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

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