Name: Allison Emeott
Location of Study: Seoul, South Korea
Program of Study: Yonsei University Summer Program
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures,Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies
A brief personal bio:
I am an applied computational mathematics and statistics major at the University of Notre Dame. I am working toward a minor in Korean while at Notre Dame. My greatest passions in life are dance, music and traveling. I work as a tutor in calculus and applied math courses for the Learning Resource Center. I was born in Georgia and have lived in Alaska, Belgium, Washington State and Michigan. I have wanted to learn Korean since sixth grade and finally began this year. I hope to master Korean during my years at Notre Dame.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant is critical to my long-term career goal of working in a foreign country. I would like to use my Korean language skills in addition to my mathematics major in my job. In order to work in a foreign country or fully implement the usage of a foreign language in my work, I must have a strong knowledge of the language. The SLA grant would allow me to gain an even stronger grasp of Korean then I could achieve only taking classes in Korean during the academic school year. The SLA award will provide me the chance to gain a stronger understanding of the Korean language to use later on in life.
To move towards a career utilizing Korean, I am minoring in Korean. An intensive study of Korean over the summer using the SLA grant could allow me to test into a higher level of Korean upon my return and allow to gain a stronger knowledge of Korean for my minor. Once completed I will be well on my way to having a strong enough knowledge of Korean to then work either in Korea or in a job that requires a knowledge of the Korean language.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I look forward to being comfortable with speaking conversational Korean. Yonsei University offers a program stressing conversation with reading and writing as reinforcement.
I hope to learn as much as I can linguistically and culturally during my five weeks in Seoul. This trip will serve as the turning point for me to increase my speed and become comfortable with the Korean language. In addition to my language classes, I will take a K-Pop dance class as well as a Korean cooking class. I hope to become familiar with modern Korean culture through these classes. I hope to become familiar with Seoul, a rising city in East Asia.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to converse in Korean at a comfortable speed about general topics.
2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to take intercultural risk by engaging in cultural and linguistic interactions that are beyond my level of mastery and comfort zone.
3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to one semester beyond my current Korean coursework placement at Notre Dame.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan to take full advantage of my language study by participating in cultural classes as well as trips offered by my program. The cultural classes are all taught exclusively in Korean. This will allow me to work on my Korean while also learning about important cultural aspects. My program does not have a provided meal plans, which means I will have to find places to eat while studying. I will use these dining experiences to practice my Korean with other native speakers. I plan to become comfortable with ordering and conversing with others in Korean while at restaurants. I plan on using this summer to strength my Korean language skills so I am comfortable in Korea on my own. This will only grow further when I return to Korea later for a semester of study abroad.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Korean is ranked one of the four most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-hardest-languages-to-learn-2014-5). This is due to the fact that it takes considerable more time for a person to master the grammar structures and syntax than it does for other languages. I have found difficulty of learning Korean has grown better upon studying in Korea.
During class I study grammar and reading. We are learning new verb tenses every day, involving a lot of repetition of new structures. When learning a new structure our teachers goes around asking us questions using the new form and we must understand the question and then respond to the question using the proper grammar structure. In class we learn formal and polite forms of conjugating verbs as would be used with your grandparents, parents or teachers.
Outside of class the learning changes drastically. At least every other day I venture down into ?? (Sinchon). Often groups of us go down to eat at local restaurants. When leaving campus I have to read signs and menus and understand what I want and the then face the challenge of voicing my wants. I comprehend much of what I hear but struggle to come up with the words I need. This is good because the only way for me to get food is to learn how to speak the languages without a textbook or the comfort of a classroom.
I think the double-sided approach to learning the language is good because even though we go over certain scenarios in class, we do not have the time or focus to work on speaking. My vocabulary and grammar structure improve with class and I use the new knowledge in my everyday life now.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
A popular dish in Korea is Bulgogi. Bulgogi is beef that has been marinated in a soy sauce. It is usually cut into thin pieces. Bulgogi dates all the way back to Goguryeo Era Korea (37BC to 668AD). The meet has changed names over the years but has always been beef that is thinly slices and cooked. The name Bulgogi means fire meat, which has to do with how the beef is cooked.
I had the amazing experience of getting to prepare this dish in my cooking class as a part of my program. The dish involves making a sauce to marinate the thinly sliced meet in. The sauce involved soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, sugar, sesame and Korean pear. I was shocked when we put the Korean pear in because I never though of putting fruit in a salty meat sauce. The fruit is added in order to give a sweet taste to the salty sauce. Once the sauce was prepared we marinated the meat for 20 minutes. Once the meat has marinated we then cooked it with onions and ate it hot with rice. I was impressed with how good our Bulgogi turned out. It had a nice taste without being overpoweringly salty.
Bulgogi is a dish that is served at almost any restaurant around the world serving Korean food. While I have had Bulgogi many times in Korea and find each place to have their own little twist to the sauces ingredients. The best Bulgogi I have eaten is the one I made. The satisfaction of a dish well made is the best taste of all.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Minorities in Korea
One of the first things any visitor to Korea will notice is the lack of minorities in Korea. South Korea is the most homogenous country in the world as show by the Fearon test. This makes finding minorities in Korea difficult. For those who are of a minority in Korea the differences are hard to hide. I found that for me it is difficult to find people who are actually members of Korean society and not just tourists. There is not a high immigration to Korea from other countries making it hard to find permanent residents of Korea that are not of Korean decent.
The majority of foreigners, who are coming to Korea either work to teach English in schools, are military, or live in their own international communities. As these areas and social groups are not ones I have had a chance to interact with, I assume most people of minority that I see are in Korea to visit or study short term.
I have experience for the fist time in my life what it is like to be of a racial minority. With my blond hair and blue eyes, I am obviously not from Korea. This means when I go out in the city many people stare and me. I have never felt this to be in a negative disliking way but more by way of curiosity. With not many people who look different than you in society, when you do see someone that looks different you want to look. Coming from a more racial diverse country than Korea, I was taught staring at people who look different is rude.
Being of a racial minority while here in Korea is proving to be a slight hindrance to my practicing of Korean. Many locals fear having to speak English with me even though I want to practice my Korean with them. Many will just shut down and will not talk to you or they will only speak to you in fragmented English. I always try and tell them that I understand Korean and am comfortable if they would speak Korean with me.
While I have been unsuccessful as of now, I will continue trying to find minorities in Korea.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
This weekend while visiting the Korean War Museum an older man asked me where I was from. When I told him I was an American he told me an interesting story of his childhood. When he was about 7 years old, living in Korea, the Korean War broke out. He remembered the American Soldiers coming to where he lived. He said the children knew only one word in English, “Hello”. He and the other children would all wave to the soldiers and shout hello, and sometimes the soldiers would give the children chocolate. He was very thankful for America’s aid in the war. This man was so thankful for the help that so many countries had given and what they had sacrificed for a land they had never seen and a people they had never met.
While I have yet to meet many people who will strongly voice their opinions about America here in Korea, though a historical standpoint Korea seems to have a positive attitude toward America. On a social standpoint there are a few social aspects that Koreans seem not to like about the US. The common complaints about Americans and foreigners here in Korea are that we are too loud. This is something I have experienced myself. In America while out with friends and having fun, we tend to become louder and a bit rowdy at times, in Korea however, the noise level is not quite as high. Korean groups of school kids do not tend to be as loud.
Another cultural aspect that Koreans tend to dislike about Americans is the difference in clothing modesty. In Korea, women tend not to show off much skin on their chest or shoulders. The legs however may show as much skin as the person would like. This is almost opposite of American ideas of conservative dress and so some Americas are seen as wearing provocative and inappropriate clothing here.
While there will always be people who strongly dislike the US and have a negative perspective of the US, as a majority Korea holds a positive outlook on the US.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
My time in Korea is almost over. I spent the last week studying for my final exams in Korean. The exams here where different than the classes I have taken at Notre Dame. For this test there are four different concentrations. The four parts are listening, reading, writing and speaking. The reading was split into reading comprehension and reading aloud. For me I found the speaking and writing to be the most difficult. This is due to the stress placed on learning through reading and writing. I believe that the listening and speaking are the most important parts of Korean learning because knowing a language is so much more than what is on paper. The only way to really practice for the listening section of the test is to go out and talk to people and listen. Watching Korean television and listening to Kpop music can help but nothing tests your listening comprehension like when someone asks you a question in Korean.
With the end of classes also came the end of afternoon special activities. We ended cooking by making kalbi, which is grilled short rib. I like making the marinades for the meat and it always is amazing when the flavor works both to enhance the meat and help tenderize it. For Kpop dance we learned Big Bang’s song Bang Bang Bang. This is a song that is currently popular in Korea. While out in the city I have heard this song being played in shops so it was great to learn. I am sad the activities are over.
Reviewing for tests and going out into the city has surprised me with how much I have learned. I know I have far to go but I am proud of mastering what I have so far. I am excited to continue to use my Korean whenever possible.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
During my last week in Korea I was really able to see just how much I had learned. For my speaking test I found that I am more comfortable speaking Korean and have an easier time forming sentences and coming up with the vocabulary I needed. Review for tests is a great way to see how much I have learned. I am proud of the progress I have made so far and want to continue to make even more progress.
I found how different my life had become when I visited Itaewon. Itaewon is the foreign section of Seoul. Due to the large amounts of foreigners living in the area, most shop owners speak some English and restaurant menus are in English. There were also more foreigners in that section of Seoul than I had seen anywhere else. I found it strange to be in Korea and have lots of people speaking English. Through this experience I found that I have adapted to Korea and no longer fear having to speak in Korean to native speakers. I found it stranger to have people speak to me in English than in Korean.
I also had the great experience of returning to the Korean War Museum one more time to explore its outdoor exhibit. Outside of the museum there are planes, tanks and boats from the Korean War. Not all of it is from the Korean army and there were many pieces from the US involvement in the Korean War. I found it interesting to see how far the US Korean relations have come and how I, an American was in Korea to visit. Learning about the Korean War was a great way to learn about some of the Korean US relations as well as learn about important history for Korea. I find the more I learn about Korean the more I fall in love with the country and the people. This helps me maintain the motivation to study Korean. I am so fortunate to have this experience.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
During my summer I attended a language program with a stress on written grammar and vocabulary. At first I did not like this form of learning a language as I felt the important part of learning a language is speaking. I soon learned that for Korean grammar is the most important. With so many grammar patterns, the written part is the only way to master the language. Outside of class is when the usage of what I learned by writing is transformed into spoken form. I was able to use my language skills and adapt to the culture when I would venture to places in Seoul that are not frequented by tourists. By seeing the parts of Seoul that the people who actually live there spend time, I was able to push my comfort zone and see how much I had learned. While I did not achieve the comfortable speed at which I was hoping to converse in Korean, I have however greatly increased my confidence in the spoken language. My speed has increased but there is always room for improvement.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
The biggest change in my worldview from my summer in Korea is what it is to be in a minority. Korea is a very homogeneous country with most people being of the same ethnicity and race. Not being of Korean decent racial and ethnically put me in the minority. I now know what it is like to be an outsider no matter what you do. It does not matter how long you live in Korea or how well you master the language, if you are not of Korean decent, you will never be accepted as Korean by society. My advice to those who are interested in summer language study is to not let the fear and doubt stop you from doing it. While you may not think you will have fun, make friends, know enough of the language, you should do it anyways. Once you get there and start learning, you will find that everything starts to work out and it is all worth it in the end. The regret of not doing it will be much greater than the fears and the doubts of now.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I will use all that I learned from my summer experience to help me in my study abroad next semester. This fall of 2015 I am studying abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. By continuing my education in Korea for a semester, I can continue to use and build on what I learned this summer. I will continue my studying of Korean language this next semester both in the classroom and outside. I still want to work towards a minor in Korean and now having studied in Korea, I have a greater drive to achieve so. I will use my SLA Grant experience of learning how to live and learn in a foreign country for the rest of my life. If I can spend a summer in another country and adapt to their society and language, I can adapt for any class or job. I know that if I push myself I can overcome any obstacle and that self-confidence will help me for the rest of my life.