Week 8: Last Days

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And in a blink of an eye, I have only one more day left in South Korea. It’s crazy to think that in the span of these eight weeks, I have taught English at two schools, traveled to five different cities, and saw Sistar and BTS live at Inkigayo. In all honesty, I have probably done more meaningful and interesting things during this time than I’ve ever done in the past 19 years of my life.

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Before I go into my final thoughts though, I just want to briefly talk about what this last week entailed. Our final week at Mulmangcho was even more pack full of action and fun than usual. Besides our usual one-on-one classes and school cleaning (bathrooms…), we also had the chance to meet two North Korean university students, finally finish our pottery project that we started in our first week, design and put up our “Reach for the Stars” arts project, played a lot of Mafia with the older kids, and performed both Korean and English songs during the talent show. But before I knew it, the talent show was over and we played our final game of Mafia at Mulmangcho. As much as I disliked cleaning bathrooms and missed the comforts of living in the city, it kills me to leave them. It already became routine to sit with them during mealtime in the cafeteria. Or to have a quick conversation with them in the hallway before they left for school or their other classes. Also, I think they’ve already gotten used to our existence at their school. In fact, one of the students told me that he really enjoyed having us at Mulmangcho because life there was more interesting with us. Considering all they did at the school, especially the older students, were study and talk to the same people every single day, I can imagine that we at least made life a little bit more fun for them. When we said our goodbyes on Friday morning, I realized that even though I could still communicate with the older students on social media and maybe (just maybe) someday see them again in person, I likely wouldn’t be able to connect with many of the younger students again. It really made me question what my purpose for spending only a mere three weeks at schools like Jiguchon and Mulmangcho was.

 

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After dropping most of our luggage at our original guesthouse in Seoul, we left immediately again for Seoul Station to take the KTX to Busan. And let me tell you, Busan is beautiful. While it doesn’t have the bustling busy never running out of things to do feel that Seoul does, it does have the ocean. Second thing we did (after visiting the Seokdang Museum of Dong-ah University and the Syngman Rhee’s temporary residence in Busan during the Korean War)? We went to Haeundae Beach. I haven’t been to the beach since 4th grade (when I went to Disney World), so feeling the sand between my toes and breathing in the ocean air was really nice. The next day, we first went to Beomeosa Temple together as a group, and then separated for the afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained for mostly the entire day, but the places I ended up visiting, Taejongdae Park and Yonggungsa Temple, were still breathtaking. After a long day of climbing up hills, I had dinner at Shinsegae Centum City (the largest department store in the world!!) and fortuitously saw Justin, Ana, Michelle, and Leigh there. I looked around a bit with Ana before heading back to the hotel. On the last day (today), we first visited the Busan Modern History Museum before heading up Busan Tower. I’ve gone up many tall city towers in my life, but this one was probably the only one that was actually worth it. And I’ve been up the second tallest building in the world. We were given some free time before leaving for Seoul, and Michelle and I decided to spend this time at Gukje (International) Market, a market set up by refugees that fled to Busan during the Korean War. I wasn’t interested really in buying anything, but I did end up finding the famous store that was in the movie Ode to My Father (highly recommended). At 4pm, we took the KTX back to Seoul.

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Essentially, this journey has come to an end. In a day, I’ll be leaving this country after spending two months here, and I still haven’t gathered my emotions and thoughts yet. One thing I do know, is that I really enjoyed DukeEngage South Korea. Sure, there were times when I was stressed at Jiguchon or wished for more human interaction at Mulmangcho, but I’ve learned so much about this peninsula’s history, culture, and people. There were so many opportunities provided by this program that I would never have been able to do if I were visiting South Korea on my own, like visiting Panmunjeom and the Unification Observatory, or touring KBS, or becoming friends with North Korean refugees. And most importantly, I’ve learned that all the students I’ve taught are human. They have gone through hardships, but they also possess resilience and strength. Given the attitude I carried before I came here, it can be really easy to blend people in with the history that they are a part of. I now know that while it’s important to become familiar with where people come from, the students I’ve taught, no matter what disadvantaged background they carry with them, aren’t people to be victimized, but people to befriend and to believe in and to love.

 

Week 7: Some thoughts

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Overlooking the river at Silleuksa Temple

Privilege is a term that’s thrown around a lot, especially on a college campus like Duke. Before coming to Duke, I of course understood what privilege meant — something that only a certain group of people can have. But after coming Duke? I realized that I didn’t know anything about what privilege actually stood for, what it felt like to not have it.

After teaching at disadvantaged schools in South Korea for now my seventh week, it’s hard not to miss the comfort of being at home. I’ve told my entire group that if I could, I would want to stay in South Korea. I would want to stay here, bask in the culture that is not mine but I have come to understand so much about in the past eight years, and help people through education. To a certain extent, that is my dream.

But in the end, I’m not that selfless. Once you have privilege, it’s very difficult to give it up. I want to be able to lay down on my living room floor and not have to find a squashed bug on my back. I want to have the freedom that comes along with a car. I want to be able to search up something on Google no matter where I am. At home, I can do all of this.

I can go home to all of this, and now, I’ve realized that the students that I’ve been teaching can’t. They don’t have a better life to return to at the place they came from. They escaped all of that to come to South Korea. Given the many North Korean refugees whom we have met during my time here, they seem to speak of living in South Korea itself as a privilege, but all I can think about is the discrimination that all my students are currently facing or will be facing when they step foot into South Korean society.

But even given this, they are still donning big smiles and laughing with their friends every day. Sure, I can think of it as maybe they are hiding their worries, but come on. It’s pretty easy to tell when kids are upset. Moreover, after getting to know all the students I have taught, I’ve realized that they are way stronger than I can ever give them credit for.

Maybe not now, but I know that one day, probably when I’m in the workplace, I will finally understand what it means to be a woman and an Asian-American. I will understand what it means to be at a disadvantage, to not have privilege. But when that time comes, I hope that I can face it with as much positivity and happiness as my students do.

See you next week (and final week *cry*)!

 

 

 

 

Week 6: Mulmangcho & Weekend Trip

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Whenever I travel, especially internationally, I usually end up just staying in more cosmopolitan areas because they are much easier to navigate and not as spontaneous. But it’s always been a dream of mine to live in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country and, well, my dream has been fulfilled.

Although Seoul was convenient and urban and pretty, I really really like Yeoju. There may not be much to do here besides cleaning chicken coups and watching Netflix, but being surrounded by clear skies, mountains, and green everywhere (things you don’t find in Seoul), it’s pretty incredible.

Since our days at Mulmangcho, the North Korean refugee school we are teaching and staying at while in Yeoju, are pretty routine, I’m going to combine certain days together for less redundancy.

Day 1-4 (6/27-30)

We left our guesthouse on Monday at around 1:30pm and arrived at Mulmangcho at 3pm. Our first day here was very relaxed: orientation, rest, dinner, etc. However I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming our students here were. Given what I had heard about last year’s group as well as seeing what these kids have gone through to get here, I thought that they would be more reserved. But on the first day, after dinner, we already started getting to know them by playing soccer and badminton in the open area in front of the school.

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A normal day at Mulmangcho would be breakfast, school cleaning, one-on-one teaching, lunch, activity, activity, dinner, activity, and then free time. School cleaning just consists of miscellaneous work that needs to be done around the school premises. This week, we cleaned out the chicken coup, pulled weeds in the vegetable garden, and cleaned the gym. As for the actual teaching part here, we only directly teach English to the six older students, whose ages range from 15 to 24. Since there are eight of us and six of them, some us had to partner up. After lunch, we usually watch a movie (Ode to My Father, which I slightly teared up while watching) or have conversations with POWs or university students. On Wednesday, we had a Q&A session with a POW who served in the Korean War and was then consequently captured and prisoned in North Korea for 50 years before fleeing. Considering he identified as a South Korean even in the North, I didn’t find it surprising that he had fairly antagonistic feelings towards the North Korean regime. What I did find interesting was that he ended up marrying and having children while in North Korea, which I thought would have been difficult as he would have been discriminated against as a POW.

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Our activities this week included cooking dinner for everyone (we chose chicken tacos, which turned out pretty good even though we didn’t have enough meat), making sculptures that looked like cups with faces on it (apparently we are forming a big sculpture with our smaller ones), recreation (we were divided into groups and competed in fun games), and music class (during which we taught each other English/Korean songs that we’re performing at the end of our time here).

Day 5-6 (7/1-2)

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At the end of the week, we took a trip with the professors to Sokcho and Goseong to visit Seoraksan, the DMZ Museum, and the Unification Observatory. We started out pretty early, around 6:30am, to first take a taxi to the Yeoju Bus Station and then take an one hour bus back to Seoul, where we met the professors. We then took another 2.5 hour bus together to Sokcho, a city on the northeast coast of South Korea.

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Shortly after we arrived, we headed over to Seoraksan National Park. Unfortunately, it was raining really hard, so we didn’t walk around much, but the clouds covering the mountains had a nice mystical feel to it. While we were there, we also drank some herbal tea in a Buddhist temple.

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The next day, we first visited the DMZ Museum, which contained many artifacts (or replicas of artifacts) that were very fascinating and provided me a better understanding of the history of the Korean Peninsula. Afterwards, we went to the nearby Unification Observatory, where we could see over the DMZ and North Korea. For read more about my feelings at the Observatory, please go over to group blog post for this week.

Day 7 (7/3)

And I’m back in Mulmangcho attempting to not procrastinate on writing my two blog posts for this week. Sadly, I failed and ended up watching Elementary.

See you next week!

 

Week 5: Final Week in Seoul

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Day 1 (6/20)

Counting down to our last days at Jiguchon. I can’t believe I’ve already lesson planned, disciplined students, and built meaningful relationships for three weeks. As I stand in front of the classroom and glance at all our students, despite how frustrating it was to quiet them down and motivate them to participate, I have come to learn how intelligent, talented, and amazing they are. But just as I started breaking through their outer shells, I’m leaving. I hate that I have to leave them, to be another ephemeral encounter in their lives. The one thing they need is consistency, but all they are experiencing are people exiting their lives as fast as they come. The only comfort I can give them is that although we are leaving, next year’s DukeEngage group will continue to provide them the care, love, and insight they deserve.

Day 2 (6/21) 

It’s finally here. During the more rough moments at Jiguchon, I have certainly had thoughts about finishing teaching as soon as possible so that I wouldn’t have to return to the guesthouse drained and tired after a day of constantly getting a hold of the students’ attention, while still having to plan for the next day. But now that today is the day, I regret all those thoughts. I want to stay longer.

Since it was our last day, Justin and I planned a snack and Mr. Bean party for our English class as they had requested. When class ended, one of our students came up to me and handed me a small folded piece of red paper. When I opened it, I found a drawing of Justin and me below a message in Korean. I hugged her right then and there. I had been worried that maybe I hadn’t done enough for these kids, that they didn’t realize how much I cared about them, but when she gave me that note, I realized that maybe I was worrying too much.

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After practicing for our final performance in extracurriculars, it was finally time to showcase what we had been preparing for the past week. Arts and Crafts provided a powerpoint to present the different artsy and creative pieces all the students had created. For Sports, we had created a video of the students dancing to Kiss You by One Direction and that POWER by Justin Bieber. Then, some of the older students in Games performed the Cup Song while Cole, Ana, and Leigh sang along. Lastly, Choir performed Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, and See You Again.

When the performance ended, we all went up to the front while Joon said our goodbyes in Korean. When he started tearing up, some of the students also followed while others started bawling. It really got emotional when the students all formed a circle while all of us said our goodbyes individually. I realized, as I hugged all of my students, how far I’ve come in connecting with them, how comfortable I am now with them. Thank you and I will always remember you, Jiguchon!

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Later that day, I traveled across the city to Olympic Park on a whim, and it turned out to be a very beautiful and serene park. Very suitable considering the Olympics this summer.

Day 3 (6/22)

I had briefly heard of the term “Comfort Women” in the past, but it was an entirely different experience today going to the Wednesday Demonstrations and the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum and learning about these women that were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Military during WWII.

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The Wednesday Demonstrations have been held every week in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since 1992. The Korean Council, the organization in charge of the demonstrations, will not stop protesting until justice has been obtained for these women. The demonstration started at noon and included an hour of performances and speeches. I was surprised by the abundance of younger people running the event. It’s nice to see that some in the younger generation do care about these types of issues.

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After spending some time and eating lunch in Insadong, an artsy and historical neighborhood near where the demonstrations were held, we headed over to the museum. The museum provided an audio guide which helped with understanding the exhibits, which were pretty much all in Korean. It would have been nice to have more translated though. Some of the things I saw, like the tickets to get into the comfort stations and the drawings of soldiers lining outside waiting for their turns, were extremely powerful and raw and real, almost as if I had been transferred to that time. Although it’s small and hidden, I would highly recommend anyone coming to Seoul to visit this museum.

Day 4 (6/23)

Before leaving for Mulmangcho on Monday, we visited its headquarters Thursday morning. The staff gave us a presentation on the overall North Korean refugee situation in South Korea as well as brief us on who our students were. We have a total of 16 students, ranging from elementary school students to college-aged students.

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We had rest of the day to ourselves and first ended up grabbing Indian food for lunch at COEX, a HUGE underground mall in the Gangnam area. A few of us then shopped around and then went to the nearby Bongeunsa Temple. The contrast between the temple and the skyscrapers surrounding it was startling. Easily one of the coolest places I’ve been to in Seoul.

Later, we all headed over to where SM and JYP were stationed, although the buildings themselves were a disappointment. Justin and I then stayed behind and looked around the Galleria, a high-end department store. I’m sorry but Rick Owens shoes look like Converse.

Day 5 (6/24)

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KBS is so cool. Or maybe broadcasting stations in general are pretty cool since I’ve never been to one. In the morning, we toured a few filming sets and also went to this small museum within one of the buildings. After lunch, we had a Q&A session with the reporter who set up our entire visit and also (I did not know this before) inspired DukeEngage South Korea. He himself is in charge of filming documentaries, mainly about North Korea. Since he spoke in English, he was limited in what he wanted to convey to us, but he was very genuine and eager to talk to us, and I really appreciated our conversation.

And then… We stayed for another two hours for Music Bank rehearsal!!! And we also got to see Taemin perform!! I might not like Shinee that much, but he is the only member I like in the group and he knows how to perform.

After we left KBS, I wandered around like I usually do. And in Gangnam like I usually do.

Day 6 (6/25) and Day 7 (6/26)

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Since I didn’t do much this weekend, I’m combining the two days. Pretty much, I ate budae jjigae, went to Gangnam a couple more times, also went to Seoul Forest, bought a BTS album, and played Mafia.

See you in Yeoju next week!

 

 

Week 4: Last Days at Jiguchon

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Huwon at Changdeokgung

I normally write my posts in day to day format, but I figured given the more serious nature of this week’s post, I should just resort in paragraph form.

This past week at Jiguchon has been a lot of things: frustrating, unpredictable, fun, sad, shameful, heartwarming, and a whole mix of other descriptive words. Every morning, as I look out into the Han River from inside the subway, I wonder to myself whether today will be a productive or rowdy day. This depends mostly on whether particular students are present, and as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, sometimes I wish that those students would be absent.

It’s not even like these students are bad kids. Or at the very least, I do think that the rude and mean things that they do are probably stemmed from a far deeper scar or fear that they have developed from a number of situations: racial discrimination, low socioeconomic status, neglect, lack of consistent teachers in their lives, etc. Not just the badly behaved kids, but all the other students as well likely have experienced any number of these things in their lives. If I could just focus my attention on every one of them and give them what they each need for a long period of time, I think they can build the self-confidence, respect, and motivation that they need to thrive in the current South Korean society.

Unfortunately, the short amount of class time doesn’t allow much individual attention, which is why I value the small conversations and moments with each of my students so much, even the ones who misbehave or never do their work. It’s only then when my more selfish thoughts disappear, and I dedicate all my efforts to understanding who they are and how they’ve become that way.

The 15 days are almost up, and honestly, I’m not ready to give up the relationships that I’ve fostered with all the students at Jiguchon. It feels so normal to say hi to everyone coming in through the classroom door, to joke around with some of the sixth grade girls, and even to be stern with the ones who don’t listen. Goodbyes are a very difficult things, especially for someone so unemotional like me, but even if they haven’t learned a single word of English in the past three weeks, I hope that I can at least leave with them one message. Even if it seems like the world is working against them, even if it seems like no one believes in them, I want them to know that there are people out there that care for them, whether it be the Jiguchon teachers or their friends or at the very least, DESK 2016.

Ending on a lighter note, we went to Inkigayo rehearsal this week!!!!!! I think seeing BTS members in person has made my past 19 years. So sad but so true.

 

 

Week 3: More Fun and Teaching

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Has it really been three weeks already?

Waking up every morning at 8am, riding the subway for an hour before arriving at Jiguchon, standing before a classroom of students while making my best attempt to enthuse them, I’m slowly acclimating to the Seoul lifestyle, to the idea of being a teacher, and to the responsibilities of providing education for these kids.

Day 1 (6/6)

Today was Korea’s Memorial Day, so we didn’t have to teach. I unfortunately spent most of my time in bed fighting off fevers and enduring throat pain, which I later realized was probably strep. Cry.

Day 2 (6/7)

Since yesterday was a national holiday, most of the clinics and hospitals were closed, so we headed over to an international clinic today. I apparently had severe tonsillitis, which most likely stemmed from a strep infection. The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics and sent me on my merry way. By the evening, my throat had already felt a lot better.

Day 3 (6/8)

First day back was rough.

So since Justin was teaching by himself yesterday, we wanted to plan something easier for the kids to learn. Animals seemed like the natural choice, and it worked extremely well. But considering they already knew what most of the animals were in English, yesterday we decided to amp up the difficulty. Back during DukeEngage Academy, we learned about the Can Have Are chart, which is supposed to help students more effectively understand concepts such as verbs, nouns, and adjectives. In order to give the students a bank of words to select from, we introduced a mix of 30 new words that they could use to fill out the chart when describing certain animals.

Yeah, bad idea. They didn’t know many of the words, and we didn’t do a good job of integrating them into a greater concept, so the vocabulary most have been just gibberish to them. By the end of the first lecture, many of them had already given up and stopped paying attention.

This lead us to think, should we just teach easier material and have them be more interested and engaged in class but not really learn anything? At a crossroad, we were thankful that Professor Hae-young offered to teach our first lecture tomorrow, extending from what we wanted to teach today.

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On the bright side, although I’m usually not a fatty meats person, we had some really delicious samgyeopsal for dinner.

Day 4 (6/9)

Having Professor Hae-young teach for us really helped us. A lot. We realized we were relaying the information in a both boring and ineffective way because we didn’t provide a reason for them to learn it. As a 10 year-old, you aren’t going to care what the English word “fly” means unless it means something to you. This is why it’s better to incorporate the word into more meaningful and understandable sentences, like “birds can fly.” Because the students already know what the word “bird” represents and have an idea of what birds can do, it becomes easier for them to associate the word “fly” with an image of a bird flying.

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Although the students already knew many animal names, she still started her lecture by introducing eight animals, saying them and then asking the class to repeat after her. Then, she moved on to focusing what a specific animal, like a bird, can do. The slides would say “birds can do… (yes or no)” and show four different pictures of actions that birds could or could not do. The class would then agree or disagree by saying yes or no while she would say the action out loud in English. After a couple of rounds using different animals, the students would finally use the English actions they had learned and hopefully associated on a worksheet, which actually had them write out the actions.

Day 5 (6/10)

Given the effectiveness of Professor Hae-young’s lecture, we decided to teach the concept “have” using similar materials. Overall, I think it worked out pretty well, given that a few days earlier they had no idea what “have” meant or any of the animal parts were. We also did a couple of different games and worksheets to help reinforce the information. They apparently really like word searches.

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Today was also our weekly reflection session with the professors. We ate at a nearby samgyetang (basically a whole chicken stuffed with glutinous rice and ginseng in a soup) restaurant before getting ice cream and returning to the guesthouse and starting the discussion. We talked a lot about discipline and classroom control this week, a topic that we were pretty much all struggling with in our classes.

Day 6 (6/11)

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My feet hurt.

I planned on wandering around today and wanted to get a head start, so I woke up 8:30am (yes that’s early), took a shower, ate breakfast, and headed out by 10am. My first stop was the main Kyobo Bookstore, the largest in South Korea. I didn’t buy anything, but everything was nice to look at. Then I sat through 17ish stops before arriving at COEX, a huge underground mall in the Gangnam area. Even with the myriad of signs printed everywhere, I still got lost.

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While I was still at COEX, Michelle wanted to come and shop, so we ended up shopping (basically only her) until 5pm. After dinner, we met everyone else at Namsan Tower. Since it was a Saturday night, the lines were long and it was pretty crowded, but even though I had already been, it was still fun to go with everyone.

Day 7 (6/12)

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Much slower day today, although I did take a trip to Myeongdong in the afternoon to grab some skincare products. While I was there, I also got some dessert. See above.

Week 2: First Week of Teaching

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Day 1 (5/30)

Our first day at Jiguchon* approached quickly, although today and tomorrow our goal was just to observe the students in order to obtain a better understanding of who our students were and what resources were available to us. We all left the guesthouse at around 7:30am, got breakfast at a nearby bakery, and met the professors at Hongdae Station at 8am. Although the subway was crowded with citizens headed their way to their respective workplaces, the experience of Seoul morning rush hour gave me a rush of responsibility that was both foreign and exciting. It took almost an hour for us to finally arrive at the school. We were actually half an hour early, so we took this time to have a brief meeting at a gazebo outside. Today, we were supposed to observe three periods: we would all sit in on the first class, but we were split for the last two classes. Since Justin, Ana, Cole and I taught the two higher levels, we observed the older kids.

*A little bit of background on the school. Jiguchon is actually a megachurch located in Seoul, and the Jiguchon school is part of their many smaller organizations that they fund. It’s actually the first school in Seoul built for multiethnic students, and they are given free admission since most are from low-income families.

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I knew that teaching elementary school students wasn’t going to be easy, but watching the first class, a second grade English class, made me even more worried about how ready I was. The teacher was attempting to teach them opposites, and even though most students were paying attention, the classroom was still rowdy due to a couple of kids. The second and third class that we observed were somewhat quieter, with older students, but the level of attentiveness remained the same.

After having lunch at Jiguchon, we returned to the guesthouse and finally started lesson planning for our first classes on Wednesday. I thought it was easier for Justin and I to develop activities for our English class, since there are a wide range of games and worksheets that we could utilize. However, for extracurriculars, Joon and I were restricted in that we had to incorporate English into a single activity, which for us was sports/dance. We couldn’t think of any feasible ideas of teaching English using sports or dance today, so we decided to think about it for another day before meeting.

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So Monday was coincidentally also my birthday (woot woot), and even the indecisive person that I am finally decided on dinner plans (pasta) and an activity (noraebang). The pasta was yummy, but what made my night was definitely the noraebang (basically karaoke). IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in Seoul. The place was a little sketchy, and it definitely could have improved its selection of Chinese songs, but the price was great and all of us sang our hearts out. 11/10 would recommend.

Day 2 (5/31)

Second day of observation at Jiguchon started a little later, since we were observing only two periods today. I thought that the classes were fairly similar to the ones we went to yesterday: most students did try to pay attention, but there were also students that did disrupt the class often. And while certain students did pay attention, there were few that were willing to vocally or actively participate.

We also found out that the sports/dance extracurricular class only had access to the gym two times a week during one of the two periods. In the end we decided to combine sports/dance with games, where Joon, Justin, Joy, and I collectively taught sports/dance for one period and games the other.

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Today was also the our first session of Korean class. All of us, except Joon, have to work with a Korean tutor from Ewha University as a sort of supplement resource for teaching and living in Korea. Ana, Justin, and I, all having some Korean background, have to fulfill nine hours of tutoring, which we divided up into six 1.5 hour sessions. We met our teacher at Ewha, which is a famous all-female university located near our guesthouse. When we first arrived, all I noticed was the architecture. The picture above says it all. Other than the beautiful campus, the class was interesting and fun; I liked that we focused more on having conversations than specifically targeting grammar or vocabulary.

Day 3 (6/1)

The first day of teaching has finally come. We arrived earlier than usual for the Wednesday morning assembly, during which the school was planning to introduce us at. Afterwards, we began to get ready for our first two periods of English class. Watching the first couple of students come into the classroom, I felt weirdly calm and excited. It was certainly different from how I had felt leading up to today, which had just been stress. Stressed that I wasn’t prepared enough, that the students wouldn’t like me. But I think at that point, I realized I should let go of my burdens and just do the best that I can. If something doesn’t go as planned, I can always find a solution before the next day.

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Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but that’s okay. I had expected that there was going to be a lot of noise and distraction, granted we are teaching elementary school students. Justin and I got through all our planned activities, but I think the level of participation we anticipated wasn’t as high as we wanted, especially when speaking was involved. Although we have a range of levels in our class, all of our students pretty much only understand basic vocabulary. So when speaking (meaning sentence construction) in English was involved, the students weren’t as willing to participate due to their lack of confidence.

When we were planning tonight, we wanted to somehow encourage more speaking in class, so we went out and bought stickers. We didn’t know whether a sticker provided enough motivation, but it was worth a try. And since kids get bored easily and love moving around, we also filled our lessons for tomorrow with lots of games and fun worksheets.

Day 4 (6/2)

Wow. I know that I shouldn’t be pessimistic, but I honestly had no idea how our students were going to respond to the games we had prepared. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case they weren’t interested at all. However, while I was watching the numerous hands that went up during flyswatter and pictionary, I realized that I should always try to plan and go into every class with a positive mindset.

As for the sports/dance and games classes, we definitely learned our lesson today for not preparing enough. We assumed that we would have the same six 6th graders as yesterday for our games class, but today was an entirely different distribution: around 25 students of all grades. It’s much harder to improvise a lesson plan when there’s 20 more students and everyone is so different. Since we didn’t have enough time to come up with an activity with English involved, we resorted to playing human knot.

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Tonight was also our weekly reflection session with the professors. After eating almost two weeks of mostly Korean food, pizza was a great choice. Korean pizzas have quite interesting topping combinations, but they surprising work well together. For example, one of the pizzas had mashed potatoes and another had potato wedges. The center of the show, of course, was not the pizza but our reflections of the week. Joon and I, being the leaders this week, raised several topics, including what our favorite memory of this week was and successful activities or techniques worth trying.

Mondays and Fridays are dance days in the sports/dance class, so Joy, Justin, Joon, and I were trying our hardest to come up with exciting dances for more than 20 boys. We eventually decided on Shake It Off, but we still felt unsure about our choice. It’s hard enough to organize a large group of kids together, but to get them to all dance to a Taylor Swift song? I should’ve been more optimistic though. Just because they’re boys doesn’t mean they won’t dance to a “girl” song.

Day 5 (6/3)

We had a couple of new students in our class today that moved up from level 2. While they are all fun and playful kids individually, they disrupted the class greatly by not paying attention and also dragging along other students with them. Justin and I tried to play around with them, hoping to get them to see us as peers, but due to our limited Korean, it was really difficult to communicate effectively with them. Although class was rowdier than yesterday, I knew not to be too dejected. Garnering respect and trust from the students was going to take time.

Yeah. Shake It Off was somewhat of a bust, and they REALLY wanted to dance to Bang Bang Bang by Big Bang. However, considering we were teaching English, we should obviously pick English songs to dance to. In the end, we did end up getting some of the students to dance to an One Direction song!

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It was an overall successful first week, and we were all exhausted. Ana wanted to go to a dog cafe and then dinner, which sounded fun, but I honestly just wanted to chill in the guesthouse, so I ended up not going. Later though, I became restless and wanted to get some fresh air, and of course Michelle wanted boba, so the two of us took the subway all the way to the Gangnam area. While we were walking home from the subway station, we ended up seeing everyone else returning from dinner. Ana and Leigh were acting somewhat odd, which turned out to be because… they were buying me a birthday cake! First of all, THANKS GUYS! Also, as much as I want to be cool and say that I already guessed what they were doing, I didn’t. It was a good surprise.

Day 6 (6/4)

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While some of us headed to Lotte World around 9am, I stayed behind to skype friends and work on this blog post. After an entire afternoon of typing away at our laptops, Michelle and I wanted food, which quickly spiraled into taking the subway over to the Gangnam area again. We couldn’t afford anything at the department store except for the overpriced food, which Michelle gladly bought a lot of. And of course we got boba, again.

Unfortunately, the thing that I thought was stuck in my throat turned out to be a sore throat, which some of the others had as well. As soon as I returned to the guesthouse, I quickly got ready for bed, hoping that the symptoms would go away.

Day 7 (6/5)

AND… it didn’t. In fact, it got worse. By around noon, I had not only had a severely inflamed throat but also a 101 degree fever. Joon had suggested going to the hospital, which I really didn’t want to go, so I finally took some Tylenol and Ibuprofen and went back to sleep.

The fever subsided and my throat was hurting less, but around dinner time I started feeling nauseous. Man, being sick sucks. I just hope that I’ll be better by Tuesday (no school tomorrow due to Memorial Day).