Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Not-So-Secret Love: My Favorite Korean Dramas

It’s a not-so-secret fact that I love Korean dramas. Given the opportunity to watch an American TV show or a Korean drama, I will pick the Korean one almost every time. I like the storylines that wrap up in 16 or 20 episodes, the general lack of swearing and sex, the glimpse of another culture and the feel of a new language.  I like the strangely obsessive but endearing community that develops around the plots. Korean dramas open up another world within my world; they provide entertainment, yet also express an ethos beyond my familiar Western culture.

 Your favorite stories express something about you. I have predominantly focused on my favorite books.  However, the time has come to announce to the world (or at least my blog readers)….

I really, really like Korean dramas.

Here are my Favorite Dramas* (in descending order)**

Cyrano

9. Dating Agency: Cyrano
Episodes: 16
Plot: The Cyrano Agency provides dating advice and assistance for people with hopeless crushes. They feed lines, arrange meetings, and make true love happen. The leader of the group is a Realist. His latest hire, and the only female member, is a Romantic. Predictable conflict ensues!
I really enjoyed the 2010 movie Cyrano Agency and this drama functions as a “prequel.” Each episode follows a new couple helped by the agency.  In some ways, this show is entirely cheesy and the hero isn’t my favorite. However, the storyline kept me hooked and secondary characters made up for an awkward main couple.

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Monstar 2

8. Monstar
Episodes: 12
Plot: When a pop star gets suspended from his band for anger issues, he enrolls in school to change his image. While there he collects a group of musically gifted underdogs around him and together they challenge the school’s musical elites.
High school musicals are nothing unique, but Monstar’s beautiful soundtrack and realistic, psychological portrayal of bullying, abandonment, and hope stole my heart. A very talented group of actors make this comparatively brief drama worth the time.

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Heirs

7. Heirs
Episodes: 20

Plot: A young woman (“the heir to poverty”) follows her sister to the United States from Korea in hopes of a better life but finds herself worse off. During her time in the US, she meets a young man who is the heir to a large conglomeration and part of the top 1% of Korean society. The drama follows their romance and the “friendships, rivalries, and love lives” of the other heirs of Korea’s elite.
Some of my favorite actors (and actresses!) play main characters in this drama. It is hard to summarize because of the many intertwining subplots, but Heirs represents a recent development in K-dramas emphasizing character psychology. Watch it for the bromance, the ugly sweaters, or just plain Lee Min Ho. I think the drama lived up to the hubbub surrounding it.

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Sly and Single Again

6. Sly and Single Again
Episodes: 16

Plot: Three years after their divorce, a woman discovers her ex-husband has become the very successful CEO of his own company. She decides to seek revenge on him for leaving her penniless and in debt… by making him fall in love with her again.
This drama contrasts the miscommunication and pain that tear a marriage apart with the power of hope and forgiveness. Despite very difficult, deep themes, it manages to remain light hearted and fun. Yet it isn’t all comedy: the story portrays the very raw emotions that come from a divorce. Really well done (and having the ever attractive singer L play the secretary was not a bad move at all).

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Who Are You

5. Who Are You?
Episodes: 16

Plot: After waking from a coma, a detective discovers she can see ghosts. Reassigned to the Lost and Found Division, she seeks to solve the murders of the ghosts whose objects are in the office. At the same time she begins piecing together what happened to her and the detectives that died six years earlier.
Romance, mystery, horror, melodrama, fantasy… this drama has it all (including a very satisfying ending). A very well developed storyline and great acting make this worth the time, especially if when seeking a break from Rom-Com angst.

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Stars_Falling_From_the_Sky_Poster

4. Stars Falling From the Sky
Episodes: 20
Plot: When a self-absorbed, 25-year old woman finds herself the sole guardian of five, adopted younger siblings, her world flips upside down. With no money and no place to live, she takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for her long term crush and hides the kids in the basement. Her employer and his brother are womanizing bachelors with their own painful pasts.
I don’t know how to make that plot sound non-sketch, but this is one of my all-time favorite dramas. It has incredible character change for all the main characters. I love, love, love the sibling relationships. The drama is full of great themes like hard work, independence, and family bonds.  

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Master's Sun

3. Master’s Sun
Episodes: 17

Plot: Because of a near death accident, a woman can see ghosts and the they plague her until she solves their grievances. Because of this, she lives on the outskirts of society and barely sleeps. One day she meets a cold-hearted CEO whose touch makes the ghosts disappear. He seems like the perfect solution… but he wants nothing to do with the crazy lady.
I am not typically a horror fan. It took me several tries to get into the story; it starts out pretty scary. Once I began, though, I was hooked. The drama does an incredible job with character development and exploring psychological themes. It balances several subplots within one greater story. I love the costuming: the heroine’s dresses reflect her mental stability. However this drama isn’t only deep and artsy… it’s fun to watch too!

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Healer

2. Healer
Episodes: 20

Plot: Many years ago, five friends ran a pirate radio station. Then one event changed everything. Now, over twenty years later, two of the original five are dead. One is AWOL. One is a paraplegic. One is rich. It falls to a night courier, a famous journalist, and an online reporter to piece together the clues of their past and unveil the secret of what happened — a secret many are willing to kill for to keep hidden.
This drama is my latest favorite. It combines action, romance, and mystery. The flashbacks are really well done. Unlike some Korean dramas where stupid miscommunication or filler episodes slow down the plot, Healer did a great job keeping the characters intact and storyline moving. This main couple really stood out.

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Rooftop Prince

1. Rooftop Prince
Episodes: 20

Plot: When someone murders a crown-princess in the Joseon era (1700s), her husband and three of his retainers vow to find her killer. In the process they get sent 300 years in the future (modern day) where they find a woman who looks just like the murdered princess… only she has no idea who they are.
This drama contains history, romance, comedy, and mystery. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will give you feels. Though you have to battle through bad hair and occasionally slow episodes, the ending makes it worth it. While newer dramas may provide deeper characters, better graphics, and superior twists, Rooftop Prince offers a timeless storyline that is, at its essence, a classic. I get warm fuzzies just thinking about it! 

So there you have it, some of my favorite storylines. It has been neat to watch Korean dramas improve over the past few years. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, I strongly recommend giving a drama a try. If you watch Korean dramas already, which ones are your favorite? Have you seen all the ones on my list?

Be prepared. Now that I have unleashed my interest in Korean pop culture, you will see more from me about it!

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*These are my current favorites, though I’m watching two right now that might make it on the list at a later date depending how they end (Arang and the Magistrate and Hyde, Jekyl and I)

**Technically, Boys Over Flowers could be on this list. It is the classic, starter K Drama. If you are going to begin anywhere, that is the one to go with. However, it isn’t one of my All Time Favorites and this list is all about me! Maybe someday I’ll make a list of Required Dramas and BOF can top the list.


The Unavoidable Internship: Suggestions From A Senior

Intern

I remember looking at internships freshman year and thinking… ‘wow, that’s impossible.’ The requirements included having previous internship experience, junior or senior status, and moving halfway across the country — all for an unpaid job. If all internships were that difficult to get, where did students find their initial intern experience? Who wanted to wait till junior or senior year? How could anyone afford to return to school in the fall if they weren’t getting paid? Yet everyone said, especially for my field of interest, internships were a must.

Over the past four years, I have worked around 11 different jobs, 3 of them specifically “internships.” While I am by no means an expert, I have picked up a thing or two so here are 9 general tips I have about internships:

  1.  If it is unpaid, tread with care.

This is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Charles Murray, author of A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead (a book you should buy if you haven’t already.) If a company really considers the position vital, they will pay someone to do it. Unpaid internships often imply unnecessary jobs because the market doesn’t necessitate their existence. Chance are, the job will not be worth your time because it isn’t worth the company’s investment. A real job earning real money offers many more advantages for challenge and character growth, even if the title reflects a less glamorous position.

There may be exceptions to the rule, especially if you are trying to network in a specific company, or are padding a resume. But generally, go where they pay, because that means they need you.

  1. Internships provide unique learning opportunities. Use them!

An internship can give you an exclusive look at the inner workings of a company and offer a front row view of what does and doesn’t work. You can gain valuable experience using your “intern status” to meet people up and down the leadership ladder. When I interned for Human Resources, my first “office” was right next to the Vice President of the company! I had access to Lunch-n-Learns, where I met engineers, accountants, and project managers. I started at a branch office and got to know the men on the ground.

An intern comes to learn, so it is a great opportunity to ask questions: people expect it! Get to know the company even if it isn’t where you plan on staying long term. The attributes that make a company or a leader successful overlap in various occupations and fields. The idea works in reverse as well: poor leadership or a bad company policy shows, and you will notice what needs to be changed. You can take this is wisdom with you to other jobs. Identifying those attributes will benefit you wherever you go.

  1. It doesn’t have to be in your field of interest.

While interning with a company you want to work for when you graduate is a great opportunity, it isn’t always available. Though “internship experience, ANY internship experience” might not be the best plan, an openness to different fields provides some unique opportunities. My first two internships were with a company of electricians. Surrounded by fellow interns with degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, my Politics and Government/Criminal Justice double major stood out like a sore thumb. How did pre-law transfer to the trades? A lot smoother than I expected. During my time there, I absorbed information on unions, safety classes, and light fixtures. I learned about biding a job, billing a company, and handling Affirmative Action paperwork. I gained practical, real-world knowledge that has given me a relationship with people in an area I would have known nothing about if I had stuck to my “field” of law/politics. If nothing else, the experience developed me as a person. It is worth looking off the beaten path, especially for your first few internships.

  1. Find where your connections work.

Internships, like job hunting, involves networking. It takes practice. Where do your friends and family members work?  Where do your friends’ parents work? Instead of starting with a company, it might help to start with your connections. I got the job in the trades because of my uncle. I gained my third internship through someone I volunteered with in high school. Every job I have had since working in the Sam’s Club bakery after my freshman year came from knowing someone. Use the people in your life!

  1. Be open to relocating, but don’t be stupid.

New places can be lots of fun. I moved to college in Tennessee without knowing anyone. The same happened during my experience studying abroad in England. If you can fight the homesickness, openness to adventure can lead to fabulous places. Use those connections. Do you have an aunt who could house you for a summer in a different city? Do you have a friend who has extra room in her off-campus living arrangements? Look for internships there. It could be fun and you will be doubly challenged.

However, remember that you are still in college. It may seem glamorous to move across the country for an internship somewhere, but first weigh the costs and benefits carefully. A less exciting but more practical internship could allow you to live at home and save money. There will be opportunities for new places once you graduate.

  1. Don’t think in terms of the unattainable.

A dream cannot become a reality unless you walk towards it. Practically, my semester abroad should never have happened. I could not afford it. Family, friends, and professors went out of their way to make it happen, but first I had to begin the process. I had to learn about the program, and apply. I had to explain what I needed and request financial support. In the end it worked out, but only after I took the first step.

A specific thing, like an internship or studying abroad, may seem impossible, but it can never become possible if you don’t work towards it. So dream crazy dreams! Set goals. Don’t limit yourself. Right now you might not be qualified, but discover what it would take to become qualified. Work with your connections. Don’t limit yourself because of external hindrances. With hard work and planning, they can be overcome.

  1. Develop a work ethic.

I know this seems rather self-evident, but how you approach a job makes a difference. There will tasks you really dislike doing, but you will have to do them anyway. If you can push through those tasks with a good attitude, it shows. It will show character to your bosses and co-workers, even if they never mention it. If nothing else, you will know what you can accomplish in less-than-favored circumstances.

Also, be willing to do what is needed of you. Take out the garbage, shred the papers, staple the documents. It isn’t glamorous, I know. As an intern, you probably won’t be doing anything that fabulous or ground breaking, but if you learn to work hard and do the little things well, it will transfer over to the big things. When I worked in HR, I handled a lot of paperwork. I am not a detail-person. I quickly grew bored with endless Affirmative Action forms. However, I learned to work quickly and persistently. I enjoyed my work as a Field Director with AFP last year, but there were days when I was exhausted. The attitude I had learned from working in HR kept me going. Stick with it when the work is hard. A job well done makes the effort worth it.

  1. Have fun!

You have the job for a summer. It isn’t a lifetime commitment. Use this season to explore! What do you like doing? What do you hate? Try something new. While this isn’t always possible if you need a consistent, well-paying job (because…. you know, college kid), there are still many ways to discover new things. Get to know your coworkers. Try different fields and companies. Learn what works for you. Do you like order, or prefer making your own rules? Do you want to stay behind the desk, or get your hands dirty? Do you want a specific job description, or to create the position as you go? An internship provides a taste of the professional world with comparatively short-term commitments.

  1. Take internships seriously, but not too seriously.

There are many factors to getting a job, and a positive internship experience can be one of them. However, it isn’t the only thing. Do not stress about getting the perfect internship with the perfect company. When you do get an internship, learn from it. Work hard. Focus on developing your character. Make connections and use them to your benefit. Enjoy it as an end as well as a means to an end. Be willing to try new things. Give your passions and talents a go and spend those summers developing the person you are becoming! That will stick with you for the rest of your life.