The adventure continues, but this time with sunshine, flower blossoms and that inevitable heat that comes with a Korean summer. In my candid opinion, there’s nothing better than making impact during the week and working on o
ne’s bucket list during the weekend. I am always looking for new experiences, new people to deepen my understanding of the world and new places to explore.
This spring, I have had the chance to do just that. I have been biking around Hwacheon and Chuncheon, canoeing, zip-lining, cave exploring, rafting, sky jumping, temple visiting, surfing, hiking with my host family and I even visited a mini France. I had a wonderful Fulbright conference in Jeju and got to explore the island with other ETAs.
Spring has brought new energy into the air and this energy has been infused in my classroom. It’s epitomized by the response I recently have received when inquiring the weather in my daily class greeting time. I ask, “How’s the weather today?” and a select few will respond, “HAPPY!!!” Although some might snicker at this response, I don’t shut it out. The weather definitely influences how we feel and I have emphasized that sunny weather is in fact happy weather. 🙂
It’s a wonderful feeling!!! This energy has given me the boost I’ve needed to start some projects with my students. We have traveled to different countries through pen pal exchanges around the world; sampled dishes from various countries and learned what it means to be a friend to all in this big, beautiful world we live in.
What started in July 2015 will end in July 2016. But this ‘end’, is actually a new beginning. Rather than focusing on my next chapter in life, I am tuning in and considering the progression of this one. So many changes, challenges, successes, but never failure. Failure only happens when one loses hope and stops trying.
I will never fail my students and I know their strength. They will never fail. In working with every single individual in my school, I have seen the strengths, the courage and hard work of my students. We have worked together through the hard days and I can say with 100% conviction that each of them has a beautiful unique character and fighting spirit.
Some days are more difficult than others, but to get through those days is a victory. Sometimes, we all have those moments of self-doubt and we will struggle. Yet, no one has to struggle alone. Hand-in-hand, lesson-by-lesson my students and I work together.
After all this time, I am noticing progress. The student who would never speak in class is the first to raise his/her hand. The student who would refuse to do any written work does so and negotiates on behalf of his/her classmates (in English nonetheless!). The student who excels in English, as a result of extra lessons at a hagwon (after school academy), has become a leader in the classroom.
My class room experience is not the only aspect of my life that has seen change. On a personal level, I feel that I have change. It’s been a year of self-development. In living in Korea for nearly a year, I have realized how privileged I have been in life and the unique opportunity I have to give back to the community. Many people say they want to end world hunger and to “make the world a better place”, but few are willing to give up personal comfort, time and modern conveniences.
I willingly give this time in my life to make a positive impact. So long as I keep this mission in mind, I have learned that I can overcome every obstacle. I can be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I can be in the most remote corner of Korea without internet, without people who speak my language, and I am never alone.
These things I know to be true: moments of joy and laughter mean more than wifi. Perceived cultural and language barriers are dissolved when one’s actions are governed by positive intent and compassion.
Fulbright Korea has been a lot of things: it’s been a window to a new way of life. It’s been a lesson in flexibility, humility, and tolerance. It’s been about not only teaching, but learning from experiences and mistakes. It’s been filled the most difficult challenges, and the most glorious victories.
I feel so grateful for this experience and for my students and I intend to make the most of the time that remains of my grant year ❤
Wishing you all the best this spring,
-Amanda Barrows ❤
Fulbright ETA, 2015-2016