As I mentioned before, I moved in with a Korean host family at the end of November. The family consists of a girl in her early 30s, who speaks English quite well, and her mother, who hardly speaks any English at all. I found them through http://www.homestay.com, but this particular homestay is also registered as an official tourism business, so you can find their own Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/seoulhomestay/?timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1171437175&pnref=lhc
They’ve hosted many students from around the world– if the number of refrigerator magnets from foreign countries is any indication– and from the reviews online, it sounds like everyone has had a lovely stay here.
I can pretty much say the same thing. At least, so far. The apartment is located on the fourth floor of a building in a residential area of Hongdae. You can get to Hongdae station in about 15 minutes by bus. And lucky for me, there’s a bus stop ~3 minutes away where I can catch a direct bus to the back gate of Ewha (where the language center is). The apartment itself has a spacious living room, kitchen, and three bedrooms. I’m renting the largest room in the house with an en suite bathroom. It’s well-lit and very clean. It’s got a double bed and a wall of south-facing windows. Plants that I can’t kill since I’m not the one taking care of them. The only thing is….it’s cold ya’ll. It’s just my luck that I met the Koreans that don’t like to turn on that heavenly ondol (floor heating). I thought that en suite bathroom was gonna be the bomb diggity until I realized that there’s a window in the bathroom that DOESN’T CLOSE because there’s a hose for the AC sticking out of it. So, any steam that might build up from the shower just floats straight out the window. Oh wait, except there’s no steam because the WATER DOESN’T GET HOT. It gets slightly warmer than room temperature for a few minutes and then plummets back to freezing. If this was summer, I’d just say it’s a blessing in disguise, but…
But what keeps me the warm from my head to my toes is heat-tech,
the thought of Jay Park my loving host family ❤ I took a liking to them from day one. My host sister studied abroad in Finland and Japan and has traveled far and wide. She’s open-minded and is always willing to engage in conversations about cultural differences. One of our first conversations in Korean was about Korean welfare, the gap between rich and poor in Korea and the demanding work culture. (Don’t think I can actually talk intelligently about these things in Korean because I can’t, but because she speaks English, I could stop her every once in a while to ask about a word I didn’t know.) Because she’s working at Lotte everyday, though, I end up spending most of my time at home with her mother, who is wonderful. She doesn’t speak any English, which really isn’t a problem for me, but it sounds like previous guests didn’t spent much time talking with the mother because of her lack of English ability. It’s their loss; she’s hilarious and very loving (in that always telling you to eat more and get a boyfriend already kind of way, haha.) Her Korean is very fast, so sometimes it’s hard to catch everything she says but that just means at the end of my three month stay, my listening will be ON POINT.
That was my main motivation for wanting to live with a host family in the first place– to get better at Korean. Classes are great and all, but I was very irritated by how little time we spend putting a what we learned in level 3 into practice. I was also irritated by the hunt for a decent language exchange partner. With a host family, I can get all the practice I want with native Koreans without leaving the house. They’re open to speaking with me about whatever topics we covered in class and offered to even help me with homework. Plus, I get to watch Korean TV and eat home-cooked Korean food every day for breakfast and dinner. It’s Korean style breakfast though, so don’t get too excited. That basically means whatever you have for dinner. It’s not breakfast food. It’s just food. It took my stomach a while to adjust to it, but I am eating twice the amount of vegetables per day, so, can I really complain? Just look at it:
(It’s beautiful, but real talk, I want some pancakes and eggs. Send some STAT.)
This also means I don’t have to bother with going to the supermarket, washing dishes, or cleaning, so I actually have time to myself now. This is a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me. (Well, except for the shower thing.) I know choosing to live with a host family isn’t the most popular option among Light Fellows and other students who come to Korea; the most popular options largely seem to be goshiwons or single apartments, but for me living with a host family Korea has enabled me to get the most out of my time abroad. I might have to give up a little freedom and freeze halfway to death, but it’ll be worth it.