Jumping into the Third Week:

속초 (Sokcho)

  • So this weekend, the ETA cohort and I went to a eastward beach village / town named 속초. There, we stayed at the classy Class 300 hotel and FINALLY got to have a day off.  Up until 속초 Saturday, the entire cohort had been hard at work completing studies, cultural workshops, eating, and whatever else our program coordinators told us to complete. Nonetheless, Sokcho was a quiet beach

New Friends (새러운 친구)

  • So, I have been making many new friends during this trip. Not necessarily close friends, but people who are reasonably trustworthy, open, dependable, and willing to avoid rushing to conclusions. Overall, this a good, diverse, group of people who each deserve to be here and the collective work ethic, understanding and accomplishment between each of us. I am feeling quite blessed, privileged, grateful, lucky and inspired from being considered a peer amongst this group of individuals.
  • I am definitely regularly encouraged, challenged and inspired by the members of my cohort, current group of Fulbrighters,

Mid-term(중간 시험)

  • So….I had mid-terms this week. And the build was VERY stressful. Honestly, the whole Korean class format of 4, last week 5, hours a day is very tedious and draining. Though I am certainly learning a lot and getting plenty of practice my schedule for class preparation and homework are definitely taking toll on my sleep cycle, stress levels, and time / patience for interpersonal relationships. (Friendship, romance, family, breaking, professional and beyond).
  • Anyway, I only have two more weeks to cover SIX more chapters- about 80-120 words & 2-4 grammar points to memorize per chapter, to complete so I please send me positive vibes or words to help keep me focused a strong on this final stretch!

Cooking Class (요리하는 수업)

  • Phew! Yesterday I had a cooking class in in Cheongju and it was amazing! My OCT, Mai Tong, actually volunteered to cook with me when one of my dietary restrictions required me to set up my own station. ^&^ Mai Tong is awesome and I also got try my hand at making Kimbap – though I only watched Mai Tong make the Deokbeok-gi.
  • After eating my friends and I walked around Cheongju and had an adventure, while also getting to each other better.

Teaching FEP & Breaking Class (가르치는 것)

  • I have been teaching dance to some visiting Korean students. They’re pretty young, relatively new to English, and normally don’t talk much. However, like any other human, they often have a lot to say that they just feel awkward about sharing / vocalizing – so verbal participation hasn’t been so high. However, they really try, are very receptive and actually know more a lot more than they let on – which are each very important things for me to keep in mind throughout the duration of my grant year.
  • Either way, I am teaching my first official “Fulbright English Class” later this week so please wish me luck. I am less concerned with the students liking me than them actually taking something away from my class. That being said, I would prefer for them to respect, like and appreciate me – which is a lot to ask. Therefore, I am going to put an honest effort into gathering and compiling information about my upcoming classroom environment before actually getting in front of the children.^&^ (I am quite lucky to have my class during the latter half of the program – because I have the privilege of asking other ETA’s about their experience with these students.)

The remaining two weeks of Orientation.

  • Phew. Brought this up earlier, but I only have about two more weeks at this orientation and so I am going try to make the most of it. I will do my best to keep these posts somewhat regular during this time – but please bear with me because I have a lot to do and soak in within a relatively short amount of time.

 

* Thanks for Reading! *

2nd week of Fulbright ETA Orientation: Death, Love, FUN, Korean classes and Workshops

Phew. It has been awhile everyone. How have you all been? I hope you all have been well.^&^

I apologize for my hiatus, but A LOT has been going on and I am honestly still in the midst of a lot. So, really quick run down is coming up.

Death – I called my father this Monday and he hit me with the news that my grandmother had recently passed away… Her name was Josephine, and she was a pillar of our family. Always quick to help, share kind words, and just support anyone who needed it – especially her family members. I’m not going to get to into this, but she did have some last words for me: “Do good and try your best” – Josephine Brown. To honor her words, I am moving forward as best I can as smart and wholeheartedly as possible. I love my grandmother, so she will likely come up in future posts, as the grieving process will be long.

Love – No specifics, but I have a new LOVE interests within my present cohort. *Cue audience woo’s* More updates will come as this relationship develops, but it has not randomly formed out of left field. We have been in contact for some time before this program and have proceeded to “click” after meeting in-person.

FUN – Phew! I need more time for this FUN stuff. I honestly have programming for 8-11 hours a day, and this is not including the essential chores of house cleaning, laundry, and decompressing from the earlier week.

I have been breaking (breakdancing) in-between the breaks of my Korean class but I am CRAVING something more substantial as I re-adjust to living in S. Korea again.

Korea classes – EVERY WEEKDAY, except this upcoming Friday, for 5 – 7 hours depending on the day. Honestly, though this this is quite stressful and energy draining, I am quite thankful for the KAEC and the Fulbright commission’s commitment to ensuring that ETA’s have a fully-funded intensive Korean program before teaching for year. This program is very well put together in terms of behind-the-scenes funding and management. However, I just wish I had more free time worked into the running activity because I am itching to dance, and compete!

Workshops – Phew, the workshops. On top of our regular Korean classes, we have regularly scheduled teaching and cultural workshops that are meant to give us insight into aspects of the social structure, teaching cultures/philosophies, and classroom dynamics within South Korea. Though these workshops also leave me quite tired, they are very informative and ultimately helpful.

BONUS: FOOD

I have been eating free meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner since my entry to Korea – save for two excursions that included both sweet potato and blueberry/raspberry pizzas. Pictures will come…with time, opportunity, and the prospect of me not forgetting.^&^

 

That’s it for now everyone. I shall now be off to sleep and rest for the next day. Please wish me luck – especially my family and friends. And please also pray for my grandmother to rest in peace if you all have religion, time, and the energy.

 

Thank you!

Portland to Seattle and on to LA.

From the land where “the dream of the 90’s is alive” to a few days in Seattle, this week has truly been interesting and educational. 

  • Monday was my arrival in Portland, 
  • Tuesday featured a 4th of July celbration with the family of my good friend Haley – who let me stay at her home during my entire stay!
  •  Wednesday beckoned opportunity, because I was able to interview with a rep from Portland State University about pursuing a graduate degree in Urban / Regional Planning upon my return from S. Korea. Needless to say, the interview went swimmingly! Now I plan to further prepare for my future application, degree and profession by securing a GIS certificate whilst abroad.
  • Wednesday pt. 2 – After my interview, I briefly toured the campus and downtown Portland before returning to Haley’s home. From there, Haley took me to the Amtrak station and I began my journey toward Seattle.
  • Thursday – So I met a beautiful, knowledgeable and friendly female co-passenger on the Amtrak as I made my way from Portland to Seattle. Her name was Leesza (apologies if I butchered the spelling^π^). Anyway, we connected through talking about travel, healthcare, and life until we arrived to the city of Seattle. From there, we parted ways onto our respective journies. For me, this mwant taking a cab from the Amtrak station to the home of a generous Couchsurfing host^π^ (Who let me stay at his place in Seattle free of charge for two nights and three days!) From there on I slept.
  • Thursday pt. 2 – Aftwr a slow but productive morning in a new environment, I hopped on a bus – the stop was right outside of the home, and then I rode around the city to complete errands, meet with a rep from the University of Washington, qnd to meet with/ bid farewell to my good friend. We spent the evening together talking, dancing and just connecting in a park within Seattle’s chinatown district.
  • Friday (Today) –  Today, I went to breakfast with my gracious couchsurfing host and two fellow travelers whom he was hosting. The other two travelers Colin(m) and Ko-len(f) both spoke Mandarin and Cabtonese but Ko-len was from the mainland of China, whereas Colin was from Hong Kong. Apparently the distinction is quite important. As an example, Colin was a triplet – with two identical  brothers, and had an older sister, while Ko-len was an only child directly because of (mainland?)China’s one child policy. Anyway regardless of the differences between their geo-political origins, they had been friends since their pre-teens because their fathers were friends. They both came together to this city, and will likely travel together again in the future. Though we met for a short time, we had much to share with each other, and so we did as much as time allowed.
  • Friday pt. 2 – After eating breakfast together, my host took me to the train station and I boarded the metro with two checked bags, a backpack, and a large carry-on. Luckily Seattle’s DOT has regimented a space for luggage on train-cars, and so I was able to store my large, heavy and bulky items in the corner as I sat down – resting from the minor fatigue brought on by lugging my luggage to the platform. 
  • Friday pt. 3 – After arriving to the Seattle airport via train, I ran into both Alaskans and Atlantans whike enroute to my terminal. As I have listened to quite a bit of Alaska public radio, I was able to connect with them on some of their statewide/local issues. Ha, aftee meeting them I went through security…only to recieve a surpise groin patdown…. Just as the male passenger behind also recieved.(I would hope that my selection was due to either a glitch in the hardward or software because I was not carrying anything)
  • Friday pt. 4 –  Now, I am patiently waiting for my flight to LA and will proceed to catch up on blogging, messaging, reading, and hopefully also rest, during this brief dtint of increasingly rare downtime.

Thanks for reading!

Please enjoy the photos below from Seattle and Portland!


The Return

For those of you who do not know, I have recieved the Fulbright ETA – English Teaching Assistantship, Scholarship and will be returning to South Korea for at-least one year. Though this blog is no longer commissioned by Kennesaw State University, I will be using it to document my travels as I embark on another journey abroad.
That being said, expect less of a filter – though future content and tone will remain reasonably respectful of all parties involved.
Anyway, I am excited and I hope some of you all will be happy to read along as once-again leave the United States to go teach abroad in South Korea! I promise that the trip will be filled with adventure, dance, food, friends and life -events, not to mention possible romance, teaching stories and outrageous situations / random acts of kindness. 
This will truly be an adventure, and I am excited. Thank you to everyone who has followed thus far and welcome aboard to anyone who is just joining in. Departure date is T-minus 13 days in counting.
Allons-y!

A blast from the past, yet a telling reminder of where I have come from as I move half a planet away.

New Beginnings: The Final Post on my South Korea Trip (Written in San Diego, California)

This will be the final post on my recent trip to South Korea. It is being written from across the Pacific ocean in San Diego city, California. In this post I will consolidate the lessons learned from Korea, reflect on some fond memories, and discuss my plans for the future/post graduation.

So let’s get started!

Lessons Learned:

Always be on time.

  • Aside from being important in the workforce and for my Korean class, I relearned this lesson after missing my flight back to the US. Needless to say, I will be improving on my timeliness both in and outside of the airport.

It’s okay to take your time.

  • I learned this lesson when learning Korean. I became frustrated and discouraged at numerous points along my language journey because I wasn’t able to express myself adequately to native Korean speakers. It is very frustrating not being understood when you want to be and your are giving a hard effort to get your point across. However, when learning language, going back to the drawing board-your study desk in this case- and patiently reviewing the foundations of the language does more good than pouting with self-doubt.

Have fun while you can, after your work is finished.

  • For 4 months I had 3 jobs, one intensive class, and a steep learning curve for the culture/ins and outs of a new country. Needless to say, it was stressful effectively balancing these three components of my life and I stumbled at several points. However, when I had free time I made sure to have fun by making time for myself and friends. This served as an indispensable source of stress relief amidst the business and unfamiliarity of my life as a student in Seoul.

It’s okay to say no.

Due to the drinking culture in Korea, most of the social groups that I was a apart of held regular events with social drinking involved. Now these events almost always cost money, take place in the evening time and involve other people telling you how much to drink. I don’t drink, had homework, had 3 jobs, and wanted to make time for dance and personal growth amidst everything else. Where my aspirations and obligations ran contrary to my presence at social events, I said no. Sometimes it was easy, other times invitations were given in a more aggressive manner, however I remembered why I came and stayed focused. This isn’t to say that I never went out, I just made sure to have fun with the purpose of relieving stress but not relieving myself of the responsibility of keeping my own goals in mind. I think any student abroad will have many opportunities to experience new things, and this is great. However, it is when these new experiences begin to conflict with past commitments and resolutions that one needs to ask oneself “Why did I come here?”, “Can I complete this activity while being able to complete the goals I have already committed to?” and “Is this good for me?”

Keep on dreaming!/Keep your dreams alive!

While abroad, I was flooded with tons of new information, obligations, ideas, opportunities and stresses. So much so that it was quite easy to lose myself amidst the flood of possibilities. This is where dreams and a firm resolve to realize them become important. Whenever I had more free time than I knew what to do with or more stresses/obligations than I knew to handle, I made sure to calmly reflect on that which I wanted to do most and prioritized my efforts from there. Sometimes this meant that one homework assignment out of five was not completed, because it wasn’t graded- better believe everything else was finished- sometimes this meant that I was 5 minutes late for work BECAUSE I was finishing an important project- better believe prior notice was given to my employer- and many times this meant late nights so that I could fit my work, school work, and play all fit into one day. Needless to say, the prospect of accomplishing my own goals, set years before my arrival to Korea, fueled me throughout most of my trip(Just being in a foreign country can be VERY tiring, especially when coupled with your own aspirations and obligations)

This one seems to run contrary with the former, however the two are complimentary!

Reflection:

The Homework Never Ends. (And you’re not the only on who has to do it.)

I had a dream – go to Korea- and realized it. Now what? Learn Korean language? Apply for a job, scholarship, or fellowship in Korea? These are all options on my plate of opportunity, and I will probably make efforts toward each one. Regardless, these all require work, research, recommendation letters and, most important of all, effort. Before returning to Korea I resolved to not become lazy or complacent with mediocrity/conformity. This relates primarily toward my language learning and breakdancing. Though I am in the US, where there aren’t as many native speakers around to practice with, I still need to hold myself accountable for learning/practicing my Korean skills. Because WHEN I return, for whatever purpose, I will certainly benefit from knowing more through Korean than I do now.

Mentors, Friends and Family are indispensable when abroad.

At many points of my recent trip I was almost absolutely out of money, lost in an unfamiliar place(without wi-fi directly accessible), and just feeling overwhelmed by loneliness or stress. During these times, I reached out to friends, family and mentors for connection, relief, and guidance. These people helped me out when no one else could or would, and that’s what made them indispensable to me. I believe that any individual who goes to an unfamiliar place would benefit from a support network, especially if they can call on them at any time.

(Aspire to hold onto as many of these as you can because these people, if they are good, will help you when no else can or when no one else is willing)

Shoutout to Mom, Dad, 아야카, 민하, Jessica/재시카, 강수 에린, 보민, Gloria, Mate Institute, Nopi Study, KSU DVGA, Anna F., 예지, 유진, 지원, 지선, 지은, Martial, Meelis, 강 선생님, 배 선생님, Patrick, Nicole, Gil, Dr. Askildson, Michele Miller, Nadine, Sumi Moon, JoonSu, MyungJu, Sarome, KSU Korean class classmates, Kyungmee, BIP program 2013, Dr. Lee, KSU Asian Studies program, ASSO, KSU Korean Language Club, KSU breakdance Club, Hanyang University, Angela Kim, Rick Punt, KSU global learning Scholarship, HOPE scholarship, Hanyang Housing Scholarship, and everyone else who had a hand in keeping my dream of going to Korea alive.!

Future Plans/Aspirations:

Here is a sneak-peek into my to-do list for the foreseeable future. Similar to my dream of going to Korea, conceived years ago, I fully intend on making each of these aspirations a reality.

Graduation from KSU

Complete applications for going abroad again to continue intensive study of the Korean language.

Pursue Master’s in Urban Planning – Specialization in Transportation or housing

Keep on dancing! (Learn airflare)

Help other people in a manner that is sustainable to my circumstances!

Maintain the important connections that I have made.

Maintain an open mind in that sense that I allow new ideas to be heard, allow for the acceptance/introduction of newer -sometimes better- concepts into my life.

Do my best, always. (Rest well, Work well, Play well, Communicate well, Live well)

Stay true to my word by making good on as many promises as I am able!

 

And now to end this post, here are some photos from my time in San Diego, California.

 

 

Seoul to San Diego: Coming back to the USA

Today, rather the continuation of yesterday without sleep, I missed my original flight back to the USA from South Korea. Luckily, with help from my family, I was able to rearrange a flight back to the USA. This led to an extra night in Seoul, spent cozily in the airport lobby. Honestly, it was not that bad of an experience – staying in an international airport overnight. At first it felt like a visit to a very busy doctor’s office…. An office that tries to save energy by cutting off several lights after 1 am…. and during this energy saving period most of the other patients steadily depopulate, leaving the waiting room eerily-yet-peacefully quiet as you await the return of both daylight through the windows and the doctor & staff.

Anyway, along my new route to the USA, all while still in the Seoul-Incheon airport, I was selected for an additional security screening, twice. Once when checking my bags and once more when getting on the plane. Actually, when I was leaving Korea 3 years ago I was also chosen for a security screening before getting onto the plane. In my four trips to the Incheon airport I have been selected for a “random” security screening three times. In my experience and opinion, Brown/Darker/Central Asian/Middle Eastern foreigners, particularly those with beards, are easy targets for suspicion from the airport security, particularly on international flights from a homogeneous society where you are visibly different from your peers.

This is not to say that I believe, or that Korea is, racist or even xenophobic. However, there have been various expectations built around outward appearances that one should keep an eye and ear open  While feelings for foreigners in general are typically warm to neutral- in terms of basic interactions- generalities begin to form around foreigners that are based on present or past experience with foreigners. These perspectives are then often thrusted upon incoming foreigners, or used a regular frame of reference when interacting with them. Now this doesn’t only happen inside of Korea, and I think most students understand this concept. It is just, once we are abroad we become the foreigners and thus are interactions with others are many times directly related to their prior experience with other foreigners. For instance, if you are near the foreigner center of Seoul -Itaewon- and you look foreign, then many Korean people will, or at least attempt to, speak English in order to communicate with you. In my experience and opinion, it is because many foreigners who don’t speak Korean frequent these places, and thus having English as a default has become a method simplifying communication with foreigners.

On the reverse, if you are foreign and find yourself outside of Seoul-and not near an army base- then Korean people will probably just speak in Korean to you and if you have a Korean friend with you, , or someone who ‘looks’ Korean, then they will speak directly in Korean to them almost with the expectation that you can’t or won’t understand. This can be frustrating, but especially so when one doesn’t take the time to truly consider ‘why’. Asking ‘why’ can help us develop a ‘how’ for becoming included in the conversation and hopefully even an impetus for an alleviation of negative stereotypes of ineptitude, maliciousness, and the like.

I initially spoke Korean while I was out and about in Seoul for the effect of improving my Korean and to effectively communicate with others. Gradually, my use of Korean has grown to include the intentions of becoming an example foreigner who cares about Korean culture and language exist and to do my best to understand my friends in their own words (As speaking in ONLY English creates stress and strains communication on account of a limited shared vocabulary)

Today’s picture-less post was based on personal experiences that I hope can helpfully  serve other students abroad in the future, or simply people trying to connect with one another.

With that, I will end with sharing some personal advice and then heartfelt advice from my parents after the fiasco of missing my flight

Make sure not to make the same mistake I did – being overly optimistic with the speed of public transportation in a foreign country when meeting my deadline was crucial. I missed my original flight back to the United States because I miscalculated how fast the “Express airport bus” would get me to the airport. I frankly didn’t know, and didn’t check up on, the other numerous stops before the airport or the traffic pattern-Both affected my arrival time to the airport. My family was able to help bail me out, and I will pay them back in full, but not every student traveling abroad will have this safety net, so just be on your P’s and Q’s with your flights. In fact, ESPECIALLY with your flights because they place you in and out of the country. – Vincent Brown

 

“ALWAYS ARRIVE TO THE AIRPORT AT LEAST 3 HOURS EARLY BEFORE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.” -Vincent’s Mom and Dad