Friday, 28 September 2012

Visiting 인사동, 청계천 and 창경궁

Hello everyone! This is Kelsey here and I'm one of this week's bloggers.

This has been a very busy week for me and several of the other NSLI-Y kids not only because we had an important Korean test yesterday to study for but also because this weekend is Chuseok (추석), a major Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving in the States. Many of us are heading off with our host families to the homes of extended family to cook traditional foods and pay respect to deceased members. Shoutout to DiMitri whose birthday unfortunately falls during this holiday. 생일 축 하해!

For me personally, daily life hasn't been all fun and games as the majority of my time is taken up by school and Korean class, commuting, working on homework and sleeping. However, I'll tell you about last Sunday when I spent the day out with my host family as it was a fairly eventful day.

We left home at about 9:30am to catch the bus to Sinjeong-Negeori station (신정네거리역). What followed was a 40 minute plus ride during which each of my family members fiddled with their respective smartphones (my host father and sister played the immensely popular game Anipang (애니팡) for the entire time - if you don't know what 애니팡 is, you are missing out on a major component of 2012 Korean culture) while I kind of just sat there sans Wi-Fi and glanced around the train.

We finally arrived in Insadong (인사동), one of our stops for the day, and bought some ice cream before walking along the street. 인사동 is a somewhat traditional area of Seoul where a variety of cultural festivals are held and handcrafted goods are sold. We first headed to Ssamziegil (쌈지길), a small outdoor shopping complex, and window-shopped for a short time. I'm not terribly interested in touristy items so I didn't buy anything, but I did see a few unique items that I may go back for eventually. That day there was also an event going on which comprised of the streets being packed full of cows and people dressed up in hanbok (한복) handing out a Korean rice wine known as makgeolli (막걸 리). The atmosphere was very energetic and it was interesting to watch the progression of the festival despite not knowing its purpose. While watching the event I was stopped by a group of three college students who wanted to interview me for an assignment of theirs. They asked only basic questions (in English, of course), but it was awkward because the first time they tried to film it something went wrong, so we had to redo the whole thing and pretend like we hadn't already asked and answered these same questions. Oh well! Before leaving 인사동 we stopped by a batting cage for a minute while my host father and brother tried and failed to hit any of the balls. It was pretty hilarious, to be honest.

We were already hungry at this point so we set out on a hunt for somewhere to eat. We ended up walking a length of the Cheonggyecheon (청계천), a famous restored river running through the middle of Seoul, before arriving at an open-air marketplace. There were merchandise and foodstuff of all kinds being sold by hundreds of vendors all cramed into a very tight space. There were unexpectedly a lot of other foreigners wandering around here and 인사동, too. We settled on a meal of kimbap (김밥), ddeokbokki (떡볶이) and soondae (순대), or Korean blood sausage, with cups of mysteriously yellow-tinged water to drink. It wasn't the best Korean food I've ever eaten but it filled me up nonetheless! As we were leaving my family also bought me a red bean-filled rice pancake thing and a sweet and delicious rice drink despite my already extreme fullness.

Our final stop for the day was Changgyeonggung (창경궁), one of the many historic palaces interspersed around Seoul. When I visited Korea last year I had the opportunity to see Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), argueably the most well-known out of all the Seoul palaces, but I was rushed and didn't have the time to actually soak up my surroundings. It was really nice this time to be able to wander slowly and aimlessly as I explored the complex with my family. My host father using his broken English to explain things to me was adorable. It also wasn't too busy there that day so it w-as a relaxing experience as well, especially as I haven't left Seoul since I arrived a month ago and you can only endure the city for so long.

After we had all finished looking around it was finally time to go, so we caught the nearest bus and endured the nearly two hour long trip (I'm not exaggerating) back home. While my family slept beside me I watched out the window as we passed by several landmarks such as the National Assembly building and the KBS Broadcast station. It was both an interesting and grueling ride as the weather is still hot and sticky this late in September and I lived for each gust of cool air that blew through the window. We arrived back home around 5:00pm and my host brother and I, both exhausted, watched TV and worked on homework for the rest of the night.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about what has been one of the more eventful days of my exchange so far. More to come!

P.S. 한국어로 쓰고 싶는데 이 블러그를 읽는 많은 사람이 한국어를 이해할 수 없어요 ㅠㅠ


Hey, it's Ashleigh, one of the three girls placed in Iksan. I just got home from our Korean teacher's house, which I think a lot of my friends back home will find strange. However, it was so much fun. After Korean class today, our teacher drove us to her house and we met her 3 sons (who were adorable) and then helped her make a little bit of dinner. She had also invited her friends that live nearby, but they arrived later on. It was really nice getting to know her family. She has a son that's 11 years old and then twin boys that are 8 or 9 years old and they're all so adorable. At first, they were a little shy and hid from Ami, Lizzie and I, but after a while they started to come around more.

Our teacher's friends that came also have 3 children, a small toddler and two girls (one of them was five, but I didn't catch the older one's age). The toddler was SO cute! Once all the kids were together they started playing and getting loud and it reminded me of my family back home because my house was never silent while people were home.

The children's mother is Japanese and their father Korean, so it was really awesome that Ami and Lizzie could communicate in Japanese with them as well as Korean. Everyone also spoke at least some degree of English and it turns out the wife lived in Ohio for a little while! It was really interesting to hear the mesh of languages at the dinner table and the blending of cultures.

After we finished eating, we all helped clean up and it really reminded me of when my family gets together at times like Thanksgiving, which is perfect since Chuseok is right around the corner.

Yesterday, my other host sister came home from living at an art high school. Honestly, I was really nervous to meet her, but she's SO sweet and I had a lot of fun showing her pictures of my family and whatnot. We also talked for around an hour which really gave my ego a boost when it comes to my Korean skills. It made me realize how much I've actually learned in the past month and I'm a lot more confident than I was before! I should probably head to bed soon, but I hope everyone has a really nice Chuseok and is doing well ^_^ Bye! ~~

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Dongdaemun and the National Museum of Korea

<Ellen posting>

Today was a lot of fun too! Saturdays aren’t very consistent for me as of yet because I’ve been meeting different people each weekend and doing different things. I met my friend Young Soo today and we went shopping at Dongdaemun before taking the subway to the National Museum of Korea.

 I went to Dongdaemun once last summer, but didn’t have very much time to spend there, so I didn’t experience the haggling culture. Young Soo haggled for a jacket he bought, though, which was fun to watch. I didn’t need to, though, because I found really good deals on a few shirts that I wanted. Yay!

The National Museum of Korea is really, really amazing. I’m glad that I went! There’s a large exhibit taking up the entire first floor which walks visitors through a complete summary of Korean history, from Pre-History to the 1900s. The second floor had a set of private collections, all of which are worth visiting, and the third floor has statues and exhibits from other parts of Asia. My favorite exhibit was 금관 수하식, an ancient crown from the Silla Dynasty. I read a lot about Korean history and Korean history before I came here, so it was really amazing to see first-hand the artifacts which I’d already learned about.

While there, Young Soo and I tried Persimmon 팥빙수 and it tasted delicious! Last week, my host family pulled a persimmon out of the freezer and we ate it like icecream, which also was really good. 팥빙수 is one of my favorite foods here~ J

In the future, I’ll look forward to spending more time in Incheon so I can tell you all more about Incheon-specific tourist destinations and activities!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bakmun Girls High School - Incheon

<Ellen posting>

Hi everybody! My name is Ellen and I’m this week’s blogger. I’m currently living in Incheon, a satellite-city of Seoul, and am attending Bakmun Girl’s High School, an all-girls Catholic school. I’ve been having an amazing time so far here in Korea!

I think that the best way for me to convey my experience to you all is by taking you through a day in my life, rather than by cherry-picking through my favorite memories of the last week. Below is an account of my Tuesday!

Yesterday I woke up at about 6:50 AM and ate a traditional Korean breakfast (rice, soup, kimchi, panchan, meat, etc.) with my host father. I took the bus to school and met Masha, my fellow America, and Mrs. Kim, our sponsor teacher here at Bakmun. I had a full day of classes because yesterday was a Tuesday (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I leave school early to go to Korean class in Hongdae) – my class schedule included Math, Social Studies, Art, Science, English, and Korean. I also took an English test in Korean, which was pretty interesting haha. I’m really impressed by how proficient my classmates are in English; it makes me want to work really hard so that I can learn Korean more quickly!

After we finished classes, I took the bus back home – my host sister was playing piano and my host mom was singing along (they both have really beautiful voices :D). My mom, sister, and I walked to a street vendor, who popped a bag of rice we brought with us, and so last night we had delicious traditional Korean popcorn! My host mom made me kimchi ramen for dinner, and then I worked on my homework, watched some TV with my siblings, and Skyped with an American friend back in the U.S.

My family has worked really hard to make me feel at home, as has my host school (in terms of accommodating my needs, which – obviously – are significantly different that those of other students). Every day I try different food, my host family introduces me to yet another dimension of Korean culture, or I learn something new in my classes. I hope I can continue to take advantage of each moment that I’m here in Korea!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Adventures in Jeonju!

In a blink of an eye my blogging week has already come to an end! Luckily, I did something very exciting and fun today to blog about! Iksan is right next door to Jeonju, the capital of Jeonlabuk-do. It's famous for its awesome historic landmarks and its delicious bibimbap.

We basically hung around the Hanok Maeul (Korean traditional villages) during our stay in Jeonju, and I'd love to go back sometime soon to explore other parts of the city! Still, it was really pretty and I learned a bit more about Korean history.:)

Iksan girls in height order... I refuse to stand next to Lizzie in pictures because I look so little! 

I had bibimbap for lunch/dinner (we ate at 4:00, an awkward time haha) and it was really good! Although maybe I have poor taste buds since it didn't really taste much different from bibimbap I've eaten before...

The three of us in Iksan were also EXTREMELY surprised at the huge number of foreigners in the area. There was a festival going on by the Hanok Maeul and Jeonju is quite a large city, but us countryside students haven't really seen many foreigners in a while. It was such a shock to see so many of them! 

My host sister and I :)

TL;DR, It was a good day.:)


Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Hey everyone! I'm Ami and I am this week's blogger, hooray! Unlike Arlyss, I live in Iksan, quite south of Seoul.:) It has a beautiful countryside as well as a bustling city of about 300,000 people. We get the best of both worlds here!
Anyway, today I think I'll talk about school and a little bit about what it's like living in a small town.

First off, our school is north of 익산 시내 and is in a little town (but still part of Iksan). It's a pretty big all girls' school and unlike American schools (or, at least my school), it has multiple buildings and the campus is a joint campus with the middle school. Unlike the students in Incheon and Seoul, Ashley, Lizzie, and I had our first day of school on Monday. Our language class venue is the school library so we ended up staying for the whole day, wearing the uniform, and eating with our classmates.

Yeah... I'm not much a photographer. :P

I even eat dinner at school! It's really not as bad as American lunch food so I don't really mind. But, it's still not as good as a homemade meal. So, breakfast has become my favorite meal of the day when in New York I barely even ate breakfast! It's amazing how even the smallest things change while abroad.

The three girls of Iksan: Ashleigh, me, and Lizzie! In our uniforms!

Well, I guess that's really it for now, hehe. I'm not much of a blogger, either. I'll be posting one more blog post later in the week so hopefully my blogging skills will have improved by then. :P
Thanks for visiting!:)


Side note: I can feel myself gaining weight, slowly but surely... Our school has a snack shack and we basically go every day and consume mass amounts of snack at school and then go home and eat even more snacks. But Korean food is so good, I can't help it!D:

Also, I didn't talk about living in a small town. Oh well, maybe next time hehe.

Cat Cafes are Great

<Arlyss Posting>
Sorry this is really late! I've been pretty busy with my first week of school (and a busy weekend, too!) I'm pretty tired so I'm not going to type a lot, but I did want to share something I really enjoyed. Cat Cafes.

Okay, that might sound really lame, but I love cats and cafes. Honestly, mixing them just seems reasonable to me (the Hello Kitty Cafe is next on my hit list). If you don't know what a cat cafe is, it's literally just a cafe with a bunch of cats to play with. On Friday, Kelsey, Masha and I all went to Tom's Cat Cafe in Hongdae.

Although the kitties were very fluffy and cute, they weren't very sociable (aside from one ^^) and two attacked me. They aren't kidding when they say a cat's aggresive.

Lesson learned: Cat Cafes are serious business. Don't mess with the cats there.

I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures now because I'm tired. Take care everyone~ ^^

Sunday, 9 September 2012

First day of School!

<So Hyun Park RD Posting>

Hi everyone,

I just came back from Daewon forieng language school.
It was.... crazy.. everyone was screaming and following DiMitri and Daniel :)
They were so happy and excited to see us!
Also DiMitri and Daniel were so nervous.. were you nervous too??

How was your first day of school!?
I want to hear everything!

This week's blogger is Ami.
I know Ami have been spending a lot of time at school already,
but I want to hear how your school is and about your friends!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

"일 추가해" and Meeting the Family

<Arlyss Hewitt-Stevens posting>
Hello! I'm Arlyss and it's very nice to start posting to this blog. I hope I don't disappoint you! (But I probably will, don't get your hopes up ㅋㅋ)

Today was very interesting, to say the least. I would like to say my day was unlucky, but I'd be lying.

My morning didn't start out very well. I missed the first bus by a couple seconds. I'm glad I did, however, my host mom made me come back home to get an umbrella. If I hadn't done that... it wouldn't have turned out well. ^^;;

I ended up getting off at the wrong stop, thinking it was a subway station. Instead, it was just some random stop. I ended up getting back on the bus and taking it the whole way to the YES office so I wouldn't get lost again. Luckily, I know the way to the YES office from the Hongik subway station now! Not so luckily, I arrived soaking wet from wondering around in the rain.

Because I got lost for such a long time yesterday (for over 3 hours), I didn't have any time to study last night. It's safe to say I failed my first Korean test. Next time I will try harder and I'll get a good grade! ^^

My class got out earlier than the other class, so I waited at a cafe for Kelsey, Dimitri and Daniel. It took a long time, but I waited it out like a champ. Also the barista gave me a free cookie. Service in Korea is actually the coolest thing ever. Once they came, we left to Hongdae. The four of us went out to Yoogane. It was good, but we definitely thought it was going to be cheaper. ㅜㅜ I'd show a picture, but since Daniel and Kelsey both have access to this blog, they'd know I stole it. ㅋㅋㅋ

After that, Daniel and Dimitri left, leaving Kelsey and I to wonder the streets of Hongdae. After mindless wandering and looking at socks, we finally settled ourselves in an Etude House. We didn't buy anything, though. ^^;;

I also accomplished my mission of buying my sister YeSong a B2ST CD for her birthday. She loves B2ST and Yang Yoseob (my aunt calls him "Yosep" ㅎㅎㅎ) so she was super juiced when I gave her the gift. ^^

On the way home my sister was on the same bus, so we sat together. I'm so happy I didn't get lost going home today. Once I got home, my aunt and cousin came over and we all had dinner together. It was really cool to meet them.

I think I've done enough blabbering for today, I need to study now. Take care!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

RD posting_September blogger lists

<So Hyun Park. RD posting>

I was so happy to see you everyone of you, I got a lovely feeling that I will have a splendid year
with all of you eversince I met you at the airport.
The first weekend in Korea passed so quick.
How was your night with your host family?
Everyone responded to my text yesterday so quick except one student;(,
saying that they are having nice time with their host family.
So that made me sleep without any worries ^.^

Below is the list of Bloggers for this month.
Weekly blogger will post at least 2 postings each week.
If you want a specific topic, it will be great! but if you want to share your daily life or what you learned in school, it's fine!
Also, when you are posting, put your name at the front!

Bloggers for September

Week 2 (Sep 3rd - Sep 9th) - Arylss Hewitt-Stevens
Week 3 (Sep 10th - Sep 16th) - Ami Tanahashi
Week 4 (Sep 17th - Sep 23th) - Ellen Swicord
Week 5 (Sep 24th - Sep 30th) - Ashleigh Janz, Kelsey Anderson

Please follow the lists,
(but if you have something to tell us or share with us when you are not the Weekly Blogger,
feel free to post)
your stories!
Also, I will be using this blog to share any information or announcements I need to give you,
so please keep this blog in your sight.

So this week, we have our first blogger.
I am so excited to hear what Arlyss has to say!