Utilizing Regional Alumni Facebook Groups

January 21st, 2017

FKAR is happy to announce the creation of the Regional Alumni Facebook Groups! 7 groups have been created in cities with heavily populated program alumni. These groups are meant for you to easily connect, network, and share relevant information with the Fulbright Korea community in your area.

Below, you can find the group closest to your current residence and become a member. FKAR is planning to create more groups in the future, so hold tight as we work through this “beta phase”.

Program Alumni in Atlanta

Program Alumni in Boston/NYC

Program Alumni in Chicago

Program Alumni in DC

Program Alumni in Houston

Program Alumni in Korea

Program Alumni in San Francisco

Don’t see your city? If you are interested in creating a Regional Alumni Group in your area, please contact FKAR for more information on how to get started!

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.

Ending the Year: Final Dinner at Dragon Hill Lodge

July 13th, 2016

On Saturday, July 3rd, over 100 English Teaching Assistants met in Seoul at Yongsan Military Base’s Dragon Hill Lodge to have one, final dinner together as the Class of 2015-16. Of those who attended, 81 Fulbrighters will join the ranks of more than 1,400 Fulbright Korea Alumni currently living in the US and abroad. 38 ETAs have chosen to renew for their second and third years. As alumni of Fulbright Korea, many of us commemorate the gathering as an inherently bittersweet moment of the grant year. A longstanding milestone of the Fulbright experience, Final Dinner is a time of reflection and a time, for many, to say final goodbyes before parting ways.


The 2015-16 ETA Cohort

Executive Director Jai Ok Shim commenced the event with an opening address, where she thanked the assembly of ETAs on the (near) completion of yet another grant year, while also extolling the “exceptional” work of Program Coordinator Amelea Kim and Executive Assistant Ben Harris. After Director Shim concluded her speech, Mark Canning, a Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Seoul, took the stage and gave advice to those who would soon be leaving the Fulbright program, informing them of several opportunities to take advantage of in Korea after the grant year, specifically scholarship programs like the Korean Government Scholarship Program, the Korea Foundation Fellowship, and graduate studies scholarships offered at Yonsei University and Seoul National University. Canning likened the “decisive” experience Fulbrighters gain to the life-changing experience of Kathleen Stevens, the Ambassador to South Korea from 2008-11, when she taught in South Korea as a Peace Corps Volunteer.


Robert Little presents his community garden FKAF project

Next was the customary final dinner slideshow, which was organized this year by first-year ETAs Allana Wooley and Robert Little. The video can be viewed here. After that were FKAF project presentations by Allana Wooley, who created a student newspaper, Robert Little, who cultivated a student-led community garden, Katrin Marquez, who made art with her students, and Mave Wall and Alessa Strelecki, who worked with elementary school students with disabilities. ETA performances included Abhik Pramanik and Matt Walters as the K-Pop idols “GD & T.O.P.,” Emily Shoemaker and Hillary Veitch’s “Foreign Teacher’s Daily Life: A Musical Rendition,” and “Beyonce on Fire,” a dance choreographed and performed by Kingsley Leung and Monica Mehta. Finally, as per tradition, David Stewart (2013-16) delivered his emotional Final Address, summarizing the year and offering some perspective for those to come.


Kingsley and Monica’s “Beyonce on Fire”

Looking back, it is easy to see how engaged this year’s Fulbrighters have been in their communities. Not only did they support flagship programs, such as North Korean English Defectors tutoring, Youth Diplomacy Leadership Conference, and FKAF community and research grants, but they also spearheaded entirely new initiatives. Throughout the dinner, ETAs had the chance to appreciate this year’s many distinguishing moments and milestones:

After the dinner, many ETAs and alumni gathered in Hongdae, where they descended upon an after-party event organized by FKAR. The festivities lasted well into the night, with ETAs and researchers relishing one of their last nights as Fulbright Korea grantees, as well as the countless memories and friendships they forged over the year. On behalf of Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations, we wish those leaving South Korea the best of luck in their future endeavors. As Director Shim put it during Final Dinner: “You can take the ETA out of Korea, but you can’t take Korea out of the ETA.” Though the hackneyed phrase may be a bit worn out, the fundamental meaning it expresses holds true: no matter what we choose to do in the future, the moments we shared in this country will continue to shape us long after.

ETAs Run for Resettlement

July 13th, 2016

Year after year, Fulbright Korea grantees choose to commit their time and energy to interact with, and hopefully improve the lives of, North Korean defectors, whether that be through tutoring English, attending conferences, or volunteering for other local organizations. This past June 12th, a group of 17 ETAs came to Seoul to do just that—only this time, with their running shoes.

Grantees pose with NKHR volunteers and staff

Grantees pose with NKHR volunteers and staff

This was the Kim Dae Jung Peace Marathon, an event sponsored by the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center. The race itself was divided up into 5k, 10k, and half marathon segments, and it began in Yeoeui-do Hangang Park and ran along the length of the Han river. Kim Dae-jung, whom the marathon was eponymously named after, was president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003 and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for “his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea…and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.” Along with inaugurating the accommodating “Sunshine Policy,” Kim arranged a summit meeting in 2000, the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration. One result of these diplomatic meetings was that family members in the North and South who had been separated during the Korean War were allowed to meet in Pyongyang and Seoul. This year’s Peace Marathon was held the weekend of the 16th year anniversary of this historic declaration.

Route of the race

Route of the race

For the ETAs who ran in the race, toeing the starting line marked the culmination of several months of fundraising for Running 4 Resettlement (R4R), an initiative that was started 2 years ago by former grantee Eric Horvath (ETA 2011-13), and currently headed by  Cait Cronin (ETA 2013-15). Cronin, who also volunteers with NKD tutoring, felt a particular calling to R4R out of her desire to do more for this marginalized group beyond teaching in the classroom. “After volunteering with North Korean Defectors, visiting North Korea personally, tutoring scientists from the DPRK, and learning more about the difficulty of resettling during my internship at NKHR, it was impossible to not be driven to action. While rewarding to see students flourish here in South Korea,” she says, “it is also difficult to think about their cohorts facing unimaginable horrors like human trafficking while still waiting for their own chance. R4R is about coming together to recognize both these connections and inequalities and directly provide basic, essential help to fellow humans in concrete ways.”

The direct, concrete assistance Cronin refers to comes in the form of a “Rescue Fund.” Via R4R, the entirety of the funds raised prior to the race were donated to the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Rights (NKHR), specifically to their Rescue Fund. Aside from raising awareness of the often-harrowing plights of North Korean refugees through social media campaigns and fundraising events, the Fund assists in the physical extraction of said refugees from China and surrounding countries. Considering the fact that many refugees, especially women, fall prey to labor and sex trafficking after they flee North Korea, the work that NKHR and similar organizations do is crucial.finish

According to NKHR, it costs about $2,500 to bring one refugee to safety in South Korea—all in all, R4R raised roughly $10,758, of which Cait Cronin personally raised a whopping $2,000. The total amount was raised by 224 unique donors, and it will be enough for the Rescue Fund to bring around 5 people to South Korea.

Events like R4R depend on the generosity and commitment of volunteers like Cronin, as well as like the NCHR staff and ETAs who fundraised and attended the race. When asked about what future ETAs and researchers can do regarding the North Korean refugee situation, she responded: “I would absolutely recommend becoming involved in the Fulbright NKD volunteer program if possible in your placement. It does require genuine dedication and commitment– teaching extra hours is never easy, especially one-on-one or to low-level learners. But the challenge is well worth the incredible opportunity to form real, meaningful connections and break down invisible barriers between people and cultures. For ETAs unable to participate in the NKD program, R4R is of course a great way to get involved; we always need help with recruitment and fundraising. Finally, I would suggest reaching out to the many great organizations already working with resettlers here in South Korea, including NKHR, LiNK, and the Daegu Hana Center.”