The Brave, Little Ninja Goes to School in South Korea: Week 20 & 21

I had my midterms, met up with AIE guides, took a train tour, and my ninja got a friend!

Mon 7/10: So this week I had my level 2 midterm tests. I actually didn’t do very well. At Sogang, they consider getting a 70% and above on a test as passing, and I only got that on one of my tests. What surprised me was that the one test that I passed was the listening test, which I consider my weakest skill.

I’m gonna be real honest here: It’s been a huge challenge for me not to compare myself to my classmates as I’ve struggled while they’ve excelled. It’s also been an incredibly humbling experience for me to be in a classroom environment with people who are so, so, so much smarter than me.

The thing is that by the grace of God I am at peace with not passing this level on my first attempt. (The people who have known be growing up will know that this is truly a peace that surpasses all understanding.) While language programs like Sogang’s are great at teaching the material, the only thing they don’t and can’t build into their programs is just the amount of time it takes to let it all sink in. I honestly think it’s probably impossible to go through all six levels in one go. My housemate Monica who has attended Sogang’s language program as well as Yonsei University’s said that it was very normal for people to retake levels. It’s just that failing a class is so stigmatized in our heads when really people like me just need a second chance. I just need to give myself the grace to do it.

On a lighter note, on Thursday, I went to dinner with the English-speaking volunteers (guides) who arrived for this year’s Adventures in English (AIE) summer camp. There were only two people who were new so I knew almost the whole group from last summer. It was good to see the familiar faces and meet the new ones too. I hope to visit them and maybe help out a little when AIE starts up.

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Saturday was an adventure. There are several different tourist trains in Korea that go out of Seoul station and into the countryside and/or to the coast. Luke, Sydney, and I went on the S Train. It’s called such because it goes south and it’s slow.

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Most tourist trains have differently themed cars with fun activities to do while you are enroute to your destination. This train didn’t have lots of stuff to do on board because on this train you’re just supposed to take in the beautiful scenery as you go.

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Our destination was Yeosu-Expo, almost as far south as you can get in Korea. There was an expo that happened there in 2012, and now it’s a tourist destination.

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I don’t think it’s the biggest attraction at Yeosu-Expo, but I think it’s the coolest thing: the pipe organ. There’s a water power plant there and these frequently have towers that tourists can go up into. The side of this one had a huge pipe organ on the side of it, and someone came to play it several times a day.

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This was the most random yet awesome idea ever.

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A map of the Yeosu area.

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There is also a huge aquarium there. It was even used as part of the set of a Korean drama that released recently.

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You can go into that dome thing, and it’s super cool!

But the most important thing is that I found a store there that had other string keychain thingies and so…

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The ninja has a new friend!!!!

Anyway, last month, I changed my phone plan because I was paying way too much for not enough data. (Wow, that sounded like a commercial.) So this Sunday was the first Sunday that I had to renew my monthly phone plan. I had some trouble so I had to call customer support, which I was really worried about because I wasn’t sure if they would speak English. That and I just get really intimidated by talking to people on the phone. But I did it and they spoke English and I got everything figured out. I’m so proud of myself. (It’s the little things.)

Wednesday was my speaking midterm which is called the interview. I did about as well as I thought I would do. The teacher said that I needed to work on my listening and reading. I agree, but those are things that I think fall into the I-just-need-more-time category. I’ll get faster at reading by reading and I’ll get better at listening by listening. I just need to be patient.

Friday I hung out with a few of my classmates outside of class. We went to a party and met a bunch of people who were taking the language program at Yonsei. It was really interesting because pretty much everyone was from the US (California mostly), and so everyone was speaking English. I kind of wished that there were more people who didn’t speak English so we could practice Korean, but it was fun to meet them still.

Sunday we met a bunch of new teachers who are going to work at the same international school as Bethany, my roommate from college. Bethany and the other returning teachers aren’t back yet, but the new teachers are here now for orientation. It was nice to be able to meet them and get to know them a little.

This coming week I have school off, so I have a huge to-do list for myself. Please pray that I will have the motivation and self-discipline to get it all done. It’s going to be really tempting to just lounge around all day.

Thanks for reading and praying.

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