Sunday, January 27, 2013

PNU Class Update Part 4! Finally all caught up!

Yay! Final update!  Now I can tell you the whole reason as to why I came to the lovely city of Busan, home of 3.4 million people which makes it the second largest city in Korea and easily the biggest city I have ever lived in.  So way back in October, the lovely crew at the Fulbright Korea office in Seoul  gave us a big list of various internship opportunities that were made available to all of us fantastic Fulbrighters.  At this time, I had no plans whatsoever for my 2 month vaca from school so I figured I should start making some and I contacted a couple of the people that were listed on the website, one of those being Professor Pore of Pusan National University(PNU)!

So after I sent out my resume to him, he emailed me to set up an interview to talk about what I would do.  I traveled to Busan on Wednesday afternoon (the only time that would work out between my school schedule and his university schedule).  Surprise, surprise, I got lost on my way to meet him and ended up being about 45 minutes late.  After several apologetic emails and explanations of how this is only my first time really visiting the city (the only time prior was spent in the bus terminal after the Fall Conference frantically trying to locate my wallet that basically contained my life. If you didn’t catch that gem of a story, it’s somewhere in the archives of this blog), we sat down to discuss what the responsibilities of the internship was.

Essentially, I was going to become a visiting instructor teaching an English conversation class and extra-curricular class where we can go around the city and experience the culture of Busan.  I wouldn’t get paid since Fulbright and our visa strictly prohibits any sort of payment outside of our assigned schools, but that’s okay since Fulbright is paying us during vacation anyways!  We both seemed happy with the situation so we agreed that I would come to PNU and teach a class or two to some university students.  I was pretty stoked about this since PNU is one of the best universities outside of Seoul and the students generally have a very high level of English so it would really be a great learning experience for me in terms of being able to communicate with Koreans about Korean culture in a language I can understand.

As you saw from my misadventures last post, I finally arrived here the second week of January and have been here ever since!  It’s a great city and I’m a little jealous of the Fulbrighters who get teach here.  Maybe I should have requested an urban setting after all!  But I actually really like living in Suncheon and I love the school I’m at, but still Busan is pretty neat.  Anyways, I discovered that 18 students signed up for my class and it was for 2 hours, 10-12 on Monday-Friday.

So first day of class, we just did the introductions and everything.  I wrote a syllabus so we went over it.  I even had a class name!  It was “Merging Language and Culture: A Global Studies Enrichment.”  Doesn’t that sound nice and fancy?!  So yeah I had about 15 students the first day and we did introductions aka played Trainwreck.  If you don’t know that game or remember my description, I went into detail about it on Update #1 so you can check it out there!  They all liked that and then afterwards, I made them take me on an English tour of the campus because I totally got lost on the way over the building where the class was held (in my defense, it is pretty isolated from the rest of campus!!).  But it seemed like a good first class so I was happy.

Ever since then, we pretty much just have discussions about current events or issues or just how our day is.  We had a lot of talks about comparing the Korean and American education systems but we covered everything from societal views of beauty (particularly Korea’s huge amount of plastic surgery and child beauty pageants in the US) to the student’s upcoming trip to Australia.  And we played a few games here and there like Price is Right and Scattergories which was always pretty fun.  They were really surprised by some of the prices of things in America compared to Korea.  They generally guessed everything being way, way over which disqualified them of course (after a few tries, they started using the whole 0.99 cent pricing but no one just did the whole one dollar tactic that many scheming Price is Righters do..). 

But the class has been great.  It’s been cool to get their perspective on a variety of issues and really be able to get a Korean viewpoint on things.  Up to this point, I haven’t really been able to, except with my co-teacher.  I would ask my students, but their levels aren’t really all that high and I’d probably only be able go a little deeper into issues with the top 15 or so students and that’s if they aren’t feeling shy or tired and it’s a similar situation with my homestay family (plus the children are still pretty young).  So I’m actually probably learning more than they are. 

And I’ve had a few guest speakers some in!  They have been fantastic!!  My Fulbright friends Ammy and Brittany have both come over lead discussions and participate in the class and the students all really liked them.  It’s good to have a fresh perspective from a variety of people since I obviously don’t represent all of America’s ideas and opinions.  One student, Su, even hosted Ammy at her apartment since Ammy doesn’t teach or live in Busan.  I hope to have even more Fulbrighters come in now that most of them are returning to the country from their international travels.  But a lot of them are going to hang out in Seoul and take language classes or do internships up there so we’ll see!
I don’t know what else to write about for the class.  I think that’s pretty much it.  I could go into certain discussions I suppose, but it would be pretty long and I don’t remember 100% of everything that we talked about.  Well, I’m going to do another class in two weeks and actually there’s going to be two sections, a morning one and an afternoon one since the professors anticipate a bigger crowd with new students entering the program so hopefully I’ll have big, full classes!  Well, not too big, but I wouldn’t mind more than the usual 9-10 that generally came.  But a lot of them work or like I said were going to Australia and this is a class that’s free to them so I can understand their not coming.  But it would be nice to have a more consistent crowd!

I don’t want to leave this warm coffee shop and go out into the cold.  It’s actually not too terrible.  It’s like 30 degrees.  It’s actually one of the warmest parts of Korea, but I’m always cold so it’s usually not warm enough haha.  At least there’s no snow!  That’s one of the perks of living in Busan to Seoul is the lack of snow!  My students keep telling me that the only reason Busan has so many people in it, is that all the old people come here.  Maybe it’s the Florida of Korea?  Sunny, warm and a relatively high senior population.  But, I don’t really see it since I live in the University area.  There’s lots of young people here but most of them still don’t talk to me haha.  But I’ve really only interacted with my students since I’m not taking any classes myself or doing the gym(until now..hopefully) but whatever.  Now that I have more time, maybe I’ll be able to meet a few more people.  I’ve talked to a couple around the university, but since it’s winter break, most students aren’t here so it’s a little empty.  But I’m enjoying the downtime so I’m not complaining!

I get to sleep really late tomorrow since I don’t have class.  I’m also checking out the CrossFit gym that I FINALLY found!  I’m soooooo stoked!  It’s like a ten minute walk from my dorm/will be goshiwon!!!  I think the reason why I didn’t see it is that it has a big Jui Jitsu sign on the front and there’s a small Crossfit sign over on the side.  I’m so annoyed it’s taken me this long to find it.  I learned about it the first day of class and three weeks later I finally found it.  No one really knew about it so I couldn’t ask them.   The one guy told me about it but he only knew about it through a friend and then he only showed up the first day of class and I’ve never seen him since.  Brittany is actually friends with him and she thinks he might be prepping for his upcoming military service.  But I’m going to investigate it tomorrow.  I hope it’s CrossFit not Jui Jitsu.  I’m a little concerned that they’re going to completely kick my butt, especially since I haven’t had a really solid beating since CrossFit Suncheon, 4 weeks ago.  But as the famous and wise Mrs. Shim/Jim McFadden once said “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing!”  Apparently that’s a google search term that people used to find this blog haha. 

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough.  I have to brave the cold and head out.  See you later blogging world!!


  1. Hi Ben!

    Sounds like quite an adventure. I know what it is like to get lost in a foriegn country where nobody speaks English. Though, sometimes that is when you have the most memorable experiences. I'm glad you did not come up to Seoul on my last trip. We had to deice in Detroit and ended up being three hours late.I'm still working on a future Seoul trip. Keep up the good work.

    Uncle Mark

  2. Keep up the fine work is right. I agree w your uncle.

    Very interesting cultural differences. Sounds like you are learning lots every day. - what fun. Doing a lot of "growing" over there...