Yuan, Emily

Name: Emily Yuan
E-mail: eyuan@nd.edu
Location of Study: Seoul, South Korea
Program of Study: Sogang Korean Studies Summer Program
Sponsors: William Kennedy & Stacey Yusko

A brief personal bio:

I am currently a freshman, who will be majoring in Science-Business and I intend to minor in Korean. I am currently taking my second semester of First-Year Korean and the Introduction to Korean History & Culture courses. Prior to taking First-Year Korean here at Notre Dame, I was never taught Korean besides learning a few words here and there while watching Korean dramas. I’ve always had an interest in the Korean culture and language since I was exposed to the Korean drama Full House back in 2004.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

The SLA Grant will allow me to be exposed to a new culture, and require myself to adapt to a different environment. Spending five weeks in Korea will ‰ÛÏforce‰Û me to speak the language and will definitely enhance my Korean language skills. As a Science-Business major, I am on the pre-medical track, and I plan on attending medical school after college. I hope to have a career in Korea where I will be able to speak fluently in Korean with a patient. Even if I have a career in the United States, knowing an extra language will break another language barrier between a patient and I. As an intended Korean minor, it would be a great opportunity if I could eventually go back to Korea again and teach English to native Korean speakers as well.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

As a result of this summer study abroad experience, I hope to explore the Korean culture. I want to incorporate myself into Korean customs and culture without feeling as if there is a barrier between my culture and their culture. I want to be able to adapt to the environment there and immerge myself into the ‰ÛÏKorean way.‰Û I hope to be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker as well as easily ask someone for directions. Hopefully, when I go back home to New York City, I‰Ûªd be able to fluently order food at a Korean restaurant as well as speak in Korean with my Korean friends or a Korean I meet in my neighborhood.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. By the end of the summer, I will be able to step out of my comfort zone, and be able to communicate in Korean with the native speakers.
  2. By the end of the summer, my level of proficiency in reading, speaking, writing, and listening Korean should increase immensely.
  3. By the end of the summer, I will use the experience from studying abroad in Korea to redevelop my future career goals.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I plan to take full advantage of Korean language study in Korea by participating in several of the extra-curricular activities offered by Sogang University as well as participating in service work. The Sogang Korean Immersion Program has field trips offered such as palace tours and visiting Korean broadcasting companies. Exploring the traditional sites of Korea will allow me to gain first-hand experience and get a more in-depth understanding of Korean culture. The program also offers a buddy system, where I would be paired up with a Korean native student to help me adjust to Korean life, as well as gain more language skills by speaking in Korean with my buddy. I plan to explore Korean culture by attending cultural events such as the Boryung Mud Festival. Also, I will go to the traditional Gyeongdong Market to absorb Korean culture. In terms of service, I joined the group Volunteer for PLUR (Peace Love Unity Respect), in which they go to soup kitchens to feed the homeless and have orphanage visits. If given the chance, I would also like to teach English to Korean native speakers.

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

The beginning: As I arrived to Incheon International Airport, I was surprised as to how nice the airport looked, and using my limited Korean, I was able to ask about the pre-paid sim cards for my phone. While I was on the bus with my friend on our way to Sogang University, the scenery seemed foreign, but I was kind of used to it because it reminded me of China. The roads didn’t look as modernized as I expected it to be. Finally after a 50-minute ride, we were dropped off at Sinchon station. We thought we could get a taxi, but when we asked the taxi driver to go to Sogang University, he just told us to walk. We walked in the humid, 90+ degree weather, carrying two luggage each and a carry-on. When we finally arrived at the main gate, we realized we had to get to the back gate (where the dorm was) and we had to go uphill. I sweated so much; I was about to get dehydrated. When we got to our rooms, I was so glad there was air conditioning. I settled down, and that night went out to dinner. For the first time, we went to an actual “Gogi Jip” literally translating to “Meat House,” where we cooked meat right in front of us using charcoal. It was really good because it was marinated well and it was the first time I ate real kimchi from Korea. That weekend, I also went to the Han River and rode a bike along the river. I came across a lot of families who were camping there, which reminded me of Korean dramas.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Classes: Maybe because this program was focused on learning Korean, it definitely gave me a different experience compared to learning Korean at Notre Dame. However, I liked it. I was originally placed in a lower class, but then I switched and there were 16 students in my class with students from all over the world to learn the common language, Korean. We had 4 hours of language from Monday to Friday. The first 2 hours were speaking-based, the third hour was listening/reading based, and the last hour was writing based. In the afternoon, we also had culture classes, where we explored both modern and traditional Korean culture, usually involving “missions” (activities) outside of the classroom. Being with the same 16 students for 6+ hours a day allowed us to bond really well, and communicate using Korean because Korean was the language that brought us together.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

Food: My friends and I discovered a “gogi jip” near our dorm, which was less than a 5 minute walk away. We went there whenever we felt like having a late night snack. Besides meat, they had egg that was cooking on the stove-like thing, which tasted really delicious. That place also had really good “nengmyun,” which was “cold noodles” with pepper paste, mustard, and vinegar. It had a unique, but good taste. The meat was the best part of Korea because it was marinated very well and cooked on charcoal by us. We also ate “batbingsoo,” which was literally shaved ice with milk syrup and red beans and jelly. It was a soothing dessert in the hot and humid weather of Korea. My friends and I also ordered “jajangmyun” to be delivered to our dorm, and it was a bowl of noodles with black sauce and meat. It tasted good and it was cheap, 5000 Won, which is less than 5 USD. Every restaurant we went to there were “panchan,” which were side dishes including kimchi, cabbages, beans, etc. We went to a café in Itaewon, and there was service, which was free “stuff” including waffles with a fondue fountain. I also went to the Hello Kitty Café in Hongdae, which was Hello Kitty themed, and their food was shaped like Hello Kitty. One of the more traditional and common foods found in Korea was street-food “ddeokbukgi,” which was dough with red pepper paste. It is really good, but eating too much of it is really fulfilling. My friends and I also went to a Chicken restaurant owned by a Korean artist, and it had really spicy chicken, but it was delicious. We went on a field trip near the countryside, about 4 hours away from Seoul, and I had the best beef I’ve ever had in my life. For dinner on the first night, we ate raw beef and for lunch the second day, we had beef stew, which was the most “expensive” beef in Korea. It had a really good texture to it, and it tasted really delicious. One of my last days in Korea, I had “samgaetang,” which was ginseng chicken stew. It was healthy for the body and prevents the body from getting a heat stroke due to the summer weather.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

Sightseeing: For one of our culture classes, we went to King Sejong’s statue. He was the King who invented the Korean alphabet and near the statue was the Kyungbok palace. We also went to the Blue House, and a museum about the history of Korea including past presidents. On the field trip, we went to the countryside and visited the Hahoe village, which was famous for their mask dances. It was an interesting experience, because it is one of the oldest traditional events. Also, the village had houses that were all separated from each other, and to learn about the history was really cool. My friends and I also went to Namsan Seoul Tower, which is like a skyscraper. We took the cable car up to the top at around 10 pm, so the view of Seoul was really nice. We also put a lock in the Locks of Love, which symbolizes everlasting friendship.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

Entertainment: One of the culture classes included a B-boy dance show by the Marionettes. It was really fun and interesting because they were so professional, and it had a story behind it. I personally enjoy watching break dancing a lot, so it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. We also watched a musical performance called “Inkigayo,” where several popular Korean-pop artists perform live. One of the more famous artists was Psy, performing “Gangnam Style.” For culture class, we also went to a baseball game, and the team we were cheering for, the “Doosan Bears,” won. It was an exciting game because the scores were close until the 9th inning, when they won. There was a lot of spirit among our class, which made it even more exciting. I also went to “noraebang,” which is karaoke with my friends very often. It was really nice to express myself through singing and comparing with my friends as to who can sing better.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

Shopping: There were several places in Korea where I shopped at, such as Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Yoido underground mall, etc. At all of these places, I was able to bargain for a cheaper price. Dongdaemun is well-known for mainly tourists to get good deals on Korean clothing and other souvenir stuff. Hongdae is mainly known for night life but their boutiques had some really nice looking dresses that were less than 10-15 USD. At Myeongdong, they were mainly American stores, so their prices were almost double. I mainly shopped for cosmetics of Korean brands, because they were cheaper in Korea than in the U.S. I also bought a lot of Korean clothing because their material is supposedly “better” than clothing made in China. I also bought high heels in Korea, because most girls in Korea is around 5’ 3’” so it is very common to wear high heels even if it is casually. The shoes in Korea were decently cheap.

Postcard(s) from Abroad:

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

During the language acquisition process, I learned how to speak that is different from the most formal speech learned in an actual Korean class. I was able to interact with native speakers with the Korean I’ve learned both at Notre Dame and at Sogang University. The culture was pretty easy to adapt to except that there were some things I learned about Koreans while I was there, such as the way they act. My goals were reached because I was able to communicate with Korean native speakers, although it may have been a basic conversation, I was able to meet native Korean speakers who weren’t part of the program and barely spoke English. My level of proficiency in reading, speaking, writing, and listening to Korean did increase due to the native speakers whom I surrounded myself with. After studying abroad in Korea, I plan to take a year off after college before applying to medical school and teach English there.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

I had one of the best summers of my life through studying abroad in South Korea. As a result of this experience, I have discovered another culture different from my own. I am able to incorporate a part of what I’ve learned about Korean culture into my life. Studying abroad has changed my worldview in terms of realizing how different two cultures are. Also, the media’s perception of something may be different from how something really is. I believed Korea to be an extremely modernized country, but it didn’t turn out that way. However, it was still very enjoyable and I learned a lot from being in a country different from my own. I would recommend people to take advantage of summer language study because everything is really condensed and learning a language in a foreign country requires you to speak a language you may be hesitant about. Not only will studying abroad allow you to gain language skills, but also interpersonal skills with people from a different culture and someone who perceives the world differently from you. It is one of the best experiences I ever had, and if I had another chance, I would go again.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

At the University of Notre Dame, I am continuing my education in the Korean language. After spending the summer in South Korea, and getting to know the culture and learning the language, I am planning to go back for a year after graduating from Notre Dame. I want to possibly enter for a FullBright scholarship and teach English in Korea. I also know that there are other programs to teach English. When I do go to medical school and become a doctor, I hope that I will be able to possibly practice in Korea, because I know that there are international hospitals with foreign doctors. I hope that in the future, I’d be able to speak and understand Korean similar to a native Korean.