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South Korea

U.S. Fulbright

Athletic Training

September 8, 2016

Teaching numbers: Christina Galardi, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Korea, teaches a captive audience a counting lesson in English as part of an early childhood cognitive development program through iFuture at the University of Ulsan. Ulsan, South Korea

I’m staring at an IQ test with fear that my hard-earned college GPA will be put to shame.

During my winter break from my Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position, I worked for a month with a Korean professor who previously pursued a Fulbright grant in the United States with a venture company that develops child cognitive development programs. I started by taking the same diagnostic test used to assess children.

Thankfully, my test anxiety was resolved by a satisfactory score. The professor then handed me some research articles to familiarize myself with the Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment Program used by the company. As I sat down with the texts, I blew the dust from my academic machinery and flexed my intellectual muscles.

In a few months, I will lift the scholastic heavyweights again to pursue a master’s degree in public health following my return home to the United States. Perhaps it will take a little while to get back into my routine, but I don’t think my mental force will have atrophied.

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U.S. Fulbright

Open the Door and People Will Enter

July 6, 2016
Corey Fayne

Corey Fayne, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Korea

In partnership with Reach the World (RTW), the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is publishing a series of articles written by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants participating in Reach the World’s Traveler correspondents program, which through its interactive website, enriches the curriculum of elementary and secondary classrooms (primarily located in New York City but also nationwide) by connecting them to the experiences of volunteer Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and other world travelers who are currently studying and living abroad. 

When I think about where I come from, I think about the diverse neighborhood I grew up in, the different types of ethnic cuisines I could try, and the ‘corn man’ ringing his bell, so my sisters and I could eat some delicious Mexican-style cucumbers! Although the current neighborhood I live in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant is not as diverse as my hometown, Chicago, I still feel at home because of my homestay family’s open arms.

Living away from home for a long time is like eating pancakes every morning for three weeks without syrup. It is not easy. It also means that you do not get to hang out with your close friends, eat certain foods that you are used to, or, perhaps, speak the language you are most comfortable with. It is scary. But even this difficulty and fear can bring about growth and a better sense of awareness.

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U.S. Fulbright

Plasma Fused Cultures in South Korea

August 17, 2015
Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor, 2013-2014, South Korea (third from right), with his lab coworkers, visiting scholars from Germany in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea

Prior to my experience as a Fulbright Student, I had almost no connection to South Korea. Before my Fulbright grant, I had been working on my Ph.D. at Drexel University in Philadelphia for the last five years and had never lived outside of my home state of Pennsylvania for any appreciable amount of time. The only tie that I had to South Korea was my research interests and a passion for learning about different cultures. I was introduced the Plasma Bioscience Research Center (PBRC) at Kwangwoon University by my research adviser at Drexel, so I advise any potential applicants to reach out to their advisors for connections as well. After receiving the fellowship, I spent 10 months living and working in Seoul, South Korea.

The people I met in South Korea were some of the most hospitable people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. From my very first day, I was treated better than I could have imagined. The day that I landed, I was taken from the airport to my house and minutes later (after a 23 hour trip without a shower), went to a dinner with all of the lab members I would be working with and a visiting lab team from Japan. It was quite jarring, but they wanted to make sure that I was introduced as soon as possible and included in the event that was happening.

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U.S. Fulbright

Your Student Will Appear When You Are Ready: Finding My Paper Weaving Teacher in Seoul , By Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea

December 21, 2009

My search for a papermaking teacher started a year before I applied for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant and ended nearly six months after I arrived in South Korea. I knew it would be hard but didn’t realize that I would find much more than I originally sought.

I arrived in South Korea in June 2008. Soon afterwards, on a sweltering afternoon, I was with a family friend whose neighbor discovered that I was researching hanji (Korean handmade paper). She said that the owner of the local market’s oil shop made hanji dolls. I was not interested in doll making but I went all the same, only to be told by the butcher that the oil shop had shut down because of an accident that had killed the owner’s children. I left and didn’t give it a second thought.

After visiting various paper mills across the country, I eventually found the right hanji teacher for my needs who was a papermaker that I had contacted months before even applying for my Fulbright grant. During my apprenticeship with him in the brutal winter of January 2009, my hanji teacher and I were outside one day stoking a fire. Besides teaching me how to make hanji, he also taught me how weave paper cords known as jiseung. I asked if he had had a teacher. He said he did, but that his teacher’s story was tragic. His teacher had had a business and a family, but his two children and sister-in-law had been killed instantly in a car accident. His wife remained trapped in the car during the accident and suffered bad burns. He consequently shut down his shop and stayed home to care for his wife. I was shocked at the similarities between the two stories and asked where his teacher’s shop was located. It turned out that his teacher’s shop was indeed the very same one owned by the man I had tried to find the previous summer.

In February 2009, my hanji teacher introduced me to his jiseung teacher. I soon started taking jiseung lessons at his home while getting to know him and his wife and earning their trust. He hadn’t had a serious student in a while since most quit because jiseung is so difficult. But I stayed for eight-hour sessions while his wife cooked incredible meals to sustain us. He was a third-generation master who learned from his father and grandfather, and wanted to pass the craft along to his daughter. His son had not been interested in jiseung, but his daughter had showed interest at an early age which made her loss even more devastating. Even though they were only a decade older than me, it was clear that I became their surrogate child and disciple.

As an artist and ambassador for hanji, I encouraged my jiseung teacher to exhibit his work so that it didn’t stay hidden on the 10th floor of a high-rise apartment in Seoul. A month after I left South Korea, he presented a solo show in Insadong’s Ssamziegil – a famous building in a tourist center. He then went on to further exhibit his work and win a top prize. Neither of us knew that we would find each other and nurture each other’s work. The reciprocal nature of our student-teacher relationship made it one of the most meaningful experiences of my Fulbright year and a reminder of how unexpected tragedies as well as unforeseen opportunities can transform lives.

Since returning from my Fulbright year in South Korea, I have had four solo exhibitions, shown in several group exhibitions, lectured on my work and research and taught a class in a paper technique. All of my solo shows have either used or featured hanji in the hopes that using South Korean handmade paper will help raise awareness not just about the paper itself, but its applications in artwork. The largest and best publicized show I’ve had was my solo exhibit at the Diaspora Vibe Gallery in Miami called, “Native Intelligence.” I used hand-ground ink traditionally used in calligraphy, paper felting and large sheets of hanji to create a themed show that synthesized my Fulbright research while mining my ancestry and connection to the Korean landscape.

I recently returned to Miami during the 2009Art Basel Miami Beach show to promote my show and present artist talks. An audience member asked, “Do all Fulbrighters come out of their research with this much work to show?” I didn’t have a definitive answer, but I have been able to present four shows, fueled by my Fulbright research, within the span of three months. I can only imagine that most of us who conduct Fulbright projects in the creative and performing arts return with fruitful research outcomes, inspired and fully energized.

Top photo: Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea (left), and her paper weaving teacher, Na Seo Hwan, weave a traditional lantern out of Korean handmade paper, known as hanji.

Second photo: Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea (left), and her paper weaving teacher, Na Seo Hwan, brush lacquer onto pieces made from woven hanji (Korean handmade paper) in northeastern Korea at a traditional family paper mill called Jang Ji Bang.

U.S. Fulbright

An Alumna’s Perspective: Applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Grant, By Amber Rydberg, 2007-2008, South Korea ETA

June 17, 2009

Pictured: Amber Rydberg, 2007-2008 South Korea ETA (left) with Mrs. Shim, the KAEC/Fulbright Korea Executive Director on a Fulbright Korea ETA weekend retreat at Songnisan National Park

At the beginning of my senior year, I was aware of the Fulbright Program and what grants were available. Or so I thought. I knew there were research grants for those who had serious passions for very specific topics, of which I felt I had none. There was also a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program for seasoned teachers, but I was just about to graduate from my undergraduate institution and not yet a teacher. And, there were grants for scholars, but I was also not one of those. Thus, in my mind, Fulbright, along with so many other fellowships available to soon-to-be graduates, sat on an out-of-reach pedestal.

Fulbright was removed from that unreachable pedestal when I was gearing up for a half-marathon with a friend. We touched upon every topic including the ominous, “So, what are you thinking of doing after graduation?” question. I wanted to go back to South Korea for the first time since my adoption and teach English for a year. That is when I heard about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant for the first time. My friend told me she was applying for a Fulbright ETA grant to Taiwan. At her urging (and I will be forever indebted to her), she suggested I visit and look into the ETA grants to South Korea.

I knew what I was looking for in my abroad experience from a previous stay in China. I worked in Beijing during the summer of 2006, and while there, I lived with a home-stay family: a mom, dad, and 9-year old daughter. I tutored my home-stay family’s daughter weekly and learned so much from her about life in China. Inspired by that experience, it became apparent that if I went to South Korea, I would want to teach English at the elementary school level. I would also want an opportunity to live with a home-stay family and to be immersed in the culture to learn as much as possible.

I spent hours on the Internet over the next few days researching ETA grants to South Korea and stumbled upon many useful resources. The most useful to me were the country summaries on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website, the South Korea page and the South Korean Commission’s website. Some countries have Fulbright Commissions, and, South Korea is one of them. The South Korean Fulbright Commission’s website had answers to questions I hadn’t yet thought of. From orientation and home-stay information, to organized workshops and gatherings for grantees, the role the Commission plays, and ETA handbooks from previous years, the Korean Fulbright Commission’s website had a wealth of information waiting to be discovered by applicants like myself. It was a great way for me to decide if the Fulbright ETA grant was the right Fulbright grant for me.

My advice to prospective applicants: Start researching and thinking about the grant(s) you’re interested in early. There are ample resources available to you online: webinars and guidance sessions, videos, podcasts, Commission websites and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website can help you to decide which grant you’re most interested in. It is important to understand the grant you’re applying for and what it entails before you start preparing your application. If you’re applying for an ETA grant, think about how you can be a cultural ambassador inside and outside the classroom while pursuing your own interests. If you’re interested in arts, maybe you’ll volunteer at an arts center. Do you like games? If so, maybe you’ll volunteer at an orphanage. Are sports your thing? Maybe you’ll join or coach a local soccer team, or begin learning a local, traditional sport. Like music? Learn to play a traditional instrument or join a chorus. There are many options. The project proposal is where you’ll want to clearly describe the passion you’re pursuing, what fuels that passion, as well as how your interests can guide you in your free time. Once you’ve written your proposal, have your peers, professors, and/or family members give you feedback. You don’t want to submit your application with any careless typos or spelling mistakes.