Originally published for Reach the World, October 2, 2015
Hello! It’s nice to meet you. My name is Janine Perri, and I am currently teaching English in South Korea as part of the Fulbright program.
If you had asked me when I was a kid or a high school student what I would be doing after college, I wouldn’t have told you that I would be teaching English in South Korea. I might have said I would be a writer. Maybe a lawyer. But moving from my home on Long Island to a country halfway across the world? It didn’t even cross my mind. So how did I get here?
It started with reading. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. I read Dr. Seuss. I read Harry Potter. I read fantasy, history and science fiction. I loved reading because it introduced me to new people, places and cultures—both real and imagined. Reading sparked my curiosity about the world, and I wanted to see and experience everything I read about on the page.
After high school, I attended Villanova University to study English and history. While I was in college, I also worked as a writing tutor, helping students with their essays and creative writing. I realized that many of the students I tutored did not speak English as their first language. I became very interested in helping these students and learning more about their own languages and cultures.
At the same time, in my history classes, I learned about the people and cultures of countries like England, India and China. But I noticed that there were many countries I did not learn much about at all. One of these countries was South Korea.
With my love of English tutoring and my curiosity about new places, I applied to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in South Korea. A few weeks before my college graduation, I learned that I was accepted and would be moving to South Korea for a year!
In July 2015, I took a 14-hour flight from JFK Airport to Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Along with 69 other English teachers in the Fulbright program, I spent six weeks at a Korean university, learning the Korean language and teaching a few classes. In August, I moved to Gimhae, which is a small city on the southeast coast of Korea. I will live here for the next year, teaching English at a local high school and doing volunteer work in the community. Of course, I will also make time for traveling, reading, and absorbing as much of the Korean culture and language as I can!
As part of the Fulbright program, I am also living with a host family. My host sisters, Ye Bin and Su Bin, are my new best friends! Every day, they teach me new Korean words or a traditional game. They are also introducing me to Korean foods like kimbap, which is rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed, and bulgogi, which is Korean beef. By the end of the year, I want to be conversational in Korean and learn how to make some delicious Korean food for my host family.
I am so excited to be part of Reach the World for the next 12 weeks. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have about me or life in South Korea!