NOTE: If you aren’t a potential exchange student or have no interest in Korean or language-learning in general I suggest you pass over this post because it’s going to be painfully irrelevant for you. If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, however, do read on. You might just learn a thing or two.
Once upon a time in a post far, far away I mentioned that I planned to go over the resources I’ve used to learn Korean thus far. It may have been for the best that I waited so long to write this because I have much more to say post-exchange, with nearly four years having passed since I initially began learning Korea, than when I had only casually studied the language before leaving for Korea in 2012. Today we’ll start at what should be the beginning of any Korean language-learning journey: the Korean alphabet, otherwise known as Hangul.
Learning Hangul (the Korean Alphabet)
My first exposure to the Korean language occurred unintentionally at a time when my knowledge of Korea comprised of no more than a) “North Korea is bad,” b) “It’s like Japan, right?” c) “Kimchi isn’t even that spicy,” and d) “They make okay pop music.” It was the spring of my freshman year and I was looking for ways to do anything and everything other than design a virtual house in drafting class. At the time I was valiantly but fruitlessly trying to learn Japanese, so I searched online for a way to practice reading hiragana and katakana (which to this day constitute 95% of my Japanese knowledge).
Hello there, my
disappointed lovely blog readers.
As some of you may remember, I made a number of promises regarding the frequency and content of posts I intended to make during my time in Korea. What I in turn came to realize is that I really shouldn’t promise to do anything for anyone under any circumstances ever. I simply cannot be trusted. You can string me up and throw stones at me if that will help release your pent-up frustration, but what’s done is done… or rather, what was never done will remain… un-done…? Okay, moving on.
I apologize for not posting yesterday, but I had been anticipating the fact that I wouldn’t be able to since these past two days have been rather jam-packed. We moved out of our winter break host families’ houses (except for Ami who doesn’t have to move ㅠㅠ), spent the night together in a hostel, where we all hung out together eating snacks and talking until three in the morning, and today we had our winter break wrap-up/spring semester orientation after which we prompty moved in with our new families. If I wasn’t so long-winded and if it didn’t seem like it would be painfully boring, I would describe all of that in detail, but instead I’ll just tell you all about my first impression of my new host family.
Beforehand, however, it’s important to understand that the relationship I’d had with my first host family was not a positive one – in fact it was hardly a relationship at all. The family had never been particularly welcoming, in my opinion, so I felt uncomfortable being around the members of my family and therefore spent the majority of my time holed up in my room or, on the rare occasion that nobody was home, relished the freedom of being able to walk freely about the house. During my four months I sometimes questioned both why they had chosen to host me in the first place, since they seemed to have had zero interest in me being there, and whether the awkwardness was my own fault for not reaching out enough or doing something else wrong. Even though my experience with my winter break family was by far more pleasant and I left them on a happy note, I still had an underlying anxiety about my new family and how they would receive me.
Yesterday all the NSLI-Y kids (minus Daniel, who didn’t feel up to it) and our Korean teachers took an end-of-winter-break day-long field trip to the city of Chuncheon (춘천) and Nami Island (남이섬). The reason I couldn’t post yesterday as I had intended to was because I left my apartment at 8:30am and didn’t return until 8:45pm and was pretty exhausted. But hey, two posts in one day to make up for it! Wooooo~
We were supposed to meet at Yongsan Station (용산역) by 9:20 that morning, but only DiMitri, Ellen and I were on time – even our teachers were running late – so we stood in a circle in the middle of the station waiting as the rest of us trickled in. I had a moment of stupidity while trying to find the entrance to a 7-11 convenience store only the discover that the door had been right in front of me. Luckily no one else was around to see, so I bought my mystery tea drink in peace. By 9:40 or so everyone had arrived… except the teacher in possession of our tickets for a 10 o’clock train. So we waited anxiously a little longer until she showed up, and hastily made our way down to the platform and onto our train.
Hello everybody! As you can tell I’ve taken control of my procrastination (ha) and after a short three months I’m back with a blogging plan.
As the title of this post suggests, I only have 100 days left in Korea – well, really 99 days, as I intended to write this yesterday – and while it’s still a substantial amount of time, it made me realize that my exchange is drawing to a slow close. It also spurred me to reflect on the past 170 days or so and what I’d done with each of them. Depending on the way I look back at my time here, (which is largely affected by my mood), I can feel a sense of total accomplishment or complete failure. Because while I have done a lot, what I’ve done isn’t necessarily what I had envisioned for myself, and I feel like many of the loose goals that I had set before leaving have withered and died away.
One such goal was, of course, blogging. I feel like I expected too much of myself to be able to upkeep something which demands so much time and attention, not only because of my track record of putting important tasks off for a later date but also because exchange is an extremely time-consuming commitment. However, I have seen the wonderfully well-kept blogs of fellow exchange students, read about the plethora of adventures they embarked on before taking the time to sit down and document them, and whenever I bear witness to their determination I think to myself, “Hey, if they can do it, I can too!”.
So, uh… yeah……… Oops. Sorry guys.
Anyone who knows me personally is aware of how much of a terrible procrastinator and time-waster I am. It’s actually a skill I’ve developed slowly over my 17 years of being alive. Not just anyone can be as good at it as I am – this level of negligence takes serious practice.
Anyway, I’m trying to decide on the best way to jump-start this blog again. I just read through my last post and realized that between my empty promises of maintaining regular upkeep of this blog, I only managed to tell you all, in ridiculous detail, about my time in NYC. That happened before I even got here. And I’ve been living here for three months now. So the question is where to go from here: do I continue chronologically, searching through the depths of my memory for all those pointless-but-entertaining details? Do I merely summarize the past three months and continue in a deeper fashion from this day onward? Or do I pick and choose my favorite moments and highlight them, leaving the less exciting (and ironically more realistic) times by the wayside? Hmm… this is a problem.
You read that correctly, folks. I am, after just short of five months of waiting, in Korea.
YAY YAY YAY YAY!
I want to start off by apologizing for already slacking on blogging. It’s a lot harder to sit down and write a post than you’d think it would be, and my jet-lag hasn’t been helping me think clearly enough to write coherently. But here I am, now, ready to go!
I suppose I’ll start from the beginning…
I said my goodbyes with my family at the airport on the 28th. There were a couple tears ㅠㅠ, but we overall held our composure. I still don’t feel like the reality of not seeing them until June has had time to properly set in, because if it had I probably would have been rolling around sobbing on the floor. I love and miss you all! I waved one last time to them from behind security and then headed to the first in my series of flights.
My flight to Salt Lake was surprising comfortable. I had chosen a window seat for myself, and despite to plane being otherwise packed to the brim the middle seat between me and a rather quiet mustachioed fellow was unoccupied. I munched on airplane peanuts (still famously impossible to open) while listening to 2NE1 and snapping dozens of pictures of the ever-changing landscape outside my window.