Posted in Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

My first TOPIK experience

Last Saturday I finally took TOPIK 1 (whoa, it already feels like it was ages ago!) and surprisingly enough, my sister and I actually found our way to the Korean Cultural Center without any trouble!
When we got there we waited outside for a while, not really sure whether to enter the building or not since we were there pretty early, but soon other Korean lovers joined us and we all got invited inside by one of the employees. After waiting for a while in the waiting area, we all had to get our registration slips and then we got to go to the room where we had to take the actual test.


My first impression was that it seemed just like a normal written exam just like back home in Denmark! I walked in to the dark room and had to find my seat. All desks had names and registration numbers, so you had to find the one with your name. Not too long after finding my desk, the supervisors joined us and started to collect our phones while explaining the structure and rules of the exam. As I mentioned in my last post, I actually had an anxiety attack right before I found my desk, but at this point I was starting calm down and this actually ended up being my favorite part of the exam. Why? Because the instructions were mainly in Korean. Only a few things got translated to English and somehow I just found it so incredibly satisfying to actually use my knowledge and be able to understand what was going on! Honestly, that’s probably the reason why my anxiety started to fade away. At that point I had already considered quitting and just leaving the room before the test started, but I knew that I would regret it SO badly! Passing level 2 in April 2016, has been my goal and a big part of my motivation in 10 whole months! Not only would I be incredibly disappointed in myself, but I would also leave the Korean Cultural Center with a really bad memory filled with anxiety and I might never be able to get over that. So I decided that I would skip TOPIK 2 (which was just a bonus since I was already there) and stay for TOPIK 1 no matter what. And I did!

After waiting for a while, we got out TOPIK pens (I have read about many people keeping these pens as a souvenir, but I never understood why until I got mine. I had no idea that the pens where made specifically for the exam!) and soon after we got our papers too. Soon after, the exam finally started but sadly it didn’t last for long. We started with 듣기 but our audio player kept stopping in the middle of the tracks. I felt really sorry towards some of the other test takers. Some of them where really nervous and had been sitting with their books, cramming, until the very last moment, and these unexpected technical issues obviously made them more nervous! After a few tries we were told to jump straight into 읽기 while they tried to find another cd player. This is my second favorite moment of the exam! You see, there was no clock in the room so I had no idea whether I was behind on time or not, which was quite stressful. Also, I haven’t taken a TOPIK mock test since September, and I had completely forgotten how much time we had and how many questions there was. I literally had no idea what I was doing so I just tried to focus on the current question in front of me. At some point one of the supervisors pokes me on the shoulder and asks “You ARE aware that you need to fill out the answers on that separate paper, right?”… Oh boy! My face must have been priceless! I DID know that had to do that because they said so in the beginning and I DID understand it. However, I have never used that separate answer sheet at home and after my anxiety issues I had just put all of my focus into the test and had almost forgotten that I was NOT home in my own living room and I was NOT just taking a mock test! Having no idea how much time I had to fix it, I semi panicked and tried to fill it out as fast as possible, which obviously caused me to accidently mark a few answers wrongly. At the exam you are not allowed to use your own pen or correction tape, so I had to raise my hand and wait patiently for the supervisor to bring me the tape. I got it corrected and finished the last few questions and then while I was thinking about what a silly mistake that was, one of the supervisors declared that we now only had 10 minutes left! Turns out I had more than enough time! This brings me to my point: This is my second favorite moment! As mentioned above, I haven’t taken the test since September and back then I just barely passed it + I had to skim through the last 3 questions in order to answer them in time. This time I was able to read some of the questions several times, I could fill out the answers twice on different papers, erase a few answers and then correct them, and still be able to finish with 10+ minutes to spare. If that’s not progress, then I don’t know what is!

After the 10 minutes had past, they gave us two extra minutes to finish up, since we had to start the 읽기 so sudden. We then picked up where we left with 듣기 but the new player also seemed to be against us! Once again I felt really sorry towards the other test takers, and the supervisors too! They were definitely worried about what to do if it didn’t start working properly soon! It the end one of the supervisors just had to stand by the player and be ready to restart it if it stopped, and that worked out perfectly.
In the end we finished without too many problems and I left the room smiling and feeling really good about myself! Like most of the other test takers, I brought my pen back home with me. It now has a special place on my desk (aka my favorite study place) and it will stay there to remind me of my first TOPIK experience, and motivate me to study for the next!


I have already thought about my next TOPIK goal, but I have decided to just study without a goal, until May 26th, where the results from the 46th TOPIK will be published. I can’t wait to see my result and I can’t wait to learn more Korean and see more progress. Things have been a bit hectic since I got back from London, but it should be back to normal now. Hopefully that means that I can spend my long weekend with my first post-TOPIK study session!

Have a great day guys!

Posted in books, Kpop, Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

My London Trip

Now that I’m back from London, I believe it’s time for me to share the highlights of my trip! We (my sister and I) left for London on Thursday and it was the first time flying for both of us. The trip was chaotic from the very beginning as one of the trains I had to take, got cancelled last minute. Luckily there was another train leaving shortly after that I could take and in the end I made it to the airport in time. After getting on the plane, things got really chaotic! It turns out that I get airsick (I haven’t had trouble with any types of motion sickness in almost 10 years, so none of us had seen it coming) and vomiting is actually one of my biggest fears. I’m not sure why but I have always felt this way and I would do pretty much anything to avoid vomiting. In the end I made it through both of my flights without vomiting but the trip and the fear alone was enough to trigger my anxiety attacks. I have only suffered from anxiety a few times before so this was yet another surprise to me. I ended up having 4 attacks on the trip which was super exhausting and I ended up only taking TOPIK 1 as a result.
Even though my trip had quite a few bad surprises, I actually had a really good time and I would gladly do it over again! I had so much fun with my sister and I got to practice a lot of Korean!

On Friday we took the long trip out to New Malden. New Malden has a big Korean community and the streets are filled with Korean restaurants, convenience stores, Korean hair dressers, bigger Korean markets etc. My sister and I went there to shop and eat dinner but in the end we got there pretty early and decided to go shopping and then eat lunch instead. It felt so strange and exciting for me to walk along the streets and be able to listen to small pieces of Korean conversations while reading Korean signs and looking at Korean products everywhere! It is probably the closest I’ll get to Korea, until next year! I ended up buying a ton of snacks, some beauty products, a kpop cd, and a ton of other things. We then chose a random restaurant where we sat down to enjoy a big meal and plan the next day’s activities. We ended up in a restaurant called 징기스칸 and we had a great time there! The restaurant had a great 분위기 and the food was delicious. We were the only non-Koreans there but we could easily chat with the staff and they even cheered on my sister when she was struggling with her chopsticks! It was really just a great experience and I would definitely go there again if I could!


On Saturday we headed towards London Centrum and I took TOPIK 1. It was a great experience despite of my anxiety, but I will have a separate post on my TOPIK experience soon, so I won’t really talk about it now. After getting lost a few times in the giant crowd of people, we finally found our way to Foyles. My sister and I both love books and I actually just wanted buy a new crime novel to read later, but we obviously had to stop by the language area – How could we not? Much to my surprise, they actually had quite a few books in Korean (mostly famous books translated to Korean) and there was no way I could leave without bringing one of them home with me! I read a few lines on the back of each book and ended up with two finalists. I couldn’t choose so I closed my eyes and let my sister switch them around a few times. I ended up choosing the one in her right hand but because my sister is simply that awesome, she actually bought the other one for me! 고마워 언니~


We spent some more time in that area but decided that we actually had liked New Malden more, and therefore we went back to our little Korean playground. We finished up our shopping and then ate dinner at a restaurant called 소라. This place was even better than 징기스칸 and we really enjoyed the food and small talk! I wished I had a better camera at that point as my phone camera truly sucks, but nevertheless, we had the times of our lives! Sister time and Korean food – does it get much better?

My trip back home where a lot easier to handle. I got some motion sickness tablets so I only had to worry about the anxiety itself and I’m usually pretty good at dealing with it when it happens.

I have definitely learned a lot about myself on this trip, and now I know what to expect and how to handle it, when we go to Korea next year! Despite a few uncomfortable moments I would do it all over again, anytime!

Here’s some of the random things I brought back home with me!


Posted in Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

Slowly getting there

There’s now 10 days left till I fly to London, and 12 days for TOPIK. While I am still super nervous, I can actually feel my nervousness fade more away for each day that passes, and my excitement is slowly taking over its place. It’s an amazing feeling! I have gathered all the most important things like my passport, money, TOPIK documents, flight documents, hotel reservation documents, books for my sister etc. in my handbag, since I won’t be needing them until I leave anyway. As I was packing these items yesterday I realized that I actually feel pretty ready. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m still convinced that I won’t get more than 2급, but again that was my goal to begin with. While I would love to get 3급, I honestly don’t feel upset by the thought of failing it anymore. As you guys probably know very well by now, I love trying to figure out where my sudden mind changes come from, and this is what I came up with. On Thursday I took another 토픽 2 읽기 연습 시험, and on Friday I looked at my result. I beat my previous best score with 8 points (4 answers), and I felt really happy. On Saturday I continued with the 듣기 part of the test, and I didn’t get any unusual result. 16 points higher than my worst result, but 6 points lower than my best. However, I felt like my understanding had gotten a lot better. I still didn’t understand it well enough to answer the questions properly, but I felt that I somewhat understood the basics of what was going on, which is a first for me. There’s usually 6-8 assignments where I have no idea what is going on, and just have to guess without putting any thought into it. This made me feel so much happier than the points probably would have, because it kept me from stressing out and thinking my usual ’omg I have no idea what’s going on, what does this even mean, I’m going to fail this so hard’ thoughts, and that meant that the time passed by a lot faster, and I was able to enjoy the challenge. It was a truly enjoyable experience.

So, was it the points that made me feel ready? My new and improved understanding of the 듣기 part? No, not at all. My original plan was to keep up with the practice tests, right until the actual exam, but I changed my mind when I was printing out the test from this weekend. I don’t want to ware myself out and more importantly, I don’t want to start getting bored with TOPIK tests. If that happens, then where does that leave me in 12 days? There’s just no way that it would benefit me. Of course I will still be studying until then – I mean come on, it is me after all! But no more TOPIK focused studying. No more 쓰기 practice, no more speed reading practice and no more practice tests. I’m going to study in whatever way I feel like. I’m going to continue reading 버드나무에 부는 바람 and I just started on the 1st look magazine that I bought last month, and I’ll go back to enjoying my grammar books as well.
After making that decision I felt very pleased with myself. I have worked hard until now, and I have improved a lot from my first TOPIK 2 test in January and until now. Now, I have put away all my worries and I’m going to let my excitement take over any nervousness that might be left it me.

In 10 days I’ll see my sister for the first time in 5 months and we’re going to have 3 awesome days in London together. We’re going to go shopping and she’ll eat Korean food for the first time! If only I could make these 10 days go by a little faster!

Posted in Selfstudy, Uncategorized

My thoughts on memorizing

First of all, learning a language is memorizing information to a certain degree. However, I it does matter how you memorize it.  Some people sit down with a list of words or grammar and go through it over and over again until they have memorized every single part of this list. This is what I would call forced memorization. Your only goal is to remember what’s on that list and it can easily slow down your learning process, however, it can also be really helpful.
Other people refuse to memorize and instead they try to expose themselves to those very same words or grammar points, until they know them by heart. But isn’t this just another form of memorization? I would say it is. However, this is what I would call natural memorization and it has a completely different set of good and bad points. It generally takes a lot longer to memorize in this way, however in this way you usually have different situations where you ‘meet’ those words (unlike with forced memorization where the situation is the same for all of the words: sitting somewhere with a paper full of words) and that’ll make it easier to remember. Maybe you meet a certain word often when you are out grocery shopping, and then you meet another word often while you are at school.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that memorization (not to mention everything else in this world) has it’s good and bad points, and in this post I’ll be sharing my thoughts about it.
This post will be all about my personal opinion on the matter, and it is obviously based on my personal experiences with memorization. When I’m saying ´Memorization´ in the rest of this post, I’ll mainly be talking about the forced memorization.

– It allows you to feel like you are making progress even though you only have a short timespan to work in, and this is an awesome feeling which has the power to give your self-esteem and motivation a boost. Everybody is different and therefore it’s only natural that we all have different needs when learning. Some people just need the confirmation that memorizing a bunch of words, can give. Other people just don’t. It’s that simple.
– If you are the type of person who loves turning everything into a game or who is very competitive, then you probably enjoy things like Memrise, which gives you points for each correct answer. When using Memrise you can also check your position (based on your points) among all the other users. I know several people who find these things incredibly motivating and for people like them, memorizing can be a really good tool for learning.
– When you start learning something new like an alphabet, numbers of similar things, then memorization is an awesome tool. Memorized things are usually forgotten fairly easy but if you can remember them just for a while, then it’ll be a lot easier for you to use them in different situations which then allows you to actually learn the numbers. Memorization itself might not always be a good choice, but it usually does open up for a few new learning possibilities.
– Another good thing to mention is that it allows you to be able to talk about a specific subject in a short amount of time. This is really helpful if you need to make a presentation of some sort or if you want to be able to discuss a certain topic with other people.
– I recently read that memorization helps to keep your brain fit, which then makes it easier to remember stuff in general. My memory is pretty standard I guess, but I would love to make it just slightly better! It also takes a lot less energy to use things you’ve memorized instead of creating those same things all over again.
– Lastly I want to mention that some phrases simply don’t make sense when you look at the words separately. I can’t even count the amount of times where I have been losing my mind over a certain sentence, because I KNOW all the words and I KNOW the grammar, and yet I have absolutely no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean. In these situations, I find memorization very helpful. I’m not sure why, but I actually find that memorized sentences stick a lot easier than memorized words. Maybe because I create a connection between the meaning and the sentence? I’m not sure to be honest.

– As mentioned earlier, you often meet new words in a certain situation. Maybe you meet a certain word often when you are out grocery shopping, and then you meet another word often while you are at school. It won’t take long for you to make a connection between the word and the situation, and then when you suddenly read it in a book or hear it in a movie, you’ll have the connection to that specific situation, and that’ll help you remember it’s meaning. If you memorize these same words in a forced way, you most likely won’t have a connection in the same way. If you sit down with a list of words and start memorizing them, then your situation for all those words will all be the same (sitting with a piece of paper) and that won’t be very helpful. I hope that made sense!
– When memorizing words (and often memorizing many words in a short period of time) it often has the – very unwanted – effect of making it difficult for the learner to recognize the very same words if they appear in a new context. This is something that often happens to me. When reading in my books, I have often come across words that I either couldn’t recognize at all, or words that I just knew for a fact that I had ‘learned’ but couldn’t remember the meaning of, even if my life had depended on it. Having a connection to a situation or a place just makes it a lot easier.
– While you can remember every single word today, you might have forgotten them all by tomorrow. Memorized words can disappear from your memory in no time, and you might get really surprised by this if you thought you had learned them for good.
– Memorizing can easily become a really bad habit. If you enjoy the fast results and the steady feeling of progress, then it can be very tempting to just memorize everything you possibly can. We should all keep this in mind when memorizing.
– Changes to the memorized words can ruin your understanding completely. When I wanted to learn the native Korean numbers, I made myself some cardboard flashcards. I wrote the number on one side and the Korean on the other side and started practicing immediately. I looked at the Korean side, and guessed the number on the back of it. It didn’t take me long to memorize them and I even kept practicing for a few days to keep myself from forgetting them, however, after getting all of the cards right over and over again, I decided to practice in the opposite way. I looked at the numbers and tried to guess the Korean side, and guess what? I got about half of them wrong. This slight change was enough for me to completely ruin my so-called understanding of the number. That was a real eye opener for me, and I still remind myself often, so that I don’t make such a mistake again.

– Avoid learning to many words at the same time. If you decide to learn 100 new words every day, the chances of forgetting them all or confusing yourself is really high.
– Try putting all the new words into a context. Write down some sample sentences or dialogs. This will make it easier to remember the words meaning later – especially of you find it easier to remember sentences, like me.
– Try to memorize small groups of words that are related, instead of random lists. This way you might be able make a connection between those words and that’ll help you remember it later. Maybe you can’t remember 입장료when you see it, but you do remember that you memorized it along with 놀이 기구 and 놀이공원, so that’ll create a connection which can either help you remember the word or at least understand through context.
– Be prepared to forget many of the memorized words. If you are prepared for it, then it won’t feel like a defeat when it happens – Because it WILL happen.

Lastly I want to share a little story. Not too long ago, I was talking to another language learner and she felt really bummed out. She had been discussing a certain topic with some friends over a few days and therefore she memorized a lot of words related to said topic, though this weren’t her intention. However, after reading pretty much everywhere that memorization is really bad and that it slows down your real learning speed, she felt upset because she now felt that her sense of progress from those discussions, were fake and useless.
That’s a really dangerous thought for anyone who’s learning anything, and that’s the reason why I decided to write this post. While I do not recommend that you rely too much on memorization, it does have some benefits, and it’s not wrong to do it. It does allow you to learn certain things faster and even if you only learn one out of the 30 words you wanted to learn, then that it still one more word you know now. Don’t get stressed out over memorization – it’s really not that big of a deal. Even if you experience temporary progress, it’s still progress that you can use at that time. Enjoy it!