Sunday, 28 October 2012

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!


  1. Thanks for sharing such a detailed description about school life in Iksan. It's great to hear that although your classmates face a lot of pressure with exams, they are really supportive of one another. Also, how cool that you can follow what Korean rap groups are saying.

  2. I think I wrote Iksan in my comment but meant Incheon, sorry!