Emart Adventures & A Fancy Dinner: Sushi and Oreo Cereal (01/18/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/18/19 Friday

I had no plans for Friday but I really wanted to make it a very productive day (for both my Korean studies and for my blog) so I ended up going over to 공덕역 to hang out at a cafe with Katie. We went to a Tous Les Jours (French-inspired bakery) cafe and studied there for about 3 hours. We both bought a Garlic Naan for lunch (which was a little sweet–like most bread in Korea–but nonetheless, it was delicious.

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I also gave Katie her very very late Christmas gift (part 2) which consisted of a rainbow dream catcher, dolphin name stickers, Instagram photo printouts, and candy (Strawberry Tiramisu Kit Kats and a Cookies & Cream Hershey Bar). At the cafe, I started on my workbook work and tried catching up on blog posts (because I was several days late). I enjoyed hanging out with Katie while also getting some work done. We may not have talked a whole lot but it is just nice being in each others company when we are trying to be productive.

After going to the cafe with Katie, I made sure to be able to come home on time for dinner with my host family. My host sisters came back from their 학원 around 7 pm and then we left to go to Emart to buy some food in preparation for a party tomorrow. (My host sisters planned a party with their 학원 students. They would be coming over to play, hang out, have lunch and then they would take them all to go sledding! I would be coming with too!) Emart is basically like the Korean Costco (that was how my older sister explained it anyhow) and I agree with it. The set up of the store was like a Costco or Sam’s Club and there were plenty of free samples of things like shrimp, breaded hot dogs, fish cake soup, etc.

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At the store, we ended up buying lots and lots of meat for the kids! I am talking slabs of 삼겹살, sausages, bacon, and fried shrimp. Actually, the bacon was something that shocked me. Usually, when you order things with bacon in it in Korea, you will instead receive some kind of chopped up ham/spam situation rather than real American bacon that probably comes to mind. At this store, they had the real same-branded bacon you can find in American grocery stores but it was so expensive! Like $15 a pack! I am not sure exactly how much bacon costs in the states but I assume it is not even close to being that high… We also bought some fruit and dinner for ourselves which included sushi and raw fish. When we went by the cereal aisle to pick up some more cereal for breakfast, my older host sister asked me if I had ever eaten Oreo O’s or the Oreo cereal that is only available in Korea. I, of course, have not so we picked up quite a large box in order for me to try it out. However, I do believe that my host sisters like the sugary cereal too.

The ride back home from Emart was one of the funniest car rides of my life! We played would you rather with some hilarious questions and honestly, they were so difficult to answer at times! For example, one of the questions was “Would you rather be bald and have a pretty face (and be good at makeup) or would you rather have your hair but have an ugly face and bad skin?” It took a lot of thinking but I decided that I would have the latter and both my sisters agreed. They told me that if I were bald in Korea, I would constantly be mocked. They said that a common nickname for bald people was 타코야끼 (fried balls usually filled with octopus). There were also questions about which button you would press that tested if you were a risk taker and what kind of man we would want. (Super super tall vs. Super super short & A man who is super attractive and can’t cook vs. A man who looked like Thomas Edison (or 문재인–Koreas President) but can cook amazing foods. It was a lot of fun just hanging out with my host sisters and although the conversation seemed to not be that deep, I felt like it brought us closer.

We got home and were able to eat the sushi and raw fish that we bought for dinner. We were all hungry so the thought of food made our mouths literally water. To be honest, I haven’t gotten the chance to really have sushi besides a couple pieces here and there from buffets. This was my first time having sushi of different types of fish in one setting and let me tell you, it was really delicious!

At dinner, I also got to try the famous Oreo O’s cereal and watch my host dog Andy try a lemon for the first time. I was super surprised by his reaction because although he did step back when he first licked the lemon, he kept going back to it and even tried to bite it. It seemed that he liked the sourness!! It was the cutest thing.

I planned to do some more work after dinner but I was so tired from the day and had no motivation to do anything else. So like always, I put off homework and studying for later this weekend. Oh well! Anyways, that is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed~

  • Emma 엠마
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Research Project Photoshoot & Mcdonalds in Korea (01/17/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/17/19 Thursday

Photoshoot day! In preparation for publishing our research project in a little booklet, every CEP group planned to take “profile photos” on Thursday. My group and I created the theme of striped sweaters because just coordinating colors did not seem to work. Katie and 혜린언니 had navy dark blue striped sweaters while mine was beige which made me the one to sit and stand in the middle. I really wanted to take the photos with a pretty background and eventually was reminded of C27, the cheesecake cafe. I had been there twice before (once to buy my last host dad a slice of cake and the other to study) and knew that it had really good photo spots–plus delicious cheesecake. However, this cafe did not open until 11 am and at first, it seemed that 민정쌤 did not want us to switch cafes in the middle of our project meeting. We ended up going to Blanc Bakery again and buying a small blueberry cheese pastry. 민정쌤 came to have a consultation with us about our field trip proposal–and it went really well! She also allowed us to meet the photographer at the cheesecake cafe.

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After speaking with her and hearing her suggestions, we left the bakery to head over to the cheesecake cafe. There, we focused on finishing writing our interview questions and creating a presentation for the midway project orientation for Monday. We enjoyed a berry cheesecake and then took many many photos to be our possible profile picture. We took some awkward (arms crossed) photos on the couch before moving on to take the pretty pictures on a staircase they had at the back. They turned out really well!!

Josh showed up to the cafe to join us for lunch so all four of us went on a search to find the ramen place that I went to with Liam, Josh, and Jacquelyn one rainy day back in October (or maybe it was November? I cannot remember to be honest.) We ended up finding it! What a surprise! But unfortunately… it was closed! On the door, there was a sign that said on a temporary vacation. That was pretty depressing. We kept walking and then finally just picked this random hole-in-the-wall place serving popular 분식점 foods like 떡볶이 but with a twist. I really wanted to be present for lunch and engage in conversation with everyone but I needed to memorize my presentation for class so during lunch I just quietly rehearsed my lines while everyone else chatted. On the bright side, the food was delicious! And, I was able to finish memorizing my presentation by the start of class.

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I looove 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes)

Class was simultaneously so enjoyable and fun while also quite boring. I felt like I really did not learn anything as we did not learn any new grammar points and for some reason, I need that to feel productive. We took our first quiz since coming back from winter break and we all did so bad! I almost failed it!!! How can I do this bad??? I made really stupid mistakes on the grammar section and one particle error on the vocab section… I would be lying if I told you the quiz did not put me in the worst mood. If I was alone after seeing the number written across the top of the paper, I would have started crying. Our teacher then went over what we did wrong and expressed her disappointment with all that we did. I did not say one word–I felt terrible throughout the entire first section of the class.

During a break, Jacquelyn went to the 편의점 to get candy and she bought some for both me and Josh because she knew this test made us both upset. That was so thoughtful of her. Thank you, Jacquelyn! The next section of the class was spent basically talking about ice scream for the entire hour. I. Kid. You. Not. I learned that a lot of Koreans call Popsicles (하드 — the word hard but with a Korean English accent) and that frozen yogurt is really not a thing here.

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After we made fun of 하드, our teacher asked us why Americans call Popsicles by that name and although we did not know the real story, we all told her it was made, at first, with soda and it looked like an icicle. (Later Kaitlyn told me the real story and we were right!) Also Jello???? It took us quite a while to explain what it was to our teacher and I am still not sure what Koreans call it. (Though I know I have eaten it in Korea–at 하나고 I believe.) It was a fun conversation, but I do wish we could have done at least one grammar point. For the rest of the two sections, we read a few reading passages from the textbook and Jacquelyn & I gave our presentations. (Josh got an extension so he will be giving a presentation–about Confucianism instead–on Monday.)

After Korean class, I was not in the mood to go home right away so I asked around to see if anyone wanted to stay out a bit with me– I mostly asked June because I knew that she usually tends to go home late and eat dinner out because she does not want her family to wait for her (because her commute is about an hour long). Kaitlyn and Mckenzie decided to join us. We were originally planning on just chilling at a cafe and so I recommended Dinga Cake House because I have been wanting to go there and… hello, cake! However, the place was rented out for a birthday party. We gave up and started walking back when Kaitlyn threw out into the world the fact that she wanted a Mcflurry. One thing led to another and we found ourselves at McDonald’s. My first time since coming to Korea! I am surprised it took this long, but then again I was not seeing that I never go there in America (except to buy their chocolate chip cookies before going to the movies or to sit in the car and eat them with my friends). Anyways, I had dinner with June at Mcdonalds while Kaitlyn ordered some food for a snack. I had an Oreo Mcflurry, curly fries (which apparently do not exist in America), and chicken tenders (which apparently do exist in America but I had no idea). It was fun just hanging out at the Mcdonalds and we complimented the Korean chain for being so cool with their self-order machines (less social interactions… fun!) as well as their many single person tables for those eating alone. Dinner was fun and it was just the break I needed to refuel.

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That is all for this blog post!! Thanks for reading! Hopefully, my winter break blog posts are ending up being a bit more interesting than the ones from when I was in school. I am currently busy editing posts from back in October to post and I am worried that they are too boring. But I mean… that was real life! Subscribe for more posts like these~

  • Emma 엠마

Community Service in Korea: 밥퍼 (Preparing Food for The Poor Elderly) 01/16/19 (NSLI-Y AY)

01/16/19 Wednesday

Today would be our first time during community service as a full NSLI-Y Group. We had to meet at 청량리역 bright and early so I had to wake up before 6 am–something I have not done in a very long time (since I got out for winter break from 하나고, to be honest). The station we were going to was very confusing so 민정쌤 told us to not come in on any line but line 1, that it would be easier to find the exit since it is not connected to the same building of the other two lines. However, this transfer caused me a lot of stress and ended up making me late since the trains seemed to all be late today. My first train on the 경의중앙 line was late and so I ended up missing my transfer train and then my next transfer train was late so overall I ended up being about 5 minutes late to the meeting time. (Though I will argue that I am one of the individuals that lives the farthest from this station!)

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Anyways, we walked to the location of the community service together and piled into the church to hear about their purpose, the origins of the organization, as well as to hear the instructions of what we would be doing for them today. The Dail Community (다일공동체) works to provide lunch for the poor elderly in the surrounding area. The elderly may be homeless or living alone, or just not receiving enough wages to afford to eat for 3 meals a day. Some of them have disabilities or mental health issues. Some younger adults will come through but we were informed that they often are ridiculed by the others (because they are still young and able to go out and get a job) and so they will try to make themselves look older so no one knows. Hearing this, made me feel pretty sad… I would hope that if someone needs help, they would not feel embarrassed to seek the help they so desperately need. We got to watch a short video about the work that 밥퍼 also does abroad in countries like Tanzania and The Philippines to help feed hungry kids. It was all very touching and it made me excited to lend my hands to this organization today.

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Hunter, me and June!

After discussing all that we did, we got to ready to perform the community service. We put on aprons, rain boots, and tied up our hair and were led to the kitchen where we would first prepare the food and then later serve it. For the 45 minutes or so, I was on chicken duty: peeling the skin off and deboning the chicken before shredding it in order for it be made into soup. Once we finished all of that, the elderly started piling into the dining area. We were given new jobs that involved either helping pass out food, collecting money, or actually serving the food. I was on rice duty at first, meaning I served the rice onto the lunch trays. After about 5 minutes, this old man switched with me and I later found out it was probably because he could not do more of the laborious tasks–which I was given instead.

I was on dishwashing duty with Josh and we focused on washing bigger dishes in a large sink with hoses. We cleaned the large pots that had rice cooked in them and we also cleaned the pots that contained the soup, meat, and the side dishes. This involved scrubbing the remnants of food off before using soap and water to finish the job off. While I was cleaning, my back began to hurt and I accidentally got my left arm soaked with dirty dishwater which made me wish that time would go by faster or that I was doing something else. But from the station I was at washing the dishes, I could look out the door and see a long winding line of old people–hungry for nutrition. Seeing all these people out there reminded me how much all of this food meant to them. They needed our help. I saw those people waiting outside and realized that the faster I cleaned these pots, the sooner they could be used to make more food. We were helping these people. It felt good providing them with our time to help out.

We served lunch for the elderly for two hours. Once 1pm came around, we started cleaning up for a little bit before stopping for lunch. We ate the same things that were served to the elderly with some extra beef added in just for us. We ate the chicken, potato, onion soup (It tasted so much like the chicken noodle soup my mom makes! At that moment, I really missed her) with beef, seaweed and anchovies, kimchi, rice, and a tangerine. Everything was very delicious. We had to eat our lunch in less than 20 minutes and then hurry back to the kitchen to finish cleaning.

I returned to the large sinks in the back with Josh and we cleaned the rest of the big pots and bowls. Eventually, we were told to put away our aprons and gloves and head outside for a group photo as we were done with our community service. I could not figure out where to put my gloves so I asked one of the older ladies still washing some utensils. She showed me how to turn the rubber glove inside out using this method that involved twisting the glove until air collected in the palm area and then squeezing the end which caused the fingers to pop out. It actually was really fun. After I finished my two gloves, I realized that there was a pile of gloves from the other students so I proceeded to do those too. I asked the lady once again to show me and I was able to do them faster and with more success the more I went on. The lady told me that I could bring this skill back to America and show my mom. It was a very cute interaction.

After taking photos and taking off our rain boots, we had time to fill out a reflection about our time volunteering. I really enjoyed thinking about everything and I even wrote my reflection in Korean just because I wanted to try. I think it was not too bad…

I originally planned on going home and studying at a cafe for a bit in order to get a start on my homework and presentation but when I was with everyone, I had the urge to hang out with them. Katie, Shannon, and Kaitlyn were planning on visiting a healing cafe in 신촌 and I decided to tag along (and convince June to come with us). I had the goal to study while there but if I am being honest… I was only able to study one grammar point. But looking back, I am not mad about it! This cafe was so cool and I am glad I took advantage of it!

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When we first arrived, we took off our shoes and put them in lockers. We went to go and talk to the cafe employee to pay for how many hours we wanted as well as to order our drinks. (Guess what I got? I know that you are probably right–it was a hot green tea latte.) We paid about 9,900 Won (less than $10) for two hours at the cafe (with a 30-minute massage). After dropping off our coats and bags in the little cubbies, we went to get massaged. I have sat in a massage chair before but these were like on another level! I picked the massage type that focused on the back, shoulder, hips, and butt for total refreshment. It was so good but also so painful! If I come back, I am going to have to try another one–maybe the deep sleep one.

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View from the cafe–at sunset

At the cafe, I goofed around with June and Kaitlyn who were in the same cubby hole as me. After the time was up, I took the train back home with June because she only lives two stops away from me. We had to transfer at 홍대 and would be transferring onto the 경의중앙 line which were both nonideal situations. When getting on the train, we realized–via subway announcement–that we were on an express train which explained why we were packed into the car like sardines! I was in front of June so I could rest my head on her but she was squished in between these two men and could not even move her head to fully look at me. It was very uncomfortable until the last possible stop when everyone cleared out.

I came home and ate dinner with my host sisters which was a lot of fun. We ate this spicy beef stew type thing (maybe 매운갈비찜 but I am not sure). Again, they were surprised I could eat it so well because even my older sister kept breathing in and out harshly as she drank the soup. We had a lot of fun conversation again about office life, our least favorite foods, spicy food, nicknames for different countries (For example, 스시국 is Japan– translates to Sushi Country), as well as this really funny story my older sister had on a plane ride. She was taking a flight from one American state to another with a friend and this man sat in between them. She explained to me how smelly this man was. She even wanted to switch seats because of it. She explained that she never thought that Americans were smellier than Koreans (since that is a stereotype and one that can be true if you think about deodorant) but that was the one time she experienced something like that, something that made her consider the stereotype. After dinner, I zoomed to my room to work on my project on the differences between work life in America and Korea. My older host sister helped me with the conversation we had over dinner and she even gave me some data to use! It was very helpful. I ended up going to bed after 1am because of the project and studying grammar for the quiz.

That was my blog post for the day! It was a very long and tiring day, but it was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. These 빨리 빨리 (fast fast) days keep me on my toes!! I hope you enjoyed reading! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

American Pizza in Itaewon with my Host Sisters (01/15/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/15/19 Tuesday

I woke up bright and early on Tuesday for another project meeting. The air was once again really really bad. In Korea, they have really bad dust pollution that can’t be seen by the naked eye, which mostly blows over the country from China. This is called 미세먼지. It’s honestly really harmful to your body and once it gets in your lungs—it never leaves! According to Katie… so not sure how accurate this is! {Sorry Katie! :P} Today the app said “Deadly” and “Never go Outside” which meant I could not leave the house without a mask. In Korea, people can wear special pollution masks to protect themselves from the bad air. As I walked outside to head to the subway, the sky looked so foggy. But don’t be mistaken, that’s not natural—it’s just dust.

For this supporter meeting, we met at a new cafe called 1984 rather than the Blanc Bakery. It was actually really close to our Korean classes but the drinks were too expensive for their size… highly disappointed. But, I guess the low key cool vibe of the place was nice. We were very very productive during this meeting. We went over all the research we did as homework from the last meeting and we also researched possible locations to go to for our field trip. We ended up choosing to interview and volunteer at KUMFA– the first organization we found (Korea Unwed Mothers Families Association). For our second option, we thought we could just volunteer at a shelter for single mothers as well as donate some daily necessities like toilet paper or laundry detergent. However, we hope to be able to do both because we want to volunteer as much as we can!

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During this meeting, Katie and I kinda butted heads a little bit… probably because we were both stressed about things and were not in the best moods but at times, we were kinda tense during our meeting. At the end of it, we were packing up to leave and Katie decided to just study at a cafe before Korean class rather than get lunch with me which made me a bit disappointed. We just silently packed up. I went to return our cups to the counter and while I was doing this, Katie just left, without a goodbye–so we did not walk together. This made me kind of angry but I figured she needed space. (We had a low key argument and we both could tell the other was feeling off.) We talked it out later that night and are fine now~ One reason that I love Katie, we both are so considerate of the other and will not let anyone stay angry for very long. We talked it out and honestly, these little bumps make our relationship stronger! Love you Katie!~ ❤

Korean class was normal. Nothing too special happened. Honestly, often times I speak negatively of Korean class so at least nothing during class today made me feel that way. For one hour of the class, rather than doing normal textbook work, we started doing weekly debates. Like a presentation, one of us (my classmates… if that is not obvious) picks a topic and leads a discussion on that. Jacquelyn went today and talked about 미세먼지. (Relations with China because of it, causes, possible solutions, etc.) I was able to understand more than I thought but it really was not a debate? Instead… it seemed like just a conversation she had between the teacher and herself? I did add something to the conversation. I tried to explain that if the Korean government keeps putting blame on China then they will not see their own harmful actions–and I spouted some percentage nonsense I read in an article earlier in the day.

After class, I was almost bouncing off the walls from excitement. I would be meeting my host sisters at 홍익역 to take the train together to 이태원 (the foreigner) district in Seoul in order to eat at this pretty famous pizza place. They were showing up a bit after 5:30 pm so I first went to the bookstore connected to the station with Josh and Alix. I wanted to see if I could find a book to help me with the Topik Test (the Korean ability level test) that we will be taking in April, but no luck in finding anything. We did find all the books and workbooks we currently use in Korean class–including the grammar books! I will have to return to buy the advanced grammar book because I want to be able to write in it and fill it out as I go through the points. (In the one we received from Better World, we are not allowed to do that.) Also, while at the bookstore, we stumbled across these tiny books. They were tiny little books in Korean (or English) of classic literature pieces like Animal Farm, The Great Gatsby, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Little Prince, etc. I wanted to buy several but for now, I just bought The Little Prince for less than $5. I tried reading it while waiting for my host sisters but it is still too difficult for me! (One day…)

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I met up with my host sisters by getting on the same train car they were currently on and we rode the train together till 녹사평역 which is where we got off. At the station (It was huge! Multiple stories too), they had this little machine called a memory exchange machine. The directions were as follows: Write a memory about the area you are in, put it in the machine, and then take one of the memory cards from someone else (one that was put in earlier). We all wrote our memories (although, I had to write one in a different place–I chose the day I went to 신촌 with 연우, 윤지, and Kaitlyn–since I had never been to this area before) and put them in the machine. For some reason, no memories came out for us to read? I assume it is probably because there are not enough? This could be a fairly new machine… or it is broken–who knows.

For dinner, we went to this pizza place called Motor City (Detroit Pizza!) which was recommended by my elder host sister as she had been there twice with friends. We ended up ordering a four cheese pizza with tomatoes and spinach, a garlic shrimp cream pasta, and a drink to share. Before we started eating, there were not enough forks on the table so my older host sister asked the waitress for more and she only brought one which she handed to me. Then, the pasta arrived and she asked again if we could have one more fork. But it seemed as if the lady forgot as no fork was ever brought back to our table until finally, we called over a different waiter. This was funny because as my younger host sister was waiting for the fork, my old host sister kept teasing her about not being able to eat the delicious food.

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Our conversation during dinner was a lot of fun– the times we were talking and not silently stuffing our faces with food. We talked about my younger host sisters obsession with Japan (called her an Otaku), though I believe she really is not that obsessed. We talked about spinach for a bit because I missed it and the fact that it was on this pizza… I brought up the children’s cartoon Popeyes (the sailor man) and how I used to eat spinach straight out of the can because of that man. My host sisters agreed that they liked it; however, they found it not tasty in Korean food. I also told them more about myself including what I plan on majoring in college, my brothers, and such. It was a really nice dinner.

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Rather than going home right away, we decided to hang out in a cafe for awhile so we ordered tea and hot chocolate and just talked. The place was pretty crowded for a Tuesday night but then again the place was quite small too. The first floor was just the counter and then there were stairs that led to a second floor with only a few places to sit. When we arrived there; however, every single table but one was being used (mostly by couples too…) At the cafe, one thing that we talked about were puppy mills here in Korea as well as families who buy puppies but then throw them away once they get older. It was a very sad topic… I told them about PetSmart and other businesses where you can bring your dog to the store with you. I also told them about the many animal shelters there are in America and the growing movement of people trying to adopt rather than buying straight from breeders.

We rode the train back home and got back at 9 pm. The trip back up to 고양시 was smooth although there were more people taking the train than we expected (worse than it can sometimes be during rush hour–in less frequently used subway cars. It definitely is way worse in the front/middle cars during rush hour.) Again, while riding the train, we talked some more and made jokes. My younger host sister put her face mask over her entire face and that just led me and my older host sister to die from laughter.

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On a more serious note, we discussed some problems in Korea such as perverts on trains and spy cameras in public women restrooms. Definitely not a lighthearted topic but it was interesting hearing their opinion on it.

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Also, I found out from my host sisters that Namsan Tower (남산 타워) will light up in certain colors to show the condition of the air. When it is red (like in this photo), the air quality is bad and you should wear a mask. Other times, it is green for good air!

That is all for this blog post!~ I hope you enjoyed~ Keep up to date with my life by subscribing to this blog! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Community Service Orientation, Breakthroughs in Korean Class, and Deep Talks with Host Sisters (01/14/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/14/19 Monday

On today’s agenda: going to a youth center in 마포구 to learn about the independent community service we would be conducting there throughout the next two months (and maybe even after). This was the same youth center that I volunteered at during their Halloween Festival (that blog will be linked here~). We all piled into a large presentation room and received all the information about the service we would be doing. We also got to watch an introductory video of the youth center. The two options we had were a cultural introduction activity on Wednesday afternoons and eating dinner with and walking home children from the center on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. We would get into groups and decide which activities we wanted to participate in at a later date. We were told that the community service activities were not mandatory under our NSLI-Y program but were highly recommended. Therefore, not everyone chose to participate in them.

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Before we left the center, we got a quick tour although most of it was of areas that we would most likely never go to? I was a bit confused but enjoyed seeing the facilities they offered to the community. They also showed us the office that we would need to go to in order to pick up reflection and log in sheets to keep track of our hours while we did community service.

After the orientation, we all rode the subway back to 홍대 as we still had class this day. I wanted to go out and have a nice lunch with some of the other NSLI-Yians so June, Jacquelyn, McKenzie, and I went and got pizza at Pizza School. We originally planned to get 돈까스 from this famous place near the Better World Office but there was a line from outside of the place so we gave up. Pizza school was close by and really cheap so we opted for that. {I knew that I would be getting pizza with my host sisters the following day but they all wanted it, so who was I to say no?}

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We ended up ordering a spicy beef quesadilla pizza and a side of garlic fries which came out to be $5 per person which was a very cheap lunch! {2 dollars below the allotted lunch stipend!} After grabbing lunch, we all headed back to the youth center for our classes. We started a new chapter that day which included a grammar point I’ve been curious about as well as one I have learned already—at 숙대. In fact, I’m surprised it showed up as late as it did in the textbook series. I also studied the vocab for this chapter before class so I felt good throughout the class and was able to actually follow along with everything the teacher said more or less.

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Mckenzie and Jacquelyn~

In class we also had a fun conversation about common expressions Koreans use like 와, 세상에, 아이고, 어머, and more. I always like when the reading passages we read are interesting and applicable to daily life here in Korea.

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After class, I went home right away to have dinner with my host family. I rode the train home with Josh which has been our routine as of late because we both have been going home right after class ends. He honestly makes the long commute enjoyable as we are able to chat the whole time.

My host mom wasn’t home for dinner so I just ate with my host sisters which was pretty enjoyable~ For dinner, we had my favorite Korean dish: 잡채. I think that for some reason, I feel more comfortable talking to my sisters when my host mom isn’t around? Maybe because we can just fully be ourselves? Maybe cause she’s older? I’m not too sure but it feels like that just a little bit.

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잡채 (sweet potato noodles), 어댕 (fish cake), 김치 (kimchi), and seaweed.

During dinner, we talked a lot! And I did really well at keeping up with everything they said and I even said my own opinions! Lots of good practice at speaking Korean! We had some really deep conversations about the differences between America’s education system and Korea’s, specifically talking about the 수능. My sisters had very interesting opinions on the matter because they both did homeschooling and my older sister didn’t take the 수능. We also talked about my Korean high school and I told them I could not even imagine going to school there.

We also discussed work life in Korea because they asked me what I learned in Korean class today and I told them that we are focusing on 직장 생활 {work life}. She told me about the long hours and how stressful it is. I don’t exactly remember how it was brought up but we also talked a bit about why the birth rate is decreasing in Korea—basically why Koreans aren’t having as many kids as other developed nations or as much as they did in the past. My host sister told me all about the expensive parenting costs and young people not wanting to sacrifice work or freedom which was very interesting to hear. I was really happy that we could have such meaningful conversations together~

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That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ During my summer break, I am trying my best to upload as many blog posts as possible because I want to the new, incoming AY students (as well as the new batch of applicants) to be able to read about my experience and get a feel for what to expect during the AY program. After a couple more diary posts (I would consider the ones about my daily life as a sort of diary more or less.), I want to start posting more informational posts like A day in the life of an NSLI-Y AY Student in Korea during the school year and during the winter break and such (Especially because my day in the life post from the summer program (linked here) was and still IS very popular. Anyway, thanks for reading! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting 애니골 Cafe Village, Eating Octopus, & Going to a 맛집 with my Host Family {01/12-13/19} NSLI- Y AY

01/12/19 Saturday

Now, the Korea AY program has a 고양시 Gang {Goyangsi Gang} that is made up of three individuals: Josh, June, and me. Last semester, I was the only one living in 고양시 {which is a 근교 or a city right outside of 서울} but now two very lucky individuals have joined me! {Although, June technically lives in 파주시 but we still include her cause she’s on our same subway line and is only two stops away from me.}

Living in 고양시 means that we have a farther commute from 홍대 than some, but it also means we have an entire another city to explore—things that 서울 simply doesn’t have. Prices here are oftentimes lower, there are way fewer tourists, and there are more big open spaces and farms too. The gang has been wanting to explore together since we have gotten here and we decided to try to visit this area termed the 애니골 cafe village in order to study at a cozy cafe and then grab some lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. So the three of us met up at 풍산역 to try our luck at finding a cute cafe.

Exiting from the station, I could tell we were not in 서울. There were only two exits and the buildings outside were pretty far apart but mostly very big. Josh navigated us down this road to the cafe village and it soon became very very village and farm-like. The road was just gravel and the restaurants had large parking spaces and were pretty sparse. We passed by one cafe but it was obvious that it was not open yet. Reading the signs and seeing all the traditional places to eat was really fun. I don’t have many experiences being in a more rural area like the one we were at {In America & Korea} so it was definitely something different. As we kept walking, we found a sign advertising a cafe that was about 500 meters away. The cafe was 연꽃정원뒤뜰 (Something like lotus flower back garden) which immediately intrigued us as a place that would be good. We followed the signs which took us closer to the farmlands {literally there was a field next to the parking lot}. We walked up to the cafe and immediately saw this really pretty lake? Pond? {What is the difference between a lake and a pond?} All around it was benches and tables and lots of places to take pictures. It was all very very pretty. Too bad it was too cold to sit outside.

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This cafe was then dubbed the glacier cafe by us for…ovious reasons

There was one strange thing about the lake; there was a giant glacier fountain. Josh, June and I debated about it for quite a few minutes because we could not decide if it was real or not. It looked pretty realistic and we figured it would have been a weird thing to want in the water {in comparison to just buying a traditionally pretty fountain}. The kicker was the fountain was still on! There was water spraying from the top the whole time we were there. I guess people don’t usually use fountains in the winter because it can freeze over… but like that? I’m confused! Another thing, it was cold but it didn’t seem cold enough for ice to stay frozen like that… honestly, this whole place was a mystery.

When we walked into the cafe, it was prettier than I imagined! It smelled exactly like a campfire as they were burning a real fire for warmth which made the whole place feel ten times cozier. The menu had a lot of more unique items that you wouldn’t find at a normal cafe {like lotus root tea} but I still stuck with my green tea latte. Though the cafe did have it written as 제주그린티라떼 (Green tea from Jeju Island) so maybe it was inherently a bit fancier than all the others I have drunk.

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They also gave us free nuts! With a nutcracker!

The cafe has a really pretty interior with wooden walls and floors and tables with colorful marble designs that reminded me of a lot of Mexican Art. However, the best part of the cafe where the little private comfy rooms they had on the floor as well as up in a lofted area. These areas were places you could lie on the floor around a small table and pillows and just chill~ We ended up not going to sit there just because we needed to get work done, which meant sitting at an actual table.

And we were kinda productive… I ended taking notes for only two grammar points and completing one page of my workbook but with all the talking we did, I would have expected to finish less! The Cafe has no WiFi which is kind of a bummer but it’s definitely a cafe for the experience—not to study.

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After staying at the cafe for a couple hours, we left to look for a place to get lunch. Josh wanted to get traditional Korean food where they give you the large spread of 반찬 {side dishes} or duck but I was not feeling either of those {and neither was June so we ended up just picking a random restaurant to go to based on some of the random dishes and prices they were advertising outside of it. The building was huge which is not usual in Korea so I was excited to eat at a place like that. We ended up all sharing two orders of 쭈꾸미 볶음 (Fried Octopus Stir Fry) and 체육 볶음 (Fried Pork Stir Fry) which were both a little spicy and very very delicious. The best part of the meal was when June ordered, however. She looked at the lady and asked for 뿌꾸미 죾음 and Josh and I couldn’t help but laugh. We got everything cleared up and now this mistake will just live forever on this post. (Sorry June, you were really cute! Do not worry I embarrass myself every single time I post a blog post with too much information…)

After we wrapped up with lunch, we all went our separate ways. I ended up going to a Twosome Place close to the subway station nearest to my house because I actually wanted to be more productive and do some work before I arrived home– seeing that I knew I would get distracted for one reason or another if I returned home too early. My older host sister and host mom had plans so they were not home for dinner so my younger host sister ordered us burgers (from Burger King) and we ate that together at the kitchen table. The rest of the night was spent doing my workbook and I pushed off vocab, my listening Topik mock test, as well as my writing assignment for Sunday. (Might not have been the right move but what would my life be if I never procrastinated???)

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01/13/19 Sunday

Sundays, for me, (like they probably are for most people) are my rest/finish-the-rest-of-my-remaining-homework-and-studying day, so I tend to not to schedule anything for the day. However, I do like going out, so I might find myself hopping over to a cafe near my apartment complex to do some work. Today, I decided to just stay home because I had a lot to do and I also did not have the money to drop on a cafe drink (mostly because I went to two cafes yesterday… that was my limit for cafes for the weekend!). I spent the whole day slaving away with my Korean class homework. I had 50 listening questions for my mock Topik Test to do and those were honestly painful. The first 30 or so were really easy and I found myself feeling confident with my answers. But as the practice went on, I realized I was understanding less and less until finally I literally listened to the two-minute recordings and understood NOTHING.

My eldest host sister and host mom went out for a bit so my host sister and I had lunch at home by ourselves again; we ate subway sandwiches at around 5 pm. (Which is definitely very late but we also had breakfast really late.) For my writing assignment for Korean class, I had to write about a day that I will never forget, a day that will forever remain in my memory because it was so memorable: a 기억에 남는 날. I needed to pick something that went well with the newly learned grammar points so I wrote about my first Friendsgiving with my friend group (back in 2017) and how they surprised me and turned that into a surprise 18th birthday party for me!

When the rest of my host family came home, we decided to go out for dinner– get some Chinese food at this really nice 맛집 that is apparently really popular. We had to call ahead of time to make sure that there would be space for us but since it was Sunday night, it seemed that we would not have a problem getting a table.

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The place we went to was 도깨비 탕수육. 탕수육 is like fried sweet and sour pork while 도깨비 translates to goblin. We shared an order of 탕수육 as well as 짬뽕 or spicy seafood soup. Eating dinner out of the house was a nice new change for us. I really enjoyed the evening with them~ Actually, the restaurant was in 파주시 around where June lives!

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it and stay tuned for more posts about my days studying abroad in South Korea. Until next time~

  • Emma 엠마,

Lunch with Supporters, Outback Steakhouse, and Improving in Korean (01/10-11/19) NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/10/19 Thursday

On Thursday I woke up early again and ate breakfast alone as my host family tends to wake up after I leave the house for my daily activities. Like every morning, I woke up and was greeted by my host dog 앤디 who immediately started wagging his tail when he saw me and turned onto his stomach in order to be petted by me. Honestly, getting up in the morning is hard but seeing him always brightens my day.

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During the supporter/project meeting today (My instinct keeps wanting me to call our meetings supporter meetings because that is what we called them during the summer program but because of the project… that name does not seem right.), we got down to business. We assigned each member of the group a part of the research to do (For example, I was supposed to focus on statistics and policies implemented by the government.) and we fixed the project proposal to fit the suggestions that 민정쌤 made to us. It was a very productive meeting indeed!

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After the meeting, I joined a large group of NSLI-Y students and supporters to go out for lunch. We decided to go eat some baked fried chicken (Confusing… yes. But there were signs all over the place with information on how the chicken was healthier than normal fried chicken.) but when we first got to the restaurant, it had just opened and the worker did not want a large group coming in because he was working by himself. Everyone complained about it for a bit but eventually, one group left to go to a coin 노래방 while the rest of us went inside to order first. We got two orders of chicken: one spicy and one original style. However, the spicy chicken was literally the spiciest thing I have eaten in a long time! I have had 김치 less spicy than that chicken. Because of the taste, a lot of people refused to eat it so Jaquelyn and I teamed up (with plenty of water) to take on the chicken so it would not be wasted. Lunch was fun because I was able to talk with more of the NSLI-Yians I have not seen in a while (since we have not been in class) as well as the supporters I have yet to have an interaction with. Hopefully, between our supporter meetings and classes, we can have more opportunities to go out for lunch together!

Again, like the last post (I am writing this post quite a few days after this day happened), I do not remember much of the rest of the day since I have no pictures from after lunch. However, one thing that did happen was that we were emailed our feedback and grades from our December unit test. I was really nervous to look at it but I didn’t really have any expectations because I assumed I would see my lower grades on both the writing and reading test (in comparison to my previous tests) as well as the same OPI Score: Intermediate Mid 1. However, I was wrong!!! (Well, the lower scores were high key spot on…) But… I actually moved up in my OPI level! My teacher said that both my way of speaking/expressing myself (verbally and in my writing too actually) and my vocabulary has greatly expanded which made me deserving of the level change. So now, your girl is at Mid 2! I could not be any happier. This really came at a good time because I think that it was the confidence boost that I really needed. I know from now on, it is going to be extremely difficult for me to move up to Intermediate Mid 3 and these months till then will be hard but I will study hard to get there. I am not sure if I said this on here (or if I should because if I fail… I will be depressed…) but my goal by the end of the program is Advanced Low. That is 3 levels above where I am right now. Getting there in 4.5 months. Possible? Hopefully!

01/11/19 Friday

There were no program activities scheduled on Friday, so I decided to plan a fun day hanging out around Seoul with Kaitlyn. We really wanted to go and get some good pasta at Olive Garden (I thought I found one near 경복궁 when I visited there with 수진언니) but I could not find the original one where I thought it was located, so we tried following Kakao maps. This Olive Garden–although it showed up on Kakao Maps–did not exist! We walked around the right building and even checked the address but it was not there. As we started walking back to the subway station, we spotted an Outback Steakhouse. I have never been to one of these restaurants in America but I really wanted pasta–American style food in general.

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Getting creative with Korean fashion~

Everything there was so expensive! I am talking $22 meal expensive but I guess the portion size of pasta was huge and we got a side of really delicious mushroom cheese soup and some bread. And I am assuming the prices are the same back home in America too, right? The lunch with Kaitlyn was fun but also very embarrassing because I made a fool out of myself in front of the waiters. I told them we could speak Korean so that they would not speak to us in English but then this prompted the waiter to speak so quickly with us and wow, it was difficult to understand him explaining the different parts of the meal.

At the end of the meal, a different waiter came up to ask us if we wanted a take-home box or refills and it took me a good long minute to figure out what he said, which led me to stare at him blankly for a bit. And then (to continue the mess that was my Korean abilities this day) when we got up to pay at the counter, the host asked if we were ready to pay or something along the lines of that and I literally replied with “no.” I misheard him and assumed he asked me if we were paying separately so I replied with no while handing him cash to pay for the meal. He looked at me so strangely but accepted the money and we were on our way. As soon as the doors closed and we had left the restaurant, I could not help but laugh and low key scream at myself for being so stupid.

We also went to a Tous Les Jours Cafe for a bit and just chatted. We talked about the CEP projects, getting back into the swing of Korean classes, as well as the recent OPI scores. I have never been to one of the cafes that are built into a Tous Les Jours or a Paris Baguette and I have to say it was nice. Like a normal cafe, you can get drinks but then there is a large variety of sweet and savory pastries and food to munch on while there. After spending some time near 서대문역 for a bit, we returned to 홍대 in order to pick up a package for Kaitlyn at Better World. We walked around the main streets for a bit and watched some busking, did some shopping, etc.

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I came home early to eat dinner with my host family and I also hung out with our host dog for a bit. I started some of my homework but only got a few workbook pages done. I was tired from walking around the whole day and just wanted to relax for the rest of the night.

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading~ I feel that this winter break is going to be really great~ I find that doing this project is the kind of academic activity I have been missing and I hope that I can truly make more strides in my Korean language learning journey during these two months. Additionally, with more free time, I hope I can do more fun things! Subscribe to my blog for more!

  • Emma 엠마

 

Talent Performance Showcase at Korean High School {01/09/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/09/19 Wednesday

I had been looking forward to Wednesday all week. After our plans to have dinner outside of 하나고 with our friends fell through {because they were so busy preparing for their own performances}, I was feeling sad that we would have to continue to not see our friends till they were free during winter break. However, 세림 invited me to watch the performance with her as she would be watching it herself {her 1인2기 —the name for the two activities 하나고 students do— was singing in the choir concert which was last week} as well as with 주연 from my exchange student conversation class {and Katie knows her from homeroom!} I was really happy that she invited us to spend the night with them as we even were invited to eat dinner with them and have a tour of the dormitory! More on this later… back to the events that happened on Wednesday in chronological order.

So first, I had breakfast with my host family and chilled with them in the morning until my host sisters had to leave for work and school. Then when lunch time rolled around, I took the train to 연신내역 to meet up with Katie to go to a cafe and study before we would be meeting 세림 and our other friends. The commute was about 37 min and depending on the transfer I can catch, it can get up to be 47 minutes. Hopefully, when I start school, the timing of the trains will work in my favor so I don’t have to wake up too early!

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Katie and I went to our usual Twosome 한옥 cafe right in front of the school and studied Korean together for a few hours. The manager of the store was so happy to see us again. Just the smile on her face made me so happy. She wished us a happy new year and apologized for the construction that was happening on the first floor. At that point, I realized that it had been almost a month since we were last here! That was pretty crazy to think about… Also, when I ordered my usual hot green tea latte, she complimented me on my Korean and said that it had improved. I laughed because I literally said the same order I always do but hey, I will take all the compliments I can get.

 

I wasn’t too productive at the cafe—only managing to schedule a blog post and memorize the vocab words for the next chapter in our textbook—but it would probably have been less productive if I had stayed at home with the distraction of my comfy bed and the fact that no one would have been around me to judge the binge of YouTube videos or a Netflix series on cleaning… Marie Kondo… I need to fold the clothes in my drawers.

For dinner, we walked to the Mini-Stop convenience store about a bus stop away from 하나고 but were pretty disappointed in the selection of 김밥. Honestly, I know my flavor probably isn’t the most popular but I still figured they would have mine! Koreans do enjoy tuna… {My favorite flavor?  참치김치볶음밥–Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice} Katie ended up finding one that matched her while I ended up trying out this tuna and crackers snack pouch which was actually so good! I would get it again for sure~

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After dinner, Katie and I met 세림 and 주연 at the school’s 정문 (front gate) at around 5:30 pm so we could get a tour of their dorm before we came with them to have dinner. We were both really excited because we did not have the opportunity to go into the dorms yet and it had been quite a few months since attending 하나고. When we first walked into the dorm, everyone stared at us. They were most likely shocked because we have not been attending school this whole month (they had been for the past week in order to prepare for their performances) and we never go inside the dorms–seeing that we do not live at school like the others! 세림 showed us her room which she shares with 3 other female students. She told us that usually rooms house 3-4 students. I was really shocked by the size of the dorm room because it was quite small for 4 people to live inside. I have been in American college quads and they were definitely larger and less cramped but then again, this is a high school rather than a university. The beds were all pushed up against the corners of the rooms and next to each bed was a desk. The middle of the room was where all the dressers stood and the room did have their own private bathroom. There were actually two rooms (the toilet and the shower were in separate bathrooms). So each room did have a private bathroom.

세림 and 주연 also showed us the self coin laundry machine room (There are laundry days at the dorms but if students need something urgently washed, they can use the coin machines) as well as the fridges in the lounge areas on each floor. After the short little dorm tour (We even ran into 윤세 in the hallway and I bumped into 서연 on the elevator), Katie and I joined 세림, 주연, and 정민 for dinner in the cafeteria. We did not eat anything but we were there just to talk~ Though, they did give us some snacks (the 하나고 kids get three meals in the cafeteria as well as a snack at around 9 to 9:30 pm but because of the performances today, the snack was given out earlier.) that included a croissant filled with chocolate from Paris Baguette and a Capri Sun juice pouch.

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주연, me, Katie, 정민, and 세림

We finished dinner quite early so we walked around the 미술 전시회 (art exhibit) that was set up in the lobby of the main building. There we met another one of 세림’s friends named 현소 and all of us walked around viewing the handcraft work, paintings, calligraphy, and graphic design art pieces. We found the piece 현소 created and I found one of the bigger pieces to be by 근영, one of the boys in my mentorship program. I immediately took a photo and later sent it to our group chat. We also ran into Jason (one of the foreign English teachers) who ended up staying to watch the performances too. We had not seen him in a while so it was nice to quickly catch up.

 

 

The performances started at 7 pm and luckily we were able to get really good seats in the middle of the audience. The name of the showcase was 어둠을 밝히는 하나의 별처럼 which translates to 하나고 lighting up the darkness like a star. The performances were all really great! I had a really good time enjoying all the instruments and the singing while talking with our high school friends between each of the performances. The showcase started off with this video that was really well edited. The login screen of one of the student’s computer was projected onto the screen and everyone began laughing (mostly due to the cringey but cute computer profile picture of a male student with cat ears and whiskers) thinking that this was just them loading the video rather than a part of it all. The video continued to show the computer mouse opening up a Kakao chatroom and the messages between two students trying to choose their 1인2기 activities. They would send each other links to videos and then they would go through recommended videos on their YouTube to continue falling down the rabbit hole of different videos. There were videos of cheerleading, 태권도 (Taekwondo), dance (kpop) teams, different musical instrument performances, etc. There was one video of this really buff student (I am talking American high school football buff which is pretty rare in Korean high schools let me tell you) who was in the gym and talked about working out and putting yourself out there to be healthy–basically trying to act like a motivational speaker.

 

Once the videos finished playing, the live performances began and they kicked off with students playing orchestral pieces. There were a lot of pieces played but the two pieces that ended up being my favorites by the end of the showcase was this one girl that played piano (she was amazing!), this trio of guys playing “Always with Me” from the Japanese animated movie Spirited Away, and a group of students that played their own song on acoustic guitar. They titled the song 하나고 라이프 and it really touched me deeply. The lyrics were about their daily life and it described their routine (waking up in the dorm, running to get breakfast on time, getting to class, etc); however, it did not showcase these things negatively as many would probably view such a tedious routine. The lyrics described how the time has flown by so fast and how they are already third years (the song was written by second years!) One line that really hit me was one that stated that when they look back at these moments as adults, they will definitely be missed. I am not going to lie… this song made me quite emotional as I thought of my time in high school as well as the short amount of time I have left in Korea now… I know that this will be something I listen to when I am feeling sad during subway rides home.

 

When intermission rolled around, Katie and I were only able to watch 혜지 perform two songs on the clarinet because we had to leave in order to make it home in time for curfew. I really wanted to see our other friends play their traditional instruments, guitars, and do a dance performance type of thing but time was not on our side. We did have curfew extended 30 minutes but it was not enough… especially since I now lived farther from the school than previously. During intermission, we quickly snapped some selfies with 세림 and the rest of the girls and one with 윤세 and 혜지 before running to the bus stop.

 

(Oh, I was just reminded of this now. Between the performances, when things were being set up, students would yell out the names of their friends and compliments like calling them pretty and cool. (Though some friends were quite mean and called their friends stupid!) At the time 혜지 came out, I was too nervous to yell her name and 세림 noticed so she asked me who it was that I wanted to cheer for. So then she counted to three and we both yelled “혜지 예쁘다.” However, we yelled right before they were about to play so it was a bit awkward and embarrassing because it got silent all of a sudden!) Nevertheless, it was really fun and I still cannot believe how 세림 can be so thoughtful.

 

Katie and I ran to our train platforms and made our trains. Unfortunately, when I transferred onto the 경의중앙 line, the train ended up being two minutes late which normally would not be a big deal but my train was arriving at my home station at 7:55 pm and I needed all the time I could get to be able to arrive home in time. Because the train was late, I ended up getting to my station at 7:57 pm which meant I had three minutes to sprint up to my apartment and text 민정쌤 that I made it home–and kept curfew. I never had to run so fast in my entire life! If I was not in public, I would have been screaming. When I was waiting for the elevator, I was literally screaming (in my mind) waiting for the elevator to show up. I typed the password to get into the apartment wrong at first and had to try again which made me so frustrated! I fell onto the floor in front of my bedroom as the time was still 10 pm. I kept waving around my phone so that it would connect to the wifi and I finally got the text through to 민정쌤. While this was happening, my host dog 앤디 start attacking my face with tons of his licks.

She ended up texting me a few minutes earlier asking where I was but she was not upset in the end because I did make it home on time! Right on time! She did say that I was cutting it close!

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And that was my Wednesday! It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed spending the day with Katie and 세림 and our other friends from school. I will definitely remember this day for a while~ Thanks for reading! ❤

  • Emma 엠마

Winter Break Research Project Orientation & First Meeting {01/07-08/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/07/19 Monday

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The walk to the train station (in the morning~)

Monday morning, before our orientation for the Cultural Explorers Project {the name of our winter break project}, Katie and I went to a cafe near Better World to work on our Winter Break work. We went to a cafe called 별빛 (or something or other) which I’ve been to on several occasions with Josh during break times in between Korean class sections. I wanted to go there because it’s adorable, the atmosphere is cute, and they have rainbow cake! Something I’ve been wanting to try~ So with my usual order of a green tea latte, Katie and I shared a slice of rainbow cake.

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At the cafe, I started the longer 쓰기 that made up the writing portion of my practice Topik test. It was about the importance of communication and finding a good method for maintaining relationships, etc. I got more than halfway through it so it was a productive cafe date.

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Eventually, lunchtime rolled around but we stayed there and ended up not really eating lunch so throughout the orientation, we snacked on the prepared crackers and treats from Better World. Arriving at the presentation room was quite awkward at first, we all stared at the Korean college students and were scared to interact with them so the room was divided in half: one side of the room being NSLI-Y students and the other side was made up of the supporters. This awkward tension was definitely predicted by the Better World Staff as we started the orientation off with some bonding activities. The first thing we did was walk around the room with pieces of paper and gave them to others in order for them to draw our face; however, the catch was that they could only draw one part. For example, Shada drew my hair and then Jack did a whack job drawing my eyes! Luckily, June saved the day and fixed my eyes which was highly appreciated– my drawing actually kinda turned out nice.

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아프로디테 같다 (like Aphrodite) my favorite comment

The next thing we did was walk around and write our first impressions on each others paper. I tried my best to get to talk to the supporters because I wanted to meet them as well as practice my Korean by writing their impressions in Korean. We shared some of them in front of the whole group and 주연쌤 started making fun of something one of the male supporters had on their paper which was what I wrote! I wrote that he seemed to like to travel and she was like How would you know that? I was like his aura!!! Apparently, she did not get the same vibe as me.

We did a few more bonding activities like tongue twisters and getting into groups to copy pictures of people using their bodies to create certain shapes? Hard to explain…. Eventually, we found out which supporter was in our group through a very cheesy introduction center and lots of drum rolls. Katie and I were paired with a female college student named 혜린. She seems so kind and is very adorable! At first, we were all pretty shy together and since Katie and I are so close (and we show it too…) she must have felt a bit awkward. However, as the orientation continued, we seemed to get more comfortable with each other (By the end of this project, I hope we can stay close! Which means… periodically hang out until we go back to America!) Our supporter is an English major so her English is really good. She started speaking to us only in English because she assumed we knew no Korean and since the topic is pretty difficult to communicate in my limited Korean skills, Katie and I responded to her mostly in English. Hopefully, (more hoping) we can use our time together to practice Korean more, too!

After getting in a group with our supporters, we did a few more bonding activities like playing charades (Our theme was sports and we actually won! We answered the most questions correctly… unfortunately, we did not win a prize, though.) as well as making shapes with ribbon while being blindfolded. Yeah, it was as confusing as it sounds. Once the fun icebreakers were finished, we got to work. We all split off into our groups and created a group contract or 약속 that we need to follow during these two months. Our group included going to pretty cafes every meeting, having fun, and putting in our best effort. We also presented to the other groups the topic we are planning on focusing on for this research project which is the quality of life of single mothers in South Korea (especially due to the surrounding stigma). We came up with the group name 독닙여성 which translates to independent women because that is what we are!

Eventually, we all finished up with the mandatory activities and it was time to all have lunch together. We ended up eating 만두전골 at the same restaurant we ate at during the beginning of the program which was really nice. I recognized the food and the area we sat in which brought back the good memories. However, it also reminded me of how much time has passed which brought up some bittersweet emotions to the table. I sat with Katie, 혜린언니, Addie, Jenna, Josh, and Addie & Jenna’s supporter. We just chatted during dinner in a mixture of Korean and English about our majors, our Korean class, favorite foods, etc. It was a nice dinner with delicious food and good company~

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Rather than going home right away, I decided to stay out with a couple more people to enjoy the rest of the night (as well as take advantage of the late curfew). I ended up going to 설빙 and shared a 망고 and 인절미 빙수 with 유빈, June, Kaitlyn, and Josh. Mckenzie and Katie also tagged along to hang out with everyone too. Our little hangout was fun and I got to meet Alix & Jacks supporter 유빈 who was really nice! Kaitlyn, 유빈, and I took photo booth pictures at the machine in the 설빙 and although the pictures were low key not cute, I will forever treasure them! Especially the first picture because josh tried fitting into the booth which did not turn out well but half of his face in the photo really makes it perfect.

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1/08/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was not a super exciting day. Katie and I would be having our first CEP meeting at Blanc Bakery (honestly my favorite place in 홍대 it seems) with our supporter 혜린. I was excited to finally get to start our project because we have only been talking about it for so long, but then again, I was nervous because I knew it was going to be a lot of work and with everything else going on… it would be a struggle!

During this meeting, we munched on pastries while filling out our project proposal which outlines our topic and what we wanted to do for our project and the presentation the next month. 민정쌤 came to hear our ideas but let me just say… that the consultation did not go well. I think it was a mix of us still not having finished our project proposal and knowing the exact details of what we wanted to do and the fact that this topic is both difficult and sensitive to others which caused us to have a pretty tense discussion with 민정쌤. We were feeling anxious and stressed because things did not seem to be going well and after 민정쌤 left our group, we felt a bit dejected about all that we had done. We did our best to finish up for the day and make plans for the next meeting. 혜린언니 and I left Katie at the cafe because she wanted to keep doing homework while we left to go get lunch separately. I ended up grabbing 김밥 from the 편의점 and just ate at CYC while waiting for Korean class to start.

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However, as class time was approaching, I was all confused as to why my teacher hadn’t shown up yet. Then, Kaitlyn informs us that our teacher was going to be an hour late so would be having class from 3-6 pm rather than 2-5pm like normal. We were all really confused because both our teacher and Better World said absolutely NOTHING to us! We were a bit salty because we could all have gone and had a nice lunch together if we had known earlier. We called 소야쌤 and she seemed to have simply forgotten to tell us.

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Grilled Cheese Selfie! #cheesy

In order to pass the newfound time, I went with Josh and Jacquelyn to this tiny little grilled cheese shop owned by a Russian Expat living here in Korea. The prices were very low! Only $2 for a normal grilled cheese! I already had 김밥, so I didn’t get anything… but I know I will be back!

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed. Sorry for the abrupt end to the second day but I ran out of photos from then to jog my memory and since I am writing this post almost two weeks after it happened (because I just have not had the chance to keep up to date with my writing) I have forgotten what I did the rest of the day–including the happenings in Korean class. I cannot remember anything from it… I am going to try really hard from now one to be good about writing! Keeping these logs of my days are really important to me so you heard it here first, keep me accountable? Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마

Exploring Ilsan, Pancake Brunch, and Goyangshi Lake Park {01/04-06/19} NSLI-Y Korean AY

01/04/19 Friday

Friday was my first full day living with my new host family. Both my sisters left late morning to go to 학원 for school and work and my host mom was going out to meet up with a friend. She gave me money to buy lunch at Subway and at the time, I was 100% set on doing just that. However, as I walked towards the Subway attached to the train station, I started getting really anxious. I’ve only ordered from Subway in America once and that wasn’t exactly a beloved memory. The thought of having to do that in Korean really terrified me… I stood in front of the subway for a couple minutes texting Katie about my irrational thoughts. I thought I had mustered up enough courage to go in but then a new worker came in {probably from a break or from using the bathroom} which scared me again. Let’s just say I ended up not going to Subway and instead got lunch at a 편의점. Yes, I know… I’m a nervous wreck.

Josh was so kind as to come over to my subway station so that we could study at a cafe together. Honestly, I needed the company as I was feeling quite lonely. We walked around the area for a bit which made Josh tell me that he agrees with me concerning the fact that he does get more stares in 고양시. Maybe because I’m not used to the area yet but walking around the mall type area around my train station makes me so uncomfortable. I feel like the staring is triple what I experienced walking around 화정역… I don’t know… it may all be in my head… but it almost makes me not want to go without someone being by my side.

We found this cute little cafe that was travel themed— a trip to Japan. The walls were decorated with planes and famous Japanese city names and even the menu was written in Japanese {though, of course, there was Korean too.} They had really pretty cakes too but they were pretty expensive… I just stuck to my day 1: a Green Tea Latte. Josh and I met up to study but I wasn’t really in the mood so I just worked on a blog post. Josh actually studied though! He’s been going ahead by learning things in our grammar books. I would definitely do that too… but I need to solidify the things I still don’t know very well now before trying to learn new things just for fun.

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Nighttime view from the subway station

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The apartment complex has light-up LED roses! So pretty at night!

I came home just in time for dinner and ended up eating 오뎅우동 {Fish cake Udon} with just my youngest host sister. We talked together while sitting at the kitchen table which was nice~ She told me more about Andy and when they got him as well as more about her mom’s work {and how they discovered NSLI-Y and hosting}. It was some nice conversation and although I could not understand a good amount because of 모르는 단어 (vocab I do not know) and because my host sister did not slow down to tell me all the details but it was still fun. I like that she can feel comfortable talking with me~ (And that she does not lower her speech for me.)

01/05/19 Saturday

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I love my host dog!!

Katie and I went out for brunch late Saturday morning at Flapjack Pantry. We both ordered pancakes and were more than full after devouring the sweet fluffy goodness. Even though I’m thousands of miles away from my home, I can always find comfort in pancakes~ I have three places I’ve tried here in 홍대 and I’m only hoping that that number increases by the end of the year~

After we finished eating, we thought we would try to take on the cold and walk around the main shopping and busking street in search of some cute sweaters— we have gotten pretty tired wearing the same things over and over again already. We were lucky {maybe our wallets weren’t though?} and got a couple cute things to spruce up our wardrobe. {Although packing these sweaters back to America will definitely take some skills due to my limited suitcase space…}

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After a while, my fingers felt like they were going to fall off and my ears burned like crazy {should have brought a pair of gloves and a hat… rookie mistake} so we decided to hop to a cafe to get a warm drink and to study for a bit. We went to this hot chocolate cafe that Katie recommended which was honestly like heaven. The drinks were pretty expensive and the interior seemed to lack adequate heating; however, the drinks themselves made up for everything else. The chocolate was so rich and sweet and they included whip cream, chocolate drizzle, and a marshmallow! It was perfect~ I’ll have to go back~~

 

We separated after that to have dinner with our host families. When I got home, my family had eaten a lot earlier than usual so I ate by myself while my host sisters just chilled in the living room. The rest of the night was spent doing my winter break homework: the reading and writing section of a past Topik test. Let’s just say that I tried my best and attempted to finish it but to get through those reading passages… I needed a lot of energy {and motivation}, which I did not have. So I gave up early and started a drama on Netflix. I still had a couple of days left of break so it was no big deal.

01/06/19 Sunday

Sunday was Lake Park Day!!! One of the things that 고양시 is most known for is their huge lake park that has a musical fountain too {performances are only spring through mid-fall, through}. I actually had researched it a bit when I did a project comparing 고양시 to my hometown. We decided to go out and walk around the park in order to give my host dog 앤디 a break from walking around the same old apartment complex day in and day out.

I went with my host mom and eldest host sister and it ended up being a lot of fun—like I had hoped~ We calmly walked around the lake and although the foliage was all gone, the remaining nature was still so nice to look at. There are not many places in Seoul, or around it, that I’ve been too with so much nature! I felt swallowed by large trees and I loved every second of it! Also, the weather was so nice! Still chilly enough that it required a heavy coat and gloves but not cold enough where being outside felt like a burden.

There were also so many cute dogs!!! 앤디 really hates other dogs {particularly big dogs} so there was a lot of growling and barking {but that is no different from my dog Biscotti back home!} My host mom also took lots and lots of photos~~ I appreciate it since I definitely want to be able to remember this day with physical pictures to look at.

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We came home quite late and so lunch was around 4 pm and we ended up not eating dinner. I spent the rest of the night finally finishing my Topik reading section!!! {I figured I could putt off the writing for the following day…} which felt good. Looking back through the test… I was in shock! On some passages, it seemed as if I highlighted every other word because I didn’t know the meaning. It seemed so difficult… it made me doubt my abilities to take this test seeing that it tests such high levels too. Having to try my hand at that {and seeing how much I honestly didn’t know} really hurt my self-confidence.

That’s all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading about how I spent the first weekend of the year and the first weekend with my new host family~~ Stay tuned for more updates! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마