Pre-departure Thoughts + RDs + OPI

18 days left!

The moment we entered June, I began freaking out. I can’t believe it’s so close. I swear it was just a few days ago that we were counting down from sixty days in our group chat…

Needless to say, I’m the most excited I’ve ever been in my life. But it’d be a lie if I said that I’m not nervous. I’ve never been away from home so long, and I have a pretty justified fear of getting lost. It’s so much worse than whatever you’re thinking. I get lost within buildings. Within hallways…that I’ve been in before…

And the thought of navigating my way in a foreign country where I need to coherently articulate myself in Korean if I end up getting lost is just a tad bit overwhelming.

But hey! There’s so much more to look forward to, and even I can’t get lost every day.

I think.

It also occurred to me that there’s a lot I meant to write about in this past month. To any prospective NSLI-Y students, know that the months after you’re accepted leading up to your departure are filled up with preparation.

There’s video conferences where you meet your residence directors, your oral proficiency interview (if you have prior knowledge of the language), A LOT OF FORMS TO FILL OUT, pre-program language preparation, thinking about what gifts to bring your host family (which I’ve kind of done), and thinking about what to pack in general (which I haven’t done at all).

So this isn’t actually all that much. It’s just that balancing all of this with the last few weeks of school (A.K.A last-minute finals cramming) can make you feel a bit stressed out. But now that school’s finally out, everything’s so much easier to deal with it. I don’t know how the kids getting out a few days before departure are staying sane.

So, I want to go more in depth about some of what I’ve mentioned above, but it’s not super exciting. Read on if you’re curious, but you won’t hurt my feelings if you couldn’t care less.

Meeting our residence directors

We’ve met one of our RDs already in a video conference (we’ve chatted with the other through Kakao Talk a bit), and it was just so reassuring to know that she’d be with us the entire trip. She seems like a really friendly person, and she’s been to Korea before, which means she also has a bunch of advice to give based on her experiences.

Our RD is also in charge of something called PPLP (pre-program language preparation) that serves as a refresher to those who have prior experience with Korean and an introduction to the alphabet for people who haven’t ever studied it before.

I’m under the impression that RDs change often, if not every year, so I’m not sure what future participants’ PPLP will be like. For people who had a solid knowledge of the alphabet, our RD let us create our own syllabi using TTMIK’s online lessons and had us review vocabulary using Memrise. NSLI-Y also mailed us all a textbook along with our student handbooks, but it’s more directed towards complete beginners, so I haven’t used it much.

OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview)

I was so eager to have my OPI that I scheduled mine almost immediately after they sent us the email about it.

If you haven’t heard of an OPI before, it’s just a phone call lasting under half an hour that determines how proficient you are in your target language before the program. You only have to take this if you’ve indicated previous experience on your application. After the program, you take another one to see how much you’ve grown. If I recall correctly, NSLI-Y does this to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program, which justifies funding.

Mine went pretty well! The interviewer was a kind woman who first introduced herself in English and explained what we’d be doing. She started out by asking me some basic questions about myself, but things started getting harder when she asked me to expand on my answers.

At one point, she asked me if I liked Korean food, and if so, what I liked. I told her that I liked spicy ramyeon, and she asked me to describe how to make it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the most extensive knowledge of Korean cooking terms, so my response went something like, “Uh, you break the noodles, and put them in the…the uh…boiling water! And then you, put vegetables in? And…salt? Yeah, put in salt, and umm…”

“How long do you cook it?”

“Um, about ten minutes?”

“Ten minutes?!”

“Yeah, my family cooks it about ten minutes…”

And at this point, I was starting to doubt not only my ability to form Korean sentences, but also my ability to make ramyeon. Maybe I’ve been making it wrong this entire time.

The rest of the interview wasn’t this bad (for the most part), but this was one my most memorable moments. I’d really like to talk about more of them because the whole interview left me cringing, but I don’t think I should be disclosing too much about it.

If you’re feeling worried about your OPI, just remember that it really doesn’t have much significance and won’t affect you in any way. The one after your program is more important.

That being said, I really want to know how I did. I hesitate to guess because I know my pride’ll be damaged if it’s way off, but my prediction is somewhere around high beginner to low intermediate.

And with that, I think I’ve covered most of what’s happened in the past few months. All that’s on my mind now is packing, possibly vlogging (?), and getting host family information in a few weeks. I really hope I have host siblings!

Once again, I’ve gone and wrote a post way longer than I’d intended…

Sorry about that.

Anyway, thanks so much for reading. Please continue to check in for updates!

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