Sunday, 28 October 2012

Daniel Posting

What do you notice?

<Daniel Posting>

As I said before, Korea is so different. Even more so than America. For this reason, I would like to identify these reasons in a tempt to illustrate to you, two different societies and their views toward foreigners.

In America, it is hard to tell the difference between Americas and foreigners. People all over the world come to America. So it is very diverse. Koreans see foreigners and are in awe. Foreigners stand out in Korea. For some reason I don't set why they do this. I guess it's because Foreigners don't come to Korea that often as much as America.

One big thing I like about Korea is the price of goods. Things are so much cheaper here than in America. And whats more, they have no taxes. This is the best, and so much simpler. You don't need to worry about having the right amount, and enough for taxes. Just exact, solid numbers.

Korea's Censorship is way more strict than in America. There are cameras everywhere, to make sure you are not doing anything illegal. There is little controversy surrounding CCTV. Do you agree with it's existance? Anyways, it's strict censorship prevents people from going on seductive webpages....
So I've heard. But really, America does not have this therefore have more access to do frowned upon things. These are just a fes of the differences between Korea and America. I hope you get the picture and understand that people and societies are different everywhere you go.

Daniel Posting


<Daniel Posting>

Being in Korea is very new and different for me. I am used to going to different states and countries, but never like this. I have never been on my own for a year.
In the past I have either traveled with family or stayed short amounts of time by myself.

Despite the new environments, I am well adapting to Korea. Before I arrived here, I was so nervous. I wasn't sure if I would be able to manage and learn the difering subway routes. Now that I am here, I realize it is quite easy. I feel like all my expectations about Korea, when I was in America were all wrong or misleading.

One of my expectations was that Korea would be very high fashion. However, when I came here, I found that I dressed better than a lot of Koreans. I was actually surprised to see this.

Another one of my expectations was that Koreans would be very critical. This one was half true.
Although most of the natives are extremely nice and welcomming, there are few that you just now they are analyzing and fixing youy in their minds. Even if they don't say it, you know.
Especially the youth. They just stare me up and down thinking they wish they were me or what is this guy doing here.
Either way, the staring thing is starting to get on my nervous. Just take a picture, it will last longer.

2 Months of Korean Life

Hey everyone, this is Emma, one of the Incheon girls. I have a couple topics I want to talk about so here it goes.

First off is about my Korean language. I am speaking mostly in Korean though with my host sisters it's easier to slip into English because they're so good. However, most of my classmates can help me with vocab but their English isn't good enough to try to converse, so I'm forced to speak mostly Korean at school, which is really good for me. But I feel like the way I talk in school is like a baby, with really basic grammar and vocab because in a normal conversation you have to come up with stuff fast, especially when you're in a group with a bunch of Korean students and everyone is talking at once. I think the best Korean I speak is when I'm in Korean class with the other NSLI-Y kids where everyone will stop and wait for you to finish your thought, so I have time to think of more complex grammar and vocab. I'm learning so much in class and I love the way our classes are structured. I think if I had to sit in a classroom with 30 or so people in desks and learn Korean for 3 and a half hours 3 days a week it might get boring, but since I'm in a small class with really individualized attention, a great teacher, and a fast pace, the time flies by and class is fun! I'm not intimidated at all by speaking in front of the class, which was one of my problems when I took Spanish in high school. Some days I almost feel like my language skills are regressing, while other days I feel like they grow greatly, it just depends on the day. It also probably has something to do with how tired I am. (which is usually very tired! I could never take naps in America and now I put my head down on the desk and doze off for 10 minutes during break times just like the Koreans) My understanding is slowly but surely improving. For instance last night I was watching one of my favorite Korean rap groups, Epik High, perform a concert live through Naver (a Korean search engine). They did a lot of talking and I was sitting there thinking to myself  "They sure are talking a lot" and then I realized I was understanding most of what they were saying!

Next, going to an all girl's school. Most of the time I complain about going to an all girl's school - I literally haven't met a single Korean boy my age since I got here! But tonight I was sitting in my classroom at dinner time and I watched one girl walk into the room in her baggy gym sweatshirt with the hood up, a fleece blanket tied around her legs, and a toothbrush in her mouth, and I thought that there probably wouldn't be such a comfortable environment in a co-ed school since boys and girls would be trying to impress each other more. (Is this true co-ed people?)

Also, the 3rd years are going into hard core study mode right now to prepare for the 수능, the national college entrance exam, which is in a few weeks. I don't know any 3rd years, and I wish I did because they're actually my age, but maybe I can meet some after the exam. Anyway, I can only imagine the stress they're going through right now. But what's really nice is that the whole school is supporting them, like my class each wrote a little letter to one "언니" (older sister) in the 3-9 class (We're 1-9). And also the amount of respect that's allotted to age in Korean high schools is way more than in American schools - this goes with Korean culture and the respect for age, of course, but I was expecting that if you were all in the same school and only a year or two apart in age, you would act more casual. But my classmates full on bow and say "안녕하세요 언니" when they see 2nd or 3rd years they know, and my sister brought snacks for the older girls when she joined a school club and it sounds like the older members of a club have considerable authority over the younger ones. I kind of wish seniors got that much respect in America!

My entire homeroom class on a field trip to the DMZ (read more about it in Andi's post) - I love my class!

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Hi everyone! This is Andi, one of the four girls living in Incheon J.
For this past week, my high school (Munil Girls School) had midterm exams so Emma and I didn’t have to attend school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Because of this, we spent all of Tuesday going on cultural excursions. We went to the Bukchon Hanok Village, Changdeuk Palace, and Insadong.
The hanok village is exactly what it sounds like: a community of traditional Korean houses that used to be inhabited by the upper class and to this day are still inhabited by people. Although we had a map, we felt like we were walking through a maze. We’d decide on which alley to take based on how many tourists were coming to or from that pathway. Some of the hanoks are renovated into restaurants, art gallerys, shops, or cultural workshop facilities (like for making hanboks, Korean knot art, and hanji paper).
At Changdeukgung we marveled some more at Korean traditional architecture. There, we also went on an English tour of the Secret Garden—which our hilariously sassy tourguide made very clear to us that there is no secret to the garden and that we shouldn’t ask her about the name if we want to continue the tour. The garden was used as a resting place for the royalty, a serene setting for creating poetry, and a venue for banquets.
After walking up and down hills for 5 or so hours, Emma and I happily rewound ourselves over coffee at Starbucks in Insadong. Then we had dosirak for dinner at this adorable restaurant where customers leave notes and hang them anywhere inside. Unfortunately we were too sore to thoroughly explore Insadong.
On Thursday we went on a school field trip to the Demilitarized Military Zone. Since midterms were over and there was no after school studying, everyone was very excited. We went to the 3rd war tunnel, Dora Observatory (where you could see North Korean land), and the Dorasan train station (which was built in hopes of one day transporting people to North Korea and China). The entrance—and exit—of the tunnel was extremely steep and long. Some of the students didn’t go all the way to the end because they felt too tired, yet there were many elderly Korean people completing this strenuous walk. At the end was a small, open window to the other side of the wall: North Korea! There are currently four known war tunnels made by North Korea; and it is believed that there are at least twenty more of them that have yet to be discovered.
On Saturday I went with my school classmate Hyunah to Hongdae. There we went to the Trick Eye Museum and walked around. At night Ellen and I had dinner at this Korean BBQ place, where we realized that it was a bad idea to go by ourselves when we burned our meat. The waiters there ended up cooking our kalbi for us…it was super embarrassing, but they were very nice about it. Before we left, they asked to take pictures with us!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Student Life

Hey guys! Masha here ^^
As anyone who might be familiar with Korean culture might know, the everyday life of a Korean student is quite different than that of an American student.  I wanted to share a video on the topic and talk about how these differences have affected my exchange experience.
So, here it is:

As an exchange student, I don’t stay at school for the same hours as the other students, nor am I expected to stay for 야자 , the voluntary self-study time that most students participate in. Honestly, I’m not given near as high expectations as the other students.
So the problem is, that because students are so busy, even though you can make friends, it’s hard for them to make time to spend with you.  Last weekend I met up with some of my friends for the first time since I got here; it’s been nearly two months already since I arrived. 
Even my host sister is affected by this. Even though I’m close with my host sister, she has nearly no time to spend with me because she’s either being tutored, staying for 야자, or going to her 학원 (special additional academy)— which even includes Sundays. 
It seems the only free time that students really have is after their testing periods, which is the only time I have ever been able to really spend with my Korean friends here.
However, that’s not to say that students are all work and no play here. During class breaks, my school can get quite loud, and at least the high school classes I’ve attended don’t really seem to be that serious or militaristic.  But it is true that students here have far less free time than the typical American student.
As for me, I’m hoping to meet up with some more of my friends during winter break, and spend time with them before they enter their third and final year, at which point they will be completely engrossed in their studies so that they can pass their university exams.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chill out...

Hey everyone, it's DiMitri!

So this is my very first post on the blog! (it took me long enough...)

One thing that I don't think a lot of people know about us NSLI-Y students is that we're pretty stressed out right now.  Yes, it is October, and yes, you would think that we would have already completely assimilated into Korean culture; however, that's not the case...not yet, at least. It's going to take a lot longer than a month and a half for any of us to feel completely comfortable being here. 
The view from school

Because of this whole adapting thing, each of us is pretty stressed out in different ways. We study Korean, we go to school, we have to work on our relationships with our host families (believe it or not, it is kinda difficult)...all of these things pile up on us and really exhaust us. Not only is it physically taxing, but it is really rough on your emotions too.  The W-curve is real. It's SO real. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Visiting Seoul!

Most of the NSLI-Y kids go to Seoul multiple times a week even if they don't live there because of Korean class.  However, those of us in Iksan have Korean class at our high school, and until this weekend, we hadn't been back to Seoul since orientation.  Going to the big city was pretty exciting and something we'd been looking forward to for weeks.  Ami, Ashleigh, and I had to wake up super early Saturday morning (6:00 am for me...ㅜㅜ) to make it to the Iksan bus terminal in time to catch the 7:30 train to Seoul.  It took us about three hours to get to Seoul, and after a relaxing ride watching mountains and greenery out the window, we arrived at the Central City bus terminal in Gangnam.  We ended up getting to Seoul earlier than expected, so we had time to look around the bus terminal.  It was really, really nice.  The third floor was comprised entirely of stores like Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu, and the department store on the first floor was so classy we felt like we were underdressed for even browsing.

We took the subway (yay for good public transportation!) to... I don't actually remember what the area was called but I think it may have been Gyeongbok.  We ate lunch there with all the other NSLI-Y kids, and after that we went to a cooking school where we learned to make kimchi!  We didn't actually do much of the work ourselves, but it was fun to see how kimchi is made.  We also got to take the kimchi we helped make home to our host families.

After kimchi-making, we went to a museum next to the Blue House (where Korea's president lives) and learned a little bit about modern Korean history.  Then we went back to the YES office for our monthly evaluation, where we discussed the high and low points of our first six weeks in Korea.  It was really interesting to compare experiences with the other students, especially because those of us in Iksan have been really curious about life in Incheon and Seoul.

We all ate dinner together in Hongdae, and then most of the Seoul and Incheon kids had to go home.  However, since Ami, Ashleigh and I were three hours from home, we got to spend the night in Seoul.  Before turning in for the night, we explored Hongdae for a couple of hours.  It was a lot of fun-- there's nowhere similar in Iksan, and it was so energetic and lively.  I definitely want to go back when I'm in Seoul during winter break.

I'm back in Iksan now, but I had a great first monthly evaluation weekend, and I can't wait for the next visit to Seoul. :)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A List

Hi, everyone!  This is Lizzie, and I'm living in Iksan attending Hamyeol Girls High School with Ami and Ashleigh.  Since you already know a little bit about our daily school life from prior posts, I won't bore you by going over the same thing again.  Instead, I thought would talk a little bit about some of the general cultural differences, both expected and unexpected, that I have noticed here during the past six weeks.  Some of these differences have been surprisingly easy to adapt to, while others are so foreign to me that I don't think I'll ever fully get used to them.  Here are some of the most noticable points:

Things that I am getting used to/have gotten used to
  • Seat belts: In America, I wouldn't leave the driveway without putting my seat belt on.  Here, seat belts are more of a suggestion rather than a rule.  I now rarely wear a seat belt unless I'm on the freeway, and I think I'm going to have a hard time remembering to wear it when I go back to the US...
  • Pace of life: Koreans tend to be a lot busier than Americans.  The first few weeks I was in Korea, I was so exhausted that the only thing I wanted to do when I got home from school was go to sleep-- and I get home from school at 6:30! This is extremely early by Korean high schooler standards, but I’m at school each day for two or three more hours per day than I was in America, and this has taken some time to get used to.
  • Korea food/table manners: Mealtime is very different in Korea than in is in America.  Food is so much more family-based here, and except for your rice bowl, every part of the meal is shared amongst everyone in the middle of the table.  It isn’t considered strange to touch the group food with your own utensils as it would be in America, and it is also pretty common to feed someone by putting food directly in their mouth.  At first I was really uncomfortable doing this, but now I have accepted as just a normal part of Korean food culture, even if it is strange to me.
  • Touchiness: Koreans are really touchy with their friends, and girls especially will hold hands when walking together or do other things that would be seen as couple-y by American standards.  I am not a touchy person at all, and I still feel a little awkward when my classmates try to hold my hand if they are taking me somewhere, but I certainly feel less awkward than before.
  • Staring: There are quite a few foreigners in Iksan, but in the suburbs where I live, I’m pretty sure I’m the only foreigner in the whole town.  The same goes for Hamyeol, where our school is located.  As a result, when Ami, Ashleigh, and I go out after school, everyone stares.  Ajussis, ajummas, harabojis, students-- everyone.  It can get pretty awkward when we walk into a convenience store to buy a snack and everyone in the whole store stops their conversations to look at us.  But as time has passed, I’ve started to become oblivious to the staring, and I oftentimes don’t notice until Ami or Ashleigh points it out.

Things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to
  • Heating: I thought that coming to Korea would be tough on me weather-wise because I’m from Texas, where school is usually cancelled if the temperatures drop below freezing.  However, I’ve actually had the opposite problem: my host family is so worried about catching a cold that they turn the ondol floor heating in their house at night up to what feels like 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  In addition, I am constantly reminded to wear a jacket when I go out because it is 추워, despite the fact that it’s maybe 70 degrees outside.
  • Crossing the street: Jaywalking is a lot more common here in Iksan than it was where I’m from in the US, and I’ve accepted that aspect of Korean life.  What I have not embraced, however, is the fact that I have to dash across the street unless I want to run over.  Cars here don’t stop for pedestrians here unless they are at a light-- they just expect you to run faster. ;)
  • Illness: People here really like to go to the doctor’s office (or maybe it’s just my host family...).  In the US, I would only go to the doctor’s office if I was really sick, sick enough to miss school for 3 or 4 days.  However, my host family and teachers here urged me to go the hospital one of the first weeks I was here simply because I was sneezing and coughing.  The doctor there also gave me almost a week’s worth of medicine for my symptoms...
  • Shoes: I’m used to taking my shoes off when I go inside, but I haven’t mastered the art of putting my shoes on without having to use my hands.  I don’t understand how Koreans are able to put tennis shoes on so fast with just their feet.  My host sister always has to wait for me in the morning because I take twice as long to put my shoes on.  It also makes me laugh whenever I see people out of the house wearing slippers, which is a pretty common thing to do here.
  • Public space/pushing: In the US, if I needed to pass someone, I would say “excuse me” and wait for them to move aside first before going forward.  However, in Korea, people generally just keep going as if you are not there, kind of pushing you aside.  This struck me as rude at first, and even though I know that it isn’t by Korean standards, it always surprises me when it happens.

There are so many things about Korea and the US that are different culturally, but these are just a few points that I can think of off the top of my head.

Monday, 1 October 2012

서울영상고등학교 Pros & Cons

안녕하세요! Did everyone have a nice Chuseok (추석)? ^^

This is Kelsey once again. This time I'd like to keep my post a little shorter and share with you what so far are the best and worst aspects of my experience attending school here. For your reference I attend Seoul Visual Media High School (서울영상고등학교) with Arlyss. Let's get right to it!

3 Best Aspects

1. Attending a co-ed school: Only the Seoul students can say they do the same. I'm personally very pleased that I have the opportunity to make friends with both girls and boys my age. The day-to-day lifestyle and personality exhibited by either gender is unique, and I feel that if I spent all my time with only other females I would be missing out on half of Korean teenage culture.

2. Spending almost every class with the same group of students: In Korean high schools it's typical for each student to have a homeroom class that rotates through the day's courses together. So far it's been really fun getting to know my classmates well this way as opposed to in American style schools where I would most likely have 150+ different students to acquaint myself with. Of course I'm also making friends outside of my class, but sharing that closeknit bond with my homeroom has made adjusting and assimilating so much easier.

3. Taking a variety of unique subjects: My school specializes in (you guessed it) visual media, so of course there are special classes that cater to said subject in addition to the core subjects. The school offers students a choice of three "majors", my homeroom class's being Visual Business Administration. Some of my less than ordinary subjects include Internet Shopping (인터넷쇼핑), during which students help to design and maintain an online shopping mall, Business Management (상업인발) and Animation (애니인발). And Arlyss's major is Visual Contents, so once a week she has a three hour period devoted to all things film and video related. These subjects help to somewhat spice up what would otherwise resemble a rather bland schedule.

3 Worst Aspects

1. Leaving early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Korean class happens to be scheduled right after lunch, so I miss out on afternoon and after school activities on those days. This most unfortunately includes joining a club as well, as club meetings occur as the last part of the school day on Fridays. It also creates the vibe of me being a only part-time student, and the less anomalies that make me stand out (disregarding the fact that I'm white), the better.

2. Being bored 75% of the time. As much as I would love to participate in class as the average student does, the language barrier is still far too strong for that to be a possibility except in classes such as art and Taekwondo (태권도). So when the rest of the students are focusing on class material, I have to find ways to keep myself occupied, whether it be by studying Korean, which I can only do so much before my head feels like it will explode, doodling, or staring at a wall and daydreaming.

3. Eating school food. Most of my classmates agree that the meals offered by my school are some kind of imitation Korean food. Arlyss often describes them as the Korean equivalent of Chef Boyardee. It's not terrible, but lunchtime is not really something I look forward to, which is an odd thing for me to say because I'm a huge eater and usually can't wait for the next opportunity to munch on something.

Wow, that wasn't really any shorter, was it? I should work on my long-windedness. Nevertheless I hope you've found this post informative and interesting!