Our last day at the middle school was very emotional and heartbreaking. The students start exams tomorrow, so instead of teaching a full lesson we wrapped up a review activity from last week and played Pictionary. Pictionary was a lot of fun for the students because many of them are talented at drawing, and it was also a way to help them build their English vocabulary! The lesson was very enjoyable, but the goodbyes were not! Several students came to our workroom bringing snacks, notes, and hand-drawn pictures. It was so touching! A teacher at the school even brought us Nutella and bread! A very special gift we received was Yunnori boards. Yunnori is Korean New Year's game. The students in the after-school English club each chose a KU teacher and decorated boards for us. My board is decorated with famous historical sites and landmarks around Korea. The drawings are incredible, and I love the board! After many goodbyes exchanged with students, the administrators and English teachers of the middle school threw us a surprise party with Korean pizza! Though Korean pizza is very different from American pizza (it often includes toppings like corn or sweet potato), it was delicious! The party was a nice opportunity to talk to the principal, vice-principal, and English teachers before we leave. The staff at Kyunghwa has been so welcoming and helpful, and I will miss them a lot. And of course, I will miss the students! They are always so joyful and kind, and I will truly miss their presence in my life. They've made such an impact on me!
Today was our first day of working on final reflections, lesson plan corrections, and projects. There's not much to write about because we were working on homework for most of the day. However, we were able to take a break and play basketball against some Kyunghwa High School teachers! I am no basketball star, but it was so much fun to play with them. I haven't played an actual basketball game in years, so it was pretty exhausting. I enjoyed the opportunity to bond with my fellow KU teachers and the Kyunghwa teachers!
After another long day of homework, we went to the "lookout", which is a location a little bit up a mountain with a library and a memorial. However, we went there to get a view of Gwangju. We've only explored a small portion of the city, so it was neat to see how large the city really is. It was so nice to look out over the city and watch the sunset. After that, we went to one of our favorite spots in Gwangju, the Nutella ice cream waffle store. I am going to miss Gwangju!
As expected, most of the day was spent working on schoolwork! After dinner, we went to the dessert cafe one last time for bingsu. Then, we did karaoke! Karaoke in Korea is different than in the United States. You rent a karaoke room for a certain amount of time and only sing in front of the group of people you came with. We had a lot of fun singing and dancing and being ridiculous together! We have gone a few times before, so I'm glad we had the opportunity to go one more time!
July 1st-July 3rd
The past few days have mostly been filled with finishing up final projects and assignments. Yesterday we were able to take one last trip to Seoul before we leave! We explored Insa-dong and bought some last-minute gifts for our families and friends. Now we are heading back home, and I am excited to be home again, but I will also miss all of the wonderful people I've gotten to know in Korea. I have been blessed with wonderful roommates while in Korea, and I have enjoyed getting to know all of my fellow KU interns. We also had a wonderful professor and GTA for the program, and they always helped us with any problems we encountered. I will also miss all of the Korean teachers we met during the program, and I won't forget everything they taught me about teaching. However, the people I will miss the most are my students! They made every day here a joy, and they taught me so much more about myself and about the world around me. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of their lives! As I go back to my everyday life I will carry my fond memories of this experience with me. I appreciate the opportunities I had to learn and grow while here, and I can't wait to go explore new places and meet more people.
Today was our first day implementing our second lesson plan! Our second lesson plan is actually an exam review because the students will be taking an English exam next week. The students will review most of the material with their Korean English teachers, so we are helping them review key conversational phrases and expressions. We chose to accomplish this through a short worksheet and a competitive game. To make the game more interesting, we added some K-Pop in the form of a video and posters, and we filmed ourselves acting out different conversations from the book. The videos are pretty funny, and the students love to laugh at our cheesy acting. Overall, we had a successful day with the lesson! We finished the activities too early during the first lesson, even though we thought the opposite would happen. Luckily, we were able to improvise, and we came up with a completely new activity that fit well with the review! Other than a few other minor obstacles, everything went well. The more I teach the more I realize how much I enjoy teaching!
Tuesdays are always the busiest day because we teach five classes with very few breaks! This morning, we found out that the schedule had been changed, and some of our classes had been shortened to thirty or thirty-five minutes. We also learned that we would have to teach in the students' homeroom classrooms instead of the usual English classroom we teach in. This presented several challenges. Our lesson relies heavily on technology and videos, so there was a lot of time wasted setting up presentations and fixing technology. Also, the desk configuration of each classroom is different, so we had to think quickly when splitting up groups for the game. However, these were only minor complications, and we were able to figure everything out. When the videos didn't work, we'd just act out the scenes instead. Today was sad, however, because it was the first day of goodbyes to the students. The students have exams for almost all of next week, so this is our last full week of teaching them. These students are so sweet, thoughtful, and fun, and I'm not ready to say goodbye to them! Teaching them has been such a wonderful opportunity, and I can't believe it's almost over.
Since Wednesdays are the days with five second grade classes, we didn't teach today! However, chapel service this morning was interesting because we (the four middle school interns from KU) prepared a song for the service! We sang "Every Move I Make", a well-known worship song. We also added in the actions because we knew the girls would appreciate that. After a few times running through the song, we performed it for over 1,000 students! We were pretty nervous, but they loved it despite our imperfect performing abilities. Though the experience pushed us way out of our comfort zones, it was such a neat opportunity to connect with the students. Apparently the song is very popular at the school, and the girls had all sung it in Korean before! After the chapel service, we observed our peers. They did a marvelous job, and they were also faced with some unexpected changes. It's so cool to watch the progress of the other interns from KU!
Today was another day full of sad goodbyes to students! Our lesson went pretty well. We were worried about timing because we included an additional activity at the end, but we got through everything! It can become a little monotonous to teach an exam review for the entire week, but the students' enthusiasm and smiling faces make up for it. There's not much else to report! We only taught one class today, so it was a very easy day. Tomorrow four of us are leaving for Busan, a city along the southeastern coast of Korea! We'll spend the weekend there, and I'm so excited!
Today was our last day leading the exam review! We only taught one class, but it was a great class. The class was well behaved and engaged during the entire lesson. Since the class did so well, we had enough time at the end of class to complete our final activity and thank the students for being so wonderful. It was another difficult goodbye! After school, we took a 5 hour bus ride to Busan. The ride went by much more quickly than I thought it would because the scenery was so beautiful. I had not realized how mountainous Korea is. It's incredible! When we arrived in Busan, it was already pretty late, so we bought some dinner at a street vendor and walked to the beach. The beach is very nice and clean, and it was amazing to see all of the city's lights. I've never been to a beach so close to a large city, so it was interesting to see the contradiction between the open ocean and the crowded, busy city. I am excited to relax and explore more of Busan tomorrow!
We had an amazing day in Busan! First, we walked around the beach and discovered that an international surfing competition is taking place this weekend. We didn't see the competition actually taking place, but it was interesting to see all of the surfers and events happening during the competition. We also found a group of older women playing traditional drums together on the beach. They wore matching outfits and coordinated little dance moves while they played the drums. It was so adorable! We looked around some shops in the area, and after lunch, we spent some time sitting on the beach. Two of us swam in the ocean for a little while, and it was so cold! Not many Koreans were getting into the water, so we received a few confused stares when we joyfully jumped through the waves. Despite the frigid water, it was such a great experience! I really enjoyed the beach. It was not as crowded as I had expected, and I loved watching all of the people. Busan as a whole feels much more relaxed than Seoul, and the people are so friendly and kind. After the beach, we took a night bus tour of Busan. We were able to see a lot of the city this way. Many of the bridges were decorated with lights that changed colors, and it was so beautiful. The skyscrapers were also incredible. I wish we could spend more than a weekend in this amazing city!
I began my day by waking up at 4:50 A.M. to catch the sunrise with Katie. Though it was difficult to drag ourselves out of bed, it was completely worth it! We were surprised to find the city still busy. People were still walking around, driving, and sitting in bars and restaurants. However, the beach was empty enough that we were able to have a nice view. The sun steadily rose over the buildings overlooking the ocean, and it was an amazing sight. I have always enjoyed watching sunrises on the beach, so I'm glad I was able to have that experience in Korea. After going back to sleep for a few hours, we journeyed back to the beach. Katie and I headed a new direction to explore, and for lunch, we tried McDonald's so we could compare it to McDonald's restaurants in the United States. I tried a shrimp burger, and it was so delicious! There was a special type of sauce on it, and the shrimp was all fried together to form a patty. The building was also very nice. It was almost decorated like a sit-down restaurant. After lunch, we walked around to find some shops, and before we knew it, we were lost! It took a lot of walking and guessing, but we eventually found our way back. This unexpected detour ended up being more fun than shopping because we were able to see some areas where locals lived and worked! After finding our way back to our hostel, we unfortunately had to catch our bus back to Gwangju. The ride back to Gwangju was beautiful as well. I wish we could've spent more time Busan, but I'm excited to spend one more day with our students!
Today was the first day we were able to implement our own lesson plans! It was a nerve-wracking experience because though I have classroom teaching experience, I have never taught English. However, the excitement of the students put me at ease. The first lesson was pretty awkward and chaotic, but we expected that. The second lesson was better! Each class has an entirely different dynamic and English proficiency level, so we have to be able to slightly modify our lesson as we’re teaching it. This is building my flexibility skills and my ability to make decisions quickly. It will be interesting to see how tomorrow’s classes react to our lesson!
Today’s classes provided more of a challenge, but teaching them was a good learning opportunity. The second class of the day was particularly difficult. They were so loud, and I had to raise my voice and practically yell to get their attention. They also didn’t pay attention to directions, and when we started our activity, chaos erupted in the classroom. Students started moving desks around for no reason, and it took quite a while to get everyone under control. Being assertive isn’t a skill that comes naturally to me, but today I learned to be assertive! Despite the misbehavior, I still enjoyed teaching that class, and the other classes were more manageable. We received a lot of feedback and constructive criticism on our lesson, so we’ll be making a lot of changes before we teach it again! This internship provides the unique opportunity to teach a lesson multiple times and to modify it for an entire week. We have a lot of work to do, but it will be worth it!
We didn’t teach today because all of the classes were second year students and we only teach first year students, but we were able to observe the other KU middle school teachers! They had a wonderful lesson, and it was a valuable experience to observe their teaching. It’s a totally different perspective to sit in the back of the classroom and watch how the students react to different activities and teaching styles. That’s about all that happened for today!
Today was another day of observing our peers and working on our lesson plan. We also have other homework for our class, so we’ve been working on that. I’m excited to finally teach again tomorrow! Today was a pretty normal day, so there’s nothing else to report!
Our last day of teaching for the week was absolutely wonderful! We made a lot of lesson plan changes to prepare for today, and they were worth it! We modified our lesson to create more opportunities for students to speak, and we added a wrap-up activity in the form of a blindfolded food taste test. The class we taught today was well behaved but also enthusiastic and willing to volunteer for activities. They responded well to the changes we made to our lesson plan, and they were willing to practice their speaking with each other. The food taste test was very popular with the students! The girl who tried the sour gummy worms made the most disgusted face. Sour candy isn’t as common here, so the sour taste was pretty alarming for her. Another funny moment was when the girl tasting the sweet food recognized the brand of the chocolate (it was Kinder chocolate, a favorite chocolate of mine that comes from Germany). I used the chocolate as a teaching moment, and I was able to explain that the chocolate comes from Germany and that “Kinder” means children in German. I definitely didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to teach any German while I was here. It was a pretty neat moment. I enjoyed teaching the lesson so much, and I can’t wait to be a teacher someday. It’s days like this that truly energize my passion for teaching and learning.
June 18th/June 19th
This weekend was a nice break from our busy schedule of teaching and homework! On Saturday, we went to the contemporary art museum in Gwangju and looked at their outdoor sculpture garden and indoor exhibits. Conveniently, a new exhibit opened today, and to celebrate, there was a concert with traditional Korean instruments! The ensemble included two traditional Korean string instruments, a vocalist, a keyboard, and a drum set. It was interesting to hear the fusion of the traditional and modern instruments. The traditional instruments clearly required a lot of skill to master, and the sound of those instruments was gorgeous. After the concert, we found some adorable rabbits in a fence near the museum. For dinner we had Vietnamese food, and then we found a huge street market that we hadn’t found before. There was seafood, vegetables, fruit, clothes, candies, and just about everything! I love seeing everything that is sold at markets like that. On Sunday, a few of us went to church, and in the afternoon we worked on our lesson plans for tomorrow! We spent the evening celebrating a group member’s birthday! We got pizza (Korean style, which means with corn), and then we got Nutella ice cream waffles. It was the perfect way to relax before our busy week ahead!
Today we were finally able to observe a lesson! As a result of mandatory speaking tests, we had been unable to watch our mentor teacher teach until now. Her lesson was based around a game teaching cultural customs. Observing was very beneficial because we were able to see how she gets the students’ attention and how she begins each lesson. The game involved a PowerPoint with different customs from around the world, and students were supposed to guess whether statements about the customs were true or false. Students were also competing as teams, and they seemed to love the competitive aspect of the lesson! Every time the answer was revealed, students would scream and clap. We will definitely need to find ways to incorporate competition into our lesson because this seems to engage the girls. Some examples of questions from the game are “Do brides in Vietnam wear red?” and “Is it appropriate to smile at strangers in Thailand?” I even learned a few facts about world customs by watching the lesson! At one point, the teacher had to leave the room for a few minutes, so we were able to take over leading the game! It was sometimes a challenge to get their attention because they are so loud and energetic, but we found that being overly enthusiastic and energetic can solve that. Teaching next week will certainly be a challenge, but I can’t wait!
Today was a fairly normal day at school! There were more speaking tests, so we weren’t able to observe any lessons, but we helped students prepare for their tests like we’ve done before. We also decided on a lesson plan topic for next week. Since our students love talking about food, we’re going to do a lesson about describing food. We will teach them terms such as “spicy” and “bland” as well as teaching them phrases to express their opinions about food. We are also adding a video of us trying different foods and describing them. Since we will be on an excursion to Sokcho, it will be the perfect opportunity to try a lot of different types of food! We have a lot of lesson planning to do, but teaching such a universally enjoyable topic will make the process much easier. Tomorrow we’re off to Sokcho until Sunday night!
We had a great first day in Sokcho! The trip involved a short bus ride to Seoul and a longer express bus ride from Seoul to Sokcho. Sokcho is located in the northeastern corner of Korea along the coast. When we arrived, we walked to a lighthouse to get a view of the area. There were a lot of stairs to climb, but from the top, we were able to see the coastline and the mountains further inland. The view was magnificent. After that, we went to some other buildings to look at the ocean and coastline. As we walked through the city, we saw a lot of places to purchase live seafood. There were huge tanks outside of stores with giant crabs, squid, octopi, and fish. I’m normally not afraid of sea creatures, but I do get a little bit creeped out when I see 20 giant crabs staring at me. Naturally, we went to the famous seafood market after that. There was an entire hallway dedicated to similar live seafood, but luckily there was also a hallway with cooked food. I chose to eat some fried shrimp. It was delicious, but it took some courage because the whole shrimp, eyes and shell included, was fried. I’ve never knowingly eaten the eyes of something before, but there’s a first time for everything! After the shrimp I ate some red bean ice cream in a fish-shaped waffle, and it was wonderful! Tomorrow we will explore the mountains in Seoraksan National Park!
Today was possibly my favorite day in Korea so far! After being in big cities for almost three weeks, it was so nice to be out in nature. We started our day by going to the top of a mountain with a cable car and then taking a short hike to the very top. The mountains here are so interesting because of the rock formations. They look like they’re manmade because they’re so intricate. Seoraksan National Park is popular among Koreans, and we quickly learned that many Koreans are experienced hikers. Five of us decided to hike up to Ulsanbawi Rock, a famous rock formation at the top of a different mountain. The first kilometer of the hike wasn’t too bad, but then the trail got really steep. Some parts of the hiking trail were stairs and other parts were more rocky and natural. We were struggling and taking frequent breaks, but Korean people who were much older than us breezed past with their hiking gear. One older Korean gentleman even remarked, “You can do it. Even children and old people can do it.” His statement was true but nonetheless very embarrassing. I suppose Kansas isn’t the best state to live in for intense hiking preparation. Many of the Korean hikers were encouraging us as we hiked. All of the people on the mountain were so polite and helpful, and it was such a pleasant experience. After two hours of sweat and failing muscles, we made it to the top! As soon as we reached the peak, all of the struggles were worth it! I had expected a large area at the top where groups of people would be sitting and resting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a nearly empty and small, enclosed area with a view of Ulsanbawi Rock and the surrounding area. It was incredible to look around and see how high we had climbed. It was so quiet up there because there were so few people, and there was a sense of peacefulness as we looked at the mountains around us. There aren’t words to describe what it was like up there because it was that amazing. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to see such a beautiful part of the world!
Today was our final day in Sokcho! First, we went to the Abai village. Abai village was settled by North Korean refugees during the Korean War. It was also the sight of a popular Korean drama. We weren’t able to learn much about its history, but we did walk around and look at the shops, restaurants, and beaches. After that, we went to Sokcho Beach, which was much larger. The water was frigid, so we weren’t able to swim, but we did put our feet in the water and watched the adorable Korean children playing at the beach. Unfortunately, it started raining, so we ended up just waiting at the Sokcho bus terminal until we were able to return to Kyunghwa. There isn’t anything else to report today, but I’m excited to finally start teaching our own lesson plans this week!
Today we started our excursion to Seoul! We departed the school early to get to Myeongdong, the district where our hostel is. To get to Seoul we took one bus and one subway. Despite carrying around some luggage, the trip was not too difficult. I was immediately amazed by the Seoul public transportation system. It is cleaned every night, so it is cleaner than any subway system I’ve used. It is also efficient and very easy to navigate. We rarely had to wait for a train for more than 3 minutes. After arriving in Myeongdong, we had a group lunch at a Korean buffet. The choices were nearly endless, and everything on my plate was absolutely delicious. After walking around Myeongdong, we went up to Namsan Tower to get a view of Seoul. Namsan Tower is on a mountain overlooking Seoul, and we took a cable car to get to the top. It wasn’t until we got to the top of the mountain that I was able to process how large Seoul is. The view was breathtaking, and we could see buildings for miles in every direction we looked. We also have a wonderful view from our hostel. Our room is on the 12th floor, and when we look out our window, we see the bustling streets of Myeondong. Being in such a large city will be an adjustment, but I can’t wait to explore Seoul!
This morning we watched the changing of the royal guard ceremony at Deoksugung Palace. It was a fascinating ceremony. The participants wore traditional Korean clothing and played traditional Korean instruments. The ritual itself was difficult to understand because it was in Korean, but it was still enjoyable. The palace stands in the middle of a busy, modernized area of Seoul. It was a unique experience to see the stark contrast between the palace and the skyscrapers surrounding it. Seoul seems to have a strong desire to preserve its history while also embracing innovation and modernization. After watching the ceremony, we walked around Cheonggyecheon, a walking trail and stream constructed in the middle of Seoul. There were some cute bridges and a waterfall, and there were even fish in the stream. Despite being manmade, the stream looked natural and added to the beauty of the city. Throughout Seoul, I have found more nature than in other cities I have visited. Along with preserving history, Seoul preserves nature. After eating lunch in that area, we headed to Gyeongbokgung, the most well known palace in Seoul. On the way, we saw a statue of Sejong, the inventor of Hangul (the Korean writing system). Hangul was revolutionary because before Hangul, only the elite were able to master the complicated writing system. Hangul, on the other hand, is accessible to almost anyone. Each letter typically corresponds to a specific sound, so Hangul makes pronunciation fairly simple. After admiring the statue of Sejong, we headed to our palace tour! The palace was built in 1395, and its size and beauty are difficult to put into words. Our guide was very engaging, and I gained a deeper appreciation for the history surrounding the palace. I have visited castles in Germany from around the same time period, so it was interesting to find commonalities between royal families from both parts of the world. Unfortunately, our time to tour the palace was limited. We weren’t able to see every part of the palace, and I would love to visit it again to explore further. After the palace, we went to Insa-dong, a touristy neighborhood full of shops and restaurant. We were too exhausted to explore the whole neighborhood, but I enjoyed the feel of Insa-dong. Today was a long day, but the palaces sparked my interest in Korean history, and I hope to learn more!
We started off the day by eating lunch and walking around a mall in Jamsil. Then we walked to the Han River, which is the main river that runs through Seoul. There were a lot of people relaxing in the park next to the river. A unique feature of Korean parks I have seen is the public exercise equipment. The exercise equipment is not difficult to use and is unlike exercise equipment found in American gyms. I think this equipment is beneficial to the community because it encourages people to go outside and exercise for free. We took a long walk along the Han River to get to Jamsil Stadium, home of the baseball games of the 1988 Summer Olympics and home of Seoul’s professional baseball team, the Doosan Bears. We watched the Doosan Bears compete against the SK Wyverns. Though I don’t typically enjoy watching baseball, the game was entertaining because of the crowd. Each team had a few cheerleaders who led the crowd in very well coordinated cheers. The fans had certain songs, claps, and hand movements that would occur while their team was batting. The cheers impressed me, and I was often distracted from the game because of the crowd! After returning from the baseball game, I looked around face and makeup stores in Myeongdong. Skin care is a huge phenomenon in Korea. In Myeondong, some blocks had skin or makeup stores in at least every other building. Though walking through them can be an overwhelming experience, it is interesting to see all of their products! We had a great day outside in beautiful weather!
We started our day off by heading to Sinchon, a neighborhood close to various universities. For lunch, we had grilled mackerel and spicy squid, and it was amazing! We were given the entire fish on our plate, which was a little disturbing at first because we could still see the eyes and everything. However, it wasn’t difficult to pick out the bones, and the fish tasted so fresh. After lunch, we took a quick walking tour of Yonsei University, one of the major universities in Seoul. Though we didn’t get the chance to interact with any students, it was interesting to compare the campus to the KU campus. The buildings were spread apart for being in a city, and the layout was pretty similar to KU, except for the lack of hills! After that, we headed to Hongdae, a popular area for students to eat and shop. After walking around for a little while, we found a cat café. I had wanted to try a cat café since coming to Korea, so I was ecstatic to have the opportunity. The experience was everything I had hoped it would be! After ordering my smoothie, I sat down on a pillow next to a purring, sleeping cat. While many of the cats were calm and sleepy, the kittens were very playful. They loved playing with the toys that were provided in the cat café. The cat café was definitely one of my favorite parts of Seoul so far! After the cat café, I met up with a friend from high school who is interning in Seoul this summer. We had dinner and listened to some jazz music in Hongdae. The musicians played well-known jazz standards, and it was so cool to hear the similarities and differences between jazz in Korea and jazz in America. I absolutely love Seoul, and it makes me sad that tomorrow is our last day here!
I started my day by doing some last minute shopping around Myeongdong. After lunch, we headed to the Korean national museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed because yesterday was a national holiday. However, a special exhibit was still open. It was two sculptures, one from Korea and one from Japan. They were very interesting to see! Since the other museum we wanted to visit was closed as well, we headed to Itaewon (the foreigners’ district) to explore. We found an English bookstore, and I looked over some fascinating books about Korea! After that, we headed back to Myeongdong for dinner. We had dak galbi, which is spicy chicken with various vegetables. I’m normally not a fan of very spicy food, but it was delicious! Now we’re back at the school and excited to see the students for a few more days before we head to Sokcho!
This past weekend was a nice break after a busy week of adjusting to Korea and meeting students! My weekend was spent relaxing, working on homework for the class that accompanies this practicum, trying delicious pork bulgogi at a restaurant in Gwangju, and attending a church service in Seongnam. Today we met new students because students only come to the conversational English classroom once a week. In fact, we meet with 19 different classes during a week. Each class has 36 students, so we will be teaching a little less than 700 students! This can be overwhelming at times, but we’re starting to remember some students and their names. As expected, the new students we met today were full of energy. There were a lot of 7th grade classes today, so it was interesting to experience the difference in English proficiency between 7th and 8th grade. It is not a huge difference, but I definitely slow down my speaking pace even more and use easier vocabulary when I talk to the 7th graders. I can’t imagine speaking a foreign language with a college student when I was in middle school, so I truly commend these girls for having the confidence to do so. Speaking practice is such an important part of language learning, and having the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them is crucial. I love these opportunities to watch the language learning process!
Now that I’m adjusted to the daily schedule of working here at Kyunghwa, the individual events of the day are becoming less significant in my mind. However, each day does bring new opportunities to learn about teaching and new insights into Korean culture. Today I had experiences that reminded me why I have chosen teaching as a profession. We were listening to students practice their speaking tests, so there were many opportunities to correct their pronunciation. Some words that were very difficult for the students to pronounce were “describe”, “would”, and “travel”. These words present a unique challenge to Koreans because Korean does not make a distinction between the “l” sound and the “r” sound. One student was having an especially hard time with “travel”, so I worked with her, pronouncing every sound and asking her to repeat them for me. She wasn’t able to hear the difference between what I was saying and what she was saying, so I tried using a different approach. I realized that it would be helpful to actually explain and demonstrate the placement of the tongue for the different sounds of the word. Though this is a somewhat obvious and commonly used approach, I was amazed by how much of a difference it made. Her eyes lit up when she was finally able to pronounce “travel” correctly, and it brought me tremendous joy. I realize that she may have forgotten the pronunciation as soon as she walked out of class, but at least in that moment, I was able to help her understand, and I think her mastery of the word gave her more confidence in her English pronunciation overall. As a teacher, that improvement and confidence is exactly what I hope for! I want to be a teacher in order to witness those daily triumphs.
Today was our first day to observe the school’s chapel service and our first day to see students we have already had in class! School began with a 20-minute chapel service, which is led by a different class each week. Students led some praise songs, a prayer, and a skit. It was interesting to watch, and the skit was very impressive! The students all have a lot of pride in their homeroom class, and this is a way for them to showcase this pride. We also got to see some classes we’ve already seen, and we remembered quite a few faces! I have a lot of homework today, so that’s all I have to report!
Today was also a normal school day, so I will describe the meals we receive at school each day! Unlike in America, breakfast in Korea is almost exactly the same as other meals. Each meal consists of rice, soup, some type of meat, some type of vegetable, and some type of fruit or dessert. Sometimes the meals include unfamiliar foods, such as dried squid or octopus tentacles in a spicy sauce, but those foods are surprisingly delicious! Seaweed is also very popular in Korea, and it is typically dried or found in soup. It has been an adjustment to eat rice for three meals a day, but I love rice, so this hasn’t been a problem! Like in America, students like to complain about school meals. At first, I didn’t see why they would complain, but now that I’ve gotten adjusted to the meals and had Korean food in restaurants I see why they would be unhappy. Nonetheless, I am still a fan of the meals we receive here at Kyunghwa!
Yesterday we had a very long and exhausting trip (a little over 24 hours), but nonetheless we started our first day at the school today! There weren’t any classes at the middle school because there was a school-wide choir contest. All thirty homerooms prepared different songs and performed them in front of the entire school. Even more impressive was the fact that each class had one student accompanying the choir and one student conducting! Each homeroom teacher sang with the girls, and all teachers participated in the costumes and little dances that accompanied the songs. All of the groups sang beautifully, and after the girls finished, a group of the students’ moms performed, and everyone went crazy! The event lasted around 3 ½ hours, but it was still so much fun! After school a group of us walked to downtown Gwangju to buy some necessities and to check out the city. We were all very jetlagged, but it was fun to see the city where we’ll be for the next six weeks. I can’t wait to observe classes and meet more students tomorrow!
We started our day by participating in the English broadcast, a miniature TV show which students watch in their classrooms almost every morning. We will be participating in the broadcast throughout the 6 weeks, but this morning we introduced ourselves and presented pictures of ourselves to around 800 middle school students! The teacher leading the broadcast asked about KU basketball, so I was even able to talk about playing in the KU basketball band! The broadcast was a nerve-wracking experience, but it was also a lot of fun. After that, we finally got to meet our students! They are absolutely wonderful! Half of the class was taking speaking tests, so we were instructed to go around to the other half of the class and introduce ourselves and talk to them. I had no idea how proficient in English the students would be, but I was very impressed! There was definitely a wide range of English abilities, however, so this will be a challenge as I begin to think about lesson plans. Some of the girls were shy and intimidated, but many of them were very eager to share things about themselves and about Korea and to ask questions about my life and about America. I can’t wait to get to know these sweet students better! We also helped some students with an assignment about their three wishes. A sad observation I made was the effect of the high Korean beauty standards on the girls. Many of the girls wished for changes to their physical appearance. There were, however, a few who wished to be doctors, teachers, and public prosecutors. The teacher we’re working with explained to us that one of her missions in her classroom is to give the girls confidence in their beauty and to help them appreciate other types of beauty. It was empowering to hear her talk about how much she cared for her students! I hope I can make such a big difference as a teacher someday!
Today we got to meet more students and help them prepare for their speaking tests! Some classes were very shy, but some of them were constantly asking questions and were doing their best to write everything out on their own. The students are starting to become more comfortable around us, and they are so sweet! Every time we walk down the hallway we are greeted with bows and a greeting of“hello teacher!” from the students. Sometimes we feel like celebrities because whenever we respond to the girls, they turn to their friends and act so shocked. When we walk into the classroom students will often start clapping and screaming! The students are also incredibly generous! We’ve been given hand-drawn pictures, sandwiches, juice, chocolate, and candy. I really can’t believe how kind these students are, and I am so excited to get to know them!
Today was sports day! Sports day began when students from all three schools gathered on the giant sand field to sing the Korean national anthem and to pray. There were a lot of sports events going on at the same time, including dodge ball, jump rope, and three-legged races. However, it was difficult to watch the events because we were swarmed with students wanting to take pictures with us! At certain points in the day there were lines forming around us. It was exhausting, but it was so fun, and it made the students so happy. After lunch, everyone lined up around the track and the fastest girls from each class raced each other! The students were very athletic. Sports day ended with a dance competition between all of the classes, and before we knew it, we were dragged out to dance with the girls! I am so certainly no expert in dancing to K-Pop music, but it was still an incredible experience! After sports day we naturally wanted a big dinner, so we went to get Korean barbecue. There were miniature grills on each table, and the waiters brought out huge chunks of meat for us to cook on the grills. We watched the meat and cut it up when it was cooked. The meat and the many side dishes were absolutely delicious. To top it off we went to a dessert café for bingsu, which is a combination of shaved ice and ice cream with a variety of toppings to choose from. Finally, we headed back to the dorms to rest after a long but very exciting day!