Sunday, July 11, 2010

New ETAs - initial thoughts

Just got back from Jungwon University, where I spent the last couple of days schmoozing with the new ETAs. This morning from 10am-12pm I gave a presentation on "American Pop Culture in the Korean Classroom," which taught new ETAs how to harness students interest in new American pop culture to teach lessons on more difficult subjects.

For better or for worse, their orientation experience is pretty different than ours was. In some ways, they really lucked out --our orientation site was older, and nowhere near as swanky. The food in the cafeteria during our orientation was pretty unappetizing (weekly "Western Breakfast" with a slice of white sandwich bread, a sausage, and bean sprout stew? notsomuch, thanks), while the food at the new site seems like a pretty respectable introduction to Korean cooking. But at the front and back gates of the university in Chuncheon were bars and restaurants galore -- streets filled with little language labs to practice what we were learning in our classes and transition from the cocoon of orientation to the greater Korea beyond.
The only thing as striking as the difference in environment directly off campuswas the dormitory set-up on campus; because their orientation is held at a religiously-affiliated university, men and women have separate living facilities on separate floors. There's even a men's elevator and a women's elevator. Our orientation would have been much, much different with that kind of rule, and I'm sure the kind of generally easy, relaxed relationships across gender lines that our 2009-10 class has enjoyed would have been much tougher to make. There is something decidedly infantilizing about living under rules governing when and with whom one can socialize. Being able to pop next door or down the hall and see if anyone wanted to grab a drink or ice cream after dinner, or just hanging out and watching American TV and movies in our rooms were important parts of our learning to socialize in Korea, and of forming a cohesive unit with the entire ETA class. I wonder how that will change their group dynamic vis-a-vis previous ETA classes.

It was nice to spend some time with Emilee, Christina, Derek, and the non- 2009 ETAs on the orientation team -- especially Christina, as she's not extending. The new kids are lucky, they've got some great people supporting them there. They've got their first Korean quiz on Monday, so they're gonna want the support...I vividly remember hardcore failing that quiz.

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