Aanchal Tekriwal, Godda, Jharkhand
Language can hold immense power, igniting a person’s heart with new blooms of inquisitiveness and ardent for learning. Meet Dana, a budding and enthusiastic Korean-language Digital Creator from the US embarking on her language journey. She started her new adventure with her Instagram page “Piece of Korean Cake” on November 2, 2022, and has recently moved to South Korea to study the language. Her content covers a wide range of topics, from her experiences learning Hangeul to her travel videos and deep knowledge of Korean culture. Through her content, she not only shares valuable insights but also creates a sense of belonging and hope among her audience. At Hallyuism, we had an amazing opportunity to interview Dana, where she shared her life experiences with the language and country. With no further ado, let’s dive into the interview!
May we kindly request you to briefly introduce yourself to our esteemed readers?
Sure, my name is Dana. I’m 31, from the US, and recently moved to Korea to study the language. In addition to my deep interest in Korea, I love just about anything sweet (cake, cookies, brownies, if it has way too much sugar, I’ll love it), animals, and cooking. I am really grateful for the opportunity to be here. Thank you all for reading!
Why did you choose to pursue learning the Korean Language? What cultural aspects motivate you to learn Korean?
I technically started learning Korean at the beginning of the pandemic. After being blown away by a previous trip to Asia, my sister, aka my travel buddy, and I had decided that Korea was going to be our next trip. I thought it would be useful to know a few words and maybe how to read the signs, but wow did I end up on a very unexpected adventure. I started getting into K-pop, watching K-Dramas’, and seeking out my local Korean restaurants as often as I could. All of this fed my interest in the language which in turn made me want to dive even deeper into the culture. Before I knew it, I was reading articles on current events and taking out books on Korea from the library. I fell in love with the language and country as a whole at the same time.
What were some of the challenges that you have struggled with while learning the language?
Oh boy, where do I start?! I have learned other languages in the past, but this is the first time that I have taught myself. The hardest thing at first was just figuring out what on earth I was supposed to be doing! I would study random words and grammar but wasn’t making any progress. Also, even though I really do love to study the language, I had a full-time job on Wall Street, so it wasn’t always easy to make time. But the thing that helped me the most was to remember that I started learning as a hobby. If I take it too seriously or put too much pressure on myself, it stops being fun and loses its purpose.
What was your key stimulus reason to start the “Piece of Korean Cake” endeavour as a Digital Creator by communicating your language journey?
Honestly, I was hoping to hold myself more accountable and be able to track my progress with the language and that was it. I was hoping to maybe help and motivate others along the way, but it was mostly for myself. I didn’t really expect anyone to follow. But the community I feel with it now has been a game changer. I have been able to connect with people who have the same interest in K-pop or K-Dramas that I do and didn’t have before. Now, I want to use it as a way for other people to connect and make friends around those same interests too!
With the embarked 3-month adventure you started in February while experiencing your life in Korea, how is it going now? Tell us about the experiences you have encountered so far as a foreigner.
I have had such a wonderful time! I was here on two tourist visas before I started school in August and have just had so much fun. I fortunately haven’t had any of the negative or discriminatory encounters that some people talk about. Everyone has been incredibly kind, patient, and understanding when I am stumbling over my Korean or don’t understand exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at a restaurant. My favourite experiences have been unplanned surprises or when I showed up to something with no expectations and left completely amazed by what I discovered.
You have such a pivotal knowledge of the history and culture of South Korea. Do you want to share any recent discoveries or insights with our readers?
Wow, thank you so much for saying that! I have loved learning about everything from the retirement system (I couldn’t sleep last night so I went really deep into the National Pension System) to the current dynamic between teachers and parents in school. But I think the most interesting thing has been to learn what the average Korean values. Everyone all over the world is more similar than we are different, and we all share very human experiences. I feel like I get a glimpse into their life every time I hear about their school or work environment, or that Koreans are the world’s biggest luxury shoppers. The more I understand these motivations of how they live their life, the more connected I feel to them.
It has come to our attention that you stan BTS and SEVENTEEN. Tell us about how you discovered them and the impact their music has on your life or your learning journey. Tell us your favourite songs from each of these groups? Additionally, we would appreciate it if you could tell us of any other K-pop groups you are familiar with.
Absolutely! I love being able to fan-girl every chance I get. Like most people I think, my first K-pop experience was BTS. They had collaborated with Steve Aoki on Mic Drop and that came up randomly on my Spotify since I like EDM. I basically consumed nothing but BTS content for a year and then slowly started to branch out. SEVENTEEN was actually one of the later groups I got into, but I just love them.
My favourite song by BTS is hands down Mikrokosmos but, I am going to say something controversial, I’m not actually that big of a fan of BTS’s music. It just isn’t my style. Of course, still listen to show my support and am in awe of their profound lyrics, but in general, I have a different taste. On the other hand, SEVENTEEN is much more my style musically so I like almost all of their songs, but Don’t Wanna Cry have always been my favourite. I also stan Stray Kids, ATEEZ, MONSTA X, SHINee, and A.C.E. Basically, if it’s K-pop though, I will listen to it.
We have encountered some incredibly stunning travel videos on your feed with your insightful thoughts about the cities featured in the captions. Tell us about your favourite travel experience or city you would love to revisit. Now that you are living and studying in Busan. Tell us about how Busan brings you joy and a sense of lightness.
When I was first planning my trip here, I had made a list of all of the popular tourist attractions that I wanted to visit. After arriving though, I have kind of thrown out the “most popular” list and have started trying to find places no one else knows about. Every new place I go to seems to be my new favourite, so I guess I will have to share where I went most recently, Guinsa Temple in Danyang. We drove about 4 hours to get there from Busan, but it was so worth it. I’ve never seen a temple like it! I want to go back next year in the fall because I think it has the potential to be the most beautiful place in Korea when the leaves have all turned. And I think almost no one knows about it. My Korean boyfriend has never heard of this before either but said it was the coolest temple he’d ever been to as well!
Busan is simply magic. I love the slower pace; people seem to be friendlier and happier than in Seoul. It is also breathtakingly beautiful. The reflections of all the lights as you drive over a bridge at night or walk along a beach are truly gorgeous. I love all the nature there is as well. Of course, all of Korea, including the capital, of Seoul has parks and hikes but here it feels somehow more like a part of the city.
Do you have any advice for someone travelling to South Korea for the first time with your own experience?
Obviously, have a plan but at the same time come with an open mind and be willing to go off script. If a street seems interesting, walk down it. If a restaurant looks good, eat there, even if you can’t read the menu. Korea has so much to offer that isn’t going to show up on any blog post of the 10 most popular tourist attractions. However, finding those off-the-beaten-path places means that you may have to set some time aside to just wander.
We have come across your Free Korean Visa Masterclass on your feed. Could you provide more details about this Masterclass for our readers?
Sure! I found that my DMs were filled with people asking questions about how to move to Korea, how to learn the language, etc. So, I decided I would host free classes where I could share what I have learned on my journey and people could ask questions to figure out the next step of theirs. I obviously don’t know everything, but I can usually point people at least in the right direction since I have done so much of my own research on various topics. I now have a whole list of things I think would be helpful to talk about.
We truly acknowledge the insights you provide about the different aspects of the language, culture and travel of South Korea. What message would you like to share with budding Korean language learners embarking on their new language journey?
Two things. First, keep going! It isn’t a race; you don’t need to try to be faster or better than anyone else. Your language journey is your own and you are exactly where you need to be. The second is don’t be afraid to try new things. If memorizing vocabulary feels like it’s getting a little boring, try a new app or make up a game. It may take a while to find what works for you. Korean is a beautiful language, but it is also one of the most difficult for an English speaker to learn so be kind to yourself.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your coming life in Korea? Would you like to convey any message to our readers and yourself regarding your progress?
I am so excited about my future here in Korea. Of course, I don’t know exactly how things will turn out but once I finish language school, I would love to get a job and settle down here. As for conveying a message, this may sound cliche, but go ahead and chase your dreams. Take that risk. I try to approach life in such a way that when I’m 90, sitting in my rocking chair, reflecting on what I’ve done there aren’t too many “I wish I would have done that” moments. And…I get it, taking a risk is scary but we often blow it out of proportion. If you move to Korea and things don’t work out the worst thing is…you go back home. That’s it. The world hasn’t ended. You can find a new dream and start again. I wish society left a little more room for people to not fear the possibility of failure so much that it prevents them from trying in the first place.
Once again, on behalf of our entire team at Hallyuism, we would like to thank Dana for taking out her valuable time for this interview, and we are deeply honored. Wishing her the very best in all her future endeavours in South Korea. We hope you all loved reading this interview as much as we loved conducting it. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!