Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Adventures in Daejeon

So Monday we ventured into the wonderful city of Daejeon, about 2 hours away from Goesan.  Daejeon is the fifth largest city in all of Korea so it was great to be able to see a big city.  There are about 12 ETAs placed in Daejeon (a few of them being renewees) so there is a possibility that I could be in there.  I journeyed with nine other ETAs and we had the pleasure of visiting one of the top schools in city.  It was an all-girls high school and has sent several students to the SKY universities.  These consist of three universities (Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei Universities) and they are essentially the Ivy Leauges of Korea.  Every Korean student and parent aspires for the student to go there so it is a really big deal that this school sent 14 students to these universities.  It's the equivalent to sending 14 American students to Harvard and Yale and all from one school.

We got in and met the ETA, co-teacher, principal, and vice principals.  All of them were great and very welcoming.  Then the students saw us.  Wow.  Some of the OC's warned us about a rockstar effect but I really didn't think much of it.  Until they saw us.  It was probably similar to Beatlemania in the 60's.  Girls screaming, giggling, waving, running towards and away, pounding on classroom windows and doors, shouting "You're so handsome!" and similar things.  If you are a Western looking guy and ever need an ego boost, I now know where you should go.  It was the most bizarre thing that has probably ever happened to me.

Despite all of that, we were able to see a lesson so that was really great.  She has all of the first year students and they are split into three levels of English knowledge.  Korean high schools generally have three grades, equivalent to American sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  ETAs generally teach 1st and 2nd grade since 3rd graders must study for the high pressure national exam.  This exam determines where they can go for school and what they can major in.  The 3rd year students spend most of their school day studying for this exam, especially at a school as prestigious as the one I was visiting.  The exam is intense, especially if you want to go to a SKY university.  For example, to be accepted into the medical program at Korea University, you must get a perfect score on the test.  According to Wikipedia, only 1.84% of the students who applied to the med school at Korea University received offers of admission.  Anyways, the lessons were great and the ETA did an amazing job and made me and all of the others who visited really excited about teaching.

Today we started Korean classes.  It went pretty well overall.  The program is actually ran through Korea University so it is one of the best out there.  The instructors are both very nice.  We have four hours of class and one instructor for the 1st half and a different for the next.  Today we just went over the alphabet so it wasn't bad.  I can recognize all of the letters and know what sound they make but it just takes me a while to read them out loud when put together into words.  I'm definitely not going to be fluent by the end of orientation or my grant year(and realistically ever) but it is still going to be a decent amount of progress.  At least enough to hopefully make my way around.

The last big piece of news is that Mrs. Shim is coming tomorrow!  Mrs. Shim is the head of the Korean American Education Commission, which makes her the head of Fulbright Korea.  She is a very important and influential woman.  We have to get all dressed up and look nice for her and we have to give her insa.  Insa is a full 90 degree bow, saved only for the most respected and important people.

That is about it as far as updates go.  I finally set up Skype and I think I know how everything works.  My name is benjamin.m.louis on there if you want to add me!  I am loving it here so far and cannot believe I have only been here less than a week.  It seems like I have known a lot of my new pals for so much longer and have been in this country for a while.

So far it's been great and I'm looking forward to see what else is in store.

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