Places i visited this fall

Sorry I’ve been MIA!! I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures piling up and not enough time to write enough about my experiences in each place to give them justice. However, I’m going to try to give brief summaries about everywhere my first semester working at my high school is almost over (wow!!!)


Jindo holds a very special place in my heart. This might be my favorite place that I’ve visited in Korea. The thing about Jindo is that it’s extremely rural. There’s nothing completely spectacular about Jindo. It’s a sleepy island near the bottom tip of Korea and it’s very close to Jeju. I went here with my host family and we were able to drive everywhere. My favorite parts were driving through farmland and looking out at the ocean the whole time. Everything seemed slower, more relaxed. Buildings weren’t on top of each other. Driving at night was incredible because it was the first time I was in Korea and saw the stars clearly at night without ridiculous amounts of light pollution. It reminded me of driving through upstate New York in the middle of the night.


I went to Gyeongju for the Fall Fulbright Conference, where I also presented my Classroom Management 101 presentation! Although I spent the whole weekend there, we only had one day to really look around the area. I opted to do a tour on that day! I’d describe Gyeongju as a clean, picturesque Korean town brimming with traditional architecture and a multitude of deep historical landmarks and monuments. The days we visited were absolutely perfect and we got to have clear, blue skies. One of my favorite parts of the tour was riding the bus up a very very steep and narrow mountain. When you looked out the window, you could see the clouds beneath you and over the towns below us. It was totally beautiful, and really reminded me of the Korean Buddhist art style I’ve been seeing at temples. I got to see some of Korea’s beautiful fall foliage beginning and the infamous pink muhly plant!


Jinju was super lovely and I’d love to go back! We went to the lantern festival and it took HOURS to go through and see all the lanterns. Even now, I’m not so sure that we were even able to see all of them. It was breathtaking. There were tons of vendors as well selling crafts and Korean street food. Gabby and I were able to make our own lanterns, write our wish on them, and send them down the river in hopes that they’ll come true.


It feels like I’ve been visiting Seoul almost every other weekend. I definitely see Seoul in a completely different light than how I did when I first studied abroad here in 2017. For my tri-state area readers, going to Ewha was almost the equivalent to going to NYU or Columbia with majority Upper East Side-ers. At least that’s how it feels now after being to other parts of Korea. I’ve become a lot more familiar with the different bus terminals there and I finally visited Itaewon, which is a part of the city that’s swarming with foreigners! Here there’s a huge diversity of restaurants and shops. I spent Halloween here and had a blast!! In the future, I plan to visit more of Eastern Seoul since that’s not really an area I frequented while I was at Ewha. Once it gets warmer I’d like to start going to the Han River on a picnic mat with a few of my friends. I really cherish my moments alone on the bus to Seoul, which is about an hour and a half from my city (Cheongju). Looking out the window to and from the city really helps me remember why I came to Korea in the first place.


I’m not sure if you guys remember from my other post, but I visited Sokcho again! This time when there was no typhoon and it was a completely different city. It was a completely gorgeous beach town up north. We lit floating lanterns and sent them up over the ocean at night. We also visited Seoraksan, one of Korea most breathtaking mountains. It was absolutely gorgeous. Once you get up the mountain, there’s a temple as well as small cafe’s you can sit at while looking up at Seoraksan’s beautiful peaks.

Where am I going next?

Next Sunday I’ll be heading down to Busan for about 5 or 6 days. After that, I’m leaving for Phu Quoc, Vietnam on January 13th!


My host family took me to Andong!

Andong is an extremely historical town still rich with deep Korean traditions. There’s a large folk village with thatched houses, traditional markets, and a lot of important landmarks that date back hundreds and hundreds of years ago within the surrounding area. My super generous host family thought it would be great to spend a weekend in Andong!

Our road trip there largely consisted of discussions of different genres of music. My host brothers discovered that we both were very familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, so we played that for the majority of the trip. It was really nice being able to laugh and sing along to the same songs as my brothers. One in particular loves to sing super loudly, so we make a great match.

Jjimdak is one of my favorite Korean dishes. It’s steamed chicken with various veggies mixed with glass noodles. There are many different kinds of variations of this dish. Some restaurants serve it underneath a layer of melted cheese, and others add rice cakes. However the original dish is said to come from Andong during the Joseon era! So, our first meal in Andong was naturally some traditional Andong jjimdak!

That night we went to Weolyeonggyo bridge. Coincidentally, my brothers also discovered that I had Pokemon Go on my phone. They were originally going to sit the walk out but after discovering that they more they walked, the more Pokemon they could find, they gladly tagged along. And that’s the story of how I essentially lost my phone for the weekend except to take photos.

And speaking of photos, check these out!

Walking here was breathtaking. It felt like I had stepped into another world. The fog made the bridge just look like a mirage. The reflection of the lights in the water looked like an exact mirror image. It was so surreal!

My host parents jam packed the next day with tons of activities and different sites to see. Here are a few pictures!

We also sat down for a traditional Korean dinner with Andong sikhye! Sikhye is a sweet rice drink Koreans usually have after meals. Andong Sikhye is different because they mix gochujang, a pepper paste, with it. I had literally never tasted anything similar to it before.

I got this lovely family portrait too!

That night, my host family and I stayed in a Hanok, which is a traditional Korean house

The next morning, we went on an early hike to a temple. It was completely serene and breathtaking. I’d really like to go back there in the future!

Afterwards, we went back to the hanok. It was like a bed and breakfast scenario, and the owner of the series of hanoks invited us into her home for a home-cooked breakfast!


I have like 2 posts sitting in my drafts waiting to be published but…

It’s Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and I’m at Sokcho again. This time, there’s no typhoon.

I was sitting and watching the waves today. The water was really clear and you could see the bottom of the ocean through the water. It had such a pretty blue-ish green-ish tint to it. And today, the skies were super blue after an entire week of cloudiness and rain.

I just reflected on how grateful I am to be here. How proud I am that I’ve gotten to this point. How beautiful it is when every gear comes together to make such a graceful, functional, well-oiled machine. And how precious it is to take moments to yourself and bask in these little gifts of self-reflection.

I felt like I was finally sitting under the shade of my own vine and fig tree.

Temple stay

(Long post coming atcha)

The weekend before Orientation ended, a few of us embarked on a temple stay at a Buddhist temple. Last time I was in Korea, my temple stay experience was one of my highlights. But this weekend, we managed to visit during the hottest day of the year here in Korea. So it was sweaty. But also it was really, really good.

We were greeted by a large group of lovely volunteers ready to take us in for the weekend. They gave us our uniforms and showed us where we’d be sleeping that night. We had a brief explanation of basic terms and etiquette that we would be using at the temple. We also got our schedule for the weekend, and it was jam packed with some pretty stellar activities.

The first thing I noticed was that it was pretty large compared to the temple I stayed at in 2017. They explained to us that this was specifically built for retreats, and that they usually only use the space about 6~ times a year. The title of the program that weekend was called “Discovering Our Inner Light”, for reasons you will soon see.

After the evening meditation ceremony in the temple, we had a traditional monastic meal. This was pretty foreign, if not completely foreign, to most of us. We all worked together to bring in pots of food, water, and utensils. You have four bowls and you need to place them out in a very specific order. You also need to fold your towel a particular way and place it on the left side. Everything is completely deliberate. There should be no talking during this time as well.

At the end, we quietly cleaned our plate with rice water and a pickled radish. Something interesting about the cleaning process is that you clean from the largest bowl to the smallest and use the same water. At the end, you’re supposed to drink the water so that there’s truly zero waste.

After that, we made lotus lanterns!

After that, we went to a truly powerful meditation session. We called it the Candlelight Ceremony.

We brought our freshly made lotus lanterns into the temple and were greeted by beautiful candles lit by the caricature of Buddha. The monk stepped in front of us, smiling, and said softly,

“Do you know why you live? Do you know who you are?”

And we kind of shuffled and sat in silence for a while. Different adjectives came to mind as I searched for an answer. Then he said, “Without using any descriptors, actions, or nouns, can you answer this question?”

He then led us in a meditation and asked us to scan our bodies. He said that if we really focused we could feel a tiny marble of energy glowing in our chest. When we felt it, we stood up and lit our candles in our lanterns. He said that the candles we held were an outward representation of the small flame inside ourselves.

We then did a walking meditation. I realized that the best meditations I have are through focusing on movement. He instructed us to let our inner light fuel our movements, and to let it grow and give it autonomy

During this time I garnered an immense appreciation for my body and my mind. Sometimes I can go through hardships and be too harsh and strict on myself. There are many times where I don’t particularly like how I look, or I don’t treat my body well. My body does so much to get me through life everyday and it protects me. My mind is strong and durable and even though I make mistakes, I should be kind to myself. It’s only human. This is what my inward fire symbolized to me. Letting it take control of my movement felt peaceful and liberating. It felt warm and empowering. I wanted to keep that feeling forever as I walked around the temple holding my light in my palms.

At 4 am sharp, the morning ceremony began. This also involved a deep meditation and left us with a little over an hour of free time. I took about 20-30 minutes to just sit alone overlooking the cemetery where the sun was supposed to rise. Orientation had been working me to the bone for weeks. We weren’t even allowed to go more than 20 minutes away from Yonsei campus. Being in the moment, alone, watching the sunrise was like taking a breath of fresh air. Just having that time to think freely and remember why I came to Korea was so beneficial to me. I watched the sunrise and for truly the first time since being here, I finally felt like I was back in Korea. I felt incredible.

Afterwards, I ran into a few other people and we quietly walked around the temple, surveying the sites.

We returned and all of us worked together to clean the whole temple before breakfast. I mopped the stairs while others vacuumed, took out the trash, or cleaned bathrooms. We all also cleaned our own sheets and blankets.

Breakfast was absolutely delicious. Most of us went back for seconds. Apparently this temple is well known for having such delicious food. They definitely did not disappoint!

For the rest of the day we switched from activity to activity. We had a discussion about meditation with the head. Because his voice and demeanor was so relaxing, and we were so tired from the night before, he let us nap for 20 minutes and we all felt super bad about it!!

We also had a great opportunity to watch a performance of a traditional Dharma song. I was beaming watching these lovely ladies perform!

They gave us lyrics and we all sang together!

One of my favorite parts was being able to try out the different instruments. Growing up, I was trained in classical guitar, but I’ve been essentially out of practice for about 5 years. Getting my hands on one of these string instruments felt so good. It was fantastic being able to experiment with the different nosies and weight of the instrument.

Next up: we painted fans on traditional Korean paper using water colors! I tried going for a night sky look.

After another fantastic meal (lunch), it was time to say goodbye. We took some pictures with the wonderful volunteers that housed us that weekend and gave a final thank you to the monks that helped us through the past few days. Many of us were also super excited to take a nap on the bus back to Incheon!

Sokcho weekend!

This past weekend our whole cohort went to Sokcho! It was really nice to have a break from lesson planning, observing, KLI class, and other programming. Sokcho is a pretty big tourist destination and is famous for its beaches and seafood!

Naturally, we were super excited to take a vacation and sit on the beach all weekend! Unfortunately, it rained the entire weekend because there was a typhoon. So a lot of us had to find other plans.

So when we got to Sokcho we realized that the bathroom in our hotel had a huge window. Here is Caroline modeling this for us. Luckily, there was a blind we were able to put down but it was still pretty funny. Aaaaand that’s how our weekend began!

That afternoon we went to the Naksana Buddhist Temple, which sits on the ocean. This was after we attended a lecture on Buddhism at the hotel. The professor who gave us the lecture accompanied us on our trip over! It was cool to apply everything that she said to us into a real life context. The architecture was beautifully well maintained. Before eating dinner at the temple, we were told that we had to be completely quiet while eating and only take the food that we can finish. Buddhists are very conscious about waste and preserving the environment. Fun fact, Buddhist cuisine is also vegetarian!

If I lived next to this place, I would probably take a walk through here every day if I could. It was pretty expansive and there were different places to sit. I could imagine just sitting there for hours in total serenity reading a book. We were also able to watch the ceremony that the monks perform at dusk each day, where they bang drums and ring a big bell!

The next day it was raining, so a few of us decided to get a taxi to a famous fish market in Sokcho rather than the beach. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi we were hit by a huge wall of fish smell. The market was partially outdoors and partially indoors, and there was more seafood there than I had ever seen in my life. Some fish were still alive in tanks, while other times there were just piles of different kinds of fish laid out. While I was there I ate this squid ink red bean pastry, which was super good. I also had rolled ice cream and dak gangjeong, which is a famous local kind of chicken!

Next, we headed over to the Cheoksan Hot Spring! It was about $8 per person, which was really nice. Before going in the hot springs, we hung out in some of the healing pools in the bathhouse. They ranged from being ice cold to scalding hot, so it was fun switching back and forth quickly. We weren’t allowed to actually take a picture of the hot spring, but this is from their website

It was raining out so it was actually super relaxing to sit in the hot spring and watch the rain fall down around us. I think we all agreed it was what we needed after a busy and stressful week. When you got out of the spring there were wooden recliners to sit on and just decompress.

Later on in the evening we had a fancy dinner with Director Shim! All 81 of us plus the KAEC people went out for samgyeopsal, or Korean BBQ. It was paid for by the Fulbright Commission, so that was nice!

The next day we were headed back to Incheon but made a few stops along the way at some different historical sites. We got to learn about the customs of traditional Korean living quarters and what life was like for high class men and women. We learned that men and women lived in different quarters, and once children turned 7 they had to live on the side with their assigned gender. We also learned about what each different building meant!

After getting totally soaked, we settled down for another Fulbright-provided traditional Korean lunch. It. Was. Incredible. The food was totally delicious, and there were more sides than we could count. Director Shim was there again too. We all wore nice socks since are shoes would be off and we’d be sitting on the floor.

KAEC treated us all to ice cream, and after that we were on our way on a bus back to Songdo! If it had been a bit more sunny on our weekend, I would have probably been writing this post about the beach instead honestly

First week of orientation

So so so so much to write. And yet no time to write it!

So I started writing this last week but have been completely packed! It’s been almost 2 weeks now but I’m going to try to focus on the first week for now. I think that many of us agree that we feel like we have been here for about a month. I probably won’t be able to cover everything but I’ll just run over the highlights!

Korean Class

Oh man. So I was actually placed in the Intermediate class, which was pretty surprising to me. I thought I would be in beginner so it was a bit of a shock. It’s been… an adjustment. Classes are about 5 hours each day. We have quizzes every single day on about 20-30 new vocabulary words and phrases. We also have a midterm and final and have to get at least an 85. This is a Korean Language Intensive course run by the Sejong Language Institute. All the professors introduced themselves to us and explained that they will be testing out a new VR language textbook that is still in development in correspondence with Cal State, so that sounds pretty cool! Each day I am getting more and more used to how our Korean class is structured, although I am still struggling with the rote memorization. Many of us are. Someone in my cohort brought up that this is a valuable experience because this is how the majority of our Korean students will study our class. Many of them may value memorization as success in our classes. When I think of it like that, it makes me kind of happy that I am able to gain perspective from their point of view. I still find it fascinating how the definition of “success” is such a subjective concept depending on where you are in the globe. It’s helped me realize that I had to do very little memorization in college, especially as a Literature major. I’m just used to writing papers upon papers of information. Little by little, I am getting a bit better at memorizing key phrases and skills.

Korean Culture Presentation

The Korean Spirit and Culture Promotion Project came all the way up from Busan to give us a huge presentation on Korean culture and history! Korea has a long history of war and being invaded, so they really tried to sidestep away from those topics and focus on positive aspects of Korean history. They provided us with a selection of free books on Korean culture to take from. I took a book titled Chung-Hyo-Ye, a collection of traditional folklore stemming from common Korean core beliefs and history. I’m super excited to read this because I plan on teaching American folk tales to my classroom this upcoming year!! It’d be nice to have some more background knowledge on Korean tales so that students can create connections in class. They also brought hanboks for us to try on!

Through the craziness of everything, I was also somehow able to meet up with Gabby this weekend at Triple Street! Triple Street is this huge modernized outdoor mall about 20 minutes walking distance away from where we’re staying in Incheon. It was my first time seeing her in a year!!

Once again, I won’t be able to make frequent posts on here during Orientation since my days are packed to the brim! I will try my hardest though. Knowing that people are reading gives me some sort of accountability to keep writing ❤ I’m going to Sokcho this weekend so I’ll be sure to take a lot of pictures!