Earlier this week, the Orientation Counselors called a surprise meeting. As we filed into the classroom, the OCs couldn’t hide their smiles and excitement as they announced:
“You are getting your placements on Thursday!”
My plans to study for the Korean quiz this week were shattered. How could I concentrate on verb conjugation when I would finally learn where I would be spending the next year?!
The last few days have been so stressful from the anticipation. Last week, we filled out placement surveys and had interviews with the Orientation team to share our preferences for the upcoming year. I know many ETAs who have family in Korea or want to be involved in a specific activity that would limit their placement preferences, so I was open-minded when I filled out the form. I wrote that I preferred a city to a rural town. I also preferred to teach in a high school because I have more experience with older students. Beyond that, I was not too specific.
Going into the ceremony, I felt so nervous. Not just because of what I would learn, but because of the ritual! The ETAs entered the auditorium and stood in a horseshoe around Mrs. Shim, who was sitting in the first row of the audience. The OCs stood on the stage, calling each ETA’s name and placement school. The ETAs would have to step forward, bow a full ninety degrees to Mrs. Shim, walk to the stage to receive a slip of paper with their school’s information, and place a Post-It note on a map of Korea, marking their school. We had no idea the order in which we would be called–only that they would announce from northern provinces to southern provinces.
My friend Susan was called first. She was placed in Hwacheon, only a few kilometers from the DMZ. She stepped forward, performed her ninety-degree bow to Mrs. Shim, and walked onto the stage to place her name on the map.
One by one, I heard my friends’ names and their schools. After about 20 minutes, there were only ten ETAs still standing. I was one of them.
I’m on Jeju Island, I thought, as another one of my friends was called to receive her placement. That’s fine, but It will be hard to be so far apart from the friends I’ve grown so close to over the last few weeks.
Then I heard my name. And “high school.” And not Jeju.
I had never heard of the city in which I was placed, but I knew I was in the same province as several of my friends. My ninety-degree bow to Mrs. Shim was not just of respect, but of gratitude.
I walked onto the stage to receive my small slip of paper. I glanced and saw “Gimhae Jeil High School,” “Co-ed,” and the number of students in the school (900!).
“Congratulations,” said OC Brett as he showed me where to place my Post-It.
My placement is in a co-ed high school in Gimhae, a small city just outside of Busan, in Gyeongsangnamdo province. One renewee is placed in the high school across the street from me, and there are more than a dozen other ETAs scattered around the Gyeongsangnamdo province.
Ultimately, I got what I wanted and I can’t wait to meet my students and host family!