June 30th – First Week at SNU

On Monday, I moved into my dorm at SNU. My true home is under the dome at Notre Dame, but I quickly came to like it here. My room had AC, which actually saved my life because the heat is so intense in Korea during the summer. My room also had a bathroom and a shower, which was weird at first since I was so used to sharing a bathroom with an entire section of girls at ND. I was already in the room when my roommate walked in. I was surprised by her Korean speaking proficiency, since she was Vietnamese. I soon found out that she was studying Korean at her university in Vietnam for about two years and that she was driven to learn the language because of her love for Korean culture. Throughout the week, after meeting people from all over the US and all over the world, I found out that almost everyone was somehow influenced by Korean culture and wanted to learn more about my country. This made me extremely proud of my heritage and I was more motivated to share my story and my dual identity as a Korean-American.

Classes at SNU ISI are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. This week, the first class was on Wednesday. I was excited to start learning and meeting new people and studying under renowned professors. For Korean, I had to take a placement test to determine what level I would be in. I ended up being placed in level 5, primarily because I could speak fairly well. It turned out that all of my peers in my Korean class are like me: Korean-American and proficient in speaking but lacking in other areas. In every Korean class, it was stressed that we only communicate in Korean so as to improve our skills and on-the-spot thinking.

Every Friday, the program goes on “field trips” which give us opportunities to see many facets of Korean culture. This Friday, we went to go see a popular musical called “Hero” or “영웅”. It was about the real-life story of An Chunggun, a Korean independence activist responsible for the 1909 assassination of Ito Hirobumi, a Japanese administer of power in Korea, just as Japan was preparing to annex Korea. Though An was imprisoned and subsequently executed, he is also said to have inspired various Japanese officials — including prison guards and prosecutors — through his humane spirit and kind demeanor.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the quality of the dining hall food at SNU. Unlike American colleges, universities in Korea serve meals instead of having a buffet style system.

the cast of “Hero” at the end


pictures of some meals I’ve had this week

pictures of some of the key locations on campus

  1. students and faculty enjoy relaxing by this pond when they have free time
  2. athletic field (definitely doesn’t compare to our stadium)
  3. the main administration building
  4. the newly built modern library

Quelques Problèmes En Voyage

The composition of this third post was delayed due to a series of unfortunate traveler’s errors. I experienced a minor crisis last week due to both of my debit/credit cards experiencing issues and having only 10 Euros left in my wallet. The issue occurred because of a problem with the online security system of the major transportation provider in France, SCNF, which denied both of my cards when I attempted to use each one in turn to purchase a train ticket back to Paris for my return flight. The credit card companies then placed a block on my cards, leaving me a very poor student in a very bad situation. I used my remaining 10 Euros to purchase a French SIM card and a small number of international minutes, only to have the most frustrating series of phone conversations with customer service representatives of various countries.

My very cheap cell phone plan cannot, it turns out, call American numbers directly, despite ostensibly functioning as an “international” phone service. In spite of this difficulty, and in a moment of desperate intrepidity, I discovered that I could work my way through the international phone directory of Mastercard and have myself transferred from department to department until I found the one that could help me. Unfortunately, this elaborate series of maneuvers required that I explain the situation afresh each time I was transferred to a new department. Eventually, around the third or fourth transfer, I developed a script which I then delivered to each new representative that sounded quite a bit like a hold-up at a bank: “Listen, don’t speak, just listen. I have a problem that you can’t resolve, but I know someone in your company can. I am going to calmly and quickly explain my situation to you, and you are going to transfer me to someone who can help. No questions will be necessary.” 

Upon reaching the final transfer to the specific Fraud & Security subdepartment that I needed to reach, I was unceremoniously disconnected from the line– I cannot say whether by accident or design–and found myself at an even deeper impasse. The situation has been temporarily resolved thanks to the even more intrepid efforts of my mother, who devised a way I could use the second card by corresponding with her through email while she spoke with a Visa customer service representative. This method is, in a word, inconvenient, but it did the trick well enough for me to buy the necessary train ticket.

 La Fête de La Musique à Tours; fêtards devant une église 

All of this having been said, I am happy to report that conversations with my host family and other native French speakers have become more involved in the past two weeks. My classes at the institute reinforce my ability to speak with my host family, and my experiences speaking with my host family reinforce my ability to understand French better in my coursework. Even an activity as simple as listening to my host parents discuss French politics helps me learn the internal rythms of native French speakers. The French utilize a number of verbal tics which are essential to almost every French conversation, even short ones. Par exemple: “Alors,” “En fait,” “C’est ça,” “D’accord,” et “Voila!” Each expression has its proper place, and I am beginning to learn the nuances of each word in relation to a proper French conversation. For instance, I am just beginning to break my American habit of saying “Ok,” or making the sound “hmm” when expressing interest in what has just been said, when I should be saying “D‘accord.” Any language learner knows that there is a real difference between knowing a rule or a specific utilisation of a phrase, and using it correctly without effort. I hope that I am beginning to reach that point with certain French expressions.

Last week there was a Fête de La Musique at Tours, an event where bars remained open until 2 am on a weekday (rare in Tours) and different musical groups played music throughout the night in separate locations. It seems that summer music festivals like this are common to every French town of a certain size. The roads were blocked at a distance from the festival, and drinking in public was common. All of the images in this blog post are from the Fête, including the leading image of Le Palais de Justice lit up at night for the Fête.

Batteurs en train de performer leur cadence

Surprise Visit + Beauty of the Mundane

A surprise visit from my partner, Laos! We had traditional Lanna style photos taken. So much fun! This week I learned all about foods and flavors. I could read more items on menus and customized my dishes. Laos and I ate delicious khao soi (curry soup), northern minced pork cooked in banana leaves, and spicy chicken bamii noodle salad.

I learned a new phrase  – “Dern chon dern.” It is similar to the expression we have in the states, “Paycheck to paycheck.” I asked 3 different people their opinions on this phrase. All of them agreed that it is somewhat common to go about daily life this way. It is not looked down upon. One person estimated that about 80% of Thailand’s middle class operate in this way. One discussion veered into human rights. We talked about the idea of democracy, and how the meaning of freedom is characterized in Thai and American cultures. Two of the people I talked to said that they believed that women in Thailand  have a better chance at earning more than their male counterparts. I found this all to be very interesting and in alignment with my new favorite word ความคิดเห็น (quam-kit-hen). It means “opinion” and literally translates into “think, see” with the word “quam” turning the verb(s) into a noun.

I discovered more parts of the old city. I visited many lovely wats (temples), but this week I was more allured by everyday architecture and ordinary things I saw on the street. I was inspired by the combinations of colorful kitch, and modernized ancient customs that are around every corner.

Updates this week:

  • Found a new apartment in the old city!
  • Attended a Thai Toastmasters Club meeting and spoke briefly in Thai to an audience. I took on the official job of being the “ahhs, umms and errs” counter and also gave a speech! (spontaneity points LOL!)
  • First time to pay a local fare price for the songtaew!!!! AKA treated like a local!
  • Learning more grammar rules and gaining a better grasp of complex vowels, consonant clusters and tones. Currently reading short stories in Thai.

L’Ultimo Giorno

It is with bittersweet emotions that I say goodbye to the Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento. Today was my final day of class (well technically yesterday was, but Nick and I were supposed to give a presentation to teachers from the United States today and they bailed on us last minute to visit Capri so we just talked to our literature teacher, Domenico, for an hour) and I am both relieved and sad to be finished. The classes here were truly an amazing experience, and I learned so much from both of my teachers. Nick and I both established a strong connection with Domenico during this past month, and I definitely hope to stay in contact with him throughout my Italian journey.


Domenico really inspired a new love of literature in me, helping me see the reasons for reading the works of past authors in a new light. His class, although brief, was probably one of my favorite Italian classes ever. He gave us his recommendation for a list of five books (Italian of course) to continue our studies, so I am certainly going to keep him updated with my progress. It might take me a while to get through all of them, but I think it will all be worth it in the end.

Now that classes are over, Nick and I have three days of freedom in Sorrento before we return home to the USA. Honestly, I’m not sure what we’re going to do. While both of us have definitely enjoyed our time in Sorrento, I think we’re both ready to head home. As much as I love coming to Italia, the numerous inefficiencies, technological lag, and subtle backwardness of this country eventually take their toll. We have done just about everything Sorrento has to offer, including boat trips to Positano and Capri this past weekend (Positano is the picture on the left, Capri is on the right).


While both towns were aesthetically gorgeous, we found that they were a little too touristy for our liking. It was great to stay for a day, but any more than that and we probably would’ve gone crazy. Renting the boat was a lot of fun though–despite the sunburns we all received. I’ve found that the views of these Italian coastal towns are always better from the water, take the following picture of Positano for example:

See… gorgeous.

Well, it seems like the next three days are just going to be tanning, swimming, and eating with Nonna (I could definitely think of a few things worse than that). I’ve had such an amazing time here in Sorrento, and I’m definitely going to miss all the awesome people that I’ve met. With about half of them living in New Jersey, I’m sure I’ll be staying in contact with a lot of them. The people I’m going to miss most, however, are Nonna and her daughter (Momma). They’ve treated Nick and I with the utmost hospitality, and have done everything in their power to make us feel at home and part of the family. I can honestly say that they have succeeded on all fronts. When Momma drops us off at the airport in a few days, it’s going to be a tough goodbye.

Well, it’s now almost time to say goodbye to Sorrento, and my next (and final) post won’t be until I’m back on American soil. So, until next time Italia, arrivederci!

Anna Fett Blog 1: Ahlan wa Sahlan and Shalom!

My first day at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem
A view from my campus to the Arab neighborhood where I live (near the tower in the distance)–about a 15 minute walk

Ahlan wa Sahlan and Shalom! Here are two of the many ways to say ‘hello’ in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The first is Arabic–a language I have been trying to master for a few years now; the latter is modern Hebrew–a language which I am starting to learn this week in a summer ‘ulpan’ course at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Both languages are important in this beautifully diverse yet conflict-ridden country and territories. Every street sign name is written in both languages (and sometimes English). The two languages parallel the two dominant cultural strains, Arab and Jewish, which are as intricately intermixed throughout this small region (the size of New Jersey) as the diversity of landscapes here–from deserts and Mediterranean beach fronts to swamp lands and arid mountain sides sprinkled with olive trees.

While the diverse peoples of this region can cross paths on an almost daily basis, I am quickly acclimating to the reality of a plethora of delicate and muted, almost invisible, divisions that exist around me. The average American tourist, like myself on my first visit here a few years ago, might miss these subtleties.

For instance, my campus is on Mount Scopus but I am living on the next hill over. The first is a Jewish area while the second is Arab. On a shopping trip, when I tried to take a Jewish cab from the first area to the second, the driver, in his Hebrew-lettered cab, refused to take me. He promised that this was not because he has something against Arabs–he shared that he has many Muslim and Christian Arab friends–but because it was not safe for him. It is just not done. Instead, he was willing to take me to the edge of the Arab neighborhood (on the edge of my university campus) and I had to walk the rest of the way.

Again, I wanted to buy a bus pass for the summer. However, the buses which run from my campus to the main center of Jerusalem are Hebrew-lettered while the buses which run from my neighborhood where I live to the main center are Arabic-lettered: two totally different bus lines running to the same place. This means that I will have to buy two bus passes, written in two different languages, and remember to pull out the correct one depending on where I am and where I am going.

I greet the Christian Arab staff of the guesthouse I live in every morning saying “Sabeh el-kheir” and I do the same to the university worker from whom I buy my morning coffee (instant but it’s growing on me) with “Boker Tov”. Of course, many in and around Jerusalem know both languages (or only one and English or some combination of both with a little English, etc.). Yet there are subtle signs of when one language will be more appropriate than the other. As an American, I have the ability to travel–relatively freely–from one area of the city to another, and to switch from one language into another. These delicate divisions demonstrate to me, even early in my time here, the importance of learning both languages and immersing myself in the many different cultures (there are, of course, many more than two) and trying to understand those who call this place home–whether in Arabic or Hebrew–in the language which best expresses their native perspectives.



Willkommen in München

After many long hours of travel and flights through New York and Reykjavik, I arrived in Munich early on Sunday morning. I took the bus from the airport into the city and walked to the Guesthouse where I’m staying , which is located on site at my language institute, the Carl Duisberg Centrum (CDC). I slept for a few hours to start working off the jetlag and then went to explore a bit of the city. The CDC is a pleasant 25 minute walk from the heart of the city, and walking helped me to get my bearings in the neighborhood. I strolled around the historic “old city” for awhile, and visited several of the churches and shops near the Marienplatz. I was fortunate enough to visit the main cathedral, the Frauenkirche, just as evening vespers was beginning, so I stayed for that as well as the mass immediately afterwards. There were two cardinals and about fifteen bishops in attendance, which made for an interesting liturgy. I didn’t understand most of the mass, but caught parts here and there.

I walked for a couple more hours and ate my first dinner at a Bräuhaus near the Englisher Garten. The restaurant gave me a great taste of Bavarian hospitality, and I was able to speak only German with my waiter. Everyone I’ve met here in Munich has been extremely kind and happy to chat. It seems like a very friendly city.

I started my language course this morning with an introduction to the CDC’s services and teaching philosophy and a quick interview in German before being placed into a specific coarse. There’s a great diversity of students here, with many from Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and Taiwan. I’m the only native English speaker in my class, which forces us to communicate with each other solely in German. I was surprised at my ability to carry on a conversation in German with my classmates, and it felt great to be speaking the language again . After class, one of the tutors took 5 other new students and I on a walk through the city and showed us many of the important sites. It was interesting to speak with him about the upcoming elections in Germany as well as politics in the United States. It seems that there are as many political and social cleavages in Germany as in the United States, and as if to demonstrate the point, there was a massive demonstration against Antisemitism taking place in one of the main squares. I hope that this month gives me greater insight into the social views and political attitudes of German people in addition to improving my speaking abilities.

I’m very excited for the next few weeks!


Deuxième Post

Generally speaking, I took time this week before leaving again for Chinon to explore more of the cultural opportunities which Tours has to offer. Namely, I visited the Musée des Beaux Arts which is located in a old house adjacent to the cathedral, pictures of which I included in my first blog post. On top of its location, the museum also boasts a beautiful garden which at the time of my visit was being planted and a giant Lebanese Cyprus tree in the center courtyard. The museum’s collection itself is impression because it covers art ranging from the ancient Greeks to present day with exhibits on realism and impressionism, just to name a few. As I mentioned in my first blog post, there is an outdoor farmers’ market located around the daily indoor market named Les Halles every Wednesday morning. Once again, I snuck away from the institute between classes to purchase raspberries and was again infinitely impressed with their quality and flavor. There is also a flower market on Wednesdays which I imagine would be beautiful to visit and photograph.

This weekend I returned to my host family’s house in the countryside (near Chinon) with hopes of completing more tasked outlined on the SLA website. Fortunately, doing so presented the perfect opportunity to investigate the cuisine of the Touraine region and the unique characteristics which make it so special. Rather than go out to dinner, I went grocery shopping with my host family’s children, Matthieu and Antoinette, who were extremely helpful in explaining the dishes we would be eating for dinner, particularly the regional specialities. The two specialities I choose to explore were “rillettes” and “chèvre.” In French, “chèvre” literally means goat but it is also the name given to the cheese made from goat’s milk. While chèvre is common all over France, Tours and the surrounding region, such as Chinon, offer some unique varieties which I had the opportunity to taste this weekend. Namely, I learned that Sainte-Maure de Touraine, a cheese with a government-controlled appellation, is unique for two reasons; the first is that the milk with which it is made is not pasteurized as it would be in the United States and the second is that in order to be officially Sainte-Maure de Touraine, there must be a piece of straw through the center of the cheese in order to secure its authenticity. Compared to cheese in the United States which is made with milk which has been pasteurized, chèvre made with “lait cru” provides a stronger flavor. Moreover, Sainte-Maure is aged differently that other goat cheeses I have had in the U.S. so the drier texture was a new experience which I truly enjoyed.

While cheese is served after the principal plate during a french meal, rillettes are commonly served as an appetizer in the Touraine region. This weekend I had the opportunity to experience two different types of rillettes. The first variety was made from geese and the second, and my preferred, was made from duck. Essentially, rillettes consist of meat and fat from the chosen animal which is then cooked with wine for a period of time which allows the meet to become extremely tender before they are served with bread or crackers. I learned this weekend that the wine used to make rillettes is often local white wine from the Loire Valley, a fact which increases the authenticity of the dish. My experience with this dish was enhanced by the fact that for dinner on Saturday night, after the appetizer of rillettes, I tried rillons which are larger pieces of pork similarly prepared but meant to serve as an actually plate. Overall, this weekend provided me with an opportunity to try two products, Saint-Maure de Touraine and rillettes, which I have frequently seen in markets across Tours but had not previously ventured to trie.

In Chinon, I visited a chapel which traces its history to the second century when the well located there was founded by the Gallo-Roman civilization. Moreover, the frescos from the 12th century, although faded, were nonetheless impressive. I was also able to visit the Fortress of Chinon which is unlike other château because its purpose was truly defensive rather than an elegant escape for a king. Finally, on the return to Tours, we stopped to see the château Villandry which is world-renowned for its gardens. With that being said, I plan on returning this Wednesday so that I can actually experience on of the Loire River Valley’s cultural icons.

Musée des Beaux Arts and surrounding garden (Tours)

View of the Vienne River from the Forteresse de Chinon

Bell Tower of the Fortresse de Chinon

小さい Update

Other than grinding out the homework this past week, there hasn’t been too much excitement in the realm of learning Japanese recently. The relationship of language between my host family and me has certainly improved, and I’m sure it will continue that way, but I’ve been also becoming more acquainted with the area we’re residing in, another asset to having this program centered in a smaller city than, let’s say, Tokyo.

Along with the language classes we are required to take for the program, there is also an assortment of culture classes that are offered for us to pick from. One of these is called “sado”, which means tea ceremony, and I, along with a few of my friends, signed up to attend. We traveled to a local all-girls high school where their sado club brought us treats and green tea to make ourselves.

This was my finished product after stirring. Other than our interaction with the food, we had the opportunity to converse with the students as well. Although my conversation with the first girl to help me fell a bit flat (I completely forgot the word for “country” and she tried asking me where I was from), I was able to upkeep some dialogue with the second girl that stood near me. Her English was incredibly good, and I was pleasantly astounded with how easy it was to talk to her. Her skill in my native language definitely trumps any skill of mine in speaking hers.

Finally, the last event I wanted to talk about was the trip to Onuma Park everyone in the program participated in this past weekend. We barely had to talk in Japanese except when paying for miscellaneous things, so it was relaxing just to walk around and enjoy the nature without being overly stressed. It was a beautiful view (of one I have a picture of below), and I was really glad to walk and row around the small islands.

Saturday night was the talent show of the program, something I’m not sure many of us were looking forwards to, as each class had been practicing a dance they would each perform in front of everyone else. After a filling dinner, my class was up first, but thankfully our robotic dance moves were performed swiftly and we were off that stage before we knew it. After that was karaoke, and although some people were daring enough to sing in Japanese, my friend and I stuck to the basics – songs in English. The trip was overall enjoyable, but I was happy to return the next day.

As soon as I was picked up from the bus which had left from Onuma, the younger sister drove me to the church, where the elder was. We waited for Mass to finish, and that was when I had a bit of an embarrassing encounter. The older sister gave me a “present”, she said, and told me to go thank one of the gentlemen sitting in the pews once Mass concluded. Typical me, I misunderstood and thought I was giving him the origami as a gift of thanks for something I couldn’t remember, when, in actuality, he had gave the origami to me.  So, once I reached him, I held out the origami and said my thanks, becoming a bit confused when he didn’t accept what I was holding. Now, remember, both he and the host sisters were talking in Japanese to me this whole while, so I had a bit of an excuse for messing this up. Luckily, I got the message after a few short exchanges, and he didn’t seem to register my mess-up.

Other than that, my week was pretty mundane. The sisters and I traveled to see the night view of Mt. Hakodate, which was breathtaking and something you could really only experience being there. I’m hoping to return and see the view during the day with my friend. Anyways, until then, thanks for reading!

Longevity ‘Birthday’ Noodles

Being born in the summer, I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate my birthday in many countries. This year, I had the good fortune of celebrating my birthday in Beijing! Being of Chinese descent, I can or cannot have a birthday cake, but I must have my longevity noodles. I’m so happy to be able to try a bowl of authentic Chinese longevity noodles (长寿面)。

The tradition of the longevity noodle dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Legend has it that Emperor Xuan Zong was facing financial troubles during his reign but was able to trade a purple shawl for a bowl of longevity noodles on his birthday. To understand the symbolism and hidden meaning within Chinese architecture, interior design, literature, lifestyle is to understand Chinese culture. Food is also an important reflection hopes and aspirations of the Chinese people.

There are many various ways to prepare these noodles. At home, my mom would cook it Singaporean-style rice noodles (mee sua) with eggs, vegetables and meat. In Beijing, the noodles are usually made of wheat to prevent breakage and served in a plain soup with vegetables and a poached egg.

Longevity is about hoping and wishing for wealth, health, happiness and a long life for the birthday celebrant. Chinese culture and society value believe that without life, there is no meaning. Therefore, the Chinese value a long, prosperous life tremendously and what better dish than noodles to embody the concept.


The noodles should be made of entirely one strand and should not be cut when being eaten as it would mean cutting one’s lifespan short.

I am very happy and blessed to be able to spend my birthday in Beijing this year, and to understand the meaning behind my annual longevity noodles, as I also hope and aspire the same things as the Chinese.

Beijing’s Peking Duck

After our first full week of study here in Beijing, we were treated by our teachers with Beijing’s most well known cuisine. To reward us for making it through our first test, we were taken out for lunch to a wonderful restaurant to finally try Beijing’s famous Peking Duck.

Peking Duck originated in Beijing and has been around since the Yuan Dynasty, but became much more popular in the Ming Dynasty when it was often served as a main dish for imperial courts. The dish wasn’t introduced to rest of the world until a restaurant called “Quanjude” developed a way to more conveniently hang roast ducks. Since then, Peking Duck has been a popular favorite among Beijing locals as well as for others around the world.

White feathered Pekin ducks are bred and raised for the popular dish and are roasted in closed ovens or hung ovens. They are glazed with maltose syrup and roasted until they turn a shiny copper brown shade. I learned that it is very important that the duck is to be roasted in an oven because it allows for the meat to be slowly cooked and gives the duck its distinct flavor.

Peking Duck is often times served with Chinese pancakes and fillings so it can be rolled and eaten. With our serving of pecking duck came Chinese pancakes as well as bean sauce, a form of honey mustard, radish, cucumber, sugar, and spring onion. All the toppings can be put together in the Chinese pancake to make a delicious meal.

Stemming from its important history, Peking Duck remains to be a staple in Chinese cuisine. It is great for ceremonial celebrations but also an option for any meal at any time. Withstanding the test of time thus far, it is clear that Peking Duck will continue to be a popular dish for many times to come.