I finally have some time to catch up! I’ve avoided posting for a while now because there’s just so much to write about. This was all supposed to be posted a week ago 😅
On Saturday, we received the last bit of orientation from Better World and our stipend for the first three weeks. More importantly, we met our host families!
I’m living with one other NSLI-Y student (Sarah), a host mother, and host father. But our parents are kind of young and don’t have kids of their own, so they asked us to call them by 언니 and 오빠 (Titles for and older sister and brother from a female’s perspective). The hours before we met our host family were nerve-wracking. I began to worry that the communication barrier would be too difficult to navigate and that our relationship might be awkward.
To my relief, it’s not awkward at all. In fact, we get along with our host family really well. On the first day, I only met our host father because our host mother was working and didn’t come home till after I fell asleep. We went out to eat ddeokbokki, kimbap, and 오뎅 (fish cake), 튀김 (fritters), and 순대 (pig intestines). I had made a mental note before coming to Korea about steering clear of 순대, but there I was trying it within the first few days of my time in the country. To put it briefly, I couldn’t handle the texture and only ate one piece.
For the rest of the day, we watched TV and just chatted. Our host father was surprised at how many Korean celebrities and programs we knew.
I always expected my experience of Korean pop culture to be different from what people actually pay attention to in Korea, but that’s not really the case. Shops on the street blare music that I’m familiar with, and I’ve seen most of the shows my host family watches (Including 아는 형님!).
I met our host mother the next morning. She’s such a sweet and adorable person! We spent the day outside in heavy rain showers because she wanted to show us how to get the university for classes. On our way back, we stopped at Hongdae and saw the LINE store 🙂
The words most often used in my host family are:
“미국에서는…” In America…
“한국에서는….” In Korea….
“인도에서는….” In India…. (Because I’m Indian)
Our host family’s always eager to learn and share cultural differences. The funniest moments are when Sarah and I say opposite things about America. It just goes to show how different two people’s experiences in the same country can be.
On Monday, the time had finally come for Sarah and I to ride the subway by ourselves. We knew that we had one transfer to make and confidently got on the wrong train (Correction: I felt confident). We met another NSLI-Y friend on the way, and she told us she was getting off at a station near the university and would walk the rest of the way instead of transferring. But I was pretty sure of the plan I’d made the night before and decided to stay on the same train. That is, until that peer’s host mother told us to get off with them. We ended up getting off at the right station, and I soon realized that the train we got on was not going to the station I wanted to transfer at…We had been saved.
As a random side note, I’ve fallen in love with the Korean subway system. It’s reliable, convenient, and easy to navigate. It’s so reassuring to know that I can get home from any station. The ability to commute from one place to another without having to rely on my parents to drive makes me feel substantially more independent.
To any future NSLI-Y applicants who are directionally challenged like me, please don’t worry too much. I thought I’d be getting lost every single day, but the subway system (if you end up using it) is far more easy to navigate than the maze of colored lines on the map would suggest. Also, do download the blue subway app (literally just called Subway), so you can access the maps and see what transfers you should make offline.
The first day at Ewha consisted of a placement test, orientation, and a tour of the campus, which is absolutely beautiful.
I ended up in the 은하수 (galaxy) class. I don’t feel like I’m struggling, but it’s definitely challenging. It’s particularly heavy in vocabulary, which I’m lacking in. We’re often forced to articulate our thoughts in complete sentences, and I think it’s helping a lot. Four hours of class tends to go by pretty quickly for me.
I feel like I should probably leave it here for today. Check back for posts on Gyeongbokgung Palace, a Joseon King’s tomb, and the Odusan unification tower!