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!)

시험이 긑났어!

Hello Again,

Exams are officially over!! I can’t believe that I’ve done it, but I have finished my summer program in Korea. I technically have class on Monday and Tuesday, but we will be taking it easy on those days because Tuesday is also our graduation.

We Survived Finals!!

After spending the past week preparing for my exams, I’m glad to say that they weren’t as difficult as I thought they’d be. The exam was split into 5 different sections: listening, reading, writing, speaking, and pronunciation. The most challenging part of the exam was the writing and speaking section. The speaking section consisted of a conversation with the teacher, and the writing section included a mini-essay. I made some minor errors during my conversation, but I corrected myself whenever I made a mistake. The writing section took me the longest out of all the sections, but I feel that I properly used the grammar points that were required.

Celebratory Drinks!

Despite the slight difficulty, my classmates and I made it through the exams. We’ll find out officially how we did on Monday. In the meantime, to celebrate the end of exams, my friends and I are headed off to a K-Pop concert tomorrow. I am more than excited to be going to my first K- Pop concert, and to have it be in Korea is even better. There will be multiple artists at the concert, but I’m most excited to see Pentagon and BTOB. I’ve recently started stanning Pentagon, and seeing them live tomorrow will probably be one of the highlights of my summer.

Until next time, 안녕!!


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

Winding Down in Seoul

Hello Again,

I can’t believe it’s true, but week 4 in Korea has been completed. The time has really flown by and now I have one week left in Korea. Taking it from the title, the time has really wound down and so has my activities. I’ve been taking it easy for the past week, outside of going to classes and getting meals with friends, I haven’t done too much sightseeing.

Cheap Eats!

Seeing that it is the second to last week everyone has been studying and hunkering down to prepare for finals. Our class review sessions will begin at the beginning of the week, while our two-day exam period will be on Thursday and Friday. I’m excited to see how all my studying and hard work will pay off. I am not worried like I usually am at Notre Dame when finals come around, but instead, I feel that I will be able to do well on my examinations.

I haven’t gone out too much in the past week, I have been staying close to Sinchon, the city that has been hosting me the past month.  Sinchon has become like a second home to me because it is only about a 10-minute walk from my dorm. While preparing for finals, I have been spending most of my time in Sinchon, where many eateries, cafes, and stores are located.

A night out with friends in 신촌 (Sinchon)

My favorite places to go in Sinchon would be to the many cafes they have dotting the streets. Cafes and cafe-culture is a big thing in Korea. There are archery cafes, raccoon cafes, cat cafes, meerkat cafes and many more themed cafes throughout the city. For studying purposes, I try not to go to the themed cafes, but instead, I stick to the ones that strictly serve a nice cup of coffee or pastry.

Rooftop view!


I’ve had a very relaxing week and I am very excited about my last week in Korea. Hopefully, I do well on my exams which will allow me to spend my last days in Seoul with my friends.

Until next time, 안녕!!


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!

Good Vibes in Seoul

Hello again,

Week 3 in Seoul is now complete! The past week has been crazy. I’ve had the most fun exploring the city the past couple of days.  In my last blog I mentioned about going to Gyeongbokgung Palace, and thankfully, I was able to complete that last weekend. Exploring the palace grounds, getting lost in the old architecture was truly a refreshing experience that reminded me why I was so blessed to be in Seoul.




Last week’s classes ended up going well. My classmates and I had to film a video and take lots of pictures in Yonsei’s campus for our program. It was very nerve-wracking and at the same time a very fun experience. We had to do our introductions and our video messages all in Korean. Everyone in my class was dreading this moment because no one had prepared (we were initially told that the video was optional). However, the videos didn’t turn out that bad, and it was quite fun to watch my classmates film their cute and cheesy videos.

I am truly thankful for the good group of students participating in the program this year. We all understand that we’re at different levels of learning Korean, so none of us are condescending. Instead, everyone is usually modest and very willing to help. This is a very good learning environment for me to be studying the language because I have so many people to learn from.

Looking back on my weeks’ worth of growth, and evident in my Korean cooking

Unrelated coffee pic because its cute!

class, I am pleased to say that my comprehension skills are better than I thought. Today was the first day of my cooking class and my teacher explained everything in Korean. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me since I’m in Korea learning Korean, but usually the afternoon activities are relaxed compared to my morning class. My first afternoon-activity was pottery, and my teacher often explained things in English when he realized that half the class had blank stares on their faces. But my cooking teacher is different. I’m not sure if it’s because of her gesturing, or from the help of my classmates, but I understood what she was talking about, jokes included.

Since being here, I’ve realized that I’m too hard on myself when I learn new languages. I initially felt that because I didn’t understand every word that I wasn’t improving, but I have realized that progress and growth don’t happen overnight. I’ve made friends here whose Korean skills are much more advanced than mine, and I often look at them and wonder why I am not at that point. I know these are foolish thoughts because what I fail to realize is all the work they’ve put into their journey. I’m halfway finished completing my Korean minor, but since being on this trip, I now know that complete proficiency will probably happen long after I get my degree from Notre Dame. And although I’m not speaking with much confidence yet, with patience and determination, I know that I will improve.

This past weekend was again filled with lots of fun experiences. Our entire program went to The Demilitarized Zone and the War Memorial of Korea. Going to the DMZ was quite an experience.

Within the DMZ
Views of North Korea

With all the positive headlines between North and South Korea in the past year that talked of reunification and denuclearization, it was quite strange to stand in a place that symbolizes the clear separation between the countries. Looking out over the wall into North Korea with the flag looming high, it didn’t look that different from where I was standing. But the history, the scars, and the tensions between the two Koreas tell a different story. I learned a little more about the history between South and North Korea while visiting the War Memorial of Korea. It was a sobering experience seeing the names of all the fallen soldiers, but it was an important experience to have.

Until next time, 안녕!!

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).

Week 2: Taking it Easy

Hello Again,

Week 2 in Seoul is complete. I’m so surprised at how fast time is moving here.

Highlight from week 1.

The first week felt like it went on forever, but the second week went by so quickly. I can attribute the tiredness of my first week to the fact that my new-found friends and I went out exploring every day. Our bank accounts and our sanity realized that could not go on forever, hence, my second week has been more chill compared to the first one, which allows me to more time to properly study.

At the beginning of my program, I was afraid that the pace of the class was going too slow, but all my worries have been put to rest. The pace of the class is now moving very quickly. I still find myself getting confused by a few words here and there, but for the most part, my comprehension has gotten better in class. I’m no longer completely confused by my teacher’s instructions and I find myself being able to answer questions easier than before. I also have seen my language skills improve in my day-to-day interactions with people. Now, conversations with bus drivers, baristas, and waiters seem easier.

Unrelated to the post, but it looked cool.

One thing that I really enjoy about the Summer Special Program at Yonsei University is the emphasis they place on speaking. We still have assignments to complete in our workbooks, but during class, we mainly practice speaking in Korean. I find the emphasis on improving pronunciation helpful because I am not that confident in my speaking abilities and usually rely on my reading skills. I have also been able to practice my speaking skills with the friends that I made during the first week. I honestly think that getting lost on that shuttle bus was fate because the friends I’ve made from it have really made my first two weeks very memorable.

More unrelated cool vibes!

Since the Summer Special Program focuses on non-native Korean speakers, the friends I’ve made are from all around the world. They come from places such as Sydney, Hong Kong, Cypress, Czech Republic, the UK, and Columbia. These guys are all very eager and willing to help me practice my Korean. One of my favorite things in the past two weeks has been getting to know these people and understanding a little bit more about where they come from. It’s been so rewarding to learn about other countries and customs and just the differences between the US and other places. Things that I found ordinary and commonplace in my life is completely foreign to someone else. Thankfully, my worldview has been expanded since coming here.

Hopefully this weekend I’ll get to explore some more of Korea with my friends and learn more about the historical and cultural side of Korea, rather than just the nightlife. I will be visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace and hopefully will be able to get in for free if I manage to find a Hanbok shop nearby. I’m really looking forward to the trip and hopefully, I’ll be able to post photos in my next blog. Until next time, 안녕!!