Post-Program Reflection

  1. Language acquisition is definitely one of the hardest processes. This may be my STEM brain talking, but it is significantly harder to learn a language then to understand a science concept. The latter can be done with studying and asking questions, but the only way to improve a language is practicing it. As a generally shy person, I think it is even harder to practice a language. I do not talk much as is in English. Therefore, I find it infinitely harder to muster up the courage to talk in a language that I am less confident in. That being said, I think that my goals for this program were a little bit on the unreasonable side. However, I do think that my understanding of Korean news and articles has improved significantly. Although i still do not understand every work, I think that I am picking up more and more of what the announcer says. I think this is because I watched a lot of soccer this summer as the FIFA World Cup was taking place, and Koreans love soccer. I also think that my writing skill have improved; even though it is still not perfect, I received less and less red marks on the assignments I turned in as the summer progressed. 
  2. I honestly think that I earned so much more than I had dreamed of attending a language study abroad. I did not think that I would gain much insight because I have a Korean heritage, and I have been back to Korea several times since moving to America. However, being in Korea away from my family was a very different experience, and I felt like I learned more about how I fit into the culture and the country in tandem with the influences I have received from growing up in the States. I think that I (and other Korean-American students) have a hard time figuring out exactly which society I fit into because even though I have done all of my schooling in American, I live in a very traditionally Korean household. Therefore, there are some cultural disparities between me and my caucasian friends. In addition, I never felt like I fit into Korean society because it runs so differently than that of the US, and I have never been able to fully adjust to it. However, on this trip (being let loose), I feel like I got to the point where I understood why the Korean society runs the way it does and how I fit into that as a “foreigner” who does not look foreign. I think that before this program I thought that I would never be able to live in Korea or anywhere else abroad, but now it is an idea that is very appealing to me. 
  3. I think the best way to improve my Korean at this point is to read a lot of books in Korean and to watch Korean TV shows. Obviously it is important to practice my speaking as well, but on a realistic scale, there are not many native Koreans that I can speak to at Notre Dame. Before leaving Korea, I stopped by a book store and bought a few Korean books, and I also know that the Notre Dame library and public library in my hometown have some Korean books to offer as well. So I will slowly start to work my way through those. As the world has become significantly technologically advanced, many Korean shows have become available on the internet, and I received many recommendations for shows to watch from the Korean friends I made over the summer. 


Blog Post #6: 꼭 다시 만나자!


Last Thursday was my last day of classes at SNU. This past month and a half at Seoul National University has really flown by. I definitely spent an action packed time in Korea, even though I did not get to do everything that I wanted to try. There’s just so much to see and do here!

First off, I think that my Korean has improved. At first, I was a little concerned that my Korean would not improve much as the class was a little difficult and because I feel that it is hard to improve in a language after you get to a certain level. However, I think that my professor did a wonderful job trying to match the wide range of levels in our class. I felt that we spent more time on Korean culture and how it shaped Korean language, such as learning about different 사자성어 (sajaseonguh) which are four letter idioms. We also did a lot of shorter writing assignments that helped me improve my writing. These writing assignments focused more on how to make more fluid sentences in Korean rather than focusing on our grammar or spelling. I think that this helped me get a better grasp on writing while also helping my grammar. Also because the assignments were shorter, we were able to get feedback more quickly and make corrections in our next assignment which also helped me retain the information that I received.

Second off, although I did not make many Korean friends as our program was not in adjunct with the normal SNU summer courses, I did get to befriend a few who happened to live in the dorms as well. I think through these friends I learned a lot more about Korean culture. Even though we learn about culture in class, I think it is completely different from experiencing it first hand and hanging out with people who grew up in Korea helped me better understand the culture better (although they totally understood when we made cultural mistakes as we were foreigners who did not know any better). Probably one of the most useful things I learned in Korea was how to grill meat at a Korean barbecue. Although I have gone to many Korean barbecue places, I have never grilled the meat myself. But this time, I put what I had seen in K-dramas and what I have seen my parents do in practice. The first time was a little ruff, but I got a hang of it really quickly.

Lastly, I think that I have made some of my best friends here. Although they live all around the world, I hope that one day we will be able to meet again as successful adults who have achieved our goals and dreams. 그래서 꼭 다시 만나자! (So let’s definitely meet again!)

Blog Post #5: Genie Music Festival


This Saturday I went to my first Korean concert/music festival. I went on a field trip hosted by my program to Genie Music Festival, and the artist line-up was amazing! The artists were: Haon, Villain and Moti, Soma, OLNL, Saay, Jooyoung, Black Nine, Junoflo, Heize, DPR Live, Crush, Ambition Musik (Changmo, Hash Swan, Keem Hyo Eun), Dok2 and The Quiett, and Simon Dominic. Although I did not know all of the artists, I did know most of them.

The festival was split up into sitting and standing sections, but you were free to move between the two sections whenever  you felt like it. My friends and I started in the seated section because we did not know most of the opening acts. However, after we got some dinner (the entire festival was from 3 to 9:30), we we went to the standing section to watch the more popular artists. Even though we were inside and the A/C was on, we were sweating from all the body heat and jumping up and down to the music.

This was definetly the most exciting day that I have had in Korea so far, and I am so happy and thankful that I had the opportunity to see some of my favorite artists live. Even if I had the chance to watch the same artists live in the states, I think that the experience would have been completely different.

Here are some picture I took on Saturday. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to upload any videos as the files are too large.




DPR Live


Amition Musik

Dok2 and The Quiett

Simon Dominic

Blog Post #4: Hongdae Date


Yesterday my roommate and I went to 홍대 (Hongdae) after classes. Hongdae is short for Hongik University, and if you take exit 9 at the subway station you will find yourself in one of the trendiest streets of Seoul. In Seoul, most of the “hot” places tend to be found at the entrances of universities. For example, 이대 (Edae) is the road leading up to Ewha Womans University (Yonsei University is also near this street). At SNU, there is a street that encompasses one side of the school called 샤로수길 (Sharosugil) which mimicks 가로수길 (Garosugil), a well-known “hipster” street.

We went to Hongdae to stop by 땡스네이쳐카페 (Thanks Nature Cafe), a sheep cafe. Korea is well-known for its animal themed cafes, espectially dog and cat cafes. However, they also have animal cafes with more unique animals such as sheep and racoons.

After seeing the extremely fluffy sheep, we went to the main street of Hongdae to watch some performances and do some shopping. We got to see various groups of boys dancing to popular k-pop songs. I have always seen these types of performances on social media or youtube, so it was extremely exciting to see them live.

We also decided to get temporary tattoos from a cart on the side of the road. It is really common for people to rent out spaces on the side of the road and sell things like jewelry and food.

Afterwards we went to a place where we got out palms and face read. It was always been on my bucket list to get my palms read, and now I finally get to check it off. It was interesting and surprising how well the lady was able to read my personality just by reading my palms and face. The lady told us a lot about our future and things to be cautious about. I’m not sure how much of it to believe, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be a little cautious.

P. S. Here is a picture of a carrot cake with a real carrot on top of it. I didn’t try it but thought it looked extremely funny.

Blog Post #3: Good Night with Good Friends


This past weekend my friends and I decided to hang out to celebrate finishing our midterms. We all met up at Hansoo Oppa’s (a friendly term a girl uses to call a guy older than her; the word that a boy would use is hyung) airbnb. We decided to have 치맥 (chimek), which is fried chicken and beer (the drinking age in Korea is 20 in Korean years or 18 in international years).

A couple of things that I want to explain about Korean culture before moving on:

1. Korean hiearchy/relationships: Korean culture is based on Confucian beliefs and thus, the respectful relationships between people of different ages is very important. Therefore, there are different terms to call people even if they are a year older than you. For example, you would call an upperclassman (no matter how many years above you) 선배 or 선배님 (sunbae or sunbaenim). This term is gender neutral meaning that both males and females call both male and female upperclassmen by these terms with the latter being more formal. However, once you get close enough with your sunbae, they will tell you to call them by one of these four terms: 형 (hyung), 오빠 (oppa), 누나 (noona), or 언니 (unni). Hyung and oppa both mean older brother whereas noona and unni both mean older sister (note: brother/sister is a loose translation and is used to call anyone older even if they are not a blood relative). Now the difference between hyung and oppa and noona and unni depends on the person using the term (aka you). If you are a male, you would use the terms hyung and noona, and if you are a female, you would use the terms oppa and unni.

2. Korean age: Everywhere around the world when a baby is born, they are considered zero years old, and on their next birthday they are considered one years old, so on and so forth. However, in Korea, this is not the case. When a baby is born, they are considered one years old. Then when New Years passes, the baby is considered two years old, and on their birthday, they turn three years old. Thus, after New Years but before your birthday, your Korean age is your international age plus two, and after your birthday, your Korean age is your international age plus one.

3. Korean Fried Chicken: If you have never had Korean fried chicken, it is really hard to explain. Basically it is completely different from American fried chicken. Therefore, if you ever have a chance, you should definitely try it. Ten out of ten would recommend. You will thank me later.

After we enjoyed our chimek, we decided to head over to 이태원 (Itaewon) for some night life. Itaewon is known as the international hub of Korea. I had never been before, so it was very interesting and different from other places in the country. I was shocked by how many foreigners there were! While walking around, I had to remind myself that I was in Korea and not the States . To me, it seemed like there were more foreigners than native Koreans!

Blog Post #2: Korean Cafe Culture


The wi-fi in our dorm is currently not working (this seems to have been caused by the recent rain). As an excuse, I decided to go to one of Seoul’s thousands of cafes in order to get some work done. Within the last couple of decades, the cafe culture in Korea has been booming. When walking down the streets of Seoul, you are guaranteed to walk past a cafe every minute. However, these cafes are different from your average American cafes like Starbucks. Most if these Korean cafes have a certain theme and an interior to match it. The themes can range from animals, cartoon characters to flowers and even Legos. So no two cafes are the same.

I decided to come to a cafe called 토끼의 지혜 (Rabbit’s Wisdom), which is a book cafe. The walls of the cafe are lined with bookshelves filled with books of every genre. I decided to come to this cafe not only because of my love for books but also because my Korean professor told me that the best way to improve my Korean was to read as many books as possible.

After coming here I wonder what it would be like to have a cafe like this in the States. I feel like it would be very popular…

P. S. I read a short novel by 정세랑 (Jung Saerang) titled 섬의 애슐리 (Ashely of the Island).

Blog Post #1: My First Week in Korea


It has been a little over a week since my program at Seoul National University (SNU) has started. The first week has consisted of getting used to the new environment and learning how to use public transportation. Because SNU is much larger than Notre Dame, it is sometimes necessary to ride the buses to get to class (especially during the current monsoon season). The first few times I accidentally got on a bus going in the opposite direction that left the school campus. After asking around, I discovered that there are free shuttle buses that only go around the campus. Thus, my worries of getting on a bus that leaves campus has shrunk significantly. Other than that everything has been smooth sailing so far. My classes (Korean Culture and Korean Language) have both been great so far. In my Korean culture class, we are learning about the differences in the two Koreas (North and South) after 1945. This seems like a great opportunity to learn more about Korean history and analyze how it has shaped modern Korean society and culture. For my Korean language class, I placed into level 6 (the highest level). This class has definitely challeneged me so far by looking at more detail specific grammar points and more ambiguous topics in the Korean language, such as onomatopoeias (Korean has a vast collection of these that sound similar but must be used for a specific situation). Overall, I think that I will enjoy my time here and cannot wait to make new memories!

P. S. Here is a picture of me and my roommate with the SNU cheerleadin team. Their definition of cheerleading is very different from the definition that I am used to.