No School!! Pancake Brunch at Travel Maker in 홍대 (Hongdae) & Dinner with my Korean Teacher {03/07/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/07/19 Thursday

Today I got to sleep in till 8!! I honestly took for granted all the sleep I was able to get during winter break… mornings that usually started anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Now, I have to wake up before the sun is up; 5:45 am is too early to be awake! 

Why did I get to sleep in? Well, today was some national mock exam of some sort that I did not have to take since clearly I am not a student here {full-time student at least} so I, along with all other NSLI-Y students, did not have to come to school! In order to use our morning well, Katie and I went out for Brunch! We wanted to try something new {besides Flapjack Pantry mostly…} so we walked down these random alleys trying to see if we could find this brunch place that Katie very vaguely remembers seeing during one of our walks last week. After walking around for almost and hour, we did end up finding a brunch place but their idea of brunch seemed to focus on sandwiches? And not even good sandwiches either… it looked just like average homemade sandwiches on white bread with the crust cut off… not my thing. So we gave up and decided to go to Travel Maker! We had both been there previously but not with each other which made it feel kinda new? Plus, they recently moved locations since the last time I was there so it was like I was there for the first time ever. I ordered strawberry and banana pancakes and Katie got the same thing but in a French toast version. 

We enjoyed our time to chat together before Korean class {While we also did some last minute cramming— Katie memorizing words and me rehearsing my presentation for that day}. 

Class today was actually really good! I felt that I participated more than usual especially during the part of class when we discussed what we talked about with our host families. {Every week from now on, we will have a discussion in class about a conversation we have had with our host family and or school friends about a topic that was given to us beforehand.} Today’s discussion was on 미세 먼지 (Yellow Dust–air pollution) which I talked to my host sisters about last night at dinner and boy, did they have some strong opinions. 

Then this morning, I wrote down sentences that summarized all that they had said so when it was time for the discussion, I was able to use those sentences as an outline to talk about all that I did. I made mistakes here and there but because it was prepared, I felt confident in what I was saying!

We also went over the TOPIK tests that we took over the weekend… Luckily, my reading and listening scores went up {barely like I’m talking a couple points if that but hey… it is something}. 

The rest of the class periods were spent going over the reading passages in the chapter and we did start the grammar for today but only were able to get through 2 rather than the usual 3. Today was also presentation day but we only got through mine … I felt sorry for the others but I’m glad I got mine out of the way! 

After Korean class, I was supposed to have a little 상담 or (counseling) meeting of sorts with my teacher and so I figured we would just go to a cafe and chat but we both forgot that Thursday classes end at 6 pm meaning that we were both quite hungry. {I also wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner if I did the meeting with her}. Because of that, we decided to get dinner together instead!

I am not exactly sure where we ate but she drove me in her car and it didn’t seem to be too far of a drive from around 홍익역. At first, I thought the restaurant was a place serving Japanese food but they also had pasta and other western style foods there too–a little on the pricier side, though. My Korean teacher ended up ordering some type of Hamburg steak while I got 돈까스 (fried pork cutlet–One of my true love’s here in Korea!) But before we got our main meal, we got served soup and bread rolls! I was so surprised to see bread served like that.

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Dinner with my Korean teacher went really well. Before I warmed up, got over my nerves, and became comfortable, I felt really awkward speaking with her. Because class had just ended, I needed to try very hard to get out of the academic mindset. While eating with her, I had no reason to worry and mull over using advanced vocabulary and or grammar points. I just needed to speak and express the words that I wanted to say. 

She asked me how I was feeling in class and overall with my Korean abilities. I talked to her about the last TOPIK practice test that I took and how I kept putting it off until the last possible moment (particularly the reading and listening test). I explained that the huge amount of unknown vocab words and grammar in these sections makes me lose confidence and dislike the test taking project. However since the writing section depends only on what I know, I really enjoy completing that section. My Korean teacher reassured me that I should not be disappointed with not knowing what comes out on the TOPIK test seeing that we do not cater our current Korean class to the TOPIK exam. She said that I just need to continue studying vocabulary (like I have been doing since the beginning) to continue to raise my score.

We also talked about my bombed OPI… I told her that I was not like that when I took the OPI before starting this program. I was really nervous but there were no extreme silences or as much stuttering as there was when I did do the OPI with her over the phone. I also opened up and mentioned that when I do it in front of her, I have to stay strong because I am being watched but when I was in the break room alone, I almost started crying when I got overwhelmed with the questions being asked. 

In addition to that, I explained my issue with speaking to some students at 하나고. My issue being the fact that I will have things to say or I will feel the urge to say something but then I am too much of a chicken to act on the desire. However, during other moments, I have no problem just speaking my mind when I am surrounded with friends or in emergency situations. But also just random confidence boosts! My teacher gave me some advice after assessing that I think too much when I try to speak Korean (and she literally could not have been more right). Lastly, she suggested that I try to persuade the other students to talk to me by offering them candy. (I will be using that one…)

My teacher also talked to me about my personality and the type of a person I am. She said that out of everyone in the class, she sees herself–the most–in me. She also exposed Josh by telling me that he confessed to her that seeing me studying so hard motivates him to also put in more effort to study Korean. Whether it be because of my organized notes or my countless Quizlet sets, he honestly believes I am the hardest worker among the class. Josh is such a great friend and I am so lucky to have him in my life! She told me that she too is impressed with all that I do with my pretty notes (She asked me where I learned how to make them so nice! And why I do it. Apparently she wants to bullet journal which she thinks I would also enjoy.)

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My Lovely teacher!

We talked a lot and stuffed our faces with really good food~ She also paid for my meal which was really kind of her! I definitely could have paid for it. When we finished eating, she got up right away and booked it to the counter while I was putting on my coat. I could see what she was doing then! Overall, it was a really nice evening spent speaking with my teacher. I honestly could not ask for a better Korean language instructor. What would I do without her? I am a pretty difficult student to teach (I have some extreme lows and not so frequent highs…) but she somehow finds a way to help me through everything. I am grateful.

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Andy is such a mood

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마
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First Full Day of Korean High School, Voting for Homeroom Class President, and After School Street Food {03/06/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/06/19 Wednesday

Although I’ve been a whole bundle of nerves this entire week, today I woke up more nervous than I had been for the previous two days. I would have to blame it on the fact that I knew it would be a full day—all 6 periods and eating lunch at school. There was no excuse of Korean class to whisk us away to a temporary haven with the other NSLI-Y students. If this day was going to be a long one, it was was going to be a long one. But even though I was so nervous, I was also super excited to visit my new classes especially because I knew I had some friends in them. 

The morning was exceptionally cold and it would not have been bad if Katie and I had worn coats, but we were set on just wearing our school blazers as our only form of outerwear protection. On the bus, we panicked over our days and what we might find ourselves doing in each class. We also ran into Andrew taking the bus. Apparently, Katie is in a first-year class with him and I am in some advanced writing and reading class with third years. {I know this might be extremely wishful thinking but… if I had the class with 세림, I would most definitely freak!} 

The first period today was 국어 (Korean language) and I have the same teacher as I did last semester! He’s a really funny guy that can sometimes make total sense to me and other times I struggle to understand whatever he’s saying. However, I really appreciate the effort he puts in to include me in his lectures. He likes to translate {or have other students translate} random words to English to me while he’s lecturing as if that one single word will help me understand everything. {The effort is really sweet and I do love when he does it!} And he also asks me questions too! Sometimes it’s embarrassing since it is almost always in front of the whole class but I would rather be embarrassed than ignored. 

At the beginning of the class, I sat down next to these two girls {this is a first-grade class} and they seemed so excited to talk to me as they instantly asked me my name and I did the same for theirs. Though, I feel bad… I already forgot their names… I will have to pay attention next time the teacher runs through attendance so I can talk to them during break again! 

When the teacher walked into class, he saw me and greeted me and had me do a quick introduction in front of the class which is when I pulled out my 자기 소개. After I finished my one second long, very basic introduction, everyone gasped and clapped for me—surprised I could speak Korean. My teacher then told everyone that I took his class last semester and know everything really well—especially the goat story. He told them that he would tell it later during the semester. I honestly really hope he does, it would make me happy to see how much of it I can now understand and to see what I got wrong the first time. It also cracks me up that he still remembers that I ACTUALLY understood the goat story. (I will link that blog post here!)

During class today, he just talked about himself so that we could get to know him more. He told us his three favorite Korean words {자유, 여유, and some other word that had some 한자 written in it so you know I didn’t understand it.} He also explained to us the three best times to drink coffee {and if you can get these to all overlap, it will be the best cup of coffee you’ll have ever had to drink}. Before he explained, he also asked me {and a couple others in the class} if they like coffee. 

What were the three situations when coffee tastes the best? 

  1. When it is raining— the pitter-patter of the rain and the mood a gloomy day puts you in just matches well with a cup of coffee 
  2. Drinking with a loved one {He used the word lover actually which has a stronger connotation.} He painted the picture of sitting in a cozy living room with your loved one on a rainy day. 
  3. When the following day is a 쉬는 날 {rest day/off day}. He said that this one is what makes the coffee taste the best as it too knows that you have time to relax the following day. 

I like to believe that this can be applied to something that I actually like… like perhaps cake? I feel like it could also fit these criteria! But anyway, I really enjoyed this class because I was able to understand probably 70% of it? I felt some sense of accomplishment then. 

After 국어, I would normally have an exchange student lecture class but they haven’t chosen the kids yet {Though 혜지 said during lunch that she applied! It would be really cool if she got chosen! They must be picking the groups now.} so I just hung out in the meeting room with Katie as we both wrote diaries/blog posts during the class period. 

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Next on my schedule was 세계사 {world history} which was a second-year class but I literally knew no one in the class. I sat down next to these two girls and one of them offered to share her textbook with me which was really sweet; however, I gave up trying to follow along during the second period of class. I had the teacher for this class for the first time ever and he didn’t even acknowledge me when he walked in the room. He could obviously tell that there was a new student and that she was a foreign one at that… but nothing, not even a greeting. I’m not expecting him to make time for me to introduce myself to the class but… if I was a new Korean student, there is no way he would have ignored them like he did for me. 

Could I have been the bigger person and gone up to introduce myself during the break? Yes… but I did not do that. He put on a soccer game during the break which he and the other male students seemed pretty engrossed in. 

Because of this off-putting atmosphere, I really didn’t put much effort into paying attention to his class {plus I was having trouble staying awake} so for the second hour of class, I took out my workbook and did that instead: I almost finished a full chapter and a half which was good work since I had been falling behind with my workbook. 

Eventually, it was lunchtime and I knew I could count on Katie and my other friends to cheer me up! Today’s lunch on the other hand, kind of made me more depressed because we were given this weird, strange meat patty. The other students seem to enjoy it but Katie and I really do not like these type of lunches…reminds us too much of weird school lunches back in America (and Salisbury steak which I hate!) Lunch was a lot of fun~ We talked about our first impressions of our class so far (and gossiped a lot about the English teachers). Luckily, Katie and I both have a friend in our public speaking classes (혜지 and 서린 respectively). We both talked about how excited we were to have a class taught by Jason–and more excited to have more time to speak with our friends! Though I will admit… I am not looking forward to having to give speeches. I may have been a captain on speech team in high school, but I still have major stage fright or presentation anxiety if you will.

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After lunch, I had my politics and law class which I am taking with 윤세, 혜지, and 서린! I cannot believe I got lucky enough to have a class with that many built-in friends! No awkward small talk for me! The teacher of the class seemed nice but also kind of strict (He very much reminded me of my AP Gov teacher from senior year; they had the same vibe.) When he did roll call, he, of course, did not say my name (which is usual) but asked the class to let him know if their name was not called. My friends started whispering to me and told me to let him know that he did not call on me. I waved it off and told them it was okay. It kind of bothered me but it is what it is… Though it is not that hard to include my name on the class list… but that is beyond the point.

The teacher went through the syllabus and surprisingly, I understood basically everything he explained! But then he got onto the topic of our first-class assignment which was to get into groups of 5-8 to make our own political parties! (I needed a lot of explaining from 혜지 to know what we were doing because I do not know any political vocab words!) I formed a group with 혜지, 윤세, 서린 as well as these two other girls whose names I have yet to learn. We talked about our party’s name, its pledge, code of commands, and who would be voted as the president and speech giver (Is there a fancier word for that?) 

The party’s name is a play on words and means a party that will bring others up but is also the same name as a chemical polymer called Oligosaccharide in English. Our party name is 올리고당! We decided to focus our party’s goals on the environment and education–as well as one more aspect that has yet to be decided. 서린 told the other girls that I would be attending Columbia University majoring in Political Science which made them all want to vote me in as the president of the group but luckily 서린 reminded them that I would be leaving in May which might be troublesome if this project continues till past then. She also told the teacher about my future academic plans… I hope this doesn’t mean he is going to ask me political questions and ask about America’s political climate because I am not in the loop at all…because I am here…

But anyways, at the end of the period, the teacher had every single political party send up one representative to read what they had prepared for their platform and also answer impromptu questions thrown at them from the teacher. I did not understand too much if I am being honest, but it was interesting! 서린 did a really great job presenting about our party. Actually, we were the last ones to go and the bell rang in the middle of her speech. Right as the bell went off, 서린 sped up her pacing which made me laugh. Overall, I am really excited for this class and for what is to come! I hope it will be fun!

Since school was supposedly over (or so Katie and I thought), we made our way to Twosome Place to study for a bit before going home for dinner. We saw the usual male employee and chatted to him about the start of the new semester. He looked visibly sad for us when we told him that we in fact did not return to our countries during the winter break–we were here the whole time. We ordered our drinks and went upstairs to our usual table but we were not there for long…because 하나고 민정쌤 texted Katie and asked where she was because the homerooms were having class elections as we were across the street at the cafe. 서린 and 혜지 told me that they were hoping to get elected for class president but even with them telling me that, I totally did not put two and two together. 

We decided to leave all our stuff at the cafe and we ran back to school as quickly as possible to try to be a part of our homeroom elections. When I came inside the classroom, my teacher immediately gasped and apologized to me since the students had all already voted. They were just counting all the ballots as I walked in the door. Even though that was the case, I was still happy to have joined them at that point–last minute or not. Also, while I was there hanging out for that hour, I got to talk to some of the other students in the class. One girl, 혜선, helped add me to the class group chat and complemented my shampoo, saying I smell good. It was funny and also cute. In addition, at the meeting, they passed out 2019 calendars as well as their version of a yearbook that included letters written by all the third years. It may seem like something very trivial… but I felt included because of those two things. As I stood at the back of the class (at a standing desk) flipping through the booklets like everyone else, I felt like a part of the class! As for the results of the election, a kid named 우선 was voted as the president and another student–예진–got the second most votes so she became the vice president.

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(Also, the calendar included an art piece by one of the male students from one of my English mentorship classes last semester! I messaged our group chat afterward to congratulate him on the feature.)

Katie and I returned to Twosome Place feeling happy and giggling about what had gone down in our classes. We cherished that moment (and the break from studying) well before getting back on the study grind! 

On the way back home, we stopped at this vendor near the market and bought some 분식 (cheap street food) to share (떡볶이–spicy rice cakes and 오뎅–fish cakes) and enjoyed that. It was my second time eating this type of food sitting down in front of a stall so I was very happy to have the experience. Plus, I had been really craving 떡볶이 as of late. I do not know what has come over me but now all of a sudden, I really crave spicy food! I had a full dinner with my host sister after coming home and spent the rest of the night writing my presentation and preparing that. One thing kept bothering me, however. This thing was keeping me from focusing entirely on my work. And it was all because I was so genuinely happy.

I was so happy due to the fact that I knew we had no school the following day! A free Thursday before class! All the students at our host schools would be taking a national required mock test of some sort, so we were not obligated to attend school. I was so excited to sleep in and enjoy a nice carefree morning that it was hard to finish my work this night. 

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I know the application for the 2020-2021 NSLI-Y programs came out a couple days ago and so I have noticed an influx of readers of this blog–many of them being prospective applicants. I want to welcome everyone to my blog and I really hope you enjoy the blogs that I have left! I moved into my college dorm yesterday and will be beginning my freshman year at Columbia University next week! Even though life is becoming more hectic as summer break is over, I hope to keep uploading blog posts quite regularly. Till next time~ Thanks for reading!!

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Music Class, First 급식 Meal of the Semester and Knowing Nothing! (03/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/05/19 Tuesday

Today was technically the second day back at 하나고 for the new semester but it felt more like the first day as yesterday just consisted of the 입학식 (the entrance ceremony for first years) and getting things settled within our homerooms. Today was the first day that we would be following our schedules AKA going to new classes and having to make friends! 

Today was also the first day of my new waking-up-at-five-thirty-in-the-morning-school-life. I woke up this morning and the entire house was dark; I had to pour my cereal using the light from the fridge to guide me because I was afraid of turning on a light and accidentally turning on all of the lights for the house as well (irrational fear? maybe…) I left my house before 6:30 am and jogged my way over to the subway station for my 50-minute commute. It was so early! However, a positive of waking up so early was that the train is not as crowded. I also have planned my train schedule to give me about ten minutes at my transfer station (one with good wifi and benches) so I have time halfway through my commute to communicate with Katie or any other friends. Also, already I am feeling grateful for this long commute in a weird not predicted way and that is because, with this extra time I am forced to commute, I have extra time to study vocabulary on Quizlet or write blog posts. I have only been doing this for three days (while writing this at least) and I have gotten a lot done! We love using our time wisely!

Arriving at school brought an expected wave of nerves as I realized that it was, in fact, our second day of school. Unlike my high school (that had block scheduling) and would only have 2 days with the “first day of school” feeling… our schedule was different for every single day of the week meaning we would be having 5 first days practically!

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My first class today was my English Mentorship (or as it is called in Korean– 교환학생 함께하는 공간–free period with an exchange student); however, I ended up sitting in the discussion room in the library for the entire period by myself. The library teacher explained to me that since it is the beginning of the school year, the kids for the class have not been decided yet. So I believe that Katie and I can accept 자습 (self-study) time during all of our scheduled mentorship periods this week (We have more this semester! I believe three instead of two?)

My second class of the day was music with Katie!! One good thing and one bad thing in that sentence, can you guess which is which? I was so happy that 민정쌤 succeeded in getting us a class together even if it’s for a subject I know nothing about! Never took a music class in high school {well I guess… now I can say I have}. 

When we first got to the music room, all the first-year students were waiting outside. When they saw us walking towards them, they started getting loud and obnoxious probably excited and or nervous to interact with us? When we got there they were all saying hi to us in English and then Katie pulled out the “Actually we can speak Korean.” card which caused almost everyone to visibly show surprise on their face and the boys got all loud and rowdy again. They asked us some questions like where we were from {When we said Chicago they kept screaming Simon. Turns out, that’s the English name of the vice-principal who attending graduate school at UChicago.} and our age {When I told them we were 21 Korean age, they all screamed again. I immediately followed up with the fact that they can use 반말 with us and call us 언니 and 누나 if they so please. 

Once we piled in the classroom, Katie and I sat next to each other in the very back. Our music teacher seems really nice and was very enthusiastic about having us introduce our names {though she probably mispronounced Katie’s several times.} There was also this boy in the back that asked his friend to tell Katie that he wanted to be friends with her! It was the cutest and most freshman type thing I’ve ever seen. 

During class, we filled out this music pretest of sorts which I literally failed! I was able to guess some notes correctly but I knew none of the symbols for rests in music. She also played two pieces of music that we had to try and identify. There was nothing filled in for that section! Overall music class was chill. She explained the rules of the classroom, using the instruments, and practice room etiquette. At one point she warned the boys from doing any roughhousing near the ceiling speakers because they would break. She called them out; it was pretty funny. 

After that class, I had 한국사 which was supposed to be with first-year students and on the fourth floor but when I arrived at the classroom, I was greeted by no one. I will say that I am pretty happy with how I handled the situation! Rather than freaking out, I went to the next class over and asked what class it was (in hopes that maybe the one written on my schedule was wrong). Unfortunately, they were still a first-year class and not the one I was looking for (영미문학 instead) and since this was only their second day of school, they had no good advice to give me. Actually, before answering my question, they exclaimed that my Korean was good and then asked if I was an exchange student. One of the girls just told me to wait in the room until someone showed up… I did for like 5 seconds and then I walked outside to find a teacher. One teacher passed by me and greeted me and I immediately ran up to him to explain my situation. It turned out that he was actually my teacher! And I was actually taking the class with third years instead so our classroom was on the 5th floor. I followed him up there and got to walk in after the teacher which was only a little bit embarrassing… 

These two girls recognized me and called me over to sit with them which was relieving. I avoided having to panic over where I should sit for this class period at least. This teacher seemed really nice and actually acknowledged my existence which isn’t always the case for my teachers… He had me introduce myself to the class even though most of them probably know of me by now since I was with them last year. In class, we just went over the syllabus, teacher expectations, and then got started with a little bit of the class. I was able to follow along just slightly by being able to connect the dots with the random vocab words that I did understand. I think this class will be okay!

Finally, it was lunchtime and we were going to be able to eat with our friends for the first time in a while! We all met up at 12:20 pm {the time 2nd graders are allowed to start eating} but there was already such a huge line! The food we had today was so good! There was 자짱밥 (black bean rice), 해물만둣국 (seafood dumpling soup), and 탕수육 (sweet and sour pork). Unfortunately, Katie and I had to rush out of there to get to Korean class on time but nonetheless, catching up with our friends was fun. On our way out, we all ran into 규원, 주연, and 지은 {the girls from my mentorship class last year} and we talked to them on the hallway a bit! We promised to definitely have lunch together sometime next week! I miss them so much!! 

(Since the freshman students are still new to eating in the cafeteria, there are still signs up explaining how to dispose of bones and clean up your tray at the end of the period because the lines are still super long due to the first years not exactly knowing what to do.)

Korean class was… average. Nothing too exciting. I didn’t feel very good about my speaking or participation this day but I also didn’t want to cry during the breaks so that’s a plus? Actually, I did forget the word for river… I looked to Josh and tried to explain the word with “a thing bigger than a lake…” Yeah… so maybe yesterday was not my day? 

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After Korean class, I went straight home so I had an hour to kill before dinner. This precious hour was spent lying on the floor in my room so my priorities are quite clear if you ask me. My host mom went all out for dinner with a lovely assortment of 반찬 (side dishes), fish, 된장찌개 (soybean paste stew) as well as my favorite Korean dish ever: 잡채 (sweet potato glass noodles)! It was all very tasty. 

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I told them about me coming out in the school’s newspaper! {Did I mention that in yesterday’s blog post? We did an interview a while ago and we just got the paper!} Here’s a pic: 

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After dinner, I went hard at work and studied the new grammar point from today and I made a new Quizlet. I have a lot of work cut out for me tomorrow since I let myself go to bed at 11:30… but you know, you win some you lose some. 

That’s all for this blog post! I know it’s another long one~~ I just feel the need to explain every last detail right now!! Besides probably not being able to finish this monster of a post… I hope you enjoyed anyways. Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

 

First Day Back to Korean High School, 입학식 (Entrance Ceremony), and Picnic at the Park {03/04/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/04/19 Monday

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming sense of dread. The part of me that was excited for school to start yesterday must have stayed in bed because when I finally rolled out of it, all I wanted to do was stay home. I was tired and completely and utterly nervous about what the day might bring. There was no room for excitement in my stomach; there were too many giant butterflies and moths even, fluttering around in there. 

Luckily, the school day was starting an entire hour and 40 minutes later today which meant that I got to sleep an extra hour than what I will be getting for the rest of the spring semester… oh, joy. I pulled on my uniform and tried making myself presentable before scarfing down a small bowl of cereal in under 5 minutes—is there a record for how fast you can inhale cereal? 

When I got to the subway platform, the original train I was planning on taking zoomed right past me. It was at that moment that I realized it was a 서울행 train which is shorter than the other out-bound trains from my home station. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by running to the first car so, I waited for the next train. Luckily, even though it was a later train as long as I yeeted my transfer, I could still make it on time. 

Katie and I planned to meet up at 연신내역 at 8:45 so that we could chill at the Paris Baguette nearby before heading off to school. We both did some last-minute homework while enjoying some expensive fruit drinks. 

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The bus ride to 하나고 was exactly what I expected: anxiety-filled, stressful, and too short.

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Around the front of the school, there were a lot of banners and signs for the 입학식 or entrance ceremony for the first years coming into the school. Katie and I knew that we were supposed to attend… but we were not sure where to go first thing in the morning. As we walked up the stairs to the art center, we ran into my friend 선민 {We took 통합사회 (Sociology) together last year!} who told us that there were no more seats on the second floor {where all the second years seemed to be sitting} but that we could probably just sit on the stairs. Katie and I went down to the front desk outside of the auditorium and I mustered enough courage to ask the students heading it where we should sit. Again, they said 2nd floor— I should have expected that reply. 

By this time, we had texted our group of friends to ask them what to do and through these texts, we were able to find out where they were. There were no seats so we ended up sitting behind 서린 and another friend during the entire 입학식. 

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The ceremony was actually really nice. {Or well, I bet it would have been if I was able to understand all of it!} They played an introductory video that showcased 하나고 in all its glory and if I was a Korean student, I would want to come here after seeing that video. They also had each first-year homeroom class last year make a video for the new first years which was really cute! All of the editors they had were really good! I’m talking professional level stuff! My homeroom class of last year edited their video in the style of that Snapchat meme trend that involved the lyrics “You so f*cking precious when you smile” but they did not censor the f word at all which made Katie and I gasp because that would not have flown at our high schools or probably any American high school. 

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There were also some speeches from board members I would presume as well as student performances and even one by two teachers {one being our new coordinating teacher Mike}. There was also this point in the ceremony in which the Korean flag was projected on the screen and everyone stood up and placed their hands on their heart. I’ve experienced something like this before and assumed it was gonna be something similar to the pledge of allegiance but luckily there was no chant in unison so I was able to just stand there. 

Katie and I also got to hear the 하나고 song for the first time! My school called it our fight song but since 하나고 doesn’t have sports teams… would it just be their theme song? School song? They put the melody and the lyrics on the screen so we were able to sing along. I probably won’t ever get the chance to sing it again but I think it would be cool to learn it! 

The last two parts of the ceremony were introducing the freshman homeroom teachers and the students in each class themselves. They played the graduation song the entire time and called down each student one by one and gave them some type of certificate of sorts. While the students walked the stage, their ID photos flashed on the screen and a little blurb of something that they wrote for the new semester/for their class. {Things like I won’t give up, let’s challenge ourselves this year, I hope we get close, etc} 

After the ceremony ended, we had an hour before lunch and we spent that in our homerooms. Katie and I were unfortunately not able to get any of our friends in our homeroom classes so I was dreading arriving there early. I sat at a random desk in the middle of the room and hoped that I wasn’t taking anyone’s spot or that someone felt burdened to sit by me. As I was sitting, 도윤, 윤세, and 혜지 surprised me by coming into my classroom and trying to cheer me up! They are probably more nervous about a new school year than I was yet they still tried to make me feel better and make me feel comfortable because they knew how the unknown and the thought of having to give self-introductions throughout the entire week was making me want to (lowkey) die. 

Eventually, a girl named 소연 sat next to me and we chatted about our feelings for the first semester. I would be switching homeroom teachers for this new semester as 민장쌤 was now Katie’s teacher. I was really worried about having a new teacher but when she walked in, she reminded me a lot of my Korean teacher. Her smile was very bright and she looked so friendly—I felt somewhat at ease. 

Our teacher explained where everyone’s lockers were and how they would figure out amongst themselves who would get which one {at our school, they call lockers 홈베스—literally, the English word homebase} and she mentioned that mine was somewhere else. I kind of understood this but at the same time I thought she was explaining instructions for what we needed to do which only stirred panic inside me but when 소연 re-explained things to me, I realized I was overthinking things. 

We then had to fill out this sheet with a lot of information about us like name, birthday, our dream job, where we want to go to school, our hobbies, our past awards, etc. I was proud to say that I understood most of the questions and only asked 소연 to clarify a few words here or there. (And to add on, when I ask students to explain or clarify things for me–I still ask them and have them answer in Korean!)

Once homeroom was over, it was time for lunch! The line was so long and 서린 explained that it was most likely due to the fact that the first years do not know when to eat yet. {My high school back in America had different lunchtimes too but here at 하나고, your grade determines what time you eat lunch: first years = 12:30 pm, second years = 12:20 pm, and third years = 12:10 pm}. We met with our big group of friends at 12:30 and we were still in line at 39 so Katie and I made the executive decision to leave and just have lunch before {or during} Korean class. We zoomed out of the lunchroom– trying to remember what we usually did when it came to bus and train times. 

Because we didn’t have lunch, we stopped by one of our favorite traditional spots on the way to Korean class: the 호떡 stand! The lady working the stall remembered us and said that it had been a long time! It was so nice to see her again and of course, the warm, delicious 호떡 were also just as inviting as ever. {Besides the fact that I spilled the sugary insides on my hair and vest within minutes of getting the pastry.} 

Korean class today was pretty good. We got to look over our monthly exams which I didn’t do too bad on! I only got 5 wrong on the reading {about a high B} and for the writing, I did better than I expected! Also for the grammar portion that really racked my head, I only got one wrong! I even picked the right grammar point… just used it wrong. For once, getting back a test did not put me in a bad mood. 

During class we studied the new vocab {from the workbook} and only two grammar points (rather than three) because we ran out of time. The vocab words this time around were less just words but actual phrases or expressions with meanings behind them that are used in very specific situations. These are harder than normal vocab words cause it’s not just one word with a very tangible meaning but often a couple words in a phrase that has a different literal translation to what meaning it actually has. Does this make any sense? For example, 발 뻗고 자다. This literally translates to “sleeping with your feet stretched out” and it is used when something that you were worried and nervous about has passed so you can now sleep well. {Wow reading this over I realize how LITERALLY stupid I am. I just tried describing what an idiom is in a terrible manner.} Excuse me while I lay my English skills down to die because, at this rate, I will return to America not being able to speak Korean or English it seems!

We are not allowed to speak English during the breaks between each class periods so rather than face that rule and speak Korean to the other students, I decided to just stay in the classroom and text my friends–beating the system. (Should I have gone out and talked? Yes… I am disappointed too…in myself.)

After class, I met up with Katie because we planned to have a little picnic near her subway station. There was this bridge with some nice steps underneath that we have used in the past to just sit and talk while eating an assortment of 편의점 (convenience store) food. We walked around the park for a while before trying to find this little 분식점 near Katie’s apartment (which is supposedly always there on Mondays) but today… it was sadly not there! We, instead, went to Paris Baguette and had some bread for dinner–healthy I know. Actually, while we were there chatting, her three younger host sisters showed up! So I got to meet them for the first time! They were all so adorable and I presume that since Katie has talked about me to them so often, they were not shy to speak with me (according to Katie, that is out of the ordinary!)

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After our “dinner,” we went to the nearest 7-11 to buy ice cream and ate that as our picnic under the bridge. Of course, I went for the old-time favorite– carp ice cream (When will I learn the name of this ice cream?)

I got home around 8 pm or so and spent the rest of the night either laying on my bedroom floor with my host dog wondering why I had no motivation to do work or actually doing work on my desk without my phone (no distractions!) I would consider it a productive night as I did finish all that I wanted to do… but then, on the other hand, I stayed up way too late for no reason. I went to bed past midnight which was usual for me during the winter break but now… I will have to wake up at 5:45 every single weekday! I cannot be surviving on 5 hours of sleep a night… Unlike the Korean students at 하나고, I cannot fall asleep in class. 

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That is all for this blog post! This post is over 2,000 words! But I had a lot to say so no apologies here… Obviously, I just have a lot to share but soon my school blog posts will become boring and repetitive once again (like they were back in November and December) but I hope you still stick around regardless. I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

익선동: Hot Spot for Locals in Korea & Last Weekend of Winter Break {03/01-03/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

03/01/19 Friday

Katie and I planned to hang out all day {and the subsequent night} doing something fun but new as it seems we have been getting in a winter break routine of sorts: study at a cafe and then Korean class. That is all. We wanted to do more with our last few days of winter break. The night before, I found this YouTube video on a recently popularized “hot place” in Korea for locals— 익선동 (Ikseondong). This place isn’t as touristy and modernized/globalized as much as the nearby 인사동 (Insadong). Basically, it’s a smaller neighborhood with beautiful 한옥 (Traditional Korean Houses–Hanok) architecture and a lot of aesthetic cafes and restaurants {Though the majority are on the pricy side}. I watched a lot of the cafe walk-throughs and read a lot of reviews on blogs but the ones we wanted to go to were a bit too expensive for our running-out-of-stipend-brand and or had huge lines! For instance, there was this really gorgeous flower cafe with actual flowers lining the tables and basically every inch of the place but of course, there were no seats. However, I should have expected that. We may have been the only foreigners there {literally did not see another 외국인 during the entire time we were there} but all the Koreans know about this neighborhood. Additionally, it was a Friday {And all the students have yet to go back to school} so it was only inevitable that things would be busy. 

Our first stop of the day was to try some street food. I really wanted to try the irregular shaped 호떡s (Korean Style Sweet Pancakes) because I saw them in the same YouTube video mentioned above and my friend 연우 works there on the weekends as her part-time job {only Saturdays and Sundays though.. so we could not have seen her anyway.} but with our bad luck, the place was closed until later on in the day. Instead, we got some delicious churros for $2!

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We ended up going to this cafe called Uncle Video Town which actually was on the YouTube video I watched. The interior isn’t really anything special but you are able to rent private rooms to watch movies! We didn’t do that as we were not in the mood. We just ordered some drinks {iced green tea latte— one of the best ones I’ve had in awhile} and chatted. 

We also found ourselves in trouble as we went into the many cute jewelry and clothing shops in the area. I bought a cute pair of unique earrings and a necklace at this boutique {there was a sale for paying in cash… that’s my excuse…} and Katie and I both got a clothing item from this other shop. She bought a floral lace top while I bought one of those long tulle skirts that a lot of Korean girls wear. I’m probably too short for a maxi skirt but I wanted to try the fashion trend! I was feeling a sort of way that day—trying to get out of my comfort zone! 

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After strolling around 익선동 for a while, we headed back to 홍대 and went to 놀숲 for a couple hours to just hang out and chill. I bought 김밥 from the convenience store for our dinner and we were lucky enough to get a cubby in the back to allow for us to eat our kimbap secretly. Katie also played around with my makeup while we were there. It was a fun night spent together.

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03/02/19 Saturday 

I literally have no pictures from this day besides selfies but it was still such a fun day~~ One of the best of the week hands down! Today Katie came over to my house again to hang out and most importantly, straighten and cut my hair! I haven’t cut my hair since late Spring and the ends of my hair are all dead and gross. Katie has been nagging me to cut my hair for the longest time now! So much so that all our friends know how badly she wants to cut my hair. 

Before Katie came over, I was able to Skype my friends—Kara & Grace— from back home for a little bit which was so nice! We got to catch up and I heard some tea. Most importantly, I just missed talking to them! 

We spent the first couple hours of our hang out playing Katie’s hair shop. I sat in my desk chair while Katie stood over me like a professional hairdresser to straighten all of my hair. When it was done, I was shocked once again—feeling like a completely different person. I don’t straighten my hair often at all so when I do, I always become obsessed with stroking my straight hair for a while. Once I got over myself, Katie began cutting my hair. We took a quick trip to Olive Young to buy hair cutting scissors and laid out a towel on my floor to catch all the hair. We were going all out for this trim. Katie cut about 4-5 inches maybe? Honestly, I could not really tell all that much with my straight hair but once my hair returned to its natural curly form, I could tell right away. In the shower too, I was able to notice the difference due to how different it felt to wash my hair. 

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I feel like a new person! Maybe one day I will have enough courage to cut my hair majorly but until then… this will have to do. I would be fresh and new for the upcoming school semester! 

My host sister brought Katie and I snacks from the convenience store and Katie bought bread from a nearby bakery so we enjoyed those things while watching a very depressing episode of Black Mirror. 

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By the time dinner rolled around, my host mom gave me money to have dinner with Katie outside of the house so we went out together and got food {and ice cream} which we ate at these tables set up in the mall. While we were walking with our food, this woman almost bumped into us and she exclaimed: “Oh my, I didn’t see the foreigners.” to her partner. At the time I didn’t see anything wrong with that statement and I still don’t but it did make me feel a little disappointed. There was no reason for her to point out our differences like that. A sorry would have sufficed or even just “I did not see them.” Especially since her comment was not directed towards us… It’s not a big deal but… it can get pretty tiring feeling like an outsider every single day of your life. Number one reason I could never live in Korea permanently or very long term. 

The rest of my Saturday was really chill. I watched a movie on Netflix which I haven’t done in so long~~ but it was really nice! I tried doing some work but I was getting too easily distracted. I organized my room a bit more and did a fashion show using my straight hair as the focal point of each outfit {If you think I am kidding…think again}. 

03/03/19 Sunday

Like mentioned previously, I had no plans to really spend this last weekend “living it up” if you will. I wanted to rest! So Sunday was spent chilling in my room {often in bed all day} either writing blog posts, watching YouTube, or working on my Korean homework {We got assigned another TOPIK practice test to do over the weekend.} I kept putting off the test because the number of things I couldn’t understand {especially vocab} within the reading and listening sections always overwhelm me and make me feel utterly incompetent. I tend to always do the writing first and put off everything else till the last possible second {which meant till like 1 in the morning this night…oops} But yeah if I sum it up, that was my Sunday. 

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That’s all for this blog post, I hope you enjoyed! If this one was kinda slow… I apologize! Maybe starting school will bring in some interesting content! That’s all for now! 

  • Emma 엠마

NSLI-Y Spring Orientation: Free Gifts, Classic Korean Movie, & Hostel in Hongdae (02/27-28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/27/19 Wednesday

Wednesday marked the first day of the spring semester and simultaneously the beginning of our last few days of freedom before school started back up again on Monday. Since I was not moving host families this time, I did not have to show up to the Better World office until 1:45 pm. So, instead, I met up with Katie beforehand and we went to the cafe that has been deemed Josh’s cafe (by me). We were greeted very warmly by the baristas and they asked us if we were doing another lunch with the workers today. The younger worker also asked me if my hair was natural or a perm which made me laugh. I always forget that most (Korean) people, when they see my hair, assume it’s a perm because natural curly hair isn’t that common here. Katie and I both ordered the same drinks and when the owner brought them out to us, she also asked us if we needed notebooks. We told her that we really didn’t need any. She replied that she had these extra notebooks and wanted to give them as a gift to us because we were so pretty. This was the cutest thing so we immediately told her that actually, we did need notebooks! 

 

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Tapioca Nut Lattes ❤

We did work at the cafe for a couple hours. I say work but I was mostly just doing blog posts—no actual Korean studying was done. When we gave her our empty cups and left to buy some bread for lunch, she praised us for being such hard workers and studying so much! We laughed at this remark and explained that we were really not working that hard. 

We met up with Alix on the way to our favorite cheap bakery and then bought some basil cheese bread. This place on the way to Better World sells these little small specialty loaves for about $3 each. I know… I know you can get a whole loaf of normal bread for less than that but these are the perfect price for a small thing of bread when you are feeling the carb craving. Plus, they had special flavors!! You can not easily find basil-flavored things in Korea!

Walking up to the 7th floor and into the showcase room is honestly starting to feel so familiar as we have been there so often during these past two months. When I walked into the room, I noticed a sleeping man in a makeshift bed and I literally almost screamed because I was so shocked to see the figure. After a minute of staring, I realized that it was indeed Josh! 

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Apparently, Josh stayed up veryyy late the previous night packing because he is switching host families.

Unlike our last few meetings or orientations, I didn’t take quite as many photos this time so I am trying to piece together what we did with my memory to the best of my abilities. I believe we started out the day discussing host families as about half the group was switching for the spring semester. Our first activity was to get into groups and use our own problems to create host family case studies that we saw plenty of during the beginning of the program. I was in a group with Shada, Harmony, and June and we ended up writing about a NSLI-Y student named Nelly who had been going out a lot with friends to distract her from bad news that she received from back in America which made her host family think that she didn’t want to spend time with them. We solved this problem with the answer to almost all misunderstandings: communication! 

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After discussing host families for a bit, we brought up the elephant in the room… the impending sense of doom we were all feeling about going back to high school. 민정쌤 flashed up on the board all of our new homeroom assignments and where we needed to be on the first day of school which immediately made me feel anxious. I cannot believe that winter break is already over! It was very long I do admit… but it also felt like it just zoomed on by… 

We got into groups based on where we go to school {so you can probably guess who was my partner…} and we discussed our feelings about going back. Let’s just say that besides our happiness for being able to see our friends again, we were not ready to go back to 하나고 whatsoever. 

Our next session was information on the OPI and TOPIK which we will be taking in April {We are also taking an online version of the OPI in mid-March. 주연쎔 explained to us a bit more about the OPI which I thought I had known plenty about but I guess I was pretty wrong. Apparently, the text examiner uses the first 5 minutes of the test to prob you with questions to see what level you are at which means that your self-introduction actually does have a lot of weight on your exam!}

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Let me explain this in a bit more detail. Say you have given your self-introduction and have answered a couple of the questions that were asked in the beginning, at that point, the examiner decided that you are an intermediate speaker. From then on, no matter what you say, you will be placed at the intermediate level. From then on, the interviewer will ask you questions ranging from an intermediate-low level to an intermediate-high level to see where they should place you. If they make a mistake at the beginning about your level, they will continue to go with it because saying that they were wrong is difficult as that involves canceling the test right there and having to administer a new one as it was an examiner error. What complications does this have? Well, for example, this could mean that even if you are at an intermediate-high level but make the proctor think you are advanced which then causes him to probe you with advanced questions which you couldn’t handle, you would be stuck with an advanced score. If they didn’t cancel your test, you would be given Advanced Low even if that’s not where you belong. At the time of explanation, I felt that this method was kind of strange? I wonder if mistakes are made often… probably not, though. 

The rest of the sessions included talking about our independent research project and a few of the other activities planned for the rest of the year. {I would like to point out that my constant nagging has granted my cohort the opportunity to do a temple stay! And an overnight one at that!} We also talked about the newly implemented lunch and dinner dates with the 쌤s starting in the spring semester. From now on we can go out for lunch or dinner (one on one) with food being paid for by Better World. The only catch is that we have to only speak Korean with the teachers! It will be a great way to practice some Korean~ I’m excited. 

Finally, orientation was over and we all went out for dinner at the first restaurant we ever ate at as a big group! This time around, we ate 부대찌개 which I talked about in one of my posts from a little while ago {click here to read about the origins of this Korean stew}. It wasn’t as good as the one I had in 파주시 but the broth was excellent!  

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After dinner, everyone went out around 홍대 to hang out but I left my program phone at home which 민정쌤 needed the following day for OPIK registration so I had to spend almost an hour and a half on public transport to go back home to fetch my phone. By the time I came back, it was already 9 {our curfew was extended till 10} and so I just walked the 홍대 streets with Katie for a little bit. We tried going down some unfamiliar streets in case we stumbled upon something new which was kind of exciting. I liked seeing that there was still so much of this part of the city that I have yet to explore!

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On our way back to the guest house, we stopped at a convenience store and bought some ice cream and Oreos to share with the other girls in our room {McKenzie and Jacquelyn}. 

I stayed up very late this night doing nothing. Scrolled through Instagram and texted friends for hours~ Also chatted with Katie for a bit later in the night when she returned to the room from hanging out with some of the other students. It was a relaxing evening.

02/28/19 Thursday

Orientation today was really not an orientation? We bought bread from Paris Baguette the night before and so we quietly ate bread in our rooms for breakfast while getting ready. After breakfast, all that was planned for us was to watch a Korean movie. {The 쌤s also prepared popcorn!! It was like watching a real movie!} We watched the Korean movie 국제시장 {Directly translates to the international market but its English title is actually Ode to My Father}. 

It was such a good movie! I cried several times because of how emotional this movie was! It pulled on every single one of my heartstrings—strumming them all with no consideration for my overstimulated eye ducts! The story took place during the Korean War and illustrated the life of one family who was torn apart by the devastating war. The main character was the eldest son of a family that lost their father/husband while trying to seek refuge from North Korea to South Korea. The movie tells his story through a lot of flashbacks from different parts of his life. The story follows a man who had to make lots of sacrifices and do the absolute most for his family’s wellbeing—often negating his own health and or desires. The part that made the movie the saddest or what really drove it home for me was the message of the gap between generations. The main character {an old man with grandchildren in present day} is continually misunderstood by his family members for being irrationally angry or unnecessarily attached to their small shop in the market. The final scene really got me… and besides the plot and content being extremely well done, the filming itself was great. I took a half-semester of cinema studies during my freshman year of high school so I feel utterly qualified when I watch movies to pick up on the different camera angles and such. Honestly, this might beat out Hello Ghost for my favorite Korean movie! 

After the movie, we went to have lunch all together before some of the NSLI-Yians would leave to meet their new host families. We ate 된장찌개 (Soybean Paste Stew) and 오징어볶음 (Stir-Fried Squid).

 

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Once lunch was all finished up and greetings were said, Katie and I decided to go to a cafe for a couple hours or so to do work or just chill and chat. We ended up going to a Twosome Place cafe with a rooftop that we had never seen before! Turns out…there was a reason for that! It was just built! Today was actually the opening day! 

The cafe still smelled a little like paint {especially on the 2nd floor} but the environment was chic and all the tables had very comfortable chairs. I spent the time researching a popular neighborhood in Seoul that Katie and I planned to go to the following day {익선동} and then editing a blog post and publishing it that very same afternoon {mostly for Katie’s sake as she wanted to read another one.} This whole time, Katie was playing the new Club Penguin because it is back online! 

 

I ate dinner with my host family and just relaxed the rest of the night. I was excited for the last weekend before school because I planned on spending it well. I was also thankful to have this time with a host family I was comfortable with. I thought about how the first day of school would be if I also had to deal with switching my host family… 

Thanks for reading this blog post! It’s kind of on the longer side but I didn’t think that it needed to be split it up. Plus, it is nice to have orientation be all on one post! I hope you enjoyed! 

  • Emma 엠마

Monthly Korean Test & Post-Test Waffle Tradition (02/26/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/26/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was D-Day (Monthly Test Day!) and I clearly did not study enough the night before because my motivation was severely lacking so I met up with Katie at our cramming cafe: Holly’s Cafe. We both ordered the same coffee drink to give us that extra boost to conquer the day! At the cafe, I read over all the textbook reading passages/dialogues as well as studied more vocab. I spent the last half hour writing a new self-introduction to use for the OPI (I make a new one each time so that it can reflect the improvement I have made over the past month–aka shoving grammar points and fancy words in my introduction.)

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After 4 hours or so of cramming, we left to head back to our respective testing locations (Although 2반 takes classes at the Better World Office, 3반 goes there to take our monthly test while 2반 moves back to the youth center.) Walking back into the Better World Office after a long while felt kind of strange and awkward… 민정쌤 started talking to me (as I ran into her on the way there) but for some reason, I felt so awkward? I did not want to make a mistake while speaking with her so I began to get nervous for no reason… Maybe it was a result of test anxiety.

Eventually, the others showed up and we just silently sat in the classroom anxiously waiting for our teacher to come in. 민정쌤 also gave us a container of strawberries all the way from 부산! They were very delicious! I love strawberry season in Korea!~ 

Our teacher came in and let us know that we were starting to do our OPIs over the phone to mirror the exact situation we would find ourselves in early June when we take the post-OPI. I was terrified of this! I thought that it might go better because I would not be able to see her but you know me and change… I have a difficult time welcoming any form of it! I offered to go first for the OPI because I thought that it would be better for my nerves to go first because I would not have to write my essays with the constant worry of how my OPI would go in the back of my head.

I got into the room and when the phone rang I did a little jog in place to relieve my nerves and then I picked up the phone. I could not have done worse when it came to my OPI! I felt so ashamed afterward. I recited my self-introduction and messed up on the literal second sentence–one of the simplest sentences! Then, my teacher asked me the first question: Describe your apartment complex. I blanked. I had no idea what to say. It was only the first question and probably the easiest one at that and I could not do it. Because she was not there, I felt all my emotions overwhelming me and I even almost cried pacing back and forth in that break room. After I mentioned that there was a very large park, she asked me what one could do there and once again, I blanked. I stood there on the phone saying nothing for several seconds. My teacher even had to help me by saying the word exercise very silently which then prompted me to start the conversation again and I talked about the large fields that kids play sports in and the ahjumma exercise machines, etc. I was able to pick things back up again but I felt ashamed for having such a bad beginning. 

She also never really asked me any difficult questions… every time I hear about 2반 and even at times 1반 OPI question topics, I get jealous and feel bad about mine because my teacher never tests my limits it seems… The others get asked about climate change and even reunification (topics that would be hard for me to talk about but I have some vocabulary to explain myself–vocabulary that I studied in class!) while for me, she asks me to compare New York and Korea or what I would bring in my bag when I go on vacation. My role-play was that I ordered a camera and it arrived broke so I had a phone conversation with an employee about getting a refund which was probably the best part of my entire OPI (but it was not (really) good by any means, however).

I left the OPI feeling dejected and went and rushed through my writing section. I took one look at the grammar section and could only answer one question just with a first glance. I quickly passed over the part and began with the essays. The prompt was easy (positive and negative effects of social media) and yet I still could not figure out what to write/ how to organize the writing. I planned out everything so horribly that I had no conclusion and I only answered the last question of the prompt with about three sentences. It did not go well.

After the test, I was ready to rant to the others and use waffles to ease my worries. I met up with Katie and we took a short little walk around the forest park near exit 3. We talked about our tests before heading over to get waffles. There were some other girls already there but we wanted to just be alone so we came after they ended up finishing. We discussed our plans for hanging out this weekend (We are visiting a current Hot Place in Korea if you will (익선동) and Katie is cutting and straightening my hair at my house!) to try to lighten up the mood after our long rants. Once our waffles were quickly eaten, we sat outside of KFC and talked some more until June, Josh, and Kaitlyn finished up eating. I planned to go home together with both Josh and June tonight (as it would be our last time ever). We rode the train together and had a good time. I am truly going to miss going home with them from now on. Before, I had more time to write blog posts or do Quizlet when they did not; however, our train rides made us closer. I felt that they helped us form our friendships~ I will always be grateful for them (And I know that they will eventually come back and visit me in 고양시 soon!)

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Sorry for being so negative lately! But that is how it be sometimes! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Study Grind at a Cafe & Breakdown in Korean Class (02/25/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/25/19 Monday

On Monday, I met up with Katie at Coffee Slob to get on that study grind before our monthly test. I spent the time switching back and forth between studying grammar and making example sentences to studying vocabulary with Quizlet. Although cafe study dates can more often than not turn into unproductive excuses to hang out with your friends, Katie and I are good at being able to have a good amount of time for chatting and goofing off but mainly being able to focus on our own studies (Or if we cannot focus, we do not pull the other one down with us… we just secretly go on Instagram or Tumblr!–in the case of Katie). 

Class today was honestly… the worst it has been in a while. Lately, I feel like I have been doing quite well in Korean class–being able to keep up with the class just fine. But for some reason, today was not my day. We started off the class period with our teacher explaining what the new month was going to bring us in class. The new changes involved having to interview a family member for 30 minutes every week (and making a presentation out of that) and then also interviewing a host high school friend for like 5 minutes (and making a presentation out of that as well) in order to force us to use more Korean outside of school.

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Another change that she said we would be implementing starting today would be no longer using English during break time. My Korean class has never used English during class as part of instruction by the teacher. Occasionally, someone might utter something to someone in English or we would say the English definition aloud to help someone else that was confused during our class but that was pretty much it. I am just making this point because the other classes did start off with English (and in some instances, quite a bit of it). They had to initiate No English rules and or make language pledges to only use Korean inside the classroom. Our teacher told us that the Better World staff felt that we were speaking too much English during the break and wanted us to try only speaking Korean during those 10 minutes two to three times a day.

This made me immediately upset and uncomfortable. I need the break time between the periods of Korean class to let off some steam and take a Korean language break. I need the time to just chill and collect myself before the next period. I need the time to have fun and relieve any stress or anxiety with my friends in the other class! I cannot do that speaking in Korean! I was not going to talk to the other students in Korean… and it was not just in the classroom during the break that we could not use English. We could not use English in the entire building! I was not having the new change so I ended up just not speaking during break and staying on my phone in a corner.

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I am not sure if that set me up to feel unconfident for the rest of the class or not but when we resumed our second period of Korean class, I could not get one single sentence out. We started our discussion on what factors should be taken into consideration when choosing a career path. The first thing that I tried to explain was that thinking of how one can improve in their job and have more future prospects is important because you do not want to get bored with what you are doing. It started out smoothly and I used one of our new vocab words but I started trailing off at the end when trying to figure out how to finish my thought. I started getting teary-eyed as I realized I was making no sense and my teacher tried to move on. The room got quiet and all I could think about was Josh and Jacquelyn’s eyes on me. They were probably thinking about how embarrassing it must have been for me or they were probably wondering how I could be so bad at Korean for being in this class and in Korea for 6 months already. I tried my hand at saying two more of my opinions when the teacher called upon me to but both sentences ended halfway as I gave up trying to finish what I wanted to say. The teacher tried helping me out with my last one, trying to finish what I had to say, but she did not know what I wanted to say so I felt even worse having to tell her that I was not trying to get at what she had thought. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, it was break time. We technically could not use English but I needed to get some of my emotions out so I immediately left the classroom with tears brimming in my eyes. Josh stopped me out in the lounge area as I went to go hide in the stairwell and began to cry. Josh kept asking me why I was being like this today but I also did not know the answer to that. After getting some tears out of my system, I returned to the classroom and finished the last period of the day pretty much quiet as we went over new vocabulary.

Luckily, I was able to take my mind off of everything as I went home that day with June and Josh. We have all been living in 고양시 for the entire duration of winter break and yet this was the first time we were all taking the subway ride back home together. I have done the trip with both June and Josh individually several times. We just happened to never have the plans to go home right away at the same time before. It was really nice to do that today, though. It was fun having their company as our conversation was never dry.

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For the rest of the night, I hardcore studied for the monthly test. I went over all the new grammar points from the chapters and made about three example sentences for each point. I did do a lot but I could have finished everything earlier than I did because I was too often being distracted by my phone mostly. I just could not sit still at the desk and study. I had to keep getting up and walking around and taking way too many breaks–none of which I honestly deserved. I do not know why I am like this lately! Why can I not stay motivated or concentrate!?

Well, that is all for this blog post…I am sorry it is kind of negative and depressing… that is just how it is sometimes… Till the next time I post~ Thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마

Exploring Sinchon (신촌) with Korean High School Friends: Arcade, Sulbing, and 맛집 (02/24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/24/19 Sunday

Kaitlyn and I finally got to meet up with the girls we met at 한미캠프 (Hanmi Camp–Korea/America Exchange Camp back in December) after not seeing them for almost two entire months. Everyone’s schedules were different so we ended up first meeting 연우 and 윤지 for lunch at a 맛집 (well known good restaurant–literally translates to taste house) in 신촌 and then later planned to meet up with 지현 and then we would all be together for a while until we separated for the day. 

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We ended up going to this restaurant called Yellow Spoon which was known for serving these really big portions of hamburg steak. I ordered a snow cheese hamburg steak (not really sure why the cheese was called snow cheese… maybe cause the color was white?) which was really delicious and for the amount of food that was given, the price was not too bad. The only thing that was unsatisfactory was the fact that there was So Much CORN! I literally had to spend minutes picking out the corn and placing them on a napkin (which Kaitlyn later teased me about).

After we ate lunch, we walked around for bit trying to decide what to do (we really had no good plan) before stumbling upon an arcade and deciding to go inside. We first played the iconic basketball game by splitting up into two groups: foreigners and Koreans. And to much of my surprise, Kaitlyn and I won! (Though Kaitlyn at times… was dead weight. But she too knew this.) Actually, at the start of the game, she literally threw one of the basketballs behind the entire machine! Like it went all the way up behind the hoop! We tried later looking for it behind everything but we could not see anything as the machine had a lot of trash bags underneath it. But besides the fact that we had one less ball than the other team, we were able to win! We then were given more time to play and we were almost able to make it to 100 points! (We were one off! 99!) I never saw myself as being good at basketball.. But maybe I have a talent at this game?

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We also played DDR in which I received my fair share of absolute horrible ratings–F, D, C– to some good ratings!! (A all the ways~) 지현 ended up showing up around this time so we took some photobooth photos before heading off on a hunt to get some 빙수 (Korean shaved ice). We originally planned on trying this place with some really tall 빙수 that 윤지 found though MangoPlate (Korea’s version of Yelp basically) but they were closed when we got there. We went inside another place known for 빙수 but thought that the portions were too small for their prices so we gave up everything and just went to 설빙! There we ordered three flavors: strawberry, 인절미 (rice cake powder… is how I would describe it), and oreo. They were all delicious~ We just chatted while chowing down on the cool treats and dealing with our brain freeze.

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After having our desserts, we went back into the subway station and walked around the underground shopping mall connected to the station. There were a lot of cute jewelry stalls with handmade earrings (which were adorable!), clothing brands, accessories, and there was even a stall with slime! I never knew there were so many different types of slime… the table had a lot of little pots of slime with different textures and colors that you could try to squish. We were all having a lot of fun sticking our fingers into this big container of pink slime (which eerily looked like those pink slime photos that surfaced on the internet claiming to be what Mcdonald’s chicken nuggets were made of). We also passed the Samsung store and played this quick matching game and we actually won a selfie stick/tripod type device which 윤지 was kind enough to gift to me. Thinking back on it… hopefully, my phone will be able to fit into it seeing that I do not have a Samsung phone… 

We also walked around this food court area that had a lot of packaged gift box sets of fancy foods and snacks as well as freshly prepared foods like mango juice and special Taiwanese cracker sandwiches. There was one stall that was selling fruit mochi with actual pieces of fruit covered in mochi. It was so interesting to look at them especially the grape mochi! Full-on grapes connected together covered in mochi! The workers were making some strawberry ones while we were walking by and they were kind enough to let us try some pieces. It was pretty tasty.

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After walking around for a bit, we split up and said our goodbyes. I spent a bit more time with Kaitlyn and 지현 walking around the Muji store but eventually, I was feeling tired and decided to head home for the day. I have no other pictures from this day so I am not sure what I got up to at night but I for sure ate dinner with my host family and probably lounged around at home for a bit. According to my phone log, I was on Quizlet for a couple hours getting those vocab words memorized in preparation for our monthly test on Tuesday. 

This post is a little on the shorter side but I will not be combining it with another day~ I hope you enjoyed anyway! This was such a fun day with great friends and I am so happy to be able to say that I have been able to make and maintain friendships here with Koreans! I definitely know that these girls are down to hang out when they have time and I could not be more grateful for them allowing our friendship~~~ Despite any language barriers. We will have to meet up again soon! 

Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Cooking Class, Making Kimbap, and Playing 장구 (Jangu–Traditional Korean Instrument) 02/22-23/19 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

02/22/19 Friday

Friday was our last day of “Culture Week” if you will. We would be doing two cultural activities: making kimbap (김밥) and playing Jangu (장구). We ended up taking the cooking class at the same location that I had Korean cooking club during the summer program for six weeks back in 2016. We met up at the station together (It was at this point in time that I spotted a pig cupcake in a display case at this cafe and I made the very bad decision of spending my stipend on a cupcake at 10 in the morning. No regrets though! It was delicious!) and then walked to the Food and Culture Academy. The walk was so familiar as we passed by the side street that I walked down with 수진언니 when I met up with her back in November (That blog post here~) and 통인시장 (Tongin Market).

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I was happy that we were being taught how to make kimbap (김밥–rice, veggies, and sometimes meat and egg wrapped in dried seaweed) because I never learned how to make it during 요리동아리 (cooking club). I eat 김밥 so often when I do not want to spend money on real food, so it will be nice to know how to make it when I go back to America. I can easily whip up some rolls when I am missing Korean food and this is something simple I can do for my friends and family back home. Cooking the kimbap was a lot of fun because I was able to joke around about my cooking skills with June and Josh who were at the cooking stations near me. We all struggled to roll our seaweed correctly to make sure that things would not unravel during the cutting process–which they still…kinda did. But regardless, all of our rolls ended up being delicious even if they were not the prettiest!

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We got to enjoy our kimbap rolls with some nice warm egg soup. We received some certificates too for completing the cooking course~

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After having our lunch, we made our way to have our 장구 (Jangu) playing lessons at the National Center of Traditional Korean Music. I have never been musically talented which has led me to not play any instruments throughout my life. Unless you count playing the recorder in the fourth grade. I did DO that recorder competition with the different colored strings that you would wrap around the bottom of the instrument as if they were karate belts. (Who else relates?) The teacher was really patient with us as she understood that everything we were doing was quite new! I struggled a lot trying to figure out how to hold the drumsticks correctly as well as keeping in pace with everyone else. It seemed as if I had one good run through with the music, the next one would have to be a fail to even things out. There was one point where I messed up the order of when to strike one half of the drum and I just put my hands up in defeat and stopped playing because I could not continue on with the others because I lost my spot. However, what made me more embarrassed was that when this happened… I made eye contact with the teacher! I felt ashamed for not being able to keep up. Even though I was not the best at it, I really enjoyed playing the instrument. While we were playing the music, I immediately felt rewarded hearing everyone playing together and when I did follow along matching the beat, I also felt good! I can see how doing this would also become calming once you get in the zone and just following the rhythm however you like.

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After music class, a big group of the NSLI-Yians went to a 찜질방 (sauna/public bath) to celebrate Josh and Kaitlyn’s birthday which was today! (They share the same birthday but were born in different years!) I ended up just going home to have dinner with my host family when a different plan fell through. It was nice spending a chill Friday night in. My host sisters ate 회 together and since coming to live with them, I have become more accustomed to eating raw fish! And I actually do think it is good now! 

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02/23/19 Saturday

I literally have no pictures from this day because I was not feeling well today. I woke up with a bad headache and my stomach was aching severely so I spent the whole day just laying around in bed doing no work whatsoever. I may have written some blog posts or something? But more likely than not I was just watching Youtube the whole time. At around 8 pm, I ended up meeting up with Josh. He was so kind as to come visit me and we went to a cafe near the subway station in the mall. We stayed there for about three hours trying to focus and do some work. Josh worked on workbook homework while I did Quizlet before quickly giving up and resorting to writing blog posts. 

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One funny thing that happened while we were at the cafe was that after we put our stuff down and approached the counter to order, we were being instantly stared at by the worker at the register and the owner (or higher positioned worker…) of the cafe. They were looking at us and watching us discuss what we wanted to order (in English). They seemed almost…nervous. I went up and asked for a hot green tea latte and as soon as those words left my mouth (in Korean if that was not obvious) the male worker smiled and the female worker signed in relief and remarked that she thought that she was going to have to speak in English. I did order in Korean; however, the worker continued to switch between Korean and English while taking my order. I just thought it was so funny to see them, at first, so visibly nervous to have us order and then feel so much relief when we proved them wrong–AKA show them that we could speak Korean. This area really does not get many foreigners.

Well, that is all for this post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading~ I hope the next blog post can be more interesting than this one~ Sorry, things were pretty hard to describe and I did not take a lot of photos so…. this is what you are stuck with for today :p

  • Emma 엠마