One Month!


A little language exchange with my host brother and sister

Today marks one month into my placement and my home stay.

It’s a good feeling to have that time under my belt. Everything is definitely getting more normal, even as the challenges shift and, in some cases, grow. Each day of teaching leads to new revelations and difficulties. My students are wonderful, from the lowest-level classes to the highest. For middle school students, many have acted quite older than their age in adjusting to my foreign teaching style and sometimes goofy energy. I’m finding that even when a student is interrupting or not paying attention, just joking right back at them neutralizes the situation. My host family has graciously made me one of their own, to the point that I feel more like another family member than a guest.

Beyond teaching, the highlight of this week was that I ventured out to meet the local foreigners group. Since I’ve arrived in Ochang, I’ve spent pretty most of my free time with my students, Korean teachers, and home stay family. Meeting fellow foreigners was a great way to destress and take a little break from cultural adjustment. I couldn’t help but notice that my conversational English has changed since I arrived in Korea–I’m enunciating words more, not using contractions, and my vocabulary is a little simplistic.

As a group, most of the fellow foreigners in Ochang are Canadian and British. Also, most of them are teachers not at public schools, but at hagwons. Hagwons, also known as academies or “cram schools,” are privately run educational institutions where students go for additional instruction after school. Many students will be at hagwon until 9:30 or 10:00 pm studying. Most of the other foreigners work on a night schedule–wake up at noon, work from 1:00-9:30, then go out or relax until early in the morning. When I walked in the bar, many of the other teachers said they had already heard of me–it turns out that many of  my 700 or so students attend hagwon. And..the students already have a nickname for me.

“Oh yeah, we hear about all of the new teachers. There’s this one that wears a suit to school sometimes..,” said one teacher from the UK.

“That’s me,” I replied.

“Ahhhh, I thought so!,” he said. “The students call you the business teacher.” 

Not sure how that whole “dressing up to gain respect” thing actually worked out.

Today, my co-teachers took me out to lunch to celebrate and welcome me to the school and Ochang. My Korean is still terrible, even if I can get by, and I still haven’t mastered any form of public transit, but the learning experiences are very real.

Next week is Korean Thanksgiving. I have to assume that things will only get even more interesting as I go!


P.S. Also, the Fulbright application season is upon us! If you think that you might want to undertake a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Korea, check out the information here;


About Jonathan Rice

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

Posted on 09/12/2013, in Fulbright South Korea 2013-14, General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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