Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

October 22nd, 2016

The FKAR team had the privilege of interviewing two ETAs with differing interests and career paths post Fulbright. Brett Fitzgerald and Sarah Chen (ETAs 2013-14) generously offered to share their insights on the Fulbright experience and its impact on the work they do today.

Sarah Xiyi Chen, ETA 2013

What is your occupation/future occupation?
I am a second-year law student at Berkeley Law School, and I plan to litigate on behalf of plaintiffs after I graduate, hopefully in civil rights cases.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Well, I’m sure y’all have already heard “Don’t Compare,” so…find activities that sustain you over the long-haul. I loved teaching, but to stay focused and motivated over the year, I also studied for the LSAT, volunteered for Fulbrighter-led initiatives and local Naju events, and traveled on weekends with my friends and host family.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
As a cultural ambassador for the United States in the year that the Black Lives Matter movement grew, I often felt conflicted about my feelings towards my home country. The juxtaposition of living abroad and working in a small, tight-knit community like Naju made me realize I wanted to work in America to promote justice at a community level instead of working at the level of international diplomacy.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
Few of the teachers at my school spoke English, and my Korean didn’t advance far beyond Jungwon’s basic beginner level. The communication barriers between me and much of the rest of the school became especially apparent after the Sewol ferry tragedy in the spring of my ETA year. I wish I could have been more understanding and involved at that time of grief and protest.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
A year and a half after we left our Fulbright Korea year behind, fellow ETA Preston Nanney and I went back to Korea for the first time since, where he proposed on the beach at Haeundae, Busan!

What is your favorite quote?
“Immigrants–we get the job done.”


Brett Fitzgerald, ETA 2013

What is your occupation/future occupation?
I currently work in San Francisco at MuleSoft as an Account Development Representative. I’m planning on studying for the GMAT and going to business school sooner rather than later. From there I hope to own my own company.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Love your students and appreciate your time in Korea with the other ETAs. It flies by way too fast. If you laugh off the little idiosyncrasies and small things you will be much happier. Travel and explore often.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
My life’s work is still very much “buffering”, as my students would say. However, I can already tell Fulbright Korea will be a source of inspiration, friendship, and love in my life for years to come, which will unquestionably continue to impact my personal journey.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
The Korean language.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
Too many to only pick one, but if I had to, my favorite memory in the classroom with my students was teaching them about ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge 18 times in the span of 1 week during the winter. I was very cold with lots of laundry to do, in addition to having the entire faculty thinking I was crazy by the end of the week.

What is your favorite quote?
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” -Jackie Robinson

Greetings from the 2016-2017 FKAR Committee

October 22nd, 2016

Dear Fulbright Korea Alumni,

A new grant year is underway, and Fulbright Korea has welcomed 110 ETAs, 12 Junior Researchers, and 5 Graduate Study Award grantees to Korea. This being a time of transition and change, the Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations Committee recruited four new committee members (along with three veterans) to lead and serve the alumni community. Among the many memorable moments we will come to experience—living with a homestay family, traveling, forging friendships—serving you all is one of our top priorities and something that we take great pride in. Living in Korea, at one point or another, is the string that threads our disparate lives together. The new class of grantees bring with them a plethora of background interests related to Korean culture, education, history, among other fields, and we encourage them to expand their knowledge in these areas as they get to know Korea on a deeper level. We hope to highlight the accomplishments of both current grantees as well as alumni, and we encourage you to contribute to this newsletter in issues to come.

Thanks for reading,

The 2016-2017 FKAR Committee

Researcher Spotlight: Joyce Kim

October 21st, 2016

Joyce Kim, Junior Researcher 2015-2016
Education: B.A. University of Pennsylvania
Hometown: Allen, TX

Can you tell FKAR about your research? Does it relate with North Korean Defectors?
My research ended up going into two different strands:

Design Thinking Applied to NKD Education Programs
There are many government-assisted and NGO-run programs to facilitate the challenging resettlement process for defectors. However, the majority of these programs are designed without the end user (defector youth) in mind. Many of these programs also have alternative motivations that are religious and political. Among these programs, Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is one of the few non-partisan, non-ethnic and non-religious groups that seek to help North Korean defectors. Embodying their non-affiliated status is their motto of “people over politics”, which emphasizes their orientation towards the North Korean people versus other NGOs’ approaches. LiNK seeks to provide continuous guidance and assistance to resettling North Koreans in a holistic fashion. Because of LiNK”s unique characteristics within the landscape of North Korea-related NGOs and government organizations, it makes for a compelling case study in answering this question: How do we create effective resettlement education programs for North Korean defector youth?

Using ethnographic methods and design research, I use LiNK as a case study to understand how education programs can be created for unique populations such as resettling North Korean defector youth. I argue that LiNK’s focus on defectors as individuals with potential versus a politicized minority group within South Korea are a best-practice perspective. The implications of this project include the utility of design research methods in targeting the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations. The findings of this case study offer a unique approach to addressing the needs of North Korean defectors – an important policy issue in South Korea.

Political Resocialization of NKD Millennials
With a population of nearly 30,000 individuals, North Korean defectors are a unique population in South Korea. Currently, the ROK government spends $105 million annually to aid with defector resettlement. Yet, existing literature has pointed to the many difficulties defectors have adjusting to South Korea society. Defectors struggle with educational attainment, economic advancement, and mental health issues. Furthermore, the stark contrasts between the political systems of their past and present environments affect defectors’ self-conceptualization of citizenship in relation to the South Korean sense of nationalism. However, a small number of defectors have attained global prominence by sharing their personal accounts of human rights violations and by sending information into North Korea. Media coverage of these prominent defectors strongly influences public perception of defectors at-large. Through analyzing the results of twenty-one qualitative interviews with North Korean defector millennials, I argue that the pervasive coverage and activities of these globally prominent defectors promotes a homogeneous narrative of defectors amongst South Koreans. Such a narrative adversely affects the defector resettlement process. Further implications of the diversity of views in defectors’ resocialized political identities include the shifting landscape of South Korea’s national identity.

Why did you choose this research topic? What inspired you?
My paternal grandparents are from North Korea, so that’s where the interest originated. I wrote my college admissions essay on North Korean human rights and also wrote my undergraduate thesis on how South Korea’s education system perpetuates discrimination against North Korean defectors. Coming to South Korea to directly engage with the NKD community seemed like a natural next step.

That answers our second question about why you choose Korea.
Yes, my academic background (political science major, Korean studies minor) relates to my research topic and coming to Korea. I also thought as a Korean-American it would be neat to reconnect with my heritage. This year was the first time I was back in almost ten years.

Where do you hope to go from here? Where do you want to do your research and everything you’ve learned?
It’s really important that my research has some practical application. The education project is being adapted to how LiNK designs its education programs. As for the political resocialization program, assigned from the academic paper, I’m also planning to share my results through online articles (e.g. NK News- one of the largest independent news sources on NK)

In the short time, I’ll be doing a nonprofit fellowship next year in San Francisco.  I then want to go to grad school in international education. I plan to apply skills from this year and next year to become a professor who also applies her research to the relevant communities.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I enjoy traveling and exploring. I also like photography, biking, music festivals, contemporary art, body combat, and of course, reading.

Past and Present: Our Favorite Korean Words

October 21st, 2016

We asked, and you answered! What are some of your favorite Korean words? Many of you said that some were fun to say or sounded cute. Other reasons were because they were useful or were important in your daily life. Some people were just pure sentimental. Here’s the list (in no particular order):

  • 쌤 – Teacher
  • 왜 – Why?
  • 친구 – Friend
  • 바스대다 – Move about restlessly
  • 아이고 – Aigo
  • 조영해요 – Quiet
  • 화이팅 – Fighting! Good luck!
  • 행쇼 – Be happy
  • 아마도 – Maybe
  • 살살 – Softly, gently
  • 여유로움 – Composure
  • 짝꿍 – Pair
  • 귀요미 – Cutie Pie
  • 해바라기 – Sunflower
  • 두군두군 – The “thump” of a beating heart
  • 무궁화 – Mugunghwa
  • 어울려요 – It suits you
  • 애매모호 – Ambiguous
  • 멘붕 – Mental breakdown
  • 심 – Heart, mind
  • 소맥 – Soju + beer
  • 노래방 – Karaoke room
  • 환희 – Joy
  • 휘파람 – Whistle
  • 여기저기 – Here and there
  • 반짝반짝 – twinkle twinkle
  • 고소하다 – It serves you right
  • 꼬부기 – Squirtle the Pokemon
  • 천천히 – Slow down!
  • 코끼리 – Elephant
  • 나비 – Butterfly
  • 목소리예 – Voice
  • 옷 – Clothes
  • 복숭아 – Peach
  • 도토리 – Acorn
  • 인연 – Tie, connection
  • 예지 – Foresight
  • 일기예보 – Weather forecast
  • 싱숭생숭 – Fidgety
  • 비올필 – Feels like it will rain
  • 배 – Stomach, boat, pear
  • 쓰담쓰담 – Motion of comforting someone
  • 에이 – Yeah, right!
  • 어머나 세상에! – Oh my gosh!
  • 진짜 – Really!?
  • 정말로 – Really!?
  • 갈비 – Galbi (beef ribs)
  • 여보세요? – Hello? (phone all)
  • 과자 – Snack
  • 제주어 – The language of Jeju Island
  • 여덟 – Eight
  • 그렇치 – Right! (good job)
  • 두리번거리다 – To look around
  • 몰라 – Don’t know/understand
  • 찍지마 – Don’t take
  • 유유상종 – Birds of a feather flock together.
  • 악어 – Crocodile
  • 고구마 – Sweet potato


Photo Contest Winner

October 21st, 2016

“Rest” by Eugene Lee (ETA ’16-17)

This issue’s contest theme was placement cities and showing off where you live or lived during your grant year in South Korea.

Eugene Lee shares this photo with us, saying, “My favorite thing about Jeongeup (Jeollabuk-do) so far has been the long trail by the river, where people walk, run, or bike to soak in the nature around them. It’s definitely been a good place to get away from everything for a bit!”

Grant Year Kickstart: Overview of Fulbright Korea Award Types

October 21st, 2016

The Fulbright Korea Program for the 2016-2017 grant year is officially underway, welcoming 110 English Teaching Assistants, 12 Junior Researchers, and 5 Graduate Study Award grantees. This year’s cohorts competes as the third largest number of grantees in program history, demonstrating Fulbright Korea’s continued acclaim as the “gold standard” within the Fulbright community.

The incoming ETAs completed a six-week orientation from July through mid-August, where they were immersed in Korean-language studies, cultural and teaching workshops, as well as weekend excursions to Seorak Mountain in Sokcho and Seoul. The purpose of this orientation is to prepare the incoming grantees for their future roles as classroom English teachers. The orientation program is led by the Orientation Committee Team, which is comprised of the ETA Program Coordinator as well as five to six previous ETAs who work together to plan and to  execute relevant workshops, and to help assimilate the ETAs into their new environment, among other responsibilities.

2016-2017 ETAs pose with the Fulbright Korea Commission staff.

2016-2017 ETAs pose with the Fulbright Korea Commission staff.

The Junior Researchers and Graduate Study Award grantees begin their program a bit later, typically arriving to South Korea anywhere between mid-August to mid-September. The Junior Researchers are responsible for setting up their own projects with affiliated organizations or universities. They devote nine to twelve months gathering background information, conducting research, and analyzing and sharing results with their peers and colleagues. The Junior Researchers are also required to present at one Fulbright Forum throughout the year, allowing other Fulbright Korea grantees and community members to become briefly introduced to the researchers’ topics.

Graduate Study Awards are offered to academically superior students whose future career objectives would be enhanced by pursuing graduate study at a Korean university. Grantees in this category will enroll in a Master’s or Ph.D. program with the intention of obtaining an advanced degree from a Korean university. The Fulbright Commission provides the grantees with a small monthly stipend in addition to covering board and tuition fees.

As the grant year kicks off for the 2016 grantees, FKAR wishes them the best of luck and encourages them to make the most of their grant year. The FKAR Committee is looking forward to highlighting accomplishments from all areas throughout the year ahead.

Weather Concerns Threaten the Cancellation of ETA Fall Conference

October 21st, 2016

A recent earthquake on the Korean peninsula nearly caused this year’s Fall Conference programming for the English Teaching Assistants to be canceled. Korea’s strongest earthquake since 1978 shook Gyeongsang Province on the night of September 12th with a magnitude of 5.8. Six minor injuries and no deaths were reported.

“Transportation and safety are two major concerns I have when considering the planning and preparation of the Fall Conference program,” Director Jai Ok Shim confessed to the ETAs in her opening remarks on October 14th. “This is not something we [the KAEC office staff] take lightly.”

ETAs fought the rain and enjoyed a tour of Gyeongju.

ETAs fought the rain and enjoyed a tour of Gyeongju.

Despite these concerns, the Fulbright office staff and ETA cohort agreed to follow through with the Fall Conference programming as originally scheduled by Esther Kim, the 2016-2017 ETA Program Coordinator. The conference took place from October 14 – October 17 in Gyeongju, Gyeongsang Province.

It had been suggested that the location of the conference be changed, however Arranging the conference in a different city was a possible resolution due to the unforeseen circum the Fulbright Commission decided against this idea for various reasons. One important factor in hosting the conference in Gyeongju is because of its rich cultural and historic relevance to Korea.

“Most ETAs will not get the chance to visit Gyeongju outside of this conference, so it is of utmost importance that the fall conference remain in this location,” Director Shim continued in her speech. “ETAs can enjoy the beautiful fall weather while learning about the Silla Dynasty on the provided tour.”

Regular scheduling for the conference included two days of teaching workshops, which allowed the ETAs to share their favorite units and lessons, troubleshoot classroom management tactics, and provide insight into hobbies and interests outside of teaching responsibilities. In between discussions, ETAs heard from two Foreign Service Officers stationed in South Korea, Daniel Lee and Beau Miller. The ETAs could also take part in an optional tour of Gyeongju, visiting famous sites such as Bulguksa Temple and Wolji Pond (formerly known as Anapji). The conference came to a close on Sunday evening, with Mrs. Shim providing final remarks over a buffet-style dinner.

ETAs share teaching resources amongst themselves.

ETAs share teaching resources amongst themselves.

“I’ve observed you all [the ETAs] supporting one another, smiling and laughing, and sharing resources that will help to make the rest of your fall semester the best it can be,” Director Shim concluded. “Upon your departure from Gyeongju, think about how you can make an impact in your placement school, your homestay family, and in your community.”

The next large group gathering for the Fulbright ETAs will take place during a special Thanksgiving dinner to be held at the National Folk Museum of Korea inside Gyeongbokgung Palace on Saturday, November 19th.