Week 5: Nicknames, Bingsu and Quizzes

Monday was extremely unique and an experience I will treasure a lot. We had club practice for TTE and this practice, there was no instrument playing. As mentioned in a previous post (found here), everyone in the club has a nickname and so it was time for me to get mine. It’s actually kind of nervewracking the way they went about it but in the end, I think it will definitely be one of my favorite memories.

The way that the club members get their nickname is by telling their life story. I talked about where I was from, my family, and things that I enjoy doing, etc. I talked a little bit about school and how I think other people might perceive me. Then it was question time, they asked me about my favorite activites and clarified things I said like about volunteering since I’ve done so much. They also gave scenarios to us and asked how we would respond. One of the questions was to put the following 5 things in order of importance: Honor, Friendship, Power, Love and Money. I won’t say what I put but I think there’s quite a few people out there who could figure it out. They also asked me this: If your boyfriend cheated on you with your best friend, what would you do?

After all the question and answer, they start giving out ideas for nicknames. Since I talked about the meaning of my names (English and Chinese), a lot of them were jokes from that, but there were some meaningful ones. After making the names, everyone voted. First was to narrow down the choices, and so everyone got three votes for their favorite name. After that was a final vote. My nickname is 엄마, which literally means mom, but in this case, it is also short for 엄청나게 마음이 넓은 사람. 엄청나게 means incredibly,  마음이 means heart, 넓은 means broad or wide, and 사람 means person. This phrase is basically saying that I an an incredibly big-hearted person. Getting my nickname was definitely a memory I won’t forget. While I get called 엄마 and we make jokes about how my friends were almost called 아빠 (dad) and 누나 (older sister for a male) and we were amost a family, the meaning behind is there, even if I don’t think about it at the time.

Paige also got her nickname on Monday too after telling her life story and she is now called 포도, which literally means grape but also has a second meaning related to what she told everyone. Jiwon, aka 도마, short for donation master, got his nickname the week before so we didn’t get to hear his story but we know the meaning behind his nickname too. The local students in the club asked if volunteering was the norm in the States because all three of us do it and really enjoy it. We told them it wasn’t really the norm, but there are people who enjoy it as well.

After practice, we went out and joined with friends to get some Oreo bingsu. I’m pretty sure that our group is addicted to the stuff. It’s absolutely delicious and with the fruit on top that we get sometimes, it’s got to be healthy… right?? 😛

While Monday was really awesome and a lot of fun… Tuesday… Tuesday was a struggle. I had two quizzes, a vocab quiz in Korean and a quiz for Antenna engineering. It was… quite a struggle. It’s interesting becauses quizzes and tests here aren’t done during class time. During class, the professor asked when everyone was available and so our quiz ended up being at 7pm on a Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, the TA (teacher’s assistant) came and watched over the quiz. They gave a special paper specifically for tests and quizzes that’s… maybe two A4 pieces of paper next to each other in size? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll measure when I get the quiz back. When you flip it, you have to flip it over the short side instead of like a normal book, which got me for a while. To be honest, for some reason I didn’t realize there was a back at all for a good part of the quiz. Another part that was different was where you put your name. Maybe I just wasn’t reading the Korean closely enough but I definitely put my name in the box where you are supposed to put the score…The TA said it was fine, and that it was his fault for not explaining it to me since it was the first time I’ve taken a quiz in Korea, but I will also take partial blame, because I definitely could have read the Korean and figured it out…

Anyways, today is April Fool’s day but I don’t think anyone is pranking today~


Week 4 Part 2: 지신밟기 and Ilsan

So much stuff went on this weekend and it was super awesome. I don’t even know if I have a favorite event.

First and foremost, I got to meet up with a friend I haven’t seen since senior year of high school. That makes it… 3 years? He’s been in the army during his mandatory service this past year or so so the connumications been sporadic, but it was great to catch up, even if only for a couple hours. Thanks for meeting up on your weekend off Youngre!

Since I met up with him at Apgujeong Rodeo, I visited Apgujeong Rodeo Street which has a bunch of bear statues with different Kpop artists/groups on it. The street was called K-Star Road and I’m a little disappointed that Big Bang, 2NE1 and some of my favorite artists didn’t have little bears. It was still really cool to walk down the street though. Besides that, I didn’t really wander around that much since I alreayd had another event I was going to that night.

지신밟기 (Jisinpakji) is an event with my 동아리 so with the rest of the TTE club, we put on the costumes and got our instruments so that we could participate in this event. We met up with the rest of the Yonsei pungmul clubs and got ready to head out. 지신밟기 is an annual event where the pungmul clubs go out to different restaurants beating our drums to chase away the bad ghosts and give store owners our blessings. In exchange the restaurants we went to had preopared some food and drink for all of us. First we went to a couple of stores in Sinchon before heading over to Hongdae to meet up with the pungmul clubs of Ewha Women’s University and Hongik University who we met during the OT on Monday.

Once in Hongdae, we did a big performance with everyone and we were running around. The beginning was first sending the club wishes into the sky so there was a drum and a reading, before someone from each club lit their letters on fire and threw them into the sky. Afterwards, we ran around the performance area and curcled around, following one of the many pungmul dance patterms. Officilly I hadn’t learned the beat or anything else yet, but it wans’t too hard to catch on. After the big performances, each instrument had their own individual performance. A group of people playing the same instrument did a performance, and each one averaged 10 minutes which is pretty impressive especially since all of us had all been out running and drumming since 4 pm and by that time it was 7 or 8.

After all the performances were over, it was time for the food. After chaning, we all went to a place in Hongdae for dinner and had delicious food and drink. Some people stayed later than we did and probalby went to Round 2 and 3 and such but we bailed around midnight or so. It was super fun and yummy and I’m so glad we got to participate.

Yesterday was it’s own level of fun. In the morning, I went with some friends a got a haircut. They straightened my hair for me too and I got to spend the rest of the day remembering what it’s like having super straight hair. After we all got our hair done and stuff, I went to Ilsan with the Yonsei Global One Shot.

Yonsei Global (YG) is a organization for international students. The plan events such LE (Language Exchange), OS (One Shot), Movie Cinema and YG Angel (a volunteering subgroup) among others. I am only a part of YG LE and YG OS. For One Shot, they plan three outings to places that “are good for taking pictures to foreign students”.  Each place, they give us a mission to complete if you want, and if you do you can win a prize. Anyways, the first of the OS places this time was Ilsan Aqua Planet and Lake and the mission was to take a picture with the beaver and a picture with the capybara.

The aquarium was super awesome and the otters were super cute. It took us forever to take a picture with the beavers because they kept moving around so much. The jellyfish and capybara were wayyy to adorable. The lake was a bit diappointing though. I think it had in part to do with the fact that there really was nothing there when we went. There was no flowers out yet, but it was still a really nice view. Afterwards, we ended up on the same bus as one of the CIEE Seoulmates who had planned a small group event so I ended up joining them for dinner.

Dinner was super interesting. We went to a Zombie Bar. This meant that the theme was all zombies. The call buttons were light sticks, there was a fence and fake legs. Then roughly every hour the music would change, the lights would change and the fog machines would turn on. Then the zombies would come out, some of them with bats and go scaring the customers. They would bang on the fance with the bats and get right up in people’s business. It was really interesting and super fun to take part in. The second time tey came out, halfway through, the music suddenly changed to club music from the scary music and the zombies started dancing to Big Bang and stuff. It was extremely entertaining.

Later we went to a noraebang again which was nice, but I had to leave early because I didn’t finish my work… which is what I should be doing now too. ㅠㅠ.

Week 4 Part 1: OT, Movies, and Noraebang

This week was super fun and awesome! There’s so much stuff that happened so far this week and today is going to be great too.

But let’s backtrack a bit… Monday night, in place of 동아리 regular practice, there was an OT, or orientation. It was called 지신밟기 OT. At this OT, all of the pungmul(풍물) clubs in Yonsei, as well as Ewha Women’s University and Hongik University came together. This menat that 8 or so clubs did introductions. Each club went up to the front and the president introduced the club, then each member introduced themselves in Korean. It was interesting because it’s common (at least in the pungmul club) to have nicknames, so instead of introducing yourself by your real name, you introduced yourself by your nickname. For one club, every name ended in the same character so some of them were extremely amusing to listen to, even if I didn’t uderstand them. Since I didn’t have a nickname, I just said that I was a freshman in the TTE pungmul club and passed the mic.

Tuesday’s Mechanical System Controls class was cancelled because a lot of the students had a mandatory schedule they had to go to, dictated by the government. I didn’t know this, but after men complete their service, there are still certain days that they have to go back for a full day for review training or something like that. Either way, a lot of the guys in my class had to do it. Since it was such a significant portion, my professor canceled class. Unforetunately for me, I ended up spending that time doing homework for my Mon/Wed Antenna Engineering class.

Wednesday was pretty cool since we stumbled across a film shooting at the CU convenience store by campus. They were shooting for a show called Let’s Eat 2 featuring a member of B2ST. Sorry to all the fanatics who probably nor Wednesday evening brought a mandatory guest lecture about life in North Korea. Honestly, the lecture was a little bit disappointing, there’s actually not a lot of super new information that I learned. Though to be fair, that might have been tdue to the fact that I was super tired, so I was zoning in and out to the entire first half of the lecture. Sorry!

Thursday’s Philosophy class also got cancelled (the professor called in sick last minute – about 20 minutes before class was going to start, right as I was about to head out). Since I had the time, and I was awake, and I didn’t have any homework to do, Anne, Tyeisha and I went out to watch a movie in theaters. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend watching 스물 (Twenty). It features Kim Woobin and others, and it was absolutely FANTASTIC. I watched it all in Korean with no English subs, so even though I didn’t understand the majority of what they were saying, I still found it absolutely hilarious. 10 out of 10 would watch again (maybe with subs this time so that I know what the actors are saying this time.. ).

Movie theaters here are a little different from those in the U.S. First, movie theaters are tall, because like many things in Korea, instead of expanding out, buildings go up and down.We went to CGV and I think there were 5 something floors. When you walk in you actually are going upstairs, and no one is at the ticket counter. Even if there is no line, we had to grab a number before someone came over. When you choose your movie, you also pick your seats.Then you cna get snacks and such (as normal) before you head to the correct theater. Instead of receiving a ticket, you just get a receipt that has the number of people watching, the seat number, the floor and the theater number.  Our receipt said B3, but when we read the receipt, we read it wrong and actually went up to the 3rd floor. We got a little lost, but when we finally got in, you show the receipt to the guy outside the door of the theater, and they open it and let you in. Then you’re on your own to find our seat.

Last night was by far the most fun though. We went to a 노래방 (Noraebang aka Karaoke) for the first time. Or rather we went to two different ones. You pay for the room by the hour and sing your heart out for that hour. Usually you get service and they’ll add on time for you, but the first lady wasn’t super nice and we only got 10 minutes of service. The second noraebang that we went to was a lot more spacious and nicer looking for the same price, and she gave us about an hour of service which was super awesome. It was a lot of fun and we definitely sang our hearts out. The lyrics aren’t always correct, but they are super close so it works for us. We belted out those songs. I think the highest score we got was a 98 or something, but you can choose to turn off the scoring system if you want.

Week 3: Han River, DMZ and Hanbok Store

Friday was super fun! After classes, my friends and I hopped on a bus and headed over to the Han River. Jiwon brought his inline skates and so I borrowed them for a bit and made a couple circles around the Han River.

Since it was dark, we really couldn’t see very much of the river, but I really liked the night scene. There were so many couples there and groups just hanging around with drinks and having fun. We’ll have to go back with more people and food on a nice day and just relax by the river.

Right by the river are a bunch of food stalls run by some nice ahjummas and we bought a cup of 번데기 (bundaegi) otherwise known as silkworm larvae. It has an interesting taste and the texture reminds me a little bit of starchy corn. It was definitely a bit unsettling but apparently it’s popular here because in the 10 ish minutes we were standing there, a couple more people went up and asked for their own cups.

Later on, we met up with some other friends who couldn’t make it out to the Han River and hung out with them until around 1 or 2 am, which is when the night usually starts for many Koreans. However, we had a DMZ visit on Saturday so we all turned in… relatively early.  😛

The DMZ or Demilitarized Zone. It was actually really awesome. They forbid pictures in certain areas so I took what I could. Unforetunately it was a cloudy day and so we really couldn’t see that far into the area. From my pictures here you can’t really tell, but on a good day, you can supposedly clearly see the North Korean flag in their village. Here’s a little about what I learned about the DMZ

  • There are actualy two towns within the DMZ
    • One on the North Korean side and one on the South Korean side
    • Each has its respective flag and the one in North Korea holds the world record for the tallest flag pole, the only record they hold.
    • On the South Korean side, men who live in the DMZ are exempt from mandatory service since they live in such a dangerous area
      • You cannot move into the village to avoid your service
  • Since there is so little civilzation in the area, the DMZ is actually home to a lot of endangered species
  • North Koreans have built tunnels that cross onto the South Korean side, but when they were discovered, they denied building them.
  • All of the blue buildings are evenly split between North and South Korea: the microphones at the middle of the conference table inside them mark the split between the two
  • The Bridge of No Return was named because it is where prisoners of war could decide which side to travel to, and once they decided, they could not turn back.

Many of these facts might be known to some, but it was nice to have a refresher on some of it and to learn more about it while we were there.

The day after the DMZ, my friends and I went to Incheon to see Jiwon’s aunt who owns a  Hanbok store. Hanboks are the traditional clothing of Korea, often worn for special occassions and events. For girls,  you put on the little under dress that makes everything go poof, and then the main dress. Lastly comes the top, which is usuallly two parts and has a cute litle bow. For girls, the hairstyle matters too, but I can’t remember what it means. I think that if it is a braid, it means you are not married, and if it is in a bun, then you are married. For guys, it’s much simplier, just some pants and a top, but there are so many different designs and colors so it was a lot of fun getting to try all the different types.

We took a lot of pictures so here are a couple of them with all the different dress types. Shout out to Jiwon’s aunt and her store where a good portion of the dresses are handmade. If you ever want to visit it yourself. Take the subway to Incheon and get out at exit ___. Then in the first skyscraper on your left, head up the stairs to the 5th floor. Sorry for the vague instructions but I hope you find it!

Week 3: Getting into the Groove

Monday night was super fun. I went to my first club (동아리) practice (seeing as how I missed the first two due to mandatory lectures and other orientations) and had a lot of fun. I am a part of the TTE or 떼 동아리. We get to play traditional Korean drum intruments and learn Korean folk songs/dances. There are different clubs that do similar things but those usually incorporate more than just drums and we also do dancing and singing.




In Korean, it is called pungmul(풍물) and we have 5 main instruments that we use. There is the gwengwari (꽹과리), janggu(장구), buk (북), jing (징), and sogo (소고). The 꽹과리 is the lead instrument and eveyrone follows what they do. The 장구 and 북 make up most of the sound while the 징 accents the music. Lastly the 소고 is played by the dancers and has a very quiet sound.



I got to play a little on the 장구 and refreshing some of the things I learned while in Jeonju was a lot of fun. However, the 장구 does have the hardest rhythms to learn so I’m not sure if I will continue to learn it or if I want to learn the  북  or 소고.

This week, I met a lot of people that I had been talking to on Kakao (KakaoTalk – the main social media app used in Korea and what has taken over texting). Tuesday was super fun, I finally got to meet up with someone who I met through a friend at Mudd as well as Rebecca, who I haven’t seen since I met her in the U.A.E. back during senior year of high school. Wednesday, I met my Language Exchange partner for the first time at  a cafe. Somethink I noticed here, is how much Korean people love cafes. I see them on every corner, different chains are a couple of stores apart, or even stores from the same chain on the same street. It’s actually really cool and gives a cafes a different vibe. Even Starbucks here have a second floor where you can just sit and enjoy your drink or do your work.

Thursday, I went to my volunteering activity for the first time. I volunteer at a child care center with a group of people who are a part of the CIEE program. Every volunteer gets their own little mentee and mine is an adorable little 7 year old. We just get to spend time with them and while the instructions aren’t clear, I think a lot of us are going to try to help them improve their English.

Classwise, it’s been really nice getting in the groove. Things are falling into place and I’m starting to build up a more definied schedule and pace. I also got to eat dinner with friends at a Studio Ghibli themed cafe and wandered the streets of Edae (이대). This coming weekend we get to visit the DMZ!




Week 2: Clubs and Cheering OT

So quick update on something I forgot about last week before taking about this week.

Last week Wednesday and Thursday, there was this beautiful thing that I would call a club fair. They had booths set up all along the main road of the campus with all the clubs. Music clubs had their instruments out, there was a rowing machine, tents pitched and lots of sound. We got to go around and see all the clubs that we could be a part of and sign up for the ones that we were interested. (Full list  here). What we found out though, which is a little unfortunate, is that a lot of the clubs require a decent amount of knowledge in Korean or a longer stay on campus. The snowboarding club, the travel club, etc all wanted students who werre year long at least. Some of the other clubs wanted those who could speak Korean better as they didn’t really have any members who were good at English. However, there were still some clubs I was interested in that were extremely welcoming of exchange students. So sign up I did. It’s funny because signing up here isn’t just leaving your email. It’s also leaving your student ID, year, phone number and KakaoID (KakaoTalk is an app used by almost if not all Koreans in place of texting (visit their website here).

Anyways, on to actual week 2~

This week was actually pretty tame. Received my first homework assignment on Friday so over the weekend and some other school nights, I met up with two only two other international students in my Controls class to do Laplace and Convolution review. I have found out that I tend to overcomplicate problems. So a homework that should have taken not even 3 hrs, ended up taking way longer.

Wednesday night I had an OT, or orientation, for YG LE (Yonsei Global Langauge Exchange). This is a program that I signed up for (for free!) that pairs me with a local student so that everyone has their own language partner. Mine didn’t show up ㅠㅠ but that’s ok because I did get in touch with him anyways.

Friday night was by far the most fun yet. We had cheering OT for Akaraka. Akaraka is a spirit festival held annually here at Yonsei. One of two annual events that pits Yonsei University against Korea University (KU).  The two have a healthy rivalry and so in May during the Akaraka Festival there is a cheering competition and in September/October there is a sports festival. Everyone goes wearing the colors of their school: Yonsei University in blue and Korea University in red.

School spirit is such a big deal here. Everywhere I go, I see people wearing letterman jackets of various shades, sporting their home university in big block text. Every single day people wear their lettermans. On campus or off campus on any given day, I’ll see the normal blue with white sleeves or I’ll see white with gold embellished words, black with gold, gray with light blue or any other combination. I once saw a dark green one that said Yonsei on a girl in the environmental engineering picture.

Anyways, the cheering OT was a lot of fun. When we got there, there was already a lot of people in both red and blue as Korea U’s students had shown up. We did a lot of singing along and screaming. There was a lot of movement involved with all the cheers and it was super exciting. We sang along to all the songs regardless of they were Yonsei songs or KU songs. The OT lasted 4 something hours and we went through so many songs but it was great. I’m so excited for May when the Akaraka Festival actually is.

I heard for the Akaraka Festival that there is a lot of food trucks, activities and performances. They even invite idols and I found out that last year IU came to perform at Akaraka. Well, whatever the reason I’m super stoked for it.

After cheering OT, we went out into Sinchon for a late meal and hit up a beer mart. The way a beer mart works: you go in and sit down. Along one wall is a bunch of refrigerators that have all different sorts of drinks. You go and take the one you want and drink it and at the end of the night you take the bucket of drinks to the table and whatever else you got (I got ICE CREAM :D) and pay.

Saturday was super fun. March 14 is White Day which is where the guys return the favor and give gifts to girls. Guys go out with girlfriends and such, but honestly I didn’t really notice all the PDA and stuff, but that’s probably because I was having my own fun. My program has something called CIEE Seoulmates which are local students from nearby universities who come and hang out with us. They plan events and we each have our own small groups with 3-4 of the CIEE students grouped with one local student. They had planned an event for us so we were playing games and having fun and afterwards we all went out for dinner to Donenu and had 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal – pork belly). That was Round 1, there was also Rounds 2 and 3 afterwards. Round 2, we went to a place called Double Double and got to learn a lot of Korean drinking games (There’s a separate post on drinking culture in Korea found here). My friends and I bailed after Round 2 since we were going out with others later into the night: clubbing. Going clubbing and doing it sober is always an experience but still fun. The smoke smell gets absolutely everywhere though and boy was I glad to be standing near the air conditioner.

Everyone was too tired this morning to do anything, and I’m pretty sure none of us actually got out of bed until after 12, whether we were awake or not… I still think it’s crazy that some of us decided to go out today too.

Week 1: Start of Classes Part 2

Wednesday was Antenna again and I showed up to class only to realize that it was cancelled. What had happened was the professor told us on Monday that he had a conference, but he made it sound like he would still make it to class. It was nice to have the time to myself and Lucas ended up showing me the library. The library here is fantastic. There’s two parts and the building itself is beautiful. The lobby is really big and they have a really awesome system for picking study areas. You have to scan in with your ID to get into the library, but once in you can tap into a system and see which desks on which floors are open. Then you can reserve it for a certain number of hours and it’s yours for that time. It’s nice because then you already know you have a spot to work before you even go to that floor.

Thursday was my one hum course (besides Korean language) and it is supposedly a 3 hour class, but since it was the first day, we went over the syllabus and finished within 40 minutes. That was nice to have that time to relax a bit more before Korean. I honestly cannot remember anything else that was interesting about Thursday haha.

Friday was Mechanical Control Engineering again and we received our first assignment for this class too, but it was review on Laplace and convolution so that wasn’t too terrible. Later that night we took a subway over to Hongdae to see what Hongdae was like, wandering the streets and such to see all the different stores. Hongdae was awesome. The night life here is crazier than the night life in Sinchon. This is where all the clubs are and there are a lot of food and clothes stalls here too. We walked into a couple of stores and tried on cutesie hairbows and show and just window shopped. I also got Jajangmyun for the first time! 🙂

Saturday morning, I got to go to Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌 한옥 마을) with a family friend to see a more traditional looking village. The streets in the morning were really quiet and beautiful and we walked into a couple houses that were set up like museums. The first had little artifacts all around the house, with little shoes and clothes, also an old mortar and pestle and a bunch of cool things about how Koreans used to live farming lives and such. The second house that was set up like a museum so I got to learn a little about Korean funeral rites in the past and the meaning of the little figurines that were included in those rights. Called kokdu, they accompanied the dead into the after life. Those dressed as soldiers protected them along the way, and the females provided peace and care. There were also the entertainers and others who went with the one who passed away to help them along their journey and in their afterlife.

It was a lot of fun to walk around that place and ended up getting to try live octopus for the first time! It was really yummy and way too much food for the both of us. Thank you so much for taking me out and for the delicious meal! Unforetunately I had to come back early since there was an orientation event from 1 – 4 back on campus.

Later that night we wandered around Edae for a little bit and found a Mango Six. Mango Six is the cafe chain that was used in Heirs (a K-Drama) and at the particular one we went to, there was an episode filmed there where TVXQ sat and talked. It was really cool walking around Edae which has a lot of shops for cheap clothes (everything is around ₩10,000 or ~$10 or less), shoes, cosmetics (Edae is right next to Ewha Women’s University). Even later into the night, we tried clubbing for the first time and headed over to Hongdae. We got in for free (the one we went to let females and foreigners in for free if we stayed for at least an hour) and there was a lot of loud music and dancing. It was definitely an interesting atmosphere but it was still fun. When we left (which was pretty late in the night), there were still people waiting in line to go in. People weren’t kidding when the night life in Seoul is crazy.