A Way Out (Korean Society Pt 1)

Being in South Korea is awesome!  I am truly having the time of my life; this is such a great opportunity!  As a tourist, if I had stayed for only a week or two, I don’t think I would notice half the things I do.  However, as an exchange student, living in Korea for four months, I tend to notice the daily workings of Korean society.  There is several things I want to say about general society, so I think this will be put into parts.

First, when I arrived in this country, I was armed and prepared to take on all the stares thrown my way.  I am different, and staring was expected.  However, attending a school that emphasizes its global-ality, I wasn’t expecting so much stares from students my age.  Still they come, targeting me day in and day out and I want to say that I have gotten used to it.  For the most part, the stares don’t really bother me.  They are not hurting me with their laser beams so one just has to endure.  It is going to be different when I go back to the United States, where no one really looks at me twice.

Another thing I noticed, in the first few weeks I arrived, was the EXIT signs that adorn the underground subway systems and telling people where the way out is.  It is a picture of a person running out of the door.  I find this in the most comedic light because when exiting in America, those in charge always comment to make your way “calmly” forward and to “walk, not run.”

Still, my favorite thing about Korean society is the underlying emphasis on respect everywhere but with that comes its own problems.  I love it but realize the system is terribly flawed.  People give respect to those in a hierarchical sense, so it would always be the elders receiving the respect and they can either give you some too or act in any way they please.

I’ve heard that this is a common complaint among foreigners and no matter how much foreigners or even younger Korean people complain, I don’t think there is anything we can do to change the system.

Older people of Korea has superiority which is rightfully so, they’ve lived longer, they know more—in theory, giving them higher ranking than everyone else should be allowed.  However, some elders take this superiority to their advantage.  Just with any power, some people abuse it.

There are older people, surprisingly strong people, who will push and shove you forcefully out of the way (this happens mostly on the subway).  There are older people who even go as far to think they are above the law.  I’ve seen older people go through the subway turnstiles without paying the fare; the security guard looks on the scene with suspicious eyes but doesn’t dare to say a thing.

I was thinking, on the subway, once about what if WHAT WOULD YOU DO? aired in Korea—(1) there is no way the show would air unless the problem would consist of an older person, or elder to the bully, being the victim and (2) the “bullies” in the TV show could never appear as an elder person because of Korean society, because someone could always say, “Well. they should have been given respect.”  Elder people are always right—elder people will always have the right of way, so to speak.

I am, in no way, saying everyone is like this.  Actually, living here as long as I have, the older people of Korea are the ones who seem to approach me the most.  They don’t seem so timid to ask where I am from, how am I doing, or even just to practice their English.  The young people or even the students at college do not make the effort to try to talk to me, either out of being introverted or just because they don’t like me, I’m not sure.  I love the elderly people of Korea and I do respect them and I think the respect system at work here is definitely cool!

In general, the system of respect gives people power and in the words of Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Some take that power and abuse it and that is why so many foreigners and young people complain.

If you are living in South Korea or have traveled here, if they were to air WHAT WOULD YOU DO?, what kind of scenarios do you think they would play?

 

So This Happened…

I’m going to skip around a bit because I realized I’m tremendously busy with homework and traveling and barely have time to spare.  Therefore, I’m going to write the posts I know will be short just to publish a post because I want to keep everyone informed on how I’m living and experiencing Korea.

Sometime during one of the many weeks we were at school, a few friends of mine informed me that one of their all time favorite celebrities is coming to a theater near us.  He will both be coming in person, and showing up on the big screen in his new movie Tazza 2: Hand of God (타짜 신의손).  Considering the tickets were for the price of seeing a movie, we all went.  I knew the celebrity and listened to his music but wouldn’t call myself a huge fan.

h9 Which celebrity you ask?  His name is T.O.P.  He is very famous in South Korea.  He is both a singer and an actor.  Best known for being part of the group, Big Bang.  The movie?  It was a movie about gambling, gangs, and T.O.P. taking off his shirt.

When we arrived to the theater and took our seats, however, we noticed a few things.  One of them was that the movie we were about to take part in did not have English subtitles.  That roughly translates to: we sat through an entire 2 hours and more of a Korean movie without knowing much of the dialogue.  I used my Korean vocab and could understand some of the jokes and I definitely understood all the gambling going on, considering most of those scenes were nonverbal.  Overall, if you have a chance to see the film, it was good (and that’s saying something because I barely knew what they were saying).

After sitting through the whole movie, T.O.P. was to arrive and inform us a bit about making the film.  I had already realized while buying the tickets, that he will be speaking in Korean.  However, it was having his presence, being in the same room as a gorgeous and distinct celebrity as him that I’m sure all the girls in my group, me included, wanted to take part in.  Alas, we were extremely disappointed when the secruity guards come out, followed by cinema staff.  They spoke in rapid Korean but I caught the words “T.O.P.,” “sick,” and “sorry.”

Surprisingly, the other fans in the room took it extremely well and exited without any complaint.  I know in America, people would audibly complain or at least ask for a refund but there was none of that.  Thus, we went home disappointed, unable to see the man that we had so hoped to lay eyes upon.

Well… maybe there’ll be a next time.

Love, Peace, and Hongdae

For the first week of my study abroad adventure, I lived in Hongdae in a guesthouse for about a half a week.  You can find what I thought about the guesthouse HERE.  That little adventure was filled with first impressions which is why Hongdae will always be the place where I first discovered South Korea.  Those first days were rough, yet inspiring.

I traveled with a friend, and together we explored the streets of Hongdae together.  Most of the time, however, we got lost.  Still, we had loads of fun and made tons of memories.

5 AWESOME THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN HONGDAE

1. 7 Eleven is your friend

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It was awesome to see something familiar (pic: found a Taco Bell in South Korea), 7 Eleven can also be found in America.  Plus in those first few days, utilizing my limited Korean vocabulary was difficult for waiters and cashiers to understand us.  We tended to stay away from restaurants and ate sandwiches at 7 Eleven.  (Plus, we discovered how cheap a lot of the food is here from browsing the shelves of the 7 Eleven by the guesthouse.) I was able to get a water bottle bigger than my head for about $0.80.  I know when I travel to New York City, a small water bottle is about $3 or more.

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2. The Luck of Coffee Prince

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h3Hongdae is famous for a lot of things.  It has several things a tourist and traveler should check out.  One of those places is the Coffee Prince cafe, which is a Korean drama that shot at the cafe of the same name.  This cafe actually exists as a working cafe and we spent hours trying to locate it in the many streets of Hongdae.  When we finally found it, we thought the place to be closed.  There were no people inside or out- the place looked deserted.  You’d think being such a significant filming location to a famous drama, there would be more people.  However, a nice man and woman greeted us at the door.  We ordered and explored the floor.  It was kept, not exact, but similar to the drama.  It was awesome to just see the signatures on the wall, the props used in the drama, and even standing in certain spots that I know the actors/actresses stood in too.  And we were also one of the lucky people to search upstairs, which is closed to customers but since no one was there, the employees let us explore there too.  It was amazing!

3. Trick Eye Museum

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The Trick Eye Museum was one cool experience.  I first heard of it from some fellow travelers who suggested I go when coming to Korea but then I also watched a drama where they go to the museum.  In Heartstrings, to two leads go and seem to have such a great time- I couldn’t miss this one! The entrance fee was cheap and totally worth it.  We took some great pictures that actually look like we were there.

4. Mango Six

Literally, there is a coffee shop on every corner.  We went to a four-way intersection and on each corner was a Starbucks.  Korea, I don’t know why you need that many coffee shops.  Mango Six is not a coffee shop. However, a common theme in the Korean dramas I’ve seen is that the poo main character has several part time jobs and one always includes a shop- coffee or otherwise.  I had just finished watching Gentleman’s Dignity when I came to Korea and Mango Six is where one of the female characters had worked (pic).  So it had to be good, right? I was so right!

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5. Street Market

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During our time in Hongdae, we did not see this part.  It wasn’t until we visited the following Saturday that we realized what we had missed.  Every Saturday, there is a street fair of sorts where people gather in the Hongdae playground (middle pic: Gentleman’s Dignity) and sell handmade items, listening to awesome music from live bands.  The playground is also a very famous place for many dramas as well.

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The vibe in Hongdae is what makes me want to go back.  It has such a indie, college town atmosphere.  If you have a chance, definitely check this place out and be ready to be amazed at all the cool things you find there.

That Hostel Horror Story

Every person in their life should have at least one Hotel Horror Story.  The worst story of staying in a hotel for me was when I went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and we came in the room to find a take-out salad in the drawer with the Bible.  Now that’s disgusting and my horror story for South Korea is less so.

The story is less filled with horror, and more filled with annoyance and my need to complain.  For those of you who don’t know, a hostel is basically a backpackers paradise.  It is where mostly young people stay while traveling because it is a cheap form of a pillow under your head for the night.  Since this is my first time abroad, I thought I’d check out what the hype was.

download (1)We arrived in Seoul at 4AM, way too early for my time but since not used to the time change yet, relatively okay.  (I traveled with one of my friends from school, Raquel.) Both of us carried 4 months worth of suitcases, which is not ideal at a hostel.  (Like I said, backpackers paradise).  I knew this going in.  There have always been those rumors, or fictional books chiming how everyone should at least try a hostel once in their life time.  So I did. (Pic: me at the airport, just arrived at Seoul!)

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Since we arrived so early, I borrowed a phone from a nice woman and proceeded to call the hostel- after about the thousandth ring, she picked up.  I explained the situation and she was glad to keep our suitcases before check-in while we went and explored the area.  I’m not about to name the hostel because I did meet some cool people there but still, my experience with hostels are over.  I will not be staying in one ever again.

When we arrived, there didn’t seem to be anyone working there.  We dragged our suitcases up the stairs and after talking to some girls, found that the woman sleeping on the couch was, in fact, the one who I had talked on the phone.  She woke up enough to tell us where to put our suitcases and then swiftly went back to sleep.  Mind you, she didn’t check our paperwork, nor IDs which I thought was odd.  We had reservations but I thought it strange because we could be anyone in the world.  She did not know us by our faces.

After the day of exploring and getting lost, we were ready to sleep forever since we were both so jet lagged. We arrived during check in time- check in time was 3PM (why so late? Probably because she likes to sleep the day away).  And guess what? She decides then to tell us that we can’t stay there that night due to an overbooking.  She suggested another hostel close by that was almost the same price.  She paid the difference.

We dragged most of our luggage to the other place and slept the rest of the day.  In the morning, even though given the option to stay there the remaining two nights we had reserved, the woman in charge of this hostel promptly, yet quietly, kicked us out.

Thus we moved back to the original hostel and spent the rest of the nights getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Is it the worst place I’ve stayed at? No.  However, considering I’m sure most hostel stories don’t end up like this, I wanted to share.

Let me tell you: I’ve had the hostel experience.  I think I’ll stick with regular hotels from now on.  At least, Motel 6 will always leave the light on for me.

The Perks of Being Royalty

STATUS UPDATE: I have finally embarked on my journey to study in South Korea.  I left a few days ago and got on the longest flight of my life.

14 hour flights are super long.  You think 14 hours of anything is bad- the plane ride was terrible.  The plane keeps you in a constant deranged state where you are no longer sleeping but not awake either.  You’re not dead, at least you hope you’re not.

The plane people: flight attendants, captain, or whoever they like to be called turned off all the lights at strange times, leaving you confused.  They expect you to find your way to the bathroom in the dark, as well, which was an adventure all in itself.

Other than all of that: the airline, Korean Air, did try their best to make their passengers feel less crazy.  I basically got treated like royalty.korean-stewardess7

First, I’m waiting to be called to board the plane.  It went by membership card, then economy seating but the announcer’s stereo was all static and also mostly in Korean.  The Korean part is to be expected, everything will be in Korean in Korea.  It’s something I needed to get used to real fast.  There was no easing into that one.

Finally, I boarded the plane.  It was like I walked into any Korean drama where the guy owns a mall or something equally fancy and every morning each employee stands in line and bows. I’ve boarded planes before but not where they’re bowing to you.  It’s a Korean thing and it’s pretty awesome!

From that point on, I felt good about the plane, even though I was feeling kind of sick.  Once again, 14 hours is way too long.  As I walked on the plane, they brought us through first class which was such a tease: we all stared at the fancy seats with newspapers, spacious leg room, and more.  Then as we got into the flight, it was the royalty of the economy that captured my attention.

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It could have been the bowing, or the constant waiting-on, the cute flight attendant who is definitely wasting his time being on a plane and not going into modeling, all the juice we were given, or even the two meals and snack we got.

Queen Jeanna is here to stay.  (Even though that idea sounds awesome, my royal status ended with the bow from the last flight attendant as I departed the plane.)

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Plane Ride Playlist

With my departure from New York to South Korea looming, I was thinking about the many things I might occupy myself with while on the plane.  It is around a 14 hour flight which will be quite a long trip.

STATUS UPDATE: Before I get into my entertainment options, I wanted to update you on what will be happening.  I leave at the end of this week for Korea and arrive early next week.  School doesn’t officially start until September 1st so I’ll be traveling around Korea for a few days before that.  I have a rough sketch of where I’m going but I’m not going to ruin the surprise for those of you who want to see my awesome pictures.

There are loads of entertainments options that can truly keep you occupied during long trips like mine.

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First off, BOOKS!  As an English major, I’m sort of required to say these first but I also can’t wait to devour the books I’m bringing for the plane ride.  Obviously, if you’re going on a long trip, your taste in books will be different than mine but make sure that you pack some awesome reads that you know will hold your interest (like a favorite author or genre).  I’m bringing Rain by Amanda Sun and I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin.  I’ve read both these authors previously and know that they are fantastic at what they do.

I can throw movies onto this list but for this trip, I’m not bringing any movies since my laptop doesn’t have a CD-ROM (I’d have to bring my external CD-ROM to play movies but I’m saving luggage space and not bringing it.).  A great movie to get you in the mode to travel is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (directed by Ben Stiller).

MUSIC is also going to be a huge thing when traveling.  One, it’s a little slice of home that I’ll be able to listen to while on the move.  Two, listening to music while around others (say: on a plane, for example)  or with others (like the gif from Heartstrings below) makes me feel like I’m in a music video or something as equally cool.  Even though I’ll have my IPod on shuffle, I created a small 15-song playlist for the purpose of this post.  Here’s an example of some of the awesome songs, I might listen to on my way to South Korea:

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Paradise by T-Max

Best I Ever Had by Gavin DeGraw

Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Can’t Stop by CNBlue

Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia

The Great Escape by Nell

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

Madly by FT Island

Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey

Torpedo by Jillette Johnson

Troublemaker by Olly Murs

Wake Me Up by Avicii

Welcome to the World by Kevin Rudolf

200% by AKMU

1004 by B.A.P.

The Little Things

UPDATE: I, officially, have dates! I got flight tickets this week and everything is starting to fit into place. This is happening!
 With that, I wanted to talk about little things because a lot of BIG things have been happening of late and I am so overwhelmed that all I want to do is focus on the small stuff.
I went to the movies the other day. I travel about an hour to go to my nearest movie theater; it’s a pretty big outing for the whole family. It’s always been that way, since I can remember. Since I went off to college, the family doesn’t really get the chance to take me out to the theater, unless I’m home and free of any previous engagement. And usually if I’m not free, I’ll make time because I am sort of a movie-buff. Before aspirations of becoming a book publisher seeped into my brain, I had wanted to be a screenwriter and researched and watched tons of movies. Even after I dropped that dream, I still can’t stop watching and falling in love with the art of movies.
That trait is actually how I met this boy. As much as I always love going to see movies with my family, there is a little thing that I love about the movie theater. We met one night a few years ago and, quite truthfully, I don’t even think we ever exchanged names. Before you get the wrong idea, he works part time at the theater, you see. He approached me before going to clean a theater room and asked me about the movie I had just seen. I guess movie buffs attract because ever since that one time, we still discuss every movie after I walk out of the theater.
Our discussion wasn’t anything special opposed to the other times before, however, it got me thinking about little things. Like the little things I love about the movie theater is the self-serve butter machine for popcorn, this boy, and the rocking theater-seats.
In the movie, Zombieland, they said to enjoy the little things. And that is exactly what I am doing.
 In anticipation of traveling to South Korea, I got thinking about the little things I might enjoy there. I came up with a subject-to-change top 5 list of the little things I will love in Korea:
1. Food: Now, I know it is a bit crazy but I haven’t tried a lot of Korean food. But what I have tried was fantastic. All the food: delicious.
 2. So Much History: I’m aware that everywhere is going to have history but coming from America, which is still a baby country compared to most, I’m saying Korea has lots of history. Also, it has held onto that history, whereas a lot of places have torn buildings down and upgraded the once historical sites. South Korea has palaces among skyscrapers. It is like two different worlds: the past and the present living together under the same roof.
 3. Traditional Markets: To me, traditional markets in South Korea will be a little slice of home. I grew up on the countryside, running a dairy farm with my family. Farmer markets have always been a thing and I love to go and see everything they are selling. I can’t tell you what differs from a Korean traditional market and a New York-style farmers’ market but I will tell you that no matter the difference, I’ll find home there.

4. Bubble Tea: Need I say more? I have an obsession with this flavored-milk tea drink for the past two semesters. And that’s awful, considering I’m lactose intolerant. But I can’t get enough of the stuff. In Korea, I’m hoping they’ll have more than the five flavors they have in my college town (and I’m pretty sure they do).
 5. Views: In the countryside, where I live, it is gorgeous. All seasons, I look out the window and see beautiful fields and animals. It is something out of a storybook. However, since I live here, I notice how beautiful it is but I’ve desensitized myself from the effect long ago. Seeing new things, new places, new people for the first time will make me realize how wonderful and pretty the world is again. When I take pictures, I see my surroundings with news eyes. But now I want my eyes to be new again. I want to take everything in for the first time.
 Just enjoy the little things. Whether it’s that boy at your movie theater or the view outside your kitchen window, take it in and smile.

Prep Time

Welcome to the summertime.  With the weather I’ve been feeling, it must be summer already.  That means that I’ve been preparing for this wonderful adventure for four seasons.  When I sit down to type something out to blog about, I always want to say something profound and original.  However, being a 20 year old with tons of other things to worry about, I always get tongue tied.  I am more familiar with the backspace button of my computer than I am with the “publish” button on WordPress.

Anyway, today I just wanted to discuss preparation.  Nothing terribly profound or exciting but without prep time, nothing would ever get done in life, correct?  You can’t make food without some preparation first.  Preparation is always the hard part.  It’s the getting-off-your-bum-and-actually-doing-something part.  Preparing for the journey and actually being on the journey are two very different experiences.  But sometimes the preparation for a journey may be even more important that the journey itself.

running animated GIFPreparation for this journey has proved itself time and time again to be the most difficult thing I had to do in a long time.  It’s a constant battle of mile-high stacks of papers, convincing family and friends, making plans, and working out anything else along the way.  The preparation to study abroad in South Korea has been an adventure all on its own and I haven’t even left my country yet.

Another type of preparation would be mental prep, in hopes to lessen the culture shock when I get to South Korea.  I know there is really nothing I can do in this area except RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.

Among my researching:

I’ve been learning Korean which will surely help me communicate while abroad.  The study abroad program I chose said that I could actually go without any knowledge of the language, but the more I learn about South Korea, the more I want to know the language as well.

Chopsticks.  But not just any chopsticks- metal chopsticks.  I’m actually terrible at holding and eating with chopsticks (and I’ll only practice when no one is around because I, seriously, get food everywhere).  However, the more I practice… I’m getting better.  I’ll never be a master of chopsticks but maybe I won’t embarrass myself with them either.

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What’s right and what’s wrong.  Finding out things like what not to do and what is acceptable is quite hard to do from books and websites alone.  I’ve actually ventured outside and asked several of the Korean exchange students at my college about what to do and how to do it.  After many discussions, I’m sure I’ll still make a fool of myself in Korea by doing something I shouldn’t do but, at least, I know some things.  Like did you know: when receiving a gift from someone else, always receive the gift with two hands.  Or when calling someone over to you, make sure your palm is facing down, not open like we do in America.

I am most definitely not done with preparation until I am on that plane for South Korea (August!!).  What kind of preparation did you make for your abroad experiences? And if you have any tips that will be of help to me: make sure to let me know.  I love comments!

London Book Fair Day 1

To be completely honest, the title of this post is misleading.  I am, sadly, not attending London Book Fair, nor have I ever but I hope to in the future.  However, in the next few days while the London Book Fair is going on, I will be researching tons of things on what is going on over there.  The London Book Fair is showcasing South Korea’s publishing industry, which is partly the reason why I decided that I should take a closer look at their industry too.

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I want to keep you in the know and share with you one thing I’ve learned from my research of South Korea’s book publishing world (that is discussed at London Book Fair).  Most of the information I found can be read in the PW London Book Fair Show Daily Day 1.

Webtoons (also known as comics/만화 (manhwa))

Today, let’s talk about webtoons.  South Korea seems to be the king of webtoons (or maybe we can call them the hipsters of webtoons).  Surely, with the Korean Wave that I’ve mentioned before, will eventually be introducing webtoons to the world soon.  This is why I think it is so fantastic for South Korea’s publishing industry to be showcased in London because it is breaking out of their circle of readers and letting others know about their publishing market trends.

The lecture that is taking place at London Book Fair, is done by comic book writer, Yoon Tae-Ho.  He seems to be a fantastic writer, and has received top honors in Korea Content Awards.  One of his comics has even been made into a movie, Moss (directed by Kang Woo-Suk).  Check out the trailer below:

I will definitely be checking this out, among the other works he has done.

I didn’t realize webtoons were such a big thing in South Korea’s publishing world.  I haven’t read much comics.  I only read a few mangas and some American graphic novels but from what I’ve learned from Korean media, they know how to make a good story, no matter what outlet it may come from.

If you have any recommendations of South Korean authors, comic writers, or publisher, let me know and I’ll make sure to research more about them.

It’s Official!

All last week, I waited.  Playing the waiting game is more difficult than it sounds.  Especially with the use of modern technology now a days.  Basically, knowing I would be receiving an email sometime during the week, I waited by my phone.  Night and day.  I was really going crazy, checking my phone every few minutes.

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Since I receive email notifications via phone, every time my phone would vibrate, I thought I was getting an email when it was really only a text.  Several times, my face would light up like a child receiving a present during a holiday but than quickly fall when I realized it was just a text.

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The email came when my friend was borrowing my phone.  (Can you believe it?  The one time I let it go for the entire week is when the email decides to come!)

tumblr_n1n1fqHVek1ts0xfio4_500I was in the library, early in the morning, and instead of being quiet, I immediately started screaming.  All of the sudden, I was out of my chair.  Standing.  Jumping.  On my knees.  I wasn’t aware I was making much noise until my friend tried to calm me down.  I was eating breakfast at the time and immediately started choking on my sandwich.  I started crying.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  It was really a whirlwind of emotions that I’ve never experienced in such a rapid back to back way before.  I don’t even know if that makes sense but here I was reading an email that I waited all week for and this one notification was going to change my life.

I can’t tell you that I am officially going to Korea.  I can tell you that I am, officially, one step closer in that direction.  I’m accepted into the program by my school– I still need to be accepted into the program by Korea’s school.  However, just in case something is to go wrong about all this, I am still signing up for classes for next semester here.   Though, right now, it looks like I’ll be going to Korea in the fall of 2014.   And just the thought is awesome!

(NOTE: all gifs are from the drama: Flower Boy Next Door)