The Last Day of School

And just like that, the year is over.

Today was the last day of school. It’s strange to think that this weekend, I will be at the airport on my way home to New York. In its own way, the past week has been difficult because I have had to say goodbye to students, co-workers, and friends I have grown close to during my grant year. Here are a few pictures and stories from the last few days at Gimhae Jeil High School:

Continue reading “The Last Day of School”


The Hanbok Saga

September 2015

“Look, Janine, I have hanbok!”

Su Bin held up a large yellow box, her smile stretching from ear to ear. Inside the box, Su Bin had the entire ensemble for a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress. She told me she was going to wear it to an audition in Seoul and that she would send me a picture.

“I can’t wait to see it,” I answered. “I think hanbok is so beautiful. Maybe I will buy one before I leave Korea.”

Su Bin turned to Host Mom, who was sitting in the kitchen, and said something in Korean. Host Mom smiled widely and said something to me: the only word I understood was “birthday.”

“My mother wants to give you hanbok for your birthday!” Su Bin translated excitedly.

That’s such a big gift! I thought. It would be very generous of her, but I assumed she would forget by the time my birthday came around in December.


December 2015

“I travel soon in January,” I told Ye Bin, giving her my itinerary for my trip to Vietnam and Thailand.

“When you come back?”

“February 4.”

“Okay. When you come back, we buy hanbok.”


February 2015

During the winter break, I met Host Mom at her fitness center so we could go to Busan and buy a hanbok together. Hanbok is usually custom-made, so I had to choose which colors I wanted and have my measurements taken. Host Mom does not drive, so a friend of hers offered to take us. One friend turned into three friends, and the five of us went to a hanbok shop.

Once there, I stepped into the dressing room and changed into the large slip that you wear under the hanbok. I stood on a stool as the shop owner showed me a few different colors.

Paransaek johahae,” Host Mom said. She likes blue.

Choosing a turquoise jacket and a bright pink skirt, the shop owner helped me dress, as Host Mom and her friends cooed, “Yeppeuda!” So pretty.

Despite being a teacher and having students look at me all day, I feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. I liked the colors of this hanbok, and after trying a few more, chose the blue jacket and pink skirt. I was relieved when the shop owner finished measuring me and ushered me off to the dressing room to change back into my jeans. While I was changing, Host Mom chose the accessories to accompany the hanbok (tassels, shoes, a purse). We left the shop, ate noodles together, and went home.


July 2016

As I started packing my suitcase, I realized that we never picked up my hanbok. Ye Bin had mentioned it recently, but Host Mom had been so busy that we had not gone back to Busan to claim it. Last week, it was delivered to our home and Ye Bin said she wanted to take pictures with me. So, here are a few!


This is me with my host nephews.



And this is me with Ye Bin.

I am overwhelmed by their generosity, and I will always treasure this beautiful part of Korean culture and expression of familial love.

Boryeong Mud Festival

Over the weekend, some friends and I went to the famous Mud Festival in Boryeong, a beach town on the west coast. Usually, we travel on our own, but for this trip, we used a tour company called Enjoy Korea. The tour included a direct bus and a room in a pension near the beach. With the 5+ hour distance from Gyeongnam, we thought it was the easiest (and least expensive) way to travel to the other side of the country. It was also the best way to spend the most time together for our last weekend in Korea.

Continue reading “Boryeong Mud Festival”

Cultural Ambassadorship in the Classroom

As an inexperienced teacher, I have not written much about my teaching ideology, nor have I shared much beyond some of the successful lessons that I have had. As students prepare for final exams and I finish creating my last few lessons, I’d like to discuss my take on what it means to be a cultural ambassador in the classroom and how I have used my English lessons to fulfill this role.

Continue reading “Cultural Ambassadorship in the Classroom”

Kumbayah and Human Sacrifice


I love Host Mom dearly, but spending time with her always leaves me hopelessly confused.

I have seen little of my host family for the past few months, so I’ve been spending a lot of time by myself or traveling with friends. After spending the previous weekend out of town, I decided to stay around Gimhae for this weekend and catch up on some reading. Apparently, Host Mom had other plans.

Continue reading “Kumbayah and Human Sacrifice”

A Letter From Myself

I walked back to the teacher’s office after sixth period today, and I found an envelope on my desk. A quick glance at the return address, and I saw that it was from the Fulbright Korea Program Coordinator, Amelea. Tearing open the envelope, I saw another smaller envelope, this one with my own handwriting. Nearly eleven months ago, back during Orientation, we had written letters to our future selves. As the grant year comes to a close, I can see what my past self had written, what my goals were, and how close I came to achieving them. Here are the contents of the letter:

Continue reading “A Letter From Myself”

Vignettes About Discontent

No, this post is not about any discontent that I might feel. It’s about the discontent I have observed in my students. At my school, I am in the unique position of being an outsider, a teacher who is closer in age to my students than most of my co-workers, and a person who speaks a different language. This combination of factors has led to some students feeling more confident about expressing their opinions, and especially their discontent about their school lives or other aspects of their lives in Korea. The stories below do not represent all students’ opinions, but they have given me a greater understanding of my students’ social or political perspectives and how they manifest in the EFL classroom. Continue reading “Vignettes About Discontent”

Similes and Metaphors

Continuing with my creative writing unit, I taught my students how to write similes and metaphors in English. Many of my students cannot write a complete sentence without the help of a template, so similes and metaphors were a form of “structured creativity” that would balance their need for a format and my goal of fostering creative thinking. Here are some of the best sentences from my students this week:

Continue reading “Similes and Metaphors”

Teaching Poetry

After midterms ended, I started a creative writing unit with my students. For the second grade students, I taught rhythm (using Robert Frost) and rhyme (using Dr. Seuss), while for the first grade students I taught a lesson about descriptive language. For both grades, I did an acrostic poetry assignment because it was the best way to adapt to higher level students who could use full sentences or purposeful enjambment, as well as lower level students who could just write single words.

I asked each student to write two poems: one about them and one about any topic they wanted. I was so impressed by the stories they told or emotions they expressed in such a short poem. It’s hard to believe they were written in a second language! Below are some of my favorite examples:

Continue reading “Teaching Poetry”