2019 Life Update

It’s been a little over 2 years since I have last written. Unfortunately, time has slipped away from me for various reasons. A lot has happened since 2017. First off, I have been on several trips both internationally and domestically. The first being the Europe trip that I mentioned in one of my previous posts in 2017, but never got the chance to update about it. One of the next posts that I plan on writing will be about the Europe trip for sure.

The domestic trips that I went on last year were to Niagara Falls and to Wildwood beach. I’ve been to Niagara Falls several times since I have family living in that area, but my boyfriend and daughter have never been so I thought it would be nice to take a trip there again for their sake. The beach was also a nice little getaway to enjoy the ocean and the boardwalk. Plus it was nice to have my daughter enjoy the beach, now that she’s old enough to actually enjoy it.

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Next important event that happened was that I finally graduated college last fall with a Bachelor’s in German and also a Bachelor’s in Multidisciplinary Studies. It’s been a long couple years in getting my bachelor’s degrees, but it can be done with hard work and determination. Now I am working on my Master’s in Secondary Education. I just finished up with my first semester in my master’s program, so I finally have some time to relax a little until the fall. Now now I finally have some time, I can finally get into the groove again on posting about different languages, cultures, and places around the world. So stay tuned!

So You’re Going to South Korea: Customs and Culture Shock

Last summer, I went to South Korea for the first time to visit my relatives. This summer, a few of my relatives came to the United States and stayed with us for the past two weeks. Being in South Korea last summer really opened my eyes. The Korean culture and the American culture are quite different from each other. If you’re going to South Korea, there are two things you should be aware of: the Korean customs and culture shock. 

The 3 major Korean customs you should be aware of are bowing, dining etiquette, and gift giving.

Korean bowing is similar to the American handshake. Bowing can be used for different occasions such as greetings, farewells, and showing gratitude. However, in South Korea, it is very important to bow towards people older than you and higher rank than you. This is important because of the respect towards age and seniority. Age and seniority can impact how one may bow to another. The younger or lesser person initiates the bow and bows lower to the older or senior in order to show respect.
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Before entering a Korean home and even some restaurants, everyone is expected to take off their shoes. Walking into a Korean home with shoes on is considered to be of great disrespect.
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Koreans eat with chopsticks and spoons, unlike Americans who eat with forks, spoons, and knives. When using chopsticks while eating, never put your chopsticks in the rice as it is considered rude. Moreover, it is not appropriate to pick up any plates while eating because all plates and bowls are expected to stay on the table. When drinking, Koreans use both hands to pour a drink for someone else. Koreans use both hands to hold the glass when someone else pours your drink. The person of lower seniority or age turns their head away from the elder or senior to show their respect.

Giving gifts in South Korea is considered to be very common. When visiting a Korean household or first business meeting, always bring a small gift such as fruit, good quality chocolates, or toilet paper. Do not buy expensive gifts as Koreans may feel obligated to buy a gift of equal value. Gifts should not be wrapped in green, white, or black paper since this is considered to be unlucky. Contrary, giving a wooden goose is a sign of luck. Do not sign any cards in red ink or give a gift in a set of four in which indicates death. Both hands are used when giving or receiving gifts.

Now, let me talk about culture shock. Going to another culture can be overwhelming. As soon as you enter the country, everything is different. When I walked off the airplane and entered Incheon International Airport last year, the first things that I noticed were that everything was written in Korean, everybody was speaking in Korean, and everybody for the most part looked similar. Towels in South Korea are about the size of a wash cloth/hand towel (I would suggest bringing your own towel from home). It is completely normal for two people of the same sex to hold hands (two friends holding hand, mother-daughter holding hands, etc.). When this happens in the United States, people would automatically think that the people holding hands are homosexual or view it as strange. Another thing is that Korean pizza is very “special.” When we ordered a chicken pizza last year, the pizza was topped of with chicken, corn, some other vegetables, and other weird toppings; The pizza also came with a side of pickles.
DSCN3588Another thing is communal dishes/plates. While eating, there is your main dish-usually soup, rice, and your side dishes. Usually, you don’t get your own plate. You’ll have your own rice bowl, but all the other dishes are shared. All the food is placed in the middle, and everyone eats directly from these dishes.
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For anyone going to South Korea, I hoped this blog post will help you prepare before you go!

AFS Pre-Departure Orientation

Earlier today I had my AFS Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO for short). It was from 10-4. I learned a lot; I gained a lot; I met old and new faces; Overall, I had a great time. 

The volunteers had a powerpoint for us. Everyone sat at tables and they went over some main points for us. Later on, we did some activities, split into two separate groups (exchange students and parents) to talk and go over other points, rejoined as a whole for lunch, separated again to talk, and then came back for closing. 

PDO’s are held to help students prep before they go off to their host countries. It was a lot of information, advice, expectations-which were extremely helpful to hear. There were some activities that went along with this such as writing with our non-dominant hand, observing and evaluating pictures, and swapping lunches. Writing with our non-dominant hand was suppose to show us how difficult it’s going to be for us when we’re abroad. And it’s absolutely true. When I was writing, I had to focus a lot and it was difficult. Imagine if someone told you that you could only write with your non-dominant hand for the entire day, could you do it? Or would you simply quit when you got frustrated and took too long? That’s exactly how exchange students are going to feel. There are going to be times when they want to quit-when they can’t break the language barrier or they become overwhelmed with stress. But it’s all about sticking it out, and learning from this experience. For me, quitting is NOT an option. I know this will happen to me, but I’m going to have to learn how to cope and overcome these obstacles. There was someone out there who had the kindness in their heart to award me this scholarship, and I am not going to let them down. I worked hard and deserve this experience. And I will experience and learn until the very end, through the good and bad times. The exchange experience.

After attending this orientation, a lot of things came to mind. Like the fact that soon, I’ll be attending an orientation in Germany with not kids from Pennsylvania but kids from all over the world; kids who will probably not be speaking English but German and/or other foreign languages. Also that I’ll be immersed in the German culture-living in Germany and speaking German for the next 10 months. A new family, a new school, a new community, a new country. No more parents taking care of me-a new sense of freedom. Time for me to grow up and really be an independent young lady.

These realizations made me think to enjoy the simple things while I still can. Car rides with my parents. Eating meals together. Watching television/movies/dramas together. The sun shining on my face. A cool breeze. The beauty of nature. Family and friends…And I only have about 3 more months to enjoy everything. Time to make the most of it. Then, before I know it-Germany will be right around the corner!

 

Want to Learn a Foreign Language? 10 Resources/Ways How You Can

Learning a foreign language is never easy. It takes commitment, perseverance, focus, an open-mind, you get my point right? You may asking yourself, “Why should I even learn a foreign language? All I need to know is (insert your native language here).” 

There are numerous reasons (and perks) why you should learn a foreign language. For one, you become more marketable in the business world. An employer (especially one from an international company) is more likely to hire someone who is fluent in another language than someone who is not. For everyone who is fluent in English, English is NOT the most spoken language in the world (Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are the most spoken languages of the world). *Plus, most of the products of the United States are made internationally. Another reason is that you’ll be more sensitive to cultural differences and respect other cultures. You’ll also get a new perspective on the political world and understand what’s going on in foreign countries. If you get to travel abroad (and learn the language(s) of that country), you’ll be able to truly connect with the natives, partake in their customs, and assimilate into the culture. There are many (and I mean many) more reasons why you should learn at least another language, but to make a long story short-it is a stepping-stone to your future and it can only help you.

Anyways…We all have been learning at least one language since we were been born. You learned by listening to your parents, mimicking them, being corrected by your parents, reading books, listening/watching television, talking to others, etc. Learning a foreign language is the exact same thing same thing.

However, it is a lot easier if you have the right resources to help you. As a linguaphile, I found numerous (effective) resources/ways that helped me learn the foreign languages I’m studying. If you’re really serious about learning a foreign language-read, write down, and use this list:

  1. Watch foreign movies and television (It is fairly simple to go on the web and search  foreign movies/television shows-I personally use Hulu and Viki)
  2. Listen to foreign music (Download songs, buy/find some international CDs, YouTube, go to an international music festival)
  3. Books, magazines, newspapers, menus (Anything you can find that is written in a foreign language-buy, take (if it’s free), at least try to read it. My mother’s friend has a good few stacks of Korean children’s books, and she lent my my mother those books for me to read, speak, learn, and write better Korean).
  4. Phrasebooks and dictionaries (These are great if you’re in a foreign country and just starting out with the language. If you really want to challenge yourself, buy one that is in the other language to English or even another foreign language.)
  5. Language courses (Utilize those foreign language classes in high school, find a local course in your community, take a class at a local college, take a night class, etc.)
  6. Friend a foreigner (You can help each other learn each other’s native language and also learn about the other person’s cultures, customs, and food (and maybe taste them too)
  7. Learn from your family and/or relatives (If your grandparents were from Russia or your dad was from Spain (or any relative that was born in a foreign country and/or is fluent in another foreign language-take advantage of the opportunity to learn the language, learn about your heritage, learn the customs, try the different ethnic foods, and talk to them about their experiences, stories, and thoughts from their homeland)
  8. Attend local international events (Use this opportunity to practice with others, learn more of the language, etc.)
  9. Go to a local Chinatown, Koreatown, etc. (Try the local food, read the menus, experience what it would be like if you were in a foreign country)
  10. Online websites, Computer Programs, and YouTube (Using online websites, computer programs, and Youtube is actually effective while learning a foreign language-if you find the right ones. Search around and use multiple sites (make sure you contrast to see which sites/programs are effective and which are not.

Basically, take advantage of any opportunity you can. Once you start learning and having fun, you won’t be able to stop.

Here’s a list of language learning websites, computer programs, and YouTube links that I’ve found and used (most of them):

Korean:

http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/

http://www.verbix.com/languages/korean.php (verb conjugations)

http://www.wordreference.com/enko/

http://ezcorean.com

http://www.youtube.com/user/sweetandtasty

http://www.youtube.com/user/busyatomdotcom

Mandarin Chinese:

http://www.chinese-tools.com/learn/chinese

http://cop.yes-chinese.com/cnpic/index_en.html

http://www.youtube.com/user/GraspChineseOnline?feature=watch

Japanese:

http://www.freejapaneselessons.com/

German:

http://www.wordreference.com/de/

http://www.dw.de/deutsch-lernen/deutsch-interaktiv/s-2237

http://www.goethe.de/lrn/duw/auf/sta/enindex.htm

Italian:

http://www.zapitalian.com/

Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian:

http://duolingo.com/

Korean, Chinese, Russian:

http://www.seemile.com

Computer Programs:

Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur

Now that you finished reading, get out your notebook and pen…and start learning! 화이팅!