March in Korea heralds the coming of spring, with winter temperatures slowly melting away and flowers blooming throughout the peninsula. For Fulbright ETA’s, it also means the beginning of a new school year – which often proves to be a whole new teaching experience! To kick the new semester off to a great start, FKAR is delighted to feature second-year ETA Arria Washington.
If you’ve heard her name before, it’s probably because Arria is heavily involved with several of Fulbright’s most prominent initiatives in addition to being a rockstar teacher! She is a Managing Editor for the Fulbright Infusion magazine and has been a key contributor to the success of events such as the Black History Month Festival in Daegu.
Read on to learn more about her experience as an ETA!
FKAR: Arria, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from!
I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It’s a small eastern city known for its defunct steel mill or its universities, if it’s known at all. I love the mid-Atlantic region, and everything from New York to Virginia feels like home. After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English Literature, I spent a couple years in Pittsburgh doing technical writing and a few other jobs. I didn’t mind it, but there weren’t enough kids involved. After while, I started babysitting just for the fun of it.
FKAR: As a second year ETA, you have had two different placements in Korea: Daegu and Seoul. How would you compare and contrast them?
Every new placement really is a new experience in many ways. This year and last year feel worlds apart. In Daegu I lived in a homestay, so I really got to live like a local. My homestay family introduced me to so many places and things that I would not have found otherwise. Also, because Daegu is a smaller city, my friends and I frequented the same few hangout spots. Those places hold a lot of memories now.
In Seoul, without a homestay family, I have do more of the work of exploring on my own. Luckily there’s more to do, see, and eat in Seoul than I can manage in one year. There’s always something new to be found here.
FKAR: What is your favorite aspect of living in Korea?
I go stir-crazy pretty easily, and I like to change my scenery often. I love that in Korea I can wake up in the morning, decide to go somewhere, and just go. I can visit a new neighborhood in Seoul, or even a new city, without much worry. I have my favorite escape spots (shout out to Busan) but there are a lot of places I haven’t been yet. I’m making a list for spring!
FKAR: You have been involved with several different Fulbright ETA projects, especially Infusion and Black History Month. What have been some of your favorite memories from these projects?
As a literature major, I really missed having literary discussions during my first semester here. It’s always great to get together with other staff members and talk about the submitted pieces for Infusion, but what I like most is that it gives me the chance to get to know other Fulbrighters through their writing. I get to learn from their experiences and insights, even if I can’t always match them to a name.
My first experience with Black History Month was great because I got to discuss important issues with a lot of non-Fulbrighters. Teachers, students and soldiers all came together, and it was great to hear their viewpoints. This year, though, I hope to get more Korean input in the conversation. That would be the ultimate experience for me.
FKAR: How has the Fulbright experience has affected your world outlook, life philosophy, and plans for the future?
My time here has affected my views and my philosophy by highlighting all the ways in which I can grow. I’m learning to be more open, and more patient. And I’m learning not to try to prove myself. I’m a born people pleaser. I also love to be known well, and hate to be misunderstood. But in a place where assumptions made about me affect every day of my life, I’m learning that there are more important things than refuting them. I’m learning to focus more on loving people and less on pleasing them.
FKAR: What will you miss the most about being a Fulbright ETA?
I’ll miss a lot of things, like Korean food and having a nice apartment in a big city. And I’ll miss a lot of people. But hands down I’ll miss my students the most. I hope to have new students and new, equally fulfilling relationships next year, but they won’t be quite the same as the ones I have here. I might also miss being able to pull the “foreign card” every once in a while!
Thank you, Arria!
FKAR wishes the best to all ETAs as they begin the new school year, and also to our alumni all over the world. May your Year of the Monkey be off to a great start!