Posts Tagged ‘nsli-y’

This past week was International Education Week (Nov. 12-16)- a week dedicated to demonstrating the importance of studying abroad  and going international.

International Education Week means a lot to me because going abroad changed my life and I do not know who I would have been today had I not gone abroad.  With that said, I highly encourage everyone to study abroad at least once in their lives- you will learn so much and open your mind.

Every day, I am thankful to CIEE, The Korea Foundation, NSLI-Y, iEARN, YesInternational, and the Department of State for giving me the opportunity to have the experiences of a lifetime.  Without the support of these organizations, I would not have been able to go out of my bounds and into a new and unfamiliar culture.

The impact of my experiences is beyond words.  I started out going to South Korea because of curiosity and desire to go somewhere, ANYWHERE.  But that changed within a couple of days of being in South Korea- I quickly became interested in the culture and the people.  By the end of my stay, I had fostered a passion for learning about the relationship between the North and the South.  The second time I traveled to SK, I was prepared to study and learn everything about South Korea- I hoped to gain a true understanding of the country.  And now, I continue to study Korean on my own.  Why?  So that I can help defectors.  I will talk about this in a separate post because the issue deserves its own… but that’s my ultimate goal.

Can you believe that curiosity turned into compassion?  THIS is the impact of my study abroad.  Everyone will have different experiences and meet different people… but these will shape who you are and open your mind to a new level that you do not know you are capable of.

So… do it.  Study abroad and go international.  After all, the celebration of this week is to encourage more people to think beyond by opening themselves up to the world out there.  You will be impacted differently from me, but that’s what makes each and every one of us unique.

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NSLI-Y Reminiscence

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my summer with NSLI-Y again.

I miss not only Korea, but the people I was in Korea with.

We were one big family, a support system for each other.

I met some really genuine people on the NSLI-Y trip.

I felt so safe in Korea… and I don’t remember feeling lonely.

Rather, I felt alive.  I was living a different adventure everyday.

Many people would choose to relive a moment they regret.

But me.  I would relive my summer in Korea simply to experience it all over again.

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While I was in Korea, an opportunity came up to judge an English Speech Contest at Dongguk University.  Audra, Hannah, and I decided to participate as judges for this contest since we are all native speakers of English.  Before we went, they wanted to find the Block B building… I didn’t really want to go because it was heavily raining, but I went anyway since we were all going to the same place in the afternoon.

Okay, the Block B adventure went miserably.

First, we had been walking for nearly 30 minutes when the rain was too hard to bear.  I had an umbrella… and my shirt was soaked with rain water… Also, I was wearing heels… IN THE RAIN (I later found out that my heels… stained my foot!  I had black strap marks all over my foot-).  When we finally decided to take a cab, the cab driver was rude!  He took one look at the paper and said no.  After getting out of the cab, we walked some more… before we called another cab.  It turned out that the address that they were looking for was to the Block B dormitories, not the company building.  So we were in a shady spot, with lots of rain, and creeped out by the fact that we were at the Block B dormitories.

After realizing this, we took another cab back to the subway station and headed to Dongguk.  The Speech Contest was pretty fun and interesting… the Korean university students there were really friendly with us.  ^^  The snacks and drinks were also good.

When we were leaving, we met this guy, John Park- he was quite a character.  haha~  He was talking about how he hated his name and that he was always made fun of for it because it wasn’t very Korean.  And then he asked me if a “john” was also a toilet in America because he had heard that it was… I literally “lol-ed” at that. 🙂


The following day, I met up with Shoshana and our Korean friend from last year, Dongyoon (we met her last year at the MIZY Center during the Shoes of Hope activity).  We decided to meet up in Itaewon.  Now, I had heard many bad things about Itaewon… but hey, it was worth a try going there and seeing the place for myself.  It also happened to be Dongyoon’s first time in Itaewon as well.  Besides, we were going there during the day- it gets really dangerous there at night.

When I first arrived at the subway station… I noticed the amount of foreigners there.  There were A LOT of black, hispanic, white, and middle eastern people-

As we walked to our destination, a Muslim Mosque, I noticed that many Arabs were scattered around on the streets.  And the men stared at us too, which was quite disturbing and uncomfortable.

At the Mosque, we had to wear these long, pale green skirts to cover our legs.  We also were not allowed into the Mosque because we were women.  There was a women’s Mosque downstairs but we did not feel like going in.  We also met a tour guide that talked about the Mosque to these two Americans, so we joined in on their tour.  The Arab guide was fluent in both Arabic, Korean, and English!  Sugoi!

After we left the Mosque, we had a late lunch at an Asian restaurant (Viet and Thai food maybe?).  There was a multitude of foreign restaurants to choose from, but we wanted Asian food.  And when I say a multitude of foreign restaurants, I mean A LOT- they were everywhere from French cuisine to Mexican cuisine.  After lunch, we walked around the streets of Itaewon, got some Patbingsu at Paris Baguette, and called it a day.  It was getting late, around 4ish?  Yea, that’s late in Itaewon…

Itaewon has some nice houses and apartments!


Two nights later, Shoshana, some friends, and I went to this traditional Korean music show called Dulsori at the National Theater of Korea.  She met this guy on the subway who turned out to be an actor in this show and he gave her 2 free tickets to the show- so we went!  It was quite an interesting music show because it was all based off of rhythm and traditional instruments.  It was a great show and after the performance, many fans were outside (still) cheering.  The guy that Shoshana met was really friendly and took time out of his fan sign to greet us and take a picture with us.  It was fantastic!

The show ended around 9 p.m. and as we walked back to the subway station, we passed by Dongguk University.  We walked around Dongguk for a little bit before deciding to get some patbingsu at Red Mango.  We ordered a Mango Patbingsu- nomnomnom~

That night, I got home REALLY late.  I was worried that the transportation would be closed!  I got to the bus station at 11 p.m. and arrived home at 11:30 p.m. 😦

It was a close call.

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Our second weekend was spent with our Korean family.  My samchon is in a Good Fathers Club, so Saturday, the club had a party of some sorts at the farm.  Thus, we went to the farm on Saturday with our family.  Audra and I spent our morning making mashed potatoes for the party… apparently Koreans have never heard of mashed potatoes before.  Only… we didn’t know that they prefer their potatoes sweetened… and not mashed.  Yea- our mashed potatoes were not a hit at the party… people tried it, but only Audra and I ate it in bulk. :3

And even though the farm is very natural and all… it was quite nasty out there.  Koreans don’t sweat- so I don’t think the heat was an issue for them.  But for foreigners like me and Audra, well, it was mad hot… and there was dirt everywhere… and I was wearing white shorts…  The kids were playing in the stream and bringing back water creatures and mud- it was really disgusting.  >.<

When it got unbearably hot, Audra and I went down to the stream too… but the dirt and silt got into my shoes and the water was not cleaning it!  My shoes… were also white… but they were brown by the time we left the farm.  It. was. so. disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There was this one nice kid out of all of the kids there- his name is Minsup.  He was 14 or something while all of the other kids were little children.  But he was like a big brother to all of them and he tried to talk to me and Audra even though there was a language barrier.  He was really awesome. 🙂  Audra and I joked later that we should take him to Edae, give him a make-over, and then bring him to Hongdae… he’d be so cool.  haha~


After we left the farm, we went to this gym/park place with all of the families.  This was slightly boring as well (probably because the heat knocked me senseless).

There were also these teenage boys somewhere off in the corner dancing… according to Audra, they were trying to learn a B2ST dance.  But- they weren’t very good… tsk tsk tsk…  I mean, I thought they were doing tai-chi at first!

Later that night, Jiwon’s family came over to our apartment for dinner.


The next day, a Nepal festival was scheduled but it was cancelled due to rain. 😦  So Audra and I wanted to go to Edae before our 4 p.m. show in Hongdae.  But Samchon decided to take us to Namdaemun instead… we weren’t quite excited for Namdaemun because we heard that it was all ahjumma clothing there… our thoughts were confirmed when we arrived in Namdaemun.  Samchon always thought we visited Edae too much, so he thought he would take us to another cheap shopping area.  I appreciated the thought… but Namdaemun was cheap for a reason- it was all ahjumma clothing!  AND the vendors were creepy… the male store owners were like shady pervs hiding in their stalls.  So Namdaemun was a major fail.

We went to lunch in Sinchon at the Nepal restaurant again.  Again, the food was lovely. 🙂

Finally, following lunch, we headed to Hongdae for a show called Dub.  There was a cool parking garage where you drove your car into this box elevator that moved your car down into the parking lot.  Anyway, I didn’t really understand what was going on in Dub, but it was something about crazy people in love (sounds like, I’m a Cyborg, But that’s OK!).  The music was really good too~  And during the show, my little sister, Doyeon was really cute… she sporadically yelled things and it was disruptive, but not disruptive at the same time because everyone thought it was cute.

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The first day at Sogang… wasn’t really the first day.  We had to get tested for our levels at the Arupe Building.  Audra and I left at like 10:30 in the morning and got to Sogang University super early… our test wasn’t until 1:40 p.m.

When we first got to Sinchon Station… we had no idea which exit to take to get out or anything… we were so lost and it was hard trying not to look like a foreigner.  But good thing we found an American who helped us in the right direction to Sogang (we took a wrong exit!  … so we had to cross big streets…).  However, we kept walking straight and we weren’t sure if we were going in the right direction because we had been walking for awhile and still hadn’t seen the Sogang campus yet.  So I asked a Korean on the street… she looked at me like I was crazy and said it was right there.  Audra and I took like 2 steps and saw the big sign at the entrance- SOGANG UNIVERSITY.  Damn.  We felt like idiots that just made fools out of ourselves.  hahah- it was then that we started the whole thing where we pretended that every time we did something stupid, the Koreans would think “Stupid 외국인!”

So we walked around campus and explored Sogang University.  Sogang University is one of the top schools in Korea- ranked number 4 in the country right after the SKY schools.  AND, Park Chan-Wook is an alumni  of Sogang (omg… I was so excited to be at Sogang).

It wasn’t long before Shoshana showed up and we all decided to get some lunch before the exam.  We backtracked and found this cheap restaurant.  They ordered these spicy kimchi things and I ordered a simple bulgogi.

The level test was fairly quick and before we knew it, we were dismissed.  I was clearly a beginner- no doubt about it.

A bunch of us wanted to find the cheap shopping area, as we later found out is called “Edae” (named after the fact that Ewha Women’s University is right there!).  We knew that it was within walking distance, but we didn’t know that it was only 1 stop away from Sinchon (and that taking the subway would have been a much better option since the heat was sooooo unbearable!).  And so we walked all the way to Edae… it took forever… and it was really hot.  But thinking back, it was a nice opportunity to bond with some of my NSLI-Y peers.

For one, we went to Smoothie King to get smoothies since it was so hot.  We looked around for cheap coffee shops… but they’re all pretty expensive. 😦

It was also in this first week that I went to a Naengmyeon place in Edae with some NSLI-Y friends for lunch.  Yum.

The first week ended with some kimbap making with my Korean family.  My Korean parents decided to show Audra and me how to make kimbap.  It was a wonderful bonding and learning experience.

In all, the first week was a great week of building relationships with my NSLI-Y peers, my Korean family, Audra, and Sogang University- the school that I would be attending for the next 6 weeks.

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So came the day that I had to leave the unpleasant hostel for my host family’s home.  I was feeling happy but nervous at the same time.  I had already met the girl that I was going to share my host family with, Audra- in fact, we met at Columbia University during our NYC Orientation.

Some thoughts about Audra:  Well, at the time, I didn’t know what to expect out of our relationship.  The year before, I ended up not liking my roommate on the CIEE trip… I didn’t want a repeat of that since I was going to live with Audra for a longer period of time this year.  I tried to keep my distance from her… I guess because I was a little afraid of having a bad relationship with someone that I was going to be sharing a home with, a family with, and the ride to school with.  But she seemed really nice and wanted to have a good connection with me and our host family.  It was difficult for me to decipher what kind of person she was… I really wanted to believe that she was a good person and unlike my roommate from last year… but the thought of things going sour so soon kept popping into my head.  I mean, I wasn’t mean to her.  I talked to her, but at the same time, I kept my distance.  And that day, I sensed how nervous she was to meet our host family.  As families came to pick up their students one by one, we both got more and more nervous.  She was even shaking at times.  And as we waited, I’ll be honest, I tried to decipher her character again.  I started thinking about what we had in common, what we didn’t have in common, and just her as a person.  Well, to start things off, there are a lot of ironies between us.  Her last name… is my first name.  Also, she lived very close to me for the last couple of years.  AND, she knew some people from my school… Coincidence that we were placed with the same host family?  I think not.  And her character.  To be honest, she seemed really funny and fun to be around.  She really tried to get along with me from the beginning… and I’m glad that she did that. 🙂

Back to waiting for our host family- when they finally arrived… I swear… they were the hippest host family to show up that day.  The cool dad strolled in with his sunglasses and a cute little 6 year old son (who may I add, looks like Pororo) running beside him.  Behind him, was the beautiful wife with the adorable little 3 year old girl in hand.  The moment that they all walked in, a big “AWWWWWW” echoed throughout the room.  Oh yea, everyone was jealous of our host family. 😉

On the ride home from the hostel, the car was filled with laughter and … well… Korean.  hahah~  But I soon found out that not only was our host family a cute little family, but also a very funny family.  I was really glad that Audra and I were blessed with such a family for our 6 week stay in Korea.

As it turned out, our family also had a farm.  It was one of the first places that they took us to (in fact, after we unpacked at home we went to the farm).  It was certainly an experience being there, but I also got tons of mosquito bites on my legs… 😦

삼촌 working those farm hands!


성현 a.k.a. 해리 포터 ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

Later that night, we went to a family friend’s apartment for dinner.  Dinner was going to be spaghetti- 한국 style!  Audra and I were both really excited.  When we arrived at their apartment, we met the cutest little boy (besides our host brother)!  His name was Jiwon and he was the same age as Doyeon, our host sister.  He is so so so so so cute!  He looks like a mini-Taeyang!


The next day, our host family took us to 서강대학교 Sogang University to look at our school for the next 6 weeks.  Unfortunately… it was pouring outside.  In fact, it had been raining since we arrived- it was monsoon season. 😦

After visiting Sogang, we had lunch at a Nepali restaurant in 신촌 Sinchon.  My host father, or 삼촌 Samchon to me, is very interested in Nepali culture so he wanted to introduce Audra and me to the culture as well.  It was my first time eating Nepali food, but I must say, the food was quite delicious, or 맛있 었어요!

After lunch, we headed to the Gwangmyeong Cycling Stadium.  It was nice to be there- there was a children’s area and it was funny because I was using the children books to teach myself some Korean.  ^^

It was also when we first got to this stadium that our Samchon encountered a Busan man- as it turned out, our Samchon is a Busan man!  Audra and I were ecstatic about this fact because we both love Busan and really wanted to go there.  Hearing this, our Samchon decided to take us on a family vacation to Busan during our stay in Korea (you’ll be reading about this in a later post). 🙂

What can I say… things were starting off great at my new home.  I really loved my Korean family… like A LOT.  I knew that the next 6 weeks were going to be amazing.~

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Everyone had so much stuff- it was mission impossible getting to the door!

 We arrived at Incheon Airport super late at night.  By the time we got to the hostel, it was nearly 1 a.m.  The hostel was really clean- but it sucked.  10 people were in a room with bunk beds and there was 1 bathroom to be shared… but the bathroom has its own story as well… The shower part of the bathroom was not separated from the toilet part- which was really awkward because when I showered, the water splashed onto the toilet cover and the door… And having to fight for the shower was hectic- there was another option… but that option included going to the floor shower where there were 3 shower stalls without walls… I guess Koreans are very comfortable being naked around each other (gimgilbang?!?!?!).

The ironic part was that I was at this hostel the year before!  On the CIEE trip, we went to the Mizy Center… which was the 2nd floor of the Seoul Youth Hostel!  Wahahahahahah talk about irony >.>

The next morning, we went to the U.S. Embassy for our Opening Ceremony, followed by our YES Orientation near Myeongdong the next day.  I should mention that we were pretty much in a hot spot for those 2 days- Namsan Tower was really close by (super close to our hostel), we were near Myeongdong, which meant that Insadong was pretty close by as well, and the Cheongyecheon was right there too!  hahah~

Ewha University women playing traditional instruments at the Opening Ceremony.


Group Picture at the U.S. Embassy

Later that day, we met our supporters, who we were going to meet every Tuesday and Thursday.  The supporters were university students who volunteered to do this- and apparently they applied and all for the position O.O

All of the supporters!

So… which one was my supporter?  Well I can spot him out, but to get a closer look, you’ll have to check out the other posts about my supporter days!  hehehe~ Any who, his name is Soontaek and he was a really good supporter… he seemed a little out of it at times but he was a responsible supporter and worked really hard to help us on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

After we met our supporter and group (Ellen and Emma were the 2 other people in my group), we went on a “Seoul City Tour.”  Actually, it was a mission that we had to complete- our mission was to go to Yeouido Park, but it was raining out… so the park was not the best place to visit.  During this mission, we all got to know each other a little better (and I did not like getting to know Ellen a little better >.<).

So… that was pretty much it for the first day…


The next day, we went to our YES Orientation- a LOT of activities were planned for us, which was great!  We played charades the fun way (my group won and the prize was candy!), true or false, rock paper scissors, some house game, and a balloon game…

Fancy Charades...


While I was on break from the YES Orientation, I also saw the biggest church and Myeongdong, in addition to the Cheongyecheon (I was so pumped to see the Cheongyecheon for the 2nd time!  I have yet to see it at night though).

I saw the Cheongyecheon again! I have yet to see it at night though... 😦

Church in Myeongdong~


Workin' hard at the orientation...

Group Photo!

And… that wrapped up my arrival to Korea!

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Okay so I’m a little late on blogging about my Korea adventure… but I’ve been so busy, so let me update you.  But I need to start from the beginning… Here we go!

So Sunday, June 26, I left for Columbia University in New York City for my pre-departure orientation.  I got there super early and a friend, who’s an alumni of Columbia, showed me around the school.  I must say, I was impressed by the school- I kind of wished that I was going there for college!  The dorm room was pretty big too.

But yea, little did I know that I was going to see 2 people from the program I was on last year, CIEE.  It was surprising to see both Shoshana and Sofia!  I was so happy~

We met some other people that day and walked around the campus together, taking pictures and stuff. 

The next day, we had breakfast at the Columbia Uni dining hall and went to the iEARN office for our official pre-departure orientation… it was boring b/c we sat for the entire day… all I could think about was leaving for Korea the next day!!!!!!!!

So yea… orientation was nothing much… just met a lot of different people on our program… talked about our expectations and such… 🙂

The fun part starts in Korea…

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