Monday, July 1st, 2013, Seondeok Girls Middle School, Gyeongju, South Korea, 11:40 AM

I have had some awesome days lately. To start, I need to go back to Friday.

Starting with this semester, Mrs. Go asked me to do a club class with her. She told me we would do the class only three times, but each class would be three class pereiods of 45 minutes. And the topic of the class would be world cultures.

When I was first orgnizing this, I was very intimidated because, first off, I usueally do one class at a time, and I am very use to 45 moinute lessons, rather than lessons of over two hours. But actually the subject matter was the hardest part, because world cultures is pretty broad. Despite that, classes of the semster went pretty well. But I wanted the thrd one to be special. I decided to focus on traditional clothing across continents, and showed photos of traditional clothing from North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Then I put the students into five groups and gave each group a continent, provided each group with newspaper, foil, scissors, and tape, and told each group to come up with an outfit, using the photos of the clothing from their continent as inspiration.

Before I did the lesson, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was highly probable my students weren’t going to care, or would spend five minutes crushing newspaper onto a girl’s stomach and saying they were done. Or what have you, but I was honestly surprised how well it went. My students really got into it, and seemed to have a lot of fun. Not only did they make some really creative, cool designs, they paid atttention to the photos I showed them. It was an awesome final class. One of the groups even made me my own bracelet out of foil. So thoughtful.

Photo: Best clubclass ever.

Can you guess which model is from which group? From Left to right: Middle East, North America, South America, Africa, Europe

Saturday night was the final dinner for the ETA’s. It was our last event in which we would all be together, and it was in Seoul. I took a bus to Daegu on saturday morning to meet my friend Megan. We had bought tickets on a KTX train a week in advance. But when we get on our train, we see people already sitting in our seats. After a few minutes, we realize we had gotten on the wrong train, because so conveniently, the DongDaegu station sometimes send two trains to Seoul at the exact same time. We were able to get off the train right before it left, but by that time, our train already had left. We had to go to the ticket counter, cancel those seats with a fine (yay!) and buy whole new tickets for another train that was leaving in the next ten minutes.

To make sure we were going to make it and get on the right train, we rushed, jumped on, and sat down with sighs of relief. Not two minutes later, two people came up, showing us tickets, saying we were in the wrong seats. After five minutes (during which the train had already left) we realized we had been in the right place, we had just boarded the train before our correct train. When it rains, it pours.

That wasn’t actually a huge deal. We just sat in some empty seats and when the train stopped in Daejon, got off, and waited for our correct train to stop there.

The hillarious thing is that I have taken multiple trains by myself in Korea, and been extremely nervous. But with less than a month before leaving, and while in the comany of a friend with intermediate Korean skills, we not only board the wrong train once, but twice consecutively.

Oh, and in the middle of this I realized that I had forgotten a very important item. A nice pair of shoes to wear to the dinner. All I had were sneakers. And I was performing! Luckily, Seoul is a shopping hub, so when Megan and I checked in to our hostel and had some time to kill, I found actually, a really cute pair of shoes. That fit me no less. Huzzah to that.

So, the final dinner. It is not only am occassion to say goodbye to the ETA’s, and Mrs.Shim, our director, but to reflect back on everythiung we have done. So it was really sad, but also, extremely meaningful. It almost felt just as significant as a graduation, if not more than.

Just like at previous Fulbright events, during dinner, ETA’s who were interested were allowed to do performances. I wrote a poem about a month ago, and for the last few weeks I have been memorizing it and practicing it. I was a bit nervous about it, because I have performed poetry before with Fulbright with good responses, but since this was the last dinner, I wanted this poem to be the best. All of Saturday I was kind of going through it in my head, and was whispering it to myself as we were all getting ready in the hostel. And to my terror, I kept screwing up in the most important parts. So eventually I just had to stop myself because if I kept thinking about it I was just going to screw mysel;f over. I just tried and maybe partially succeeded in chilling until my time cmae. And of course I was one of the last performers so I couldn’t really enjoy who came before me.

But anyway, I began, my mind cleared, and I just did my poem. I didn’t mess up. I got everythiung out of the audience I was looking for. And when I finished. It felt… incredible. Later in the night when I was saying my goodbyes, everyone complimented my poem, and of those people almost all of them said I had made them cry. One person even awarded me the great honor of saying “You are the voice of our year.” I honestly can’t think of  any higher praise.

Below is a link to a video of my performance.


At the end of orientation, I was honestly not very happy about how I believed thhe other ETA’s saw me, and I blame no one but myself for that. And now, I know that when other ETA’s, the ones I was not really close to, will think of me, that is not  what they will think of. They will remember my poetry. Which I couldn’t be happier about. I’m not very good with social communication. But  through writing, through poetry not only can I speak, but I come alive.

So of course, a lot of final dinner was goodbyes. And that was hard. When you graduate college, you know you are going to able to stay close to some people. But Fulbright ETA’s are so widespread, all over America, and a significant portion of the ETA’s are renewing.

As hard as those goodbyes were, the hardest one were with my closest friends that happened later. On Sunday we did some shopping, went to a few places in Seoul. And one by one we parted ways.

Photo: Sarah Carey Megan Sara-Lynn Katie Welch

I am dreading the goodbyes still to come. Saying goodby to my students, and my fellow teachers, Hemma, and my host family.

I learned reccently that the next ETA at Seondeok High School will live with my host family. Families hosting multiple ETA’s is not rare, but because I was my family’s first ETA, learning this really made me think.

My first response was “Great! I must have not screwed up enough to make them not want to do it again!”

And then my evil possessive and deffensive side came out, and I thought, “What if they end up liking this ETA better than me?”

Which was kind of at the back of my mind all weekend. So when I made it back to my home stay on Sunday night, I mentioned that info to my host sisters. Heejoo, the older sister, looked at me and pointed at her sisters, saying, “She does not want us to.”

I asked Youngjoo why, thinking her answer would be something like I want my room back or my cell phone back. But that is not what she said. Youngjoo said, “Because when I see the new ETA, I will miss you.” It brought tears to my eyes, and I gave her a tight hug.

Today is my only class of the week, because tomorrow my students have exams. So I will spend Tuesday through Sunday packing and finalizing everything. Next week are my last classes, and the following Wednesday, I return home.

Big breath. Here it comes.


2 thoughts on “Monday, July 1st, 2013, Seondeok Girls Middle School, Gyeongju, South Korea, 11:40 AM

  1. Sarah says:

    That picture of your students is great. I’m glad it worked out!^^

  2. Rita says:

    Fun culture lesson and super results.

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