Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea


I went to Seoul this weekend for the F*bright final dinner. Since I’m staying in Korea, it wasn’t really a “final dinner” for me in the sense that it was for most people, but it was the final time the 2010 – 2011 F*bright class would all be together. Most likely I’m not going to see many of the non-extending F*brighters again before they go back, but we’ll have facebook, internet, etc. It sounds bad, but as wonderful as the other F*brighters are, I don’t see most of them very often (if at all), and thus I’m not too terribly sad. The only F*brighter that I see on a regular basis that’s leaving is Joelle, who I will horribly horribly miss, but I don’t have to say goodbye to just yet. Many of my close friends are staying, so I do have that support network. The ones that are leaving I’ll be able to stay in touch with because we have email, and we speak the same language. Maybe that’s why final dinner didn’t affect me as emotionally as these last few days at SGHS are.

The kids and the teachers are the ones I see everyday, and the ones that I’m absolutely heartbroken to leave. Even though we’ll still be in the same country, I’ll be relatively far away, and even if I visit, I probably won’t have time to interact with most of my students one-on-one, and though I’ll be giving out my email address, I don’t know how many of them will want to put in the effort to contact me in English. At lunch I had to explain to some of the teachers why exactly I was leaving. Apparently many of had assumed I was staying because I interact so well with the students, and were wondering why I was leaving. Also apparently some of the students don’t understand why I’m leaving them – it would make sense if I was going back to America, but I’m not. I chose to go to another school over staying with these students for another year, and essentially I’m abandoning them, and they don’t understand why. I thought I made it clear to my students that I’m moving because I want to take Korean language classes,  and that I’ll miss (most of) them terribly, but looks like I’ll have to keep stressing that it’s not them, it’s the location.

I talked to a friend at the Final Dinner about blogs, and she mentioned that it was interesting to see what side of a person’s experience he or she chooses to express. In a blog you can never encapsulate your full experience, you always present it through some sort of lens, whether that’s teaching, traveling, or something else, and you portray a partial picture of your experience through what you choose to write about. No one has had an entirely negative or entirely positive experience, but it may seem like that through reading someone’s blog. I asked my friend what message she got from my blog, and she didn’t even have to think about it –

“You love your students. You love your students.”

Let no one ever doubt that. I hope they don’t think I’m abandoning them.

posted under School
3 Comments to


  1. Avatar June 28th, 2011 at 6:20 am OX Mom Says:

    They will always remember you in their hearts and minds. 🙂

  2. Avatar July 5th, 2011 at 6:53 am Elisa Says:

    Leaving is always hard … but then again, it goes to show how much you’ve enjoyed it overall. I didn’t realize you’re going to be in a different school next year. Do you know yet where it will be, or what kind of school/teaching you’ll be doing? I’ve really enjoyed reading about the students & teachers at your school – it’s awesome you’ve made such close connections with them, even in a relatively short time!

  3. Avatar July 9th, 2011 at 5:07 am Amy Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog! My son is in the current Fulbright ETA group 2011-2012, so I’ve had special interest in reading other Korean FB recipients experiences. I realize it’s difficult to leave your students and they will understand that you must move on. I think they will appreciate the fact that you wish to learn their language and culture to an even greater extent. You sound like an amazing teacher and you know they’ll take that part of you with them as they move through life. I’m sure some of them will try to keep in touch! Good luck with your next school and experience!!

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.