Wonderful (and Odorless) Students

My first week teaching English to college students at Dankook University (as part of my 3 week internship that precedes my 4 week academic program) has been nothing short of an amazing and enlightening experience. I teach from 9 to 4 in two-hour blocks. Each two hour block ends with a new rotation of students who I have already grown to respect immensely. Not only are they dedicated and respectful to me (even if some are a few years my senior thanks to the Korean age system), but they are so enthusiastic in ensuring that I enjoy my stay in Korea. While we are encouraged to meet with our students outside of class (for dinner, shopping, bowling, etc; it is up to the students and teacher what activity they will do) at least once during the 3-week English Village program, already I have seen most of my students 3 times to search for local hot spots. Essentially, as eager as I am to teach them about American culture (amongst other things in class such as complex grammar rules, colloquialisms, how to order in an English-speaking restaurant, etc), they are eager to indulge my silly-Western requests to eat kimbap or samgyeopsal nearly every day.

  • Photo of some of my fantastic students and I along with my equally-wonderful co-teacher (to the far left; each teacher is assigned a partner teacher that has their class combine with yours for group activities)

While my students are in every way shape and form superb learners (in fact, they’re superb people), their is one major difference that I still cannot fathom. Despite the constant 85+ degree weather, my students do not sweat nor do they wear deodorant NOR do they smell in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity. Pure insanity is what I would say that situation is. In fact, while I brought 3 travel-size sticks of deodorant, I asked my students where I could find more (at the time I had yet to stumble across any in any of the convenient stores that are a staple in Jukjeon). The look of puzzlement that most of my male students gave me told me everything: I need to ransack all of Korea to find deodorant for less than $8 (which I saw in one of the mega-stores,shoved in a dark corner like a black-market item).

But there is an upside to the extreme heat: delicious, cold, summer treats with the favorite being “patbingsu.” Patbingsu is shaved ice with ice cream, typically fruit (or sweet red beans). I better watch out for the “freshmen 15 version 2.0/ version Korea,” because I have yet to encounter a food here that I would not eat incessantly.

I will post more often from now on, with my next topic being the fascinating exchanges I have had with my students (whom, despite still being English learners, as absolutely eloquent in expressing their opinions on hot-button topics).

051003 Left: My high-tech podium in my classroom, complete with a hidden computer.
Right: Patbingsu (a “brunch” variation, with corn flakes, mochi, bananas, cashews, shaved ice, and ice cream).

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