There & Back Again: Korea 2016


Well, yet another adventure in Korea has come and gone, and impacted my life in ways that I did not foresee. Each time, I am asked if I’m really going again, and each time I somehow manage to go again by finding scholarships and fellowships and saving my own money. And each time, people ask me when I’m going back.

The answer hasn’t changed: I don’t know. And that’s okay. I have my senior year of undergrad to finish, and my future to consider. It will probably be a good while before I can go back.

In the meantime, I’m going to reflect on the past two months as well as 2014 and 2015 before I start sharing more focused posts.

This fellowship was very different from the two previous times I’ve gone to Korea. In 2014, I was an exchange student for a semester and took courses like a normal student at Yonsei University. I lived in the dorms, I made numerous international friends, and I finally got to test my Korean skills in a truly Korean environment. I took intensive Korean and my skills improved rapidly. I attended countless concerts and special events, traveled deep into the countryside, and even got really sick several times from overbooking myself for classwork and for fun things. Most importantly, I went on mini-excursions on my own all around Seoul in an effort to find ‘me’. It was a period of immense growth and one of the best times of my life.

And attending 연고전 redefined my concept of “school spirit”.

I spent summer 2015 at Yonsei as well, but this time as a student in the International Summer School program. This meant that I lived in the exact same dorm as before, attended courses in the same buildings, and met a new group of international students (primarily from the U.S.). Again, I took intensive Korean, but I suffered from a severe drop in confidence in my language skills as most of my classmates were native speakers who had grown up in the U.S.

As in 2014, I attended concerts and events and traveled out of Seoul, this time on a brief trip to Boseong’s green tea fields. I spent much of my time in Cafe Noriter in Edae. For summer 2015, Korea to me was in some ways different from before, but still so much was the same – perhaps too much. Instead of being pushed out of my comfort zone, I simply returned to the one I had built the previous year when I was an exchange student.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have a fantastic time.

But let’s talk about 2016 now.

For the past two months, I was not at Yonsei. I did not live in a dorm. I entered knowing only one student in my program at Sungkyunkwan University. I attended no concerts. Yet for all these differences, it was the right way to spend my third time in Korea. At this point, I have already attended so many varied cultural events that the ones offered by my program or that friends invited me to were ones I had already attended in past years.


A quiet summer evening on SKKU’s main campus

I realized a new dream, one that I fulfilled throughout June and July: that of feeling truly like I was living in Korea like anyone else. I was independent, and yet also a person absorbed into the existing millions. While it was far beyond my comfort zone, I was simultaneously scared and thrilled to be pushing myself again. My schedule was my own; my mealtimes were dependent on me alone. I did not have the community that a dorm provides, and I lived a long bus or subway ride from SKKU. I wasn’t taking intensive Korean – in fact, I only had one course on human rights, and it was incredibly intensive and informative. I wasn’t interested in making friends during my program because I already had people I wanted to spend time with and places that I wanted to go. Things were very, very different.

And I drank a lot of coffee.

And I loved it. I lived in cafes, I studied on my own schedule. I commuted on sweaty buses with the rest of the teeming masses of students and workers in the morning and evening because I could no longer simply walk out of my dorm and into the next building for class. I bought books at Kyobo and wrote poems in pastry shops, and after a while I started running into people in my neighborhood that I recognized. I became a ‘regular’ at cafes and restaurants, someone who was recognized and welcomed a bit more than the general groups of strangers. Where I lived truly began to feel like my town – or perhaps, in the style of Korea, I should say it was ours.

Rain or shine, Hongdae was home.

Also, the most thrilling and different thing from my previous two experiences in Korea was that this time, a language exchange friendship of the past half year blossomed into a dating relationship and that deeply affected how much I practiced speaking Korean and how much I traveled around Seoul and the surrounding regions. As a result, I also experienced a variety of things that I would not have imagined, like attending a Korean wedding, meeting my Korean boyfriend’s family after he told them he was dating me, and learning more about Korea’s couple culture firsthand (ㅎㅎㅎ couple shoes, anyone?). It also vastly increased the stares – a mixed-race couple rather than simply a foreigner draws even more attention ㅋㅋㅋ


Of course, it also changed how I felt when I had to leave at the very end of July, as it was no longer just about leaving Korea, but rather about leaving him…


너무 보고 싶다. #롱디

At least he’s transferring to a U.S. university a few states away. I’ll just listen to Roy Kim’s 롱디 on repeat until I can visit him!

Anyways, I just want to say thanks, Korea, for another incredible time. I look forward to returning someday soon and in the meantime, I promise to improve my Korean.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

지금 재생 중:


서울드림’s Creator Featured in ATK Magazine

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Jasmine Sohn, a contributor to ATK Magazine, and she asked to interview me about my Korean language study journey and this little rambling blog of mine. The interview was posted recently and is currently featured on the magazine’s main page!

ATK Magazine

ATK Magazine is an online magazine based out of Toronto, Canada, and it covers all things Korean. Road to Korea is one of the categories curated on the site and it is comprised of a series of interviews with various bloggers, each of them exploring the reasons why foreigners develop a deep interest in Korea as well as delving into each interviewee’s personal backstory and continued involvement with Korea.

If you’re interested in learning more about how I developed my passion for learning Korean and how I like to spend my time in Seoul, you can check out the interview here.

Shout out to Jasmine and ATK Magazine for the fun interview!

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

지금 재생 :

한국으로 돌아간다

“사람이 왜 떠나다? 돌아올 수 있기 위해. 온 곳을 다시 볼 수 있기 위해. 거기에 있는 사람들도 당신을 다시 보죠. 시작한 곳으로 돌아오는 것이 한번만이라도 안 떠나는 것과 다르다.”

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry PratchettA Hat Full of Sky

곧 한국으로 돌아가기로 해서 좋은 글귀를 찾아서 번역해보았다. 틀린 것이 있으면 죄송합니다.

다음 주부터 한국에서 글을 쓰고 올릴게요! 여러분 한국어 공부를 재미있게 하세요!

지금 재생 중:

역시 마마무다!


Puns in Korean: Captain Americano | 캡틴 아메리카노

I am known among my friends as a lover of puns, and this manifests itself as part of my passion for studying Korean. Korean variety shows, particularly Family Outing, seem to have a similar penchant for wordplay, and so I’ve learned a great deal noting down not just what phrases are puns, but which ones are particularly bad (based on the explosive reactions of those who hear the puns). Here is a Reddit filled with cringe-worthy submissions that will make you regret ever reading this post. You’re welcome.

I recently saw Captain America: Civil War, and like any good and studious Marvel fan/Korean language learner, I promptly created a pun out of the name. Though this never occurs while reading the title in English, every time I read 캡틴 아메리카 in Korean, my mind auto-completes it as 캡틴 아메리카.

Captain America → Captain Americano

Incredibly witty, I know.

But this bad pun origin story doesn’t end there. A few months ago, I learned the connotation behind 라면 먹고 갈래 (not unlike “Netflix-and-chill”) Accordingly, I included a 한잔하고 갈래 with my 캡틴 아메리카노 photoshop edit.

I would gladly enjoy an Americano with you, Captain America. And to my readers, I know. I’m super cool. #icecubestatus

Hope you enjoyed this non-serious post!

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

지금 재생 :

#wyd tho…

BONUS: Here’s even more reasons to regret reading this post:

Korea’s “Netflix and Chill”

missInterpretation header made in Photoshop 11 by creatorNetflix and chill? Move aside.


Let’s go back a few years. When I studied abroad at Yonsei University in 2014, I frequently went to festivals and events held in the area. 신촌’s streets would fill with booths, performers, and music, and my friends and I would wander through it all. My favorite festival was a big art festival where my friend bought a painting and I bought two sets of artist-made postcards. Continue reading

A Language Learner’s Problems (and how to solve them)

I got 99 problems and teaching myself Korean is most of them – okay, that’s not really true, and I’m not actually going to list 99 different problems. I don’t want to type that much and you don’t want to read that much – but here are some problems I’ve encountered as a self-taught language learner (as well as some tips for how to deal with these issues)!

1. I have too many different resources for language study.

How do I choose just one? My textbooks from Yonsei, Ewha, and even Klear. The endless supply of webtoons online. The part of the Naver Webtoon app where people post funny snippets from manhwa. My three books of Korean poetry, two compilations of Korean short stories, six books of manhwa. Countless purchased or downloaded TTMIK resources Continue reading

Someone send me back in time…

…I want to meet famous gisaengs and scholars from the Joseon dynasty. But really.

Continue reading

Lao Tzu

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

천릿길도 한 걸음부터 시작된다.

– 노자, Lao Tzu

Courtesy of Hwangssabu on Twitter.

Thomas Jefferson

배우고 싶다면 들어라. 발전하고 싶다면 시도하라.

To learn, you have to listen. To improve, you have to try.

– Thomas Jefferson

Courtesy of Wise Saying on Twitter.

Korean Greetings & Farewells

I have the best drawing skills, you know.

Goodbye vs. Goodbye in Korean


Greetings and farewells in Korean are quite interesting thanks to the common root of “annyeong” or 안녕. Because 안녕 literally means peace, when it combines with -haseyo, it means “Are you at peace?” While informal greetings and goodbyes usually consist of quick “안녕~”s without -haseyo’s and -hi-gaseyo’s and -hi-gyeseyo’s, it’s a must to learn the difference between them.


안녕 + 하세요 = peace + you do/please do


안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) is usually translated as “Hello”  or just “Hi” but it is informal and 안녕 alone might be more suited for meaning an informal “Hi”. And if you’ve watched any k-dramas or know anything about Korean culture, you’ll know that bows often accompany greetings. Bow and say annyeonghaseyo! It’s all about respect. Be respectful and you’ll be respected.


안녕 + 히 가세요 = peace + you go


안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi-gaseyo) is what you say when you are staying and the other person is leaving. In Korean, the verb for “to go” is 다 (kada). Thus, “go” is 가 (ka). Look at this goodbye again: 아녕히 세요. Can you guess what it means? Go in peace. Annyeong-hi-gaseyo.


안녕 + 히 계세요 = peace + you stay


안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi-gyeseyo) is what you say when you are leaving and the other person is staying. What does it mean? Stay in peace.


알았어요? Just remember. Ka/ga for go. Annyeonghi-GAseyo. 안녕히 가세요. But do you remember “hello”? What are the two formal farewells? Let’s use a story to put things into perspective.


안녕세요. Annyeonghaseyo – because you were walking through a huge grocery store looking determinedly for brussel sprouts so that you could burn them to release stress, and when you found them you shouted, “HA! 안녕세요. AnnyeongHAseyo, you little sprouts!” Then you saw me running in the opposite direction because I was unnerved by the weird actions of a person speaking Korean to vegetables. What did you say to me? 안녕히 세요! “Annyeonghi-GAseyo!” You said, because I was going (ka/ga = go) and you were staying. “안녕히 세요! Annyeonghi-GYEseyo!” I shouted back to you over my shoulder, hoping desperately that you would STAY and not follow me home to burn brussel sprouts in my front yard.


Please check out Talk To Me In Korean’s lessons on the 3 annyeong’s:

Level 1 Lesson 1: Hello & Thank-you

Level 1 Lesson 3: Goodbye, See you

And for a bit more learning, look at Greetings in Korean, courtesy of Rocket Languages.


Note: Informal Korean doesn’t necessarily use 안녕 all the time for greetings and farewells. While an always safe and natural fallback, 안녕 is just the tip of the ice berg. Do you always tell your friends “Bye” when you’re leaving and “Hello” when you’re arriving? No. You say things like “What’s up”, “Catcha later,” “Hey,” “See ya,” “Hallooooo~” and any other variation. Once you get the 3 annyeong’s down, learn some other ways of greeting and goodbye-ing – it’ll be great for your vocabulary and make you sound more natural when speaking informally with friends.