…and not at all too happy about that fact. But I knew that as much as I wanted to stay in Korea forever, I had to come back to the States to finish up my Bachelor’s Degree…and to improve my Korean skills big time.
See, I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to move back to Korea after college, and in order to do that, I need to master the language. It sounds really daunting, and often I’m asking myself why I’m even doing this. I’m fluent two of the most commonly used languages in the world (English and Mandarin), and Korean is rarely used anywhere, except in Korea. But Korea has captured my heart and soul, and I know I would be really doing myself a disservice if I just pushed aside that aching urge to become fluent in Korean, move to Korea and marry a cute Korean guy.
To be honest, I would really love it right now if I just became Korean and didn’t have to go through the painstaking process of learning a totally new language from the ground-up, at my age (I’m 20! =___=). It may not seem old, but at this point, learning any new language requires a very serious amount of dedication, time commitment, and perseverance. I’m not like those other k-pop fangirls who say they’re “learning” Korean and are stuck at oppa and jjincha – I’m committing basically all my free time to it. I’m sorry if I’m sounding snobby right now, but this language-learning endeavor has become the #1 in my life. And as slow as I feel that my progress is, I know I’m improved so much since 5 months ago. I can even understand most of Talk to Me In Korean‘s Iyagi series (before the 40s)!
Right now I am using Seoul National University’s Level Two book, and it is definitely the best textbook I have used thus far. Korea University’s Korean textbooks are complete rubbish, and if you ever decide to study abroad in Korea to learn Korean, I highly recommend you go to Yonsei, Seoul, or Sogang instead. Because just learning from a textbook gets boring really quickly, I am reinforcing what I’m learning (grammar, vocab) by watching variety shows (better than dramas, because variety shows often have Korean subtitles or related commentary) and as always, listening to k-pop.
My love affair with everything Korea has not come to an end simply because I’m back in the States. I will continue to improve my Korean skills and I hope to make Korean friends here ^^ Until next time!
Having been in Korea for almost three months now, I can’t help but notice the plethora of couples around. And my oh my are they cute. Freaking adorable. Couples everywhere, holding hands, giving each other forehead kisses, dwelling behind street corners, hoping no one will see them exchange what may be perceived to be too much PDA. This is Korea, after all.
What’s cute is that I live on campus, and though foreign students don’t have a curfew, Korean students definitely have a curfew (not to mention gender-specific dorms). They have to be back at the dorm at 12:30 AM and if they’re even one minute late, they have to brave the cold outdoors until 5 AM. Walking home from a late dinner or a coffee session, I often see couples furtively exchange their affections in the dark just as their curfew nears. They act as if they don’t want to leave each other’s side, even though they know their curfew is fast approaching. Sometimes they catch me looking in their direction, and then try to turn away, as if embarrassed. It’s really endearing.
I see them walking hand-in-hand in the subway, on the streets, shopping in Myeongdong, climbing Bukhansan (the only mountain within the city of Seoul) – and sometimes they sport couple T’s. Couple T’s are shirts that couples wear that are identical or complimentary in some way. Usually they are really cute – adorable designs with bright colors – they want to display to the public that they are a thing. As if we wouldn’t already know, from the way they act. Sometimes couples have couple sneakers (also very bright and fun), and others have couple rings. I kind of want to stuff these couple paraphernalia-wearing couples in my suitcase and bring them back with me to the States. Not that I really want to go back to the States. But I kind of have to….at least for now.
The presence of these all these couples normally would kind of faze me…being the romantic that I am, I expected myself to wallow in self-pity. What’s wrong with me? Am I not pretty enough? Do I not stand out? What exactly am I doing wrong? But, having been in Korea for several months, and having met a lot of Korean guys, I can honestly say that I frankly don’t give a rat’s behind about being single in what I consider to be a strong couple culture. I haven’t met anyone who I genuinely feel like I could be in a real relationship with here, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
Granted, I still think Korean guys are the cutest guys in the world (and I’m certainly not alone on this – I’ve met so many girls who could not agree more haha). Maybe it’s just that I’ve matured a bit about the whole thing. How in love are most of these couples anyway? Given the sheltered nature of many Koreans growing up, I expect the campus couples I see daily to have had little experience in dating. Perhaps they found their soulmate, or perhaps they found someone with whom they could pleasantly pass the time. Regardless, I am happy (and not grumpy) to see the love and happiness everywhere. It gives me hope in my future happiness.
Ahhh so I have abandoned my blog for about two weeks now! So sad…it’s mostly been because I’ve been too busy and and then when I’m free, too tired/lazy to post. Let’s see, what have I done since I last blogged?
1) I started tutoring a KU student in English. The experience will come in handy when I want to come back to Korea and find a teaching job, I think :)
2) KO-YON JEON!! The annual sporting games between Korea University and Yonsei University are always a blast. Actually, I wasn’t expecting that much because I’m not a huge fan of watching sports, but Ko-Yon Jeon was so much fun. In fact, I have to deem it as the most fun I’ve had in Korea so far. Why? The cheering. At KU and at YU, each school has their own particular school cheering songs and cheers that go along with them. At the games (baseball, basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer), you don’t sit to watch the game – you stand for hours at a time and cheer your heart out for your school. It’s really touching to see a huge stadium full of red shirts (KU’s official school color) moving in tandem to the cheers, and every time we score, it’s like a huge celebration. It’s school spirit like I’ve never seen before, and for once I was so excited to feel a part of this unique kind of patriotism. The cheering songs are SO addicting – I was listening to them on my iPod for a week after the games. This was the highlight of my experience so far. I wish I could come back to KU every fall just to attend Ko-Yon Jeon :)
3) I actually have done a fair amount of “partying,” as I would classify it. I had been pretty opposed to drinking and clubbing and the like, as evidenced in my previous blog entries, but the conclusion to the Ko-Yon Jeon was a night out in Sinchon, the area around Yonsei. And so everyone in our KUBA group went to a club in Sinchon. I told myself I’d make an exception since it was Ko-Yon Jeon (and we won!! It’s been years since KU won the games!!). And I actually had a decent time – enough to convince me to go clubbing again when my friend asked me to go a couple of days ago. Went to Club Cocoon in Hongdae – it was a really nice club and I’d definitely go again. My friend told me NB2 in Hongdae is the it place, so I plan on going sometime.
And this isn’t really an event, per se, but I need to categorize this. 4) Everywhere I go, I get Koreans asking me if I’m Korean. And when I tell them I’m not, I get this look of disbelief every time. “But you look so Korean!”, I hear. But I don’t actually think I look that Korean. It is pretty frustrating, because I feel like Koreans feel special kinship with other Koreans and a bit more resistance when you’re not Korean. I don’t think it’s surprising – I think every culture is like this, but Koreans are really proud of their country, so it was a bit intimidating at first. Now, though, I think it’s not so bad. Once you get to know them a bit more, they will realize you’re basically all the same. People are people.
5) More language things. I’m already involved in one language exchange program, but it doesn’t meet regularly. So I started going to a Korean tutoring (kind of) thing that’s on Saturdays. It’s held at a church in Gangnam, and the people are a bit older than I had expected, but they are very nice and really try to help you with your Korean (by talking slowly and in simple sentences and by explaining as much as they can). It was quite encouraging, so I think I will definitely continue with it. There is KU ISF Korean Class on Thursdays in the science campus, and it is a semester-long course, so I will be updating on how that goes. Ahh learning Korean is so difficult. My least favorite thing are the verb endings. There are different endings for every situation! I think there are hundreds of verb endings…that are impossible to completely comprehend. I’m starting to doubt if I can ever truly become fluent in Korean, but…I have to keep trying.
Once again, a very long entry, and not that exciting. Sorry guys! My brain is so fried these days. I’m just trying to keep updating, so that those who are interested can continue to follow me on my adventures. I realize this is my most incomprehensible and poorest written blog entry. Please excuse any grammar mistakes or just plainly stupid sentences, like this one.
I will update again when my brain is more in tact ^^ Annyong!
Okay, so living on a mountain makes life slightly inconvenient every day when you’re trying to get to places. Make that really inconvenient. And since I have to walk up that hill every single day, I have devised ways to make that hike less unbearable.
Behold my four commandments of walking up Mt. CJ (without hating your life)
1. Walk up at a slow and steady pace. Don’t worry about the losers zipping up the hill. They are feeling the heat as we speak.
2. And this is the most important one: Do not walk on the paved black part in the middle of the walkway. Walk only on the unpaved cement on either side, preferably the right side. The paved black road has more pushing back force, causing each of the steps you take to have an equal pushing back force, which results in increased fatigue.
3. Take a GS25 break in the middle of the hill, if you must.
4. It is easiest talk walk up the hill on an empty stomach. I’ve noticed this several times – if I walk up the hill without having eaten anything or having digested food a while ago, the walk is rather easy. But if I have just recently eaten a meal, walking up the hill becomes ridiculously more arduous. Worst is if you are walking up the hill while eating. I would say never do this (I’ve done this a lot of times, and each time I regret the decision lol).
And those are my commandments for conquering Mt. CJ! And if you have more suggestions, please put them in the comments box and I will add them to the list :)
Today and tomorrow (September 23 and 24) are the KoYon (Korea University and Yonsei University) annual sporting games – and the school spirit runs high. I am beginning to feel that the school games back in the States are nothing like the games here. I am preparing for the worst. I will come back with updates!
But I just wanted to give you guys some dose of daily k-pop. Below is the music video of JYJ’s “Get Out,” their latest song. It is an upbeat song with a typically visually appealing MV.
And if you want a ballad alternative to JYJ, here is the MV for “In Heaven.” This song is absolutely heavenly, and I’m not even kidding one bit. It’s amazing. It’s love. And so is the MV. Watch it :)
So…this is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, but just never got the chance to do it, or had enough reason to do so. But finally I feel like it is time to address this situation.
The situation I’m referring to is…the nightlife culture in Korea. Now, I will tell you off the bat that I’m not a drinker. I was not a drinker in America, nor did I ever desire to drink alcohol. I don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol; I don’t enjoy the results of alcohol consumption; and so I’ve never enjoyed drinking culture and I tend to stay far, far away from it. But here in Korea, the drinking age is 19 and everyone who’s in college drinks. And it’s not like at a frat or house party once or twice a week. People in Korea drink every single day of the week, at restaurants, at bars, at clubs, everywhere in which they can get their hands on alcohol. To them, alcohol (a bottle of beer or soju) is as common as drinking Coke or iced tea back home. They enjoy it for the pleasure and they enjoy it for the social bonding rewards. However, I don’t enjoy either of these things, and in addition, I have a slightly ridiculous alcohol allergy which turns my whole body bright red (it looks like a rash) whenever I do drink, and it’s not pleasant in the least. So you can just about guess how I’m feeling whenever my friends (both Korean and non-Korean) want to go bar-hopping or clubbing.
At first I thought to myself, “Just try it. Everyone drinks here. It’s so simple. Just take the shot glass and drink it. What’s the harm?” But after a few nights of social drinking, I remembered why I stayed away from alcohol in the first place. It doesn’t sit well with my body and I don’t enjoy the taste at all. Am I just destined to be socially outcasted while all my friends have so much fun together, drinking and partying?
I’m not sure. I’m a bit worried. I’ve never felt truly socially pressured to do things that are considered acceptable, because I’m very comfortable with myself and I know what things are important to me. But the drinking culture here in Korea is really so prominent that it makes it hard to ignore.
Some friends say, why not just come drinking with us but not actually drink? It’s more about the company anyway. But to me, it’s not the same. When you drink, you’re not on the same level as sober people. You find the most mundane things more humorous or ridiculous, and you connect more to people who are similarly intoxicated. Sitting there with a glass of water while my friends are all drinking is not my idea of fun, and I will fight you to the death if you believe that drinking alcohol is the primary way of having fun in life. There are many things I love to do, such as shopping, playing board games, trying new restaurants, learning languages, and meeting new people – all things that do not require nor are improved by alcohol consumption. I sincerely believe that for me, alcohol is not a positive thing, but a hindrance to all that I want to experience and accomplish in life.
So in the meantime, while I am doubting my future existence in Korea due to my incongruence with Korean drinking culture, I stick true to my beliefs and views. If you have anything you would like to say, please, I welcome your input in the comments below. With that said, no blatantly negative comments, please.
So I just wrote a post yesterday about the not-so-great things that happened so far, but today I really hit an all-time low. The past couple of weeks have been tough, but they hit me all at once, so I couldn’t really respond. But today, I just cracked. Like, want to sit at home, curl up into a ball, and cry.
Not knowing Korean is not only inconvenient, but really frustrating. I can’t communicate with anyone, and the second I speak English, they know I’m foreign. I hate the feeling of being foreign. It makes me feel really upset about myself. And the blank look I give Korean people when I can’t understand what they’re saying is really getting old. I’m sick of having to resort to that. Feeling embarrassed and sad about my current predicament is really getting old. I’ve been trying to learn Korean, but no matter how hard I try, it feels like I’ll never get fluent, or even good enough.
My KUBA buddy/group (the organization that helps study abroad students adjust to life at KU/Korea) never contacts me. There are 9 or 10 groups, and my fellow study abroad students from other groups always tell me how their buddy wants to hang out and shop with them and their buddy calls/texts them daily about how their day went and that their groups has weekly events…and what does my buddy/group do? Absolutely nothing. I’m really, really upset about this. Added to the stressful course registration situation and the not knowing any Korean and being a foreigner, this really tops the cake.
I’m really worried that I’ll resort to being anti-social like I tend to get when I’m feeling stressed or unhappy about my situation. I don’t know what to do. I hope this feeling will go away or I’m really going to start having problems. Sigh…
So I had to make a post about all the bad things here. It’s Tuesday and it’s only been two days since classes started, but it’s been a nightmare trying to get everything sorted.
KU has only been accommodating exchange students for six years, versus Yonsei University, which has been accommodating foreign students for over 25 years. So KU’s Center for Global Studies department (the one that helps us get everything we need to get settled here) is not too organized or experienced. Thus, as study abroad students, we’ve not received the best and most up-to-date information. In addition, KU accepted about 1000 exchange students this year and they’ve only had 500 in previous years, so I think they were really unprepared to accommodate so many foreign students this year. This resulted in many classes being really full.
I haven’t attended any of my courses that are taught in English at KU yet, so I’m going to just comment on the Korean Language courses. I decided to sign up for Korean Language for Beginners I and Basic Speaking for Korean Language. In both classes we had to take a placement test to place us among the other students in this class. The Korean Language for Beginners I had over 150 students registered, so the teacher decided to split the class into 5 or 6 groups, or “streams,” depending on their Korean level. I ended up getting an interview and getting into the “most advanced stream” but she said it’d be a bit difficult for me. That’s okay – I’m planning on working really hard to improve my Korean. As for the Basic Speaking class, there was a very simply oral quiz that placed us either in 1) no knowledge of Korean language or 2) very little knowledge of Korean language, which was a lot less stressful.
If you know consonants and how to make basic sentences only, you should take the beginning Korean classes at KU. The Beginning II class actually requires you to know a bit more Korean – they don’t speak English in class at all, so be prepared if you are trying to take anything higher than the very basic Korean Language courses – they will make you take a placement test.
The only Korean I know is the basic stuff I learned from TalktomeinKorean.com – a great resource, by the way. Very easy to understand and really helpful information. However, I’ve never taken an actual Korean language course at school or anywhere – I’m totally self-taught up until now, so my Korean is very, very basic. I can say simple sentences like my age, my ethnicity, what country I come from, and basic sentences in present, past, and future tense.
I’m taking two Media classes at KU – Popular Culture and Understanding Digital Society. I have yet to take them, so I will update with reviews of these two classes. In the meanwhile, I’m living off of $2 meals at the school cafeteria – it’s pretty cheap (not delicious) and studying Korean in my spare time. There are a bunch of parties at clubs that sound interesting, but all of them have cover fees (from 10,000-30,000 Won – waaaay too much), so I’m not even going to bother.
Gonna go sleep now ~
I just have to start off by saying that the past couple of days have been so intense. We had orientation with KUBA (Korea University Buddy Assistants – they’re pretty much required for exchange students), who showed us around and helped us get basic things, like cell phones and bank accounts and student IDs. I don’t feel like going into detail about what this week has been like, because it’d take so long, so I’m going to sum it up into a list.
Words from a wise KU student:
- Don’t live in on-campus housing. At least, don’t live in CJ International House or Frontier House. I didn’t mention this earlier, but the walk up the hill to both is brutal (CJ being much worse). I dread the thought of having to walk up the hill once a day, and in reality, I go up it several times a day. There are plenty of off-campus housing options really close to main campus that are cheaper and better. Also, CJ is really far from main campus AND the science campus. The only redeeming factor is that there are buses that shuttle between CJ and the two campuses, but don’t count on them.
- Tell your KUBA buddy you want to look around for the best cell phone deal. KUBA buddies and exchange students are split up into many groups (there were 10 this year), and each group went separately to look for cell phones. Our group went to a cell phone dealer in the Science Library in Hana Square. Don’t go there. The prepaid phones are rather shitty. The truth is, if you don’t want to pay for a monthly plan, you will have to get used prepaid phones that may or may not work well. I have friends who bought used prepaid phones whose enter buttons don’t work. And they can’t even return them, since we didn’t get receipts. Be very careful. If you have a family member in Korea, make them buy you a phone on their plan.
- There is no online course registration at KU. That means, you have to go to the International One-Stop Center along with over 500 other exchange students who are all hoping to get into the same classes. I really, really hated this. A lot of the classes I got approved ended up being full by the time I could sign up, so I’m taking 2 Korean language classes. There’s an add and drop period, but that’s also done manually. I really wish KU would switch to online course registration like US universities do.
So much heavy stuff. I’m going to post a new post later with happy touristy things. For now, here is a picture of my friend Thanh and I in Myeong-dong in front of a Won Bin picture :)
This is my desk! I’m sitting next to the balcony (which isn’t very big, but you can walk out and see the city line). There’s a wardrobe to the right.
This is my wardrobe/closet. It’s pretty spacious, with not quite a full-length mirror. There are two rows of drawers on the bottom, and plenty of closet space. They don’t provide any hangers, so bring you own or be prepared to buy some. There is a convenience store right next door to CJ on the campus, so that’s a plus.
We’re off to a bus tour of Seoul soon, so be back later!