Friday, August 7, 2015

The End...

Since this blog is titled "Ashley travels the world" I guess that might mean I'm done with this blog. I certainly haven't been very good about posting, but I tried. I have less than a week until I come home and it feels weird. I've been here for 6 years. I've lived in the two biggest cities in the country; taught little kids, middle schoolers, college students, and adults; I've even studied Korean for a while. And now I'm leaving.

Part of me is sad, part is DEFINITELY ready to go home. Being a student again made me appreciate having a job. It's like when you have a job, you don't want to do it. You don't want to wake up in the morning and you just can't wait for the weekend. But when you don't have a job and you're supposed to be studying, it's hard to relax because you could always study more. And there is no income; that really sucks.

So after 6 years I'm going back to a place where I can easily communicate, but potentially will have a harder time finding a job. I'm pretty nervous about it, but overall I think I'm ready. I never intended to stay here for as long as I did. I've enjoyed it and I'm sure I'll be back one day, but for now I'm really looking forward to being back at home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How I Tried to Join the Avengers

About two months back, I attempted to "join the Avengers." It took a while to find the location, and the application fee was more expensive than I had expected. However, I figured it was worth it, if I could join the Avengers. After paying, I was given a Galaxy Gear smart watch for my testing. After entering the facility, I learned all about the Avengers: their history, their background, what caused them to have their special abilities. Then I was put to the test. I completed various tests to check my strength, reaction time, endurance, etc. Sadly, my results weren't so great, so I was not able to join the Avengers....

Okay, I didn't really try to join the Avengers, but I did go to Avengers Exhibit at the War Memorial Museum (which btw is my favorite museum in Seoul). It was ridiculously expensive, probably because of those Galaxy Gear watches. So it had a lot of potential.

Thankfully the exhibits did have English. I would have been pretty upset to have paid that much money and then not understand any of it... As I was walking through the exhibit, it made me wish I had paid better attention during the Avengers movies. And then I thought I should totally have an Avengers movie marathon if I get bored some time (little did I know how tough level 3 of class would be, so now I realize that probably won't happen while I'm studying!) The exhibits were very detailed and after you finished a section on an Avenger, your watch would buzz and you could take a quiz to check your comprehension. I think this is a smart idea for museums in general. It would encourage people to pay attention and not just walk through exhibits without paying attention. It would have been even better if there had been some result from these quizzes. If I got any wrong, I don't even know... Like maybe if you could see your scores compared to others, the competition would make it more interesting.



 They also had props from the movie in the exhibits. It was interesting being able to see the things that were actually used while filming the movie. So, here comes my big problem with this exhibit. It felt like it was trying to be interactive, but also giving information. It felt like it was trying to make you feel like you were joining the Avengers while also being a museum exhibit and it didn't really succeed in that.





The reason why I say that is at the beginning it started off pretty cool. When you walked through the Captain America section, you had different tests that you could complete. They had a machine that tested the strength of your grip, a simulator where you had to tap on the bad guys to shoot while avoiding the members of your team, and something that was like a stationary bike, but for your arms. And all of these machines showed you Captain America's score and you could compare yourself to Captain America. On the back wall, the results of the people who had scored the highest were displayed. So I was really excited about the exhibit. But then my Galaxy Gear wasn't working properly. It said my name was 심주위 or something like that, which it obviously is not... So we had to try to get my Galaxy Gear fixed and Young asked the people working there if that happened a lot and they said it did. So the Galaxy Gear was not working so well...

And then after the Captain America section, there were no more tests. But there were things that didn't seem to make much sense. Like after you learned about Iron Man, you could make your own element. But I didn't know what I should be choosing to make it, or what was the result after making it. Also, all of the information was displayed on big screens and they had put up lights so you could see the props. But these lights made it hard to read what was being displayed on the monitors, so I didn't know how to answer the questions in the Iron Man section. :(
These were the results that were e-mailed to me. So obviously
I'm not as awesome as Captain America...

To sum it up, I wish that they had either decided to go all the way with making it an interactive experience where you got to test your abilities and compare them to the Avengers (and not just Captain America) or just make it an exhibit with no Galaxy Gear so that the entrance fee would be much more affordable. It felt like it was trying too hard to be something new and exciting. Overall, I did enjoy it. But I didn't really find it worth the money. Thankfully, we did have a coupon so it wasn't as expensive as it could have been. (and thanks to Young for working really hard to find that coupon!)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

MERS!!

Depending on where you are in the world, you may or may not have heard about MERS, but it's quite a big deal here these days. I've tried to learn about it, but have found conflicting information from different sources, so if I say anything that is incorrect, that's probably why.

So MERS came to Korea at the end of May after a Korean man traveled back to Korea after visiting Saudi Arabia, which is where MERS originated from. I think it's in the same family as SARS and such and is spread through coughing (maybe). Apparently, it's not exactly known how it is spread, which has led to a bit of a panic here. From the CDC, it sounds like it is spread when you have prolonged contact with someone who is already exhibiting symptoms (which are fever and cough and a few other things that I don't remember, but fever and cough are what you have to look out for). However, I've also heard that MERS can survive outside of the human body for a couple days, so if you go somewhere a person with MERS has been, you could come into contact with it.

The reason why people are really worried about this is that (when I last checked) there were 35 known cases and 3 people had died. 3-4 out of 10 people die when they catch MERS, BUT those are often because the patient has another condition. Also, the median age for a person who catches MERS is 50. However, people are really worried. A bunch of schools shut down to prevent children from getting it. Prices of face masks are sky rocketing. I went and bought some when news of the severity of MERS was just coming out and got 3 masks for $7.50. I went back three days later and got (a different brand because they were out but it looks almost exactly the same) 3 masks for $15.00. Also, I've heard more and more people are just not going out to crowded places if they don't need to.

At school, on Friday they had put up a bunch of signs all over our building with prevention methods and the teacher lectured us about it for a bit during class. She also asked us all where we had gone during the vacation, but since most of the people in my class are Chinese, the only people who had traveled had gone to China.

Lots of people are getting really worried about it. One doctor was supposed to be quarantined, but went to some kind of symposium or something and was in contact with 1500 people. That was pretty shocking. But at the same time, it sounds like you need to spend a lot of time with a sick person (and the doctor wasn't presenting symptoms yet. he just had been in contact with a MERS patient which is why he should have been quarantined) in order to get it. Each day, I honestly stay at home and study all day except for the four hours a day I spend in class and then the few minutes it takes me to eat in the cafeteria. I think I should be fine, but just an update on some big news happening here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Semester So Far...

Before I came back to Korea to study, I tried to research what class was like and I found several blogs, but a lot of them didn't have much information. They usually posted at the beginning of the semester and then not again until the semester was done. I thought I wouldn't do that, but --oops-- I did...

Although it was quite enjoyable, it did end up being a bit mundane, so there wasn't much to say about the class. I feel like there are a lot of things that I don't like about the class, but I'll focus more on the positive things now. I feel like this class has given me a lot of confidence. Before this class, I really struggled to talk to Young's mom and sister, but now I can actually talk and not just struggle to answer their questions. This past weekend, I told his mom about how I'm sad because my favorite teacher this semester only teaches level 2 (my current level) because she was one of the authors of our textbook.

I also feel like I have a much stronger sense of grammar. When it came to writing, I could usually recall necessary grammar, but my mind would go blank when speaking. Because we practice so much in class, I can start remembering and using more grammar in my speaking. I feel like I pick up things pretty quickly, so in class I usually answer questions a lot and all that practice helps me improve.

This week is finals. I don't really like the format because it can *potentially* involve a lot of memorization, so that's what I'm focusing on right now. After this week, there's a three week break before I start Level 3. So hopefully I'll do some fun things and post about it :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

벚꽃 축제!

I've been studying so much Korean, I'm almost tempted to try to write a little of this post in Korean, but I would probably end up just embarrassing myself. So it's April, which means cherry blossom season! I posted a picture of some cherry blossoms on Facebook that I saw on campus, but now the flowers are really blooming. Although there are many places where you can see cherry blossoms, it feels that many Koreans tend to go to a specific place in order to see them in the spring. When I lived in Busan, that place was 진해 (Jinhae) but in Seoul, it's 여의도 (Yeouido). So Young and I ended out towards Yeouido to see some cherry blossoms.

We actually saw this when we were leaving, but I guess it marked one of the entrances. After being nearly crushed to death on the bus, the crowds at the festival still made me feel rather claustrophobic. I'm not entirely sure if this is correct, but it seems that this was one of the best places in Seoul to see cherry blossoms. I say this because when I searched online about where to see cherry blossoms, every website mentioned Yeouido. Also, in class, our teacher told us about it. So yeah, it was packed.

 We also stumbled across a concert that was going on. Young said Haha (하하) was on stage, whom I only know because I've seen a couple episodes of Running Man. So that was kind of cool.
And of course, we had to take a picture together. It took us a while to find someone to take our picture, because we were looking for someone who had a similar camera as mine. But because the usefulness of selfie sticks, everyone was just walking around taking pictures of themselves with their cell phones, so we didn't see anyone using any kind of real camera for a while.

But overall it was fun. Until we had to leave and then ran into the HUGE crowds of people trying to get into the subway. It was MADNESS. but fun :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Two Weeks In...

I totally intended to make a post after the first week, but I ended up looking for an apartment, and subsequently moving, the weekend after my first week. I survived two weeks, and I think I'm doing pretty well. First of all, the class started off pretty easy. I already knew most of the vocabulary and grammar concepts. Lesson 2 was about hobbies; I learned how to talk about hobbies right after I came to Korea. But things are getting a little harder now.

I think the books are fairly decent. They give us adequate practice of the grammar concepts, and the teachers review the previous day's grammar lessons each day. However, one complaint I have is that the final tasks we do at the end of each lesson seem a bit higher than our level. I know we should aspire to be able to handle these things and should practice, but it seems that once we covered it, we're supposed to know it and we aren't coming back to it.

For example, the other day we were learning about shopping. I fully understood the grammar and vocabulary, but when we had to pretend to be a customer returning an item to exchange it, the example dialogue was a much more complicated sentence than I could construct. I understood it, but the way it was constructed was beyond my current ability. So I know only in level 2 we cover how to shop. And now we're done with that topic. Do I feel confident to go into a store and explain specifically what I need and why items might not be right for me? Certainly not...

Also, on the SNU website, it said we would be spending 2 hours a day speaking. Unless they are counting the time the teacher speaks explaining things to us, we do not reach 2 hours. Granted, perhaps higher levels who can speak more do talk for 2 hours, but I honestly wish we could spend more time practicing those difficult tasks that I mentioned above. We spend a lot of time writing in our workbooks when we learn stuff rather than just trying to use it in our speaking. Maybe it's because at my previous job we would NEVER let students write in the book--they always had to just apply it in speaking, that I find this approach to be less than satisfactory. At least one of our three teachers tries to make us speak before we start writing.

So this has focused a lot on the shortcomings of the program, but honestly I feel like I'm already improving. I have more confidence to speak in Korean and can use more grammar structures naturally while speaking. Tomorrow I have to give a presentation and as I've been practicing it's about 5 minutes of speaking. I never thought I could speak for 5 minutes straight in Korean. Ha. So there's that...

Monday, March 2, 2015

First Day of SNU: Level Test

I'm a student again! It's been a little rough getting into it, but I'm hoping everything will turn out fine. First of all, I'm attending Seoul National University's Korean language program. I think I'll be studying here for about 6 months which is long enough for me to get through two levels.

First I'll complain a little bit and then I'll get into the level test. So I applied for the dormitory when I decided to go to SNU. Unfortunately, I didn't get in. Beforehand, I tried searching for information about SNU and it's Korean language program and honestly didn't find much. I'm mainly writing this just so that if someone has the same situation as me, they'll be warned: don't expect to get into a dorm just because you're a foreign student. I find this rather ridiculous. How am I supposed to find a place to stay on my own? I've already had several people try to rip me off because they think I don't know any better. I'm still looking for something, so every day this week I'll have a commute of nearly 2 hours. But on the bright side, I have a nice place to stay now. If it weren't for that, I think I'd just give up and go home.

Okay, so level test. When I got into the Language Education Institute for my test, I realized why the afternoon class is discounted--probably only 1/4 of the incoming students chose it. Since it was $150 cheaper than the morning class, I was all over that. I mean, who wants to wake up early and pay more? Not me. However, now I'm the only American in afternoon classes. Granted, there may be returning students who are Americans (they wouldn't need to take the placement test, so they wouldn't be on the list).

I went to the second floor to take my written test. It iddn't seem so hard on the first page, but I got kind of stuck after that. I managed to answer about half, but when it got marked, I apparently only got a couple right. That was a real bummer.

When I had finished the test, only one other person had finished. I felt like I was doing something wrong, but I knew I couldn't answer anything else, so I got up and went to the interview. When the teacher asked me how long I've been in Korea and I said 5 years, she looked shocked. I should hgave prepared a speech to explain why in 5 years, I have very little knowledge of Korean haha.

The teacher asked pretty easy questions such as:
   "Why do you want to learn Korean?"
                     "What do you do when you have free time?"
                "What is your hobby?"
         "Why did you choose SNU?"

I was really nervous, so I made a lot of mistakes (for example saying "지난 년" instead of "작년"). I know those things, but when I get nervous I always mix things up. I knew I should have thought through answers to likely questions ahead of time, but that felt like cheating. I just hope I don't get put in level 1. That class is for complete beginners. I know I can do better than that. But later today, I'll find out which class I'm in!

Oh, and also I spent time walking around campus. It's HUGE.