This week, I celebrated my first Christmas away from home. While several of my ETA friends had booked their flights back to the states for the holidays, I chose to stay in Korea and save my vacation days for a trip to southeast Asia in January. So I knew that a holiday season without my family would be very different than what I was used to–and I prepared myself for the bouts of homesickness I had been warned about at orientation.
An annual tradition in middle and high schools in Korea is the school festival. In the morning, students turn their classrooms into carnival booths and food stalls to raise money for charity. In the afternoon, they showcase their talents in a concert. Our school festival was held on Christmas Eve, and it was one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Korea so far.
Originally published by Reach the World, December 18, 2015
Before coming to Korea, I knew relatively little about the country where I would be living for a year. I had heard some k-pop songs, I had read some history, and I had known that students went to school for as long as 14 hours a day. In the five months since I’ve been here, I have had the honor of learning so much more about this beautiful country and its kind people. And I know I still have so much more to learn during my second semester.
With a December birthday, the holidays and final exams overshadow everything else. I always had lovely celebrations with my family, but I didn’t do much with my friends. During college, we were studying for exams or finishing final papers. Then it was Christmas break. So when it came to my birthday in Korea, I expected that it would come and pass like it usually did. But I was pleasantly surprised!
“Ann-young-ha-se-yo!” the classes chanted through my computer screen.
I sat in my room at 10:30 PM, my computer plugged in with the ethernet cable to ensure the Skype session would run smoothly. I looked through my computer screen at the rows of cheerful fourth-grade faces, thousands of miles away in Quebec. On the far wall, a clock read 8:30 AM. For three months, the students and their teacher, Mr. Kaplin, had been reading my Reach the World articles and sending in questions about Korea. What do you do with your host sisters? What is your favorite Korean food? Do you miss your family?
Now was the final part of my volunteer experience–the videoconference.
Originally published by Reach the World, December 11, 2015
*This is my attempt at adapting a complicated topic for an elementary audience. I address the complexity of gender issues in Korea in some of my other blog posts.
Although South Korea has one of the best economies and education systems in the world, it suffers from gender inequality. This means that men and women are not always treated the same way. Compared to men, it is harder for women to get jobs, and many women are still expected to get married and raise families. The quality of life for working women in Korea has improved a lot over the last few years, but there are still many ways for communities to make it better.
Originally published by Reach the World, December 4, 2015
*Bo Seung is one of my most motivated students and one of the best English speakers in the school. He’s been involved with several Fulbright-related activities, including YDAC (debate conference) and the Fulbright English Program, during which I had my first teaching experiences during orientation. Here is a brief snapshot into his life.
Kang Bo Seung (English name, Bosely Kang) is one of the students I teach at Gimhae Jeil High School. He is in the second grade, or the equivalent of a junior in high school. Bo Seung loves learning about new places and cultures and hopes to travel to many places around the world. I’ll write these responses from his perspective.