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.

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About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 07/08/2013, in Fulbright South Korea 2013-14, General and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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