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.”
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.
“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.