I’ve been super busy since getting up to Seoul 2 weeks ago. The day after I arrived I had to take the placement test at 10am. I had 75 minutes and it consisted of a writing and speaking component. The writing was first and the first few pages were super easy basic questions like “한국에 언제 왔어요?” and it progressively got harder the further you went. I finished almost all of the regular questions and fill in the blank questions, but couldn’t manage the last few sections. The last parts were long, difficult essay type questions and I was fed up with the test at that point so I went to wait to take my turn at the speaking component, haha.
The scores ranged from 1-6, and I scored 5 on speaking and 4 on writing. Academic writing is my downfall of all 4 skills. I went into a separate room with the examiner to assess my speaking skills, in addition to my written exam. He first went through my answers in front of me, checking if things were correct and if they made sense. By page 4 it got cringeworthy for me when he was reading my answers aloud. I knew I kind of fucked up since the last time I really did any academic writing was back in 2012.
So after going through my writing he and I just chatted up for around 10 minutes and he complimented me on my speaking. General everyday conversations are easy for me, so he started to ask me about things like how I thought of the decreasing birthrate in Korea and how I thought it affects or doesn’t affect Korea in the future.
My head is an overflowing bucket at the moment and I have so much on my mind these days. I’ll just wrap up things for now by saying I enjoy my class and my classmates. Things were slow between me and my classmates, but by next week I have a feeling we’ll get a lot closer. We have 14 students and I’m the only American.
So back up real quick to last Wednesday. I got back from Bali and the clock has been ticking since. I leave Daegu 1 week from today…!! Stress levels have been higher than normal, in particular because I found out (in Bali) that I wasn’t accepted to the on-campus dorms that I applied for earlier this month. I had put all my eggs in one basket and checked only the Gwanaksa on-campus dorms because they were the cheapest (502,000 won total for a little less than 3 months if you were curious). They said if you checked multiple boxes for other dorms (they’re all much more expensive) that you’d have a higher chance of getting selected for the Gwanaksa dorms. I didn’t buy into that, so I only checked that one box.
So I wasn’t chosen and I had to start looking for my own place. I had a little “oh, fuck me…” moment, but soon came to terms with it. I had the money saved up to afford more expensive places in Seoul, but it wasn’t an ideal option for me. My main goal is to learn Korean, so I could care less about my accommodation. The Gwanaksa dorms were ideal in the fact that it’s super cheap and I wouldn’t be living in a goshiwon.
Now fast-forward to 2 days ago. I sent them an e-mail asking if there were any possible remaining on-campus dorms or even the ones slightly off-campus. All I wanted at this point was to be closer to campus because I hate commuting. Today I received an e-mail back saying that they did have one room for the Gwanaksa dorms!!! I’m going to wire my money to them after work today. Today was a fantastic day.
Tomorrow (well, actually more like today) I’m headed to Bali for a week for my two friends’ wedding! My room is now an absolute mess with things strewn all over the floor. I should be packing, but here I am listening to my jams and lounging around. This whole week I feel like I’ve been all over the place. It feels weird that I’ll be leaving Daegu in 3 weeks…
Anyway, I should get back to packing so I can get a few hours of sleep before I need to wake up. I’ll leave you with a video I came across about a month ago. I think many gyopos can relate to this, in particular the guys, hah.
So in about 6 weeks I’ll be starting class at the SNU LEI. The past 2 years I’ve been working and living in Daegu, so I’m already used to Korea. That being said, I’m still extremely excited to become a student again. The whole purpose of me coming to Korea 2 years ago was to become absolutely fluent in Korean.
But if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering…”Why is this Korean-American studying Korean?” It’s often assumed that gyopos are already fluent or naturally speak Korean. While this is sometimes true, there is a vast spectrum in terms of ability. Back when I took my first ever Korean class in university I couldn’t read, write, or even speak, but was always able to understand pretty much everything said in Korean. I just flat out didn’t have the opportunities as a kid to learn. I grew up in a predominately white rural town for 15 years of my life.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of uni that my Korean literally skyrocketed. I included a very advanced graph detailing this below.
In short, before I even started my Korean class, I was kicked out of the beginner Korean class I had originally registered for after a placement test & interview. This was due to the fact that I was ethnically Korean and already had some level of Korean, even though I couldn’t speak, read, or write. I was moved to the heritage learner beginner-ish Korean class with only gyopos. I was at the bottom of my class with the lowest ability and I struggled week after week to keep up back then. Now looking back I can say that the move was the best thing for me. I was literally thrown into this pool, full of city/suburban gyopos who could do lap after lap with relative ease, where I couldn’t even doggy paddle. It was sink or swim, and I swam my ass off.
So hopefully by sharing this I might find another gyopo who’s like me. To this day, I haven’t. I always thought it’d be cool to talk to someone who grew up like me and share our experiences. If you are, feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to share stories!
I’m Sam, and I’m a 2nd generation Korean-American living in Korea. I created this blog to share my experiences specifically as a Korean-American relearning the mother tongue at SNU (got accepted 2 weeks ago baby!) and my own personal life goals. I want to keep this short and simple for now, but I’ll add more as time goes on. Last, but not least here’s my pic of one of those oh so sweet golden tickets 😉