My Host Family: Or, The Cast, in Order of Appearance

This year’s show will be performed by the following actors:

The Main Cast

Host Mom – My host mom is so hospitable, I have to wonder if all Korean moms are like this! Even though she does not usually leave the apartment until late morning, she wakes up at 5:30 like I do to make breakfast for my sister Su Bin and ensure that we are ready to start the day. My host mom is also highly involved in the school community, and she is always well-dressed. It is a little awkward that my host mom and I do not speak the same language, but we are finding ways to communicate. Right now there’s a lot of gestures and very basic Korean words. Sometimes I resort to pointing and saying “oohs” and “aahs.” Even as a child, I did not feel this much like a child. Maybe by Christmas, I will be able to have a real conversation with my host mom.

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Departure Day

Goodbye Jungwon, hello Gimhae!

Today was yet another ceremony to serve as a farewell to the friends we made in Goesan and as an introduction to our co-teachers and schools. In the morning, the ETAs and OCs said tearful goodbyes and took pictures with each other. I never imagined that I would become so close to my fellow Fulbrighters in such a short amount of time. Luckily, we will all be together again for the fall conference in October!

Avalon crew

After taking pictures, the ETAs, both new and renewee, entered the auditorium the same way as for the Placement Ceremony. We stood in a horseshoe around the audience, and we stood with the other ETAs in our provinces. This time, the audience was filled with co-teachers, vice principals and principals from our schools. The OCs called our names one by one so we could step forward and bow. Some co-teachers stood up or presented flowers to their new ETA, while others took note of what we looked like. Fulbright also gave us flowers as a goodbye gift, which was a pleasant surprise!

After we finished our bows, all 120+ ETAs rushed to find their co-teachers in the audience. My co-teacher did not stand when I bowed, so I hoped he would remember what I looked like (there was a reason for my bright red blazer!). After a few minutes, my co-teacher, Mr. Hong, introduced himself and we went to the goodbye luncheon in the cafeteria. After lunch, we started the long drive to Gimhae.

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How the Journey Began

November 2014

“So, what are your plans after graduation?”

My uncle looked at me over the Thanksgiving table as he began carving the turkey. I cringed as he asked the one question every college senior dreads. While several of my friends knew exactly what they would be doing after May 15, I was still unsure. I knew only two things. The first was that I applied for a Fulbright ETA.

The second was that I hadn’t told my parents yet.

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