I've had some really great time with friends since I've been here. They've been a blessing to me in more ways than buying me food. Some of these friends I don't stay in touch with well, but still coming back and seeing how we've changed, talking more in Korean, talking about things we long for, things that have hurt, things we've learned...is good.
I thought when I first came here that I mostly acquired friends who wanted to speak English. That may to some extent be true, but now that I can speak more Korean, I realize that they spoke English because I didn't speak Korean, not mostly because they wanted to practice. That may not sound like such a great revelation. I just didn't know they'd be eager to speak in Korean once I learned how. I still have a long way to go in Korean studies. I can't talk about deep things to the extent that I want to, so I revert to English if I know my friend will understand, but I long to be able to really talk about things that matter in this language. I still sometimes lament that I chose one of the hardest languages on earth (gramatically) to learn, but I love it.
You might be wondering why my Korean has improved since I left Korea. I'm not sure it actually has improved, but I keep hearing surprise that it has. I think because I've had a series of one-on-one tutors since I moved (it's much cheaper to get tutors in China!), I've become more comfortable in speaking. With my tutors, we sometimes go over grammar or workbook exercises at my request, but mostly I just listen and talk with them in Korean. In Korea, I generally didn't talk that much to people in Korean above simple daily exchanges, but in China there are a few people I only talk to in Korean because that's the only language I share with them. I know that the grammar centered 6 months of classes I took here helped lay a very necessary foundation, but it's really the normal communication practice that makes a difference in learning.
On a side note, a short article on why it's a good reason to learn a foreign language here.