FKAR sat down with current first-year ETA Mike Roderick to catch up and talk about his experiences this grant year, including his plans for the future.
Mike originally hails from the northeast in a little state known as Rhode Island. He loved it there so much that he stayed in-state for college, attending University of Rhode Island, a school that may or may not have ripped off UNC when they decided their school colors would be baby blue and white and their mascot would be a ram. But Mike found a home there, as he double majored in political science and history as an undergrad and studied elementary education as a graduate before getting certified to teach first through sixth grade – guess where?! – in Rhode Island. Mike embodies what it means to be a Rhode Islander, or at least so he says, as this writer knows no other person from there to confirm or deny his claim. But it is surely a claim most from the state should want to embrace because, quite frankly, Mike is a great guy. Despite believing fool heartedly that soccer will catch on soon in America, Mike is a fun-loving, kind soul that makes everything he takes part in just that much more exciting and full of life.
Those are only a few of the reasons why the quaint, little city of Jinju was lucky to have Mike this year as an elementary school teacher. Mike has spent the last ten months teaching at Chunjun Elementary School (천전초등학교). And by all signs, it has been a great fit. Mike will go on and how about how much he loves his third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you wish that you and every other teacher in the world were as obviously made for the job. It goes without saying that Mike had the same adjustment period to South Korea that most all of us Fulbright ETAs face, but he quickly overcame such obstacles, sometimes just by weathering an awkward situation with a smile and his characteristic chuckle. Mike has shared his journey this year with all of us through Facebook photos that will have you wondering whether or not he always just has a photographer following him around to capture the sweetest of moments you could imagine. It is seriously unfair. What is also unfair is how great Mike’s homestay family is. Sure, they were a little apprehensive before our departure day because all they had was a picture of Mike with a buzz cut which led them to hypothesize he might be a “military tough guy”. Sure Mike was a “military brat” so to speak, having lived all around the world as he grew up, but they quickly discovered his congenial attitude, which all of us current ETAs have come to love, and it was a match for the ages.
Mike, his nine-year-old host-brother Do Hyun, and his host parents Sang Wook and Keumsoon all love their situation so much in fact that… they will all be renewing for another year! Mike is overjoyed for the opportunity of another year to continue to build off the relationships he has formed this year in Jinju. Though it will eventually mean tougher goodbyes, as students like Minju, a beautiful girl in his school that despite her developmental disabilities has made an immense effort to build a relationship with Mike by visiting him every day just to spend time with him, will be graduating and moving on to middle school this winter, Mike is confident and excited in his decision to stay. “One more year! One more year!” – and we could not be happier for him and wish him the best as this first year comes to an end and his second year is just beginning!