Category: orientation

A little bit of everything

Wow.  I have so many things to talk about.  I’m not quite sure where to start….

Ok well, let’s begin at the beginning, I suppose.  I’ve had quite a bit of changes and experiences over the past few days.  Early last week, I organized a ballroom dance for the ETAs and Koreans who happen to be here at campus.  About 15 people came – which was pretty good, considering how busy everyone was.  They were all beginners, so it was basically just a big lesson, but it was still fun.  Any dancing is better than nothing.  I’m so looking forward to finding regular dancing places once I get to Gyeongju :).

Friday morning I had to give a 3-minute speech in Korean.  It wasn’t very good, but a speech it still was.  It’s astonishing to me how much Korean (relatively speaking) I’ve learned in just 6 weeks.  To think that only a little over a month ago, I didn’t know a single word of Korean; and now I can have a basic conversation!  It’s pretty exciting :).  Speaking of Korean, today was my last day of Korean class.  It was very sad.  Yesterday we had our final, so today we just got the tests back and played games and pranked the other classes and watched K-pop (Korean Pop).  I got a 93% on the test; considering the amount of material that it covered and how much I struggled understanding it at the beginning, I was quite pleased with that :).  Class today was my first real experience with K-pop, and I must say that I’m hooked.  The songs are so catchy, the music videos are awesome, and the whole genre is slightly ridiculous.  It’s awesome, I love it :).   You can watch a popular K-pop song by Super Junior by following this link.  Also, check out the pictures and videos below of my teachers from class today….this is why I love them!!!  I’m going to miss them so much… 🙁

Teacher #1

The whole class

Teacher #2

Their mugs shots 😀

Last week I also went to a traditional Korean tea ceremony.  We sat on the floor, and got to make the tea, and pour it into the little cups, and had strange little rice cakes things of which I have no idea what the name is.  It was lots of fun :).

Practicing Taekwondo at the Tea Ceremony.  I love it 🙂

I also passed my yellow belt test in Taekwondo!  There was a form test, and then we had to do a few kicks that we had learn, and break a board.  That was exciting :D.  We sparred with each other in class today.  I guess the teacher got bored, though, because then he decided that he wanted to spar with me – a 5th degree black belt against a brand-new yellow belt.  Let’s just say I’m hurting pretty badly now….I’ve got cuts and bruises all over my hands, my foot is bruised, and I can’t lift my right arm.  But it was worth it :D.

Me breaking a board – several of them at once, actually

The whole class

I shouldn’t be smiling that much after the beating he gave me….

Well, we’re going to Seoul this weekend and we’re leaving at 5 in the morning, so I suppose I should go get some rest.  I’ll update you on my adventures in Seoul soon!  Love you!!

Life, love, archery, and exploration

Well orientation continues to clip along at an astonishing rate.  Now that Camp Fulbright is over, we’re back to workshops every afternoon.  This week’s workshops were mostly cultural workshops, although the one on Friday was a series of mini-workshops run by some of my fellow ETAs about different aspects of teaching that they have had experience in – classroom management, creating a lesson plan, incorporating games, etc.  It was very interesting; I really enjoyed hearing tips from my peers and friends.

It’s also been a rather exciting week for me physically, although not one that I particularly would want to ever repeat.  I’ve had a cough all week, but it hasn’t really affected my energy levels too much.  But then on Wednesday, I randomly lost my voice.  I felt fine, but you would have never guessed that from hearing me.  I went from sounding like a dying frog to a terrified mice to a strange mixture of the two of them.  By the end of the day, I had no voice at all.

So then on Thursday, my voice came back, but my stomach checked out.  I woke up fine and went to class at 9 like any other day.  But by 9:15, I was curled up in a fetal position on the bathroom floor.  I had chills, and cramps, and nausea, and all sorts of other fun symptoms.  Sooo….I got to experience a Korean hospital first-hand!  I have to say, they are not any more fun than American hospitals.  They ARE, however, much more affordable, and far more efficient – I got an abdominal X-ray, prescription medicine, spoke with the doctor, AND a shot of steroids, all within an hour – for about $35!!  Needless to say, I was rather impressed.  Plus, I’ve decided that steroids are AWESOME….after getting my shot, I felt like I could have run a marathon!! 🙂  It was pretty scary, though.  It wasn’t simply the fact that I got sick – I’ve been sick plenty of times before.  But it was the intensity and rapidity with which it came on that was so frightening.  But it’s now Sunday morning and I haven’t had any other strange health issues, so I’m hoping it was just a strange fluke.

Let’s see, what else happened this week….oh, my little morning Bible study is growing.  There are now 3 of us who meet together every morning.  And our new member doesn’t have a roommate, so we get to go to her room and have a pajama party every morning!  It’s been such an encouragement :).

Yesterday I went to an archery range.  I got several bull’s eyes, and almost all of the arrows on the target.  It was amazing how much my shooting improved once I learned how to hold the arrow and shoot properly, lol.  After we shot, there was a demonstration by 4 archery masters.  They used traditional Korean bows (made out of cow horns and sinews!), and shot at targets so far away we couldn’t even tell if they hit it – a light went on if they did, that’s the only way we knew.  They hit it almost every time.  It was incredible.

The whole group

Do you see the arrow in the picture??  Sweet picture…. 🙂

I shot all of the arrows in the yellow!! 🙂

One of the masters….the targets are almost 400 feet away!

Coming back to school, myself and a few other ETAs took the scenic route home.  We found this little path by the river that runs through Goesan, and then followed a trail up a little hill that looked over the entire city.  It was lovely.  At the bottom of the hill, we came across a living history museum of a traditional Korean home, so we walked through it a little bit and explored. It was really cool.

View of Goesan from above

The entrance to the traditional Korean home

I love the architectural lines!!
Kimchi pots

Saturday night my whole class took our teachers out to dinner.  We had samgyeopsal and patbingsu and went out for drinks afterward.  I’m assuming they probably went to sing karaoke after that, but myself and another classmate of mine who also doesn’t drink bowed out midway through the visit to the bar.  But it was a very fun night – my teachers are AMAZING!!! – and a great end to a hard week.  I also came home to find a care package on my door from a fellow ETA.  She heard I had been sick, and so she gave me oatmeal and medicine and a sweet little note to make me feel better.  It completely made my night – I felt so loved!! 🙂

Teacher #1

Teacher #2

My teachers are AWESOME! 🙂

Well, all work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes Lauren fail her final.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve learned enough Korean to have a final in it, but I do – this Wednesday!  Today’s going to be a solid studying day….wish me luck!!

My life on fast-forward

Well I know it’s been over a week since I last wrote in my blog, but never fear, I have not forgotten about you!!  It is probably not an exaggeration to say that I tried to sit down and write an update at least once a day, but there simply is not enough of me to go around :(.  Before this week, I did not think that it was humanly possible to be as busy as I was – or as exhausted.  I suppose it’s good – it certainly keeps me from being bored.  It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve already been here a month – my life feels like it’s on fast-forward!!  But I got to rest today, and I’m not nearly as exhausted, so let me tell you all about it!! 🙂

I’m now three times as experienced a teacher as I was when I last wrote.  I have now taught a grand total of…are you ready??….THREE lessons all by myself!!  My second lesson was pretty interesting.  The theme of the day was “Heroes in our lives,” so I decided to use it as an excuse to talk about 2 things that I love – homeschooling and my mom.  The hero in my life that I talked about was my mom, because she taught me all the way up until college, so I got to talk about both my mom AND homeschooling.  It was so much fun!  I had the kids create a mini lesson plan, and brainstorm together and have a debate about the pros and cons of homeschooling, and we played games, and it was a blast.  My third lesson was a team lesson – I worked with another ETA to teach about world heroes.  It also went really well, and I’ve basically decided that I LOVE teaching ESL :D.

I’ve finally regained my energy from this past weekend – a week later.  On Saturday I went on a hike up a famous Korean mountain called Songnisan with about 40 other ETAs.  We all split up into different groups and just explored the mountain for the day.  A few groups took a wrong turn and ended up going down the other aide of the mountain, and they had to take a 30 minute taxi ride back to our side of the base of the mountain.  Oh, I also had my first victory against the Korean language!!  I ordered a meal all by myself after the hike – I said hello, and ordered, and asked how much it was (and understood well enough to give exact change!!), and said thank you.  It was very exciting – I was so proud of myself :D.

Dan and Sarah in front of a giant Buddha at Songnisan
Korean ice cream – my watermelon shaped ice cream was complete with seeds and everything =/

The mountain was legit….
…but the view at the top was worth it!! 🙂

I love those kids…



On Sunday, we had activity weekend!  Every ETA had to help participate in 1 weekend activity for Camp Fulbright.  I volunteered to help plan the Sunday morning activity – Superhero Training Academy!  We had 6 different stations, and at each station the kids learned a different skill that they would need to be a superhero – strength, agility, disguise, etc.  It was alot of fun, but the activities were divided between rooms that were separated by 2 floors, and because I was running the event, I was constantly running up and down the stairs in between the two rooms.  I probably ran up and down then 30 or 40 times in the spans of 2 hours.  So between that on Sunday, and Songnisan on Saturday, I was pretty wiped out.  I’ve also been sick the past few days – raging fever, horrible chills, headaches, nausea, the whole shebang – so I’m sure that did nothing to make me less tired.  But don’t worry, I’m doing much better now :).

The Web – because every Superhero has to be able to beat the laser webs!! 🙂

Our “villains” who were roaming around the stations 😀

The whole gang.  It was a blast 🙂

I can’t decide if I look important or silly with my megaphone….



It’s probably also taken me longer to get over my exhaustion because I’ve been getting up much earlier than I was used to doing.  While at Songnisan, I hung out all day with 2 people from orientation, Sarah and Dan, and we really bonded a lot.  Well, ever since then, Sarah and I have been getting up before breakfast and having a Bible study together outside (I expect that her name will come up alot in future blogs, both in this one and my other one, wayfarerontheroadlesstraveled.blogspot.com).  It’s been so nice to have someone to confide in, and share my struggles with, and pray with.  This past weekend was pretty exhausting, both physically and emotionally, and having a friend nearby was exactly what I needed.  I love that God always sends us exactly what we need when we need it :).  

So yeah, Camp Fulbright and Korean classes and getting to know the Lord more and being a good friend and various other sundry things have definitely kept me busy this past week.  There was a trip with some other ETAs planned for the weekend, but I decided to stay in Goesan and relax.  Sarah and I planned a movie night for Saturday night, and about a dozen people came.  We went into town and bought popcorn and snacks and drinks beforehand, and it was alot of fun.  We didn’t really plan much in advance, so I was quite please with the attendance.  It was really nice to just have a chill night hanging out with friends, not worrying about lesson planning or event planning or studying Korean (although that’s #1 on my to-do list for tomorrow!!).

Oh, one last thing before I call it a night!!  I know this blog is all over the place, and I apologize for adding to the randomness, but this is important!!  I now know where I’ll be teaching for the next year!!  The placement ceremony was on Thursday night – it was a very exciting, emotional evening.  I’ve been assigned to an all-girls private high school in 경주 (Gyeongju).  I didn’t get anything that I requested – I asked for a co-ed middle school or vocational school with easy access to transportation lines, and I’m in an all girl’s high school – I shudder to think of all that estrogen!! 🙂 –  about an hour away from a major transportation hub.  But you know what?  I’m ok with that.  I have a feeling that Gyeongju could be even better than what I was hoping for, even though it wasn’t what I though I wanted.  Doesn’t God have a funny way of surprising us like that? 🙂  Gyeongju is the most historical city in all of Korea – it’s known as “the museum without walls” – it also has a brand-new (as of this year!) stop on the KTX line (Korea’s bullet train that services most big cities), a girl from the Fulbright Bible study was assigned to the adjacent middle school, and basically I’m just pumped to see what God will do in my life this year.  I have to make the most of my time with Sarah now, though, because she was placed almost as far away from me as possible – 9 kilometers from the DMZ :(. 

Anyway, that’s all for now….it’s bedtime on the other side of the world!!  If you want to know more about Gyeongju, here’s a tourist link for the city: http://asiaenglish.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=309379#04

Sending my love, as always,
~Lauren 

Teaching and learning

Camp Fulbright is in full swing.  It started 5 days ago, and ever since then Jungwon’s campus has been inundated with hundreds of excited little Korean children.  It’s been fun, but it’s also reinforced my opinion that I’m not really in Korea – even when I’m surrounded by Koreans, I’m still speaking English to all of them.  It’s very strange to me….

But I’ve been staying super busy.  I volunteered to run a weekend activity this Sunday, so I’ve had meetings for that every night this week.  I also taught for the first time today!!  It was soooo much fun!!  My class’s level was high intermediate, so they could handle more discussion and in-depth lessons.  So I decided to challenge them.  The theme of the day was literary heroes, so I wrote a lesson around the idea of hyperbole, and used tall tales and stories of Paul Bunyan to illustrate the idea of a hyperbole.  By the end of the class, all of the students were writing their own hyperboles!  It really was suchhhhh a blast.  And, the best part was, I wasn’t even nervous!  I woke up this morning full of nervous energy, but by the time I finally got up to teach, I was pretty calm.  Guess your prayers worked!! 🙂   I’m going to try to model my next lesson around homeschooling (something these kids have NO experience with) to talk about common stereotypes.  If I can pull it off, it should be really cool; I’m just trying to figure out a way to make it fun and interactive.  Any game or activity suggestions would be appreciated! 🙂

I suppose it’s only fair that, if I want to challenge my students in English class, I should expect to be challenged in Korean class.  Everything seems to be longer in Korean.  Something as simple as “It’s nice to meet you” becomes “만나서 반갑습니다” (mannaseo bangangapsimnida) – twice as many syllables as it is in English!  That seems to be the general trend – everything is at least twice as long to say in Korean.

Today we learned numbers.  Seems like a pretty simple concept, right?  Wrong.  Korean actually has TWO completely separate numbering systems – one is stolen from Chinese – and there are very specific times for when each one is used.  If you’re counting something, you can’t just say the number; you have to add a counting particle onto the end.  In addition, these number particles change depending on what you’re counting.  One cat is 고양이 한마리.  You’d think one pencil would be 연필 한마리, right?  Wrong.  It’s actually 연필 .  One person is 사람  .  One bottle of coke is 코카 .  We learned 7 different number particles today, each of which are used with a different object that is being counted – and those are only the most common ones.

It’s astonishing how fast we go in class.  I suppose it makes sense – in 6 weeks, we get about as much language instruction as most people would get in an entire semester.  But it’s still overwhelming.  This language is so foreign to me, I really have to beat it into my head to remember it.  I’ve never studied so much in a language class in my life.  But I’m learning, slowly but surely.  I can now introduce myself, issue positive and negative commands, tell where I’m planning on going and what I’m going to be doing there, and handle a basic shopping trip to the grocery store.  I’m still pretty stoked about the weekend and NOT having class for 2 days! 🙂  But one thing at a time….I’ve still got another day of class to get through, so for now, it’s off to bed for me!  I miss you guys!!

Donghae weekend

Well, another few days in Korea have been successfully survived!  And no, “survival” is not an exaggeration.  Every day I look at the calendar and am utterly astonished that only one day – or less – has passed.  It seems like I have been in South Korea months and months and months….but it’s only been 2 weeks.  I never thought it possible to pack so much into so little time as they have been doing here during orientation.  All of the returning ETAs assure us that we will have much more free time on our hands once we get to our schools….I sure hope so, because at this pace I will be dead by November.

The entourage from the American Embassy came on Wednesday, like I mentioned last week.  It was really cool.  They talked about all sorts of random stuff that you never think about needing help with until the situation is upon you.  Well, now I know what to do!  And mom and dad, don’t worry, if I get incarcerated while here, the Embassy will visit me every 6 months, or anytime I request a visit ;).

The next day, Thursday, was panel day.  A bunch of returning ETAs came and talked to us about all sorts of things – schools, traveling, homestays, locations….you name it, they mentioned it.  It was informative; however, at the same time, I’m starting to feel like I’m on information overload.  They’ve thrown so much information at us in such a short time, that it’s all starting to sound the same.  Really, I think there are some things that we’re just going to have to figure out for ourselves.

Friday morning, bright and early, we left for a weekend in Donghae, courtesy of the Korea-America Educational Commission, the umbrella organization for Fulbright Korea.  It was about a three hour bus ride to Donghae from Jungwon, during which I slept for most of it, while trying unsuccessfully to study for my text on Monday.  After checking into the hotel, we made our way to a Buddhist temple (Samhwasa temple).  It was interesting to see, but at the same time I felt very out of place.  We even stayed for the evening worship service; again, cool to see, but I have to admit that I was glad to leave at the end of the day.

The temple was nestled in the mountains, amid streams and trees and all sorts of other lovely things.  We stopped and played in the water and on the rocks before heading back to the buses.  I think that I was slightly worrying my orientation coordinators when I all of a sudden stopped and insisted that I have a cigarette immediately.  But no, I had not discovered a sudden urge to smoke tobacco.  I got stung by a wasp on the way down, and years ago my dad had taught me this great remedy for drawing out the poison by putting a tobacco paste on the wound.  So I got my cigarette, fixed my leg, and got some funny smiles in the process :).

Some of the rocks on the way to the Buddhist temple

Entrance to the temple complex

Inside of one of the buildings

Evening worship service

Saturday was glorious.  We had the entire day to do whatever we wanted – no meetings, no classes, no nothing.  I went to the beach for a few hours in the morning – it was a beautiful day – and then went and explored a beach cave that I had read about in a tourist brochure.  It’s really random – it’s this huge natural cave located right in the center of downtown Donghae.  I love caves, and this one certainly did not disappoint.  

Yay for beaches!!  Saturday was Christiana’s birthday 🙂

Dinner the first night was simply a huge buffet, of which the most exciting thing that I ate was a tiny octopus – the entire animal was only about the size of a golf ball.  I’d had octopus before, but never a whole one; even though I don’t really like octopus, I ate it just to be able to say I did :).  Far more exciting, however, was Saturday night dinner.  Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) – pig stomach – is a very popular Korean dish.  It’s also a very unique cultural experience.  We are seated at tables with small grills built right into the table, and then the waiters bring out plates of raw slabs of meat.  The diners grilled the meat themselves at the table, which is then wrapped up into pieces of lettuce with slices of garlic, peppers, onions, chili pepper, kimchi (we grilled ours right along with the meat!), mushrooms, sesame oil, plus a host of other things which I have no idea what they are called.  So you wrap it all up in the lettuce, and eat it with your hands; definitely NOT a good first date meal! 🙂  Aside from the initial distaste at the thought of eating pig stomach, it was delicious, and tons of fun to make, too!  That’s why I don’t ever ask what I’m eating in a foreign country before I eat it, lol…

My first Samgyeopsal experience

And it’s definitely an experience 🙂





Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel.  It was a wonderful weekend, but I must say I’ll be glad to have a bed again.  I spent the whole weekend sleeping on the marble floor – many parts of Korea don’t use beds; they simply put a sheet on the ground.  

Our bed!  Sort of….

The hotel we stayed at in Donghae

On our way back to Jungwon, we stopped at a museum for several hours.  This place was owned by the same man who owns both Jungwon University and the hotel we stayed at in Donghae, and it is meant to house his own private collection.  It was a very eclectic collection – it had geology, fossils, and art from all different nations – Maya, Inca, Europe, China, Korea, India, etc.  It was unlike any museum I’ve ever seen, and I really enjoyed wandering the halls and seeing and discovering new things.

Notice the artificial caves, fountain of Poseidon, and Korean buildings all in one shot.  Yeah, it was a very eclectic complex….

That’s about a 30 foot long wood carving of an artistic rendering of the Great Wall of China

Rocks!!  I love rocks! 😀



So the weekend was wonderful, but now it’s back to the daily grind.  I’ve got 2 meetings tonight, a test in Korean tomorrow, an assignment due on Tuesday, plus Camp Fulbright starts this week, so I’m also going to be observing and teaching classes.  Oh well, I guess all good things must come to an end….**sigh**.  Time to hit the books; I love y’all!

Korean lesson 101 – Daejun, Patbingsu, and Cheonan

I have so many stories to tell you!  They’ve been running us ragged these past few days; I’ve barely had time to think, let along write.  But the craziness seems to have finally quieted down a bit, so it’s time to pick up my metaphorical pen again 🙂

Friday was a very interesting day.  We separated into several different groups and then went to different schools all over Korea.  We got to sit in and observe 2 different classes of a current Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant – what I will be! :]).  We had lunch with the other teachers of the school, got to talk to some of the students in the class, and asked Rachael (the ETA) questions about what it’s like to teach in a Korean classroom.  It was very informative.  I went to a co-ed high school in 대적 (Daejun), so I got to observe an advanced all-boys class, and a beginner all-girls class.  Although I got the impression that what I witnessed was not a very representative example of what I can expect to see in my own classroom – Rachael was in a brand new school, she had her own classroom, the school administrators were very flexible, and her students’ English level was very high, all of which is atypical for a Korean school – it was still very informative to see.  This is the first year that future ETAs have had the opportunity to go and visit school before they actually started teaching, and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to do so.

Friday night there was a 팥빙수 (Patbingsu) party!  The winning team of the photo scavenger hunt was treated by the orientation coordinators to Patbingsu, a traditional Korean dessert.  Well, my team happened to win (I showed you some of my team’s pictures from the hunt in my blog post called “Adjusting to my new life”), so I got to experience this first hand.  I had no idea what to expect, but I had heard many many people rave about it, so I went with high expectations.  

Would you like to know what Patbingsu is?  It is a large cup full of shaved ice, which is then topped by a variety of different toppings.  Mine had ice cream, mandarin oranges, watermelon, apples, something the approximate consistency of corn flakes, a type of mini marshmallows made out of rice paste, and red beans.  Yes, red beans.  It was a very, very strange combination, but surprisingly, very good.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Especially because it was free :).

My first taste of patbingsu 🙂



Saturday was just as filled as the rest of our week with classes and workshops.  I’m already soooo sick of sitting – and I’ve still got 5 more weeks to endure!!  I sit for at least 8 hours every day.  I’m always using my brain, and never using my muscles.  It’s completely draining.  I’ve been playing alot of ping-pong in my infrequent spare time to release all of that pent-up energy.  I now have a target on my back – I haven’t been beaten yet, and all of the boys find that simply unacceptable.  It’s awesome :).  I was also really glad when Taekwondo started yesterday (Monday).  I get to release all my pent-up energy and frustrations by yelling and punching and kicking things.  It’s great, I’m really enjoying it :). 
Sunday I went on an excursion with a group of other ETAs to 천안 (Cheonan).  We took 2 different buses to get there (I love public transportation!! :]), and then spent the afternoon either shopping or just hanging out and exploring the city.  I decided to go to Cheonan because I was thinking that I would like to be placed there, and I wanted to go and scope out the city before I requested it.  Turns out…I love it!  It’s a great sized city – not totally overwhelming, but big enough to be entertaining.  It’s also really close to Seoul – it’s actually on the Seoul subway line, in fact – which would be awesome for dancing! 🙂  I’m trying not to get my hopes up, because we’re not guaranteed to get the places that we request….but teaching in Cheonan would be awesome :).


Monday was super busy.  I had Korean class (and my first test!), teaching workshops, GLEE club, Taekwondo, Calligraphy, studying, a lesson plan to prepare, and a Bible study.  Deciding to go to the Bible study meant that I did not get to bed until after midnight – and I was paying for that the next day – but I’m SOOO glad that I went.  There were about a dozen of us, and it was just so encouraging to be able to share and read the Bible and pray and encouraged and be encouraged with other believers.  I just love that God never fails to send Christian fellowship my way when I need it, wherever I am.  God is not limited by national boundaries.  Bible study is definitely going to become a regular in my schedule during orientation :).

Speaking of schedules, I also decided to drop Calligraphy.  As much as I would like to take it, there’s simply not enough of me to go around.  Between all of my other obligations, and trying to study Korean as much as possible, 2 hours of Calligraphy every week was just too much.  The second after I made that decision, I felt such relief.  It’s like my body knew that it was going to get a rest.  I like to keep myself busy, but I also know my limits.  See, I AM taking care of myself over here!! 🙂

Well, I’ve got to draw this post to a close.  The US Embassy is visiting tomorrow, so classes are starting even earlier than usual so that we can be done by the time they show up.  It should be way cool!

Sleep is optional

If I simply survive this summer – and the upcoming year, for that matter – I will be ecstatic.  If I actually complete everything to my own satisfaction, as well as that of my teachers and students, I will truly have something to be proud of.  I have never had so much asked and expected of me in my entire life.  Not when I enrolled in college at the age of 15.  Not when I went to Costa Rica to teach English for a summer.  Not when I started living on my own at the age of 17.  Not when I worked as a technician and analyst of the help desk of the largest carpet company in the world after having worked with technology for only a few months.  Not even when I was hired to research…are you ready for this?…fiscal federalism as a means of preserving the cohesiveness of ethnically fractured decentralized nations. 

This is far and above the most intense schedule I have ever experienced.  Our mornings start at 8 with breakfast, but I’ve been getting up around 5:30 or 6:00 to do my Bible study and stretch and workout.  I’m really trying to start this year off well and establish good habits that will hopefully carry on into my life back in the States.  Then at nine we have Korean language classes – for 4 straight hours.  We get an hour for lunch, and then we’re back in class at 2:00 for teaching workshops.  They cover all sorts of topics – gender biases, classroom management, staying healthy in Korea, handling issues with your host families… – but the one thing they all have in common is that they last allll afternoon – usually until around 5.  I have half an hour to squeeze some studying in, and then it’s off to Taekwondo every day from 5:30-6:30.

I get half an hour for dinner, and then I’m off again.  Monday nights I have Calligraphy class from 7:00-9:00, and Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ve got GLEE club, the foreign exchange club – a great way to meet Korean friends!!  Wednesdays and Fridays I have off after dinner, but then it’s time to hit the books – 4 hours of class every day equates to a heck of a lot of studying. Plus we have tests every Monday, and more workshops and classes on the weekends, so I’ve got to get a head start on my homework early in the week. 

Next week it gets even tougher!  I have to start creating and submitting lesson plans for an English immersion camp that we’ll be teaching the week after as a part of our orientation training.  I’ll have 3 lesson plans to prepare and give on my own – yikes!!  I seriously have no idea when I’ll have time to make my lessons.  I’m so busy, sleep is already on the verge of becoming optional.  But I suppose it’s good – it keeps me busy and distracted, so I can try to forget how much I miss home sometimes.

The food doesn’t help really help me forget.  It’s very tasty, but man, what I wouldn’t give for lasagna and breadsticks!!  It’s astonishing to me that Koreans can eat the same thing – white rice and kimchi – over and over and over and over again, and not get tired of it.  There are some variations , especially with the kimchi, and they add different side dishes (I had squid and anchovies today!), but it’s basically the same thing every single day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  But hey, I’ve gotten really good at using chopsticks!!  I’ve been forcing myself to use them at every meal, and the hand cramps have finally started to go away.  Now I can finally eat again without having to think!

Well anyway, I’ve got to get up tomorrow at oh-dark-hundred – we’re going to different schools around the region to shadow teachers in Korean classrooms, so we can kinda get a feel for it before we get there.  I’m super excited, but bed is calling me right now.  I’ll try to write again as soon as I can.  I love you!!

Adjusting to my new life

Hey, everyone!  So I’m finally starting to recover from jet lag (I can’t BELIEVE I’ve only been here 2 days!!), so hopefully this blog will have a little more details that I know so many of you love :).  Well, my new home is beautiful – I feel like I’m in a resort! – but my new schedule is absolutely grueling.  If I ever complain about being bored, please slap me.  The pace here is absolutely killing me.

Apparently yesterday I was still pretty jet-lagged.  I started off the morning by frying my alarm clock – it wasn’t until I smelled smoke and the screen went blank that I realized that portable alarm clocks are probably not equipped with voltage adapters.  Then at breakfast I got three chopsticks, and went out with a bang when I knocked over a huge bowl of dirty bowls.  My goal today is to not do anything stupid….

But anyway, yesterday was a crazy day – and it wasn’t even a full schedule!  We had a Korean review session in the morning, and then a placement test immediately after.  That was followed by lunch, three hours of classes, a photo scavenger hunt in Goesan, dinner, and a foreign exchange club “mixer” party. During the mixer, our orientation leaders surprised us with bottle rockets and sparklers – our version of a 4th of July celebration.  Happy Independence Day!! 🙂

The Fulbright program is one of the premier English teaching programs in the world, and Fulbright Korea is considered the gold standard of the Fulbright programs.  One of the main reasons for this is because of their orientation – it’s very intense, very thorough, and very very good.  I absolutely LOVE the students I’m here with.  They are of a caliber that I’ve never experienced before in my entire life.  Every single one of them is soooo smart, and they all have such fascinating, diverse backgrounds.  There are students that have backpacked through Europe, gone to boarding school in Thailand, volunteered in Africa, worked in South America, and everything in between.  I can sit down with any one of them and have a thoroughly engaging conversation for as long as I want to have it…in a group of 88 students, that’s saying quite a bit.  

So anyway, speaking of intense, today my “normal” schedule starts.  I’ve got 4 hours of Korean class in the morning, lunch, 4 hours of teaching workshops in the afternoon, and a foreign exchange club where I get to meet and socialize with Korean students in the evening.  Tomorrow I’ll also start on the extracurricular activities.  They offer optional things that you can do in the evenings to supplement your orientation experience in Korea, like learning how to perform a traditional tea ceremony and a traditional cooking class.  I signed up for TaeKwonDoe (which meets 4 days a weeks), Calligraphy, GLEE club (the foreign exchange program), and archery.  I’m excited :).

Well, I’ve got to go start my day….right around the time when you guys are ending yours! 🙂  Check out a few pictures below that I’ve taken so far….for the full album online, click on this link.  Sending all my love from the other side of the world!!!

Fulbright Orientation, Jungwon University, Goesan, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea – my home for the next 6 weeks
First picture of me in South Korea!!

My room and my roommate 🙂

Part of our photo scavenger hunt in Goesan

We had to make a B in front of the B&B.  We decided to make a Korean B 🙂

It’s really hard to find a picture of Koreans without at least one of them making the peace sign

I was supposed to be hugging it.  It looks like he’s eating me 🙂

Day 1

This evening I had the ability to talk to a marine friend online who is stationed in Japan, and he said “Welcome to Asia!”  Hearing that still has an aura of unbelievability to me.  It is true that I can’t read anything, and the money’s different, and the food is weird, and people speak in funny gibberish….but somehow, it still feels like I’m not too far from home.  Perhaps it is my sleep-deprived exhaustion-addled brain that is simply trying to confuse me…

I left for Seoul around 5:30 in the afternoon on Friday.  My flight was uneventful, and three flights, 2 airlines, 24 hours, and 7500 miles later, I landed at Incheon International Airport, around 5:30 in the morning on Sunday.  We’ve been going nonstop ever since then.  There was a 2 hour bus ride from the airport to the orientation site – Jungwon University, in Goesan.

Once we got there, they dove us right into orientation.  We had about 45 minutes to unpack, then it was lunch (I couldn’t BELIEVE it wasn’t even afternoon yet!!!), opening orientation talk (3+ hours), icebreakers, campus tour, etc.  I had to skip dinner because the jet-lag induced fatigue was simply too great.

The university we’re staying at is beautiful – they call it the marble mansion – the scenery exquisite, and the people very friendly.  I’ll try to post pictures as soon as I can.  The food is going to take some getting used to, and I’m already missing not being able to talk with everyone I see, but I suppose with time I’ll adjust to that, too.  I won’t find out where I’ll be teaching for a few weeks still, but from what I’ve seen, I’d have to say that the orientation, at least, will be a pretty cool experience.  That’s all for now….my bed is calling.