Life Update: The Last Two Weeks (Departure Day, Home Stay, Teaching, etc.)

First, I want to apologize. I'm not awesome at keeping people updated with life events (like, you know, the fact that I'm still alive and all). And I can't blame this lack of updates on the fact that my computer is dying (more on that later) because history shows I am notoriously bad at communicating that I am alright.

So, have no fear. I am alright. I am alive.

I'm going to go in order and start where I left off, but I'll add headings, so if you're not interested in one part, just skip down to what you're interested in! Or just check out some photos at the very bottom!


Departure day was possibly the worst day of my life, but not because of anything anyone else did! Departure day is a really stressful day because we potentially meet our principal or vice principal on that day and your first impression is a HUGE DEAL (although my Fulbright Co-Teacher picked me up). It's also stressful because instead of having the audience be only Director Shim and her KAEC staff, like on Placement Day (although Director Shim is still present during Departure Day), there is at least one representative from EVERY school that an ETA is going to. So basically there are lots of people in the audience and we need to make a good impression for all of them. No stress, right?

So like Placement Day, we make this U-shaped-line-figure around the front of the auditorium. Then each province is called and each ETA is called with their school. Now, before any of that happens, when we are first lined up in the U-shaped-line-figure around the front of the auditorium almost everyone in the audience is looking for their ETA (the representatives know who to look for because Fulbright gives them a photo of the ETA that will be coming to their school.... Good thing I didn't smile in my photo, right?). So when they call each ETA name you're given a small bouquet flowers (I think from Fulbright), but sometimes, if you're lucky (like me), you get a very, VERY large bouquet that weighs close to a baby. Or if you're really lucky, like the ETAs in Mokpo, you get party hats and cheering and a sign with your picture. So basically Departure Day is a big deal.

Also on Departure Day, you say goodbye to the only 70 people you know in Korea. There were many smiles, many tears, and many HAGGYs (Have A Great Grant Year, I semi coined that term, but if someone has used it before I will gladly give up creative rights to it). And don't forget that sometimes your school representative might say they don't need to go to contract review (like mine did) and always double check because they really might not need to go (like mine did) because that will save you from stress (like I wasn't).

And after alllll of that you leave for your city and home stay/apartment (which are set up by your school). More on my home stay below.

When I look back on Departure Day, it was a good day. Maybe a little too stressful for me, but I was so happy to be moving out of Goesan/Jungwon University and on to the next chapter of my grant year. (Note: grant year just refers to the fact that my contact is one year of teaching.)


After leaving Goesan/Jungwon University on Departure Day, I rode with my Fulbright Co-teacher and her family (she is a little shaky on driving, so her husband and kids came to pick me up too) back to Gwangju. It was about a 3 hour drive and we talked the whole way despite how emotionally and physically exhausted I was.

We get to Gwangju, right? And all I can think is "Well, this isn't Goesan!" Gwangju is the 6th largest city in Korea and it's considered the rebellious city (or that's what I've been told). My host family has always lived in Gwangju and my host dad really likes Gwangju. He thinks the size is best (better than Seoul).

So my host family.... is AWESOME and EXACTLY LIKE MY FAMILY BACK HOME!

My host mom? She's basically super mom. She cooks for us, does our laundry, drives my brothers places (school, English academy, church), and she's really involved in their church, AND she works full-time. And one time my host dad told me that she's studying to be an Korean teacher (but I might have misunderstood what he was telling me, so I can't confirm that information, yet). Nevertheless, she reminds me of my mom back home: always caring for her kids, working, and being really involved.

My host brothers? In some ways they are me and my sisters in the form of Korean boys.
My oldest brother lives at his high school, he's taking the 수능 (suneung) soon. He keeps referring to the suneung as the Korean SAT, but you should know that the suneung is NOT like the SAT. It's waaaaay more intense. My oldest host bro is the brother who likes to talk to me the most. He really wants to practice English, but he's also VERY busy and stressed about the suneung.

My younger two brothers are... well, young. My middle brother is a 3rd grade middle schooler and my youngest brother is a 1st grade middle schooler, so they don't exactly LOVE talking to me in English. When it's just the three of us, they talk to me. When their parents are around, they don't want to speak English or they want to just speak Korean. Which I get and 100% I am okay with them not speaking English with me all the time. My younger two brothers just go to school, go to academy, go to church, and sit on their tablets/phones. They're the same as kids in America.

My host dad is only home every two weeks. He doesn't work in Gwangju, so he just comes home to visit. He LOVES speaking English and, bless his heart, tried to fix my computer, but might have made it worse. I think my host dad thinks I'm technologically incompetent so he tries really hard to help me. But my computer will be fine. I am just lazy and haven't gotten around to fixing it yet.

I think my host family thinks I am hermit because I don't do anything after work and usually on the weekends I go to sleep early and don't really have any plans. So when my host dad was home he kept me busy and took me around Gwangju.

All in all, my host family is great. They help me whenever I need it (the bus system) and are forgive me when I get stranded in Gwangju and miss dinner (yesterday).


I teach at Jeonggwang Middle School. It's a private, Buddhist middle school. I teach 2nd and 3rd grade at the middle school (so the 8th and 9th grade American equivalent).

So far I really like teaching. My students drive me nuts some days, but I laugh at least once a day. I just try to remember that for all the sassy little comments and attitude that I get from them, at the end of the day they are just kids. I've spent so long just living in college/college world that I forget what it's like to be surrounded by NOT 20 years olds. The teachers at my school are really welcoming. I think they all understand English, but they don't want to speak English with me. One teacher told my Fulbright Co-teacher that he wants to speak with me, but he has British pronunciation. It's been a while since I was surrounded by British accents (I had soccer coaches for 4-ish years that were British), but I think I could still understand him.


In short, I am thriving and surviving in Gwangju! Now that I (sort of) have my feet under me, I will be (hopefully) posting more.

Now, check out some photos from the last two weeks.

My Fulbright Co-teacher after I got my new phone
and set up my Korean bank account!
When shopping at HomePlus,
you box your purchases rather than bag them.
Seems more efficient if you ask me!

Some teachers at my school took me to dinner
and then drinks where the "young people" go.
We first went to a noribang called New York,
but we left and then went to a place called Style.
My friend Kelsey noted Korean's must have a thing for Taylor Swift.
This is how I bond with my brother... He sleeps.
I showed my students the Augsburg Women's Soccer
intro video from last year. So, no worries Auggie Wo Soccer!
Y'all are just becoming celebs over in Korea!
Teaching woes: I started with 12 of these nice markers...
Now I have 8 and one with no cap.
My youngest host brother and I on a trip with the host parents
to 무등산 (Mudeung Mountain). Apparently watermelons from
this mountain cost over 300,000₩.

At the top there was a temple... With many lanterns.
My host dad told me that the white lanterns
are for people who have passed and
and the pink lanterns (below) are
prayers and well wishes for families.

Mudeung Mountain (To be clear, we did not walk up the mountain)
Kwangju Women's University is right next to where I live.

Kwangju Women's University hosted the University Games.
My class is the nicest classroom in the school.
So it's used for big meetings with the teachers.
When they have meetings I sit in the back of the
classroom behind a partition and occasionally
stick my head out to see what is happening.
This meeting was for CPR training.
My class also overlooks the soccer field.
So on days where I don't teach for long chunks of time,
I just watch the kiddies in gym class out my window.
We were VERY surprised to see an Auntie Anne's in Korea.
Well, we smelled those pretzels first.
Just more hanging out with my host brother again.
We bond.


Popular Posts