October 14th, 2015
Contributed by Matt Goldberg
When talking about my school, Naju Technical High School, co-teachers, community members, and other students would make comments such as “Students just don’t care,” “Your students are dirty,” and “We have bad English.” However, I was determined to challenge this detrimental narrative and encourage students to see themselves beyond societal stereotypes and be proud of who they are.
This vision inspired my community FKAF grant and enabled me to work with students to create cross-cultural communication through photography between my placement school and a local school in the United States, Cummings High School. Through my project, students in South Korea and the United States created self-introductory videos, asked and answered questions about each country, and captured and shared photos in response to the question, “What is important to you?”
The project process was challenging. My students felt overwhelmed at the level of English required and we struggled communicating fully with the U.S. students. Nevertheless, the project enabled my students to delve deeper into understanding who they are as people and what it means to be cultural ambassadors and teachers. Most importantly, the project enabled my students to grow in confidence and be proud of their identities. Ultimately, I was amazed and humbled by the opportunity to see the insides of my students’ minds through the photos taken. This project would not have been possible without the grant money to plan a video viewing party, print pictures, and share the students’ work with the school in a small exhibit.
Mat Goldberg is a 2014-2016 ETA who teaches in Naju, Jeollanam-do.
Each year, Fulbright Korea hires a Program Coordinator and Executive Assistant to manage the affairs, events, and wellbeing of ETAs and Researchers. Recently, we were able to sit down with Program Coordinator (PC) Amelea Kim and Executive Assistant (EA) Ben Harris to get to know them better.
FKAR: Tell us about yourself.
Amelea: My name is Amelea Kim, and I’m from Saint Louis, MO. I have a pretty big family (one of five kids), and I went to a small liberal arts college in Ohio and majored in East Asian Studies. While I was there, I got super into libraries, and I want to go to grad school for Library and Information Science. After I graduated, I went to China for two years and taught English at an agricultural university, which was really fun. Then I came to Korea with Fulbright and taught at an elementary school in Hwacheon before becoming the Program Coordinator for this year.
Ben: My name is Ben Harris from Detroit, Michigan, and I’ve lived in Michigan almost my whole life until graduation. I taught at a high school in Korea for a year as a Fulbright ETA before moving to the Seoul Office to be the Executive Assistant. I have two younger brothers. I don’t like cats or fish. I like to run, eat, and play piano.
FKAR: What aspects of this grant year will be different than in previous years?
Amelea: Individually, this year will be quite a change from last year in that it will involve a lot more self-directed work. Compared to last year where I came in and everyone was already in a groove, and I had to adjust to my coworkers’ pace, this year I can go in and set my own pace and goals.
As a program, we are bigger this year (121 ETAs) with a lot of new placement schools. We also have a lot really cool ideas that are developing this year, and organizations that have already been established are expanding out into many placement cities.
FKAR: Can you give us some insight on the Junior Researcher class this year? What are they like (topics, interests, etc.)?
Ben: There are a lot of topics being researched that are really important. Some of the projects this year are based on North Korean issues, disability rights, and the elderly. Overall, the research this year strikes me as incredibly timely and important.
FKAR: How is your role as PC/EA connected with Fulbright Korea alumni (if at all)?
Amelea: Perhaps not so much with alumni, but definitely with the current class. In terms of how I’m connected to FKAR, I definitely see FKAR being a valuable resource throughout the grant year and beyond. I want to aid and encourage in any way that I can, although I don’t know how (laughter). I am here to connect people when I can and help people out with information, and anything else that might be useful.
Ben: Connecting people is very important and useful. In terms of FKAR (what Amelea said), I think this is really important for the community.
FKAR: Is there anything in particular that you would like to see the FKAR Committee expand upon this year?
Amelea: It would be cool if internships or shadowing opportunities were highlighted, such as with people in similar fields or similar interests. Making those connections happen more would be very useful for ETAs, and I think it’s a great opportunity for alumni and current grantees to connect. It’s also great to see people giving back to Fulbright and creating a strong community that others can use to get inspired, get feedback, and get ideas.
Ben: In general, I like to see two main things. First, I like to hear about what alumni are doing, and two, I like to hear about available opportunities. I love it when people post internships or jobs on the alumni Facebook page – even things that I’d never consider applying for. It gives me confidence and makes me feel good to know that there are people in the network who are thinking about and looking out for other people.
FKAR: What do you hope to achieve in terms of progress this grant year?
Amelea: We’re trying to revamp our lesson database and make it better than what it is right now (laughter). That’s something we’re thinking about but is not yet complete. It’s a work in progress!
Ben: A major goal of ours this year is to improve the resources available to grantees to make them more accessible and efficient.
FKAR: How can we better incorporate the researchers into ETA events?
Amelea: Organizing more meet-ups for researchers to go to. Since most of the researchers this year are based in Seoul, it would be cool to do a monthly meet-up where FKAR organizes some sort of event (like laser tag because laser tag is FUN!) and invites a bunch of people to attend. This might be great for forum weekends – people come to the forum, and then do something that night or the next day to all hang out together!