About the ********* Scholarship

The ********* Scholarship means I will be getting paid to hang out with a family, speak my native language, see the far-corners of South Korea, adventure across Asia, get some awesome networking done, and add a prestigious fellowship to my resume. The following are three specific things that are particularly awesome, in my opinion:

On-The-Job Training
Upon arrival in Korea, scholars are bussed off to Chuncheon for 6 weeks to live at a college there, as previously mentioned. There, we take 4 hours of intensive Korean PER DAY. Some scholars arrive in Seoul with little more than a loose command of the Korean alphabet. After Korean, there are teaching workshops and subject-specific seminars, such as Homosexuality in Korea, Pop Culture, stuff like that. After all of that, there are electives that the scholars are offered. Cultural Korean classes such as salmunori (traditional percussion), tae kwon do, and calligraphy are offered for a small fee. Then, obviously, there's the ETA bonding: exploring the city together (re: getting lost together), eating out together (re: trying weird food together), and socializing together (re: getting drunk and singing karaoke together). together together together togethertogehtertheogr

Take me home, Country Roads
The ********* Scholarship will set me up with a homestay family near my school. This family will receive a stipend to help pay for my lodging (a private room in their house) and food (scholars have meals with their family). What I make of the homestay is up to me, but I hope to take full advantage of living in a typical Korean household for an entire year.

Dolla Dolla Bills Ya'll
That's a lie. But "Won won ya'll" sounds weird. The scholarship pays for my airfare to and from Korea (~$6,000, so that's pretty significant). Additionally, my monthly paycheck will be 1,600,000W. About 1.5 million won. Don't get excited, this translates to about $1,300/month. However, since I don't pay for rent, utilities, or food, all of this money is available for me to travel, eat out, and general tomfoolery.
Without the ********* Scholarship, getting a job teaching English in Korea is pretty intimidating and very easily could suck. So winning this scholarship basically enables the scholars to live and work in a country, care-free.


True Story



I want to emphasize that I'm going to try to keep this blog as related to my trip as possible. I don't want to comment too much on politics in Korea or anything because (1) I am most definitely not qualified and (2) that's boring. Also, that is why there aren't many/frequent entries yet. I haven't left. There is nothing to talk about. But considering the rapidly-escalating situation described in this article on, I am making an exception.

The following is a Spark Notes truncated version of the article because I know y'all are too lazy to actually keep up with current events, let alone things happening halfway around the world. No, it's okay, I understand. I would be the same if I wasn't about to move there. But now you can sound astute and snobby when, really, you were just procrastinating your homework by reading a blog.

On Monday the United Nations condemned North Korea -- which refers to itself as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK -- for launching a rocket.

"The Korean People's Army will consider sanctions to be applied against the DPRK under various names over its satellite launch or any pressure to be put upon it through 'total participation' in the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) as a declaration of undisguised confrontation and a declaration of a war against the DPRK," the announcement on state TV said.

Referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the statement added, "The Lee group of traitors should never forget that Seoul is just 50 kilometers (31 miles) away from the Military Demarcation Line."

"When a nuclear war will break out due to the war chariot of the 'South Korea-U.S. military alliance' is a matter of time," it said. "The U.S. and South Korean warmongers would be well advised to stop acting rashly, properly understanding who their rival is."

My reaction, with 76 days until departure for South Korea:
I am not really going to start worrying about North Korea's missles because, as I was reminded by a military friend recently, North Korea can hit South Korea just using cannons. The time to start worrying was, like, fifty years ago when North Korea first crossed into South Korea. Besides, I might be biased, I've got faith in the American military. I better, because I really don't see the UN doing much besides slapping Kim's wrist and sending him home.

WARNING: Following contains some hardcore swearing. But I'm fairly certain that all my readers are over the age of 15, and thus have heard all these words before. If you're easily offended, though, just don't click "play".


What I'm Most Excited About the people.

The other ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) that I've met through Facebook all seem like motivated, curious, intelligent people. They're as different in every way as possible--all different majors, all different ethnicities, all different backgrounds, and all different reasons for going. The "counselor" for the orientation camp (a previous ETA) seems like she is genuinely enthusiastic about helping a new batch of ETAs nestle themselves into the South Korean countryside.

I'm excited about the people that will make up my homestay. I'm anxious to meet them and try to integrate myself into a Korean family. Learning how to cook, working on my language skills, picking up on the little things that make up a "typical day". I want to join some physical activity--yoga class or a gym--and get involved in some type of volunteerism so that I'm not just "the white girl" or "the foreigner" amongst the community members. I'll at least be "that white girl" or "the nice foreigner". Upgrade!

And maybe most of all, I'm almost IMPATIENT to meet my students! I'll have anywhere from 500-900 students, middle or high school age. I'm really hoping that I'm able to make a positive impact on them and that the lessons I teach them are memorable. At the very least, it'd be nice to be remembered as something more than an Entertaining Teacher from America, as most Korean students call their ETAs.


Why Korea?

Apparently, it is strange to people that a white middle-class American girl with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology would pack up and move across the world to teach English. This entry is intended to explain why.

When I was young, back in 1989, my family moved to Seoul, South Korea. My father was in the Air Force, so we lived on the military base there. There are stacks of photos showing my two-foot-tall mini-self standing in front of ancient architecture, cultural events, and crowded by small Asian children as though my blond hair and white skin was a petting zoo display. Some of those pictures are seen in the banner for this page--yeah, that little kid is me. I know, who wears overalls with a lace-collared shirt? This girl does, that's who.

So I've lived in Korea, but I don't remember anything.

In fall of 2007, a friend invited me to his daughter's birthday party--her first birthday, which in Korean culture is a Big Deal called the Tol. It celebrates the kid's survival for one year. Going there reminded me that my brother had a Tol (we were still in Korea when he turned one) and it reminded me that I didn't remember anything about it. And I decided that it kind of sucked to tell people "Oh yeah, I lived in Korea for two years" only to have nothing to say when they ask "What was that like?"

That semester, I decided to look into this ********* scholarship thing. I originally wanted to go to Italy, since my Italian heritage gave me a pretty direct interest in the country and I'd already taken three semesters of Italian language classes. Cleeearllly that didn't happen.

I ended up watching Korean movies with my Korean friends (it's like having a personal translator giving you on-the-spot subtitles!) and enrolling for Korean 001--Beginner Korean Language and Culture. I also started English tutoring for visiting professors from Korea as part of an exchange program. Annnnd then I applied for the ********* English Teaching Assistant position in Korea.

There was some other boring stuff in there about not being satisfied in graduate school, nor medical school, nor biopharmaceutical industry, but that didn't involve a picture of an adorable family with the sweetest, cutest little Asian children, so I opted for that version of the story instead.

And that is why I wanted to go to Korea. Now, enjoy some ridiculous Konglish that should have gone in the last post, but I forgot:

You are good job!


Konglish - The Korean Equivalent of Engrish

In terms of pop culture, many countries look to the United States for inspiration. Particularly, Koreans tend to watch American cinema, listen to our pop songs, and use "loan words".
For example, the Korean word for "bus" is "boh-suh" (bus with a Korean accent). They even use words such as "sexy" (but actually pronounced as "sheak-shee") and "coffee" (pronounced "kop-pee"). It's not uncommon to use random English phrases, like how Americans slip Spanish or Italian phrases into their conversations. It's hip and fashionable.

One of the biggest obstacles that English presents to Koreans is the fact that some letters and sounds simply do not exist for them. A typical Korean struggles with the sounds of R, L, F, V. In Korean, these letters don't exist in any form and that's often the explanation for Korean "accents". And often the explanation for Konglish. For example, here we see "Buger King". This is not a translation error, really. The Korean way of pronouncing "Burger King", with its tricky R's, is "Boh-goh King". So "Buger King" makes sense phonetically, but not culturally. As my mother is fond of saying, "Korea: The Land of Almost-Right".