Monthly Archives: July 2013

Korean, Teach, Lesson Plan, Repeat


26 pages of hangul

I think this photo sums up the way I’m spending most of my time at Fulbright Orientation quite well. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Korean language. Lesson planning. Teaching.

It’s amazing how full the schedule is each day (or, if it’s not full, we still have a lot of responsibilities. Orientation is, without a doubt, one of the hardest things that I’ve done. I’ve taught two lessons so far and teach once more on Friday. These lessons have been invaluable in developing my teaching persona and ensuring that, yes, I can really teach. But, importantly, they’ve led me to a few things I can improve on in the way I run my classroom. Our Korean language final is next week. Truthfully, I’m finding language class quite difficult, but the Orientation Coordinator Team is offering a lot of support to ETAs who are struggling. I’m hopeful that the class will finish well.

Today, we have our placement ceremony to find out what school and location in Korea that each of us will spend our grant year in. I didn’t have any really specific preferences for location, but I’m still nervous! I do look forward to getting out of the Jungwon University bubble (80 Americans stuffed into a college campus in rural Korea) and into Korean society. Here’s hoping for a great placement, wherever that might be.

Last weekend, we went to the beach town of Donghae City for some so-called rest and relaxation. Right now, I wish I was still on the beach.




Just a quick update before heading off to breakfast and another 4 hour language class: photos!

I’ve added the flickr link to the header, so you can click there to see my most recent photos or visit

There aren’t any captions yet, but all in good time. Time for more rice and kimchi!

I’m in Korea!

After a 12 hour and 40 minute flight (I slept 9 hours, so it was bearable), I arrived on July 6th and have spent the last few days fighting jet lag and settling into Korea. We arrived a little after 5 am and went straight to Jungwon University, our orientation site, in Goesan for a full day of activities. Since then, I’ve had almost no free time, but it’s been great. Here are some pictures from my first days in-country:

Here’s how it works: After six weeks of Orientation, we are placed into a Korean school. The destination is unknown; first-year ETAs can be placed anywhere in Korea except Seoul. We also spend the year in a homestay organized by our Fulbright Co-Teacher, a regular teacher at our host school who acts as a liaison. Orientation is intense, but it’s also necessary to have a successful year in what will be a very independent environment.

We have activities from 9:00 to 5:00 pm, not including extra activities and homework. Tomorrow we have our first day of Korean language classes, which is giving me simultaneous feelings of dread and excitement; I don’t have the best track record for foreign language learning, but in this situation it is a survival skill.

In many ways, even with being thrown into the Orientation process, I am still in disbelief that I am in Korea and that my fellowship has begun. With a visit to a Korean school under my belt and teaching workshops about to start, it’s going to get real very quickly! I’m still very jetlagged and haven’t had a lot of time to reflect, so here’s just a few of the most striking things so far:

-the etiquette of bowing as an everyday greeting and the hierarchy of head nods, 45 degree, and 90 degree bows based on status

-the presence of kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) at every meal

-my amazing fellow ETAs–they come from all different backgrounds, universities, and states!

-the test-centric nature of Korean society and education. As someone who has long detested standardized tests and coming from a pretty far-left liberal arts school, it’s an adjustment!

-A Harry Potter-inspired sorting hat ceremony by the Orientation Coordinator Team, complete with music and lighting, to put us into our 5 houses for Orientation.

…and the realization that in just a few weeks I will have an English class of my own.

Happy Fourth of July: It’s Departure Day!

photo-3First, Happy Fourth of July! It seems very fitting to set off on my journey as a so-called cultural ambassador on America’s 237th birthday.

I’m currently writing this at 36,000 feet on my Virgin America flight to Los Angeles. Upon arrival, I’ll have about 5 hours of layover time before the 12 hour and 40 minute journey to Seoul. This morning was a blur: final packing, ripping of DVDs (Cinderella Man, Finding Nemo, and Planet Earth, what?), the ever-suburban  neighborhood July 4th parade, and a feast of hot dogs/hamburgers, and one final glass of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Right now, I still can’t believe this is real. When I planned my study abroad to China, I knew I was going almost a year in advance; there was a lot of time to think, reflect, plan, and prepare. Although I applied for my Fulbright in October, I didn’t find out that I was accepted until the end of May/almost June. As I sit on the plan, a lot of the bigger doubts and questions are rising to the top of my head:

As someone who considers himself a bit foreign-language challenged, just how am I going to learn Korean?


photoHow am I going to manage to come up with lesson plans for my students every week and teach them multiple times?

What’s it going to be like being so far from friends and family for this long?

These are cliché questions for someone moving abroad, to be sure, they still seem relevant. Yet, it almost seems like these questions aren’t worth stressing about, that they will resolve themselves in due time.

The momentum is here and I’m excited take advantages of the opportunities ahead. See you in Seoul!

Packing Pains


Two days to go and I’ve finally started packing. Many a thing to bring on my year abroad in South Korea. Here are some of my favorite recommendations from the ETA handbook:

-A year’s supply of floss and deodorant
-Tide to-go pens
-A Costco card

I like to pretentiously think of myself as an adept traveler, but the truth is I am horrible at estimating how much to bring. Based on the picture, you can see that things are, well, a bit cluttered.

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