Thanksgiving Weekend

In America, the holiday season is fully underway. The end-of-year trifecta of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas means almost nonstop feasting, decorating, and spending time with family. In Korea, the two major holidays in the fall and winter are spread much further apart. The Korean harvest festival, Chuseok, takes place in September. The next major holiday is Christmas in December.

To give us some holiday spirit and a touch of home, Fulbright held its annual Thanksgiving dinner at the lodge on the U.S. Army base in Seoul.

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수능 Day: Or, the Korean SAT

November 12. My students’ hard work and exhausting hours of study culminate in this one day that, for many of them, will determine the course of their lives after high school.

Imagine the SAT on steroids. Eight hours of testing, five subjects (Korean, math, English, social studies/science/vocational, additional foreign language), and only one day a year when students can take the test. The one score that mainly determines college admissions. This is the sooneung (수능), or College Scholastic Aptitude Test in Korea.

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Reach the World – Logbook – Fall Updates and a Trip to Gyeongju

Originally published by Reach the World, October 30, 2015


How far did I travel this week?:This week, I traveled to a city called Gyeongju. Gyeongju is an hour and a half north of Gimhae, and it is in southeastern Korea.


How far have I traveled on this journey so far?:So far, I have traveled to Seoul, Busan, Gimhae, Jinju, Sokcho, Miryang, Goesan, and Gyeongju. The farthest cities were Sokcho, which is a beach town in the northeast, and Seoul, which is the capital city in the northwest.


How did I get around this week?:This week, I traveled around Gimhae with taxis, buses, subways and walking. In Gyeongju, I took a bus tour to see the highlights of the city.


What was the most interesting place I visited this week?:The most interesting place I visited this week was Bulguksa Temple, which is located in Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple showcases ancient Korean architecture, including pagodas and Buddhist centers of worship. Bulguksa Temple is considered one of the national treasures of Korea.

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The Plight of the Korean Student

I walk into my first class every morning to see students with their heads on their desks, relishing those precious few minutes before the first period bell. Most of them will pick their heads up and go through the motions of doing their English assignments. Others, sometimes half of the class, will not stir.

I feel conflicted. Do I wake the student? I should, of course. But my class doesn’t count for a grade and the student looks like he hasn’t slept in days. Should I let him sleep? If I let one sleep, does that mean the rest of them can sleep? What do I do when half of my class has their heads down and refuses to do work?

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