funny seeing them looking so ridiculous. I could not take them seriously. Especially, when I looked at how short the pajama pants were. They are always pulling something crazy! (민정쌤 definitely enjoyed taking photos of them!)

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After the gift exchange, we began to play the Christmas version of Hot Potato (All planned out and prepared by Harmony). It involved passing around this huge present in a circle and whenever the music stopped and it landed in the hands of one of the NSLI-Y students, they would have to unwrap a layer. Each layer had little notes of what the person needed to do (both good and bad things). So the present started off as this huge box and then with each unwrapping it got smaller and smaller until it ended up being an ornament filled with candy. This game was so much fun and the tasks were really funny too. Here are some examples:

Say Ho Ho Ho after every sentence for the rest of the game

Wear this Christmas Head Accessory for the rest of the game

Wrap someone up as a present (anyone of your choosing)

Get wrapped up like a snowman by the person on your right

Get fed something by the person on your left (while blindfolded)

Sing a Christmas song (song choice by the person on your right)

Call your Mom sing Silent Night to her (no context)

Create and perform a 12 Days of NSLI-Y Christmas

Etc etc etc

The best moments of the game were definitely when Shada wrapped up 민정쌤 as a present (and even added a bow to the top of her head– the one from my present to Jack), Kaitlyn turning Katie into a snowman with a roll of toilet paper, and last but not least, June calling her mom back in America (it was probably like 5 am on the East Coast) to sing Silent Night. I was so surprised that her mom picked up and her grogginess and delirious responses just added to the whole moment. (We all also tried so hard to keep our composure and not make too much noise by laughing.) What a great game!

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After playing hot present (would that be the name of the game?), we started a blindfolded cookie decorating contest. There were two rounds of 4 people and at the end of the contest, Addie and Jenna proved to be tied as the winners. During this time, Kaitlyn and I discovered that the lighting in the bathroom was perfect for selfies so it is safe to assume that we took advantage (because yes, yes we did).

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Eventually, it got close to 9 pm and so the 쌤s were getting ready to leave us for the rest of night after giving us instructions for tonight as well as tomorrow morning. She brought back 닭발 (chicken feet) and other foods that are commonly eaten with it as well as a light up Christmas cake (This was her Christmas gift to us~) Mckenzie, Katie, Shada, and I cut the cake after we sang happy birthday but switching out the words “happy birthday” for “Merry Christmas.” I recently got to try chicken feet when we had the exchange day camp with the all-girls tourism high school and besides the weird texture of the cartilage, it really was not bad at all. But for some reason, these were literally the spiciest things I have ever eaten. Even though I am not Korean, I consider myself someone who can eat spicy food well. I really love 김치찌개 for example. Though that is the case, this one piece (this one foot of a chicken) burned my mouth for about 15 minutes after I ate it. I literally almost drank an entire water bottle trying to calm my mouth down because it was literally burning and my eyes teared up so badly. Yeah, I will say that my experiences with 닭발 have really not been too good to me.

Once we stuffed ourselves with more food, snacks, and cake, we ended up splitting up into the two hostel rooms (one was for those who planned to stay up late while the other one was going to be for those that plan on actually getting some sleep). The party room (AKA the #teamnosleep room) consisted of Harmony, Shada, Jenna, Josh, Liam, Jacquelyn, Addie, Jack, Hunter, and me. At first, we all just hung out, sitting in a circle–mostly on our phones–chatting about all sorts of stuff. This also ended up turning into a limbo contest somehow?  Either Hunter or Josh won; I can not remember exactly.

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Eventually, Home Alone was turned on and having seen it the day prior with my host family, I left with Josh to visit the girls in the other room. They were all chilling in this lounge area (as Jacquelyn and Mckenzie went to bed early) making ramen (which they purchased from the vending machine). I did not eat ramen (too much cake I tell you!) but I did share banana milk with Kaitlyn. For some reason, the quiet and calm atmosphere made me start thinking about the fact that it was Christmas (it was past midnight at this point) and that I was not with my family–my first Christmas away from family. This made me start crying so Kaitlyn and I hurried over to the stairwell before anyone else could notice and I started balling my eyes out. Kaitlyn never properly celebrated Christmas but she could still understand my feelings and helped comfort me. (Thank you for the hug Kaitlyn; I am definitely a hugger <3) I was crying and crying standing in that stairwell at 3 am. I eventually stopped crying and turned to laughter when I looked out the window to see that the roads were still filled with cars at 3 in the morning on Christmas day. Kaitlyn thought I was going crazy as I explained that it was funny to see that Seoulites really do not sleep. This led us to talk about the fact that they stay up late but sleep in (a lot of places do not open till 10 or 11 am– even breakfast places sometimes) which distracted me for the moment from all my emotions.

Then, maybe because we were deliriously tired, a big group of us decided to go outside and do a cinnamon roll hug like the one we did in 안동 as well as just huddle together and talk for a while. It was so very cold outside but we still decided to hang out there for quite a while? Yeah, I do not know what was going through our minds either.

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Jack Gives Liam a Piggy Back Ride

Eventually, it was 4:30 am and we laid out all the futons on the floor and got ready for bed. Luckily, we did not have to get up until around 8:30 am so we would not completely be lacking sleep tomorrow morning but… it definitely was not the doctor recommended 8 hours of sleep. But I was happy. Although, I missed my mother extremely and the traditions that we had (that I knew would not be completed the following day…) but I was happy to be surrounded by all these amazing individuals that genuinely made me feel supported and happy. This was not a typical Christmas Eve; it was my first Christmas Eve away from family and my first one abroad–in Korea. However, it will be one to remember~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and spent it with ones you love (even if it that does not include your family). I hope that you surrounded yourself with people that will always love and support you this Christmas~ Thank you for reading~ Till next time.

  • Emma 엠마

 

Catching up with Korean Friends in Sinchon (신촌), Board Game Cafe, and Brunch (12/22-12/23/18) NSLI-Y AY

12/22/18 Saturday

I met up with Kaitlyn early in the morning at 홍대 in order for us to both finish off our Christmas gift shopping for our teachers and our host families. Before we got down to business, we tried getting brunch at this place called Buttermilk that is really well known. We ended up getting there about an hour after it opened. After a wrong turn and some issues with Kakao maps, we eventually found it but others apparently did too as there was a huge line of people waiting outside. Well now that that place was out of the question, we ended up going to Travel Maker and getting brunch there. (Though when we did arrive, there were no available seats so we did have to wait for a little bit in order for the employees to clean up one of the tables.)

I was craving pancakes and was able to get blueberry pancakes while Kaitlyn got a breakfast set with a little bit of everything. (These were my second set of pancakes this week; I am living my best life here in Korea!) After breakfast, we visited the new seven-floor Daiso here in 홍대. I saw the building in the distance and told Kaitlyn to follow me but she kept saying no, that it was in the opposite direction; however, I kept pulling her over to me. Eventually, we saw the huge, tall building and Kaitlyn laughed. I do not know what I am talking about most of the time… but I do have a good memory– I remember seeing the construction for it during the past week. We got through every single floor and filled up a basket at the end of it (Though I will admit that most of the things in our basket were mine–guilty as charged). I bought a gift for my host brother, our program resident directors, some gifts for Katie, and some treats here and there for my host sisters as well as me. Also, because this new year is the year of the pig, Daiso has this really cute series with a pig at its center. If this is not already known… well, I am obsessed with pigs! It took so much self-control for me not to buy everything (I also thank Kaitlyn for holding me back). Though I did cave in and bought pig stickers, a pig USB cord, and a pink pig blanket.

After Daiso, we made our way to Morning Glory and Artbox to buy the final few things for our gifts (I needed to buy Christmas cards, tape, and wrapping paper for everything). On the way there, Kaitlyn took me to this coffee place called Venti that has been hyped up by Shada and Jenna since the beginning of the program and now I know that the hype is totally deserved! The place serves drinks in a venti size (yes the same large size you would get from Starbucks) for super cheap! I am talking approximately $3 to $5! I ended up getting a green tea frappe and it was super delicious and only 3,500 won (less than $3.50). When we left Artbox, we realized that it was almost 2 pm and we needed to hurry and rush to get to 신촌 on time. We were planning to meet two girls from 선정관광고등학교 for a movie. We ended up being late meeting them and instead of meeting at the station like originally decided, they told us to come straight to the movie theater. Kaitlyn and I freaked out about the fact that they thought that we could find it by ourselves at first but… we were able to find it pretty easily. No problem there.

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We gave up on the movie as there were no seats for the Nutcracker movie (which is what we wanted to watch) as well as the next showing of The Grinch or Aquaman. And when I mean seats, I mean enough seats as there were 4 of us and we needed 4 seats all next to each other in a row. So instead of watching a movie, we decided to go and get some food. I was not hungry as honestly, the green tea frappe really filled me up and we also had brunch only a couple hours earlier but was ready to go hang out with everyone. We went to this popular 떡볶이 place and got a set with rice cakes, fish cakes, beef, 만두, as well as a side of these weird butter garlic fries and some lemonade. Everything was very very delicious! We talked over lunch and it was really fun updating each other. 연우 also brought this bunny hat that she received as a present after doing some Christmas volunteer work (something similar to toys for tots). This hat has been so trendy in Korea; it is being sold everywhere and so many kids are wearing them. It is not just a hat though, if you squeeze it at a certain spot, the bunny ears move too–very cute. Also, we talked in mostly Korean which made me feel really really good! I was able to (successfully) explain to our friends my secret Santa gift to Jack–which included explaining what BigFoot is.

After we stuffed our faces with delicious Korean food, we walked around the streets of 신촌 because they are still having a festival there that includes lots of street stalls selling handicrafts and food (things like candles, meringue cookies, caricatures (but usually in the style of webtoon drawings rather than the American style of accentuating features on the face), dream catchers, jewelry, etc. After walking through the entire thing, we stopped to watch a bit of a performance.

In the end, we decided to go to a board game cafe which made me really excited! I have never been to a board game cafe. I did not go to one during my summer program and although it has been 3.5 months in Korea this year, I have yet (well before this moment) to go to a board game cafe! We found this place on the 6th floor of this building and 연우 decided to make a bet. We decided to play a 4 way round of rock, paper, scissors, and the two losers would have to take the stairs all the way. It was 연우 and 윤지’s idea and Kaitlyn was totally against it… but guess who won and got to take the elevator? Kaitlyn and me! We got to the 6th floor clutching our sides as we were laughing so hard. We had to wait at the top of the stairs for a while as we watched our friends huffing and puffing while climbing the last set of stairs. It was okay though; they would get back at us with punishments during the board games.

The place that we went to was really nice. There were shelves upon shelves with board games. There was such a variety that there were several that I had never even seen before let alone knew how to play. The place also had this fancy looking bar set up that served drinks and snacks to enjoy while playing the games. The seats of the establishment were these red velvet couches–so fancy!

We played a lot of classic games like Jenga and the Pirate game (there is a pirate in a barrel and you insert swords into it until he pops out) but then we played games I had never even tried before like Da Vinci’s Code and Rummikub. The last two were specifically fun because they involved a lot of thinking and strategy. I definitely want to play these games again to see how much better I will be at them since I am more clear on the rules now. For punishments, we would whack the head of the loser with a rubber hammer (we also had a bald, old man wig but only 연우 put that on for fun).

After staying at the board game cafe for 2 hours, we said goodbye and parted ways. It was so nice seeing our friends again and Kaitlyn and I were both so grateful for them reaching out and wanting to meet up~  연우와 유지~ 사랑하고 고마워~

I got home from the exhausting day out and ended up playing Rummikub again but with my host sister and mother. The whole family was playing the game when I first arrived home. When I saw it, I exclaimed excitedly that I had just played the game for the first time that day and that it was really fun! We played one round and I ended up getting second place–not bad.

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The rest of my Saturday night was literally spent wrapping gifts for all my host siblings and the 쌤s (teachers…) at Better World. The wrapping paper I bought at Daiso ended up being see-through! So I had to wrap every single gift twice because I knew my host sisters would try to look through the paper to try and figure it out. (And boy was I right, they did that anyway! Even with it wrapped twice… they tried!)

12/23/18 Sunday

Not much to talk about when it comes to this day… I spent most of the day just studying or lounging around in the living room with my host siblings. We did end up picking up a Christmas cake and eating that after lunch. Normally, my host family wouldn’t eat the Christmas cake till Christmas Eve but they knew I wouldn’t be at home for that {because of our NSLI-Y Christmas party} so they bought it early to eat together~ I thought this gesture was really kind and I was grateful for being placed with such a thoughtful host family. The days we have together are now numbered so I need to remember to stay grateful and enjoy the time left.

At dinner, I told my host family that my favorite Christmas movie is Santa Claus {the series itself but particularly the first movie} with Tim Allen. They had never seen it so during dinner they were looking up the actors and checking if it was available on Netflix and so you can guess what that meant… we watched Santa Clause together later that night. Or well, it was mostly me watching it while my siblings were on their tablets or reading comic books. Randomly when my host mom came into the kitchen for some tea, she exclaimed: “It looks like Emma is the only one having fun.” I just truly love that movie~ Glad I got to share it with them. Although the movie was a bit of a bust for them, the kids really enjoyed the blooper reel at the end of the movie. We kept rewinding the clips over and over because we could not stop laughing.

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That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Follow my blog for more~

  • Emma 엠마

Tour of a Korean Broadcasting Building & End of Year Orchestra and Choir Concert (12/20-12/21/18) NSLI-Y AY

12/20/18 Thursday

I would be skipping Korean class today in order to go to an SBS 방송 (translates directly to a broadcast by the Korean company SBS). I did not really know what to expect but I ended up speaking with my Korean teacher about it and she allowed me to skip class to attend. (My host siblings also went to school and then got out early so that they could also come.) The morning was simply spent studying and relaxing. My host dad also brought me this really delicious red bean bun as a snack which helped give me the energy needed to get through my workbook pages.

With my host family, we drove about 45 minutes to an SBS building (not really sure which building or station (?) as there must be multiple in 서울). We hung around on the first floor for a while until our tour guide was ready which was a bit awkward because all the security guards were staring at us. I mean I know that is their job? But it still was weird and I felt pretty uncomfortable. In the building, there was a taping of a show happening. The two men that were hosting the show were popular comedians. I recognized one as having been a member of the Hello Counselor cast: 김태균. We got to listen to that for a bit before moving on. The tour guide showed us around some of the floors in order to see rooms where things are edited, monitored, planned, etc. We got to go into one of the broadcasting rooms and played around with the equipment for a bit. I think one of the coolest parts of the tour was that we got to out onto the floor of the SBS News Studio! Seeing all the cameras and the lighting still up and the fancy news table and chairs were really interesting. I have never been in a studio before or in any area where things are filmed so it was a very cool experience.

At the end of the tour, we got to watch videos of other things that SBS is in charge of like dramas and sports and such. They had these life-size posters of popular dramas like “My Love from Another Star,” ”Heirs,” as well as ”Secret Garden.” My host dad was so surprised to hear that I had seen Secret Garden. He exclaimed that it was one of Korea’s most famous dramas, but I guess because it is quite old (I think from 2008 or 2007?) he was shocked to know that I had seen it.

After our tour ended, we picked up some groceries from the Lotte Mall across the street before heading back home for our lunch/dinner. While we were eating dinner, I also found out that our plans for the day were not over–we would also be going to watch an end of the year concert by the local 고양시 orchestra and choir (including a youth choir, too). The performance was honestly really great. The youth choir sang a lot of Christmas songs like the classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” as well as the less loved but just as widely known “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen while the orchestra played a lot of very popular songs. (I am not knowledgeable on the songs but I definitely recognized them from here and there. I think one has a title about some bumble bees possibly? Not too sure… but I enjoyed the performance a lot!)

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At night (and I am talking past midnight), I ended up calling my mom back in America because I suddenly was hit with a wave of severe homesickness (probably because being with my host family for the whole day made me miss my own family). It started off being just a call to update each other but then my mom hit me with that “What do you miss the most from America?” which ultimately led to me crying. While I was on the phone with her–crying and sniffling–I heard noise from outside my bedroom door. I am assuming that one of my host parents woke up to use the bathroom and definitely heard me crying in my bedroom… awkward…but oh well.

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12/21/18 Friday

I woke up Friday morning so happy to be on break~ I haven’t been going to school all week but today (perhaps because there was no Korean class and because the weekend was approaching–and the holidays) I just felt so good. After I woke up that morning, I filmed a quick house tour (mostly just of my room–explaining every small little knick-knack too. It was quite extra.)

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I ended up going to a cafe in 고양시 with Katie to study Korean while she worked mostly on college applications. We were there for several several hours before we left to grab lunch at a convenience store. (We love giving our wallets a break with 2 dollar lunches!)

I had gone home quite early after saying goodbye to Katie as my host dad and host mom had plans to go out and see a musical late at night. I was going to stay with my host siblings and watch a movie with them. My host mom brought back popcorn from the movie theater and made us all hot chocolate–she went all out for us. After they left, we ended up just picking out a movie from Netflix. I believe it was a Netflix Original but the name is slipping from my mind right now. It was your basic cheesy Christmas movie but it was nice to be able to watch it with my siblings. After it was over, we continued the marathon with one of the best Christmas movies of all time: Polar Express. When the hot chocolate scene came on, you know I was singing along.

Also, my older host sister showed me this app she has been using recently to practice English which involves dubbing her voice over clips from movies, tv episodes, commercials, etc. I ended up giving it a try too and dubbed my voice over a clip of Secret Garden. It actually turned out really well! I can whine in Korean pretty well!

And that was my Friday night~ I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Follow my blog for more posts about my study abroad experience in South Korea with NSLI-Y! (As I am posting this… I have less than 3 weeks left in Korea… Oh, where has the time gone? It is feeling VERY bittersweet…)

  • Emma 엠마