This semester I’ve started an English club, meeting at lunch on Wednesdays. It’s just for students in my department who want to practice their English outside of class time (whether that’s my class or an English language class).

I have really wanted to do this for a while, but my eagerness quickly changed from “this will be great!” to “wait, how do I do this?” How do I help a room of 30 students practice a new language, feel comfortable enough to attempt something difficult,  and actually make an improvement all while eating lunch and in 45 minutes?

Suggestions welcome!

In the first week I asked them all why they wanted to be in an English club.

Student 1: Because I want to learn about all foreigners’ perspectives.

Me: All foreigners’ perspectives?

Student 1: Yes, all!

Me: But I’m just one person!? One American person. I don’t know all perspectives, just my own.

Student 1: Oh, right.

After the first week and actually this conversation, I realized that *wait, hold the phone:  it is not my responsibility to answer ALL their language needs, just like I can’t be ALL foreigners.  Sometimes I can just make things SO much more difficult than they need to be!! A little English club is not going to make them fluent but can be one part in each of their journeys towards fluency. And it can be fun- fun in relaxed way that “class” cannot be. phew.

Here are some of the other responses to the question “Why do you want to join this English club?” (we’re going for content here, not grammar!)

  • I want to learn speaking for travel and international friends.
  • Because I want to develop my English speaking so I will go language student in foreign countries and I want have a lunch time effectively.
  • I want to study English speaking and free talking with foreigner friend. Because this social must have needed. I think important speaking more than writing.
  • I wanna learn more natural English communication. Also, I wanna share each others culture. So I want active, natural time. Also, I want to introduce Korean style, culture to you.
  • For my future! I want to meet many people and I will become global designer.
  • I don’t speak English.
  • I want to speak English well. So I want to study English at the first opportunity. Then I like Karin teacher (*^^*) So when I speak English, I am terrified/remove.
  • Because English is important language that find employment.
  • First, I practice English because English is world language and it’s not a choice but it’s necessary. Second, I can focus on major subject. Third, communicate with other grades.
  • English communication very well/and I want to do. I want to meet new friends.

I find myself constantly talking about life in Korea, saying “Well, this time last year, I didn’t know that the semester was actually ending in December.” or “This time last year, I had never tried jjim dalk (찜닭).”

I don’t know that I can make a complete list of everything I have learned this year in Korea because the funny thing about learning something is that it’s hard to remember that you didn’t know it. But I’m going to try. . .

This time last year. . .

1. I didn’t know that the school calendar is different from America. Korean universities begin the year in March and end in December. But, wait for it, graduation is not until February.

2. I didn’t know any Korean language apart from “Hi”-Annyung ha-sae-yo (안녕하네요) or “thank you” Kamsa hamnida (감사합니다).  Korean language (Hangeul) might be easy to read, but the grammar and nuances of the language are EXTREMELY difficult.

3. I was terrified to ride in a taxi because I didn’t trust the system and could never say where I wanted to go. Now I can easily tell a taxi driver how to get to my apartment or to my place of work. 🙂

4. I also felt a little strange riding in taxis because I was so used to driving myself. And. . . I felt a little guilty for the  “luxury” of having someone drive me around. But I have adjusted and now more fully appreciate the service of the taxis, their relatively cheap price and the way they can bring me to places I could not get with buses or subway. For instance, this morning I went to the dentist. I took a subway part way and a taxi the other part of the way!

5. I felt very uncomfortable with the way everyone stared at me. I can’t say that this has totally changed but I am not surprised by it any more.

6. I was very frustrated by what I perceived as a “lack of planning” in many things at school. I am learning, still learning, to be more adaptable. The Lord is really growing me in this area, helping me to become more flexible. Because ultimately my lack of flexibility when someone brings something last-minute reveals a heart that thinks she is the most important thing (and above all else).

7. I had only tried a few Korean foods and couldn’t tell the difference between good food and bad food.

8. I was unprepared for the stark contrast in seasons. Daegu summer is exceptionally hot and humid while winter is bitter cold and dry. I didn’t even have good winter shoes!

9. I had never ridden the KTX, the fast train, to Seoul.

10. I didn’t know the grading procedures at school- how to grade my students, how to input the grades, the fact that I’m required to grade on a curve (of sorts).

11. I didn’t realize that I live rather luxuriously by Korean standards, in an apartment the size of most families’ (with 1 or 2 kids).

12. I didn’t understand the kindness of strangers.

13. I thought the bells on the tables in restaurants was kind of ridiculous. Now, though, I see their brilliance. When someone at the table needs something, they ring the bell. That frees the restaurant workers to help the people who need it and not constantly walk asking if their tables are OK. That also frees those eating to enjoy uninterrupted conversation.

14. I didn’t know there were different Korean accents, that people in Seoul speak differently from those in Daegu.

15. I was just getting to know people at my church in Daegu.

16. I was just learning that my work, teaching in a content area in English, was different from what most other “foreigners” were doing in Korea.

17. Oh, and I was just getting used to being called a “foreigner” and not taking offense.

18. I didn’t know there was a small supermarket and bank around the corner from my apartment, only because I had never walked that way on the street before.

19. I could only do one thing every day because each excursion took all my energy. It was all I could do to figure out how to get there and back, handle a few interactions with people in broken Korean/English, and accomplish a task.  On work days, I went to work and then back to my apartment and that was ALL I could manage. On the weekends I could handle one thing, like a trip to the store on Saturday or church on Sunday. But if I tried to do more than that I would fall apart. . .

20. I was very offended when someone asked me my age and marital status at the first meeting. I mean, it still feels awkward, but now I understand it. In Korean language those 2 questions are how you determine what kind of language to use in your conversation. Even though that doesn’t apply in English, the cultural custom still follows.

21. I thought I couldn’t find any clothes in Korea that would fit me.

22. I was still eating a lot of bread products. It’s not that I’ve now cut bread completely out of my diet, but I eat it very seldom. I’ve happily converted to rice.

23. I would cringe when I heard someone walking behind me clear their throat and spit out the phlegm (also known as “hawking a loogi”.  How do you spell that?). . . .but wait, that still grosses me out. It’s very common here and not considered impolite. I don’t know that I’ll ever adapt!

24. I had memorized my phone number only and didn’t really know what my address was.


I KNOW there’s got to me more than just 24 things, but this is all I can think of at the moment.


By the numbers:

4- more weeks of class in the Fall 2010 semester!

2- months of vacation starting in January!

309- my office number (that was also my office number @ SCAD)

32- days until Christmas

5- hours I spent last weekend in the DMZ (the de-militarized zone between North and South Korea)

2- Thanksgiving dinners this week!

3- more days and then I’ll start listening to Christmas music!!

We have just started a new semester and I am teaching 3 new courses, AGAIN! Ah, but I am breathing a lot easier this time because I have some experience under my belt. It’s not much, but when I think back to this time last semester, I had only been in Korea for 3 weeks. I don’t even know how I made it to class every day!

Things I now know in starting my 2nd semester:

How to find my class lists on-line.

How to read my students names.

Who to talk with about ordering supplies (and that I have $ to spend!).

How to post information for my students to our class website.

About how long it will take me to prepare for each class.

The University grading and attendance policies.

etc. etc.

On the first day of each class I introduced the class and the course content, and then I introduced myself. I showed a photo of my family, and a map of the US with stars in all the places I have lived, a little about my eduction, etc. Then I asked each of my students to give me some information about themselves. Here are few of their answers (punctuation, spelling, capitalization as written):

1. How many years ave you studied English?

  • Elementary school, but I study English difficult.
  • elemetary school ~ high school. . . but I inferior English
  • very long time, but I can’t do English well.
  • etc, etc, all with the same theme

2. Have you traveled abroad? If so, where did you go, what did you do?

  • No. . . but I will go to the Canada, After I finish a university.
  • When I was kids. My family (with me) gone to USA. My father for studying, but I don’t remember because It’s very young.
  • Last week I went to Singapore. I did shopping, swimming. . .
  • I went to China and Japan with my family. I went many famous place and ate country food.
  • No!

3. What do you hope to learn in this class?

  • I wanted to know a little bit different culture’s education system as you. Also, I hoped to do exciting activity.
  • I want to see many kinds of patterns.
  • I want to learn English in this class. Also, I want to learn how to pattern design. Finally, I want to be on good terms with you.
  • Create patten know-how. and, color.

4. What should I know about you? How can I best help you?

  • I will hold a conversation with you. I glad to meet you.
  • Friendly talk to me. One to One free talking 2 minutes?
  • I want to improve in my ability of english skill. Please. help me. Thank you.
  • I was absent from school 2009. and I come back 2010. I’m not enough everything school life.
  • Frankly, english is so ~ afraid. . . but I want intimate with professor!! I love your blue eyes! We have a nice beautiful day!!
  • Please. slowly-slowly speaking English.

It’s beautiful to me that even in cryptic language I can still get the main idea of what each person is trying to say. . . and it’s amazing to me that they are trying and being so sweet about it! Korean culture values English language so highly, that even though each of my students eagerly admits that they are bad at English, they still sit for a couple hours attempting to listen to me and then when I ask them to answer a few questions they all whip out their cell phone dictionaries and set to work.

I am a delinquent blogger at best and there are many things to say but I’ll start back in November. While my cousin, Paul, was visiting for Thanksgiving we made a day trip to Busan. It is only about an hour train ride from Daegu, on the East coast of Korea. Busan is a big city and a big port,  and it felt very different from where I live.

As close as it is, I haven’t been to visit more than passing through on my way to Japan (in September). The day was really about fish, both dead and alive. We spent a good part of the day at the biggest fish market in Korea and then finished with a trip to the acquarium.

sea slugs, ewww.

It’s kimchi-makin’ season.

View from the tower.


These are cranes like those in the Savannah port that I’ve always thought of as “the dinosaurs”.  They are “same-same” at what I know from home. This is one phrase that I’ve assumed since living in Korea. I don’t know if there is something in the Korean language that this translates from, but it is used QUITE frequently when comparing one thing to another. It’s a phrase that’s kind of a joke to those of us native English speakers. And one of those things that even though I know it’s not correct, I use anyway because the Korean English speakers use it and understand it.

It has been a while since I have posted about life in Korea. I know, I know.

안녕하세요!! (Hi!)

낤시가추워요!! (The weather is cold!)

The seasons have changed and we are well on our way to winter! No snow yet, but water in the street by my apartment is frozen!

Heat in Korea

It might be cold outside, but my apartment is nice and toasty with heated floors. The Koreans have been heating their homes this way since ancient times, but I’m not sure if it’s oil or water that circulates in the floor to produce the heat. In my apartment it was a little crazy to figure out how to turn everything on.  I found the pipes in my back closet with the help of a neighbor and then had to open each one manually. They made a lot of whirring and hissing sounds and I thought I might blow the place up. . . but now that the pipes are open,  I can control the temperature with a thermostat in the living room. It’s fabulous! Still waiting for the first bill, though, to see how expensive it will be.


The sad thing about living outside of the US is that the same holidays are not observed. Koreans celebrate a different Thanksgiving- Chusok- in early October. In Korea everyone goes home for Chusok, there is mass exodus from Seoul and the major cities as people go to their hometowns. When I described American Thanksgiving to my students and colleagues as “American Chusok”, they all asked me in complete seriousness, “oh, are you going home to the US?” . .  Oh, so funny!

My cousin, Paul, lives in Japan and made the trip over to Korea for 4 days at Thanksgiving. I couldn’t go “home” but it was great to have family here. We spent the day with my friends Peter and Sarah and has an AMAZING Thanksgiving dinner together. Even though I didn’t have an official holiday from school, my normal schedule does not have class on Thursday. It really felt like a holiday. . . except the 9 am class on Friday morning was a killer!

End of Semester

December is the end of the semester AND the end of the school year, so the seniors are totally checked out and everyone else is anxiously counting the days. . . pretty much the same as happens in the States. End of the year = many celebrations. So far we’ve had the following:

Senior portraits/Class portraits/Exhibition group portraits

Fall semester Exhibition dinner

Graduation Exhibition- opening

Graduation Exhibition Faculty party

International Faculty Dinner

Graduation Party (Complete with a student “hip-hop-break dancing” that was the FUNNIEST thing I have EVER seen!)

Every party/exhibition/event has a certain formality that I am unaccustomed to- ribbon cutting at the exhibitions, speeches, toasts, etc. I am learning, but it seems like every time we have an event I am surprised by something I see or am asked to do. I’m good a bowing, though. I think I’ve perfected the technique!

By the numbers:

2- plants I now own- one in my office, one at home

3- packages I have received from the US in the last couple weeks. I L-O-V-E packages!! and after the confusion over my address I am really glad they are finding their way to me!

9- days left of school

10- weeks of winter vacation!!

hundreds- of channels I now have with my new cable, complete with news and many programs in English!


From the south side of Daegu, looking northwest

One the things I’ve been able to do a few times now in Daegu: hiking! Daegu sits in a valley with mountains on three sides, so there are plenty of places to choose. A few of my coworkers started a hiking club and invited me to join!


Crew from the first hike

Now, hiking here is not for the faint-hearted! Switch-backs? Never heard of them here. We hike up the mountain by hiking STRAIGHT up the mountain. But there are also extra things here. On this hike at the halfway point there was a flat area with two badminton courts and some various exercise equipment (including a hoola-hoop, which is considered exercise equipment here!). We stopped and hit the birdie around for a while. . . something I haven’t done since 8th grade PE.


On the top, looking south, to the other side of the mountain, a little village.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to get above the city, where the air is a little cleaner and quieter. It’s also been a great time to learn much from my Korean colleagues. Last week I learned the days of the week.

Sunday: il-yo-il (sun)

Monday: wol- yo-il (moon)

Tuesday: hwa-yo-il (fire)

Wednesday: su-yo-il (water)

Thursday: mo-yo-il (wood)

Friday: gum-yo-il (gold)

Saturday: toe-yo-il (dirt)

By the numbers:

1- VISA I now have. I’m legal and have now applied for my alien card!! Yay!

2- days I was in Japan last week getting the visa.

6- days we have off for Chusok, Korean Thanksgiving. 3 were unexpected and given last week by the President of Keimyung to avoid any effects of swine flu. OK, sure!

70- instant coffee sticks in the big bag I just bought. I’m starting to like instant coffee. . . I’m caving.